Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuesday's Suggestions


Remiss in my posting, I am now after the State of the Union and thus irrelevant. Unless of course the State of the Union didn’t articulate a revolutionary political paradigm for the next century and promise to bring us into a new future of rejuvenated Democracy. In which case I’ll be ok.

Nevertheless, I offer you a pre-State of the Union assessment that, as might be expected emphasizes the lemmas standard to Presidential ceremony, those of respect and bipartisanship. Evidently universal assent is needed to guide our nation through these treacherous times, and even the impotent symbolism of the Democratic moiety failing to clap while their Republican (and now lesser) moiety does so (or vice versa of course) is detrimental to our project of Universal Freedom.

In some respect, this pre-State of the Union peacemaking irritates me especially this year as it only compounds Washington’s recent fascination with so-called centrism. It seems, and more on this later, I promise, that our cultural and political institutions have abandoned that key premise in democracy, or in any plural system – that of the dialectic, or mutual impact. Perhaps it’s a loss of courage, the ease of articulating the status quo in favor of invention and a will-to-power. But either way, the loss of true ideological contest and dialogue is the most glaring deficiency of our contemporary, degraded political system, and I was glad to see Alterman tackle the issue in his piece for The Center for American Progress.

Despite increasing concern (on the left, of course) over the disappearance of dialogical democracy, today’s news that Hillary Clinton will forego public election monies in favor of her own fundraising certainly sounds some sort of death toll for a system that, at its best, encourages diverse, syncretic, heterogeneous, whatever politics in an election cycle by allowing those without personal millions or close friends with personal millions to participate in a presidential race on a national scale.

The New Yorker had an interesting piece this past week, prior to Hillary’s announcement, regarding the foreign policy stances of the top three Democratic candidates (Hillary, Obama, Edwards) but through the lens of Bayh’s concerns over a liberal base made reluctant to confront real international problems (Iran) with military force by the failures in Iraq. In a way, it substantiates the commonalities of the three major candidates, though nuances do appear, all of which are threatening to the candidates, in my opinion. That being said, Edwards seemed to take the most pragmatic line, with Clinton appearing overly hawkish and Obama appearing, well, immature and undecided (and perhaps also a bit duplicitous, if a split between rhetoric and action can be said to be that).

Also in the vein of 2008, Slate has a fantastic article currently that argues that Obama is, for white bourgeois voters, a sort of safe “black”, or, to use the article’s preferred language, a “white” “black”. While I typically cringe at such essentialist and metaphysically rooted descriptors, this article makes strong, strong arguments about the phenomenon of Obama’s stardom and its relationship to the particularities of his racial background and context.

And, of significant personal interest as I go to work writing speeches, a Slate interview with a so-called Republican “word-doctor”, though I think architect is the more apt euphemism. He’s not entirely intolerable, especially since I really do revere his profession in the abstract as something critical to politics, (my politics anyway).

Finally, something depressing: a BBC study that shows international opinion of US’s global role is at its lowest ebb. But, to compensate, two mildly amusing items: one, this profile from last week’s NYT Style section about several senators rooming together in a Washington, DC apartment; and two, a cartoon on the “surge”.


The items here are only vaguely related to one another, and thus grouped under the equally vague subheading “culture”. Make of them what you will.

First, from New York Magazine, Jack Welch’s ire at the media’s obsession with overly-high CEO pays. Leave them alone, he says, and even suggests that they are deserving of more. Oh, NBC, how I would resist you if you didn’t have some of the only good television programming in the country.

Second, a Center for American Progress article on somewhat new FCC Chairman Kevin Martin whose ethics seem dubious and thus will no doubt herald another new era of media conglomeration and homogenization. Hooray.

Thirdly (awkward diction, yikes), some mildly philosophical (academic, even!) items. The Guardian today had an article ripe for dissection by even the least apt cultural theorists. Baudrillard is no doubt crying (if he’s read the article), though given the self-importance that permeates his essays, its difficult to tell why. But in all seriousness, ethnography kills its subjects. And as a reprieve from praxis, we shift to the abstract and this article on Pessimism vs. Existentialism. Nietzsche will have his day yet.

And lastly, David Sedaris deals with birds.


From my favorite design blog, an interesting piece on an old book “Quintessence” which examines the social value certain products accumulate. What with the 100% likelihood of me owning an iPhone and my refusal to buy generic cereals, the post seemed relevant to me.

In television - no doubt all of you have seen this on youtube or elsewhere: O’Reilly’s appearance on Colbert’s show and vice versa. If not, read this review from the NYT. And maybe tomorrow I’ll muster the energy to seek out the video clips for you.

Monsieur Mulligan wrote about OJ’s book several weels ago, before it was abandoned by its publishers. Somehow, however, Vanity Fair managed to find a copy (and I believe Newsweek printed a chapter last week). Anyhow, Vanity Fair has an interesting review of what still seems to me a disturbing, disturbing piece of…literature.

Now for film. First, a review of Doug Aitken’s “Sleepwalkers” exhibit currently at MoMA. I have promised myself I will see it before it closes, but with the knowledge that many such promises have been broken. But now I’ll feel the collected guilty of this readership (does it exist?) if I don’t. So that’s something.

Last, suggestions for movies here, and here, and, if you’re way behind in things, here.



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