Monday, October 16, 2006

Love Me, I'm a Liberal

Tony Judt's comments on the current insanity and their "useful idiots."

Calling oneself as "tough-minded" is an easy way to show you are pushover.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Another Poetry Monday

My Test Market

Let’s fly off to Finland, far
from the long arm of Olestra. There

in bog, arctic fen, and sand
are others who may understand

our epic innocence. Oh, how many
names for snow! and none

with growing market share. Where
are the snows that make no sense

so early in the morning, when the snow
is blue and blowing on the steppes?

Where is the qanisqineq,
the ’snow floating on water’?

We may ask Vigdís Finnbogadóttir,
who’s not a Finn. She may not know,

but she may point us toward
the northern lights. Her aim is true,

her snowshoes always full of snow.
We won’t come back. You come too.

- Rachel Loden

(from Hotel Imperium; also published in Jacket, issue 12.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Haiku (sort of)

A virtual amuse-bouche, that I put up here rather than snark at a pseudo-literary website: something that is rarely edifying for the reader and bad for my blood pressure.

Haiku2 for picturingkant
that a certain class
of phenomena results
from intelligent
Created by Grahame

Monday, July 31, 2006

Poetry Monday

by Robert Creeley

for Mark Peters

Not just nothing,
Not there's no answer,
Not it's nowhere or
Nothing to show for it -

It's like There's no past like
the present. It's
all over with us.
There are no doors...

Oh my god! Like
I wish I had a dog.
Oh my god!
I had a dog but he's gone.

His name was Zero,
something for nothing!
You like dog biscuits?
Fill in the blank.

Pub. March 2000

by way DRC

Thursday, July 20, 2006

No Joy in Latteville

The Creative Class is not a fan of basketball, however beloved, quirky, and hopeful the franchise. Odd, since tickets are priced with them in mind, as list those at the top of the heap.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

My Correct Line

This sort of intellectual food fight is just so 2003, but since I am susceptible to this sort of radical-baiting, I had to write into the Stranger Slog about it. One of the knee-jerk responses I got for calling "islamofascism" racist, among other things, was the idea that I am some granola-eating hippie on Capitol Hill. (We have one in Seattle, dear readers.)

Leaving aside where one would find such a creature in Seattle these days, my politics--and fashion sense for that matter--are literary and tweedy. I probably share with many neoc0ns and neoneocons (Paul Berman and Christopher Hitchens, for inst.) a fetishization of literature and philosophy as a guide to life. (Ah, but dears, the question is not whether or not one shall fetishize, the question is what do you fetishize! The world is in the trenches!) I would submit that the question--the niceness of distinction--between liberal anti-totalitarianism and neo-conservativism is something that concerns, mostly, literary and mostly male readers, and mostly on the East Coast. I know whereof I speak, since I am a literary intellectual as well and grew up on the other side of the country.

There are many examples of how Savage, and the Stranger, have toed this new line--call it neo-con lite--but most of them will no doubt be arguable, as nice political distinctions usually are. I take the appearance of this musty, and in the light of NSA surveillance, idiotic debate that the commitment to neo-con lite remains. My other term for this kind of this discussion is trying to out-Marx the Marxists. Though nominally opposed to the left, what is this discussion more like than the search for the correct line? Berman wants to find completely acceptable origins for a democratic left, one that never crossed paths with the Weathermen or Palestinian extremism, while Bauwer outdoes him by finding sins in the background of Berman's saints. The fantasy of the correct line is the idea that purity in human action and motives exists. The truth of the matter is politics is--and always will be--about compromise. Compromise always means unlikely, sometimes unsavory bargaining. This means there will be much to do for theorists, but whether it amounts to anything besides blowing their own horn is another thing.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why We Should Not Admire Edmund Burke

The reverence in which Edmund Burke is held is most quarters where politics and writing mingle always registers as odd to an English major, or at least this one. Burke is a multitude, for sure, and there is no gainsaying either his capacity as a rhetorician, nor his courage in taking a stand. But as a thinker, he is several steps below his contemporaries, particularly in how ready he was for modernity.

Burke was a politican, not an intellectual. Contemporaries get confused by him because his literate and even literary, but the tradition of the British writer has little or nothing to do with thinking. Two of the greatest poets of the 18th century, Alexander Pope and William Wordsworth, could be barely said to think. When Wordsworth was disillusioned with the French Revolution and "jacobinical" ideas, he turned to geometry for comfort. It should be clear that by "thinking" I do not simply mean being able to parse and interpret sentences, pictures and situations. I mean rather the capacity to think beyond one's moment. It is not a necessary quality in a writer, but it is something that English are more than a little proud about. (Which is why Russell is about the only English philosopher that people have time for, and that only because he paved the way for Wittgenstein and logical positivism.)

Burke likewise has no new ideas. In fact, his Reflections on Revolution in France is a cri de coeur about the loss of old ideas, emblematized by his image of the passing of the age of chivalry. The whole tilt of that essay is that any change in a society is a change for the worse. All reform is but revolution masquerading as temperate reform. In the same way, he thought the various, "intellectual" elements in England agitating for such things as enfranchising non-comformist Christians, breaking up the rotten borough system of English electoral politics, basic education for all citizens, etc. were no better than than their Jacobin cousins in France. If there was ever an act of mean-spirited broadbrushing quite as comprehensive, I am unaware of it. Demagogues like Burke spurred on church and constitution mobs to burn the house of Joseph Priestley, an important English scientist of the period. He did one of the worst things an intellectual can do: provided cover for vile actions.

Burke then was not a force of change in his time. And this is true economically as well as politically: he hated the merchant class and what incipient capitalism there was in England. This too was killing the age of chivalry.