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. . . 2002-10-22

Road Rage

If that fucking wingèd chariot doesn't stop tailgating me, I swear to god I'm just gonna slam on the brakes.

. . . 2002-10-23

But none, I think, do there embrace

Once the bouncers let us in, the voting booth is fine & private place enough for us to express our natural mild altruism without fear of shame. It's no surprise, then, that we tend not to vote our pocketbooks so much as vote our impressions of how the country is doing ("I'm in debt and unable to afford a house and working long hours and without health care, but the TV and radio say our kids will be millionaires") and how warmly our values are stroked.

Unluckily for us, the people who control our impressions keep their minds squarely on business.

The depressingly anonymous author of Seeing the Forest, who's maintaining a remarkably cohesive view of American politics, has produced a meme worth propagating:

There's a simple solution - do what they do. I'm talking about building up a network of "think tanks" etc, that work together, and reach the public with a coordinated "communications engine." This is why I'm always pushing people to understand how the right is making all of this happen for them - so that eventually people will suddenly say, "Duh!, Why aren't WE doing that, too?" It took time, but we have the advantage of using what they have built up as a model - they've been through 30 years of trial-and-error. Also we have the advantage of having the truth on our side. WE aren't trying to convince blue-collar workers to give up their health care and pensions so that rich white guys can have bigger private jets - THEY are. So our task is not monumental.

It can be done. The money exists on our side; there are huge amounts of money for environmental groups, etc., not to mention the amounts that the Democratic and Green Parties have been able to raise every 2 years. Add to that moderate Republicans - even they are under attack from the right now and an appeal to them to join up could bring needed resources.

And there are already a number of great organizations on our side. The research I've been doing is looking at the right, but I'll be researching and publishing what does exist on the moderate/progressive side. But what is missing is the coordination - the right actually has weekly coordination meetings - and the awareness that we need to work to build a "movement" just like the right has done since the early 70's.

I hope.

I fear. The problem in assembling such a coalition nowadays isn't necessarily hornlocking over conflicting issues and values -- televangelists and CEOs of global corporations didn't just happen to wake up together in bed one morning. The problem is that the natural allies of such a coalition will insist on locking horns. It's been a very long time since the wandering splinters of the non-right-wing have maintained the discipline to stay in line, pursue one goal at a time, and remain confident that one hand will eventually wash the other. Everyone enjoys self-righteousness, and the easiest source is to attack our annoying co-workers. After all, that's what the TV and radio are cheering us on to do.

+ + +

Somewhat related:

Next: Louder & funnier!

. . . 2002-10-24

And I'm wheelin' down the old highway

Richard Butner, who's become my main news source since I realized he's a better writer than those "Frontline" guys, exclaims it all:

I haven't seen it yet, but my pal Fred reports that Nissan is using "TV Eye" to sell SUVs. Just when you think you've seen the living end, here comes the living end plus one.

I officially give up. To me this is approx. 17 million times weirder than using "Lust for Life" to sell a pleasure cruise, and that was already really weird.

I guess one of the possible lines is that, y'know, Iggy's getting the money he always deserved, an artistical retirement plan analogous to, say, some Euro writer supported by the state in old age. But what about the Asheton brothers? Shit, what about Dave Alexander and Steve MacKay? They're just dead. Does the Nissan XTerra come with a resurrection option?

This reminds me of a nightmare I had about a decade ago: I was visiting a friend who had some new CDs lying on her coffee table. One of the titles was "Iggy Does the Boss." "Ugh," I said, "Iggy Pop covering Springsteen?" "What? Oh no, those are Diana Ross songs. He's coming out with a bunch of Sinatra hits, too: 'Chairman of the Bored.'"

I agree with Richard that the car company could have made a more appropriate choice, but I dissent from the outrage. Pop songs are supposed to be popular; commercial music's at home in commercials; it's too bad about the allocation of payment but that's why songwriting credit's worth stealing, right?

Now, if "TV Eye" was being performed by Limp Bizkit, or if I heard Rage Against the Machine on an ad before I was able to turn the volume down -- that would be traumatic.

. . . 2002-10-26

After Doctor Bill

by Anselm Dovetonsils

- - -

                    It is difficult
to get appointments from HMOs
          yet men die miserably every day
                    for lack
of what is found there.

. . . 2002-10-27

  Allergy season My head feels so large

. . . 2002-10-28

The Mouse That Cleared

Only after I watched Michael Eisner chattering with John Travolta at last night's World Series game did it strike me that Scientology Inc. gains fully as much from copyright extension as Disney Corp. does, corporate copyright having provided its main legal recourse against its critics. Dianne Feinstein's Hollywood constituency includes churches as well as studios. Perhaps it's not mere unfortunate happenstance that Scientology has been such an early and extended applier of the DMCA?

Coming up next: applications of cyber-terrorism law!

Fun facts to know & tell: How dumb is Ray? For years, he vaguely believed that Michael Eisner had some connection with the Disney family. On closer analysis, this assumption proved to be based on associating the Disney logo with the signature of Will Eisner. And that's pretty dumb!

. . . 2002-10-29

Stop Me If You've Heard This One

The narrative drive is a concept that invokes psychology, but not one that I personally recognize from that field. If accorded the status of a drive, narrative in this sense of joining elements together to create coherence is much more (or perhaps much deeper) than the parsimony principle of cognitive linguistics. Is it eros, the death wish, some combination? Iím not certain, but the way Osman puts the concept out there in this poem makes me want to mull it over in more depth than I have done before.
-- Ron Silliman

I don't think we'll get far explaining the narrative drive by the death wish or eros, since the narrative drive is prior to either and behind any attempt at explaining anything, including the narrative drive.

Eros offers moments of timelessness to the willing, but virtually all social settings of eros are shaped by narrative concerns. And the "death wish" is a direct effect of (or metaphor for) the narrative drive's centrality to consciousness: our desire for extension and our desire for conclusion are yoked into conflict like testy oxen, a disagreeable tension typically resolved in the sequelitis of the world's religions. Like other aspects of Freudian psychology, "death wish" is less biology than case-studied narratology and more useful in literary criticism than in treating mental illness.

Knowledge of the existence of the electromagnetic spectrum impels us to drag all into the visible. There's a similar urge to transform into narrative those facets of existence that, clearly and invisibly and dangerously, lie outside narrative -- by doing a close reading of a lyric poem, for example.

+ + +

Reflection on a deleted comparative adjective

Odder Pop might be a good name for a record label.

. . . 2002-10-30

Elements of Film Style

There have been few-to-one advances in movie grammar since 1960. The one I'm sure of is the use of pop music.

A pop song, when it works, exists in the eternal now, atemporal and antinarrative: in a word, lyric.

At first, pop songs were inserted grudgingly into films, for purely commercial reasons, out of place -- all elbows and knees -- as a substitute for a through-composed score (too independent) or a substitute for a musical number (too self-contained).

But a couple decades of tinkering revealed the usefulness of a tool of atemporality (although it can still get muffed by duffers like Paul Thomas Anderson). By undermining the sense of plot advancement even during actions that advance the plot, it helped extract all trace of feck and gorm from The Graduate hero's journey, and stretched the torture of Reservoir Dogs to excruciating lengths with no change of cranking speed.

The device has proven most valuable in transitions, however, where it's replaced the hoary but never-perfectly-integrated montage sequence. A pop song on the soundtrack can produce an exact filmic equivalent to Flaubert's use of the imperfect tense, indicating that the actions we're watching were more-or-less typical and occurred over some undetermined period of time, without the gross artificiality of flying calendar leaves, twirling newspapers, and looped footage.

It's impossible, for example, to imagine the elegiac peculiarities of Wes Anderson without the technique. I look forward to his dialog-free adaptation of L'Éducation sentimentale.

. . . 2002-Halloween


An astute reader raises a point of order:

HMOs are a "there"?
Indeed, one must wonder what kind of illiterate fool would refer to a plural noun as "there." Particularly given how many HMOs are in Oakland.

I agree too with Mr. Silliman when he predicts that "the present spate of literary publications 'in response' to 911 are doomed" to be "almost luridly obsolete before the ink dries." Certainly among the most lurid of the doomed must be this nadir of recent manuscripts from our unsolicited acquaintance Anselm Dovetonsils:

Publications of Mortality

My heart leaps up when I behold
    An airplane in the sky.
So was it on September twelfth;
So is it on October twelfth;
So will it be when we all die.

Perhaps it's the fault of the times. Perhaps it's the fault of the involuntary detox. But this retreat to more conventional forms seems almost, to be blunt, a bit derivative. I confess to feeling deep disappointment in Dovetonsilses recent work. And I never imagined that I would someday be "disappointed" by a Dovetonsil's poem. "Confirmed" was the worst I could possibly imagine.

It would be a shame if such a promising youngish poet -- he's been promising to pay me back next week for literally years now -- well, uh, it would be a shame.

I do seem to remember, though, that somewhere in this shambling ichorous mass lies an appropriate occasional verse... yes, here we go:

The Island of Doctor Moreau

The dog comes
on little cat feet.


+ + +

From Rolling Rock, Out   His present condition (dog-eared, some water damage) is especially disheartening since Dovetonsils's's influence has never been greater.

As a result, gadabout poet and mystery writer Owen Hill's recent From Rolling Rock, Out: Poetic Meditations on the Life and Art of Anselm Dovetonsils (Angry Dog Midget Editions, 2002) far outperforms its supposed inspirational figure. But isn't that always the way with these things?

. . . 2002-11-04

Movie Comment: Lilly Turner

       "Well, how do you do, Doctor! My name is Durkee! Rex Durkee!"

Update, 2023:

Ray's great-grandparents: Robert C Lowe, Fanny Durkee

. . . 2002-11-05

Movie Comment: Tomorrow, the World!

       "I know very well I'm a girl. But I don't like how you keep saying it all the time."

. . . 2002-11-06


No, America isn't full of right-wing voters. America is full of voters (and non-voters) who think politics is about personalities and pet causes when politics is about controlling policy and law. America is full of voters who fall for cons and get fleeced by casinos. America is full of voters deciding by TV commercials. And America is full of voters who'll continue to pay handsomely for the privilege.

But the Presidency, Congress, and judiciary -- they're full of right-wing voters, that I'll grant you.

. . . 2002-11-08

clam and starfish
Weblogging Clam
Good for nothing & bad for business

A reader surprises me with something I never ever expected to hear:

Pinback! Good to see ya!
Can you picture circumstances which might give rise to such a comment? I can't.

Also stretching credibility:

more dovetonsils! more dovetonsils! he stands next to caroline knox as the Contemporary Modern Poet who makes me the happiest!
For her sake, I hope he's not standing upwind.

Another reader tries to ensure that I'll be number one for searches on "brintey speers node nakid no clothse":

brintey speers node nakid no clothse
Finally, non-reader Anthony Derrickson of Chillicothe, Missouri, suggests that I change my website domain to "". And it's available!
Lookin good

. . . 2002-11-10

Quaking in Their Boots
or, These Colorful, Stylish Coordinates Kill Fascists

Fashion Statement
(Bay Area activism via Juliet Clark)

. . . 2002-11-11

Fleet's In

"In the beginning of our government we were willing to introduce the least coercion possible on the will of the citizen. Hence a system of military duty was established too indulgent to his indolence. This [War of 1812] is the first opportunity we have had of trying it, and it has completely failed...."
I'm a liberal who wants a big fat federal government that gives big fat services to its citizens and rewarding employment to the citizens who staff those service industries -- one such service industry being the military. I respect the pacifists I've known infinitely more than the warmongers I've known, but abolishing the armed forces didn't work so well for Jefferson and Madison.

My opinion is biased by personal experience as well as historical evidence, since my father, my mother, and my brother are all Navy veterans. Our education, our excellent health care, and our eventual move to the middle class of the proletariat have all been funded by the Navy. Although I'm the odd civilian out -- it always being clear enough that my tour of duty would be divided between sick bay and the brig -- I'm grateful to the Navy. I simply wish more Americans had similar access to federally aided education, health care, and class mobility.

As you might imagine, should you feel up to imagining the feelings of someone who writes a weblog, I'm occasionally irritated by the presumptions of the fine young people who've surrounded me in Cambridge and San Francisco and Berkeley. If our armed forces have generally been deployed to bolster corporate profits -- well, what hasn't generally been deployed in that never-ending chore? including mass media, fast food restaurants, universities, computer programming, and much more that fine young people have no trouble sucking down? That happens to be the kind of history we're stuck in.

More often, though, I'm angered and frightened by what's behind their presumptions.
"... you'd think they'd treat our forces like human beings."
"That would be 'no'."

I blame the Vietnam War. That's safe enough; nobody likes the Vietnam War.

Talk about being "pro-military" or "anti-military" is as nonsensical (and common) as talk about being "pro-economy" or "anti-economy." There are at least two sides to an economy -- worker security and big business profits -- with party lines drawn between them. Just as clearly, there have always been at least two sides to the American military: the armed forces themselves and the profiteers who leech from them.

The leaders of the Republican Party have never been subtle (in their actions, anyway) about which of those sides concerns them. They were against the GI Bill as a democratizing force and they're certainly against bringing anything like it back. On the other hand, no pork barrel sweats more fat than military contracts: virtually no competition; virtually no punitive action for fraud; a captive audience of "consumers" whose whistleblowing can be stopped by direct order....

"In 1976, the senior military officers he polled were one-third Republican. Today, it's two-thirds. Liberals have all but evaporated. You go from a conservative-to-liberal ratio among senior ranks of 4-to-1 in 1976 to a ratio of 23-to-1 in 1996.... I was out in California recently, and a Marine told me that the commanding officer of his unit would play Rush Limbaugh's show over the unit's loudspeakers so everybody could listen to it while they worked."
By conflating those two sides into "the military," we've handed the armed forces over to politicians whose chief concern is profiteering, never more openly than in the current administration. "A strong military," "the military budget," "military spending" -- all these terms bandied about by the news media refer to transfer of money from taxpayers to the corporate friends of the Party. No distinction is made and thus no regard need be given to military personnel or national security -- as was made grotesquely apparent after last September's low-tech hijackings, when Bush claimed that the Star Wars pork fest was now more essential than ever.

Meanwhile, the left's withdrawal from and frequent vilification of "the military" has slaked the thirsty ghost of Joe McCarthy with sweet victory: the United States officer corps now consists overwhelmingly of right-wing extremists. Given the nature of the military hierarchy, once such a trend is in place, it's almost impossible to undo.

Except maybe through a resurgence of patriotism or a draft or whatnot....

. . . 2002-11-13

Science News

PHONEY PHONE doesn't do a darned thing except confuse people and make them stare at you at parties, on the street or in an elevator. Light weight telephone hooks on your belt or fits in attache case, and looks very real with regular cord, etc. Get a small bell for your pocket if you want to 'answer calls'. A real zany gift for the lighthearted.
Taylor Gifts 1969 Catalog
  And another great gift idea, from "Radium the Revealer" by C. W. Saleeby, Harper's, June 1904:

The spinthariscope is a little tube, about an inch and a half long, closed at one end, and having a couple of magnifying lenses at the other. On the inner surface of the blind end is a little bit of paper covered with tiny yellow crystals of a salt called zinc sulphide. A little metal pointer, like the hand of a watch, stands out in front of this piece of paper, and on the end of the pointer is a speck of radium. Go into a dark room with the spinthariscope and hold it as close as possible to one eye. At once you see a shower of points of light, that come from the surface of the zinc-sulphide paper. That shower of sparks never ceases....

+ + +


A smart bomb comments:

You are false data.
And some spammer comments:
OK, poindexter, I checked your site out.
Even for a dot-mil scam it's pathetic.

And what the hell is an "asymmetric threat"?
Is that some kind of anti-Symmetric remark?

Love the slides, though....

Planned Accomplishments: TBD

. . . before . . .. . . after . . .

Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
All other material: Copyright 2002 Ray Davis.