Friday, July 30, 2004

The news before it happens

The Boca Raton News is seeking a business, politicial reporter who has experience with New York Post/tabloid style writing. The successful candidate will posess strong investigative skills and is able to uncover political scandals, business scams etc. We are not looking for a ho-hum straight news business/political reporter. We are looking for someone who is not afraid to think and write outside the box, stir up controversy and dig for scandal-there's plenty in Boca. Don't send clips of boring business stories that cover a business. Call 561-893-6639 or email resume and 2-3 sample clips to

Thursday, July 29, 2004

mirrors, megaphones, media

Inspector Lohmann cites a Canadian woman's observations upon returning to Canada from seven years in the US:
When I moved back to Canada I noticed that the news reflected the values and thoughts of the people who live here. Whether it's the newspaper or TV news, you have the feeling that it shares the point of view of the people who are reading or watching it. I never got that feeling in the States. The news there never reflected the views and attitudes of the people I knew.
This is an excellent impetus to urge USians to travel, if only to find by exemplary contrast how focused and message-bound US media is. (I use "is" because the grammatically proper "are" would misleadingly suggest diversity). US media alienates. To tie this back to the moment, has the presence of numerous astute blogs inside and outside the DNC has done anything to alter that sense?

Lohmann procedes:
American media, simply, does not reflect the truth, it does not reflect people's everyday concerns, it does not reflect people's everyday realities. It is a megaphone shouting at them to accept things that people know just ain't so.
Knowing that this is so is no guarantee that one can do anything about it. At the root of US medialienation is neither simply the co-optation of message, nor the platforming of corporate media. Not these alone. It has to do with what Octavio Paz saw in The Labyrinth of Solitude:
In the United States man does not feel that he has been torn from the center of creation and suspended between hostile forces. He has built his own world and it is built in his own image: it is his mirror.
Well, we know what happens when a mirror confronts a mirror. If you're making the spectacle, you're not breaking it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

DNC uncovered

BigMedia knows nothing of the immediacy and emotion of the live event.

Bloggers can write about that failure.

I'm riveted by the dumb CSpan camera panning the crowd, random there bored, overwhelmed, serious, in funny hats, with timely banners, odd hair, smell.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


"Objectivity is a worthwhile objective, but it needs to be recognized that it can't be reached," Weinberger said, [objectively]. USA Today

This is one of a crowd of reasons I like The Wisdom of Crowds. It suggests a mode that cannot be characterized as subjective, or objective, yet which arrives in ways that we do not understand at reliable wagers on what is probably the case. It suggests that crowds do not speak from the individual consciousness, nor from some vanishingly transcendental standpoint. Remove the sub and the ob and you get the ject - the throw of the dice, on which the rumor of what is becomes what is. If he hasn't already, I urge David to read it.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Conventional or contemplative?

Official bloggers of the Democratic National Convention will set some sort of precedent in style and tone for this mode of political speech.

Optimism is constructive, but as the self-organizing battalions of polarized blogs might suggest, blogs do lend themselves to short, sharp jabs, bilious fumes and the like.

Perhaps the large thing will turn out to be whether convention blogging offers some glimmer of a contemplative dimension which has not proven to be broadcast media's strong suit, no matter how fair and balanced.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Opening something in news

Open source community news

Very cool. Here's the paper itself, the Northwest Voice.

Is it a surprise that the staff is made up of women?

Jonathan Dube is right to say this sort of thing is more likely to begin in a small community. There is a difference between local news and larger scales.

But can we not envision a day when, if the large metro papers survive, the Times or Miami Herald would consist of hundreds of community sections, created by people living in the various neighborhoods?

In a sense it's like blogs, except instead of individuals, it would be loosely joined communities talking among themselves. What an extraordinary dimension this would add to any organization that pretends to "cover" a community -- I'll bet it would also boost classifieds and readership as different neighborhoods read each other to see what they were selling, and what they had to say about last night's little league game.

Plus, down the road, one could look back, and find, in each community's offering, the distinct voice found there and nowhere else, through each moment in time.

The question is, why did it take some 10 years from the time newspapers first began publishing on the Web for something like this to occur? (I suspect it's because while the technology of the Net caught on pretty quickly, it has taken US this long to discover new forms of being open about source and property and relationships that were always there, in potentia. Only now are they evolving along with certain cultural values. For one thing, corporations are inherently nonlocal. And because they (corporations) are naked and sexless. And they sing like this (thanks Suw).)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Bush schiztique

::From the Poetics of Political Discourse dept.::

...people do not support Bush for the power of his ideas, but out of the despair and desperation in their hearts. Renana Brooks, via Wirearchy.
Bush talks shit, but that's beside the point, according to Renana Brooks. Content-free speech, after all, drives US television. Critics who find the President's words empty fail to see how he uses emotive language to share a pathological view of the world to which his supporters feel compelled to assent -- because any other point of view to them seems just plain crazy. A codependent code consisting of empty language, personalization, and what Brooks calls "negative framework" --
negative framework is a pessimistic image of the world. Bush creates and maintains negative frameworks in his listeners' minds with a number of linguistic techniques borrowed from advertising and hypnosis to instill the image of a dark and evil world around us.
-- leaving his boosters to learn helplessness from him.

What I get from this is: Bush's autistic worldview operates like an act of faith: you're with him or agin' him, but either way, there's no use discussing him, because the normal heads of rational argument -- factual representations of reality, conceptual order, logical consequence -- are conspicuously missing from their necks. We don't really listen to Bush's language, we swill it.

Bush-speech is a climate-controlled mimesis of purpose, rather than a reasoned statement of principle. A regular hero, all he wants is another beer, but he has to put aside that rapture until the awesome job of making the world safe for beers is done.

This seems an important part of the Bush mystique, but there's more. Thomas Frank of The Baffler was interviewed on WMNF, the brilliant Tampa indie station, yesterday. Frank was talking about his new book, What's the Matter with Kansas? : How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, and he offered an analysis of Bush and conservative political clout that went beyond matters of positions and issues.

Frank noted that Bush succeeds with two completely distinct constituencies whose interests are mutually opposed: he has the backing of the conservative right, the folks who think they are god fearing and profess to hate abortion and loathe gay marriage and who are pretty much unaware of his other constitutency: rich upper-middle class whites and corporate interests who will support anything that walks so long as it provides tax breaks, more tax breaks, and then, when nothing else will do, additional tax breaks.

John Chuckman, in the course of dressing down US liberals, asks:
we know Bush is a brutal, rather psychopathic man, so how can he be like so much of middle America? ...middle America is not the harmless, gentle place it seems in Hollywood's confections. It is the place where thirty-year old couples assume they are entitled to a five-bedroom home on a sprawling lot in the suburbs with at least two lumbering vehicles in the driveway. (John Chuckman, America's Pathetic Liberals: the sequel, via wood s lot.)
These are the gated communities of the saved. But if Frank is right, Chuckman might do better to ask, not how Bush "is like" these people, but how it is that Bush manages to appeal to these people at the same time that he enjoys the unwavering support of poor farmers whose families might be better off if the Gated Ones returned some of their unearned income to the public in the form of taxes.

Frank notes that the Conservative base never actually gets any of the things it is promised -- the whole family values thing remains an empty rhetorical exercise, but it sure lickers 'em up. Meanwhile, the people who count, oligarchically(1), get more than even they ask for in the way of value. Fool's gold, real gold, it's all good. This would seem to be the rhetorical achievement that anyone seeking to overturn the Republican grip on all three branches of government has to confront.

Empty language can do amazing things. Here it spawns a politics that thrives even as it drives its two key bases ever farther asunder -- rich getting richer, poor getting less and less of the dream, ever more righteously. You would think this gambit would have a limited shelf life. But it's worked since Reagan, even if, like Reagan, it depends on a fundamental incoherence. The game teeters on whether the two constituencies can be driven so far apart as to never confront one another. So long as they don't, Republicans keep running the show, with or without Mr. Bush. (2)
  1. Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates will get hundreds of millions from the Microsoft dividend that under earlier tax rules would have gone to the government.
  2. There are signs, however, of a growing rift between conservative Republicans and moderate Republicans. There's only so far even the most godfearingly loyal conservative will allow him or herself to get screwed by the people who run the people they vote for. Watching their children die or lose limbs in Iraq isn't helping. The Republic might even yet see the revival of a two-party system.

Don't miss the BRNC

Monday, July 19, 2004

The conversation

Resolved: This land will surely vote for me.


 - I ignore FOXNews and its factors. Watching Outfoxed last night was like receiving an oil tanker of AIDS-tainted blood, one 1/2-cc injection at a time.
 - Greatest strength of the film: O'Reilly.
 - Greatest omission: footage of Murdoch, O'Reilly, Hume and company as they decline to be interviewed for Outfoxed (assuming they were asked - were they?)
 - Weakness: by attempting to subscribe to an idealized standard of journalistic objectivity, Outfoxed is constrained in its journalistic vocabulary. It can show, repetitively, Fox's various gestures - its scowls, its bullying Busholatry, its daily mantras. But it doesn't penetrate the character of Murdoch or his minions, because that requires interpretation, which could be construed as a departure from the veil of "facts." That would belie the standard imagined by the film's critique.
 - Petition protesting Murdock's Orwellian trademark of "Fair and Balanced."        
 - Later: I propose that every blog, every media outlet, and every parrot adopt "Fair and Balanced" as a sobriquet. If Merdle sues, it'll bleed him dry. 

Sunday, July 18, 2004

walking tall in epistemology

"Insofar as it is possible to make great strides in epistemology, great strides have been made in epistemology, especially in the last 20 years." From an old review by Sylloge.


Saturday, July 17, 2004

Revelation at $15.1694 per page

This threatens them, according to this.

Friday, July 16, 2004

wisdom all too human

Societies throughout history have recognized the hazards of groupthink and made arrangements to guard against it. The shaman, the wise woman and similar figures all represent institutionalized outlets for alternative points of view. In the European carnival tradition, a "king of fools" was permitted to mock the authorities, at least for a day or two. In some cultures, people resorted to vision quests or hallucinogens — anything to get out of the box. Because, while the capacity for groupthink is an endearing part of our legacy as social animals, it's also a common precondition for self-destruction. Barbara Ehrenreich

[Thomas L. Friedman is on leave until October (good riddance).]
Ehrenreich is zooming in on an issue more and more people are seeing, or, more accurately, feeling, sensing. The absence, for a long time in American public discourse, of what for want of a better term is common sense - the sense of a bunch of people large enough to be unable to agree.

While small groups, tight communities, mutually reinforce themselves in ways well detailed by James Surowiecki in The Wisdom of Crowds, large groups resist compatibility and have to deal with something very like chance, or fate (not a term he invokes).

What Surowiecki is on to is a mode of collective decision-making that doesn't fall neatly under cognitive models of deliberation, exchange of views, or consensus building. As he says,
The wisdom of crowds isn't about consensus. It really emerges from disagreement and even conflict.
What he calls "wisdom" is not what we think of as understanding or mastery of facts. Every day, Rumsfeld demonstrates that he is Master of some subset of knowledge. Surowiecki is pointing to what falls out of these centralized modes of totalizing knowledge. What they must be blind to, in order to see what they see. The crowd offers a more reliably diverse set of bets on outcomes, wagers as to what could happen than the Doms can reasonably entertain. The slot machine in the Senate.

This diversity, one must say, includes ignorance and what we normally like to think stupid, unassimilable, unspeakable. Which is why it often manifests itself under masks -- the fool, the outsider, the destabilizing woman -- when it appears at all.

Collective wisdom is not a sum, a total. It is a split, a downer, a break in the erotic consummations of knowers and known. It is that which ensures we will never all get along, agree, or be compatible in any jolly holistic way. To exercise such wisdom, Surowiecki tells us, requires sacrifice, surrender, defeat.

This hard risk means that juntas like those that run corporations, Congress or the White House will remain hostile to wisdom. There will always be another book telling us how to listen, how to manage, how to succeed, how to heal ourselves. Our addiction to this is stronger than dirt.

(This wysiwyg is the shit).

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Latex res publica

[Florida] state officials announced on Saturday that they would throw out a controversial list used to remove felons from the voting rolls, acknowledging that Hispanic felons were absent from the list. NYT

It is unclear why the state cordoned off Hispanic felons to a separate database in the first place. It might be noted that many Hispanic voters are pro-Bush, anti-Castro voters in Miami-Dade's expatriate Cuban community.
...a spokesman for Governor Bush, said the governor was "taking full responsibility" for the problem with the list...

The way Kenneth Lay has publicly taken full responsibility for Enron. "Taking responsibility" for these people turns out to mean: doing one's job from within a moral condom that insulates the Big Swinging Dick from knowledge, plausible awareness and legal culpability.

A failure of intelligence:
Whiskey Bar: How many times does the Bush family have to steal a Florida election before they finally get it right?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Nicieties of genre

From an interview given by Jay Rosen to Global PR Week:
RUBEL: What about those who are empowered to blog by established media outlets, are they more like journalists than the rest of us?

ROSEN: Good question. I think these people--any journalist empowered to blog, as you well put it, by a mainstream news outlet--will be the ones in the best position to change journalism from inside the traditional firms. Will they? I have no idea. But if you are interested in the press, it pays to watch this one unfold.

From the perspective of the pre-AOL, pre-MSN days of blogging, it could be said that the question makes no sense. Didn't blogging's early spreading euphoria have a little something to do with its arising from low and inside, impacting the established media structure thanks to a matter of empowerment facilitated not by some middle management overseer, but rather by an ingenious technological simplification combined with people's interests in publishing what they themselves had to say?

It's probably just my age -- when I came in. When I see a blog "empowered" by a corporation, I do not see a blog. This has nothing in particular to do with the integrity of the individual producing it. Some are doubtless worth reading. But they feel like they belong to some other genre.

Sort of like: Over here, blogs and Jimi Hendrix. Over there, corporate extensions and Peter Lemongello. Different genre.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Political party

...several major news organizations were unexpectedly refusing to license their clips [to Robert Greenwald Productions, makers of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism]. (Such licensing is ordinarily pro forma.) CBS wouldn't sell Greenwald the clip of Richard Clarke's appearance on ''60 Minutes,'' explaining that it didn't want to be associated with a controversial documentary about Murdoch. WGBH, the Boston PBS station, wouldn't let Greenwald use excerpts from ''Frontline'' for fear of looking too ''political,'' it said.

Greenwald argues that this represents precisely the kind of corporate control of public information that he and his legal team want to challenge... Robert S. Boynton, New York Times

Share the premier Sunday evening with your neighbors. (See Lessig.)

Monday, July 12, 2004

literal exegesis and vicious bitchin' hate speech

The other day Ray Davis mused about a correlation between playful speech and hostility:
how the verbal dance between meaning and surface mutually instigates and supports the social dance between individual aggression and communal solidarity.
This is very suggestive, given that the predictable ploy in fractious political discourse is for the opinionator to pretend to be speaking plainly, while his/her opponents are invariably full of rhetorical flatulence.

E.g., from the no shit, shylockia dept. comes news that politics is contoured by the aesthetic considerations of film and rhetoric:

That's what modern presidential campaigns are, after all -- elaborately staged big-budget productions in which every line that's uttered, every piece of scenery, is carefully calculated to win over the public.

Two things dismay about this level of commentary:

1. It's uncontestedly assumed that some modes of representation are less rhetorically configured than others. (The school system really needs to be reintroduced to reading.) The rhetorical mode common to broadcast news, commentary, documentary, certain traditions of realism (as well as to much science and more blogging) is that objective, impartial, literal rendering of some shared reality is not only possible, but is in fact the norm. I.e., like the fabled cretans, the dominant fiction of such discourse is that it is not fictive.

Get over this. Read some Plato. Some Nietzsche. Some Walter Benjamin. Some Krazy Kat.

2. Probably even more annoying is the prospect that the pollution introduced into the world by Bush-Cheney -- the linguistic aggression that is their pathology, and which has spawned a virtually infinite chain reaction of not simply dumb and dumber but devious and deviouser political discourse -- will not end with the uprooted shrub. Mr. Powers' saliva certainly suggests that we can look forward to years of rabid tripe about Kerry, his wife, his running mate and their appurtenances -- a fiesta of venemous bilge to keep the matrix batteries well charged.

(I'd offer Popeye as a candidate for Ray's examples, which include Lewis Carroll, Walt Kelly, Krazy Kat, and Finnegans Wake.)

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Upsetting dominion at the Giving Conference

At the Giving Conference this weekend:

1. Discussion of Cornuelle's De-Nationalizing Community.

(Cornuelle's essay is a compact and potent analysis that might usefully be supplemented with a stronger feel for the withering power of corporate rapacity (thanks, wood s lot, for the Valenzuela)).

2. Gift and the property of movement:
a gift, when it moves across the boundary, either stops being a gift or abolishes the boundary. A commodity can cross the line without any change in its nature; moreover, its exchange will often establish a boundary where none previously existed

(Consider the energy release when a gift transgresses the boundaries of private proprietorship. Think Napster).

3. gift
Function: noun

1 : an intentional and gratuitous transfer of real or personal property by a donor with legal capacity who actually or constructively delivers the property to the donee with the intent of giving up dominion over the property and investing it in the donee who accepts it; broadly : a voluntary transfer of property without compensation

Friday, July 09, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

I've only looked at a few reviews - from the dismissive who haven't seen it to the thoughtful to the conflicted. This is a few comments after seeing it last night.

First, to argue that the film is literally true or false, and then to praise or blame it as good or not good propaganda, is, I think, unhelpful.

The most scandalous moments are those scenes that uncover nothing hidden, but simply show specific things actually happening - when, for example, Al Gore presides over a polarized Congress that either must object to or approve the results of his race against George W. Bush. Black representatives express anger and shame at the US Senate's frozen inability to muster a single objection to the 2000 presidential election. The scene works because it underplays the moment, refusing to focus in on specific senators, or to preach to us about what it all means.

The film, by Moore's standards, goes out of its way to avoid cheap shots. (It uses plenty of unflattering shots of Bush, but that is not a cheap shot - it is allowing Bush's face to say something about Bush that nothing else can quite say.) A cheap shot would jump all over the religious leanings of Bush, Ashcroft, Rice, or the Right in general. Whether or not Bush and co. actually believe they are executing the Will of God on earth, Moore deems that level of political rhetoric beneath serious consideration. These people aren't deluded christians, he seems to say -- a much more devious game is afoot.

So the first rhetorical gambit of the film is restraint. Moore goes out of his way not to exploit the horror of 9/11. The event, whose every pixel was burned compulsively into our brains by television "news," acquires a fresh gravity via the black screen. As the Greeks knew, tragic things seem moreso by being repressed offstage.

The next smart move is Moore's choice to mime the genre of careful investigative inquiry -- the dry, factesque mode of Frontline.

To mime a genre is to employ it, but not necessarily because the form suits the function. There are varieties of genre imitation that range from homage to pastiche to parody. I think Moore's choice to make it seem as though he was building an investigative case about the Houses of Bush and Saud was inspired. It gave him a format in which various data and scenes appeared to add up, but without the tight intricacy of traced connections. Much is made of the name of Bath, and it is an interesting thread. But a full blown investigative report would have involved much more documentation and sifting of evidence. It isn't what the film is about, but it allows the film to incorporate lots of background information.

The "investigative journalism" is really just the manner, the outward shell, through which Moore deploys a much different, more outrageous thing. Just as he says that the Patriot Act is not really about defending the Homeland, and that defending the Homeland is itself a ruse hiding a more sinister agenda, Moore is only externally attempting to prove Bush-Saud collusion. His actual argument is an attempt to explain class war to a populace that is conditioned not to recognize classes and how they conflict.

On this narrative plane, Bush, the Sauds and the Bush "Base" are barely distinguishable players (different hats, maybe) in a completely different theatre of war, involving the haves and the have mores above, and the cannon fodder we think of as the have nots below. In the middle is us, the US, mediated by a media whose social imagination has ever failed to grasp any of this (& therefore cannot represent what it cannot imagine.)

The war on Iraq, it turns out, is merely a pretext for a reconfiguration of global resources. In the US, this assumes a form shaped by the stagnant economy: Having displaced all actual productive jobs, all a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist can do is imitate manufacturing by having a job corps that produces and distributes lots of bombs. If the "workers" die, there are plenty more where they came from. They'll serve. In Moore's vision, the US poor being recruited for war are the mirror reflection of the apolitical elite - equally distant from the great barbecuing middle class, god bless 'em. So long as they serve, the rest of US can continue to dream, praising Bush or blaming him, placidly exulting in our freedom of speech.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Three pious frauds

One of the great courtesies of the law is its lumbering pace. Folks like Kenneth Lay have plenty of time to gauge the winds, reconfigure their portfolios, cause large bits of their substance to seep through the cracks, so that by the time they're indicted, let alone convicted, they can barely afford their defense team, let alone the enormous fines their peccadilloes could trigger.

Years ago I covered the story of a builder who left dozens of homeowners high and dry when he took their cash deposits, failed to build their homes, but somehow found the funds to build his own mountaintop residence, complete with imposing moose antlers, white piano, and vast, stocked-for-the-Rapture bar and livingroom in Evergreen Colo. Clyde Hoeldke - his very name - not only built some homes and not others, but also made sure his role as a church elder and minister was prominent in all his marketing materials and that some intimation thereof somehow managed to escape his sanctimony as he welcomed arriving senior citizens, their wallets fat with cash from having sold their homes up North in order to build their Dream Homes in the Sunshine State.

Some time after Hoeldke was convicted of taking the life savings of his customers and was condemned to weari an ankle bracelet within his 10,000-square-foot house, I attempted to visit him. He waited until I'd made it past the guardhouse and up his mountain to the very door before blasting out of the eight car garage in a white SUV and tearing ass down the mountain, seemingly in violation of the provisions of his ankle braceletude.

But Hoeldke wasn't just a white blur. He was also a paper trail in the bankruptcy court, where it was clear that in the lengthy interval before his trial and leading up to his conviction, he had "gifted" his daughters and other family members with hugely valuable assets - houses and land - rendering them off-limits to any efforts by his victims to obtain restitution. Bankruptcy filings can contain tantalizingly precise details of holdings and transfers.

Seeing Ken Lay plastered all over the news today, I thought of Clyde. Of how, during the two freaking years it has taken for Lay to be indicted, I have not seen any reporter for BigMedia bother to dig into Lay's asset dispositions. Perhaps he hasn't yet filed for bankruptcy. (Enron has.) Nonetheless, it's only a matter of time before some mindless scribe "reports" that Lay is now only worth whatever he claims to be worth - a vast comedown, nearly pitiable.

Well now, that didn't take long:

Once worth some $400 million, Mr. Lay says that he lost most of his wealth in the Enron debacle. In The Times interview, he said his worth was below $20 million, and available cash not earmarked for legal fees or repayment of debt was less than $1 million. The New York Times.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Simplifying recounts in Florida

From the Miami Herald of June 8, 2004:
In Tuesday's special election to fill state House seat 91, 134 Broward voters managed to use the 2-year-old touch-screen equipment without casting votes for any candidate.

How so many happened to cast nonvotes remains a riddle. Unlike with punch cards or paper ballots, there's no paper record with electronic voting that might offer a clue to the voter's intent.

The elected representative won by 12 votes.
''These were the new machines,'' said Chas Brady, a spokesman for Parker's campaign. ``This was not supposed to happen.''

Half the state's voters will be using touch screen machines this coming November:
15 counties, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and 12 others comprising more than half the state's 9.5 million voters, have touch-screen technology. The voter merely touches the candidate's name on the screen and when done with the entire ballot, all the selections are recorded electronically. There is no independent method of checking a paper document against the machine's total. Miami Herald, July 2, 2004.

If there's no paper trail, then what?

Despite plenty of warning about this very thing, Florida's solution, according to a report on air today, is that the state elections commission simply will not recount ballots in counties with touch screens. In a tight election in November, then, more than half the state's voters -- those in some of the more heavily democratic areas -- will simply...not count?

And by 2008, when all counties except maybe one or two rural ones have touch screens, we can look forward to a tight national election decided by six crabbers in Chokaloskee.

I love that new canon you're wearing...

This is somewhat long, but AKMA's response to a question I had about lectionary committees -- the people who decide what Biblical passages will be heard and discussed in church services -- made me do it. AKMA says:
In the course of selecting the readings, the lectionary framers often tailored the passages to suit the exigencies of modern worship (fewer chapter-long readings, for instance) to fit “themes” for given days (the only time the church reads Zechariah, if I recall correctly, is on Palm Sunday, when we read about the King entering Jerusalem on a colt), and to put the best face on some awkward readings — as, for instance, the last verses of Revelation.

As a quondam Roman Catholic, I used to wonder how texts got to be featured at various times of the year. There always seemed to be some effort at thematic correspondence, but no one had ever taken the time to explain how this was done, by whom, under what or whose authority, etc. AKMA helpfully points to Google for that aspect of the topic, and more helpfully offers some of the motivations for so organizing that part of the liturgy.

I'm grateful he would take the time to address a question coming over the transom, as it were, from someone outside his flock. A dimly forming stereotype in the rear end of my mind about the parochiality of US Protestant believers versus the openness of Roman Catholicism has happily just been complicated.

I see why someone needs to decide what text to address throughout the calendar (if there is one cultural item that has achingly gone missing in the exile from faith, it is that giant storied wheel of hours and days and nones and tierces and vespers and Annunciations and Presentations and feasts that narrated the sacred diary of our larger expectations (which, as per Norma Desmond, are still big -- it's the pictures that got small)).

In the excellent article AKMA cites, the choice and length of passages chosen by the Catholic lectionary committees is said to have been influenced by audience considerations, but it seems to have more to do with attention span than with propriety:
The overwhelming response of pastors was that the readings were too long, that congregants would be unaccustomed to hearing so much of the word of God and be impatient at the hearing. In consequence, many lections were edited down.

I would still tend to make a distinction between reducing the length of passages that are kept intact, and editing passages to eliminate elements that might be difficult to understand, as detailed in AKMA's initial post.

My question was whether in modifying Biblical passages, the people doing so are exerting theological authority -- sort of pre-deciding what part of what God said we will bother to understand -- or whether this is an instance of a kind of local fillip of sensibility, perhaps influenced by a contemporary sense of propriety, sneaking into the sacred precincts to tacitly tidy things up.

In certain cases, AKMA notes, the Lectionary folks have tailored the Word by eliding it. This made me wonder, since it is the primary text, the thing upon which the institution, the practice, the faith, is based. Take it away, and what remains?

Here's a poor analogy: Suppose there was a single piece of evidence for an extremely important hypothesis -- a single set of bones indicating the existence of another intelligent species, or a meteorite containing particles pointing to an explanation of the origin of the universe.

Now suppose that these primary sources were given to committees whose latitude extended to omitting bits of the data -- the stuff, say, that didn't comport with current theories of evolution or cosmogony -- before handing it off to various groups of scientists for study. Suppose in addition that these committees were sort of kept in the background, their work not much talked about -- an "industry," as AKMA puts it, that is open to participation by invitation only, that ships its tailored products without obligatory disclosure statements.

Obviously the analogy is imperfect. After all, churchgoers do have direct access to the Word of scripture, more or less, if they own decent translations. But still, given that there is an emphasis on communal sharing, on collective coming to grips with the sacred, in church services, it seems (to this outsider) puzzling that such liberties would be taken. Sort of like, God: Edited for Television.

As the article by Gerald S. Sloyan notes, "The inclusions and omissions arrived at by the scholars who designed it created a new canon..."

That is somewhat different, as an outcome, from what was apparently the original motivation:
that "the treasures of the bible be opened up more lavishly, so that richer fare may be provided for the faithful at the table of God's word. In this way a more representative proportion of the sacred scriptures will be read to the people in the course of a prescribed number of years"

And it is precisely that sort of drift between origin and end that seems to inform much of the way we conduct the business of informing ourselves about what is. In corporate America anyway.

AKMA notes that he restores elided parts of the readings when he preaches. Without his commenting on the practice, I'd not have known of its existence. Thanks to him for taking the time to address my question. It's not like he doesn't have anything else to do. And when he's writing stuff like this, any impatience with him for not addressing my concerns would be absurd.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Bastards and bitches

SCENE II. The Earl of Gloucester's castle.

Enter EDMUND, with a letter


Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got 'tween asleep and wake?

La série des malheurs du film KING LEAR continue… Jean-Luc Godard a été condamné par le tribunal de grande instance de Paris pour contrefaçon.

L'écrivain Viviane Forrester accuse le réalisateur d’avoir utilisé dans KING LEAR, un paragraphe de son livre sans en demander l’autorisation. Le tribunal a reconnu Jean-Luc Godard coupable de contrefaçon et conclu qu'il a porté atteinte aux droits moraux de la plaignante et aux droits patrimoniaux des éditions du Seuil. Le cinéaste ainsi que la société de production qui diffuse le film, Bodega Films, devront dédommager Vivane Forrester et sa maison d’édition en leur versant à chacun une somme de 5 000 euros.

Dick Cheney: Bastard

Dick Cheney is "Bastard of the Day"

Brown bastard is your only drink. --Shakescene

"Dick Cheney is so my Bitch," ~ Mandingo.

"Let us go away together, away from the anger and imperatives of men. There will be only the two of us, and we shall linger through long afternoons of sweet retirement. In the evenings I shall read to you while you work your cross-stitch in the firelight. And then we shall go to bed, our bed, my dearest girl." - from Sisters, by the bitch's bitch.

"I am sure Lynne Cheney would be beet red if snotty republican pseudo-Christians forund out she wrote a paen to sin and carpet munching. I am sure Jerry Falwell would love the novel though."

Was this review helpful to you? Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No.

Presidential Race Update

We are all in an elevator, someone has farted. The odor spreads, eyes widen, mouths grimace, noses wrinkle. A little man gets a goofy grin and makes a joke that fails to rise to the sophomoric.

Thanks for the objective metric, Mr. Bush.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Resolution and Independence


As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lie
Couched on the bald top of an eminence;
Wonder to all who do the same espy,
By what means it could thither come, and whence;
So that it seems a thing endued with sense:
Like a sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf
Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself;

Such seemed this Man, not all alive nor dead,
Nor all asleep--in his extreme old age:
His body was bent double, feet and head
Coming together in life's pilgrimage;
As if some dire constraint of pain, or rage
Of sickness felt by him in times long past,
A more than human weight upon his frame had cast.

Himself he propped, limbs, body, and pale face,
Upon a long grey staff of shaven wood:
And, still as I drew near with gentle pace...


Tout à coup, un vieillard dont les guenilles jaunes
Imitaient la couleur de ce ciel pluvieux,
Et dont l'aspect aurait fait pleuvoir les aumônes,
Sans la méchanceté qui luisait dans ses yeux,

M'apparut. On eût dit sa prunelle trempée
Dans le fiel; son regard aiguisait les frimas,
Et sa barbe à longs poils, roide comme une épée,
Se projetait, pareille à celle de Judas.

Il n'était pas voûté, mais cassé, son échine
Faisant avec sa jambe un parfait angle droit,
Si bien que son bâton, parachevant sa mine,
Lui donnait la tournure et le pas maladroit...


But now his voice to me was like a stream
Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;
And the whole body of the Man did seem
Like one whom I had met with in a dream;


Son pareil le suivait:

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Civics 101

"We are as forlorn as children lost in the wood. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the grief's that are in me and what do I know of yours. And if I were to cast myself down before you and tell you, what more would you know about me that you know about Hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful? For that reason alone we human beings ought to stand before one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before the entrance to Hell." Kafka, via wood s lot.

tinkerer's damn

"I think on this debate a great deal turns," says the Tutor, pointing to E. J. Dionne Jr.'s overview of a 1997 Brooking Institution study of Civil Society. Much indeed turns on the question of what constitutes civility and society.

Dionne ably summarizes views that reach beyond narrow leftie or rightie boilerplate to suggest that new social forms are what we need. He eases into the metaphor of forging, of tinkering -- the comfortablly craftsmanlike language of the workshop:
Many (in these essays especially) see effervescence and creativity in the effort to forge new forms of civil society. But they also assert that we are only at the beginning of this process and more social inventiveness is required.

Let's rip this bandaid and look at the teratoma beneath it. Sitting in the Brookings Institution we might agree that if we just act with sufficient effervescence, we could "invent" something or other is sure to nurture civility.

If Mr. Dionne were reflecting on civil society while chained to the walls of Abu Ghraib, with a rectal insertion the size of a piano leg to inspire him, he might command more attention.

Stop talking in a vacuum. We cannot repress every idea of antisocial reality and then talk about how to be civil. Run some alien workers across the border, get shot at, then talk to us about civility, Mr. Jr.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Hahvahd Wahd

Bravo to these guys for Enroning the big Kahuna. (Found at Gifthub).

Only 2,119?

More than 2,100 Florida voters -- many of them black Democrats -- could be wrongly barred from voting in November because Tallahassee elections officials included them on a list of felons potentially ineligible to vote, a Herald investigation has found. Miami Herald (registration nonsense req'd)

Asscroft: "Get Choicepoint on the line and find out why any registered Democrat in Florida is still eligible to vote."
Of the 2,119 people who obtained clemency, 62 percent are registered Democrats, and almost half are black. Less than 20 percent are Republican.

"Where's Kate Harris? Her 2000 niggahnumbers were way higher."

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Manchurian candidates

Nearly one in six soldiers returning from Iraq admit privately to at least one mental health disorder, but they don't seek treatment, fearful that their peers and superior officers will cease to think they are reliable soldiers, according to Marketplace.

The group dynamics of this. What PR firm, what Rumsfeldian mini-me, what "think tank," what very white paper, will articulate the balls, the virtue, necessary to out oneself, in this army, in this moment, under this president, for this cause, and trust the group to not close ranks and destroy one's life?

Any other alternative ensures cascading critical system failure within the defenses of the homeland.