Sunday, December 31, 2006

vox populi

WASHINGTON What does the new year hold in store for the United States?

Americans have gazed into their 2007 crystal balls for an Associated Press-A-O-L News poll. Some see a grim picture: another terrorist attack, a warmer planet, or another major natural disaster.

But most people don't see the U-S going to war with Iran or North Korea.

An overwhelming majority think Congress will raise the minimum wage.

About a third predict reinstatement of the draft.

One in four anticipates the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Ipsos conducted the survey of one-thousand adults from December 12th through the 14th.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Weekend at Leslie's II

Leslie Lynch King Jr.: Ford's original monicker.

1. Ford semiotically in USian media was the salve after Nixon -- the shallow, familiar, goofus klutz whose cranial armoire had four solid sides, no portal leaking out into the Nixonian teratoma out back.

USia turned to the persona of Ford in 1974 with relief, the way it turned to Fonzie or Al Bundy or the great plains or Abbot and Costello or Andy Rooney -- the comic relief of the near-to-ground undimensional Everydayman whose aspirations reach no farther than the refrigerator.

2. Turning again to embrace the unpretentious athletic guy who gave us the effect of closure in the exact moment of effective closure for Evil Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein.

King/Ford offers just now what some will accept as decorous cosmicomic relief from the lunatical media ecology of G.W. Bush, and USia can't get enough of him. He may be dead but

he's still the life of the party!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Media convergence optimization

From P., a non-blogging friend:
It occurs to me that ratings for all those boring “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” shows might be given a considerable boost by synchronizing Saddam’s imminent drop with the falling of the ball in Times Square. This would not only help the economy, establish the keynote or leitmotif for the coming year, and provide some risqué gallows humor as a backdrop for the national festivities, but it would be in perfect consonance with the aesthetic taste, moral sensibility, and notions of decency of the United States as a whole. Perhaps the corpse of Dick Clark could officiate.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

hard science

Although sleep is first defined in terms of the occurrence or
absence of perception, the existence of dreams shows that
perception (or better, **phantasia**) is not altogether suppresed [sic].

Rather, images which are always present in the body but too feeble to stand up to waking images can be perceived during sleep.

They bubble up in the blood "just like those artificial frogs that float upwards in water as the salt dissolves" (461b15). Aristotle. link.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Planar logistics: = :Pyramidal temporality

Services for Mr. Ford, who died after the fact, . . . will begin Friday in Palm Desert, Calif. . . .. The next day, his body will be flown to Washington. The hearse is to pause at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in recognition of Mr. Ford’s naval service in the Pacific. His state funeral is to be conducted on Saturday evening in the Capitol Rotunda, after which the public will be allowed to file by the coffin. A service will be held next Tuesday in the Washington National Cathedral. After the cathedral service, Mr. Ford’s body will be flown to Grand Rapids, Mich. Fans of the late "Godfather of Soul" began lining up outside Harlem's Apollo Theater early Thursday to pay their last respects as James Brown's body was driven from Georgia for his last date on the historic stage. A horse-drawn carriage waited to take Brown's casket through the streets of Harlem to the theater to begin three days of wakes. . .. Sharpton said the road trip was necessary because logistical problems had made it impossible to catch the last flight of the evening. "We're determined to make sure he makes the Apollo." Brown will be buried later Saturday in Augusta. Before that, his body will lie in state at James Brown Arena in Augusta, where the 1pm public service will be held. A private funeral service for Brown's family and friends will be held tomorrow. Copsidas declined to say where it would be held.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

marketplace of the gaze

He's looking into the far; determined gaze. Must be an artist.

She's not looking. Her camera is looking. It appears to be looking at you. But it is not. It is looking at what you are looking at. Him. Her camera is looking through you looking at him. She is not looking.

You are looking at her camera looking through you at him. He is looking.

If she were looking, she could be looking at him looking at her. She could be what is in the distance into which he is looking. Then he would be looking at her who is not looking only her camera is looking through you at him.

He is looking at himself looking at her camera looking at you looking at him through her camera looking through you looking at him.

She and her camera and he are one. You consume.

(image taken from nonce advertising in the 8.8.2005 New York Sun)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Five seconds out of hell

Christoper Locke/RB transferred David Weinberger's geekly blog tag to hell, where I gather he found me:

1. Three cities that spoke to me: New York, Naples (the real one), Los Angeles.

2. The Jesuits: "Give us a boy until he's 7, and he's ours for life." I was 13 when they got me.

3. Formative live musical moments: Blues Project at the Cafe au go go; Hendrix at Hunter; Joe Iadone anywhere. Good samples here include Ignacio es tan bella and Guillaume Dufay - Works

4. In November, I was asked by Neilson to participate in a television-watching survey, recording all shows watched during one week, which included election night. Duly returned completed form: Zero. Zilch. Nada.

5. Have never used, and will never use, the term "arsy-varsy."

Relayed to purgatory: Juke, Tutor &/or Phil Cubeta, bmo, Kia, Inspector Lohmann.

Monday, December 18, 2006

the pursuit of Hankseyness

No matter how well done, a Christmas movie is a Christmas movie. Even one that tracks the formula by inverting it, describing to the asymptote a convex arc where the traditional warm and fuzzy requires concavity.

plops a neo-realist style atop a Christmas film pretending it's something else. Tom Hanks is there, around the edges at all times, trying desperately to break into the frame. We keep waiting. At times that waiting becomes intense, and then, by dint of persistent suppression of relief, it pretends to flatline into something else.

The elision of the arrival of a Tom Hanks movie within the chain of images of Will Smith's movie makes no difference. In the end - right there, at the end, where the images end and the writing begins, an entire Tom Hanks movie is compressed, unseen. Like the 11th dimension within ordinary space.

I came away oddly disequilibrated -- the long askesis of the film's running length lingers, at war with the Hollywood formula it finally/always had surrendered to. The Italian director got more neo-realism into the film than one had any right to expect. Rossellini would have kept the Smiths in that subway men's room much longer, and let the knocking go on much longer. Until you wanted to punch out Roberto, Cinecitta, the projectionist and the parking meter.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Tough questions for tough times

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Mary Schapiro, chief executive of the National Association of Securities Dealers, faced tough questions from some of her staunchest critics here this week as she barnstormed for votes on a regulatory merger with the New York Stock Exchange....

Near the end of the 80-minute question-and-answer session, the questions grew more personal. How much were executives paid at the NASD? asked Long Island brokerage executive Alan Davidson, a longtime NASD dissident. Was it true Ms. Schapiro made $3.5 million?

"Not even close. I wish I did," she replied, adding that her pay was public record. Ms. Schapiro made $2.1 million in 2005... WSJ

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Good luck with that

"The media system works extremely well -- for those who own it." - Robt. McChesney 2003.

Here's the keynote I want to hear, from Rupe Murd, speaking for the cartel:

"Good Evening, People of USia. It took decades of corporate capital investing, tax breaks, wasting airwaves with consumer advertising, marketing and additional fertilizer for us to get the infrastructure built out. Millions of you little guys couldn't have done that bringing your teensy hammers and wire clips to the town square, now could you?

"As is now becoming rather obvious, we were corporations pretending to be building out systems of public communication. "Public" suggested, hee, we were building these, er, "networks," for you all to use. Raise your hand if you ever believed that bit of merde.

"The decent thing -- the noble thing -- would be for us as Gods of Infrastructure now to say, 'We have made our piece of change. We now need to make our peace with you, whom we have exploited, ignored, misrepresented and gouged. We haven't wasted a feeble fart on your needs. Our positions on matters of local, national and global importance are formed by priorities and values imposed on us by our local merchants and consumers and of course by our Insect Lords. We have gotten rich making a hash of any notion of what exists, and we understand that most USians have no clue what the population, the climate, the geography, the history, the philosophy, the grammar of any actual thing on the face of the Earth might be. (You know nothing, but we know about you.) You got a board game when you needed preparation for life. We created the you that elected Bush. Twice. We have no shame.'

"However, this is too much reality TV, even for us. We punt. Hereby and in perpetuity, we grant to the USian public all ownership rights and control over the infrastructure of the public media -- free and clear, in hopes that over time they might begin to understand the monster we have so insanely misbirthed. Sorry we can't help you with that. We wouldn't pretend to know a thing about the real world.

"Alrighty? Then good night, and good luck."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

macgiver he ain't

"I found him very engaged. I think he's looking for some answers, and the impression I had was there will be some changes," said retired general Wayne Downing in an interview with NBC's Today show. "I think you're going to see some new things come out..."
...of the presidential anus, General? Are we supposed to rest easy hearing that he's allegedly "engaged?" And what's with the charade that Bush, like some centralized Deciding Mechanism, will be inputting these multiple data perspectives from these diverse sources, then what...grabbing a brew and a bag of pretzels and watching The Passion of PeeWee's Playhouse as he chokes?

Wouldn't it be a healthier tack for USian media - and for its purported target audience - if it told us that a whole broad set of helpful and competent action figures were going to be working on this over the holidays, consulting with Santa when he drops in, surviving on giant slabs of Texas beef jerky while lucubrating?

If not healthier, wouldn't it be more like what democratic decision-making used to be supposed to be? What need is being served by this tale of a sole decider who "listens attentively" even as he goes about braying nonsense that wouldn't pass for topical knowledge in a 5th grade classroom (in Canada or Italy - USian classrooms are exempt from this comment)? Are we to look forward to Time/Newsweek covers of Mr. Bush, captured telephotically as he walks alone among the trees/sits alone at his desk illuminated by a single lamp/rides around and around on a tiny tooting train alone, brooding on the new way forward?

Bonus rhetorical question:

Why does David Jackson of USA Today feel compelled to perpetuate the populating of The Presidential Sim's world with "this young Iraqi democracy" and like phantasms?

The need being served, whatever it is, reveals a strategic message prioritization: it is more deeply important for us to believe Mr. Bush has interiority -- that a consciousness actually fills that fleshly form -- than that a wide cross-section of USian minds tapping into a multitude of complex tasks and needs can hack together a sensible emergency action plan. This (1) averts coup hysteria during Christmastide; (2) preserves the illusion that what's needed is some epiphanic Soundbite Solution; (3) leaves the responsibility for the entire mess squarely and solely on the shoulders of poor George.

Nice going, David.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Trow drops in Naples

George W. S. Trow is remembered by Stephen Metcalf in Slate.

Trow might have enjoyed the irony of being buried inside the NY Times' $4.95 obit dispenser. Even the dead must suck geld for the Times.

He died in Naples. I knew there was something about him. He's the only USian I know who would live there by choice -- other than me. The gaping wound of that place -- the wretched euro-future, here, now.

Even a director born there couldn't get near it. Twice.

Wikipedia. Thanks to wood s lot for the word.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sam Harris, Nicholas Kristof, and God

[note: I've been wrestling with this one for a while, and am still not done with it. changes may occur.]

Given the astounding number of galaxies and potential worlds arrayed overhead, the complexities of life on earth and the advances in our ethical discourse over the last 2,000 years, the world's religions offer a view of reality that is now so utterly impoverished as to scarcely constitute a view of reality at all.
That's Sam Harris on Edge, responding to an unscented powder puff by Nicholas Kristof in the Times. Times "Select." Readable here without unconscionable fee.

Kristof measures God the way newspapers employ polls to gauge the dimensions of political candidates. He find irreligious intolerance quite as disturbing to his peace of mind as the religious variety. He would like everybody to play nice.

One could simply ignore Kristof, as several of the commenters at Dawkins' site recommend. goddogit, for example, muses:
I'd get upset, but this guy is the classic ineffectual kind of cat box liner that the NYT uses to maintain its thickness, in both senses. His opinions are so trifling, yet so predictable in their method of pandering, he really should be a sportswriter.
Many atheists believe the Times is composed of unimpeachable objectivity, fairness, and news sense. Enlightenment fundamentalism indeed.

Pace Kristof, there's something at work in Harris's comment that isn't just tone or manner. There's a compacting of "the world's religions" with a certain USian segment that practices a straighened interpretive approach to a particular publication, i.e., the Bible. What seems impoverished here are the premises of Harris's attack language, not the ostensible object of his attack.

For the sake of argument, let's assume all the world's religions derive from the study of a single sacred text, as Harris prefers, and let's call it the Bible. If so, it behooves to read the text. Leave aside fundamentalist readings, give it the benefit of your very own attention. Even just Genesis. What's going on in there is anything but simple; there's an unfolding of a world view radically distinct from whatever else has survived from yore, an original vision of time and the place of the human and the workings of the human in time. It's quite a tale, pocked with remembered moments fraught with ancient memory lapses looming out of vastnesses of time and space. There's an enigmatic benightedness that is familar and contemporary, peopled by vivid and diverse actors, of whom God is but one player.

It 's a text that knows a lot about the problems of knowing. For something supposedly written by a guiding godhead, it's rife with illogic, with narrative gaps that might or might not be gaffs, difficult to parse and perplexing scenes, actions, characters and events that nudge the problem of intelligibility into the foreground, so that the riddling character of the signifier -- the shadowy, broken, paratactic and irregular texture of the telling -- is inseparable from the burden of the tale.

Genesis holds up as literature. Personally I'm always enthralled up to that point in Exodus when we hit the the Japanese instruction manual on how to assemble the Tabernacle. Twice. Where is a competent technical writer when you need one? But that's just me. To Sam Harris I'd say, after spending some time with Genesis, have a look at Erich Auerbach's Mimesis - the first chapter anyways, and perhaps Robert Alter's commentaries. Then ask yourself whether you're taking on the Bible, or rather some insipid sliver of a reading of it which you then like a good fundamentalist assume is the only possible way to interpret the text.

All of which merely goes to suggest that Harris's choosing to unleash his whoopass container upon poor Kristof in hopes of wresting the Tolerance Merit Badge back to his side of the ledger is somewhat self-defeating. If there is intolerance here, it resides in Harris's niggardly sense of what a text is -- in his resistance to exploring how the act of intepretation can open into something a bit more complicated than
Half of the American population believes that the universe is 6,000 years old.
Come to think of it, Genesis itself is full of folks like Joseph's brothers getting into serious trouble by refusing to entertain the possibility of other than simplistic readings.

Harris apparently wishes to equate one benighted and politicized strand of atrophied USian text abuse with the Bible in toto; would he find it equally plausible to reduce all scientific endeavor to Adam Felber's account of the World's Largest Molecule? Would he enjoy mindless readings of his own books?

For all intents and purposes, as AKMA has argued, we live amid contesting readings, all partial, all incomplete, among which some single text is pretty much nowhere to be found. If Harris truly wished to impress upon us his genuine concern for the future of civilization, he might begin by allowing for the myriad unimaginable acts of interpretation that fall between a text and the communities generated by its readings. A tolerance of that uncontrollable genesis by which certain texts extend their demiurgic powers across time and space, in advance of the lives they deform.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

spirit of christmas 2006

The expense of decorating is hitting yards around the country. Each year Tony Blore, a homeowner in Bellingham, Wash., adds another large figure to his home's holiday light show. The show already involves 35,000 lights and garners letters of appreciation from neighborhood families. This year, he eyed an animated Santa climbing a ladder and a nearly four-foot diameter blinking ball by But he opted for only the Santa, which cost around $430.

"The prices are just getting quite expensive," he says. "Maybe next year I'll be able to buy more."


But despite any cost increases, many customers still want a professional to dress up their home. Peter Latsey, a real-estate investor outside Boston, spent around $2,000 to have the Christmas Light People put lights on some trees and the roofline of his 5,000 square-foot contemporary colonial home. He didn't mind that the rising cost of lights contributed at least an additional $100 to the job. WSJ


Last year a guy down the street had one gigantic Frosty ballooning on his roof. This year, he's got six or seven figures of the season, and a rectangular frame of lights around them, making for a much bigger, more Vegasy or Rockettes kind of look. It's a bold manifesto with more than a dollop of panache. I've not had a chance to chat with him, but, [psst] he's not alone.

Cheap tattered speculation: Capitalism is anxiety by another name. There is a suburban semaphorics that operates without code book or invigorating self-improvement seminar. It's like, just as the male of the USian species will vent his frustration about this world going to hell in a handbasket by whipping out the leafblower and blasting for hours and hours until nary a dendric fragment may be surveilled hither or yon, just so will he spend large dollars and time erecting his very own personal remix of Salvation into the sky, a vision for all his neighbors and any potential flying-over terrorists to read. Merchants are pleased.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

For love of bush

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Hello Raytheon, Goodbye Dick

In view of some perceived "rethinking" within the Bush administration, this morning's Wall St. Journal asks,

At a Pivotal Moment,
Where Is Mr. Cheney?

He's been keeping a low, mostly uncommunicative profile, the paper notes.

There's no mystery, actually. He's well on his way to recovery from nearly drowning in his own cumbath. It happened when he got one of these, from Raytheon:

The Goodbye Weapon:
The crowd is getting ugly. Soldiers roll up in a Hummer. Suddenly, the whole right half of your body is screaming in agony. You feel like you've been dipped in molten lava. You almost faint from shock and pain, but instead you stumble backwards -- and then start running. To your surprise, everyone else is running too. In a few seconds, the street is completely empty.

You've just been hit with a new nonlethal weapon that has been certified for use in Iraq -- even though critics argue there may be unforeseen effects.

According to documents obtained for Wired News under federal sunshine laws, the Air Force's Active Denial System, or ADS, has been certified safe after lengthy tests by military scientists in the lab and in war games....

The beam produces what experimenters call the "Goodbye effect," or "prompt and highly motivated escape behavior." In human tests, most subjects reached their pain threshold within 3 seconds, and none of the subjects could endure more than 5 seconds....

The ADS was developed in complete secrecy for 10 years at a cost of $40 million....

Tests on monkeys showed that corneal damage heals within 24 hours, the reports claim....the Air Force is adamant that after years of study, exposure to MMW has not been demonstrated to promote cancer....

"Key technologies to enable this capability from an airborne platform -- such as a C-130 -- are being developed at several Air Force Research Laboratory technology directorates," says Diana Loree, program manager for the Airborne ADS.
Via Wired News. Test documents here.

(Dick Whittington said to be looking very tanned.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Kismet Kate and Dave Winer?

From the dept. of trivial but unavoidable coincidences: A search for Katherine Harris brings this interesting image from Scripting News (what is she to Dave Winer, or Winer to her?) of Dec. 3, 2005:

That would be precisely and weirdly one year before the REVOTE Rally staged in her home district yesterday. On a ballot with many races and issues in Sarasota, Florida, the only result showing any bizarreness was Buchanan vs. Jennings - vying for the House seat Harris abandoned in her doomed Senate effort (against Bill Nelson).

After what happened in Florida in 2000 when she was sect. of state, Harris became the poster child for aberrant elections, certifying Bush's win despite many, many electoral anomalies. Now, with 18,400 missing votes on the ballot for her old seat (about 12.9 percent of the total 142,284 votes), no paper trail, and no clear evidence of tampering, fraud, mechanical brainfart or other malfeasance with Sen. Chuck Hagel's ivotronic voting machines, it's altogether evident that wherever Harris has been, some sprite of dyscalculation is sure to go. The legitimate way to resolve the matter, the people say, is:

Update: A sensible view of the screw-up.

Friday, December 01, 2006

skeered a mite?

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the reaction to the unprecedented midnight ceremony in the president's residence last night handing over power to Calderon?

JOHN GIBLER: Initially, shock and laughter....people pretty much saw it as a gesture of the weakened legitimacy of the transfer of power.

DAVID BROOKS (not the NYT mook): Vicente Fox, the outgoing president, had to go to pray at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe and then returned at midnight for a private ceremony with no public and no popular participation in the fortress of the Mexican White House...

Felipe Calderon's party, the parliamentarians of that party, the congressmen, were terrified that Lopez Obrador’s party, the PRD, were going to take over the podium and that way make it impossible for Felipe Calderon to come in this morning and take the oath and whatever, so they rushed the podium.


DAVID BROOKS: The PAN did. And so the PAN has now taken over the podium for the last three days to make sure that there’s a little passageway where Felipe Calderon can come in. And so they’ve all stayed overnight. Two nights ago, they started singing classic Mexican songs in the middle of the night. There was romances going on. People were sleeping there, all holding their positions,
No question but the nervous system of nationhood goes into high alert at synapses of transfer. There's a clear unstated awareness - unstated in the US, normally, anyway -- that power will be, for a moment, surrendered, and therefore, before it is assumed, will literally be nowhere, invested in no one human being. Semiotic shockwaves pulse down mediaganglia into the fingertips of even the youngest of the assembled populace. It -- this moment in which the people actually/legally are the only 600-million-handed legitimate possessor of power -- doesn't manifest in some normal way, not surprising since it is a ghost, a concept golem which during that tense interim is all there is, op cit, vide supra the Constitution -- the commentator will often say something about how, unlike in the rest of the bloody world, here the tradition of handing over the reins of government at the behest of the will of the people has been unbroken for over 200 years and this is nothing to sneeze at. There is a suspension of breath, a lethal mystery occuring, a shadow passing as just at this moment power does not reside, it's an open hose shooting stars into the night, snapping battalions deployed across the commonwealth to attention (but attending to what?), abhoring a vacuum that is never natural we feel power run into the only place it can run, into the props: the podium, the flag, tie-pin, cufflinks, dark suits, back-up dudes with serious phones. Were the successor to show up in whites with an ascot, or a turban, the transition quite possibly could hit a speedbump from which it would never recover, whether or not the chosen new leader had had to negotiate a path formed by a human chain of lovers and cigars, human love centipedes dreaming of golden positions besieging the props until the magic words are duly oathed, mouthed, mimed, with mows and grimaces worthy of Iwo Jima until the power slips off of the old dime splat onto the new, until which time may the Virgen keep us children of the enlightenment safe oremus Ave Maria y Quetzalcoatl .

claque and click

Chris Locke notes a new edition of one of Flaubert's lesser known works, the Dictionary of Received Ideas, has seen the lite of print. Some of the fascinating Content:

ABSINTHE - Extra-violent poison: one glass and you're dead. Newspapermen drink it as they write their copy. Has killed more soldiers than the Bedouin.
ARCHIMEDES - On hearing his name, shout "Eureka!" Or else: "Give me a fulcrum and I will move the world." There is also Archimedes's screw, but you are not expected to know what it is.
DON QUIXOTE - Don Quixote continually misinterprets the world around him.
FEUDALISM - No need to have one single precise notion about it: thunder against.
OMEGA - Second letter of the Greek alphabet.
SPARTA - To prove their toughness, Spartan boys competed to see how much whipping they could endure.
THIRTEEN - Avoid being thirteen at table; it brings bad luck. The strong-minded should not fail to crack jokes: "What is the difference? I'll eat enough for two!" Or again, if there are ladies, ask if any is pregnant.

Locke detects penance envy:
Here's a hard-headed demographic that ain't takin' no wooden nickels re prayer and spiritual thought, no sir, no way! But who are asking -- evidently in droves demonstrably dense enough (in both senses) that the potential ROI motivated the publication of this book -- "Yeah well... but couldn't we maybe have some like plastic nickels?"
Add a dash of absinthe, a dose of exclamatory compulsion, and the USian edition of the immortal pair clicks to life: