Unless, another list

September 22, 2003 at 10:40 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

Mark Woods points to an article by Deron Bauman on minimalism in literature (the link doesn’t work, however), who quotes this list: Don DeLillo, Thomas Bernhard, Guy Davenport, Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, Gabrial Garcia Marquez, Saul Bellow, J.D.Salinger, before concluding: “writers of craft, intelligence, and wit [who] exhibit efficiencies of language, that, although not purely minimal, place them in a realm that begins to transcend the necessities for the genre.” They’re also all men. A couple of days ago I quoted Arno Schmidt’s comment about himself: “I don’t find anyone who is right as often as I am!” I remarked that I wish I had some of that attitude. But I also think that Carol Shields was right, that you typically have to be male to believe it fully enough to make it work. The list above reinforces that it’s your prerogative as a man to feel this way. Pace to the men who don’t feel that they’re right or have a right to be right. The point is that many — most — do and that as a man you’ve got a ready tradition to step into, one that’s constantly, incessantly being reinforced as natural. In Shields’s last novel, Unless, her protagonist Reta Winter is in the midst of a real crisis during which she begins to write “extreme” imaginary letters to people — men — who are pontificating on cultural matters. She does this because her crisis is provoked by the actions of her teenage daughter, who has reached a figurative dead-end through her realization that there’s just no way forward for women. Here’s one of Reta’s letters, which all the male list-makers should glue to their eyeballs:

Perhaps you were tired when you ran through your testicular hit list of literary big cats; trying to even out the numbers may have seemed too much of a reach or too obvious in its political correctness. But did you notice something even more signficant: that there is not a single woman mentioned in the whole body of your very long article (16 pages, double columns), not in any context, not once? …Bean counting is tiring, and tiresome, but your voice, Mr Valkner, and your platform carry great authority. You certainly understand that the women who fall even casually under your influence (mea culpa) are made to serve an apprenticeship in self-denigration.

That’s exactly why women don’t (typically) say they don’t find anyone who is right as often as they are. They wouldn’t know how to believe it. It all wouldn’t be such a crying shame if it weren’t for the fact that men are so often wrong.

Greg Palast disagrees with Thomas Friedman

September 20, 2003 at 10:31 pm | In yulelogStories | 3 Comments

Via AlterNet, this article by Greg Palast, Tragedy in New York: French Fried Friedman:

And how DARE Friedman say that France doesn’t care about the War on Terror. France declared war on Osama and his madmen years before September 11 got Bush to change from the view of his advisor, Robert Oakley, that we shouldn’t have a “fixation” on getting rid of bin Laden. French intelligence warned Bush to stop playing footsie with the Taliban, to stop coddling the Saudi Islamic dictatorship, to stop running interference for the bin Laden family. But would Little George listen? Noooo.

Grey propaganda, not grey matter

September 20, 2003 at 10:18 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Grey propaganda, not grey matter

Indymedia is being infiltrated by grey propaganda, and it’s a very weird story. See, The Model, her Shadow, the Payload, and the IMC: A grey propaganda operation on the Indymedia network. The article is about Gabrielle Reilly, who could be Ann Coulter‘s “Charlie’s Angel” cousin. Indymedia reports that over 97% of all links to [Gabrielle Reilly’s site] start out as feeder stories planted systematically on the Indymedia network.” Note that there doesn’t seem to be a direct link to this article, but The Model, her Shadow, … should stay up on Victoria IMC’s front page for a few days. At issue:

As the ‘War on Terror’ ramps up ever higher, the mainstream and alternative media will become increasingly saturated with white/black/grey propaganda — much of it far more sophisticated than the Shadow’s lame attempt at hormonal engineering — the IMCs [Independent Media organizations] will have to choose: does open publishing mean becoming a pipeline for made-in-the-USA propaganda, or will the network develop an editing system that treats these US government grey ops as the trolls they are? more…

I feel your pain, 12%

September 20, 2003 at 8:31 pm | In yulelogStories | 7 Comments

If you could have one question answered, what would it be?

In my case it would depend entirely on my sinuses. If I could have an answer to anything today, I would like to know what the point of sinuses really is. There are theories, certainly — I especially like the theory that it lightens bone mass: that if your skull, which has to be large enough to accomodate your big fat brain, were solid bone, it would be too heavy for you to hold up. Thunk. It’s certainly the case that in the midst of sinusitis, one’s head feels so heavy and sad that one would like to lie it down and die.

But why are there sinus cavities, really? Did you know that you have these cavities not only under and over your eyes, but above your ears (the sphenoids)? Popular literature typically leaves these little fuckers out, showing only the massive ones on your face; but the sphenoids are killer. For surgeons to clean them, they have to thread tools under and behind your eyeballs. No matter where they are, fill ’em with warm mucous and they’re the ideal breeding ground for bacterial and viral infection.

What’s the link to being environmentally connected and having chronic sinusitus? Excess mucous triggered by allergens, susceptibility or exposure to viruses and bacteria: boom. Some of the worst sinusitises I’ve had were in summer. Chlorine absolutely sets it off, too: no swimming pools or filthy, chlorine-doused hot-tubs for me. Latex and alkyd paint, too. Industrial solvents. Anything, it sometimes seems!

How come folk humour implies a connection between the size of one’s nose and a man’s genital endowment? The bigger the nose, the bigger the … In German, the saying is, “An der Nase eines Mannes erkennst Du seinen Johannes,” the name “John” serving as stand-in for dick. Freud’s erstwhile colleague Ernst Fliess developed an elaborate if whacky theory about blocked noses and their relation to sexuality, which Freud took on board to a certain extent and for a certain (limited) time. But what if there is a nose-sex connection? What if there’s a sinus-sex connection? Dr. Horowitz, my Mass. MD, knew of another theory about sinuses: that they helped modulate our speaking voices, allowing the voice to resonate and echo appropriately, and perhaps even modulating how we hear (viz. sphenoids). Think Creole Love Call, I suppose; and we all know that it’s very lovely to fall in love with your lover’s voice. I have a very nice voice. My husband has a big nose. But I still get sinusitis from time to time.

What’s the connection between the nose, the sinus cavities, their chronic inflammation, and depression? And the eyes, whose socket-muscles seem connected to the tidal flow of inflamed matter above or below and beyond? And the neurons in the brain, whose morphology has to be shaped by pain as much as by pleasure? Chronic anything is extremely depressing, but sinusitis seems to have special relationship to mood, and sinuses, once sensitised, have a special relationship to environment (allergy alert! bing!bing!bing!). It’s been my experience that stuffy noses do not have to accompany sinus inflammation. What’s that all about? Stuffy nose? Fergit about it. Right now, my nose is as clear as Puss in Boots’s boot polish, but I can feel the inflammation ringing my eyes and the region over my ears. Screw the pussy, buck the ass; I almost never have a stuffy nose (thank you, Dr. Fliess), but often wish I could unscrew my head. And swallowing that post-nasal drip is a drag.

These are the variations of a question I would ask on some days, with the hope of finally fixing the problem, for myself and for the millions of people afflicted. Some estimates say 37million people suffer from sinusitis in the US. Let’s downscale to 30mil; downplay the population to 250mil., that makes 12% by conservative estimate. To the world’s 12%, wherever you are, believe me when I say I feel your pain.

Good ones

September 20, 2003 at 3:03 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Good ones

J.R. at Noded points to Mark Fiore‘s very educational site, definitely worth an extended visit. I especially liked Fiore’s 2-year commemorative lesson and his illustrated plan for our new parks services. The neo-Liberals (really very neo-con) here in British Columbia have the same thing in mind as their cousins in the U.S.

Zettel’s links

September 19, 2003 at 11:58 pm | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

How very strange. Dave Winer reports that his uncle Ken Kieser just died in Jamaica — a man who appears to have been something of a genius, not least in terms of being a Lebenskuenstler (a person who figures out how to live vividly and artfully, with inspiration). In an aside in his tribute, Dave mentions that his uncle’s uncle was Arno Schmidt, and you sort of have to wonder how strangely a theme can wend its way through relations. Arno Schmidt (1914-79) was an avant-garde writer whose best-known work, Zettels Traum (Zettel’s Dream), was hailed as a hypertext document before its time on this 1996 page by Stefan Muenz. The book — thousands of pages, called “elephantine” because of its physical heft — was praised for its non-linearity when it was published in 1970 — and of course it was working out themes that would be endorsed by subsequent literary theory: the problems of narrative, of its form or structure, the dispersal of a unified point of view in the novel, and so on. Zettels Traum is entirely written in 3 columns (Schmidt wrote it that way on his typewriter), which I suppose contributes to its sense of dis-integrating the page — the page is no longer one page, unified, but three scraps of pages on a page. Zettel, incidentally, can be a name, but ordinarily means a scrap piece of paper, something you use to jot down notes. The middle column represents the main “novelistic” thread, whose main character is the aging writer and historian Dan Pagenstecher. His is a punning name: Page means courtly page, but also refers to the English word for paper page, which relates to Zettel; a Stecher is an etcher, but also someone who pokes or needles. One summer day he receives visitors, a married couple named Jacobi who are both translators, and their 16-year-old daughter Franziska. They talk about Edgar Allan Poe, whom the Jacobis are translating, and thus the left column has Poe-quotes — some verbatim, others altered, estranged from themselves, a discombobulating collection. The right column in turn has commentary by the first-person narrator (i.e., not Pagenstecher). As Muenz notes, you can think of the middle column as a trail, and the left and right-hand columns as instruments for meta-information.

Sort of like a blog is, sometimes/on occasion, or like the workings of hypertext.

How odd, a concrete connection between avant-garde literary practice and …well, this web-stuff.

And just for fun, to show that it doesn’t hurt the avant-garde writer or his alter-egos in hyperspace to have self-confidence of elephantine proportions, here’s a quote by Arno Schmidt — no shrinking violet, he — about himself: “Ich finde Niemanden, der so haeufig recht haette, wie ich!” (“I don’t find anyone who is right as often as I am!”) [n.b.: Schmidt puts the verb — haette (would have) in the conditional, so perhaps a better translation would be, “who would be right,” not the unconditional “is right.” But it’s a differentiation of inflection, not a fundamental alteration. Wish I had some of that ‘tude, chutzpah, whatever… wow.]

I haven’t read Zettels Traum, although we have some books of Schmidt’s around the house (it’s just a question of finding the trail to find them… ), but maybe I will now.

And 58 is too young to die; sorry to hear that you lost your big brother uncle, Dave.


September 19, 2003 at 1:50 pm | In yulelogStories | 5 Comments

Alexandra Stein on Totalism in the 21st century, a response to Todd Gitlin and George Monbiot’s earlier conversation in Open Democracy:

[Totalism] is a critical issue facing the global progressive movement, and it’s one we drag into the 21st century from the 20th, the bones of millions clanking along as proof of its dangers. Totalism, and its social-psychological relatives: sectarianism, fundamentalism, totalitarianism and cultism, are alive and well. And totalism – unlike global capitalism – is not driven by profit, but by the raw desire for power and control of each totalist leader. (…)

It thrives on an absolutist or fundamentalist ideology: left-wing, right-wing, on the wings of the angels of the Christian identity movement or the wings of spiritual beings in the New Age. But in the end, the ideological wings don’t matter, the social relationships of people to each other do. [more…]

Naomi Klein presented a sharper point of view back in April in response to Gitlin’s book, putting names and faces to Stein’s similar call for an end to Totalism:

The true faces of modern activism belong to people like the late Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American “human shield” whose young body was crushed by a bulldozer in Gaza last month. Corrie wasn’t in the occupied territories to give comfort to suicide bombers; she was standing with the nonviolent International Solidarity Movement trying to keep a Palestinian family home from being demolished. [more…]

How do you rate?

September 19, 2003 at 7:58 am | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

In 8th grade I was 12 and classmate to a girl I can only describe as a mean ditchrat. I didn’t start out disliking her, it just grew on me in the wake of one of her rhetorical but highly consequential questions. She was very hard, which I wasn’t on principle averse to, having been an A-1 Winnipegonian 7th grade greaseball the previous year at Norberry Junior High. But now I lived in Victoria and was adjusting to being an “island girl”: I had given up the heavy eyeliner (yes, I wore heavy eyeliner when I was 11 — I was completely unnatural), the foundation (yes, ditto), the blush, the mascara, the works. At 11 in my first year at that Junior High in Winnipeg, I had an arsenal of makeup that would appall me today. I never left our high-rise apartment on the city’s outskirts (the same, incidentally, that famous Winnipeg band Guess Who shacked up in) without the full pancake effect, looking like a very painted, dead child. How this look got past my parents is a mystery only explainable by the truth: they didn’t care. But I was tough, too, so I learned to parse my care in return. Sweet Cream Ladies was a favourite hit on the radio that year. I read Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land that year. Going around painted, and hanging out with social outcasts at school — there was 13-year old Bonnie whose mother allowed her to bed her boyfriend on the narrow couch in their living room, there were the boys in leather jackets, tedious little grade 9 wanna-be-motorbiker toughs — didn’t seem odd at all. I truly expected aliens to take me away, and swear I saw UFOs hovering over Winnipeg.

Aliens didn’t come for me. But I am very serious when I say that by this time I was fully in love with the abject, with detritus, with love of what others consider the cast-off. I had already spent several weekend hours volunteering at a Winnipeg institution where nuns looked after children considered beyond hope or home-life: kids with extreme disabilities, ranging from the physical to the mental or a combination thereof. Naturally, I went there because my greaser friends and I wanted to gawk, and the only way we could get past the nun at the gate was to pretend that we wanted to volunteer. But for some reason I came back. Aside from a few “bad influences” friends at school, I mostly hung around by myself, and when I wasn’t painting my face, I read lots of science fiction. The kids at the institution had hours to burrow deeply into my head. They, and the make-up: I owned signed photographs of Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee, loving the luxurious along with the abject. When I took the bus to the institution, I wore cheap knock-offs of white, flat-heeled, ankle-high go-go boots.

But back to Debbie, which certainly must have been her name. Debbie the Ditchrat.

I had no prejudices toward Debbie initially. I was a new kid at school, new in town, too. I was poor, she was probably poor, many of the kids at the school — S.J. Willis, nicknamed “pregnant hill” — were poor and from nearby Victoria public housing. This was not the problem. Debbie’s crime consisted of destroying my carefully made-up just world, a world by now as meticulously painted in my mind as my face had been the year before.

She and her friends always seemed ready to “call someone out,” which meant challenging them to a fight. She was dangerous, and so very wily about it. (Yet ignorant too: if she had wanted to know about crime, she could have talked to me — how else did I get my hands on all that makeup I couldn’t afford to buy?) Walking around our classroom one day, an exquisite combination of lordly sneer and begging snivel, she hit up every girl for money: “Hey man, can you help me out here, I’ve got the curse and need to buy a pad right now, man, you know….” I didn’t realize that her game was a combination of trying to extort money, impressing us with her womanly workings, and “shocking” the weedier among us with revelations of menstruation. Hardly a weed, I was prepared for emergencies (such as imminent soaking of something like white pants with red blood) and always carried with me a carefully wrapped spare napkin, which I offered to Debbie, discreetly, so sotte voce as to be nearly inaudible. She could easily have ignored me, but she was at least two years older and couldn’t let this pass. Loud enough for everyone to hear, she spat out “How do you rate?” She said it to clarify that I was stupid and had committed the grave sin of embarassing her: how do you rate, you loser-retard, you belong in an institution, locked up by the nuns.

Debbie just has to be one of the milestones of my allergy to questions of “rating,” to cowardly assessments of being a winner or a loser, to being judged by anyone who claims a need (“man, you gotta help me out here, I got the curse”), which in reality is a mere want (“I want to win over you”). At that moment, Debbie had morphed into one of the awful adults, manipulating to win.

Thinking about it now I also see how much of Debbie is in me, and how confusing it is to figure out what we need and what we want. That’s not meant to let the guys have the last word, though (“You can’t always get what you want, but if you blah blah blah some time…”); we girls need to talk. It’s a drama with a script we didn’t write, and we should rewrite it — or ditch the play and save the frightened rat.

Liar liar pants on fire

September 18, 2003 at 5:20 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

It’s a trend, thank heavens. See this AlterNet article by David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation, on the subject of his new book, The lies of George W. Bush; Mastering the Politics of Deception. Included are nifty links to Corn’s site,and a list of the top ten lies; as well as to MoveOn.org‘s own site about Bush lies, www.misleader.org; and George Soros’s site, www.wedeservethetruth.com. Despite all this patent dishonesty on the part of the Bush Administration, you still hear “folks” saying stupid things such as, “George Bush is the most honest president I’ve ever seen.” (This in an NPR report last week sometime….)

I like the “customers who bought this book also bought” list that pops up when you click on the Amazon link for Corn’s book:
Al Franken of course, with Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right; followed by Joe Conason’s Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth. Next up: Molly Ivins’s Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America; Paul Krugman’s The Great Unravelling: Losing Our Way in the New Century; and finally Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News.

It’s a trend. Hope it has significant consequences. Seat getting hot yet, W.?

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