main: May 2007 Archives
I'll be in the crowd at the NBCC event on Thursday mentioned at the top of my column today. Hope to meet a few of you.
At one point, I was, it's said, to be part of the panel itself, but evidently this changed when Joyce Carol Oates became available. And so my obscurity continues, albeit at a somewhat higher level.
Book Expo is one of the busier few days of the year for me. No blogging probably until early next week. I probably won't even check comments until we get back Sunday.
I've read quite a bit of work by and about Norman Podhoretz over the years, and am looking forward to an updated edition of DSM (the diagnostic handbook for psychiatrists) that will define the precise nature of this puzzling impulse.
Well, that's not quite fair. I take it back. Some of it anyway.
It's an armada of motorcycles, thousands of them, the mufflers removed from every one, it seems, so a low steady cyclical growl floats over the whole city -- and from the horizon, for the bikers are across the river as well, in the neighborhood close to Arlington National Cemetery, which is the magnet pulling all this metal to Washington, D.C. each year during Memorial Day weekend. It's called Rolling Thunder (which was also, not so coincidentally, the name of a bombing campaign during the Vietnam war).
The usual tourists wander around, of course, taking the usual pictures of the usual monuments. But more awe-inspiring is the temporary installation of artwork on the streets downtown. There are long rows of parked motorbikes, customized to the point of mutation, parked at angles that seem like a temptation to gravity and the domino effect. The place is full of sweaty, beer-swilling, heavily tattooed bikers. And you should see their husbands.
The small boy was an officer in the Cosmic Engineers. He helped his father with the machine they used to send beams of mysterious energy into the upper atmosphere, causing rain to fall during a drought. Their ray gun, called a "cloudbuster," had other uses as well. The UFOs that seemed to be keeping track of activities around Daddy's laboratory would try to avoid the beam. You could chase the flying saucers across the sky with it.
The Hollywood Reporter, uh, reports:
Haitian auteur Raoul Peck will direct "Karl Marx," tracing the young adventures of the German philosopher and revolutionary, producer Jacques Bidou said Thursday.
The picture will cover the period 1830-1848, including Marx's time in Paris before being expelled to Brussels and culminating with the publication of the Communist Manifesto. "Marx was considered a young genius at the time, but it was also a period marked by the birth of a great movement in thinking," Bidou said.
The story also will encompass Marx's love for his aristocratic wife Jenny von Westphalen, and his friendship with Friedrich Engels, with whom he co-authored the Manifesto.
No cast is yet attached, but Bidou said the principal characters will necessarily be young....
Well, yes, I would say that is probably true, given that Marx was 12 years old in 1830.
This week's column:
Entertainment is in the eye of the beholder. Consider the case of what are usually called "beach novels" -- bulky sagas of lust, money, and adventure, page-turning epics of escapism that are (it's said) addictive. I've never been able to work up the appetite to read one, even while bored on vacation in a seafront town. Clive James characterized the dialogue of one such novelist as resembling "an argument between two not-very-bright drunks."
Which might be fun to witness in real life, actually, depending on the subject of the dispute. But reading the transcript seems like an invitation to a bad headache.
Diversion doesn't have to be mind-numbing, let alone painful. With the end of the semester at hand, then, a few recommendations of recent books and DVDs that are smarter than your average bar fight -- and more entertaining.....
In principle this blog should serve the world-benefiting purpose of allowing me to self-promote my own published work on a regular and indeed constant basis.
Yet I often forget to mention in a timely manner that my column has gone up at IHE. Almost a week has passed, for example, since the one about Zygmunt Bauman's "secret Stalinist past" (not).
I'm a longtime fan of the Rutles, a.k.a. "The Prefab Four." Since we're coming up on the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, why not celebrate with the best cut from their neglected Tragical History Tour album?
I'm glad to see that my old hometown, Austin, has given birth to a Rutles tribute band, Ouch! For live clips, go here.
Someone commenting at Kevin Drum's blog over at Washington Monthly has just suggested that the best way to improve Alberto Gonzales's memory might be a little waterboarding.
At this point I must pause to reflect on the distinction between aesthetics and ethics.
Evaluating a recent book about Derrida at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Nancy J. Holland says:
One wonders, for instance, about the statement that philosophy in America "has the role of legitimating the US government and the scientific enterprise" leading to the suggestions that analytic philosophy "has as its telos the establishment of a universal culture for a static, totalitarian universal civilization" (pp. 124-125). Intriguing, and possibly even largely justified, but surely in need of much more argument.
I have never understood why anyone would play internet poker. Why not just go the ATM machine, take out all the money your bank or credit card will allow, then set fire to the bills one at a time? I imagine that would be more fun. And yet even online gambling seems sensible compared to watching people play poker on cable. I'm completely flumoxed by that one.
So can anything be more "here, stupified viewer, consume your own passivity and alienation by proxy" than that? Why, yes, there can. This seems like it ought to be a joke, but I do not think it actually is a joke:
It makes me want to burn some money.
Jerome Weeks, writing at the next blog over, ponders the sources and consequences of the expectation that our novelists will produce topical narratives on major events (and in a timely fashion):
"The movement of history is heavy, and slow. The movement of history always takes place behind one's back. As your gaze is fixed upon something immediately in front of you -- the object of your anger, for example -- history makes a slight, almost imperceptible slither, or shudder, in a direction of its own choice. The distinguishing mark of this direction is that it is not the one you had anticapted. How history does this is not known. Because history is made up of the will of all individuals taken together, because these oceans of individuals are mostly, or always, in conflict, the movement of history is at one and the same time tightly bound, and outrageous....Study of the previous behavior of history does not prepare one for these shifts, which are discomfiting in the extreme. Nothing prepares you."
Donald Barthelme, "The Angry Young Man," Guilty Pleasures (1974)
The Huffington Post launched two years ago today. It has the fifth largest audience of any blog in the United States.* I know this, or think I do, because it is so reported at the pertinent Wikipedia entry, which then goes on to say:
In addition to regular (often daily) columns by Huffington and a core group of contributors (such as Harry Shearer and John Conyers) , the HuffPost has featured notable celebrity contributors from politics, journalism, business, and entertainment (Norman Mailer, John Cusack, and Bill Maher, to name a few), as well as other relative unknowns.
Turns out I am now among the "other relative unknowns." Or will be, anyway, once we track down a photograph (for the contributor's note) in which I do not wear a pained expression. This could take a while.
Over the past couple of days, I have become immoderately fond of Patti Smith's new album, Twelve. (First mentioned here last week, before I actually had it in hand. It is now, as a b-day present from my better half, and I'm on probably the dozenth listening, which seems appropriate.)
There is a neutral and generic sense of the term "career" that I've seen in sociology and ethnography -- one that does not necessarily relate to a profession or a particular kind of work. A career is something that goes through phases of deepening involvement, more precise role definition, recognition by peers etc. That broad usage can apply to the "career" of a heroin addict, a Jehovah's Witness, a Communist organizer, or whatever, just it might to a CEO or a famous actor.
So I've sort of been playing around with the questions of what it might mean to speak of a blogging "career." What would be the stages, transitional moments, marks of distinction, occasions for exit, and so on?
I've been on a kind of sabbatical from writing for newspapers. This was a purely personal decision, one having nothing to do with the kinds of factors making the National Book Critics Circle campaign necessary.
Well, now I'm back in the fray. My review of Cullen Murphy's Are We Rome? ran in today's Newsday, and it also available here.
My cold is getting better -- should be fully verbal again soon.
In the meantime, for anyone else who hasn't seen it, a clip of the figural-language throw-down between Sean Penn and Stephen Colbert, moderated by Robert Pinsky:
Via MaryDell at BookBlog
From Twelve, Patti Smith's new album of cover songs:
The last three minutes are dead air for some reason. For footage of her performing this live, go here.
Video clip of an interview (in English) from 2000:
When Jacques-Alain Miller pontificates, it is, verily, as a pontiff. Besides control of the enigmatic theorists's literary estate, Miller has inherited Lacan's mantle as leader of one international current in psychoanalysis. His influence spans several continents. Within the Lacanian movement, he is, so to speak, the analyst of the analysts' analysts.
He was once also a student of Louis Althusser, whose seminar in Paris during the early 1960s taught apprentice Marxist philosophers not so much to analyze concepts as to "produce" them. Miller was the central figure in a moment of high drama during the era of high structuralism. During Althusser's seminar, Miller complained that he had been busy producing something he called "metonymic causality" when another student stole it. He wanted his concept returned. (However this conflict was resolved, the real winner had to be any bemused bystander.)
Evidently some webcams are more flattering than others:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney revealed his favorite novel yesterday on a television network that I cannot watch even while feeling healthy, let alone with a bad cold. Per the Times:
When asked his favorite novel in an interview shown yesterday on the Fox News Channel, Mitt Romney pointed to "Battlefield Earth," a novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology....A spokesman said later it was one of Mr. Romney's favorite novels. "I'm not in favor of his religion by any means," Mr. Romney, a Mormon, said. "But he wrote a book called 'Battlefield Earth' that was a very fun science-fiction book."
Let's take this opportunity to revisit the plot via from my review of the box-office-imploding screen adaptation from seven years ago (can that be right?):
May Day with the Lovestoneites, circa 1931:
The workers' flag is deepest red
It's shrouded oft our martyred dead
But ere their limbs grew stiff and cold
Their heart's blood dyed its every fold.
So raise the scarlet standard high!
Beneath its shade we'll live and die.
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
We'll keep the red flag flying here.