Thursday, February 08, 2007

Work Keeps Me Busy


The great American writer Herman Melville says somewhere in The White Whale that a man ought to be "a patriot to heaven," and I believe it is a good thing, this ambition to be cosmopolitan, this idea to be citizens not of a small parcel of the world that changes according to the currents of politics, according to the wars, to what occurs, but to feel that the whole world is our country.

—Jorge Luis Borges, "Homage to Victoria Ocampo," in Borges en Sur

A reverse of the standard order today, if only because I quite like the sound of that quotation. Reminiscent of Kant and Hegel I suppose and a nice reminder that postmodernism must not always be so terribly dense and obfuscatory. Romance persists.

Even if it is a self-exculpatory romance used to shirk moral duty in a world of human atrocity. Or so Slate argues. I do need to get through more of “Labyrinths” one of these days, and I’ll be curious to see whether Borges’ political ambivalence doesn’t make his map of the world easier to distinguish from the world itself.

A follow-up to bad politics with yet another piece on Amis, though this one contextualizes his most recent work better within his own bibliography. Particularly interesting to see the author suggesting that Amis is going down the road of Hitchens, especially since the two are such virulent enemies (and I thought there split was over Hitchens’ conservatism). Regardless, ignoring Amis’s new book, I must insist that all seek out “London Fields”. Such a vision of the contemporary city I have not seen elsewhere.

I must admit I’ve yet to finish this next essay – time at work is limited these days – but despite not reading “Homage to Catalonia”, I’m always interested in Orwell’s relationship to those who co-opt him. Smectymnuus, you’d enjoy I suspect.

Slate posted this gorgeous slideshow of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs adjacent to a brief biography. I’ve always been partial to Bresson, no doubt from fond memories of looking through his works whenever trips to the attic would yield an exploration of my Dad’s photography books.


One of the more interesting pieces I read over the weekend was from NYT’s Week in Review on Biden’s terrible blunder last week in calling Obama the first “articulate”, mainstream black politician. Yikes. This essay moves beyond the political firestorm and does a nice job of explaining the racism inherent in “articulate” and the terrible inequality in expectations it demonstrates.

From the subtle persistence of racism to the unflinching brazenness of homophobia and intolerance: a blurb from Slate that summarizes shamed former preacher Ted Haggard’s road to “recovery” (from being gay). There are also some other interesting blurbs in this piece related vaguely to science, health, etc…

Also, two profiles of note: one from NY Magazine on RFK Jr, the always impressive environmentalist attorney who bleeds privilege in an entirely forgiveable way; and the other of Milton Friedman by Princeton economist and NYT columnist Paul Krugman, which is very critical of Friedman but also interestingly fond. My unfamiliarity with most things related to economics (or money really) is hampering my speed on this one, but Friedman is always an interesting case study in the evolutionary history of contemporary American capitalism.

And finally, well not really, two articles regarding culture in foreign countries (not very patriotic, I know): the first is quite old, but I recently re-read it for my job and it is terribly depressing – a New Yorker piece on India’s growing water crisis. And continuing with theme of catastrophe in the developing world: an article on Cambodia’s destruction by tourists. Angkor Wat is being overrun, but don’t worry, there are still responsible ways to see it.

Last for real: rooting out anti-Semites. Take this quiz to see whether you dislike the Jews, tolerate them, or are perhaps part of the flock.


To get this out of the way: Dinesh D’Souza is absolutely f%cking insane. I know I’ve posted reviews of his new books previously, but this one speaks more to the content, and he is absolutely mad.

The primary political news of late has of course been the Senate resolution against Bush’s troop surge, or rather its failure to even see debate. Article One, and Article Two on why the debate didn’t happen, and then a Newsweek interview with our favorite Maine celebrity and political maverick Sen. Collins (R). Written prior to the resolution’s failure, it is nonetheless interesting to see the schisms and fields of power within the GOP camp these days.

Also, all of these articles have little quotes from or references to Joe Lieberman, who I continue to nominate as the most obnoxious fucking person on earth. Even Dinesh D’Souza didn’t get the “u”. This lengthier piece from the New Yorker only confirms my sentiments.

And to make you hate Lieberman and the pro-surge camp even more, here is a well-done breakdown of Bush’s new defense budget by Slate. Once again, billions for a failed missile defense system and absolutely redundant and superfluous military technology. Also, make sure to notice the total price tag of the Iraq ware. Now that is terrifying. No wonder populism is taking root. (The Nation, however, argues that rhetoric is going to need substance soon, and I think I agree. Speaking is only courageous for a little while when you live in a democracy. Speak out in an authoritarian regime, perhaps more leeway).

Speaking of the Iraq war, Hitchens, (oh, Hitchens) wrote a piece for Slate I can almost get on board with, which argues that, although this is tacit, perhaps an exit strategy isn’t so morally reprehensible, as Iraq would’ve very likely collapsed anyway. Anyhow, I think it articulates his position on the war better than how I recounted it several days ago and affirms Mr. H of Durham’s opinion on the matter.

Lastly, a brief synopsis of the ’08 campaign trail. Another article, this one more nuanced and thorough, on women and humor relative to a Clinton attempt at a joke. I think it makes a nice point about how women in power are not allowed to have “normal” personalities.

Over the weekend, Edwards announced his new health care plan and was grilled on Meet the Press about his position on Iraq. A decent job in general pivoting away from the subject, but I think he could stand to be a bit more firm in his regrets. He doesn’t quite have the rhetoric down yet. Not sloppy entirely, just not entirely cohesive. Hire me Edwards, hire me.

Also, another piece in the Obama as Jesus series, this time with a journalist portraying Obama as an esteemed and impressive physicist.

And finally, a brief bit from the Economist on why so many people are running in 2008. To influence policy sure, but it sounds like ego is still the driving force behind it all. And now we’ve approached the intersection of (my)self with (the) world.


Dusty Foot Philosopher said...

On the Culture and Politics, of which I am too far removed, I have nothing to say, but I can speak on the subject of JL Borges and his art. While I have not attempted ´Labyrinths`, I have read in the course of my travels `Ficciones´ (1944, Spanish) and `A Personal Anthology´ (1961, English translation). Romance certainly does persist throughout Borges´ writing, as does a thorough metaphysical examination of many aspects of the human situation. I am constructing a longer post on this subject, but as Slate points out correctly Borges´ philosophical ramblings do maintain a certain political ambivalence. Slate, however, fails to actually understand or adequately express the nature of Borges´ writing and the reasons why this Argentinean author avoids political discussions in his writing. Just to undermine this entire discussion from the outset, I´d like to pose the idea that the expectation that an artist comment on the political environment in which he executes his dance is viewed by some as a preposterous burden that said artist is by all rights permitted to ignore. The Irish poet Seamus Heaney, for example, hated the idea that he was granted the title Poet and was subsequently required to include in every poem a reference to the sectarian violence of Ireland (that or face the scorn of the populace he thought he was writing for). He only escaped the nagging influence of this expectation and the associated looming shadow left by his predecessor Yates in the latter years of his career. More to come on this...

Dusty Foot Philosopher said...

...err, Yeats. A grave misspelling, I know