July 11, 2005

well, you know what happens after dark


Andy Warhol, final self-portrait, 1986

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

"10. Katherine Harris

"And finally, sad news this week in Florida's fight against citrus canker - it turns out that the method for fighting canker advocated by world-renowned vote stealer Katherine Harris has turned out to be a flop. Last week it was revealed that when Harris was Florida's secretary of state, she spent six months advocating 'Celestial Drops' as a solution to the canker problem.

"What are Celestial Drops? Well apparently Harris had researchers working with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test the fluid which was, according to the Orlando Sentinel, 'promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its 'improved fractal design,' 'infinite levels of order' and 'high energy and low entropy.''

"Ooo-kay.

"Harris was 'repeatedly sent copies of the letters and memos bouncing between Florida canker officials and [Rabbi] Hardoon. In August 2001, Harris herself jotted a note to Hardoon. 'I would love to see this work,' it says.'

"Well wouldn't we all. Unfortunately it turns out that even with an 'improved fractal design' and 'high energy and low entropy,' the Celestial Drop solution didn't work because, well, it was just water. Although to be fair, the Sentinel does note that it was 'possibly, mystically blessed water.'

* Bookslut interviews David Markson. excerpt:

BS: Madness and religion do often get coupled too, as a literary theme -- in your work as well as in those.

DM: It's much more symbolic than real, of course. When Fern lifts her hand in front of the blind infant and its eyes seem to move -- as if she's some sort of sainted prostitute out of old hagiography or some such. But of course it's just that she has turpentine all over her hands, from her painting, which I mention several times. I didn't do that in Wittgenstein's Mistress, I don't think, because I was too preoccupied with all the philosophy that's buried in there. Wittgenstein himself, but Heidegger also, though nobody's picked up on him. But with Going Down, yes, even if it's frequently a matter of local Mexican superstition rather than religious per se. I had a head full of it, after three full years in the country. Indeed, one of the loveliest compliments I ever got was from a bright Mexican gal who used to call me "el estúpido gringo" because my Spanish was so bum -- but when the book came out all those years later she said, 'All you ever seemed to do down here for three years was drink, but damn it, you were paying attention.'"

BS: How does it make you feel, not being as widely acclaimed as many of us believe you should be? Is it frustrating?

DM: Listen, you write the way you do because you have to, and because it's who you are. But nice things happen too, reputation or no. Just recently, for example, a letter from someone here in town, whom I don't know at all, wanting nothing, simply telling me that if I need anything -- if I want to say 'lift this' or 'move that' -- I should give him a call. Or someone else, saying that he's recently read Wittgenstein for a second time, and that he did it aloud, sitting alone in his apartment and speaking the entire book to himself, simply to capture the rhythms and taking two days to do so. Or then again, on a much more concrete level, at least two books about my work are being written that I'm aware of, and several essays or chapters in critical studies, and so forth. What more can someone in my position ask for? In some small way you're finally paying back the debt you owe to those books that moved you and got you started in the first place -- books like Lowry's, in my case, Willie Gaddis' The Recognitions, Joyce, any number of others. Or am I making all this sound precious, here? [Laughing]
...
BS: And what are you reading at right now?

DM: Someone asked me that no more than two days ago, and do you know what the answer was? In all honesty, I said I'd spent about an hour that more rereading some Zbigniew Herbert, and then had stopped to look up something in this year's Who's Who in Baseball -- and the next thing I knew I was reading that for just as long.

BS: How much is age a factor in all of this -- and not just in your reading habits, do you feel it affecting your work?

DM: Oh yeah, it's there. Forgetting all the damned medical problems that pile up, to begin with there's a lower energy quotient. It used to be, when work was going well, I could sit at the desk ten or a dozen hours; now I'm ready to go and put my feet up someplace after half that time. But your head just doesn't work as well, either. I'm not just talking about forgetting names, words, everybody does that, though of course it does become more extreme. But I mean simple things like judging a sentence. I'll make a note about something I plan to use, and rewrite it five or six times -- this just the note itself, knowing it will get revised any number of times additionally when it's actually part of a manuscript -- but almost always there's this gnawing sense that it's still nowhere near what it should be. Or where it would have been ten or fifteen years ago. I'll get it right eventually, dammit, but the sense of lesser facility -- slower perception, maybe I mean -- really does exist.

* Read this Buzzflash editorial: Bush is Killing America by Claiming Failure as Proof of Success. [via] excerpt:

"Which brings us to Bush's colossal blunders in his public relations war on terror. Well, the public relations part has actually been a success because it has been based on smoke and mirrors (and it got him re-elected), but the war on terror has been an unmitigated disaster.

"The Busheviks aren't so much concerned about decreasing terrorism as they are about projecting an image of dominant power, just as the Chickenhawk architects of the Iraq War were more concerned about the 'image' of the U.S. pulling out of Vietnam, than by the fact that we 'won' by withdrawing (and saved thousands upon thousands of American and Vietnamese lives in the process.)

"The Bush Adminsitration Chickenhawks (a tradition inherited by their children and grandchildren, as well as pro-Iraq War Young Republicans who are 'too busy' to sign up for military service) want to use the rallying cry of terrorism -- and the fear it invokes -- as the vehicle to reassert U.S. military and nuclear supremacy.

"But it is a conundrum that threatens our national security and our lives, because a war on terrorism requires intelligent and resilient strategy, not a nuclear 'shock and awe' blunderbuss approach."
...
"If you change a coach after a losing season, no one accuses the owner of the team of enabling the cross town rivals. You are making the change to increase the odds of beating the other team. BuzzFlash is located in Chicago and when the Coach of the Bears, Dave Wanstedt, was fired for continuing to lose, none of the sports commentators claimed that the owners of the Bears or Wanstedt's numerous critics were enabling the Green Bay Packers, the archrival of the Bears. Wanstedt was fired to improve the chance of the Bears winning against the Packers, not to make the Bears weaker. Why doesn't that same 'framing' approach work in terms of Bush?

"But the Busheviks turn such logic on its head. Failure begets the need for more failure."

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