Monday, January 22, 2007

Some things worth looking at...


Hillary Clinton and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson announced their presidential aspirations over the weekend, following Obama’s announcement last week and Edwards’ immediately after Christmas. Clinton, Obama and Edwards are polling the highest thus far, though that is likely to change, and especially in the 2008 election cycle as the early intensity forces candidates to speak out on issues sooner and a proliferation of debates and forward-shifted primary schedules demand vicious fundraising and near-profligate expenditures of campaign coffers in key media markets.

The Democratic side is especially crowded this year, and with significant talent at that, though it remains to be seen if any of the top contenders truly have the gravitas to endure the ferocity of the campaign trail. Lucky for the Dems, polling this week shows that Bush’s “major” policy shift on Iraq has had little effect on his support, which is now at an all time low.

I still say, and this NYT Week in Review article suggests its concurrence with me, (always a dubious honor), that this election will be about re-describing the American political landscape, or, to be more academic, inventing new discursive practices. Whoever can describe the future best, wins. In accordance, a similar piece from Atlantic Monthly on several ex-politicos determined to disrupt and transform America’s increasingly polarized two-party political system using that much-touted panacea of our generation: the “internet”, formerly known as the “world wide web” and prior to that, the “information super highway”. (Such euphemistic aplomb.)

On the foreign policy front, I think the ascent of China makes an interesting case study for this post-baby boomer paradigm sketching (as well as good populist politics), and, luckily enough, has almost nothing to do with the Middle East or Islam.

Culture Wars:

Now onto Islam: two recent pieces from the Guardian, one analyzing a racist remark made on popular British program “Big Brother” which has caused substantial furor in Southeast Asia, and another looking at the embedded, though not always subtle racism of Western border policies. On the opposite side of things, another Guardian essay, (how dialogical of them), about the failures of contemporary liberalism and, in particular, its increasing blindness to the danger of “contemporary Islam”, whatever that may be.

And for the true xenophobes in our midst, something closer to home as American Conservative Magazine does violence to the discomforting and somewhat alarming (though not altogether surprising) results of a Harvard professor’s research that shows multicultural communities bear more prejudice than homogenous ones. And to really make you, liberal readers, angry: a review of Dinesh D’Souza’s new book which blames September 11th on the opulent, carefree lifestyles of the American left. Yes, he continues to be an asshole, and an idiot. And, to turn his rhetoric against him with parodic self-awareness, also probably responsible (in the abstract of course) for much anti-Americanism in Western Europe.

But, lest you think now that sectarian violence is inevitable and our world is headed for chaos, a letter from ex-patriot Iranians condemning their country’s recent (sort of) sponsorship of a Holocaust Denial conference.


It seems the university system in America is languishing, as evidence by the proliferation of articles offering suggestions for its rehabilitation or complete overhaul. Three from the Wall Street Journal: 1 | 2| 3 ; and one from the Hoover Institution, which critiques our college’s contemporary state through the lens of J.S. Mill. Also, it seems there is a burgeoning trends towards the elimination of middle school as such. Will it make that time any less awkward for those enduring it? Probably not. (An erection is an erection after all). But maybe, just maybe, kids will learn more.


Note: elision of “wars” from above subtitle by no means suggests my complicity with the hegemony of Western aesthetic and discursive practices or the intentional burying of the political charges of such practices.

With that out of the way: Pynchon vs. Pynchon. Personally, I think New York does a better job here, though I am consistently impressed by the brevity with which London articulates a point.

To contextualize Pynchon in the narrative of narratives, Zadie Smith offers this somewhat pessimistic assessment of fiction and what makes great novels great (and what makes most “great” novels failures if not just plain shit). And for all those former literature students in our midst, an impressive though ultimately and significantly flawed critique of Theory’s hegemony in the academy. (I will offer this caveat though: while the author’s assessment of theory in general is quite flawed, I will say that his assessment of the way it has come to be understood beyond the academy is quite accurate – all those hipsters out there paralyzed by the infinite web of deferred meaning within which Derrida has so violently placed them. Such melodramatic and self-indulgent rationalizations for apathy. My the masses have matured.)

From literature to movies, a historically doomed shift. Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men. Saw them this past week. Extraordinary the both of them. A zealous, though belated, (I’ll never quite be in the vanguard, will I?) recommendation on both counts. See them NOW. Though be warned: fascism in all its forms (historical and predicted) is absolutely fucking terrifying. And if you can’t find any of these films near you, this article conveniently dissects why.

Finally in culture this week, an article from New York Magazine on the reborn and evidently flourishing art scene in the Village (in Manhattan for those further than a few miles from me). Frankly, I think the artists profiled seem transparent and quite unimpressive, but I’m no art critic. I just judge people personally.

I leave you with these two stories (one, two) which I found interesting are beyond the conventional boundaries of my knowledge base. That is, they are vaguely scientific.

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