November 30, 2006

Then It Got Weird

Dr. X posts this from his lead-lined Polonium shelter:

"I repeat, do not panic."

Guilty Pleasures

Dr. X posts this from a meeting in Beverly Hills (that is running way long):

"Guilty pleasures:

November 27, 2006

Return of the King

"It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, EVER, until you are DEAD."

Let's Get This Party Started

Dr. X posts this from a good Cantonese restaurant:

"When it comes to poetry about economics, you'll have a tough time topping the madcap of Cantos of Ezra Pound. Pound was an anti-capitalist fascist (at least, he did some broadcasts for the bad guys during WWII), and managed to get himself committed to an asylum after the war (as opposed to being shot).

"But his concerns - his suspicion that modern markets were destructive of deeply-rooted and ancient traditions, his fear that a lending-based economy would prompt overconsumption and overpromotion of shabby goods, his fear that mass market culture would undermine the arts - were not without validity.

"Canto XLV:

With usura hath no man a house of good stone
each block cut smooth and well fitting
that design might cover their face,

with usura

hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall
harpes et luthes
or where virgin receiveth message
and halo projects from incision,

with usura

seeth no man Gonzaga his heirs and his concubines
no picture is made to endure nor to live with
but it is made to sell and sell quickly

with usura, sin against nature,
is thy bread ever more of stale rags
is thy bread dry as paper,
with no mountain wheat, no strong flour

with usura the line grows thick

with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling
Stone cutter is kept from his stone
weaver is kept from his loom


wool comes not to market
sheep bringeth no grain with usura
Usura is a murrain, usura
blunteth the needle in the the maid's hand
and stoppeth the spinner's cunning. Pietro Lombardo
came not by usura
Duccio came not by usura
nor Pier della Francesca; Zuan Bellin' not by usura
nor was "La Callunia" painted.
Came not by usura Angelico; came not Ambrogio Praedis,
Came no church of cut stone signed: Adamo me fecit.

Not by usura St. Trophime

Not by usura St. Hilaire,

Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom
None learneth to weave gold in her pattern;
Azure hath a canker by usura; cramoisi is unbroidered
Emerald findeth no Memling

Usura slayeth the child in the womb
It stayeth the young man's courting
It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth
between the young bride and her bridegroom


They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet

at behest of usura.

"Some interesting commentary on the poem can be found here."

November 26, 2006


Dr. X posts this from the Hoover Institution at Stanford. (The building now has some rich guy's name on it - apparently Herbert couldn't keep up the payments):

"I know the First Sea Lord is drafting a note on the late Milton Friedman, so I will just offer one or two quick comments as a warm-up:
  • "Winning in big academic economics requires big differentiating ideas, and Friedman picked up monetarism as his weapon of choice, a little like the Botvinnik's devotion to the slightly dodgy Dutch Defense early in his career. By the time monetary targeting had been discredited, Friedman's Nobel Prize was in hand, and his reputation assured.
  • "But he had many victories along the way. Much of the economic success of emerging Asia can be credited to his influence.
  • "You might not know he was instrumental in eliminating the draft in the U.S.
  • "And here is a nice article on his role in the creation of the Earned Income Tax credit, one of the most successful social programs in U.S. history.
  • "The Economist piece on him is also good, but no link since premium content yadda yadda yadda.

"I thought him exceptional for two reasons, both unrelated to his achievements in positive economics and the political arena. First, he was clear in his arguments (e.g., "inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon" or "the social responsibility of business is to make money"). You can say he was proven wrong on various points, but at least he formulated his arguments so subsequent work could prove or falsify them. You'd be surprised how few economists are willing to do this.

Second, he was civil, despite being the target of more than a few ad hominem arguments over the course of his career. Arch-Rival Paul Samuelson says: 'I've known Milton and Rose Friedman for 65 years. We have had considerable differences on policy. We have had considerable agreement on analytical matters. Knowing that differences on policy and ideology often poison and taint personal relations, I think we should both be admired for the friendship and civility we maintained over all these years.'

"Here is one of my favorite stories about Friedman:

" 'Reportedly, while traveling by car during one of his many overseas travels, Friedman spotted scores of road builders moving earth with shovels. When he asked why powerful equipment wasn’t used instead of so many laborers, his host told him it was to keep unemployment low. If they used tractors, fewer people would have jobs was his host’s logic. "Then why don’t you give them spoons?" Friedman inquired.' "

Don't Look Now

Dr. X posts this from that check cashing place in Daly City:

"Don't look now, but the poor people have decided not to pay back that money they borrowed. I don't know if it will topple the world economy, but it is bound to lead to excitement."

November 24, 2006

Give the Robots Our Money

Now that we are firing up robot brains better at stock-picking than humans, thanks to another fairly loathsome cyber-eugenicist, one might ask:

If computers become better at picking investments, what is the purpose of reward incentives for investments? In other words, what is the justification for capitalism - privately held wealth invested in speculative enterprises -at all? Computers do not require the future promise of cash, women, and cars weighed against the risk of failure to make sound investments. They have no need for security in old age or the benefits of fine living. They are not swayed by toxic ideologies or tasteful fund marketing. They do not benefit from enhanced social status, partying with Paris Hilton, or getting their children into the better sort of pee-wee lacross team.

They do not desire. They are instructed to perform. They seek a set of numbers.

Let's say this works. By comparison, human investors would become hideously expensive, unreliable, unstable, over-tanned, and still apt to run off to the Caymans in their caviar-fueled yachts. The robots wouldn't overvalue outsourcing, layoffs, and inequality or undervalue externalities-like the continuation of life on earth- based on factless cultural ideologies of the market.

If the humans won't get in gear, give the robots our money.

November 22, 2006

Two Interesting Findings

Dr. X posts this from the NFL Statistical Service in Vatican City:

"As we get warmed up for the final leg of the NFL season, I wanted to report on two interesting findings. Both studies had the same catalyst - what with the 49ers breathing down our necks, I had to wonder - just how good are these guys?

"One study made me feel better, the other made me feel worse.

"First the good news. Much has been made of the fact that the Seahawks have gotten this far despite being outscored by their opponents this season. The differential is 16 points. And this is a concern, because teams that have records that are incongruent with their point differentials are candidates for (all together now)...mean regression.

"The good news is that, if Seattle has the sniffles, San Francisco has double pneumonia. No team in the NFL has been so badly outscored by its opponents. San Francisco's opponents have scored 83 more points than the 49ers, despite SF having a pretty good offense. The defense has gotten its act together a bit the last three games, but SF gets blown out by good teams. And once Seattle has its quarterback and running back, er...back, the SF defense will be chum in the water when they come to town.

"But there is also bad news. Given the field days Grossman and Huard had against them, I wondered if the 49ers had the worst pass defense in the league. To assess this I ran defensive IAYPAs (DIAYPA) for all NFL teams. This is a pretty good statistic. You won't necessarily be an elite team just because you have a great pass defense, but it helps: the average winning percentage of the top 5 DIAYPA teams is .560. The Bears and Ravens are #1 and #2 in DIAYPA and are 9-1 and 8-2, respectively. And if you have a really bad pass defense you will be living in the cellar. The bottom five DIAYPA teams have an average winning percentage of 0.300.

"San Francisco is not the worst, however - they're not even in the bottom five. Here are the bottom five teams, with DIAYPA and winning percentages:
  • Washington (7.3) - 0.300
  • Detroit (6.2) - 0.200
  • Houston (6.1) - 0.300
  • Green Bay (5.9) - 0.400
  • Tampa Bay (5.9) - 0.300
"Four of these five teams are either last or tied for last in their division (Green Bay is the only exception).

"San Francisco is bad, of course, posting a DIAYPA of 5.5, 1/2 standard deviation above the NFL average of 4.9. But so is Seattle, with almost exactly the same numbers. The composition is a bit different though - San Francisco gives up more yards per attempt, but has gotten more interceptions so far (9 vs. 6 for Seattle).

"So, returning to the question - it's hard to argue that Seattle's defense is better than San Francisco's. The passing numbers look about the same. And San Francisco has actually given up fewer yards per rush (4.2) than the Seahawks (4.5) this year.

"On the other side of the ball, San Francisco has an excellent offense with an improving young quarterback, good receivers, and a future All-Pro running back in Frank Gore (2nd in the League with 1043 yards this year).

"Gore is a monster, but he has a weakness: he has fumbled five times, more than any other running back this year. And the fumbles have been costly - all have been recovered by the other team. If we impute a 50 yard penalty for each fumble, Gore's fumble-adjusted yardage would be 793 yards - still fine, but more Ronnie Brown than Tiki Barber.

"So how serious is the 49er challenge? Well, San Francisco has to go on the road against two good teams - the Rams and the Saints. Seattle stays at home against Green Bay, then goes to Denver. I'd guess Seattle picks up a game out of that. Then both teams play patsies - Seattle goes to Arizona and Green Bay visits SF.

"And then, on December 14th, SF comes to Seattle for a Thursday night game. I'm sticking with my 28-0 prediction for now."

November 21, 2006

In the News

Dr. X posts this from the LCI Studios:

"Yes, there's this news story on French TV and...I'm sorry, I forgot what I was going to say."

November 19, 2006

More IT Crowd Goodness

Dr. X posts this from HR:

"What does team mean to you?"

A Hard Heresy is Good to Find

Dr. X posts this from the Department of Epistemological Uncertainty at the Center for Atheism:

"I assured the Laird Sunday that there is a compassionate God that cares for him - as evidenced by the fact that the Seattle 2nd quarter meltdown occurred while he was going to the bathroom.

"On the way to the game we discovered we had shared another religious experience this weekend - This American Life's re-run of their brilliant 2005 show, Heretics.

"If you listen to only one radio show this year, Heretics would be an excellent choice. I praise it thrice: 1) For wit. 2) For excellence in the art of radio documentary. 3) For its theological insights. Taking those in turn:

"The show is the story of Reverend Carlton Pearson, a black man who rose up through the ranks of the Oral Roberts system to found one of the most successful Pentecostal churches in Tulsa. And realized, one day, that he no longer believed in Hell. Hilarity ensued, along with mass defections, and excommunication. Ira Glass, in a very well-written script, gets in dozens of sly one liners. A few examples (quoted, alas, from memory):

  • " 'If you say in your church that gay people aren't going to Hell, don't be surprised when a lot of gay people show up.'
  • " 'In their minds, he had descended to the level of atheists, alcoholics, and Unitarians.'
  • " 'The doubters were wrong about the long, slow slide into decadent universalism. Actually, it happened almost overnight.'
"Glass's light, precise patter punctuates and illuminates the interviews, but all through it he is giving you information - some of it startling, some of it interesting, and some of it just bizarre. For example:

  • "Oral Roberts was one of the pioneers of integrated religious services, running mixed-race tent shows as early as the late 40s. He calls Pearson his 'black son', and supports him as he rises through the ranks.
  • "The Oral Roberts preachers, or at least Pearson, intensively studied not only the English translation of the Bible but also the original Greek. This care attracted parishoners, but would ultimately undo Pearson's ministry.
  • "Pearson was a singer for Oral Roberts back in the day, along with Kathie Lee Gifford (née Epstein, btw. What a country, where any Epstein can grow up to be a Lee-Gifford!
    • Chandler: "I confess. I was...I was Abie the peddler."
    • Ravelli: "Well, how did you get to be Roscoe W. Chandler?"
    • Chandler: "Say! How did you get to be an Italian?")

"All most praiseworthy, and all the richer for the interaction between Glass and the born-again interviewees, most of whom are pretty sure he is going straight to Hell with the rest of the Israelites.

"And this goes back to the exclusivity claims of religion. Pentecostals see the world in black and white - you're either one of them, or you're in for eternal Hellfire. And this is what broke the back of Pearson's fundamentalist faith. Contemplating the horrors of Rwanda, he found himself in a conversation with God. The upshot of which was: no one is going to Hell. The world, horrific, corrupt, irredeemable, is already saved.

"From the show I cannot quite figure where Pearson landed as he fell on the road. I think he is basically now a Pure Land Buddhist. Pearson asks if a Tibetan monk, who spends his life praying and herding goats, is really condemned to eternal suffering. Of course not - the Christian idea of Hell falls apart under this scrutiny. Hell is what you use to scare people into loyalty - it has no metaphysical logic, unless you happen to think God is a sadist.

"But Pearson won't consider the awful theory of John Horgan in Rational Mysticism - that what we call God is an evil demon torturing us for its own entertainment. Occam's razor applies - who needs God when humans seem eminently capable of cruelty without divine assistance. As Carolyn Forche says, there is nothing one man will not do to another. In his confrontation with Pearson, the Supreme Being verifies this, saying 'you do it to yourselves.'

"One great thing about heresies - there are so many. You can choose just the right one for you. I tilt toward Catharism, myself. But to the Pentecostals all heretics are alike - they are to be brought back into the fold, or shunned. This is not really a spiritual issue. It has a lot more to do with the economics of religion. You give up the concept of Hell and you're in serious danger of losing the crowd. As one of Pearson's people says - 'Hellfire and good fried chicken - that's what packs 'em in around here.'

"Pearson's insight is a tough one, because it suggests most religious activity is pointless. You're already saved, so whether you believe or not is not that big a deal to God. But if you're going to believe, Pearson's insight suggests you should come to that belief from love, not fear. You should come to faith because your heart yearns for closeness with God, not because you want to stay out of some eternal torture chamber, or because being religious pays well.

"That's crazy talk of course, the sort of thing only saints and madmen really believe.

"I know nothing of the afterlife. Moshe Dayan said he didn't give a damn. When someone asked Orson Welles about it he said he'd 'leave that to the authorities,' and that seems like the right approach.

"But if there is a Heaven, my guess is Pearson gets a luxury box."

Footballus Interruptus

Dr. X posts this from the press box at Candlestick Park:

"Here are some excerpts from my weekly football miscellany column, 'Turf Times', due for publication in the Sunnyvale Sentinel tomorrow morning.
  • "Frank Gore is really, really good. The Seattle defense is above-average, and he set a team record rushing mark against them.
  • "Seneca Wallace is an excellent quarterback, as long as he doesn't throw the ball downfield. 3 picks will not keep you in the NFL, son. His IAYPA for the game: 3.3. That's Kyle Orton territory.
  • "Not coincidentally: 49er points off turnovers: 17. My advice: trade Wallace, sign Cordell Stewart.
  • "Wallace looked great on passes to his backs, quick slants, and when he had to improvise. Dr. X's pre-game suggestion to Holmgren that the team run the Atlanta single-wing offense for this game was, unwisely, disregarded.
  • "Seattle unwisely followed Dr. X's advice to 'blitz a little more' in the 2nd half, leading to several big plays by the 49ers.
  • "A reverse late in the first half up 17-0? Stay classy, San Francisco. (Didn't work.)
  • "Seattle defensive player of the game: Tatupu, who by our count made every Seahawks tackle of the third quarter.
  • "I suspect that some of the 49er Gold Rush cheerleaders are benefiting from the use of non-natural performance-enhancing products, if you know what I mean.

"It was a classic trap game - Seattle came in flat for a road game against a young and improving team, and couldn't get out of the hole before time ran out. That said, when these teams meet again in Seattle, I suspect it will be the 2nd half Seattle team that shows up, and predict a 28-0 outcome for that contest.

November 18, 2006

A Light Diversion

Dr. X posts this from the basement:

"This new show on Channel 4, The IT Crowd, has its moments, such as this one. And this one."

Je t'aime, Ségolène Royal

Dear France,

As we Democrats come in from the wilderness, I look with no little envy to you, nominating, as you have, the hottest goddamn Socialist presidential candidate bar none, an unmarried mother, Ségolène Royal, 53. (Ségolène!) (53!)
IHT: "Campaigning on a platform of "rupture" with the status quo, she has also capitalized on her femininity while accusing her competitors of chauvinism.

"Gazelles," she said last May, "run faster than elephants."

I am all for this: If beauty captures the imagination of the people, if her looks appear to embody the progressive, humanist spirit, magnifique!

So the next president of France looks good in a bikini - one could only wish that had been a requirement in America over the last six years.

Let's Chat!

I've figured out the whole IRC (Internet Relay Chat) thing, and set up a channel for us on EFNet.

Here's what you need to do:
  1. Install and IRC Client. I personally recommend the free version of Trillian, which can also replace any or all of your IM clients. (I've removed Yahoo! Instant Messenger from all of my computers, and I couldn't be happier.) The download is 8.5 megs, so if you're on a modem, you may want to get a lighter, IRC only client, like mIRC (1.1 megs).
  2. Learn a little bit about IRC. This primer at is a pretty good intro.
  3. Connect to EFNet. Servers are listed here. I use irc.Prison.NET, which is located here in SF. This may be the best bet for everybody, and naturally the response will be faster if we are all on the same server.
  4. Join the channel. I've set up a channel named, which is open to all, at this point. If need be, we can place more restrictions on it, later.
See you on the Internets!

November 17, 2006

Bo Knows Motivation

Dr. X posts this from the cyclotron that is the grave of Woody Hayes:

"I loathe college football, but this, this could be a big game. First of all, Ohio-Michigan is one of those insane midwestern rivalries (Nebraska-Oklahoma is another) where caravans come from every corner of the hinterlands, and they put 100,000+ people in a stadium to scream their lungs out. Important? It makes the Super Bowl look like strong episode of Family Ties.

"So there's a history. And this game was already shaping up to be a big one for the series. Alumnae in the NFL were trash-talking one another. The two teams are undefeated. 'I'll tell you how big this game is,' says former Ohio State coach John Cooper 'The loser is going to the Rose Bowl.' The winner will play for the national championship.

"Woody Hayes, the ultimate Buckeye, is long gone, but with a game of this magnitude, you knew former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler would step up and motivate the underdog Wolverines. And he did.

"He died.

"A masterstroke.

"Now listen here. There has never been a football game, in the history of the college sport, where there was so much at stake. The (#1 ranked) Ohio State Buckeyes are there to make themselves champions, and earn their rightful place as the heirs to the Woody Hayes dynasty. The (#2 ranked) Wolverines are there to unseat their hated rivals and honor the memory of their greatest leader.

"If you're a Wolverine and lose this game you might as well move to Libya, because there's no place for you here, son. If you're a Buckeye and you let them Wolverines hi-jack this championship with a cheap stunt like that, well, you might as well join that expedition to Antarctica, because everyone in Bucyrus just forgot your name.

"It's going to be a big game. No, let me rephrase that. It's going to be THE big game. In 18 hours, 20 minutes, and five-four-three-two seconds, these two teams are going to show you what it means to be an American.

"And why I live in California."

November 16, 2006

The Only Power Rankings That Really Matter

Dr. X posts this from the Shiznit Flinging Party in Columbus before the Big Game:

"Playing without their MVP, star quarterback, and Hutch (who's been a disappointment for the Vikings, by the way), Seattle still makes CHFF's Top Ten."

An Inconvenient Tooth

Dr. X posts this from the Department of Bibilical Anthropology and Fossil Research at Mid-American Christian University:

"You know, there is a really large problem with the human-centric world view of the Christian tradition. The idea that we are God's children - something I actually believe, at least in some sense - is subject to, er...amendment, in light of the news of our late sibilings. I refer, of course, to the Neanderthals.

"Study of the Neanderthals remains controversial, but three points seem inescapable:

"1) They were, like us, capable of thought, social behavior, speech, and tool use. They sometimes buried their dead.
"2) DNA evidence shows they were remarkably like us, but were not us, with the last common ancestor living about 700,000 years ago. (Those who get their pre-history from the Bible argue that Neanderthals were just like us - not a competitor race that went extinct. The latest genetic evidence says: nice try, but no cigar.).
"3) We're still here, they're all gone.

"Like Elvis, we have a lost twin in our past. It is a terrible family secret, something we never speak of. But when people ask 'are we alone in the universe?' let's first understand - there was a time when we were not even alone on earth. Another species of intelligent beings walked this planet with us, and missed only the final hurdle before civilization and modernity, the eyeblink of the last 24-33,000 years.

"This matter does not come up in the Bible, or any other sacred writing of which I am aware (ok Grendel, but they don't sing from that in church). It is the darkest secret. But why? Did we murder them and hide this out of guilt? Did we interbreed with them, merging the two candidate species into one more acceptable to God?

"I wonder if the secret is even darker, even more powerful. Perhaps we outcompeted them, despite their superior strength and superior adaptation to cold climates, because we were religious. Our collective human-centric view, expressed in all religions, gave us the will and purpose to collaborate effectively against them. It allowed more coherent social organization, even when it was against the reproductive interests of some members of our society. It made us fear death less. This atheist, at least, is willing to entertain the thought.

"I think this is a powerful theological question - what if being religious (irrespective of the truth or falsity of religion) confers an evolutionary advantage?

"And what does it say about our religions that the topic of the Neanderthal never comes up? Most religions make some claim to exclusivity. You're either with us, they say, or you are doomed - only [insert name of religion here] has the answer. But the unreported existence of the Neanderthals undermines this claim to universal knowledge.

"We now know that a race of intelligent human-like beings shared the earth with us for millenia. You claim to know all, but failed to mention this? Are there other things you are not bringing to our attention? Is there a giant planet-eating gerbil, or worse, on the other side of Rigel you have forgotten to tell us about? Perhaps Homo Erectus is due for a comeback? Is there a plan to have us replaced by the Kea at some point?

"If you believe consciousness and intelligence - two key characteristics of our species - are gifts from God and distinguish us from all other species...well, what did we do right, and what did the Neanderthals do wrong? They were not props in some spiritual play. They lived and breathed here on earth, they thought and fought and laughed and cried. Were they children of your God? If so why were they never mentioned? If not, why not? Did your God kick their God's ass?

"Surely they were sentient by any spiritual standard. This is not some macrauchenia we're talking about, some quasi-agricultural ungulate.

"Ha, you might say, I'm an atheist. Like Pat Buchanan watching a Chinese guard harass Bella Abzug, you're thinking, 'I don't have a dog in this fight.'

"Oh, but you do. For if you are a humanist, and most of you are, this creates a little problem of what it is to be human. Why are humans special? What distinguishes us from other species? Look on the cranium of the Neanderthal and despair - that's Peter Singer over there, with a baseball bat, about to kick your ass. Because you're not special, you're just another dumb fucking chimp.

"Let me also offer a plug for a blog I discovered while researching this - the brilliantly-named Mmm, thinking meat. I'm guessing the Neanderthals enjoyed it from time to time."

A Rigorous Critic Faces Rigorous Criticism

It is all too easy to dismiss critics of the rigorous critic as a reflexive reactionary spasm of anti-intellectualism in American life, and to consider their critique of the rigorous critic as a fairly vacuous and obvious attempt to defend the bruised part of the ego which was not the target of the criticism in the first place; the criticism in fact is usually directed towards a certain want of ego-involvement in the substantive process of cultural production, the creative act often made absent-mindedly, while the defense of a half-starved child of the mind can be as vigorous as Sherman sightseeing in Atlanta, so outraged is

A Rigorous Critic (Artist's Conception)

the ego at the suggestion that image of the tears of a unicorn at the refinery explosion downloaded from a children's cable station website and sent as a get-well card for what turns out to have been a botched abortion is not the very height and refinement of the expressive act.

Nonetheless, it must be allowed that there is sometimes a spice of substance in the stew of asinine stupidity. What does, after all, the critic "mean by that?" What, does he or she "think he's being funny?" Might he or she not indeed be faulted for "yakking all the time but doing fuck-all?"

Should he or she "step out from behind that fucking half-caf vanilla mocha latte" and prepare to defend this "fucking fuck-dumpster of fuck" he or she calls rigorous criticism?

A resolute proposition, certainly. We can postulate that criticism is at least as destructive as constructive, but whose intent should always be as acid on the etching plate, to reveal the greater art by a process of severe, crippling chemical burns.

But there is a profound flaw. Let us hypothesize that a malemute puppy licks the face of Walter Benjamin. He naturally responds with a rigorous critique
based on his own essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. The puppy responds by nibbling on his finger with sharp puppy teeth, and then, tail oscillating, gazing up at Walter Benjamin, expecting a pat of the head.

No critic cannot be reduced to mooshing over the boogey-woogey-wuggums with scuffy-scuffies. No vitriolic rejection of historicism - no matter how well grounded not only in historical materialism but even when adopting a rejection of Marxism's fatalistic trappings - can negate the melancholic yet redemptive fuzziness of the fully-activated ooshy-booshy face and his adorable little furry tosey-wosies.

Does then Puddles McGrew raise class consciousness? Hardly. The very attempt to deconstruct him eviscerates the body of criticism.

It is not enough to suggest that the critic has somehow failed in the face of a simple challenge. There is no challenge that the ostensibly wholly-unarmed antagonist - in this case Puddles McGrew- can acknowledge enough to even engage the products of criticism. It is a battleship versus an upper Nile frog. The battleship may roar for days with 20 inch guns, while the frog remains not only oblivious but wholly content, aware only of the deliciousness of flies.

The only truth, it must be admitted, is that the rigorous critic cannot succeed in his or her task. The rigorous critic may count hatred, failure, irrelevance and futility as loyal companions, and the only reward is the dry snort of a publisher's assistant mailing the rejection letter.

Goodbye, Uncle Miltie

Milton Friedman, dead at 94.

One thing I appreciate about Friedman is that he stuck to his principles of free-markets all the way to the end -- he died in Houston, Texas, the citadel of laissez-faire capitalism.

(Just kidding -- he died in San Francisco.)

BBC NEWS | Business | Economist Friedman dies aged 94

November 15, 2006

My New Guy

Perhaps later rather than sooner, I hope to cast a vote for Barack Obama shown here, with his wife, taking an AIDS test near his father's home village in Kenya. As the hometown hero, he was trying to show that real men take AIDS tests.

Perhaps I'm merely flush from just finishing his book "The Audacity of Hope" but I'm getting a Bill Clinton feeling from him--real smart guy, real savvy politician.

I don't know if he's "ready", a one-term US Senator who, although he's lost races, has never faced a really dirty one, but, in the spirit of bipartisanship, he beats the hell out of the douchebag who won last time.

His ideas seems sound, so far, and his personal story is compelling: white American mother, black Kenyan father, he lived as a child in Hawai'i, and in Indonesia, with his Indonesian step-father and half-Indonesian sister, and came to adopt Christianity in the African-American style rather late in life. His brother-in-law is Chinese and his nephew is International Soup. I know race doesn't matter, except when it does, but it seems that his multi-racial, multi-cultural background makes him genuinely broad- and fair-minded.

Maybe later I'll regret writing this; anyone is bound to be eventually diminished by this kind of admiration, but right now I'm feeling the audacity and the hope. Could it be, could it really be?

Conference Report of the International Boathouse Summit

Once again, conference participants represented an astonishing diversity of expertise at an International level, comprising the greatest and most accomplished persons within a 100 foot radius. Numerous discussions produced a fascinating compendium to human knowledge demonstrating a comprehensive, wholistic approach to multifarious areas of inquiry.

Among the findings:

1. It is suggested that Isengard.Gov adopt an IRC channel, permitting opportunistic, erudite dialectics based on the publication of sound findings.

2. Early Times whiskey is best enjoyed when contained in a patently absurd, 1.5 litre plastic bottle shaped to resemble a small flask-style bottle, thus creating the illusion that the whiskey is being consumed by a tiny alcoholic.

3. Assorted, loud, frequently repeated cheers were offered to the success of the Democratic Party in recent elections, returning the nation to some semblance of the rule of law, pragmatism, and common decency. Broad calls were made for revenge, the furtherance of humiliation of our enemies and the taking of spoils, although these faced reflective opposition.

4. Vicious and personal insults and jeers directed at Republicans should be preceded with the phrase "In the spirit of bipartisanship," as in "In the spirit of bipartisanship, Karl Rove can go suck back a bottle of liquid nitrogen and play dodgeball. "

5. Strict prohibitions against the presence of computers, televisions, and other distracting technology at the summit greatly enhanced the far more humanized, personal experience of talking with other people about computers, television, and other distracting technology.

6. V. Marsch may be the greatest actor in the history of film. That few know his name in connection with the field, or any of his performances, or have as evidence anything other than his near total absence from stage and screen, it simply speaks to his brilliantly conceived, understated and surrealistic style. What, many ask, would Schindler's List be without him? Exactly the same of course. And that is precisely the point, and the very source of his complexity.

7. While the Viceroy's bagpipes fall temporarily silent due to a malady we term Piper's Fingers (also known as Self Abuser's Carpals), his ability to do appalling, surprising things to people's shoes is completely undiminished.

9. The internally arranged hat shaping device named the "Hat-Jack" was far more popular as the subject of ribald banter when renamed the "Ass-Jack."

10. The Anchorage restaurant Gwennie's has a direct relationship with the Sequim Gwennie's; namely, Gwennie, according to Gwennie.

11. Through an extensive survey of those who know, it has been rigorously established that Anchorage, Alaska was much, much more fun in the old days, and those of us who were growing up there at the time were intentionally misinformed by our parents in order to prevent us from having this fun, albeit for highly understandable reasons.

The conference attendees are thanked for their extensive service to humanity, herein.

November 13, 2006

Before the Clock Chimes Midnight

Dr. X posts this from the Mean Regression Archive at Stanford (20-3 over the Washington Huskies) University:

"Let me just say this. I have a certain empathy for middle-aged men from the Pacific Northwest. Men who live perhaps somewhat ordinary lives, but are capable, when called upon, to step into the breach and de-fucking-liver. It is a matter of honor among us, born of long, silent treks through the snow and darkness, accompanied only by the sound of our own breath and the howling of wolves over the carcass of a lichen-fatted ungulate.

"And so we raise a glass to Yakima's own Damon Huard, before the curtain falls. He came out of nowhere this year to give his team superb play at the quarterback position - an exceptional, world-class performance. But this too, shall pass - Trent Green is feeling better now, and warming up on the sidelines. Soon Mr. Huard will be re-issued his clipboard and shunted off to the margins, back to the familiar chill of obscurity. The Mercury News has the story.

"Before that dark hour arrives, we honor you Damon. Of course, change is inevitable. It is what it is. One must know one's place. Not everyone can be a full-time NFL starting quarterback like Joey Harrington or Aaron Walter.

"Unless...unless some GM comes to his senses and realizes his team needs solid, mistake-free football at the quarterback position. And falls from the sofa like Saul on the road to Damascus shouting - 'get me a real quarterback - get me Damon Huard, dammit!'

"When that day comes, Damon, we know you'll be ready. And we'll be there rooting for you.

"Top five IAYPA YTD (200 attempts minimum):

"1. Donovan McNabb, 7.5 - Suck it Limbaugh
"2. Peyton Manning, 7.4 - Not bad, could develop into a good player.
"3. Damon Huard, 7.4 - Saaa-LUTE
"4. Marc Bulger, 7.3 - Thank you Mr. Holt and Mr. Bruce.
"5. Philip Rivers, 7.1 - They said he had a weak arm. They were wrong.

"Fewest interceptions by a quarterback with more than 200 attempts this season: Damon Huard - 1."

November 09, 2006

Not Farewell, But Fare Forward

Dr. X posts this from the Carpe Diem Lounge at Marcel Proust International Airport in Lyon:

"Time is so fleeting, apparitions rise up, full of breath and blood and bone, and then are gone, flashing out like so many fireflies in the night. Farewell to all of you, farewell...

"Farewell Conrad Burns, farewell to your firefighter-hating, bribe-taking, lame-ass cowboy pose.

"Farewell Mr. Allen, without you, how would we know the true meaning of macaca?

"Perhaps, as this author suggests, you could go on tour together. Now that you have no role in government, perhaps your foolish antics could be redirected to bring smiles to the bright faces of children somewhere. Iraq, perhaps?"

Flight Patterns

Dr. X posts this from 20,000 feet above San Luis Obispo:

"The patterns of daily flights over the U.S. - astonishing."

This is Not Good

Dr. X posts this from the Soylent Green bar at TJ Fiddlestix:

"Robot thinks people taste like bacon...this cannot end well."

In The Spirit of Bipartisanship

Americans stood up Tuesday and offered to the President of the United States a message of clarity, a message of renewal, a message of hope:

Eat It, Dumbass.

Today, as Virgina sends the U.S. Senate to the Democratic Party, I hope that as we return the rule of law, respect for the U.S. Constitution, to compassion, wisdom, and cooperation in government, I hope that we never forget a core principle of which the victors in any election, victors in a long, bitter struggle against corruption, venality and selfishness, should avail themselves:


But this is no base appeal to amateur gloating and passing political potshots. Our revenge must be measured and sure. Our revenge must be deliberate and all-present. Our revenge must not only poke both eyes at once with the very fingers of peace, must not only trip the chowder-brained bully with a well-timed shoelace tie, but will shove the chucklehead into the street, to be flattened into geezer chutney by the speeding cement mixer of Liberty. In the noblest traditions of the Republic, we shall purge, we shall subpoena, we shall take the snarling curs to their chains and feed them their brothers.

In this time of victory, as we place the bit in Bush's mouth and pull sharp on the reins to stop the nation plummeting off the road, America needs to see not only that we are the masters of the damned fool, but must be moved by our strong and moral actions to declare:

Behold! The Democratic Party runs a great abattoir.


November 08, 2006

Rodney Dangerfield Adds Insult to Injury

What an election, I tell ya. Whadda bunch of marooons. Whadda clutch of Republichumps.

This President, whadda night, eh? I feel for the guy. Spending the last week in Montana and Nebraska. For a moment there, I thought his neuron went dark.

I've heard of screwing the pooch, but shtupping a pachyderm? These greaseballs have commitment.

And that Rumsfeld, what a guy , what a guy. The only reason we didn't invade Syria is that's where he buys his suits.

And Rick Santorum, yeah. Nice concession speech, with the cute little waspy family all there, crying. I hope I'm not the one that has to tell him his son is gay.

An Open Letter to the Green Party

Dear Friends and Idiots,

Like a teenager trying to somehow cure acne by beating his face on a maple tree, you keep choosing dramatic action over good judgment: the way to help influence American politics toward more progressive policies is to run in areas where you can A) offer an alternative candidate people will be genuinely interested in considering and B) have a non-zero likelyhood of winning. NOT IN MAJOR NATIONAL RACES WHERE YOU WASTE RESOURCES AND CAN ONLY DAMAGE PROGRESSIVE POLICIES.

To wit: City councils, mayors, state house races, school boards. Local, local, local. Run against conservative democrats. Influence local politics and build your party - I've been a Democrat my whole life and I would welcome a Green candidate in my extremely blue Legislative District. My legislators are too conservative and too comfy and if they aren't challenged they won't get better. You can win some of these races. Win two or three State House races and you might force a left-leaning caucus in a state legislature. Great!

Stop obsessing about the nation as a whole and work on streets and fair labor and sewer treatment bonds. The San Francisco mayor's office nearly went Green last time - and that city government could have used a good progressive airing out. This is how you build legitimacy, how you earn respect, how you attract votes.

Quixotic is not, I reiterate, good. Knock it off!

Rumsfeld Resigns!

NYT story.

I'm curious, when you've helped lose two wars for the United States, what is the compensation package?

November 07, 2006

First Sea Lord Signals Victory


A Message From the Reality-Based Community

Dr. X posts this from Wonkette's bedroom:

"All your bases are belong to us!"

November 06, 2006

Sharpen Your Hoe.

Claire Faces Rigorous Criticism

It might seem churlish of me to question the integrity of the performance of any baby, let alone dear Claire, but this is a question of Art, and we serve no one's interests by molly-coddling rank amateurs and stroking their egos with hopes of an endearing coo, gurgle, or ephemeral ooochy-smooochy smile.

To be fair, the original casting choice itself was unrealistically optimistic, perpetrated as it was with a parent's natural overestimation of their child's acting accomplishments, and here we have the common and false assumption that because this is a non-speaking role (in this case a small monkey, orangutan or perhaps lemur, some quibbles may be taken with the non-specificity in the costume department) it is unimportant for a convincing portrayal of the subject for the actor to be familiar with talking, or to have any previous experience with acting. Quite the contrary: the mastery of acting is often done without words; one eyebrow lift from Ralph Richardson is a worth a hundred overwrought Mel Gibsons in Hamlet II- the Post-Reckoning, and the comic expressiveness of a Chaplin or a Lloyd is still without compare. Claire, in spite of her vast reservoir of charisma, is no Meryl Streep, or even Roddy McDowell.

While I am no slave to hyper-realism as the only standard of stagecraft (witness V. Marsch's brilliantly surreal performance in Godfather II - a role executed entirely without his physical presence or indeed inclusion in any tangible way), it boils down to this: I am not in any way convinced that Claire is actually a small monkey. She relies wholly on her straightforward aping of a common archetype of simian simulacrum: to wit, munching absently-mindedly on a prop banana, and that seems to be the extent of her conscious performance. She makes no effort to study the movements and behavior of monkeys, or even to actively pretend to be a monkey, relying purely on our shared genetic heritage for any accidental evokation of a little monkey. The role is all surface. I, frankly, have seen better, less-self aware monkey performances by walk-ons at a stunningly misconceived Tacoma Dinner-Theater production of The Cherry Orchard.

While young actors are sometimes gifted with a effortless, ingenuous empathy for their roles, it is muddy whether Claire is even aware that her role could be perceived in any way, let alone as an over-stagy approximation of monkeyness. Sure, it's cute, we all concede this, even adorably so, but cute among babies in costumes is as ordinary as subsumed homosexuality in the GOP. The essential question is obvious to a 1st grade theater critic: what does the performance even say?

To be fair, this is partly the fault of the production - one can be forgiven for asking: what is the production? Even a baby actor needs a context.

November 05, 2006

Aspiring Artists and Puppies

I brought Rilke up -a little lazily -because that confession in the night question is the still the key question to reassure the serious and challenge the art puppies nipping at the socks.

It's important to remember, as late stage capitalism threatens to make Blade Runner look like It's a Wonderful Life, that the urge to create is nearly universal among people, and the mere fact we channel it into shopping and commodified labor says nothing about our capabilities, only our vulnerabilities. (And as I write this in the cafe, there is literally a table of marketers next to me "trying to adopt the artistic mind-set process," underscoring non-profit organization "social networks'" "psychodemographics as opposed to demographics." And now the guy pretending to have the magic of artistic process just dropped the word the word "mindshare," and connected it to "community." I am restraining myself with some difficulty, imagining as I am the perfect "Clop" and tinkling sound my cracking the coffee cup over his head would make, not to mention the screaming. "We need to bring people together in real ways." Every second of this endless self-congratulatory greedy drivel is pushing me I ask myself: What Would Utah Phillips do? Probably whack them with that "sockful of puppy shit we call a culture.")

Art, - as profession and sublimity - is a special case of creativity, when it is pursued to an obsessive degree from a repeated impulse of individual necessity toward the exploration of the baroque permutation of truths observed and worked from within specific phenomena, often, in the case of painting and sculpture, by thinking within the pheonomenology of material. Draw, write, compute, re-create -expand the envelope of what can be known and what is possible through explorative action, communicate it, and you've struck something that could be Art. Even Science may be a special case of Art - the same impulses drive it, the same obsessive observation, the same bringing of nothing into knowing. Art is freed of necessary function, but by giving up universal clarity, it is capable of attempting to track the whole impulse of the human mind at once.

But we all crave making. I wandered into the ceramics studio the other days and threw about 6 pots - satisfying, mediocre pots....a lot of people there, smart students otherwise, poking and pounding clay like six year olds. Something about it, ceramics at college, usually a stand in joke for misplaced pride in a lopsided ashtray, something about it that stands in for what people can't be anymore without being hobbyists: harmless, neuter, unmarketable, irrelevant.

So many people face an endless, dreamless bureaucratic life - and there so many gatekeepers to Art, of which I'm a minor one, so many reasons to wither at 19. (Kids these days: smart and meek and betrayed by our convenience, with their abilities to build and give less relevant to our markets that their manufactured desires.)

I believe there are plenty of good poets - more than ever, I suspect, like good musicians and artists, but even the greatest mastery cannot much stir a world producing endless fountains of Product. Art exists when a hair goes to one side of a blade, and not the other, and it's intrinsic delicacy makes it extremely fragile. I think the kind of obsessively clean, minimalistic, cold and empty style which has dominated since Warhol is an embrace of delicate futility, where presenting the simple absence of social noise is considered sufficient to be artistic.

The aspirants have even less chance than the students or the masters, but they will be rewarded, oh so rewarded, for making the right purchase.

But those endless schools of would be poets and writers and artists and physicists (yes it must be said - physics and mathematics as philosophy is just as highly impractical a career choice) are coming from people who are taught that their fundamental abilities are completely replaceable, our communities are interchangeable, and their lives are best lived in constant worry, false certainty, and commodified desire. Who wouldn't want an alternative? Art seems like an out - so does music, so do sports-to act, to be human, to be individually recognized. Your disposable life at Best Buy isn't gonna cut it. Facing their disposability, interchangeability and their individual irrelevance before mass culture, why not try, try to be an artist, a rock star, a poet, a B-Ball god, an evangelist zombie, or Paris Hilton? If the society teaches you that your already reified labor is done more cheaply by even more anonymous people in even more anonymous places, if it cannot offer you a place, a reasonable sense of meaning and identity, what is your plan?

Today, you can even forget trying to go into single family farming in America. Finally, we're weeding out those lazy bastards and their gold-bricking economic inefficiencies.

But in the modern world, the outs are also are professionalized social roles, wholly capitalist creatures, and it's hardly a new observation that in non-industrial societies art, music, politics, poetry, games, hunting, gathering, making and spirituality were done by nearly all and share a particular quality of full expression and participation - and aside from endless centuries of poverty, uncertainty and iron-clad social roles, it's kind of appealing.

I'm not an anarchist (or AM I?) but all this techno-industrial candy, with all its promise, is not making us our best selves. Polls pointing to growing social isolation and expressions of intense American loneliness do not bode well.

Witness the absurd - and dangerous and historically recent - rise of fundamentalism in so many religions- which is partly, I think, a toxic reaction to the disease of social isolation. That disconnect is felt with particular intensity among young 2nd generation Muslims in Europe, and we're seeing the results.

But Americans are feeling a version of the same thing, good old-fashioned alienation with a new intensity from mass-culture, ubiquitous marketing, dissolution of community, and escalating economic insecurity. They turn to art, to religion, to fantasy, to truly impossible dreams of celebrity or riches.

Interesting, just Friday, I happened to walk into a bookstore on Capitol Hill and bought The White Goddess; perhaps pre-industrial societies were better at creating a sense of our meaning.
I don't say go back. I do say: look out.

Hey Smartypants, Rigorously Criticize this!

Sorry, as a proud member of the "Adorable Baby Photo of the Month Club" I just had to share.

November 04, 2006

Letter to a Young Assistant Accounts Payable Clerk

Dr. X posts this from the Robert Hass Gate at Stanford University, which they built to honor him after he became Poet Laureate, even though he never gave the university a lot of money. Ha ha, I never get tired of that gag. Dr. X posts this from the Paul G. Allen Center for Integrated Systems Building:

"The First Sea Lord's quotation of Rilke is apt. We live in a time where there are too many pharmaceutical representatives and not enough poets. There is a fundamental imbalance. In this, I am sure Hass would note, it resembles all other times. Back in the old days the Greeks had too many Hoplites and not enough poets, although they made a brave attempt to compensate with quality. In Elizabethan England they had too many murderous courtiers and not enough poets, with the unfortunate Marlowe's intrigues worsening the score for the poets.

"The problem is, there just aren't enough good poets. Not that we haven't tried. In the 1950s and 1960s America was awash in bright well-intentioned young manic-depressives hoping to repeat the successes of Lowell and Plath, and inscribe the tortures of their souls onto the fresh, virginal tabula rasa that was the American cultural imagination. Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet was their Baedecker.

"Whatever you think of Rilke as a poet (I am mostly left cold, but see Hass's superb essay on him in his brilliant 20th Century Pleasures), he must regarded as a titan by the publishing world, the founder of an entire genre of books of advice to young people.

"My rudimentary searches turn up the following tomes, all, no doubt thoughtful, sensitive, and irreplaceable:

"Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian
"Anna Deavere Smith, Letters to a Young Artist
"Samuel Freedman, Letters to a Young Journalist
"George Weigel, Letters to a Young Catholic
"Alan Dershowitz, Letters to a Young Lawyer
"Ian Stewart, Letters to a Young Mathematician
"Nadia Comaneci, Letters to a Young Gymnast
"Phyllis Chesler, Letters to a Young Feminist
"Bob Duvall, Letters to a Young Golfer
"Dinesh D'Souza, Letters to a Young Conservative

"An encyclopedic review is impossible, but here are few more, to give you a sense of the genre: Letters to a Young Doctor, Letters to a Young Activist, Letters to a Young Therapist, Letters to a Young Victim, etc. There is no end to it. The genre is to cliche as Hurrican Katrina was to water damage.

"But what I find most striking about Rilke's letter is its extraordinarly restraint, its deliberate refusal to meddle. The strong admonition that "you couldn't disturb [your development] any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to questions that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer" is stunningly admirable, and I'm sure never again repeated in the series.

"Rilke is especially easy on the point about the work not being particularly distinguished. Not all gifted authors are so kind, nor should they be (although I in no way endorse the fetish of abuse that gripped much of Vassar English Department during the early 1980s). I once attended a reading by Robertson Davies at Harvard and someone asked for writing advice. "Oh God," he said, looking skyward.

"He dispatched the question with a bit of genial but pointed banter. But it was a deep question for him, and I cannot recommend this little book on reading and writing (an anthology compiled by his wife and daughter) highly enough.

"You see, we suffer from not only a Type 1 error (not enough poets) but also a Type 2 error (too many people who should not be poets trying to be poets). It is sad, but true, that some people should stop trying to write and become paralegals, journalists, or investment managers. The sooner they understand this, the better.

"We mock Hollywood for its superficiality (at least I do), but one must admire the utter ruthlessness and honesty that marked the beginning Paula Wagner's career as an executive. We can only imagine how many gifted divorce lawyers, attack ad copywriters, and Brookings Institution policy analysts are trap in unfulfilling artistic pursuits, unable to recognize the futility of their labors.

"Perhaps in our universities we have not properly put to our poets the challenge of Robert Graves in The White Goddess:

" 'Who am I, you will ask, to warn you that she demands either whole-time service or none at all? And do I suggest you should resign your jobs and for want of sufficient capital to set up as small-holders, turn romantic shepherds-as Don Quixote did after his failure to come to terms with the modern world-in remote unmechanized farms? No, my brushlessness debars me from offering any practical suggestion. I dare attempt only a historical statement of the problem; how you come to terms with the Goddess is no concern of mine. I do not even know that you are serious in your poetic profession.'

"But shooting such fish in a barrel, though tempting, is riskier than one might imagine. Ezra Pound was fond of putting the kiddies in their place, hurling personal insults and invective at every bright young thing he came across. Once he met a new kid and said 'and what little Iliad are you writing?'

"It was the young Samuel Beckett."

Iraq as Art in Progress

By Claudia Parsons BAGHDAD, Nov 2 2006 (Reuters) - A senior U.S. general compared Iraq on Thursday to a work of art in progress and played down incessant violence and friction with Iraqi leaders as "speed bumps" on the road to stability...The chief military spokesman in Iraq, Major General William Caldwell, used a weekly briefing in Baghdad to urge patience. "Every great work of art goes through messy phases while it is in transition. A lump of clay can become a sculpture, blobs of paint become paintings which inspire," he said. "The final test of our efforts will not be the isolated incidents reported daily but the country that the Iraqis build."

To: Chrissie Iles, Curator, Whitney Film and Video, and Philippe Vergne, Curator, Walker Art Center; Co-Curators, Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art, NY

From: Major General William Caldwell, Pentagon Central Command, 1st Division, 22nd Contemporary Art Brigade

Proposal for Site Installation/Situational Art Project "Democratization: Iraq Invasion #2"

Our site installation proposal presents an ongoing, dialectical critique of war through broad, multi-media installation and co-ordinated situational art happenings all across the actual nation of Iraq, recontextualizing an air, naval, and ground invasion as a massively transgressive process which critiques existing social, economic and political institutions throughout the country, leading, through explosive physical eradications of existing religious norms, military institutions, human bodies, and structures, towards the radical transformation of a brutal, autocratic society.

A) "The "Decider," to be exhibited as an individual performance in Washington D.C. and at a small farm site in rural Texas, will plan and execute an "invasion" of the nation, creating "reasons," such as "a connection to Al Qaida," or the need to find "Weapons of Mass Destruction," or other non-sensical, absurdist phrases. The counterpoint of this "invasion" rationale will be that the reasons are obviously false - this chanted dissociation intends to form mass critical consciousness of the toxic Self/Other dialectic which amplified by desire for power justifies social structures which permit war, as well as an anti-narrative that counters the hegemonic eisegesis of nationalism into moment which drives war, by repeatedly underscoring it's absurdity, turning clearly eisegesitic falsehood into hermeneutically-legitimized analysis.
B) Part II of the Situational performance will be the actual deployment of several hundred thousand "soliders" all across Iraq, armed with completely functional weapons and ammunition, who, working in a Fluxus event tradition, will actually risk their lives to engage the performance of "invasion." To maximize authentic feeling on the part of the "invaded", real gunfire, bombs, missiles and pointed sticks will be used against the "forces" of the "Dictator" (see below." Willfully subsuming their freedom and discretion to act, the U.S. artists will be controlled by "orders" from the "Decider." Their orderly and coordinated movements will be compositionally challenged by an organic group without clear direction, known as "The Insurgency," who will contrast the costume of the soldiers with an array of black masks - and lack of identifying costume altogether; subsumed into the population -the line between actor and spectator will be violently blurred.

C) "The "Dictator", posited here as the Other, will be "removed" from "office," where the manifestations of power expressed through ostentatious architecture, "taste"-defying material riches, brutalization of subservient humans, were omnipresent, and he will live in a small hole in the ground, converted to a rude apartment in an inverted simulacrum of his previous station, not leaving for several months.

D) Nodding to formal concerns, repeated multi-site and broadcast media-based hyper-complex logistical "maps" and digitized "plans" will dictate movements of "Troops," evoking through structure and subject matter Poussin's Rape of the Sabine Women, with a frentic, chaotic subject nonetheless heavily controlled and composed in geometric order by the decisions of the "Decider," and a cryptic, otherworld character known only as "Rumsfeld." The clinically clean graphics and "objective" maps will contrast markedly with the bloodletting and destruction in the actual places they describe.

E) This "Situationist" style set of events will be extensively but incompletely documented in national and international media- the artists insist that the penetration of the performance event penetrates mass culture; the artists will repeatedly prank and play on national attachments and love of country to "justify" the perfomance - whose obvious falseness will again serve as a critique of mass culture. At the same time, ongoing, robust physical destruction will critique over-traditional and faux-modernist trends in secular Iraqi architecture.

F) Update: we are having some trouble drawing the in-situ performance aspect of the event to a satisfactory conclusion. Please bear with us for an updated proposal.

Shrimp on A Treadmill

Sing to James Taylor's "You've got a Friend"

When you're wet, with a treadmill
And you need a running shrimp

And nothing, whoa nothing is going right.
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest nights

You just put out my shrimp,
And you know where ever I am-p
Ill come running, oh yeah baby
To see you again.
Atlantic, Pacific, or Arctic
You'll get a crustacean right quick
Ill be there, yeah, yeah, yeah.
You've got a shrimp.

November 03, 2006

Letters to a Young Poet

Rainier Rilke, 1903

February 17, 1903

Dear Sir,

Your letter arrived just a few days ago. I want to thank you for the great confidence you have placed in me. That is all I can do. I cannot discuss your verses; for any attempt at criticism would be foreign to me. Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings. Things aren't all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsay able than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.

With this note as a preface, may I just tell you that your verses have no style of their own, although they do have silent and hidden beginnings of something personal. I feel this most clearly in the last poem, "My Soul." There, some thing of your own is trying to become word and melody. And in the lovely poem "To Leopardi" a kind of kinship with that great, solitary figure does perhaps appear. Nevertheless, the poems are not yet anything in themselves, not yet any thing independent, even the last one and the one to Leopardi. Your kind letter, which accompanied them managed to make clear to me various faults that I felt in reading your verses, though I am not able to name them specifically.

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Don't write love poems; avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes a great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in abundance. So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world's sound - wouldn't you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attention to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. And if out of , this turning within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. So, dear Sir, I can't give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to, the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted.

But after this descent into yourself and into your solitude, perhaps you will have to renounce becoming a poet (if, as I have said, one feels one could live without writing, then one shouldn't write at all). Nevertheless, even then, this self searching that I ask of you will not have been for nothing. Your life will still find its own paths from there, and that they may be good, rich, and wide is what I wish for you, more than I can say.

What else can I tell you? It seems to me that everything has its proper emphasis; and finally I want to add just one more bit of advice: to keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your whole development; you couldn't disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to questions that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer.

It was a pleasure for me to find in your letter the name of Professor Horacek; I have great reverence for that kind, learned man, and a gratitude that has lasted through the years. Will you please tell him how I feel; it is very good of him to still think of me, and I appreciate it.

The poem that you entrusted me with, I am sending back to you. And I thank you once more for your questions and sincere trust, of which, by answering as honestly as I can, I have tried to make myself a little worthier than I, as a stranger, really am.

Yours very truly,

Rainer Maria Rilke

Dave Reichert: Wonder Snitch

Republican Congressman for Bellevue brags about getting a single mother fired for flipping off President Bush.

Let us be clear: a Congressman shitting on someone much weaker than they are (and, I might add, doing something useful for society like driving a school bus) and using their power to get a single mother fired because she shares the political opinions of 3 out of 4 people in this area share, a woman with nothing, is a steaming pile of squirrel shit.

Fuck Dave Reichert. He fucked up the Green River killer investigation in a fantasy of his own skill as an investigator, and dozens of women died, and now he delights in bullying a single mother for expressing herself in a completely understandable manner.

It was Orwell who said that any ordinary person would use the word bully to describe a fascist.

Modern Morals

Dr. X posts this from the Department of Humiliation and Dunking at Oral Roberts University:

"Just so we're straight: He hired the gay prostitute, but just got a massage. He bought the meth, but didn't use it.

"Funny, I'm kind of like that. I registered to vote, and I got the ballot, but...oh, well that's where we're different - I voted, against all the hypocritical dicks you support."

Tom Friedman: Insulting Our Troops

Tom Friedman, who it must be admitted (or rather pointed out) helped more than anyone to cheerlead the Cognoscenti into this war, makes a good case for walking into the voting booth stabbing the Administration in the eye with a fork, jilted cheerleader style.

"George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld think you’re stupid. Yes, they do.

"They think they can take a mangled quip about President Bush and Iraq by John Kerry — a man who is not even running for office but who, unlike Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, never ran away from combat service — and get you to vote against all Democrats in this election.

"Every time you hear Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney lash out against Mr. Kerry, I hope you will say to yourself, "They must think I’m stupid." Because they surely do.

"They think that they can get you to overlook all of the Bush team’s real and deadly insults to the U.S. military over the past six years by hyping and exaggerating Mr. Kerry’s mangled gibe at the president.

"What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to the U.S. military than to send it into combat in Iraq without enough men — to launch an invasion of a foreign country not by the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force, but by the Rumsfeld Doctrine of just enough troops to lose? What could be a bigger insult than that?

"What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in uniform than sending them off to war without the proper equipment, so that some soldiers in the field were left to buy their own body armor and to retrofit their own jeeps with scrap metal so that roadside bombs in Iraq would only maim them for life and not kill them? And what could be more injurious and insulting than Don Rumsfeld’s response to criticism that he sent our troops off in haste and unprepared: Hey, you go to war with the army you’ve got — get over it.

"What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in uniform than to send them off to war in Iraq without any coherent postwar plan for political reconstruction there, so that the U.S. military has had to assume not only security responsibilities for all of Iraq but the political rebuilding as well? The Bush team has created a veritable library of military histories — from “Cobra II” to “Fiasco” to “State of Denial” — all of which contain the same damning conclusion offered by the very soldiers and officers who fought this war: This administration never had a plan for the morning after, and we’ve been making it up — and paying the price — ever since.

"And what could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in Iraq than to send them off to war and then go out and finance the very people they’re fighting against with our gluttonous consumption of oil? Sure, George Bush told us we’re addicted to oil, but he has not done one single significant thing — demanded higher mileage standards from Detroit, imposed a gasoline tax or even used the bully pulpit of the White House to drive conservation — to end that addiction. So we continue to finance the U.S. military with our tax dollars, while we finance Iran, Syria, Wahhabi mosques and Al Qaeda madrassas with our energy purchases.

"Everyone says that Karl Rove is a genius. Yeah, right. So are cigarette companies. They get you to buy cigarettes even though we know they cause cancer. That is the kind of genius Karl Rove is. He is not a man who has designed a strategy to reunite our country around an agenda of renewal for the 21st century — to bring out the best in us. His “genius” is taking some irrelevant aside by John Kerry and twisting it to bring out the worst in us, so you will ignore the mess that the Bush team has visited on this country.

"And Karl Rove has succeeded at that in the past because he was sure that he could sell just enough Bush cigarettes, even though people knew they caused cancer. Please, please, for our country’s health, prove him wrong this time.

"Let Karl know that you’re not stupid. Let him know that you know that the most patriotic thing to do in this election is to vote against an administration that has — through sheer incompetence — brought us to a point in Iraq that was not inevitable but is now unwinnable.

"Let Karl know that you think this is a critical election, because you know as a citizen that if the Bush team can behave with the level of deadly incompetence it has exhibited in Iraq — and then get away with it by holding on to the House and the Senate — it means our country has become a banana republic. It means our democracy is in tatters because it is so gerrymandered, so polluted by money, and so divided by professional political hacks that we can no longer hold the ruling party to account.

"It means we’re as stupid as Karl thinks we are.

"I, for one, don’t think we’re that stupid. Next Tuesday we’ll see."

Meanwhile, on yet another GOP Day of Gay - giving at least this Monday for Daily Show hilarity, there are no apparent effects from the Kerry nonsense. The Republican site averages of current polls make it real clear- the Republicans are screwed, and the question is whether it's Armageddon or not, a phrase from the latest Cook Report, which boils it down to turnout from Independents bent on revenge. It's very possible the GoPpers will pick up no Democrat seats - an unheard of possibility, and it's at least 50-50 on the Senate.

But the Laird is utterly, utterly correct. I resort here to doggerel, because I love freedom.



This Is Interesting

US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud - Chirag Mehta :

November 01, 2006

President Bush, Reduced

(visual artist, at your service)

Iraq in Chaos: The Semi-Secret Slide Presentation

From the Pentagon, Central Command, obtained by the NYT.

Next: the Pie Chart of Administration Incompetence.