Rock Out

Marc Nozell links to Save Grafton and the associated blog.

Chromewalker is about technology. No RSS feed?

Brian Doss on how interns in the government are primarily selected for sexual potential.

But, a there is a bright side:

“When you look at an Assembly person from the outside, you have a view about them. But after working with them, you see a totally different person from what you thought,” she said. “After interning at the New York State Assembly, I’ve come to realize I don’t want to be involved in politics,” said [21-year-old SUNY Albany student Jennifer] Harrington, who has just wrapped up a semester working for the lawmakers.

Score one for civil society over political society, albeit the hard way. One less person with illusions about their politicians and politics is A Good Thing™.

Any comment Carly?

Bruce Schneier writes on warrants, security, and privacy.

Unfortunately, the debate often gets mischaracterized as a question about how much privacy we need to give up in order to be secure. People ask: “Should we use this new surveillance technology to catch terrorists and criminals, or should we favor privacy and ban its use?”

This is the wrong question. We know that new technology gives law enforcement new search techniques, and makes existing techniques cheaper and easier. We know that we are all safer when the police can use them. And the Fourth Amendment already allows even the most intrusive searches: The police can search your home and person.

What we need are corresponding mechanisms to prevent abuse. This is the proper question: “Should we allow law enforcement to use new technology without any judicial oversight, or should we demand that they be overseen and accountable?” And the Fourth Amendment already provides for this in its requirement of a warrant.

Dienekes reports on the Catholic Church’s recent provision against Catholic women marrying Muslim men.

Dienekes also links to a Helen of Troy slideshow of the major actors.

Peterr Lindberg quotes an interesting paragraph from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

In every city of the empire every building is different and set in a different order: but as soon as the stranger arrives at the unknown city and his eye penetrates the pine cone of pagodas and garrets and haymows, following the scrawl of canals, gardens, rubbish heaps, he immediately distinguishes which are the princes’ palaces, the high priests’ temples, the tavern, the prison, the slum. This–some say–confirms the hypothesis that each man bears in his mind a city made only of differences, a city without figures and without form, and the individual cities fill it up.

Mark Pilgrim switched from MovableType to WordPress. Go him.

Freedom 0 is the freedom to run the program, for any purpose. WordPress gives me that freedom; Movable Type does not. It never really did, but it was free enough so we all looked the other way, myself included. But Movable Type 3.0 changes the rules, and prices me right out of the market. I do not have the freedom to run the program for any purpose; I only have the limited set of freedoms that Six Apart chooses to bestow upon me, and every new version seems to bestow fewer and fewer freedoms. With Movable Type 2.6, I was allowed to run 11 sites. In 3.0, that right will cost me $535.

WordPress is Free Software. Its rules will never change. In the event that the WordPress community disbands and development stops, a new community can form around the orphaned code. It’s happened once already. In the extremely unlikely event that every single contributor (including every contributor to the original b2) agrees to relicense the code under a more restrictive license, I can still fork the current GPL-licensed code and start a new community around it. There is always a path forward. There are no dead ends.

Movable Type is a dead end. In the long run, the utility of all non-Free software approaches zero. All non-Free software is a dead end.

Creative Commons links to Donald Rumsfeld poetry recitals.

Deep and Significant

Philip Greenspun proposes a different sort of welfare system based on the principles that people should get help immediately without becoming a different social class and not giving most of the money to bureaucrats.

I won’t say that my system is optimal. I won’t say that I’m smarter than any of the people running the government. However, I do say that American citizens shouldn’t have to go hungry or sleep in the streets. We should question the need to pay bureaucrats to decide whether or not people need help. We should consider replacing social workers and bureaucrats with computers processing reports from restaurants, hotels, and other companies who are actually delivering services to Americans who need them.

Philip Greenspun writes about the book Travels with Lizbeth by Lars Eighner.

One of the most interesting things they both talk about is the similarities between the very poor and the very rich. Namely that they both begin to loss their attachment to material. The poor do not have any or the access to it, so they are not attracted to it. And, the rich could have as much as they want and they know there is always something more they could spend money on.

It’s a very strange thing to think, and they both seem to identify with a “pity” of the middle.

I got a discount offer from Amazon via Peter Lindberg. Apparently there is this program called Share the Love that offers a 10% discount to your friends when you buy something. If you would like to be listed as my friend on Amazon for use of this service in the future, then please email me. This will be particularly useful in the case that you feel we have similar interests in books.

George Orwell writes about the problems with nationalism in 1945.

It is also worth emphasizing once again that nationalist feeling can be purely negative. There are, for example, Trotskyists who have become simply enemies of the USSR without developing a corresponding loyalty to any other unit. When one grasps the implications of this, the nature of what I mean by nationalism becomes a good deal clearer. A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist — that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating — but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakeably certain of being in the right.

He explains many of the problems and peculiarities of nationalism. One interesting example is how and why so many nationalists are foreigners to the group they support. His theory is that it has to with public support of your own group is not popular for the “intelligentsia”.

A great comment on Pacifists:

Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States. Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defense of western countries. The Russians, unlike the British, are not blamed for defending themselves by warlike means, and indeed all pacifist propaganda of this type avoids mention of Russia or China.

Sometimes when reading Orwell I can’t believe that this was written almost sixty years ago and the same crap is still going around. It really makes you think that not even the Internet and this stuff could cure people of these delusions. See this on self-hatred.

English left-wing intellectuals did not, of course, actually want the Germans or Japanese to win the war, but many of them could not help getting a certain kick out of seeing their own country humiliated, and wanted to feel that the final victory would be due to Russia, or perhaps America, and not to Britain.

At the very end, he writes about what might cause nationalism and what can be done about it. This is a very short section, but the overall message is that nationalism is something that people will always do to shield themselves from others, themselves, and the truth. As a result, it is unlikely to go away and being upset about it is a bad reason to remove oneself from politics. Orwell says that no legitimate intellectual can remove themselves politics really because it will always effect them and thus they will have an interest.

This is the New YEAR

Nate P. writes on how much “Gibson’s cartoon Jesus film” draws on action movie clichés.

Some of the undergrads in my dining hall were making fun of this scene [the "Resurrection scene"] the other day, saying that it’s almost as if Gibson were leaving himself room to make “J2: The Return.” And they’re exactly right. The last scene of the film exactly follows that action movie motif — it’s less Resurrection than it is Terminator or Lethal Weapon.

But I have been struck at how much the film relies upon pretty standard Hollywood visual motifs (in addition to the classical anti-Semitic portrayals of Jews and so forth) to tell its story. It really is the story of Jesus filtered through an action film. And just like with the anti-Semitic imagery and so forth, i wonder how much of it was unwitting acquiesence on Gibson’s part. It’s almost as if he did this without any awareness of the lineages of the various ways of portraying certain types of events.

Michael Feldman writes about unemployment in America.

All of these categories describe people who have stopped looking for jobs and are no longer counted in the “official” unemployment figures. Obviously, an economy as large and as powerful as ours can afford carrying a certain percentage of its population in non-productive roles, and a certain percentage of its production outside the normal channels of regulation and taxation. It is equally clear, however, that as these percentages grow it creates a drag on the economy which will eventually hurt overall performance.

What seems to us the more serious problem is the national attitude of denial which the artificially low government unemployment numbers embody. As though those half million people who drop out of the labor market each month don’t exist, or don’t count anyhow. Those millions of men and women, and the children, old people and pets that depend on them, represent stories of heroic struggle, dashed hopes, tragic surrender to illegal or immoral behavior, the failure of social safety nets, and the elusiveness of the American dream.

If you choose to stop looking for a job, how is that my problem? If these voters should do anything, they should ban minimum wage so that more jobs will be created when companies are allowed to hire based on what people deserve.

Michael Feldman tells another of his amazing stories.

Unfortunately, several of the workers at the Polytechnic lab, including the lady doctor who actually examined Number 5, met untimely ends just at that time, and when Jack went back for the results and the skeletons, guess what? No one seemed able to find Number 5. Gone, vanished, out and about? Who knows?

Jesus, it gives us the creeps just remembering this story. We are literally sitting here shivering and sweating as the memories come flooding back. A good time for a stiff drink, and we hate alcohol. Perhaps someday we will be able to write down all the truly horrifying details of this bad trip, but quite frankly 20 years is not enough distance to feel completely at ease. After all, Number 5 might be a regular reader of the Dowbrigade News.

AKMA writes about post-modernism and The Passion.

If Mel Gibson were a confirmed anti-Semite who wanted to make a film that would engender hatred of Jews around the world, how well would we say that he did? I cited a number of problems with the film yesterday, and I stand by those criticisms; at a number of turns, Gibson’s directorial vision (informed by his interest in the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich) shapes the visual and narrative force of the passion in ways that foreground Judaic responsibility for Christ’s suffering. That’s bad, and pernicious, and Gibson ought to have had the wisdom to temper his production so as to preserve its strengths while eschewing these unnecessary, inflammatory flourishes. I’m not as comfortable with the film as my estimable overseas colleague Mark Goodacre, who finds that the complaint of anti-Judaism “has been at best greatly overstated.” Mark’s a fine, subtle reader and an expert on Jesus films, but I part company with him here; I think that the scholarly response to The Passion has rightly found serious problems with the significance of the ways Gibson represents Jews and Judaism.

Cynthia Rockwell on Sophia Coppola:

But I have to say that just as I predicted, Sophia Coppola is indeed proving to be an auteur, dealing with the same strains in each of her films. Pro-magic, pro-mystery, that’s her thing. We don’t hear what Bill Murray whispers to her in the end. Mystery. She sings “I’m special,” at karaoke. The sex club is garish–too much information, no mystery. Japan is buffooned but also made attractively mysterious, and she never wants to go back again–because it’ll never be so mysterious again. Familiarity ruins the mystique. Bill Murray’s wifey is obsessed with real-world details–carpets, cabinets, kids, birthdays–and therefore there is no mystery. (It was all the same in Virgin Suicides, the girls were mysteries even to themselves, and jesus fucking christ did that piss me off. Attempt some understanding, fuckers. Don’t preserve women in some fucking mysterious glass case. Especially if you’re a woman directing the goddamn movie.)

Cynthia is teh smarts.

Chip Gibbons explains why obeying the law vehemently is not required of “adults.”

Obedience is not required of adults, it is usually required of children. Since when is the test for adulthood that you don’t break laws or challenge authority? Since when is the test for adulthood that you wait for permission? The capacity to reason is a better test for adulthood. And there is no reason in a supposedly free country for individuals to accept having their lives and their freedom held captive by others who use obedience as the litmus test for adulthood. Where obedience is the test, there are no adults, because there are no rational individuals.

Rational adults make mutually benefitial contracts with each other, honor those contracts and accept responsiblity for them. Children look to be lead and told what to do.

Ross posts pictures from Rome. Wooo.

Anil Dash explains Karma a bit.

Most people in western societies don’t understand the concept of karma very well, or at least they don’t articulate it in a way that’s consistent with its traditional spiritual meaning. Naturally, as a bit of a pedant, it seems important to me to correct this misconception. Karma is something that happens on the scale of multiple lifetimes, like evolution, not shorthand for “payback is a bitch”. Of course, that’s something a bit vague in a culture like ours where “forever” is usually used to represent “until I die” as opposed to, well, forever. Still, it’s an important distinction.

The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, by Harold Bloom

I have been procrastinating in my note transcription of The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, by Harold Bloom, which I finished the other week, because I have been bogged down with work. But today I have an opportunity, so I go for it.

Preface and Prelude

In the first chapter, Bloom describes his venture:

This book studies twenty-six writers, necessarily with a certain nostalgia, since I seek to isolate the qualities that made these authors canonical, that is, authoritative in our culture. “Aesthetic value” is sometimes regarded as a suggestion of Immanuel Kant’s rather than an actuality, but that has not been my experience during a lifetime of reading. Things have however fallen apart, the center has not held, and mere anarchy is in the process of being unleashed upon what used to be called “the learned world.” Mimic cultural wars do not much interest me; what I have to say about our current squalors is in my first and last chapters. [pg. 1]

The important thing is that Bloom values one thing: Aesthetic quality. He frequently blasts those who read great authors and judge their morals or manipulate their philosophies. That, he says, is second to their skill, which is the most important thing to consider.

You will see this trend reappear.

On the Canon: An Elegy for the Canon

A concise and clear statement of Bloom’s literary outlook:

Reading the very best writers–let us say Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Tolstoy–is not going to make us better citizens. Art is perfectly useless, according to the sublime Oscar Wilde, who was right about everything. He also told us that all bad poetry is sincere. Had I the power to do so, I would command that these words be engraved above every gate at every university, so that each student might ponder the splendor of the insight. [pg. 15-16]

And on those who don’t believe, whom he calls The School of Resentment:

The cardinal principle of the current School of Resentment can be stated with singular bluntness: what is called aesthetic value emanates from class struggle. This principle is so broad that it cannot be wholly refuted. I myself insist that the individual self is the only method and the whole standard for apprehending aesthetic value. But “the individual self,” I unhappily grant, is defined only against society, and part of its agon with the communal inevitably partakes of the conflict between social and economic classes. [pg. 22]

And one more for now:

Whatever the Western Canon is, it is not a program for social salvation. [pg. 28]

Central to the Canon is Shakespeare, for without him, there would be no Canon.

The Aristocratic Age: Shakespeare, Center of the Canon

Shakespeare is completely different than all other writers in the Canon:

Dante was as self-conscious a poet as Milton; each sought to leave behind a prophetic structure that the future would not willingly let die. Shakespeare puzzles us in his apparent indifference to the posthumous destiny of King Lear; we have two rather different texts of the play, and pushing them together into the amalgam we generally read and see acted is not very satisfactory. The only works Shakespeare ever proofread and stood by were Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, neither of them worthy of the poet of the Sonnets, let alone Lear, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth. How can there have been a writer for whom the final shape of King Lear was a careless or throwaway matter? Shakespeare is like the Arabian moon in Wallace Stevens that “throws his stars around the floor,” as though the profusion of Shakespeare’s gifts was so abundant that he could afford to be careless. [pg. 49]

One of the main innovations that Bloom describes Shakespeare as creating was that of characters who change: The characters in the plays overhear themselves talking and decide to act differently based on this experience. In this way, Shakespeare is the true inventor of psychoanalysis, not Freud.

The Aristocratic Age: The Strangeness of Dante: Ulysses and Beatrice

The interesting thing about Dante, is that he intended to write a Newer Testament, his Divine Comedy was not just a poem–it was Truth as Dante saw it:

Dante is the most aggressive and polemical of the major Western writers, dwarfing even Milton in this regard. Like Milton, he was a political party and a sect of one. His heretical intensity has been masked by scholarly commentary, which even at its best frequently treats him as thought his Divine Comedy was essentially versified Saint Augustine. But it is best to begin by marking his extraordinary audacity, which is unmatched in the entire tradition of supposedly Christian literature, including even Milton. [pg. 72]

Harold Bloom explains that Dante invented his own God, just like the Yahwehist and Mark, and her name is Beatrice.

Dante’s outstanding characteristics as poet and as person are pride rather than humility, originality rather than traditionalism, exuberance or gusto rather than restraint. His prophetic stance is one of initiation rather than conversion, to adopt a suggestion of Paolo Valesio, who emphasizes the hermetic or esoteric aspects of the Comedy. You are not converted by or to Beatrice; the journey to her is an initiation because she is, as Curtis first said, the center of a private gnosis and not of the church universal. After all, Beatrice is sent to Dante by Lucia, a remarkably obscure Sicilian saint, so obscure that Dante scholars are unable to say why Dante chose her. John Freccero, the best living Dante critic, tells us that “In a sense, the purpose of the entire journey is to write the poem, to attain the vantage-point of Lucy, and of all the blessed.” [pg. 77]

The Aristocratic Age: Chaucer: The Wife of Bath, The Pardoner, and Shakespearean Character

Bloom contrasts Chaucer and Dante, with particular mention of the ultimate truth inherent in Dante’s style:

Confronted by the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner along with a number of other Canterbury pilgrims, Dante (if he could be bothered) would not hesitate to assign them to their proper circles in the inferno. Their interest, if any, would have to include where and why they are stationed in eternity, for only final realities concern Dante. Fiction, for Chaucer, is not a medium for representing or expressing ultimate truth; it is wonderfully suited for portraying affection and everything else that has commerce with illusions. [...] In [Chaucer] we can see burgeoning what will become Shakespeare’s most original imaginative power: the representation of change within particular dramatic personalities. [pg. 105]

The Aristocratic Age: Cervantes: The Play of the World

Bloom joins Johan Huizinga in emphasizing that Don Quixote is not a madman, but a man who enjoys himself:

Don Quixote is neither a madman nor a fool, but someone who plays at being a knight-errant. PLay is a voluntary activity, unlike madness and foolishness. Play, according to Huizinga, has four principal characteristics: freedom, disinterestedness, excludedness or limitedness, and order. You can test all of these qualities upon the Don’s knight-errantry, but not always upon Sancho’s faithful service as squire, for Sancho is slower to yield himself to play. The Don lifts himself into ideal place and time and is faithful to his own freedom, to its disinterestedness and seclusion, and to its limits, until at last he is defeated, abandons the game, returns to Christian “sanity,” and so dies. Unamuno says of Quixote that he went out to seek his true fatherland and found it in exile. [...] Don Quixote leaves his village to seek his spirit’s home in exile, because only exiled can he be free. [pg. 124]

The big difference between Shakespeare and Cervantes is not only the novel form, but that Cervantes’ characters listen closely to each other, while Shakespeareans listen only to themselves.

The Aristocratic Age: Montaigne and Molière: The Canonical Elusiveness of the Truth

Bloom quotes Montaigne’s advice for dying:

If you don’t know how to die, don’t worry; Nature will tell you what to do on the spot, fully and adequately. She will do this job perfectly for you, don’t bother your head about it.

We trouble our life by concern about death, and death by concern about life. One torments us, the other frightens us. It is not against death that we prepare ourselves; that is too monetary a thing. A quarter hour of suffering, without consequences, without harm, does not deserve any particular precepts. To tell the truth, we prepare ourselves against the preparations of death. [pg. 144]

The Aristocratic Age: Milton’s Satan and Shakespeare

Milton grew up just as Shakespeare was dying and felt that he would do his best to carry the torch further, Bloom explains how this did not happen:

The movement from dramatic critic to politician saddens us and makes us realize that we want Satan to share more even that he does in Iago’s genius and nihilism. But what was Milton to do? There is authentic spiritual nihilism in Chaucer’s Pardoner, but the trait was not fully developed until Shakespeare shrewdly saw how to trump the Marlovian hero-villains with a more inward mode of savage amoralism. Social and historical energies were just as available to Shakespeare’s contemporaries as they were to the dramatist of Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, but rather clearly more inward energies were available to him as well. Shakespeare knew precisely how to use and transform Chaucer and Marlowe, but no one, not even Milton or Freud, has known precisely how to use Shakespeare rather than be used by him, or how to transform anything so large and universal into something altogether one’s own. [pg. 170]

The Aristocratic Age: Dr. Samuel Johnson, the Canonical Critic

Dr. Johnson is the man who defined and created literary criticism and appreciation by Bloom’s standard. Here is something from Johnson on Shakespeare:

Johnson on Shakespeare is never subtler than in his comment on the Duke’s astonishing “Be absolute for death” speech in act 3, scene 1 of Measure for Measure: “Thou hast nor youth, nor age; / But as it were an after-dinner’s sleep, / Dreaming on both.” Johnson remarks,

This is exquisitely imagined. When we are young we busy ourselves in forming scheme for succeeding time, and miss the gratifications that are before us; when we are old we amuse the languor of age with the recollection of youthful pleasures or performances; so that our life, of which no part is filled with the business of the present time, resembles our dreams after dinner, when the events of the morning are mingled with the designs of the evening. [pg. 186]

The Aristocratic Age: Goethe’s Faust, Part Two: The Countercanonical Poem

Some of the things that Bloom talks about here is the completely self-contained fantasy world of Faust and the monumental length of the work.

The Democratic Age: Canonical Memory in Early Wordsworth and Jane Austen’s Persuasion

The accomplishment of Wordsworth was on the scale of Petrarch.

There are musicologists who assert that the three great innovators in our musical history were Monteverdi, Bach, and Stravinsky, though the assertion is disputable. Western, canonical lyric poetrty seems to me to have only two such figures: Petrarch, who invented Renaissance poetry, and Wordsworth, who can be said to have invented modern poetry, which has been a continuum for two full centuries now. To employ Vico’s terms, since I have used them to organize this book, Petrarch created the lyric poetry of the Aristocratic Age, which culminated in Goethe. Wordsworth inaugurated the blessing/cure of poetry in the Democratic/Chaotic Eras, which is that poems are “about” nothing. Their subject is the subject herself or himself, whether manifested as a presence or as an absence. [pg. 223]

Bloom’s interpretation of Jane Austen’s motives and his criticism of the Emersonian and Marxist perspective:

Obviously outward considerations of wealth, property, and social standing are crucial elements [in Austen], but so are the inward considerations of common sense, amiability, culture, wit, and affection. In a way (it pains me to say this, as I am a fierce Emersonian) Ralph Waldo Emerson anticipated the current Marxist critique of Austen when denounced her as a mere conformist who would not allow her heroines to achieve the soul’s true freedom from societal conventions. BUt that was to mistake Jane Austen, who understood that the function of convention was to liberate the will, even if convention’s tendency was to stifle individuality, without which the will was inconsequential. [pg. 240]

The Democratic Age: Walt Whitman as Center of the American Canon

Historicism is another study of the School of Resentment:

It may be that Whitman, like all great writers, was an accident of history. It may be that there are no accidents, that everything, including what we take to be a supreme work of art, is overdetermined. But history is more than the history of class struggle, or of racial oppression, or of gender tyranny. “Shakespeare makes history” seems to me a more useful formula than “history makes Shakespeare.” History is no more a god or demiurge than language is, but as a writer Shakespeare was a sort of god. Shakespeare centers the Western Canon because he changes cognition by changing the representation of cognition. Whitman centers the American canon because he changes the American self and the American religion by changing the representation of our unofficial selves and our persuasive if concealed post-Christian religion. [pg. 265]

The Democratic Age: Emily Dickinson: Blanks, Transports, The Dark

The striking thing that I recall from this chapter is how Bloom describes Dickinson’s main accomplishment as being able to overcome the desire to “name things,” like mediocre points; as well as the desire to “unname things,” as was Emerson’s advice and Whitman’s practice. Instead, she does not name at all that which she speaks of and does not let her words control her.

The Democratic Age: The Canonical Novel: Dickens’s Bleak House, George Eliot’s Middlemarch

This chapter begins with a discussion of the novel as a form in general:

It may be that the new Theocratic Age of the twenty-first century, whether Christian or Muslim or both or neither, will amalgamate with the Computer Era, already upon us in early versions of “virtual reality” and “the hypertext.” Combined with universal television and the University of Resentment (already well along in consolidation) into one rough beast, this future would channel the literary canon once and for all. The novel, the poem, and the play might all be replaced. This brief chapter is a nostalgic confrontation with the canonical novel at its strongest. The novel, child of the now-archaic genre of romance, itself became archaic after its ultimate limits were touched in Joyce, Proust, Kafka, Woolf, Mann, Larence, Faulkner, Beckett, and the South AMerican heirs of Sterne and Faulkner. At its most flourishing, in the Democratic Age, the novel’s masters were astonishingly numerous: Austen, Scott, Dickens, Eliot, Stendhal, Hugo, Balzar, Manzoni, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Goncharov, Dostoevsky, Zola, Flaubert, Hawthorne, Melville, James, Hardy, with an epilogue in Conrad. After Conrad, the shadow of the object fell across the ego, and narrative prose fiction entered the era that is closing now. [pg. 289]

The Democratic Age: Tolstoy and Heroism

Bloom describes the strange quality of Tolstoy’s writing… the sheer magnitude and importance of character.

There are no surprises or unexpected turns anywhere in the story [Hadji Murad]; indeed Tolstoy frequently lets us know in advance everything that is going to happen. This technique reaches the height of narrative subversion when we are shown the severed head of the hero before the story concludes with a detailed account of Hadji Murad’s last stand. It is as thought Tolstoy assumes we know the history already, and yet the novella abstains from reflecting upon the story’s meanings; no morals are drawn, and no polemic urged. What matters is evidently neither actions nor pathos but only the hero’s ethos, the revelation we receive of the character of Hadji Murad. [pg. 318]

The Democratic Age: Ibsen: Trolls and Peer Gynt

I have not read Peer Gynt, but Bloom describes it as journey towards and wrapped in selfishness and self-satisfaction. The common characters with these qualities are the trolls:

The troll in Peer has triumphed, since pragmatically he has followed the Troll King’s injunction: “Troll, to yourself be–enough!” rather than the human motto: “Man, to yourself be true!” In trollish consistency, the Greek revolt against the Turks being under way, Peer reverses Byronic heroism and proposes financing the Turks. When his associates flee with his gold-laden yacht and the explodes with it, he praises God, while lamenting that the Deity is scarcely economical. [pg. 335]

The Chaotic Age: Freud: A Shakespearean Reading

The title is a reference to Bloom’s belief that Shakespeare says a lot more about Freud than Freud could say about Shakespeare, because Shakespeare contains us all and there is no one that contains him.

Every critic has (or should have) her or his own favorite critical joke. Mine is to compare “Freudian literary criticism” to the Holy Roman Empire: not holy, not Roman, not an empire; not Freudian, not literary, not criticism. Freud bears only part of the blame for the reductiveness of his Anglo-American followers; he need share no responsibility for the Franco-Heideggerian psycholinguistics of Jacques Lacan and company. Whether you believe that the unconscious is an internal combustion engine (American Freudians), or a structure of phonemes (French Freudians), or an ancient metaphor (as I do), you will not interpret Shakespeare any more usefully by applying Freud’s map of the mind or his analytical system to the plays. Freudian allegorization of Shakespeare is as unsatisfactory as current Foucaultian (New Historicist), Marxist, and Feminist allgeorizations or past Christian and moral views of the plays through ideological lenses. [pg. 345]

Bloom claims that Shakespeare was psychoanalysis’ “inventor” but Freud was its “codifier.”

The Chaotic Age: Proust: The True Persuasion of Sexual Jealousy

Jealousy explained:

Caddishness reappears when unhappiness ceases, and this allows our morality to sink to its normal level. That delicious observation is preamble to Swann’s immortal lament, fit medicine for all of us, of whatever gender or sexual persuasion. Odette certainly was not Swann’s mode, genre, type, being neither high enough nor low enough for an aesthete and dandy with so brilliant a social life. Swann, alas, is caught; in Proust’s cosmos you cannot say “Goodbye, Odette, and I forgive you for everything I ever did to you” (the American mode) or “Falling out of love is one of the great human experiences; you seem to see the world with newly awakened eyes” (Anglo-Irish style). For Swann love dies, but jealousy endures longer; so he marries Odette, not despite but because she has betrayed him, with women as well as with men. Proust’s explanation for the marriage is worthy of him:

Almost everyone was surprised at the marriage, and that in itself is surprising. No doubt very few people understand the purely subjective nature of the phenomenon we call love, or how it creates, so to speak, a supplementary person, distinct from the person whom the world knows by the same name, a person most of whose constituent elements are derived from ourselves.

Long after Swann’s jealousy in regard to his wife has followed his love for her into oblivion, his memory of jealousy still torments him, [...] [pg. 374]

I love that quote from Proust. We only love ourselves, or who we imagine ourselves to be, and that is what we look for and love in others.

Bloom on the lesson of this:

I reflect, as I read this, that Proust is the true doctor for all those unhappily in love, which means, sooner or later, all those in love. Unfortunately, his medicine, like all remedies for love, works only after illness–even in its pure form of jealousy–is over. He provides retrospective comfort, the only kind we can accept. It is a belated delight to be told that jealousy is a weak poem, unable to develop even the three or four images that it harbors. In the novels that we write with our lives, the jealousy that consumers at a particular time fades into the seriocomic pathos of all deceased Eros. [pg. 376]

The Chaotic Age: Joyce’s Agon with Shakespeare

The Chaotic Age: Woolf’s Orlando: Feminism as the Love of Reading

Bloom on Woolf’s life, philosophers, and “heirs.”

Her religion (no less word would be apt) was Paterian aestheticism: the worship of art. As a belated acolyte of that waning faith, I am necessarily devoted to Woolf’s fiction and criticism, and I therefore want to take up arms against her feminist followers, because I think they have mistaken their prophet. She would have had them battle for their rights, certainly, but hardly by devaluating the aesthetic in their unholy alliance with academic pseudo-Marxists, French mock philosophers, and multicultural opponents of all intellectual standards whatsoever. By a room of one’s own, she did not mean an academic department of one’s own, but rather a context in which they could emulate her by writing fiction worthy of Sterne and Austen, and criticism commensurate with that of Hazlitt and Pater. Woolf, the lover of the prose of Sir Thomas Browne, would have suffered acutely confronting the manifestos of those who assert that they write and teach in her name. Herself the last of the high aesthetes, she has been swallowed up by remorseless Puritans, for whom the beautiful in literature is only another version of the cosmetic industry. [pg. 408-409]

The Chaotic Age: Kafka: Canonical Patience and “Indestructability”

The Chaotic Age: Borges, Neruda, and Pessoa: Hispanic-Portugese Whitman

The Chaotic Age: Beckett … Joyce … Proust … Shakespeare

Cataloging the Canon: Elegiac Conclusion

Bloom on his Canon:

I am not presenting a “lifetime reading plan,” though that phrase has no taken on an antique charm. There always will be (one hopes) incessant readers who will go on reading despite the proliferation of fresh technologies for distraction. Sometimes I try to visualize Dr. Johnson or George Eliot confronting MTV Rap or experiencing Virtual Reality and find myself heartened by what I believe would be their ironical, strong refusal of such irrational entertainments. After a lifetime spent in teaching literature at one of our major universities, I have very little confidence that literary education will survive its current malaise. [pg. 483]


I do not believe that literary studies as such have a future, but this does not mean that literary criticism will die. As a branch of literature, criticism will survive, but probably not in our teaching institutions. The study of Western literature will also continue, but on the much more modest scale of our current Classics departments. What are not called “Departments of English” will be renamed departments of “Cultural Studies” where Batman comics, Mormon theme parks, television, movies, and rock will replace Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, and Wallace Stevens. Major, once-elitist universities and colleges will still offer a few courses in Shakespeare, Milton, and their peers, but these will be taught by departments of three or four scholars, equivalent to teachers of ancient Greek and Latin. This development hardly need be deplored; only a few handfuls of students now enter Yale with an authentic passion for reading. You cannot teach someone to love great poetry if they come to you without such love. How can you teach solitude? Real reading is a lonely activity and does not teach anyone to become a better citizen. Perhaps the ages of reading–Aristocratic, Democratic, Chaotic—now reach terminus, and the reborn Theocratic era will be almost wholly an oral and visual culture. [pg. 485]

He is very optimistic, as you can see.

I really like this thought about students these days:

Precisely why students of literature have become amateur political scientists, uninformed sociologists, incompetent anthropologists, mediocre philosophers, and overdetermined cultural historians, while a puzzling matter, is not beyond all conjecture. They resent literature, or are ashamed of it, or are just not all that fond of reading it. Reading a poem or a novel or a Shakespearean tragedy is form them an exercise in contextualization, but not in a merely reasonable sense of finding adequate backgrounds. The contexts, however chosen, are assigned more force and value than the poem by Milton, the novel by Dickens, or Macbeth. I am not at all certain what the metaphor of “social energies” stands or substitutes for, but, like the Freudian drives, such energies cannot write or read or indeed do anything at all. Libido is a myth, and so are “social energies.” Shakespeare, scandalously facile, was an actual person who contrived to write Hamlet and King Lear. That scandal is unacceptable to what now passes for literary theory.

Either there were aesthetic values, or there are only the overdeterminations of race, class, and gender. You must choose, for if you believe that all value ascribed to poems or plays or novels and stories is only a mystification in the service of the ruling class, then why should you read at all rather than go forth to serve the desperate needs of the exploited classes? The idea that you benefit the insulted and injured by reading someone of their own origins rather than reading Shakespeare is one of the oddest illusion ever promoted by or in our schools. [pg. 487]

And that, is The Western Canon!

Amanda = Wicked Wicked Good

Jorrit Wiersma writes about his daughter and horses.

I mean, she’s only two years old, and I don’t think we encouraged this in any way. So where does this love for horses come from? Sure, we taught her what a horse is called, and she has some toy horses, but it’s just one type of animal among all the others. She can’t really be influenced by other girls yet, and we don’t show her a lot of cartoons with horses in them or anything. It’s as if it’s some genetic thing, I can’t really explain it in any other way. I’m hoping it will blow over because, next thing you know, we’ll have a subscription to a horse magazine, we’ll be trudging through the mud at the local stables, I’ll be cleaning up horse dung while she’s out riding, or, she’ll even start nagging that she wants to own a horse. Please no.

I can’t wait until she’s old enough to read this. :)

Chip Gibbons can be very pretty about things when he wants to.

It is those dark, cold, wet days of winter that bring us days like today; the daffodils and the tulips just now sprouting above the ground, the trees budding and the snow-capped peaks as background for it all. The spring and summer would not be what they are without the winter being what it is.

You could call it an I-wish-I-had-my-camera day because that is what I kept thinking over and over as I took in the world around me. I wish I had my camera on the ferry, I wish I had it at the restaurant. The mountains, the fog shrouded skyline, the ducks paddling in the water, the cops, reporters, demonstrators each with his or her own story. Over and over, I wished that I’d brought my camera. But a camera can only capture so much: it produces pictures, a record of light, which is an experience in itself, not the same as the actual experience of being at the time and place where the picture was taken.

Friedrich at 2 Blowhards writes about famous mathematicians.

To start with, it turns out that some mathematicians, at least, are pretty good at earning money. I was intrigued to note that Thales of Miletus (c. 624-c. 548 B.C.)—according to tradition, the first person to offer a demonstration or ‘proof’ of a geometric theorem—not only wandered around doing mathematical things like measuring the height of the pyramids in Egypt by the lengths of their shadows, but was also shrewd enough to corner the supply of olive presses one year when a particularly massive olive crop made the need for such presses quite urgent. (That must have paid for a number of years of abstract speculation, huh?) And Hippias of Elis, a sophist of the latter fifth century B.C., who was responsible for introducing the first curve other than a circle into mathematics, considered his proudest accomplishment to be having earned more money as a teacher than all of his intellectual rivals in Athens combined. (He thereby, of course, earned the mortal enmity of Plato, who burlesqued him in a dialogue, but that’s another story.) More recently, Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), a strong candidate for the ‘most-accomplished-mathematician-of-all-time’ award, somehow found it possible, despite having to raise a large family on a fairly modest salary, to amass a fortune by what Boyer and Merzbach describe as “shrewd investments.”

John Porcaro talks about Paco Underhill’s visit to Microsoft. I’ve mentioned Underhill before, he’s pretty awesome.

One of the interesting concepts he talked about was “companion parking lots.” Research shows that more shoppers often take companions along (spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, kids), and that they often are part of the purchasing decision making. Giving them a place to wait where they’re comfortable is imperative to them participating at all. There’s long-term parking where someone can wait for 30 minutes or more while someone else shops—I often will hang out at Radio Shack while my wife shops at The Bon. There’s medium-term parking, where someone comes in the store, but waits while someone else shops (the kids looking at children’s books while the parent browses). And there’s short-term parking where someone who needs to be part of the decision can wait for a few minutes (a friend sitting outside a dressing room to give feedback on how something looks on them). Stores that do this right make the whole shopping environment more comfortable.

Read for details on this idea and others.

Moxie is amazing.

Moxie: How much of your income would you be willing to pay in taxes?

Bleeding heart liberal: I don’t know.

Moxie: How about 50%

Bleeding heart liberal: {silence}

Moxie: I’d like to give 75% of my salary. I’d want all of it to go to welfare. And to old people who never saved a dime when they were young. Bigger government! Fiscal irresponsibility!

Bleeding heart liberal: I don’t know about that.

Moxie: Come on, you are starting to sound like a conservative, Mr. Strawman.

Bleeding heart liberal: Never!

Moxie: Say something liberal or I’m leaving.

AKMA on the Jewish responsibility for Jesus’ crucifixion.

Joe, in the comments to Saturday’s post, observes, “Much of what I’ve read here and elsewhere complain that Gisbon squarely places most of the blame on the Jews but nobody ever says how much, if any, responsiblity should be attributed to them. If I recall correctly, it’s pretty much a biblical fact that the local Jewish populace played a signficiant role in dooming Jesus to his fate.”

Scholars disagree about the extent of Judean complicity with the crucifixion. Some pertinent facts include the following:

The post is called “PC or AD?” What does that mean? “Politically correct or XXX?”


David Carr links to a program to teach kids about money.

I think it is at least plausible to propose that a vast swathe of bad ideas and damaging policies are borne on the wings not of malevolence or even stupidiy, but simply economic illiteracy: a fundemantal failure to grasp how money actually works.

If that is the case, then this kind of thing is encouraging.

Dave Pollard writes about a book on animals and what we don’t understand about them.

In his new book The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson continues the critical life’s work he began with the groundbreaking When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals. Masson understands the importance of repetition in achieving something as enormous as changing an entire culture’s belief system, and he is patient and dispassionate in doing so. Like his previous books, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon is a dense and methodical mix of scientific citations and compelling anecdotes in defence of his continuing thesis: that animals are not only intelligent, but also live rich and complex emotional lives. Previous books have dealt with animals in the wild and with pets, and the subject this time is the most difficult of all: Farm animals, which Masson correctly points out should more properly be called ‘farmed animals’.

I’m proud to eat a vegan diet.

Halley Suitt is amazing.

It was wonderful to have Betsy Devine as my companion for surgery yesterday. She’s the best. After the operation when you’re full of anesthia, they let Betsy come in and see if I was still alive. I was. We did yuck it up and have a lot of laughs. The nurses tell you all this serious stuff about how to take your eye drops every three hours and how to wash your hands and keep them clean and how to not get any liquids in your eye, but of course I had to interrupt 100 times or so and ask if I could get semen in my eye for example, would that be okay and also if she didn’t mind, might I have a pair of those great medical gloves, the kind Glove Girl makes, just as a souvenir, rather unorthodox I know and when could I go swimming and what about mastrubation, when could I resume a healthy schedule of that activity and what about adopting a child that day, I guess legally I was not supposed to do that, not that I intended on doing such a thing, but they told you don’t sign any legal documents.

Chai Latte on dieting and working out.

8. Dinner (cereal). And a little pasta. The anti-Atkins.

9. Now feel slightly sick while checking out the Web. Did Kerry win something?

10. Just now, on my way downstairs to work out – rowing machine and then sit ups. I will never ever have a six pack. ‘S ok.

The State of the State of the Union, Hah

We’ll first note I’m the first to ever use the above joke.

Meteor Blades writes about the State of the Union.

I’ll be tempted to violate my advice above and turn on the tube. Because I’d like to see how many Democrats (and how often) give that man more than pro forma applause.

I don’t mean to be too harsh. But there are times when I’d like to see them sitting on their hands. Frankly, I’d like to see them booing on occasion, but that’s too much to hope for even though this will be that man’s first campaign speech of 2004. Congressional Democrats should remember tonight that they are the Opposition party and that all the pomp and hoopla attending this formal affair is electioneering by that man on the taxpayers’ dime.

I love it when liberals complain about taxes being spent on things that they don’t care about, but don’t realize that they do the same thing to Republicans.

Chai Latte on the State of the Union.

Kinda flat. Terror, terror, terror, laundry list of domestic money spending schemes, terror, terror, terror. And steroids and athletes. S’up with that? Well, at least the camera people zoomed in on Tom Brady during that part of the speech. No more sunday stubble.

The New York Times’ transcript of the State of the Union address.

Shelley Powers has a “Citizen’s Response” to the State of the Union.

But it was a life affirming moment when I realized that I didn’t have to make a reasoned response. I am not a Journalist, no not even a wannabe one. I am not an elected official or member of the goverment or candidate for office. I am a regular person, nobody of any importance, and as such I can take all that massive swirling heaving, maelstorm in my brain and literally paint this page with it — and it’s okay! Because I am a Citizen.

Our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. Twenty-eight months have passed since September the 11th, 2001…

Twenty-eight months? Why stop there? Over seven years have passed since Timothy McVeigh decided to ‘teach the government a lesson’ and blew up a Federal building in Oklahoma. Over forty years have gone by since the Russians tried to ship nuclear missles over to Cuba. And over sixty years have passed since the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

A note: It was my understanding that the President is to protect the Constitution. The people can protect themselves, the law and the spirit of the Nation can’t.

Aaron Swartz has a “shorter State of the Union” for Citizens on the Go.

BUSH: America is good. Soldiers and law enforcement are making America safer. Tax cuts are making America stronger. We need more!

Terrorists are bad and still here. But the PATRIOT Act is good, renew it. Afghanistan is good now. Iraq is good now. There are bad people in the shadows, but they don’t scare us. Libya is destroying their WMDs, we sure scared them. Now for North Korea and Iran.

Brad DeLong points to Objectionable Content who reminds us: “Words Not Heard in the President’s State of the Union Address – Osama Bin Laden.”

The Binary Circumstance writes about the State of the Union with regards to Bush’s proposal of protection of marriage.

What did the sanctity of marriage do for George W. Bush? He used to be a relatively harmless, pampered, coke-snorting, alcoholic, frat boy. He marries Laura the Librarian, gets a personal relationship with Jesus and now he’s a liar and a mass murderer who has killed thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.

The Burning Bush’s death toll far exceeds the number of people that Osama Bin Laden killed in the WTC attack. That’s just another inconvenient bit of evidence that we would all like to ignore so that we can feel superior.

Another choice comment related to this:

If the Burning Bush really believed that each individual has dignity and value in God’s sight, then it follows that God determines their value, not the Burning Bush, the courts, or mob rule, or Constitutional Amendments. But alas, this is not a rational man we’re dealing with here.

Carly comments on the Democrats during the State of the Union.

But then we got to the portion of the evening when I, literally, had to move away from throwable objects in order to avoid tossing them at the screen of our television. Most notably the money he wants to dedicate to abstinence programs, his praise of No Child Left Behind, and (URGH) the rhetoric on the sanctity of marriage.

Then they cut to a shot of Rick Santorum and I nearly lost it.

I was pretty riled up. Yelling at the screen and all. Cleared my living room of apartmentmates — they were frightened I think by my rebuttals.

Nancy Pelosi — I love you, but you look a little scary giving rehearsed speeches.

I think Ted Kennedy is my hero of the night, mostly because he was the one that (at least CNN) was cutting to as a figurehead of the Democratic party when they wouldn’t stand for an ovation or something. I think it’s awesome that he’s so entrenched in his seat that he doens’t have to worry quite as much about politics anymore and can say whatever he wants. He doesn’t represent me, but I loved seeing Senator Kennedy down on the floor shaking his head in disbelief at some of the things that were being said. Made my evening.

The State of the Race

Janet Daley writes that Howard Dean brings back bad memories of Vietnam.

There are ways of disagreeing with Bush’s foreign policy (as, indeed, Senator John Kerry does) without giving comfort to the enemy. There are conscientious arguments to be made against Bush’s handling of post-war Iraq (as there are even within the Administration) without implying that the President’s motives are corrupt and self-serving. There is a legitimate debate about taxation to be had without waging class war.

The kind of national self-hatred that Dean is stoking reminds me (as I suppose it is intended to do) of the 1960s: the most bitter and tragic era in modern American politics. For some bizarre reason, later generations have come to envy that seminal decade of my youth, to regret that they were not there to share in the very heaven of our student revolution and our unambiguous loathing of our own country’s actions. The Dean campaign is only the latest incarnation of that nostalgia. Well, believe me, it was not fun. At least not for more than a moment.

Mark Schmitt doesn’t buy that it was Howard Dean’s loss of “outside appeal” that lost him Iowa.

Again, this is pure speculation, but I think the only thing that happened to Dean was that the intense, almost obsessive nature of his campaign was kind of a turnoff to those later voters. Thirty-five hundred identically dressed kids from places like Evergreen State College filled with messianic certainty can be cool, or it can be a nightmare in a state like Iowa. The thing that always turned me off about the Dean campaign was its self-absorbtion, the idea that the campaign itself somehow transcended ordinary politics. Joe Trippi often says that Dean is unique in that he doesn’t talk about himself, doesn’t say, “vote for me, and I’ll do the following…” Instead, he talks about the people. It’s People-Powered Howard.

That’s sort of true. But it kind of reminds me of Senator Dale Bumpers, in his great defense of Bill Clinton in the impeachment trial, when he said, “When they tell you it’s not about sex, it’s about sex.” When they tell you it’s not about Me, but about The People, it’s usually about Me.

Dwight Meredith on the paradox of Iowa.

When a lawyer objects to the other side introducing a piece of damaging evidence, does he or she wish the judge to sustain or overrule the objection? Leaving aside issues of tactics, the intuitive answer is that the lawyer wishes the judge to sustain the objection. That is why the objection was made. The real answer depends entirely on whether you ask the question before or after the jury reaches a verdict.

During the trial, the objecting lawyer clearly wishes the judge to sustain it so that the jury never gets to see or hear the damaging information. Immediately upon the jury reaching a verdict, however, that changes and the objecting lawyer would prefer the judge to have overruled the objection. Regardless of the jury’s verdict, the lawyer is in a better position if he lost every objection.

If the jury finds in favor of the objecting lawyer, having an objection overruled has the effect of denying the other side grounds for appeal. If the jury found against the objecting lawyer, the judge’s decision overruling an objection of the losing lawyer may provide grounds for appeal.

Matt Zemek creates an Us vs. Them with regards to Dean. You see, people who like Dean actually care about the country.

The fallout from Dean’s post-Iowa speech is so fascinating and revealing, then, because it shows the split between the substance and style camps in American political life.

The substance folks see the speech as, like everything else about Howard Dean, another snapshot of a guy who simply never fails to do the right thing under the circumstances.


Oliver Kamm writes about Democrats and other opponents of Free Trade.

Finally, there’s probably little to be gained from instructing a certain type of mind-set on the economics of trade and labour standards, but I’ll do it anyway. I’m in favour of good working conditions and environmental protection, and I certainly consider no factory in the world should be without a fire escape; I object strongly to making trade agreements conditional on labour and environmental standards. The reason was well stated by 100 or so Third World intellectuals and NGOs (including incidentally the Secretary of the All-India Trade Union Congress) in a Statement Against Linkage in 1999 to coincide with the failed Seattle summit of the World Trade Organisation. (Contrary to popular mythology, the summit’s failure was due not to the anti-globalisers’ protests but to the insistence of the United States that trade agreements should be linked to labour and environmental standards. The conjunction of the world’s richest country protesting about labour standards ought to have given even the most passionate anti-trade campaigner cause for thought, and perhaps even stirred the realisation that the demand is a transparent protectionist ruse.) The statement observed:

The WTO’s design must reflect the principle of mutual-gain; it cannot be allowed to become the institution that becomes a prisoner of every developed-country lobby or group that seeks to advance its agenda at the expense of the developing countries. The game of lobbies in the developed countries seeking to advance their own interests through successive enlargement of the issues at the WTO by simply claiming, without any underlying and coherent rationale, that the issue is “trade-related”, has gone too far already. It is time for us to say forcefully: Enough is enough.

Those familiar with the recent history of US labour campaigning will recognise the pattern.

Michael Totten links to the new hit single, “Jurassic Yeagh” by Howard Dean and DJ Lileks.

Michael Hanscom writes about one good thing that came from the Bush administration.

If this is true, I think it’s an absolutely great thing. I’ve said for a while that the only good thing I can really attribute to the Bush administration is that it’s gotten a lot more people paying attention to and willing to participate in the political process, and if we’re getting record turnout for the caucuses, this could be a strong indication of just that. If people are tired enough of Bush’s leadership to show up in surprisingly large numbers to be a part of the process of finding the best candidate to oust Bush from office nearly a year before the general elections, it makes me even more optimistic that come November, we’ll be putting a Democrat back in office again.

Humour at The Black Saint is always the best.

I can’t wait for the next debate. It’ll probably go something like this:

Clark: Look, I don’t know why you punks don’t just drop out of the race now. How can you expect to beat me when I have the support of…Madonna?

Everyone stares blankly.

Clark (shakes his hips): She’s hot! She’s one hot piece of democrassy, if you know what I’m sayin’.

Diane Sawyer: Sir, you’re obviously drunk during a televised debate.

The Black Saint has more great stuff, this one about Howard Dean:

The AP has published a snippet of Gov. Dean’s speech from last night as evidence of his apparent instability.

“…with one purpose only, to point out and make public the dishonesty, the downright villainy of George Bush’s political machine, now in complete control of the government of this country. I made no campaign promises, because until a few weeks ago, I had no hope of being elected. Now however, I am something more than a hope. George Bush, George Bush has something less than a chance. Every straw vote, every independent poll shows that I’ll be elected. Now I can afford to make some promises. The working man, the working man and the slum child know they can expect my best efforts in their interests. The nation’s ordinary citizens know that I’ll do everything in my power to protect the underprivileged, the underpaid, and the underfed. [...]

Oliver Willis wonders about the near future of Howard Dean and, more importantly, his bills.

Dean is DOA without a strong first in NH. He has the money to stick around way past that, but it could get ugly. Does anyone know where campaign cash goes when a candidate drops out? Do they just keep it, or does it traditionally go to the party?

Betsy Devine writes about Channel Dean.

If I didn’t already respect the good will and idealism of the Dean team–and of Dave Winer himself–this would make me do it.

First of all, Dave is not working “for” Dean. He’s expending this effort just for the sake of improved technology for democracy. And the Dean team is welcoming this outsider into their headquarters because, to quote the Channel Dean FAQ, “We believe that a more informed electorate is more likely to support our candidate.”

Think about the negative things Dave has said about Dean and his web effort. And if you really think about it, it makes their collaboration more impressive.

A Small Victory has a small joke:

Why did Howard Dean cross the road?

To get to the other YEAAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!!!

Kevin Drum “muses” on the post-Iowa apocalypse.

All this could change, of course, and let’s face it: nobody really knows what’s going on this year. Still, the primaries are scheduled so thick and fast that even with a boost from Iowa it’s going to be hard for Kerry and Edwards to turn those poll numbers around in time to make a difference.

One more note: if you’re a believer in conventional wisdom, here’s an apropos piece: except for Bill Clinton, no Democrat in the last 30 years has won the nomination without first winning either Iowa or New Hampshire. If that holds true this year, the race is now between Kerry and whoever wins New Hampshire.

Kevin Lawver realizes he didn’t like Howard Dean the candidate, he just liked the feeling of involvement.

Doc Searls has an absolutely beautiful eulogy for the Dean campaign. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mean it that way, but that’s what it feels like. Through that post, I made my way over to The Cluetrain Manifesto, and was blown away. I get it now. I get why I was so enamored with the Dean organization. It wasn’t the candidate. It was the power of the people contributing to the organization. It was the way the campaign worked as a hub for ordinary people to make a difference. I was floored by the relatively small size of the average donation when compared to Bush’s enormous money-making machine. The campaign, and the internet side of it is a tiny glimpse of what’s possible. It is possible to take the monied corporations and special interests out of the game and win with ordinary people. I’m just not sure it’s possible for Howard Dean. If Dean doesn’t win, we should all thank him, Joe Trippi, and everyone who worked on the campaign for giving us a vision of the possibility that one day, it really will be a government of, for and by the people.

Michael Feldman writes about the feral roar.

The switch went off in the Dowbrigade’s mind just about when Howard Dean let loose with his primal scream, after screeching out the names of all of the states he was expecting to win. There was a fevered, ferrel gleam in his eye. At that moment, we were not sure we would want him as the coach of our kid’s youth soccer team, let alone the free world. Stick a fork in him, we thought, he’s done.

Philip Greenspun on how ridiculous Howard Dean is.

Let’s look at, for example. A quick read of the “on the issues” section is more informative than 100 hours of TV coverage. Here are some things that I noticed…

[...Old Technology, Backwards Economy, Hand Waving on Education, Strange Foreign Policy, More Backwards Economy...]

It would appear that a thoughtful voter could easily write off Howard Dean as a non-entity after spending 30 minutes at his Web site. And perhaps this process can be repeated for the other candidates. Are there any Dean supporters who would care to use the comments section to note brilliant ideas from the Howard Dean campaign that I’ve overlooked?

This is why the people should be involved in the policies. So that they actually make sense.

Christopher Lydon gives words of encouragement after what happened in Iowa.

Tuesday was a hard day of reappraisal among blog fantasists. But 24 hours after the Iowa returns I am feeling better and not so humble again. Why is it that only bloggers feel expected to apologize for our bad guesses? The shrewest pollsters, pundits and opportunists in the game (including the Dean schmoozers Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Tom Harkin and Jimmy Carter!) have all given us faulty snapshots of the political rockslide we’re in–and will be in for some time. Iowa was long supposed to be all Gephart and Dean. Two days before the caucuses it was said to be a four-way tie. Every guess about about this kaleidoscope is an instant absurdity.

Joe Trippi defends Howard Dean’s Monday performance, oh, and asks for money.

The Governor looked out at the room and saw 3500 people who had come from all across the country because they believed in changing their country and he wanted them to know how proud he was of them and their efforts. And he wanted them to know that we’re going on no matter what.

He wasn’t thinking about the cameras. It was the people right in front of him who had done so much because they believe in a better America that he was speaking to.

That the press would report on his speech for one day is understandable. But what’s remarkable is that they could run it over and over for 48 hours and still call it journalism. The State of the union took place. The next day we find out that Bush plans to ask for $40 billion more for his war in Iraq. But what do they run over and over again?

Tony Pierce supports Howard Dean, apparently.

i have found my leader. hes crazy and he knows the names of states. i dont know what he stands for but the republicans seem to fear him and thats enough for me.

is he coked up? probably. should he be? of course. is it right to elect a president for pure entertainment? isnt that why we voted for arnold?

Marc Nozell investigates the “Doubting Dean? Vote Kerry” signs.

We REALLY care about celebrities

John at the Movie Blog on giving a good performance versus being a good actor.

Here’s something else to keep in mind about Pacino and Deniro. They are both essentially the SAME FRIGGING GUY in almost every film they’re in. They’re like Kevin Costner that way. Pacino always talks the same, moves the same… he’s the same frigging character with a different name in almost all his credits. Same with Deniro. Its all they can do! Granted, they both do it VERY well… but it’s still all they can do.

Contrast that with someone like Robin Williams. Williams can play almost ANY role with a shocking diversity you rarely see on screen. An unassuming killer in Insomnia, a disturbed and misunderstood loner in 1 Hour Photo, A psychotic maniacal kids show host in Death to Smotchy, the professor in Dead Poets Society (Which he SHOULD have won an Oscar for), the psychologist in Good Will Hunting (which he DID win an Oscar for)… and on and on and on. Williams has never been in a film as good as The Godfather and he’s never given a single performance as good as Pacino in Scarface or Deniro in Heat, but he is vastly more talented an actor when it comes to playing diverse rolls and different kinds of films. Deniro and Pacino have both shown they can’t.

Camilo says that if you liked the trailer to Along Came Polly, you should probably just stick to it and not see the film.

Last weekend went to Along came Polly, a disturbing exercise in sameness and substitution of clichés for the happy consumption of middle America, the same one that considers it ok to have some “Friends” in NY with absolutely no Black, Latino or other “ethnic” characters. This movie is rife with platitudes, underdeveloped characters, weak plot and a completely base and stupid premise.

They first present you with the ethic dilemma, should a husband repudiate the woman that is unfaithful to him in his first day of honeymoon? Mind you, there is no easy answer to this, we learn, and Debra Messing’s character jumps, suddenly, from merely confused redhead wife to redhead bitch. Uh?

Steven Frank relates the demise of Disney to another industry.

It feels like Disney is going through a bit of what the video game industry went through after the release of Wolfenstein 3D back in the day: a mad rush towards 3D because it’s the hot new thing, one indistinguishable first-person shooter after another. There is still much to be done in 2D, and somewhere, cunning artists (and game developers!) are quietly honing their 2D skills for their triumphant return when the pendulum swings back again.



Richard links to Joshua Micah Marshall’s interview with George Soros.

[SOROS:] And there is another aspect that is coming into sharper focus to me, even since I wrote the book. That is that this administration has no compunction in misleading the people. It has no respect for the truth. This, I think, is a real danger. It is the danger of an Orwellian world. It’s not new, because obviously, Orwell wrote about this fifty years ago. But what he wrote in 1984, you know, the Ministry of Truth being the Propaganda Ministry, the use of words meaning the opposite of what they are meant to mean. The Fox News, “Fair and Balanced,” the “Clear Skies” Act for permitting pollution, the “Leave No Child Behind” [that] provides no money for the legislation. All these things I think pose a real danger to our democracy if they succeed in misleading the electorate. And there is only one remedy: an intelligent and enlightened electorate that sees through it.

Now, I find myself in a peculiar position, because having grown up or been exposed to the Nazi regime and the communist regime, I am very sensitive to this kind of propaganda. And the American people, not having been exposed to quite the same extent, seem to be more easily misguided. And that is something that I have been trying to say. And, as a result, I have been accused of calling Bush a Nazi. And that, to me, is itself a demonstration of how this propaganda machine works. That is a real danger, and I think that we really have to somehow become more sensitive to it, and reject it. So, I focused on rejecting the Bush Doctrine. But really behind it is this conviction that we must reject Orwellian Doublespeak. And that, in a sense, was why Dean had such great appeal because, he said, ‘what I say is what you get.’ He’s losing some of that now that he’s the front runner. But this is what people are really hankering after.

Beau writes in defense of the President.

Having said that, I get really irate at a lot of people who start going into a tirade over President Bush. Many people are spewing out words about war and economy but they don’t do any research. They join their friends and borrow their opinions. It has become very popular to oppose President Bush and if I had to guess, only half of the people who have a negative word against the man have really examined their opinion of him.

The war protests over the last year seemed unfocused and disorganized. More people showed up to be on Television than had a genuine heartfelt opinion of how the President was handling the war and cared to stop it.

Yes. If you have a problem with the current policies then you have a problem with The Bush Administration. And make sure that you actually have a good reason, rather than just wanting to complain like so many others. A friend and I were talking about this last night.