June 7, 2007

I played video games in a drunken haze
I was seventeen years young.
hurt my knuckles punching the machines
the taste of scotch rich on my tongue

Theodor Jung, Young fellows in front of pool hall, Jackson, Ohio, 1936

* Clusterfuck Nation. excerpt:

"Our current military adventures in the Middle East, are predicated largely on keeping the old arrangements going. We're in Iraq because we built Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Long Island the way we did, and the only way we can hope to keep these organisms going even a little while longer is to keep open our oil supply line to the Persian Gulf. The truth is, these organisms will not survive the oil-scarcer future in the form they're in. The American people need to come to grips with this. No amount of chest-thumping around the globe will change it. In any case, sooner or later we'll exhaust our military and bankrupt ourselves trying to project our influence into these places overseas -- meaning, sooner or later we will withdraw back into our own hemisphere. I wonder if Wolf Blitzer of CNN will ask any of the candidates, what happens then?

"A basic rule of reality is that you can't get something for nothing. Sooner or later the financial sector will have to come to grips with this rule, meaning that that debt is not wealth and the revolving reallocation of debt in the form of credit does not amount to wealth creation. The US will arrive at a magic moment when the full force of this reality reasserts itself, and it is likely to make itself manifest in the collapse of the entity most closely associated the idea of wealth: the dollar. Assets vested in the dollar's legitimacy will follow its fate. The implication is that an awful lot of the presumed wealth held by Americans could vanish into thin air. Do any of the candidates for president recognize how this works, or have any idea how much disorder this phase change will send thundering through our sociopolitical infrastructure?

"With the election campaign revving up so prematurely, it is very possible that all the candidates now in the arena will exhaust, bankrupt, and even disgrace their campaigns as they desperately pirouette around these painful truths, and that none of them will survive the process with their political legitimacy intact. In the meantime, unsettling events on the outside will intrude on the protective bubble in which the public has taken shelter -- more bloody disturbances around the Middle East, dangerous shenanigans in the financial markets, untoward weather events in vulnerable places.

"The premature election campaign, with all its reassuring televised ceremonies of pre-cooked debate and formal posturing, may end up having the opposite of its intended effect. It may expose the more frightening reality that our political system is not up to the challenges before us. And then what will we do?"

* The New Yorker on the University of Texas' rare book collection, and the man in charge Tom Staley. long, but worth a read. excerpt:

"The current director of the center is Thomas Staley. Seventy-one, and a modernist scholar by training, he is mercurial and hard-driving. Amid the silence of the center’s Reading Room, he often greets visiting scholars with a resonant slap on the back. In college, at a Jesuit school in Colorado, Staley pitched in a summer baseball league, specializing in a slow, sinking curve. His 'crafty pitch,' as he calls it, was good enough to attract the attention of professional scouts. The Ransom Center, under Staley’s leadership, easily outmaneuvers rivals such as Yale, Harvard, and the British Library. It operates more like a college sports team, with Staley as the coach—an approach that fits the temperament of Texas. 'People take a special pride here in winners,' Staley says. 'They like success.' (After the Ransom bought its Gutenberg Bible, the center sent the Bible on a victory lap, displaying it at libraries, museums, and universities around the state.)

"Staley works from behind an oak desk in a large office on the Ransom’s third floor. A bronze bust of Joyce, by Milton Hebald, is in the foyer. The bookshelves hold copies of Staley’s many scholarly publications; before becoming an archivist, he wrote studies of Dorothy Richardson, the first writer to use stream-of-consciousness narration in English, and of Jean Rhys, the author of 'Wide Sargasso Sea.' He was a founder of the James Joyce Quarterly, and was its editor for twenty-six years. As you walk down the corridor leading to Staley’s office, you hear his cackling laugh.

"He has coined several maxims about the acquisition of archives, including what he calls Staley’s Law: 'Ten per cent of an archive represents ninety per cent of its value.' When he tells you about an archive that he is hoping to buy, he stops and purrs, 'Oooh, it’s good, it’s very gooood,' his hill-country accent making him sound like a feline Lyndon Johnson. I recently went with him to a penthouse apartment in Miami, to look at a large archive of experimental poetry that had been collected by a pulmonologist, Marvin Sackner, and his wife, Ruth. Shortly after arriving, Staley pronounced it a 'solid collection.' Upon examining some work in detail—the collection included the 1897 journal in which Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem 'A Throw of the Dice' first appeared—he began to snuffle with excitement. After spending an hour with the archive, Staley declared it to be 'one hell of a collection.' He told me this outside, so that the Sackners wouldn’t raise the price."

* The Iraq quagmire chess set.

* "Around 1967 I began backing away from dogmatic Leninism, not so much because I thought it was false, I just decided there was nothing utopian about it." -- Henry Flynt


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