Monday, December 27, 2010


I am multi-tasking and multi-computing like a melonfarmer today.* The streets are piled high with mattresses of snow, so I only have to go outside if I want to tromp. Working from home, so I've got my workplace IM and mail up on the big computer, along with Photoshop Elements 9 - a big step up in usability from Elements 6. Time goes so fast - I can't keep track of when relatives died or I last updated software. I'm just learning how to use the Elements Organizer, so while it labors to remove the year 2010 tag I erroneously applied to every single friggin' pic on the computer, I can update here from the iPad.
Sounds like much boasting about little, but I have been feeling like an outdated toy, a 20th century boy, and recent upgrades are making me feel more like I haven't reached the end of my tech rope.
Noose of the day - the incoming Repubs are making big staff hires straight from the lobbying firms. I have to start watching the Tea Party blogs to track when they start realizing they've been farmed over.
*Melonfarmer - a word much bandied abut in the bowdlerized version of Die Hard 3.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

and anOther thing

Sorry about the short posts. Doing much catching up with myself this week.

In the meantime, you might want to ask your internet service provider if it's okay to say what you're saying.


Gail Collins in the Times, reasonably positive about recent Obama.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Apropos of nothing except those MetroPCS ads, when does the backlash begin against stereotyping South Asian men as simpering fools? Can't be too soon for me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

O no

But, but, but maybe he will only put the tip in. Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:
“The only trade agreements I believe in are ones that put workers first – because trade deals aren’t good for the American people if they aren’t good for working people. That’s why I opposed CAFTA. That’s why I oppose the South Korea Free Trade Agreement." - Barack Obama on the campaign trail, 11/13/2007
Three years later, Obama is taking bows for that very same South Korea Free Trade Agreement, negotiated by George Bush in 2007.  He made a couple of changes that could potentially net the automakers a few hundred more jobs — but got no guarantees, and at the cost of hundreds of thousands of jobs. And all the things he said he opposed in the deal, that were bad for American workers and the environment, like limiting our ability to regulate banks and forcing American taxpayers to submit to judgments made by World Bank [and IMF - mr] and UN tribunals? He didn’t touch those.
Which makes me think of the scariest prospect at all. Not only is he a liar/politician, but that he knows exactly what he's doing now and I'm the one who's kidding himself. That this is a long program of billclintonian triangulation to establish himself in the new center and for the Repigs to hurl themselves off the right edge of the Earth just in time for 2012.
Thoughts very much influenced by this from Laurence Lewis at Daily Kos: "President Obama is neither weak nor stupid... nor a progressive"

my O my

Maybe I'm making too much of all this, maybe it's all very simple: Obama is a politician, he lies. It's all a matter of lying.
This is a vexed matter because of the indiscriminate smearing of Obama by vile, pig-ignorant Repugs. If/when they happen upon a legitimate criticism - individual mandate - it's swamped in their political puke.
But OK, maybe he's a liar. Maybe he is a liar. That would account for any questions I might have about his principles. But it wouldn't account for his seeming inability to recognize his enemies when they stand around him shouting "Me! Me! I am! Me!"
Unless... he wants to be a one-term president. He's in it for the money. He services the Corporatist States of America for four years and retires to immense wealth as a board member for pharm and insurance.
Nah, doesn't suss. The ego that drives a man to the Presidency doesn't allow for one term and out.
I ran into a politically acute friend on the street and asked her what's the story with O. She came back with one word: Zelig. It does crystallize the appearance of chameleon morality in one handy image. But Zelig blended to survive - this theory won't hold unless O spends the next two years renouncing his first two and zapping far right or far left. The right will never forgive him for existing and the left will never trust him, again, would I?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who is O continued?

---------- continued from previous, see, some people know how to keep promises, sometimes

It's hard for me to write about Election Day. I certainly felt that historic jubilance - something good that I thought I'd never see in my lifetime had happened - something that didn't mean everything was better but that some things could get better.
And I had a positive opinion of the man I'd voted for, the man who'd won. [I've never been able to decide if this private joke is racist, that Obama was such a good candidate I would have voted for him even if he was white.]
At the same time, I had a bad feeling... the country was in a bad place economically... he was a politician... would he do the right things, which seemed needing more than ever since the thirties... we needed another FDR, but O was a Democrat... would he snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (this once a quip but now a trope about the Dems)?... would he fold?
I didn't join the celebration in the streets. I regret it somewhat, missing the unique, once in a lifetime and all that. But I had a nagging feeling that I was setting up for a disappointment, that O was no FDR, that no leader was that brave or desperate now, and that one day the memory of celebration would make me feel all more the fool....
When I think of all that I thought good about Obama, an image immediately comes to mind, of, I think, his first press conference as president. I was happy to see my country represented by the man who'd campaigned, quick and smart. The image that summons up all the good for me of Barack Obama is him standing at the presidential lectern, lightly gripping the sides, with one foot tilted up behind him and resting on its toe. Gracefulness married to intelligence - a Fred Astaire of the mind.
Where did this O go? What happened to him? When did he become so dumb?
I think it was the announcement that he had conferred with the pharmaceutical industry and taken their demands as given in health care reform that broke me on him. Somewhere around that time my friend Richard loaned me his copy of Dreams from My Father, and I returned it unread. I could tell from flicking through it that the prose was interesting and involving, but I just couldn't bear to be engaged with sympathy in this guy I had a feeling was going to be a terrible, terrible disappointment. I had already stopped watching his media appearances - too painful.
I swore I'd keep the faith until the fate of the public option was decided. And when it was, I gave up hope that this guy was anything like the leader I thought we needed now more urgently than ever.
Let me skip policy for the moment, and maybe for good.
This intelligent, graceful man, who I am convinced is neither evil nor traitorous nor foolish, has enemies. His enemies defame him, threaten him, lie about him, with no regard for previous standards of decency, courtesy or truthfulness. They have said that there is nothing more important to them than causing Barack Obama failure and turning him out of office after one term, if not sooner. They said it again today. Why does Barack Obama still declare and act as if constructive cooperation with these people is possible? Not desirable, but even possible? They would not applaud him even as he cut his own throat.
So who is this guy? I'm baffled. My next book up is David Remnick's The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. I would just hope to get some idea of what the man is thinking.
It's a library copy. It happens that it has been bound with the jacket inverted and reversed from the body of the book. It raises an interesting problem. How shall I read this book during quiet times at work or on the bus? It will look to others as if I am very carefully reading the story of our President upside-down. I could make a paper cover, but what am I to say if somebody peers over my shoulder and wonders why I found it necessary to hide that I was reading the President's biography? I don't think this accident says anything about Barack Obama, but I do wonder if it says anything about me.

Who is O?

Our president, Barack Obama, baffles me.
My first impressions of Obama, before the NY primary in 2008, were general and positive. I remember reading about this Senator who had written an interesting autobiography, which I hadn't gotten around to reading, and now he was making a run for the Dem nom, which struck me as premature. He was a young guy with no national rep that I could detect, running against Hillary Clinton's powerful, moneyed, and long-prepared machine. Maybe in four or eight years....
(Good to keep in mind when you're trying to forecast 2012 that few people would have predicted an Obama run, much less a victory, at this time in 2006.)
By the time of the NY primary, I simply could not choose between O and HRC. I thought of Hillary as the more establishment, corporatist candidate, and the more hawkish. O seemed closer to my
[y'know, it's kind of interesting - it seems natural to refer to one candidate by her initials or her first name, yet the other by his full or abbreviated last name. Some of this has to do with choice of branding, informal and not-associated-with-her-husband-except-in-a-good-way for one candidate and professional and maybe-it's-not-Arab-maybe-it's-Irish for the other. Maybe not, maybe nit.]
Averaging out my impression of Barack's politics made them seem closer to my own than Clinton's, so I liked that, but there was no substantial thing I could point out that could convince a theoretical friend that he was the one to back instead of C. But I was still steamed at Hillary's backing Big Boy Bush's Iraq Adventure, and certain that she had already arrived at her detente with the corporate state... but O was in many ways an unknown...
I didn't vote in the primary. I couldn't find a dot of difference to throw the balance one way or another.
I was sorry soon after that I hadn't voted for O. I thought Hillary's post-NY campaign was disgusting and destructive, enough to feel squeamish about voting for her should she win the nom. And not only did Barack show notable grace in maintaining the high road, the manner in which the younger campaigner was out-organizing and out-maneuvering the Hillary Machine became the substantial difference I hadn't seen before the primary. By the time of the convention I was a Barry fan - not a Kool-Aid drinker, but an admirer of a strong, intelligent man who just maybe had the fortitude and skills necessary in what was becoming a desperate time. I knew he supported continuing the wars on Iraqis and Afghanis - I thought this was a mistake, but perhaps he would find a way to conclude them quickly (if he was wise enough to come to agree with me). Remember, too, he was campaigning for health care reform that included a public option. At last! Not like Hillary with her tender concern for the insurance-pharma-industrial complex....

---------- to be continued shortly, I swear, not like the Marina Abramovic or trimming the cat's claws

Monday, November 22, 2010

sublime, pixelated

What an interesting website Metafilter has directed me to. It's called, and it's written by Greg Allen. He's obviously deeply but unshowily conversant with 20th c. modern art, including a (little known, very small) art exhibition on the moon
He compares buildings pixelated out of the German version of Google Street View to Gerhard Richter's blurred paintings, an association I could have made but didn't, and to the work of Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica, an association I couldn't have made since I had never heard of him before.'s prose is casual but precise yet hospitable to the worst of puns. Blurmany?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

free the music

I'm trying to spend more time exploring free, inexpensive, and pay-what-you-will media. Lifehacker recommends Creative Commons' multi-media multi-search engine, CC Search. Four letters -
j a z z - and Jamendo as the chosen engine led me to Bruce H. McCosar's Martian Winter, categorized as Progressive Jazz-Rock (which I hadn't realized was exactly what I felt like listening to).
McCosar plays all the instruments, including Telecaster leads and nifty synth and bass accompaniment. It reminds me of Bill Nelson and Phil Manzanera's solo work, in strengths as well as the possible flaw that the participation of other players would have introduced a little more challenge and variation. But I'm enjoying it more than anything I came across via traditional channels in 2010.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the big O, part 2

The first two years of the Obama administration have been a failure, and there's every reason to think things will be worse in the second half. I'm starting to think he may even be a one-term President.
In today's news: 4 million more Americans went without insurance in the first half of 2010 than in the first half of 2008. What was supposed to be a review of Iraq/Afghanistan War policy preparatory to withdrawal is backing off from previously set deadlines. The co-chairs of Obama's fiscal commission are recommending benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare!? (Where's an interrobang when you need one?) The third rail is finally grasped, by a Democratic administration?
I would have written "a nominally Democratic administration," but dese are our Dems. That's it. They're diluted Republicans. Their efficaciousness is homeopathic, and maybe not even that. (Apologies to the holistic, but belief in the effectiveness of homeopathy or Obama requires similar leaps of faith at this point.)
I don't think Barack Obama is a bad man. I wish I could really know what he was thinking when he campaigned and as he formulated plans for his administration. It seems so hallucinatory to believe that financiers could be shamed and noodged into honesty, that pharmaceutical and insurance companies would yield to the public weal, that political opponents who said over and over again that they hoped you would fail, crash and burn regardless of the consequences to the rest of the country would maybe give a little, take a little.
When does it stop being reasonable to expect people to be reasonable? When does it become senseless to hope people will be sensible?
So I think Obama has pursued a moderate course, according to his better nature, when a radical course, fiercely proposed and defended, is what was necessary. It was his mistake to make. But now he has suffered what he calls a "shellacking" at the polls, and has decided to change... nothing, that I can find. He still thinks he can reach compromise with his enemies, who are plain and sincere in their expression of desire to thwart him at every turn and deny him a second term.
These people, these Repugs and their Teahadists, are going to shame and disgrace him with every tool and rotten vegetable at hand. They are the worst forces in our society, and our President doesn't seem ready or able to oppose them. Barack Obama may end up being a one-term president, and unless he stops collaborating with people who wish him ill and the rest of us nothing that will impede their naked gluttony, it will be nobody's fault but his own.

the big O, part 1

If Barack Obama had done everything I'd hope he'd do in FDR-esque fashion this last two years, I'd be praising him to the skies. If he'd done half of it, I'd be optimistic and pulling for him/us. Regarding what he's actually done, I am more discouraged about American government and politics and pessimistic about the future than I was even during Dubya.
I guess it makes sense that no Repuglican could break my heart the way the Democratic administration has. The best I ever believed of a Republican administration during my lifetime was that at least Bush Senior probably wouldn't screw up so bad. And I think that's a fair assessment of him.
He sat around and watched, like the rest of us, as the Soviet Union broke into pieces, and avoided stepping on his own dick. He ginned up a war in Panama and imprisoned his/our former asset, Noriega, and most of the civilian damage was limited to the poor neighborhood of El Chorrillo. He sandbagged another old asset, Saddam Hussein, into invading Kuwait and then celebrated a great victory that included bulldozing under the dunes wounded and surrendering Iraqis - you know, the ones that the terrible dictator had forced into his army. He didn't screw up so bad.
Remember when the DEA lured a crack dealer ("In the old days, we called them a 'walking bird'") into selling them some rock in Lafayette Park, so Bush Sr. could hold it up during a TV address and announce truthfully that it was bought across from the White House? Gee, it's fun being old and remembering things.
Uh, I was going to write about the current Prez, wasn't I. The mind wanders, boats borne ceaselessly into the past, try again, fail better.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

those best beloved books

About a year and a half ago, I had to tear up my apartment to undo a scourge of bedbugs. I also got rid of my wooden captain's bed and the monkey puzzle of wooden bookcases piled one upon another that had threatened to topple and kill me at any given moment of the previous thirty years, preferably while I was sleeping.
With fewer bookshelves, I had to get rid of a ton of books, which wasn't as traumatic as one might think. Over the last couple of years I've deaccessioned well over a thousand books, probably just less than two thousand, because I simply couldn't stand not having space to move around my apartment any more. I found that getting rid of these things (did something similar with clothes and other knickknacks) made me feel spiritually and psychologically lighter as well.
Originally I broke the books down into three categories: essential (important to me esthetically or emotionally to have around); odd (too big or thick or expensive or rare to borrow or buy easily); and disposable (classics available from many sources, standard bios and other books readily available from the public library).
Anything of resale value was contributed to Housing Works, and the rest joined the informal book street swapping that occurs in NYC neighborhoods. Leave the book somewhere dry and visible and its next reader will find it.
It took two or three applications of the discipline and one mad screaming fit of bedbug shockhorror to get down to my current bookage.
Somewhere in the deaccessioning, swappage and shockhorror I lost track of one of my faves, a hardcover edition of John Cheever's Collected Stories. I missed being able to dip into it as comfort dictated, and realized that there were some other books I'd like to have readily at hand, for pleasure or consolation, or for inspiration and just plain affection.
So I sifted through the masses one more time and created my own 5'x5' Shelf of Best Beloved Books. The name is a small tribute to the Harvard Five Foot Shelf of classic works, to Mary Herczog and to a foolish bear once known as Edmund.
Some faves wouldn't fit this bed of Procrustes. My shelf of books by Patricia Morrison would have added a few linear feet - they are proudly displayed in the living room. Six (non-iambic) feet of poetry occupy the shelf above those. A floor-to-ceiling bookshelf across from that holds books together of a common special interest: WW I, antiquity, films, Zen; as well as a couple of yards of books from the category of the odd, large and hard to replace. Oh yeah, and then there's the 5'x4' Shelf of Expensive Photography Books, and the 3'+3' Shelf of Mass Market Paperbacks That Live Above the Door, and...
So, I am far from book-deprived. But if I'm moving to Iceland, or the Space-Celts come for me (see above), I should be able to pack quickly. In the meantime, it's pleasant to look down my bed to my favorites, before I curse life and turn out the light.

Friday, October 22, 2010


An appreciation of the continuing career of photographer Flo Fox at Street Reverb Magazine. Sounds like an interesting woman, kind of Alice Neel with a camera.
I like her photos, but I was esp taken with how the color pic above almost but not quite merges w its b&w partners.
Thx to for the original link.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

to be seen

There's a flood of news reports about bank foreclosures being held up because they handed out mortgages without employing enough people to keep track of who owned what when. Homeowners are actually making the banks prove that they hold the mortgage on a piece of property before they foreclose (there's at least one story out there about a bank that foreclosed and demolished before they could prove ownership).
This makes me happy. It happens to serve what I think of as social justice, but it's securely rooted in making corporations take responsibility for cutting corners.
The cynic in me thinks that rather than comply, and delay getting the money they just know is theirs, really, and at least sometimes not getting it whether or not it's really theirs, the banks will press for legal action to circumvent the chain of ownership. Their claim will be that it would create an "undue burden" or some such that would afflict their business, their responsibility to their stockholders, the economy of the United States of America, and some other things we all hold dear, like puppies, flowers, or freedom.

The very next day: Or, apparently, it could come from the Senate in the dark of night ("dark of night" being a figure of speech for a bill that "...passed without public debate in a way that even surprised its main sponsor, Republican Representative Robert Aderholt...").
Later this very day: White House is saying Obama won't sign the bill, which is better than, worse than, or exactly the same as vetoing it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

もうすぐ夏 Summer soon

立ったまま Standing,
上下に筆を動かすって I move the brush up and down,
わくわく Excited.

わたしの道楽につきあうかっこう Cuckoo socialize with my hobby,
きらきらした窓辺。 sparkling by the window.
自然信仰、神像彫刻。 Natural religion, statue sculpture,
羽をつけた女性の絵葉書。 postcards, feathered female.

墨もはじめて持っていってみた。 I also bring the first ink.

こどもたちが Our children
自分のおなかにぐるぐる描く Draw circles on my tummy. 

今回のアトリエは This workshop
風に揺れるもの shall swing in the wind.
夏がやってきました。 Summer has arrived. 

(An assembled po-em. Samejima Tamayo paints on cloth, usually tee shirts or white dress shirts. I met her through my friend Lauren when the two of them were studying in London. This is an arrangement of a Google Translation of her website,

Friday, September 24, 2010

light and stone

Estate of Roy Lichtenstein,
 “Indian” (1951), at the Leo Castelli Gallery.
I don't remember ever seeing Roy Lichtenstein's pre-Pop work before. This is rather beautiful. 
If you click and enlarge it, the sense of the eye being teased into dimensionality beyond the plane is very strong. This prefigures the comic book art work, in which the eye is practically dared to see a broken series of regular Ben-day dots as an object, a familiarity cut up and cut out in circles.
This image is taken from Roberta Smith's New York Times article on three Lichtenstein shows now viewable. If you check out the slide show, you'll see a late sketch clearly in homage to Matisse, as are the leaf-like structures and the triangle of red visible in this painting completed forty years earlier.
The title, Indian, probably has something to do with the stitch-like dashes in the upper right and the suggestion of unfolding at the left center - I think of tee-pees. And the two vertical dots - two "eyes" - in the stitched area make me think of Philip Guston's klansmen, masked but unveiled in the '70s.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

mo' no

As of Monday, pro-Republican third-party organizations had paid for a total of $23.6 million worth of ads, while Democratic-aligned groups had spent just $4.8 million on TV. 
Mo' money, mo' money, no money! Info from Politico via Firedoglake.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

no news

Some of the things I have neither blogged nor linked recently:

Sterile, genetically-engineered salmon "with higher disease resistance and environmental tolerance" competing for resources with natural, fertile salmon.

The white supremacist candidate for Congress endorsed by the NYS Republican party... in New York State. He's not so fond of the Jews, either.

Obama mocking Democrats angry that there's no public option in his health care reform bill, when he explicitly promised a public option during the campaign.

Fifty thousand American soldiers in Iraq become - poof! - fifty thousand American advisers in Iraq. They still have guns and missiles and use them when requested by Iraqi forces... and under other circumstances that I'm sure we'll eventually read about.

American soldiers charged - by the army - with killing Afghan civilians for fun, keeping fingers as souvenirs.

Glenn Beck. Haven't even heard anything terrible about him in a week, not since his big payday on 9/11/10.

My brother's driving me crazy. Mom is well, though!

You can already see the results of the insurance industry gaming health care reform. But you haven't even seen the beginning of the financial industry gaming derivatives reform.

A nice middle-class African American lady criticized Obama at a town hall, in terms I can well agree with. The loathsome NY Post ran her words and picture on the cover. This is like finding out that the political editor at Juggs favors allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.

During the W administration, the FBI broke a ton of rules while improperly surveilling pacifists and animal lovers. They lied about it to Congress and hid behind declarations of classification.
During the O administration, this is reported by the Office of the Inspector General and... that's it. No criminal charges, no loss of seniority, no reprimands. Law be damned. Same thing goes for torture, eavesdropping, kidnapping, killing civilians with remote armaments (drones, missiles).
Tornadoes in Queens and Brooklyn.

The Chinese government is creating a high-speed rail line to cross Asia into Europe. Beijing to London in two days. It won't be oil-dependent - China's building three times as many new nuclear plants in the next decade as the rest of the world put together. Who needs America?

A link: Jill Johnston is dead, at 81. I always found her to have interesting things to say in an interesting way. Tight prose. Not like mine, that goes on and on. This page features her recent work. Don't miss links to earlier pieces at the left.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Stephanopoulos interviews the victorious O'Donnell.
Check it: all credit to the Mighty Mooselina. O'D refers to Karl Rove et al as The Establishment. O'Dious utters the "word" unfactual and rather then gently correct her or let the literate viewer know that he himself has some familiarity with the English language, GS utters the word right back to her. Appease her, Geo, she might be a Mighty Moose one day herself. O'Darn'll also decries her opponent's mudslinging, which is like water calling fire wet.
The libblogs are all taking this as a herald of Democratic victory in November, but I'm telling you, CO'D will do better than any current poll suggests. Even if she doesn't win, the lessons learned will not be lost on the moneyed powers.
Later (like, the next day) - I've been trying to muscle my brain back into blogging, so this and the previous entry have been slow of thought and awkward in expression.
For example, I laboriously described in my previous entry, entitled "gnaw," the three factions of the Repub party, when they could have been shorthanded easily, as Matt Bai does in this NY Times piece:
Going back to the 1960s, the modern conservative movement has been an amalgam of three distinct factions: the champions of free enterprise, the foreign policy types often described as neoconservatives, and the social conservatives who became the spine of the party’s grass-roots campaign apparatus.
The neoconservatives are the current RParty establishment; the champions of free enterprise are the "socialism for millionaires, sucks to everyone else" group; and the social conservatives are the 'baggers that the second group will back/exploit and the first group will kowtow to.
For example, Romney endorses O'Donnell, donates to her campaign. Smart move - Mittens doesn't harm his chances down the road, but collects brownie points from tea'pers and Queen Sarah with a small investment of money and "integrity."
John Dickerson at Slate is also skeptical that T'per victory now means Dem wins in November. He points out that "only" 18% of independents approve of the Tparty and 12% are more likely to vote for a T-anointed candidate. Well, hell, the independents who aren't willing to drink the Tea can be divided into those who generally vote Dem and will again this November, and those who generally vote Dem and won't bother this November. That 12-18% of Independents is plenty enough to put O'Do or any other Teeps over the top.
Now that I reread Dickerson, he's not so skeptical about Dem opps. I just think the polls etc. he cites show more trouble for the Dems than he does.
Emma Mustich at Salon rounds up shocking confessions of Pristine O'Donnell, almost all of which are in line with the professions of successfully elected social conservatives. The exception is whether masturbation (sticking it to yourself) is as sinful as adultery (sticking it to someone else) - most soc'cons wouldn't agree, they just think it's icky and shouldn't be taught to schoolchildren and has a generally liberal taint to it. (I have no empirical evidence to cite for this. I keep trying to find some on the 'net and getting distracted.)
To end where I began, the Matt Bai article is mainly about the campaign tactic of Casting Shade on The Prez:
Mr. Obama’s alleged sympathy for so-called Muslim extremists who would desecrate the World Trade Center site, his socialist African ancestry and his early years in Indonesia — all of this creates a shadowy archetype that every conservative enclave (fiscal, foreign policy and religious) can find a reason to fear.
Bai's use of "shadowy" above is clever and knowing (like my use of "casting shade"! Get it? I'm clever and knowing, too! as much good as that's doing me). Muslim-hating and Obama-shading - even if it doesn't put the Unspeakables in charge in 2010, at least these things can be quantified for 2012.


The current political season should be a true case of "follow the money." Christine O'Donnell, another Palin endorsee, is the Tea Party associated winner of the Republican primary in Delaware. The Repuglican intelligentsia (i.e., Karl Rove) are not pleased, nor are the national and state party organizations.
Keep an eye on who funds O'Donnell's senatorial campaign from now til November.
The Tea Party Express is already announcing support - they are our old conservative friends in teabagging garb - their roots are in the faux-populist health care riots of last summer. Basically an establishment front attempting to harness Tea Party energy. So not quite your current Republican party but happy to work within it.
The combination of seeming grassroots teabagging with a mysteriously well-funded campaign featuring lots of advertising, busses for rallies, pre-printed posters will mean that the folks liberated by the Supreme Court "corporations is people" free speech decision are boosting her. These are the people who think the current Republican party is too middle-of-the-road and that it's time we really, really, REALLY let the free market show what it can do, esp if losses can be pawned off on the peons.
I think the latter will be the case. What on earth do the wealthy malefactors have to lose? Money? That can always be coined, stolen, or hornswoggled.
For them, O'Donnell's campaign will make a great case study in how to present and handle a candidate even less qualified than Dubya; how much untruth a Fox-fed public will voluntarily swallow; what issues can best be exploded to obscure actual crises; and just how much money per voter might it take to put a national candidate from Wasilla, Alaska into the White House.
If the MOR Republicans warm to O'Donnell between now and November, it will mean that they recognize not the power of teabaggery but of the plutocracy that wiggles it.
La la la.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Sarah Palin... backed five candidates in Arizona, Florida, and Alaska—and they all won.... Twenty of the candidates she's endorsed have won. Ten have lost. [ and]

If she runs in 2012, and I think that "if" is looking weaker and weaker, she'll have tons and tons of advertising and astroturf support, thanks to oil infrastructure billionaires and the Citizens United victory in the Supreme Court.

Sarah Palin is your next George W. Bush.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

a vile deed

A friend/associate's very clean and tasty site design for has been ripped off. A boo and a hiss for the ripper-offer.

catch-up 22

Usually I write these posts directly in the blogger online app. It’s a little balkier and likely to fubar than a desktop word processor, but like a hanging in the morning, I find it tends to concentrate the mind.
I have a lot of bibs and bobs to catch up on, tho, and I’ll feel more free to just catch up if I write and revise this entry offline.
Joseph Stack, for example, remember him? Flew his airplane into an IRS building last summer, killed an apparently nice guy named Vernon Hunter? I felt that Stack might be the starting pistol, so to speak, of informal violent reaction to a Black president, right-wing propaganda, and a failing economy, but if so, it’s taking its time kicking out the chocks.
I was dead wrong that vilifying Elena Kagan would be this summer’s death-panel march, and I’m still surprised by this. It seems such an obvious play for the Right, a way to add to their governmental cock-blocking an actual assertive attack on the Obama administration.
They haven’t been able to make much partisan hay of the Gulf oil spill - and remember, how much of a weapon they can try to make of it has nothing to do with the actual foundation of blame, which is still more W’s than O’s.
I also don’t know that the positing of all Muslims everywhere as The Enemy is going to get much mileage out of the so-called “9/11 Mosque,” although the marketing so far has been a great success. (Quick, what’s the real name of the proposed cultural center?)
I was pondering and pondering the lack of Kagan vilification - what was I missing? - when I realized that maybe the Repubs had simply erred, that I had identified the best play based on their performance in the last 30-40 years but they had not. Evil does not mean omniscient, perhaps they will regret this in retrospect.
It may also be that they are afraid of riling up their Tea Party minions, who have actually been exercising their franchise rights, as if they had a right to choose their representatives or something. The serfs are revolting, and also not obeying their party/corporate masters. The latter don’t want to accidentally further empower the former, lest they lose the whip hand.
...lost track of myself. What was I asseverating? Oh yeah. The sleep of reason producing monsters.
“Sarah Palin will be the Republican candidate for President in 2012,” I wrote, on May Day, and very soon Andrew Sullivan and any number of other folk on right, left, and horseback have dared to utter the same. I see no reason to retract. I’m still not saying she would win. And I have never said that she would lose. It’s crazy, isn’t it? But do not despair. Remember when everybody was talking about that crazy global warming thing? And that never came true.
More fun TK.

Monday, August 9, 2010


The doldrums I refer to are personal, haven't been stirred by anything much the last week or so. No biggie, 'cause not a depression. But I think this is the longest between posts (and the previous one was a shortie) since I began blogging regularly.
Extremities of weather continue. Virtually nothing new has made it to the American media about the unusually low temps causing deaths in Peru, part of a general South American cold snap. Meanwhile, Pakistan is flooded, the death rate in Moscow has been doubled (think of that, twice as many people dying than usual) due largely to smoke and smog from raging forest fires, extreme swimming is now possible in newly melted glacial pools in the Himalayas.
I think there's a local symptom even more alarming than the high-temp summer days of this past North American July: unseasonal breeze.
In my experience, the typical NYC summer of the last 20 years has been hot and stifling - the immobile and often massively humid air has been dreadful. A couple of times last summer I remember noting that the temp was up in the 90s, which would usually poleax me, but a pleasant zephyr was keeping the air in motion - I felt a little cooler and a little drier. [Cliche regarding humidity vs heat]
This has become more common this summer. I'm sure an examination of weather records would bear my observation out. The air has been in motion even on most of the hottest days, anything from a breeze to a downright wind that made tree branches sway back and forth.
I'd be personally grateful, but I think it is a bad portent. Global climate change is a disruption in equilibrium. When forces shift that have formerly been in balance, energy is redistributed, and until it settles down, hot areas become hotter, cold ones colder, temperate realms become a little differently temperate, in timing, in distribution, and when the breeze blows more constantly than it did before, energy somewhere is finding new places to distribute itself. Oh yeah, things like unusually powerful windstorms and oddly located tornados, they happen, too. And the disequilibria proliferate.
Assuming everything is about to go out of balance, eventually everything will come back into balance again. But there's no obligation for the weather to do so on a human timetable, or to suit human needs.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Hundreds of people freezing to death in Peru, due to lowest temperatures recorded in 50 years. As of this posting, no Google News links to this story lead to U.S. newspapers. Found on

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ég tala bara ensku

I began subscribing to the Iceland Review Online daily email a couple of months ago. My disgust at finding myself living in a torture state, and a torture state owned and operated by the wealthy, at that, has me thinking that morally I'm obligated either to smash that state or move out of it.
Iceland is famous for its human-scale, liberal government. Or it was until it went broke a couple of years ago due to investment shenanigans. But the Icelanders, instead of making good the gambling losses of the banking classes (i.e., what we did and are doing in the USA), sued the shit out of them and voted their pets out of office. Decency is still regarded as a civic virtue there - I can't imagine a waterboarding scandal left unpunished once exposed.
The colder climate is way attractive to me. I am a cold-weather, brisk-windy-fall kind of creature, and I can't even feature moving as far south as Pennsylvania, much less farther south. And if global warming is going to hit big in my lifetime, I'd rather suffer it in Iceland than in tropical New York City.
I might just be in time. Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir has an article in today's IRO about suffering through the current "unbearable" 20+°C (68°+F) heatwave.
It is also possible that a more temperate Iceland, close to the now navigable waters of a thawed Arctic Ocean, under which lie unknown deposits of oil, is going to find itself a very busy unhappy host to a more imperial nation or two. But at least it would be a state I could defend without disgust.
And if not Iceland, there's Nunavut, altho I don't know if I'd be at all welcome there. "Ég tala bara ensku" is Icelandic for "I only speak English." What's Inuit for "honky"?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

broken, empty, alive

Another morning at the ICP library. Some interesting work with figurines by Liliana Porter. I chose this one esp because of the emptiness (or, if you wish, "negative space") at the left. It's essential to the pic. Try an improvised cropping - move the window to the left until the deer is conventionally centered in the image - it's dead. Now move it back out. Not only is the empty space alive, but it supplies air for the flaring gold ear.
Egad. More void below:

Friday, July 16, 2010


I make my living as a proofreader and copy editor. Sometimes I think of my profession as being a Professional Nitpicker. This has the virtue of expressing my affection for the work as well as many other people's (account managers, copy writers) resentment of it.
People often ask me if I am always finding typos in newspapers, magazines, books. Yes.
I don't fuss much over typos in newspapers, given their time constraints and that they seem to be doing a better job now (at least in the online editions that are the only ones I see) than they did during the pre-computer and transitional days. Some of my colleagues, including the one who has dubbed herself Conanne the Grammarian, are less forgiving.
The magazines I read dedicate more time and money to the prose they publish, with accordingly better results. When I occasionally see a bit of copy that needs a fix, it will stick in my mind, esp if it's a deluxe pub like the New Yorker (hint - don't assume human skin only comes in pink and white).
What I do find unforgivable is typos and solecisms in books from major or minimally respectable publishers. No excuse. We nitpickers don't cost much compared to salaries on the business side.
An example that sticks in mind: the Booker-shortlisted Breakfast on Pluto, by Patrick McCabe. Harper (owned by the regrettable Rupert Murdoch) published the edition I read, and clearly they felt running spellcheck was proofreading enough. Chalk-fool of typos, it was. I stopped keeping track after the protagonist mentions her "brass earnings," meaning not a mineral investment but adornment for the ears. Shameful. Any author deserves better, but McCabe is esp a novelist of voice - how insulting to broadcast his labor in such a shoddy manner.
The occasion for today's complaint is Michael Bierut's book, Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design, published by Princeton Architectural Press. I enjoy Bierut's straightforward and interesting writing. As you would expect, the book is carefully designed, and well made... except for the proofreading. By essay 7 I had already found three typos, including "and" with a word space in the middle of it and a misspelling of Gutenberg's name, of all things.
As a copy editor, you would note my use of "had already found" rather than "have already found" in the para above, because while confirming how far I have read in the book, I found yet another corrigendum. Bierut expresses admiration of an essay by a certain Susan, but whether she is Susan Sellers or Susan Sellars you could not distinguish by reading page 34. So much for the copy editing.
Proofreading is an aspect of a book as surely as any physical element. Integrity is as compromised by sloppiness as it is by a blot, whether on a page or an escutcheon.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

the white stone

One aspect of being a photographer, writer, any kind of creator of new things, that I've never seen discussed, is when you grow sick of a particular work or group of works.
For example, photographs - you have to look at them closely, again and again and again. At the first contact print, or first download (I'll stick with the contemporary process). Skimming through the entire download, seeing what's what, deleting obviously faulty pix but not deleting those that are only possibly faulty. Going through slowly again, discovering which of the ones you thought would turn out well at the moment of capture actually caught something. Puzzling out the possibly faulty - do you remember what you thought you had? did you just get it wrong? does it just need to be cropped? cropped to what you thought you had in the first place, or is there a different way to see it and crop it? what is there now that you've cropped it? is it better if you include the white stone at the bottom right, or crop it out? which of the other variables (exposure, color balance, intensity of color in light or in shadow) would make a picture out of a pic? 
Repeat, repeat, repeat. When you've gotten down to the 10 out of 30, or 2 out of 100, that actually have something to them, print, revise and print (repeat as necessary) - should you print bigger? should you print smaller? should you put it aside as hopeless? not yet? stare at it for a while longer? tack it to the wall until you're almost sure that you love it or hate it?
Repeat, and repeat, and repeat. If you're going to mass reproduce, to print a book or create a web gallery, select, edit, sequence (a whole new opportunity for struggle and doubt), discover what isn't working in the new medium, revise, revise, repeat, repeat. If you're not about to vom, it's a miracle. The phrase is ad nauseam for a reason. 
Ditto with a written work, I know from experience. Entirely apart from the question of how the rest of the world and fate will regard what you're creating, is figuring out your own regard of this word, that phrase, this incident here or before, that adverb, this character (too flat? too round? too unbelievable? too believable?), this whole damn book/story/poem.
You know those clicky things used to count people entering a venue? You could keep one of those by your side, click it whenever you think something's right or something's wrong, even when they're the same something, even when you're looking five seconds, five minutes, or fifteen years later. You'd never stop clicking.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) of the Senate Judiciary Committee says that Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall erred in his dissents from the death penalty:
"Well, first you look at the Constitution as a whole....The Constitution says you can't inflict cruel and unusual punishment. Well, every state had the death penalty. It wasn't unusual. It has to be both."
So apparently any method of execution, no matter how cruel (say, that devised by one of Hannibal Lecter's surviving victims, being eaten slowly from the toes up by wild boars) would be A-OK with the founders, as long as it was not unusual, i.e., adopted uniformly by the states.
[Quotation from an interview of Sessions by Brien Beutler at Talking Points Memo.]
All jolly speculations aside, the left-o-blog-o-sphere is missing the point when they wonder why Repubs are assaulting the reputation of such a respected figure (Marshall, not Lecter), chancing further reduction of their African American vote. The Republican base is not composed of biological humans who cast a vote; it is composed of corporate persons who purchase media, judges, legislators. The humans are just a thin external coating, like that which allows Terminators to travel back in time and control the future... which is also part of their dream.
PS Sessions further explains why excluding black people from educational opportunity is just like limiting corporate contributions to political campaigns. I'd make fun of what he says here, except I can't make heads or tails of it.
PPS I originally, erroneously, referred to the House, rather than Senate, Judiciary Committee.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Photo by Juan Crisostomos Mendez Avalos, unknown to me until I went browsing at the ICP Library. There's a high-rez gallery at

it's the law!

on Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project:
...the [Supreme] Court makes it clear that Congress and/or the Executive can solely and unilaterally determine who is a “terrorist threat”, and who is not—without recourse to judicial review of this decision. And if the Executive and/or Congress determines that this group here or that group there is a “terrorist organization”, then their free speech is curtailed—as is the free speech of anyone associating with them, no matter how demonstrably peaceful that speech or interaction is.

Monday, June 21, 2010

“There were a whole host of problems that occurred on this well and on this rig. Many of those problems were detected hours before, in fact, days beforehand,” he said. “No level of regulation would have prevented what happened.”
That's Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior. Barack Obama's Secretary of the Interior. 
Not George Bush's appointee, not Dick Cheney's, not BP's. Barack Obama's.
President Obama took partial ownership of this disaster by not reforming the Minerals Management Service. I think that if this statement stands he owns the whole pig, lipstick and all.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Continuing with Schulman's Ties That Bind.
After the first couple of chapters, I find my argument (rather than my agreement) with Schulman developing. I've taken a number of days to figure out where our difference would be.
As I've written below, one difference is simply that I have not led a gay life, and never could lead a lesbian one. She's very much concerned about the experience of homophobia corrupting lesbian relationships. It's just something I don't/can't know about. Schulman is the only writer I know for whom this is a major topic - altho I trust her and see enough congruence with other people's writings and experience that I can't doubt it. Maybe this is why later in the book she identifies her writing work with Philip Roth's, which would not have been my first guess. Like Roth, a secret that her in-group would rather keep out of sight just makes for a more interesting area to explore.
I guess I have absolutely nothing to offer in comment on that topic... I didn't know it was so, I wish it weren't so, I don't know what to do about it, aside from the general.
Schulman's overall recommendation for what is to be done, I think, can be summarized as (continuing the work of) eliminating the onus placed on homosexuality and directing attention to an actual source of cruelty and victimization, homophobia. She and I would be as one on this. I think that just as it is impossible now, after much cultural work, to regard racism as a sin which can be diluted by other better qualities, or excused as part of the overall person's experience, we have to do the cultural and personal work that will make homophobia an unpopular, distasteful, disfiguring characteristic in the eyes of society, family and friends.
The work of stigmatizing racism is not yet done. The work of stigmatizing homophobia has barely begun. The sign of this is the ease and frequency with which homophobia is forgiven in personal and social situations; again, contrast to racism. As a marker, look at the heroes of TV and movies - you could not possibly have a hero among whose failings was racism. Sometimes the opposite for homophobia.
The book makes an excellent moral case for interfering with homophobia, but Sarah would go on to make legal and psychotherapeutic intervention a requirement. That sounds awfully official. To put it less so, therapist and family counselors as well as representatives of law should be required to take action against homophobia in the same way they would against, say, child abuse in a family, or harrassment in a workplace, or cruelty in a marriage.
When I put it that way to myself, this doesn't sound bad at all. But I think she errs in the degree of intrusion into what's commonly known as private life. She addresses this - that it is a social and moral error to allow a cloak of privacy to cover injustice and abuse - in reasonable terms. But I think for one she is suggesting a change in the culture that dwarfs even erasing homophobia - to let sunshine into possibly every corner of family life. I am not certain that such exposure would be tolerable or good - and it would mean an enormous degree of openness to examination, lest abuse be missed. And I am certain that allowing government or bureaucracies further into the regulation of family life is a terrible idea.
To alter the general understanding of homophobia as something resulting from homosexuals into something imposed by homophobes, great, and effective. To test for compliance, not so much.
I don't think it's laxness of thought that moves Schulman in this direction. I think it may be life experience - and this is absolutely not to say that admitting such weakens her argument. On the contrary, it may strengthen it, as real testimony of real human suffering. One of the things I've admired in Schulman's writing, open in her nonfiction and evident in her fiction, is that she works very well in the field where political and personal overlap. I've never been able to work creatively from that place, only the (seemingly) purely personal.
I think the prospect of dying before the extinction of homophobia and the making right of its injustices is something that upsets her greatly. And I would speculate more on that if I knew her better or this was even less of a public forum.
And I think here is the biggest difference between Sarah and myself. She is an optimist. It may sound funny to so describe someone so while considering their treatise against the infliction of human misery, but she is an optimist and knowingly so:
Why, after all, try to explain what exclusion and punishment feel like, and why they are wrong? Somewhere in the choice to communicate lies a profound optimism and pure belief that people don't want to do evil, and if they realize what they are doing, they will stop it.
I don't have much belief in the willingness of people to examine themselves, identify wrongs, and work to change. We are lazy and selfish - and I write this as a buddhist - it is our nature as conscious vulnerable creatures. I don't think we as a whole desire to do evil - I just think we are weakly motivated to see it in the first place and do something about it in the second, esp at any expense to ourselves.
Sarah, in the course of writing her book about human cruelty, and with possibly a more particular and general experience of it than my own, expects better of human beings than I do. She is an optimist. Which might well make her much more different from me than being a lesbian.

Monday, June 14, 2010


[H]aving had it suggested to him by a young friend that Picasso was "a wilful distortionist" who painted "rose-coloured women with gigantic feet," Kafka replied: "I do not think so…he only registers the deformities which have not yet penetrated our consciousness. Art is a mirror, which goes 'fast', like a watch - sometimes."
 Zadie Smith, again from Changing My Mind, quoting from Conversations with Kafka. In addition to her own brilliances, Smith's essays are full of jewels like this.

living room

The novels we know best have an architecture. Not only a door going in and another leading out, but rooms, hallways, stairs, little gardens front and back, trapdoors, hidden passageways, et cetera. It’s a fortunate rereader who knows half a dozen novels this way in their lifetime. I know one, Pnin, having read it half a dozen times. When you enter a beloved novel many times, you can come to feel that you possess it, that nobody else has ever lived there. You try not to notice the party of impatient tourists trooping through the kitchen (Pnin a minor scenic attraction en route to the canyon Lolita), or that shuffling academic army, moving in perfect phalanx, as they stalk a squirrel around the backyard (or a series of squirrels, depending on their methodology). Even the architect’s claim on his creation seems secondary to your wonderful way of living in it.
- Zadie Smith, "Rereading Barthes and Nabokov,"
from Changing My Mind

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Continuing with Sarah Schulman's Ties That Bind.
Again I have the experience from reading her books of seeing a truth I know re-affirmed from a very different angle.
I am often attracted to LGB people (and I don't mention Ts only by reason of limited experience) who I have found are idiosyncratic thinkers about life and society, in things small (what's a good book) and large (who's killing whom). Of course, there is no reason I shouldn't be, and I have the same attraction to free-thinking straights (by definition, not homophobes). But it's interesting to be a straight-ish man who's utterly pro-queer and whose best male friends are not straight, to look at some of his very close relationships with Ls and ask, not just why I've been close to them but also why have they been close to me?
The answer is that I really really like people who think things through. As a child I thoroughly, almost embarrassingly absorbed the conventions of my family and milieu, simultaneously thinking the world a very strange place to be living in. I have had to think a lot of things through in order for my world to be a place I can live in. And I think that a tremendous part of my liking for queers is that LGBTs have to think their way through quite a lot to make their world livable at all.
With the same simultaneous capacity, sometimes LGBTs are an us to me, and sometimes a them. It would be by no means a lie to describe myself as bisexual, but how true is it? I have had fun fooling around with men, I was certainly attracted to them when I was younger, during my twenties and thirties bi was the first word that I would use to describe my sexuality. However, and somewhat dismayingly, I found men less and less attractive over time while my attraction to women sustained. I had a lot invested in the queer-ness and cool of being bi. It was not easy for me to accept my non-central status on the Kinsey scale. But I really like telling the truth. And not only is my attraction to men near-invisible nowadays, I also think it would be arrogant for me to say "us" when talking gay. I haven't lived the life. As much as I can feel it and think it, I haven't lived the life.
The motto - It's a Black Thing. You Wouldn't Understand. - had a period of great mainstream circulation. A lot of white people resented it (and I won't even begin to analyze why because I do want this post eventually to come to an end). But I didn't. I've rubbed shoulders and more with black people, my reading is not circumscribed by race, I loathe racism and seek to root it out in the greater society and in myself - but I simply have not lived as a black American.
Anyway, I do tend to like the out Ls I meet, and when they like me in kind, I think it's because I realize they've had to think their way through to the place of relative sanity they're in, and my respect for that is evident. 
It's also true that most people, Ls, Gs, and even Ss, assume I'm gay when they meet me.
I tried to figure this out once. I had met a number of men at a new workplace who I assumed were gay and been wrong like, three times in a row. So I thought, what is this that's reading to me as gay? And the commonalities I saw were: well-spoken, courteous, non-primitive towards women. And if those are the things that lead people to class me as gay, I'm fine with that. (There's of course much more on an intuitive level going on.)
Usually I don't correct the assumption unless I feel the truth's at stake. When I do, my reasons are all the same and different: with Ls, because I know many straight men have weird agendas with lesbians and I don't want the relationship on a mistaken basis; with Gs, to let them know they're talking with a straight-ish comrade, maybe not one of them but unquestionably with them (there's that "them"); with straights, to let them (another "them" - exactly who is it that I really think I'm an "us" with?) know the truth, which includes being pro-gay or pro-queer, word-choice depending on which is going to do the most to push social freedom another fraction of an inch.
So here I've gone on and on. Why? Because from the moment I knew that I would be writing about Sarah and her books, I knew that I would not feel intellectually honest unless my particular wanderings across the spectrum were acknowledged here. For a number of reasons probably having to do more with the intimacies of NYC than anything else, I haven't been conversationally out to Sarah (hi, Sarah) as straight, gay, queer or other. It's not that I have to have a particular identity - but I do feel I have to be out as who I am.
That's not easy. Internalized homophobia is so pernicious. I was absolutely shocked to be reminded of this in a conversation I had at work yesterday, after writing and practically while revising the previous post. As I was talking with two fairly conventional male co-workers, I could see my mind take a sudden swerve to avoid a perfectly natural place to mention gay affiliation. (I won't be more specific because I'm horribly embarrassed and the kinship would suffer - the kin would be hurt - if I was.) What a motherfucker fear of shunning is! Maybe I was more vulnerable to the phobia because I had been thinking about it all morning, but it still was not my shining hour. There's another reason I hesitate to use "we" when I say gay - it's not an essential part of my sanity for me to show queerness in the conventional world - it only feels very urgently to be the right thing to do.
And here we are, where thought and feeling cross. The attractive quality I often see in queer folk, the one that I appreciate in myself, I've always described as thinking things through. I've often thought that every young adult who hasn't had to come out on some basis should be required to take a twelve-step program, whether addicted or not, just to make them, for once, think things through.
Because I think so much about thinking, it was a change of perspective for me to read in Ties That Bind:
The capacity for feeling, strong enough to overwhelm social expectation, is at the root of the homosexual identity. The transgression is what coming-out is all about. Without having experienced the coming-out process themselves, straight people often do not have a model for such a fierce level of resistance.
Feeling, says Schulman, not thought. Not the same as thinking. Something new for me to feel about.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Sarah Schulman is best known for her novels and plays, but also writes provocative non-fiction. I've just read the first chapter of her book Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences, and as usual, she has opened up another way of looking at things for me.
She talks about the power of shunning - and it's interesting to put it that way - "the power of shunning" underscores that the power goes to the one who shuns. You can say "the power of love" and "the power of being loved" and both ways power is endowed upon the receiver. In the case of shunning, the power is always on the side of the one who shuns and subtracted from their object.
This, I think, is one reason she puts a great emphasis on third parties taking responsibility for weighing in with the shunned and against the shunning. This goes somewhat against the American grain - why, shouldn't any person be able to stand up and adequately supply her own defense? Well, no. It's exhausting, it can wear you out and kill you, and even if successful, it only helps a few and not many. Schulman believes in the moral responsibility of the crowd, and how it manifests through the actions of individuals. (And I have been seeing more and more clearly that the great - maybe I should say successful - exhorters to individualism and selfishness in our age always seem to have institutional support.)
One particular aspect of shunning that she points out is within isolated and embattled groups, esp gay community and institutions. It can gain you favor with the powerful, to shun in common; it can create your own safer-feeling in-group; you may feel yourself elevated by pushing another down (crabs in a bucket).
I see another example of this going on. The organizers of Toronto's gay pride march have "have forbidden the activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) from marching in the parade under that name." As Sarah has pointed out (I paraphrase), hasn't the gay community experienced enough of cutting people off? More directly, isn't this a case of exerting power through shunning?
Now I read that the Madrid gay pride march organizers are forbidding an Israeli group from marching because the mayor of their home town, Tel Aviv, has not apologized for the raid on the flotilla to break the Gaza blockade.
Let the political terms cancel each other out, and you're left with the power of exclusion. So seductive. Esp, it seems, to those who have been at the mercy of others (much as we may wish that this would increase empathy, not decrease it). It may be part of what keeps the Palestinians and the Israelis at an impasse, both of them having been shunned alternately or simultaneously by their neighbors.

(Disclosure: Sarah and I are neighbors, acquaintances, and somewhere in the vicinity of friendship. I liked her books before I discovered she lived down the block.)

Monday, June 7, 2010


How does Blogger make these seemingly arbitrary decisions about the line-spacing of my posts?


It was a very techno weekend, between the Aperture (library of photos took about 12 hours to copy over to the new app), the iPad (which is here at work with me now - the only thing that would have gotten more of an adoring response from my co-workers would be a puppy) and watching streaming Netflix.
Netflix streams a treat on the iPad. Perversely, I chose to watch a 1977 film, The Consequence, West German, black-and-white, digitized from a somewhat battered print. There's something pleasantly antique about old film reanimated by digital tech, whether it's The Consequence with high contrast, glare and fuzz, or something like The Gleiwitz Case, an East German film from 1961 sharp enough to match against still photography of the period. (The Consequence is very intimate, The Gleiwitz Case arctic, each worth seeing.)
And on to Saturday night.
I also have Netflix streaming on my TV, via a Roku box (Rok-you? Rok-oo? Anybody know?). I was curious to see if Roku had added anything nifty to their channel selection, came across CNDTwo, which features among other things, recorded lectures from Yale University.
I didn't go to an Ivy, don't think I've stepped foot on an Ivy campus except for a single afternoon's wander 'round Vassar, and I've always been curious to see what a lecture at one would be like, compared to my experience at New College at Hofstra University.
I chose "Amy Hungerford English 291 the American novel since 1945 video 12
Thomas Pynchon on the crying of lot 49 Yale University." 
I wasn't impressed by the beginning of the lecture, identifying two ideas of the novel, as self-contained universe or as socially engaged artifact, but I understood that this was part of introducing these relative tyros, Eli or not, to the lit in some organized manner.
I was downright dismayed, tho', by several historical omissions and errors on the part of the lecturer. She correctly identified several acronyms of the period, but admitted not knowing what FSM stood for. It stands for Free Speech Movement, an essential precursor to SDS and other radicalizing political groups. Seemed odd to me that she wouldn't have researched that. Similarly she gets the slogan "Turn on, tune in, drop out" wrong. And last she identifies what's known as the Gulf of Tonkin resolution as authorizing American bombing of Cambodia, mistaking the completely unauthorized attack on that country with the earlier, somewhat authorized escalation of attack on Vietnam. (This last easily excused as a memory hiccup of the sort that anybody could have. I bet you it's correct in her notes.)
More than feeling that the lecturer had messed up, this sharpened my understanding that the life I've lived is now history. This history was my life. Its truth, lies and shibboleths come readily to my mind because I lived the making of their memory.
At this point I was watching just because I wanted to see the lecture through. I'm glad I did. Hungerford clearly loves and knows the book as book. She made an easy job of explaining how Oedipa adopts the familiar roles available to women at the time (wife, mother, daughter) in order to infiltrate a previously closed world, and drops the F-word gently upon the heads of her fairly unresponsive listeners, perhaps to soak in later (F-eminism). She pointed out motifs such as tears without turning a novel into an exercise in "Where's Oedipa?" Her pleasure in the book's giving and withholding of meaning, and the very fine tuning of its final call, was evident.
At lecture's end, I didn't come to the conclusion that, based on this sample, enlightenment at the Ivies is anything special and wonderful, but I am curious to watch some more CNDTwo lectures. Just exactly what does Hungerford make of Black Boy? 
I am enjoying all this tech right now. There's a danger of mistaking mastery of tech, especially something super-shiny as the iPad, for actual accomplishment. But I spent the weekend engaged with some of the best of human culture, and continued making efforts to add some small share.

illegal human experimentation on torture

According to Physicians for Human Rights and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Bush administration apparently conducted illegal and unethical human experimentation and research on detainees in CIA custody.
Firedoglake summary here. PHR original report here (pdf). Obama administration prosecution -- ?

Saturday, June 5, 2010


It's been an odd day, not a bad one, but everything somewhat skewed from what I thought it would be.
Recently I got tired of Adobe Element's stodginess, the lackluster design and insistent reliance on the not terribly flexible Adobe Bridge to navigate among photos. I bought a copy of Aperture, Apple's semi-professional photo workflow and development application.
In a world of things that are not skewed but just plain wrong, it's so nice to work with something that pleases the eye and the designing mind. Can you imagine just how ugly and kludgey Windows would be, without Apple and The Sainted Jobs to set a standard?
Anyway, I tried Aperture out on a copied folder of pix and liked it, so I decided to go whole hog and transfer everything over to it today.
My one complaint with Aperture so far is that it imposes what seems to be a needlessly convoluted hierarchy of projects, photos, albums, versions and masters. I thought it would make things simpler to start anew and try to follow its structure rather than battling with the app. Still seems a good idea but it's been copying over and processing for 7 freakin' hours now! Perhaps we're just spoiled, I am talking about 80 gigs of data after all. And perhaps if I had taken note of exactly how big the original files were before starting I wouldn't keep gingerly checking the capacity of my hard disk. It's a terabyte, but I keep wondering if I've set the Aperture library to copy itself ad infinitum....
So what I had thought would be an afternoon of making pix turned into an afternoon of screwing around with my iPad. Yes, I bought it and I'm glad, thank The S.J. Yes, it's too expensive in proportion to anything else I might sensibly purchase, but it might be the last major technology I have a chance to master before mental ossification sets in.
"Amy Hungerford English 291 the American novel since 1945 video 12
Thomas Pynchon on the crying of lot 49 Yale University"
I'll get on to that tom'w - I'm pretty tired for having done fuck-all really. But I will tell you that's copied and pasted from the Dragon Dictation speech-to-text app on my iPad, as is, no corrections.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


And since I posted about politics, here's a photo by Jan Groover.

Episode IV

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake, this time not just calling out the villains but making the first hopeful points that have struck me true since the health care farce:

But by making peer-to-peer connections that obviate the need for intercession of an elite media who intuitively serve the interests of the Masters of the Universe, the structure of the internet could potentially facilitate the trans-partisan alliance of outsiders capable of taking on insiders on discrete issues.
When corporate money is limited in its ability to influence political outcomes on one side, it simply achieves its objectives by flowing to the other side. And as long as the online world reinforces the tribalism that perpetuates the problems of partisan politics, the results will be the same. I do have hope. But in order to have any real, lasting impact, online activists are going to have to change both the language and the terms of the debates. None of us can win the battle against a heavily out-gunned corporate world by ourselves. We’re going to have to extricate ourselves, and our political dialogue, from the tribalism and demagoguery that facilitates corporate hegemony.
(Libertarians ain't all Rand Paul. Perhaps more of that soon.)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I haven't been a Twitter user, but I came across this twitstream or whatever it's called and it has a bunch of interesting links I haven't seen elsewhere:
Newsweek on the relatively new concept of the 'default state' of the brain. about 1 hour ago via TweetDeck
Superstitions work. Best of luck skeptics. about 4 hours ago via TweetDeck
This is a *very* bizarre article in the Journal of the Indian Medical Association. about 4 hours ago via TweetDeck
The last days of the polymath. via @amishare about 18 hours ago via TweetDeck
The war in the Congo has killed 5.4 million people since 1998. 5.4 million. I never knew. about 19 hours ago via TweetDeck
On the Vatican's bizarre sexuality screening programme for priests. via @saletan about 19 hours ago via TweetDeck
Worth checking out at - no Twitter account necessary.
Also available as an RSS feed, which is probably how I'll follow it.
Almost forgot - link via BoingBoing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lisette Model

I'm feeling rather bland and flat today, but I really desired to post something more than my relinquishment of politics. I thought, why punish myself and anybody else, what's an image that's cheery? And this is the one that came first to mind.

Photograph by