Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Number Two (Hold The Pickle)

So, Dear Reader, how would you respond to the infamous shit sandwich?

Eat or pass?

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Friday, May 12, 2006

I'll Have My People Call Your People

Looking for a way to get around having the US Government break its own laws and track every one of your phone calls? Pay someone else to make your phone calls for you! On their phone!

Or, better yet, become totally anti-social and shut out the world. This way, being constantly put under surveillance won't mean a damn thing since your whole life will be One Big Host Disconnect and besides, new polls show that being an American means accepting a loss of civil rights so that Big Daddy Gov can protect you from the boogeyman terrorists!

Wondering how the mondo corporate phone companies are able to break the law by giving away your private information to the National Security Agency and get paid for it via secret government contracts? It's easy. They were told everything is A-OK by The Decider. And if The Decider says its OK to break the law for national security purposes, then it's O-K!

Speaking of The Decider, isn't it amazing how after five years he has yet to veto a bill sent to him from Congress? Of course, he does not need to veto bills since he can decide to add "signing statements" to every bill he signs, clarifying which parts of the law he will follow and which parts of the law he will break - he is, after all, The Law-Breaking Decider!

How come when I write about The Law-Breaking Decider I feel like I am bringing my sardonic wit down to the level of "My Pet Goat"? If this pet pieve doesn't get your goat, nothing will.

Disclaimer: this blog entry is #322273648475843939202--3344o4i3u22io in the Grandaddy of All NSA Databases.

It feels like the Bill of Rights is being terrorized yet again.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Arbitrary Arbi-traitors

The Sunday New York Times Book Review takes a stab at locating "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years."

In an essay that attempts to help contextualize the survey for us, A. O. Scott writes:
...late-20th-century American Lit comprises a bustling menagerie, like Noah's ark or the island of Dr. Moreau, where modernists and postmodernists consort with fabulists and realists, ghost stories commingle with domestic dramas, and historical pageantry mutates into metafiction. It is, gratifyingly if also bewilderingly, a messy and multitudinous affair.
You can't argue with that. But when you read the final list of 25 "best works of American fiction," you will notice how those who are still published by the multi-national media companies are the only ones who are capable of making the cut. Those who control the publishing industry from "on high" while sitting atop their perches in the corporate towers of the American Publishing Industry will be happy to know that not a single author of my generation, and most especially any one author published by a small, alternative, or literary press, made it on to this elitist-conformist list.

It ends up that the "bustling menagerie" of writing that proliferates here in the U S of A is incapable of producing an emerging generation of writers who can come close to nipping at the heels of these Last of the Lost Generations. We are so lost, that we can't even find ourselves on the runner-up list to Toni Morrison's "Beloved." As Scott says:
Is this quantitative evidence for the decline of American letters - yet another casualty of the 60's? Or is the American literary establishment the last redoubt of elder-worship in a culture mad for youth? In sifting through the responses, I was surprised at how few of the highly praised, boldly ambitious books by younger writers - by which I mean writers under 50 - were mentioned. One vote each for "The Corrections" and "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," none for "Infinite Jest" or "The Fortress of Solitude," a single vote for Richard Powers, none for William T. Vollmann, and so on.
No Kathy Acker, no Ronald Sukenick, no Dave Eggers, no Chris Krauss, no Mark Leyner, no Carole Maso, no Shelley Jackson.

No hypertext, no imagetext ebooks, no innovation, really.

This elitist-conformist exercise spurred by the Times should be played up as the last list of Great American Fiction since there simply is no more fiction, at least not the kind we used to associate with work from the likes of Roth, Updike, Carver, and DeLillo (all of whom are fairly represented here, a few with multiple listings).

But here's the catch: the best writing being produced today is not-fiction.

I borrow the term not-fiction from an essay of the same name written for the American Book Review by Ronald Sukenick. In my essay on Sukenick for the book Musing The Mosaic (SUNY Press, 2003), I remixed some of Ron's ideas about the not-fiction movement in contemporary letters, a movement that challenges the fictional underpinnings of the publishing industry's attempt to always anoint new heroes in the never-ending "literary age":
postmodern fragmentation will lead to
the jumpy non-sequitur of mosaiced narrative

postmodern pastiche will lead to the predication of truths

postmodern interaction of composition and audience will lead to decomposition of the virtual artifact and its intervention in the real world

postmodern illogic and alogic stemming from Duchamp
will resolve into the dialogic

postmodern drift to the language of speech will be mixed and amplified with the language of writing, graphics and music

postmodern deconstruction will gravitate toward the
contingencies of rhetorical assertion

postmodern intellectual disintegration will mutate
to a yearning for spiritual reach

postmodern imagination will move toward a hard factuality

postmodern interest in pop genre will result in a new synthesis of genres

postmodern embrace of the mass market and its values
will turn toward a revival of unmarketed prestige
The best American fiction for the next 25 years will steer clear of book culture, will not be fiction at all, and will be available for free download on to your video iPod. DEAL WITH IT.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Floating With The Heavies

A friend sends an email saying:
"Hey Mister, you're hangin' in good company!"
and then lays this link on me.

What does it really mean to be "on the map"?

Baudrillard says:
Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: A hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory - precession of simulacra - that engenders the territory.
Don't believe the hype. It's the meme that precedes both the map and the territory as they duke it out over their unconscionable uselessness.

The meme is the message.

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The Missing Finger

Sleazeball Republican Congressmen and the totally corrupt defense contractors that line their pockets, playing poker and paying whores for late night action. And guess where it all takes place? The Watergate Hotel, natch, while all of the participants are being shuttled to the parties in the same limos being contracted for transportation uses by the Department of Homeland Security. All in the name of family values, Right-To-Life, and an assault on the future viability of the American democracy. You can't make this shit up.
"Nine Fingers":
“The turf-battle line is purely a cover story,” said a former CIA official I spoke with. “The reason they had to act now was because they were scared about what's going to come out about [Hookergate].”

Who is "they"? Only time will tell, but two of the characters are getting a lot of buzz: one is named Dusty Foggo and the other goes by code name "Nine Fingers." Is it time to bite The Philandering Hand That Feeds (Itself)?

Repeat: You can't make this shit up (which ends up making the job of satirist particularly difficult - that is, how do we turn the uber-farce against itself? Not easy!).
Tortuous Logic:
Worried about the dictatorship you are living under launching the self-correcting software that will allow it to temporarily come to its senses so that it can at least survive the next few years and pretend to still believe in what we used to call democracy? Don't worry, be hype-y. And while you're hyping it, check out who has been rushed in to replace the resigning CIA Director whose hands smell of passed on "Nine Fingers"... - yep, it's a military man whose code name is Herr Commander Hayden aka known as "Headphones Hayden." Military Intel leading the charge on domestic spying where everything you blog can and will be used against you in a kangaroo court of lawlessness being play-acted on Guantanamo Bay...
This is American ingenuity at its finest. Only we could come up with such bittersweet self-contradiction in the name of Freedom. The Far Righties have developed a strategy I call Propaganda Shovelware. They keep shoveling the propaganda and assume that most of it will stick and become part of the national discourse. America keeps consuming it like it was made to order. (You are what you eat.)

As Hinterlandt sings:
We've got to get a new belief system up and running / a solid moral infrastructure, to keep the customers coming

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Money Changes Everything

Are you hanging with the money pod?
Suze Orman, a financial writer and speaker whose latest book is "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke" (Riverhead Hardcover), said young adults can go into debt trying to keep up with their friends.

"I call them 'money pods,' " she said. "Look at a group of female friends walking down the street. They're often all dressed identically: the same shoes, the same belts, the same handbag."

But what is not easily apparent, Ms. Orman said, is that one of the women may have saved for months to buy her one expensive handbag, or more likely, put it on her credit card. Her identically dressed friends, meanwhile, may have the salary or the family money to afford a closet full of designer purses.

"That is how we get in trouble," Ms. Orman said. "We think our friends are just like us, and if our friend can afford something, we fool ourselves into thinking we can afford it, too."
This excerpt, from a Sunday New York Times article called "Money Changes Everything," comes on the heels of their article on The First Bank of Mom and Dad which I wrote about here and which CBS news, linking to my blog, then wrote about here.

The question is: at what point do you take responsibility for yourself? I know so many people in their twenties and thirties, in the USA, Europe, and Australia, who still depend on their families to get by. And while I was in Florida last week, I could not help but notice that the stress on parents to pay for their kids' cars and now their astronomical gas bills, is getting out of hand. When the parents try and call them on it, suggesting to their 16-17 year olds that they get a job to help pay for these things themselves, the middle-class teenyboppers throw a temper tantrum with high expectations that they will eventually get the money they have requested. They mingle with privileged upper-class colleagues or the heavily indebted "fake upper-classers" and assume that they too are entitled to the endless good life that a materialistic-centered existence can provide.

Perhaps this is all tied to the fact that kids, like their parents before them, are now trained to be consumers and not citizens. That's what Scott Ritter has said is leading us to lose our democracy in the face of a lawless administration running rough-shod over the Constitution.

This past weekend I was surrounded by an army of kids, and they all spoke a language I can only call Consumerese. They spoke logos and brand names and were all about showing off their latest gadgets. Every kid I encountered over the age of seven, had a cell phone, and most had (video) iPods. Whenever their parents got mad at their social behavior, they were immediately threatened with having less, at which point they went through queenly fits of panic that I can only describe as withdrawal syndromes. It's like they are addicted to corporate-sponsored consumption patterns, consuming pre-packaged corporate food, prescribed mood drugs, and mucho banal content from the one-size-fits-all corpo media industries.

And yet all of these kids come from middle-class to lower middle-class families. For some reason, endless consumption of commercial products is now an inalienable right guaranteed by The Bill of Rights. Meanwhile, the real Bill of Rights is on the verge of being just another shredded document. How about the Bill of Far Rights?

Consumption-addiction is a real problem. I call it, Keepin' Up With the Jonesin'.

For those who are too embarrassed to ask Mom and Dad for money, you can always just load up your credit card. Everything will be fine - the huge budget deficits brought to you courtesy of W. and his Gang of Royal Corrupters will work themselves out in due time and soon you will be on that fast track to financial success, right?

Where is the Truth Fairy when you need them?

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Lost in the Burbs

Just back from a long weekend trip to Florida aka The Shopping Center of the Future.

The new, huge shopping centers taking over the Floridian landscape are now called Town Centers aka "Lifestyle Centers" where they hold real community events, like going to the local Mexican food chain for lard burritos at a 10% discount for children! Next month is the "Young Adult Ritilin Eating Contest" where teenagers compete to see who can down the most Ritilin without going totally psychotic. The judges are all licensed psychotherapists and yes, the 10% discount on lard burritos still applies!

These Town Centers go through building phases. Phase One attracts the big names in retail. During Phase Two they actually build cookie-cutter condos around the massive shopping mall (units starting at only $240,000!). During Phase Three they build out more stores, especially mega grocery stores. At one point during my endless driving throughout the region, I saw Mecca in the distance as I began my approach to the towering Town Center that stood before me like the Disneyfied version of the Lost City of Atlantis. What is it really?, I wondered. Why, it's a cluster of huge mausoleums and churches with names like Dillards, Walmart, Target, and Home Depot (always the "superstore" variety) - as well as smallers stores like "Artsy Abode" where you can buy your midbrow designer objects for every room in your exburbian McMansion or, if you are lucky enough to be a Lifestyle Center aficianado, your brand new condo. The Walmart Superstore is actually a shopping mall in and of itself, and houses all kinds of smaller stores under its roof. Once inside this megalopolis, you can buy your Silk soymilk, your nephew's Bar Mitzvah card, three quarts of oil for your Chevy Silverado, a Tazo Green Tea Latte from the Starbucks kiosk, a University of Florida orange and blue t-shirt, and the latest Toby Keith CD.

Of course, the folks in the condos are not supposed to walk to the stores, a mere five minutes away - instead, they drive. But with gas prices being what they are, I actually did hear a few people say that buying a condo in a Town Center could be an advantage as they would only have to drive a third of a mile to do most of their shopping.

One interesting side note: every house or condo I spent time in, as well as one hotel lobby, was playing the Stephen Colbert show whenever it was on the Comedy Channel. Some of the people watching I know for a fact are diehard Republicans, and they love his show as well as the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The question is: are they laughing with us, or at themselves? When it comes to the Republican sleaze masters, you are either with us or against us.

While watching these fake news shows, whenever there was a commercial break, the Floridians would inevitably talk about gas prices, although a couple of conversations with arch-conservatives eventually moved on to the really hot topic of the weekend, Hookergate.

What do you get when your cross a CIA Director resignation with a room full of prostitutes at the Watergate hotel in Washington D.C.? London's Financial Times has the story as does TPM and the NYTimes.

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