March 30, 2004

We're trapped inside the song where the nights are so long

* Here are some short quicktime files of david berman speaking and performing at Chicago's empty bottle last week. be sure to check out will oldham bobbing his head and dancing on stage left as Berman sings "New Orleans."

* Thomas Pynchon on sloth. From a 1993 essay published in the New York Times Book Review. an excerpt:

"Writer's block, however, is a trip to the theme park of your choice alongside the mortal sin that produces it. Like each of the other six, Sloth was supposed to be the progenitor of a whole family of lesser, or venial, sins, among them Idleness, Drowsiness, Restlessness of the Body, Instability and Loquacity. 'Acedia' in Latin means sorrow, deliberately self-directed, turned away from God, a loss of spiritual determination that then feeds back on in to the process, soon enough producing what are currently known as guilt and depression, eventually pushing us to where we will do anything, in the way of venial sin and bad judgment, to avoid the discomfort."

"But Sloth's offspring, though bad -- to paraphrase the Shangri-Las -- are not always evil, for example what Aquinas terms Uneasiness of the Mind, or 'rushing after various things without rhyme or reason," which, "if it pertains to the imaginative power... is called curiosity.' It is of course precisely in such episodes of mental traveling that writers are known to do good work, sometimes even their best, solving formal problems, getting advice from Beyond, having hypnagogic adventures that with luck can be recovered later on. Idle dreaming is often of the essence of what we do. We sell our dreams. So real money actually proceeds from Sloth, although this transformation is said to be even more amazing elsewhere in the entertainment sector, where idle exercises in poolside loquacity have not infrequently generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue."

* Krugman: This Isn't America. an excerpt:

"The truth is that among experts, what Mr. Clarke says about Mr. Bush's terrorism policy isn't controversial. The facts that terrorism was placed on the back burner before 9/11 and that Mr. Bush blamed Iraq despite the lack of evidence are confirmed by many sources ? including 'Bush at War,' by Bob Woodward.

"And new evidence keeps emerging for Mr. Clarke's main charge, that the Iraq obsession undermined the pursuit of Al Qaeda. From yesterday's USA Today: 'In 2002, troops from the Fifth Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq. Their replacements were troops with expertise in Spanish cultures.'

"That's why the administration responded to Mr. Clarke the way it responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts: with a campaign of character assassination.

Some journalists seem, finally, to have caught on. Last week an Associated Press news analysis noted that such personal attacks were 'standard operating procedure' for this administration and cited 'a behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit Richard Foster,' the Medicare actuary who revealed how the administration had deceived Congress about the cost of its prescription drug bill.

"But other journalists apparently remain ready to be used. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke 'wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well.'

"This administration's reliance on smear tactics is unprecedented in modern U.S. politics ? even compared with Nixon's. Even more disturbing is its readiness to abuse power ? to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics."

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