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Monday, May 5, 2008

It Seems Like Old Strippers Competing for the Love of Bret Michaels on Television is Unprecedented in its Insanity

posted by on May 5 at 9:29 AM


...but when I was a youngster, America gave mimes a prime-time variety show.

Citizens of a certain age certainly remember Shields & Yarnell, the married mimes who enchanted the nation for a number of months in the mid-late '70s. As Wikipedia attests, "Their specialty was taking on the personae of robots, with many individual, deliberate motions (as opposed to normal smooth motion) stereotypical of robots, enhanced by their ability to refrain from blinking their eyes for long stretches of time."

This is true. If Shields and Yarnell weren't being robots, they were being old-timey toys, or marionettes—basically, whatever allowed them to devote long stretches of time to marching around with expressive elbows and spooky looks on their faces.

For a nation battered into cynicism by Vietnam and Watergate, then tenderized by the smooth matrimonial soul of Captain & Tennille, Shields & Yarnell were an irresistible mystery. They were also, for the young and impressionable, vaguely terrifying.

P.S. Shields and Yarnell divorced in 1986, but continue to reunite periodically to perform as a duo.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mystery at Abydos

posted by on April 25 at 10:22 AM

The most perplexing thing I saw in Egypt was in Osiris's Temple at Abydos—hieroglyphs near the ceiling that depict modern modes of transportation: what looks like a helicopter, a submarine, and an airplane. Our Egyptologist scholar/guide told us these were carved from sandstone several thousand years ago, but that no one knows what they mean, nor have similar symbols been discovered anywhere else on ancient Egyptian artifacts. Some experts dismiss them as the result of new carvings over old carvings—the old hieroglyphs combined with new hieroglyphs laid over the top, plus erosion, inadvertently formed what appears to be symbols of modern technology. I'm a hard-nosed skeptic in all matters supernatural, but this explanation is difficult to swallow.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Air in Philosophy

posted by on April 24 at 2:59 PM

What is evident is this: Philosophy prepares the way for things to come. Philosophy sometimes calls this preparation a clearing. A clearing made for a temple is one way of reading the historical relationship between Greek thought in the classical period and early Christianity (or Christianities). In this clearing the soul makes its appearance. The soul as it is understood in the West, and elaborated by Christianity, was invented (or established) by Plato's Socrates. We must understand that before Socrates and his period the soul is another type of substance. The soul, in fact, is not even a soul. It has something to do with the air. Before the arrival of the personal soul, air is a god that humans live on. And when a human dies, he/she expires--stops breathing god. This type of soul has no personality and is called the psyche (not to be confused with our current use of that word), a simple substance that leaves the body through the open mouth. Air returns to air; god returns to god. It is Socrates who transforms the psyche into a soul, an individual, a thing that must be conditioned and morally improved. With Socrates, the soul becomes immortal. In The Republic, the soul journeys to the world of souls. Here it can be punished or rewarded. Here the virtuous and the "masters of wickedness" are sorted out. This is the soul that Christianity adopts and refines. Philosophy prepared this soul, but it also began dismantling it in the 15th century when it initiated a clearing for science. By the 16th century, Spinoza's immanent God extinguished the Christian soul and prepared a place for the hard appearance of science. We are still at this stage of things. Philosophy has yet to make a clearing for what is next to come.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Civic Fascination

posted by on April 17 at 11:15 AM


Over on Flickr, there's a fascinating photostream called Seattle Municipal Archives, featuring tons of stuff from ye olde Seattle, from the logo above to a pro-Beatle screed written to the mayor in 1964 to photo montage of 1973's Miss Seafair candidates and beyond.

(Seattlest loves this stuff too! Thanks to Slog tipper Jake.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pope on the Separation Between Church and State: Thumbs Up!

posted by on April 15 at 1:53 PM

Having recently read this long book review in the New Yorker, I was interested to learn Pope Benedict XVI (the head of a small theocracy) is apparently all about secular government, at least when it midwifes a fervently religious population:

Asked if the United States could serve as a religious model Europe and other areas of the world, the pope replied, ”Certainly Europe can’t simply copy the United States. We have our own history. We all have to learn from each other.”

But he said the United States was interesting because it “started with positive idea of secularism.”

“This new people was made of communities that had escaped official state purges and wanted a lay state, a secular state that opened the possibility for all confessions and all form of religious exercise,” he added. “Therefore it was a state that was intentionally secular. It was the exact opposite of state religion, but it was secular out of love for religion and for an authenticity that can only be lived freely.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Fucking Bell In History

posted by on April 10 at 12:37 PM

While reading Hegel's Lectures on the History of Philosophy, this passage, which concerns the rules Catholic missionaries established for the education and civilization of Indians, appears and makes me wonder:

I even recall one missionary used to ring a bell at midnight to remind the [Indians] to perform their marital duties. Because it would have never occurred to them to do so.
rr_Bell-1.jpg This is twisted in so many ways. What kind of mind imagines natives who are so disorderly that they even need this instruction, this command: Now is the time to fuck?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Taking Your Obsession Too Far

posted by on April 9 at 9:37 AM

There are Civil War nuts, and there are Civil War nuts:

Working in secret, federal archaeologists have dug up the remains of dozens of soldiers and children near a Civil War-era fort after an informant tipped them off about widespread grave-looting.

The exhumations, conducted from August to October, removed 67 skeletons from the parched desert soil around Fort Craig - 39 men, two women and 26 infants and children, according to two federal archaeologists who helped with the dig.

They also found scores of empty graves and determined 20 had been looted.

What tipped off the Feds?

The investigation began with a tip about an amateur historian who had displayed the mummified remains of a black soldier, draped in a Civil War-era uniform, in his house.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Bush Presidency, Defined

posted by on April 5 at 9:20 AM


Peevish, adj.

1. Perverse, refractory; headstrong, obstinate; capricious, skittish; (also) coy. Obs.

2. a. Silly, senseless, foolish. Obs.

b. Beside oneself; out of one's senses; mad. Obs.

3. Spiteful, malignant, mischievous, harmful. Obs.

4. Hateful, distasteful, horrid. Obs.
Used to express a feeling of dislike, hostility, or contempt on the part of the speaker, not necessarily inspired by any quality of the object referred to.

5. Irritable, querulous; childishly fretful; characterized by or exhibiting petty bad temper.

(from the OED)

Friday, April 4, 2008

It's April 4 Day

posted by on April 4 at 11:16 AM

Rest in peace, Dr. King.


Arabian Sands

posted by on April 4 at 11:05 AM

I leave Monday for an Egyptian tour with a dozen fellow dancers. We're going to explore the Nile basin, North to South, by train and river cruise, and immerse ourselves in the ancient mysteries and antiquities.

I've got modest clothing, Cipro, sunblock, and the SurvivalPhrases: Arabic podcast ready to go. Have You Been? Anything else I should pack or know?

I'll try to Slog from there but have no idea how prevalent internet access will be.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Fay Wray Non-Controversy

posted by on March 26 at 4:55 PM



posted by on March 26 at 3:59 PM

If the tragedy of the Alaska Ranger has renewed your interest in disaster at sea, I recommend this March 13 blog post by Portland filmmaker Matt McCormick. It's about a recently unearthed shipwreck on the Oregon coast. And delicious pie.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"But Ironhead! What's with this thingy!?"

posted by on March 18 at 2:27 PM

I think about this probably twice a day:




Meagan: i heard that guy is deceased.

Oh. Bummer.

Seattle, 1912

posted by on March 18 at 10:14 AM

City Hall's internal news letter, The Legis-Letter, has a column called "Who Knew!" where they dig up a City Hall controversy from the past. (Here's a great one from 1957 when the City, fearing a teenage riot, shut down an Elvis Presley concert.)

This month's installment, from 1912, is interesting. The mayor tried to shut down the Seattle Daily Times after anti-Socialist riots rocked the downtown core. Mayor Cotteril blamed the Times in part because he felt their "false" and "perverted" coverage of the Socialists had helped spark the drunken, thuggish right wing riots.

Cotteril told the police to prevent distribution of the paper for two days unless he approved the copy. However, Times publisher Alden Blethen quickly took the City to court and prevailed, maintaining the right to put out his family paper.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Howto: Financial Meltdown!

posted by on March 17 at 2:18 PM

Kenneth Rogoff, the former chief economist at the IMF and now a professor at Harvard University, said the greenback may drop another 12 percent on a trade-weighted basis.``This recession will be long and deep and when we get out of it, we'll have inflation,''

How did this happen? This stick-figure cartoons sorts it out for you. The short of it? "Really smart guys" at financial services companies figured out a legal (but ethically dubious) means of recycling crappy mortgages into something resembling actual investments. How did they get it past the audits, the financial controls, the rating agencies? Well, it's easier when they're all the same few companies, each profiting from the bigger lie.

Why is this legal? It didn't use to be. In the aftermath of the Great Depression, regulations were written into law specifically to prevent this sort of Ponzi scheme from occurring again, like the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. It worked, until the laws were written out of existence in the late 90's. In a great triumph of conservative economic theory, the laws, protections and regulations were evaporated, leading to an orgy of mergers resulting in the flailing financial service monsters of today.

Not every economist was happy about this turn of events.

Twenty-five years ago, when most economists were extolling the virtues of financial deregulation and innovation, a maverick named Hyman P. Minsky maintained a more negative view of Wall Street; in fact, he noted that bankers, traders, and other financiers periodically played the role of arsonists, setting the entire economy ablaze. Wall Street encouraged businesses and individuals to take on too much risk, he believed, generating ruinous boom-and-bust cycles. The only way to break this pattern was for the government to step in and regulate the moneymen.
You might think that the best solution is to prevent manias from developing at all, but that requires vigilance. Since the nineteen-eighties, Congress and the executive branch have been conspiring to weaken federal supervision of Wall Street. Perhaps the most fateful step came when, during the Clinton Administration, Greenspan and Robert Rubin, then the Treasury Secretary, championed the abolition of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which was meant to prevent a recurrence of the rampant speculation that preceded the Depression.

As pleasant as it would be to lay the current financial crisis entirely at Bush's feet, a significant amount of the blame should go to Rubin and Clinton. Signing the (now clearly disastrous) Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in November of 1999--dismantling most of the Depression-era protections--was a classic bit of Clintonian triangularization, a gigantic sop to Wall street firms at the expense of Bill's base of liberal and working class supporters. What could they do? Who could the people hurt by this act vote for? Nader? Let the checks from the financial services industry roll in!

Some might call this experience that matters.

The Real Perspective

posted by on March 17 at 11:45 AM

Erica Barnett, let me show you the source of public hysteria and various forms/versions of millennium madness:


On June 9, 2005, as part of its ongoing series of “Security Updates,” CNN airs a special report titled “Keeping Milk Safe.” Over shots of adorable first-graders sipping from their pint cartons, CNN tells viewers that the farm-to-shelf supply chain is vulnerable at every point, beginning with the cow; with great drama, the report emphasizes the terrifying consequences such tampering could have. Nowhere does CNN mention that in the history of the milk industry, no incident of supply-chain tampering has ever been confirmed, due to terrorism or anything else.


Similarly, after the Asian tsunamis struck over Christmas 2004, Dateline wasted no time casting about for an alarmist who could bring the tragedy closer to home: the familiar Could It Happen Here? motif. The show’s producers found Stephen Ward, Ph.D., of the University of California at Santa Cruz. In January, Dateline’s East Coast viewers heard Ward foretell a geological anomaly in their very own ocean that could generate the equivalent of “all the bombs on earth” detonating at once. The event Ward prophesied would unleash on New York City a wave containing “15 or 20 times the energy” of the Asian tsunamis. As a helpful backdrop, Dateline treated its viewers to spectacular visuals from The Day After Tomorrow, showing Manhattan’s heralded landmarks disappearing beneath an onrushing, foamy sea.

And three:

To hear the media tell it, we’re under perpetual siege from some Terrifying New Disease That Threatens to End Life as We Know It. It’s too soon to render verdicts on the ultimate impact of avian flu, but that pathogen would have to wipe out many millions in order to justify the hype. Lyme Disease? The Cleveland Clinic has this to say: “Although rarely fatal and seldom a serious illness, Lyme Disease has been widely publicized, frequently overdramatized, and sometimes linked to unproven conditions.” Is it coincidence that visits to national parks began tracking downward in 1999, amid media coverage that made it sound as if deer ticks and the rest of Mother Nature’s foot-soldiers had declared war on humankind? Maybe. Maybe not.

Reality and the news are rarely married.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Food Fight

posted by on March 14 at 9:30 PM

Multiple viewings recommended.

A Little Test

posted by on March 14 at 12:01 PM

Here's how you can tell if you're with the right person. This is Toba:


It's a very large volcanic caldera on Sumatra Island, Indonesia. How big? For reference I've placed a dot on the middle of the island, which is in the middle of the caldera. The dot is the size of Crater Lake. Toba blew its stack some time between 65 and 75 thousand years ago, in the largest eruption seen anywhere on Earth in the last 25 million years. The eruption was so large that it dropped 6+ inches of ash over the entire Indian Subcontinent.

There's a theory that this was very, very Bad News for humanity. The theory says that as a result of the environmental carnage wrought by the eruption, we were reduced as a species to somewhere between 10,000 and 1,000 breeding pairs.

Think about that for a minute. Fewer people—on the whole planet—than currently live in scenic Issaquah, WA ("home of the Issaquah Alps—don't miss Salmon Days 2008!") Just scattered bands all over the globe, starving to death, hoping the clouds clear and the plants bloom again before the very last members of the tribe die.

Here's where the test comes in: tell all this to your partner. If they just give you a blank stare, or an uninspired "huh"—well, fine. Perhaps they've had a very tough day or have pressing affairs of the day on their mind.

What you want is the partner who goes, "Holy shit! We're so lucky! This really makes you realize how precious life is!" Take this person and fuck their brains out right that very minute- don't wait for the end of the day, or the TV show to end, or anything. And then hold them for while. And then take a vacation that you can't really afford to some place really amazing where you've never been before.

But... what if they come back with the dreaded "well, it would probably have been better for the planet if we would have died out?" Give a non-committal "huh," leave the room, set any cell phones and/or car keys on the nearest flat surface, and flee the residence. Don't stop until you're on a bus bound for Tucson, paid for with cash. (Not valid if you started in Tucson—in that case, choose some place else where the winters are warm and the stars are visible most nights.) Change your hair color and clothing styles. Burn all forms of identification and never answer a phone, or a hail to your given name, ever again.

Philosopher's Song

posted by on March 14 at 10:15 AM

I. Thesis


II. Antithesis


III. Synthesis


Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
who was very rarely stable/

Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
who could think you under the table/

David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel/

And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
who was just as sloshed as Schlegel!

Re: Guns. Guns! GUNS!

posted by on March 14 at 8:47 AM

When do I get to see Obama hunting in the woods like a real man? Right now, we don't have the slightest clue as to whether or not Obama likes to go out in the woods with his second amendment and kill shit. You know why?! Because Obama is not a man. He's a boy. He's a little boy playing Presidential Campaign. Little boy!

Fact: A gun can turn a boy into a man in less than a second.

Guns play a major role in our society, Mr. Obama. They have solved every problem this world has ever seen. I can't vote for you until I know you've murdered something. It can be a bird, or something equally irrelevant to society. But I need you to kill something for me. Then I'll feel nice and cozy with you running the country. Hillary killed a lawyer, so you're a little behind there.


P.S. I stole Doug.'s bike.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

238th Anniversary

posted by on March 6 at 1:40 PM


Yesterday was the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, when British troops killed 5 colonists during an epithets, snowball, sons of liberty fracas outside the Boston Customs House in 1770.

Rats. I forgot to mark it here on Slog.

Last year, I was in Boston for the big day, and I got to go to a reenactment—and stand outside in the sub zero weather— and drink tea and eat cookies in the custom house after the big show with the actors.

Afterward, high on tea and cookies, I took the T across town.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

This Is a Photo from 1888

posted by on March 5 at 9:06 PM


On the right is Anne Sullivan. On the left is Helen Keller. Researchers just uncovered this photo--believed to be the earliest photo ever taken of the two. They found it in a pile of stuff belonging to a crazy old guy, who said in a statement, "It just seemed like something no one would find very interesting," before being hospitalized.

Anyway, wanna hear my dad's favorite Helen Keller joke? Okay: What's Helen Keller's favorite color?

[Answer after the jump.]

Continue reading "This Is a Photo from 1888" »

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gary Gygax, RIP

posted by on March 4 at 12:00 PM


Gary Gygax, co-creator of groundbreaking role playing game Dungeons & Dragons, passed away today at the age of 69.

A small testimonial: As a pre-adolescent nerd, Gygax's work had a pretty profound impact on me. My step-dad bought me the Basic Edition D&D boxed set (the red one) for my birthday one year (or maybe for Christmas); he had been an avid D&D player while stationed with the Army in Germany. He was still a relative new-jack in the step-dad department, and playing D&D with him, then learning to run campaigns of my own, was a great bonding experience. In grade school, a lot of the friends I made were through D&D; we would camp out in the library at recess, rolling up characters, getting together on the weekends to play. We kept at it through junior high, until I discovered punk rock, girls, and pot. Still, D&D had a tremendous effect on my creativity, my social-skills, and my story-telling abilities, probably as valuable to me today as anything I learned from punk.

RIP, Gary.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Women's Liberation and the Rise of Christianity

posted by on February 28 at 11:00 AM

For too long the habit of the imagination has been to code liberation as an opening. But liberation in reality can also be a closing. An example of a closing that liberates can be seen in the rise of Christianity in the 3rd century. If the victory of the Church and the defeat of paganism is not read in the context of a women's movement, a movement for an improved social standing/status/situation in the Roman Empire, then it is being badly misread.

Scholars to this day wonder why Constantine I, the emperor of Rome (306 –337), converted to Christianity--the pivotal moment in Western (if not world) history. But the answer to that question will not be found in the emperor and his dreams but in the women who surrounded him, particularly his mother. The question, then, should not be: Why did Constantine I convert to Christianity? But, instead: Why were Roman women abandoning paganism for Christianity?

The answer to that question can be found in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, a text that was excluded from the final version of the New Testament but in its day, 1500 years ago, held the status of a bestseller. Thecla's fame was up there with the mother of Jesus, Mary. And what did Thecla do to obtain such popularity? She renounced her marriage, her sexual slavery to a man (Thamyris), and followed Paul--a man who closed up her sexuality and offered her freedom/salvation (and adventure) in the form of chastity. Here, the rejection of sex meant the rejection of male power, which was systematized and reinforced by the pagan order. (Today we read paganism as more natural and against convention and Christianity as unnatural and conventional.)

Sex in the age of Constantine I was not empowering (or positive in any kind of way) but a tool of repression. And a direct attack on this instrument of repression was Christian chastity, a new kind of power for women. In its praise of cleanliness and the closed body, Christianity liberated women from the exploitation of the open body.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

For Those Who are Pretending...

posted by on February 27 at 5:15 PM

that it's 1960, and Obama, like Kennedy, is about to usher in a jump cut in history, let's check in to see what was on the cover of Time this very week in 1960.

It was Pat Nixon, wife of VP and GOP Pesidential hopeful Richard Nixon.


That is all.


Unearthed While Cleaning Up My Office

posted by on February 27 at 11:45 AM

A souvenir from the Seattle Police during WTO.


(Yes, it's been that long since I've given my office a good cleaning.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Present Now Will Later Be Past

posted by on February 25 at 8:55 AM

Yesterday, I posted a picture of Ralph Nader on the cover of Time magazine from December 12, 1969. My point being: Obama is right, the times they are a-changin', Ralph. And it's time to step aside.

Although, that same fall, on October 24, 1969, Time ran this cover:



Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reading Tonight

posted by on February 21 at 11:37 AM

Me, at a bar, finally finishing (in that great way where I don't want to finish, but can't resist finising) this fantastic 600-page book on the Manson Family.

The book, simply titled The Family, came out in 1971, a few years before Vincent Bugliosi's richly-reported classic Helter Skelter.

The Family is equally, if not even more thoroughly reported than Bugliosi's masterpiece, and is written in a quietly snide, even comical, counterculture prose.

The author, Ed Sanders, was a key player in the burgeoning beat-into-hippie underground in the early and mid 1960s. He was in the Dadaist Greenwich Village folk-rock group The Fugs, and after founding Fuck You: A Journal of the Arts in 1962, he became involved in the underground press movement starring the East Village Other and the L.A. Free Press—precursors and templates for today's alt weekly industry. Voila L'Etranger!

His writing is in the neighborhood of Lester Bangs and Hunter S. Thompson—only calmer, quieter, and, I think, smarter. (I'd never heard of Sanders until I picked up this book.)

The octane for Sanders's book comes from his obvious angst over the fact that the Manson Family was emerging—when he wrote the book—as a de facto indictment of Sanders's revolutionary generation. Bummer, man. And boy does Sanders use some acidic prose to cut Manson up.

Sanders, again, a freak at the time, had complete access to the Family, and hangs out with them on several occasions, having dinner with them at the infamous Spahn Ranch, getting propositioned by the weirdo Manson girls, and driving around with member-murderer Steve Grogan.

Anyway, it's a great book, sort of an informal version of Bugliosi's book (with equally impressive reporting). Highly recommended, if you want to get creeped out.


What Makes Humans Humans?

posted by on February 21 at 10:25 AM

I finally have the answer!
mall-1-1.jpg This must be it. What distinguishes the human animal from all other animals? It's not a sense of morality or mortality; it's not language or the arts. What is it? It's money. No other animal has a sense or system of exchange. Only humans borrow, barter, and buy.

Writes the American philosopher Graham Harman in "On Vicarious Causation":

We are not more critical than animals, but more object-oriented, filling our minds with all present and absent objects, all geographical and astronomical places, all species of animal, all flavors of juice, all players from the history of baseball, all living and dead languages.
Yes, this is true. But, as Harman knows, many animals in the animal kingdom have this capacity--the capacity to be extremely object-oriented. My cat at this very moment is obsessed with a ping pong ball--it's pinging and ponging all over the apartment. But my cat can't exchange that beloved ball for a plate of more beloved fish. Only a human can do that. If you do not know how to buy or sell, you are not a human animal.

Monday, February 18, 2008

George Jefferson!

posted by on February 18 at 12:56 PM

Slog commenter Jezbian brought to my attention the fact that David Schmader posted a Presidents Day song by Dina Martina here last year. It's pretty great. We should make it the official song of Presidents Day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

About Time!

posted by on February 12 at 4:16 PM

All apologies:

Australia apologized on Wednesday for the historic mistreatment of Aborigines in a move indigenous leaders said would help end generations of pain.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told parliament that past policies of assimilation, under which aboriginal children were taken from their families to be brought up in white households, were a stain on the nation's soul.

"Today, the parliament has come together to right a great wrong," Rudd said.

"We apologize for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians."

Indeed, white man come and took everything!

Bubble Economics

posted by on February 12 at 1:24 PM

After housing, the alternative energy bubble:

'Alternative energy' bubble or PR gimmick? We're told the "next bubble" is already here: "Alternative energy," says Janszen. In his new "perpetual bubble-blowing machine" theory this means that biofuels, solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric and geothermal energies are the new bubble, until it peaks and "creatively destructs" around 2013. 2013? Yes, then Wall Street will replace it with a new bubble. Bubble after bubble, accelerating, increasing in size and frequency ad infinitum. And each time, "we will be left to mop up after yet another devastated industry," while Wall Street "will already be engineering its next opportunity."

The Market Watch column from which the above quote is taken concerns Eric Janszen's essay, "The Next Bubble," in the present issue of Harpers Magazine.

But bubble-burst (boom-bust) cycles engine the core of capitalism itself. Capitalism is dialectical in exactly this way. The dialectic of bubble-burst is the motor by which it moves through history, by which it builds here and destroys there. Bubble-burst is not the invisible hand but the cunning of history. This is why Macherey describes Spinoza's philosophy (and ultimately the philosophy of liberation) as "post-dialectic." It's liberated from the negative power of the crisis: the crisis of overproduction, the housing crisis, the tech crisis, the oil crisis. The disaster is not new to capital; it is capital. What might be new is not the disaster (or even its size) but the frequency of disasters.

"There will and must be many more such booms, for without them the United States can no longer function. The bubble cycle has replaced the business cycle."

Happy Birthday, Abe!

posted by on February 12 at 12:34 PM


Today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. From his myspace page:

About me: Im turning 199 years old this year! Holy shit! I freed the slaves, I was Americas tallest president and was born on the same day as Chuck Darwin! (Never met him) They used to call me The Railspliter, Uncle Abe, Honest Abe, The Illinois Baboon, The Sage of Springfield and some other shit. My Wifes name is Mary Todd and she cooks a mean potato pancake! I had a son Willie who died in 1862. The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time. Im on a mountain, a penny, the five spot and theres a nice statue of me in the nations capitol. Whatever you are, be a good one. It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues...

[I am resisting with all my might the desire to correct the presidential punctuation, spelling, "and some other shit." He apparently should have worked a bit harder on those lessons he learnt on the back of a coal shovel. Also notably absent from his myspace page is his hobby of gaying around, though he does say he's a "Swinger." His interests: "Bible Study, Hats, Dentistry, Drinking."]


In honor of his special day, a score or so of local men have been growing Lincolnesque beards; they will celebrate tonight by dressing as their hero and getting extremely intoxicated. It all begins at the Hideout at 8 p.m. (marauding onward to the War Room, Linda's, the Cha Cha, King Cobra, the Comet, Moe Bar, Havana, and [alarmingly enough] "possibly some others around there").

Also note: Next year the Abrahams aspire to be 10 score in number in honor of his 200th. They will need you! (Those physiologically incapable of growing a beard may resort to spirit gum or Sharpie.) Photos here are from February 12, 2007. During those festivities, it is said that the Abes visited a certain downtown house of erotic repute. Upon making the acquaintance of one of the entertaineresses, one of the Abes declared, "It's my birthday!" upon which the dancer-lady in question laughed, said, "I'm an Aquarius, too!" and displayed a tattoo of their shared astrological sign.


Tuesday, February 5, 2008


posted by on February 5 at 10:31 AM

It's Black History Month!
gpn-2004-00023.jpg The fine sister floating over there is Dr. Mae Carol Jemison.

Monday, February 4, 2008

That's What I'm Talking About

posted by on February 4 at 1:20 PM

Oscar Robertson, 1961

In Bible News

posted by on February 4 at 9:31 AM

This post is not about Obama vs. Clinton. It's not about Olympia. It's not about Sound Transit. It's not about the civil rights movement. It's not about cloning. It's not about Dr. J. And it's not about Ahmet Ertegun.

It's about the Bible! Check out this list of the top-10 bizarro Bible stories.

For example, there's (Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:13-14) the time Jesus gets mad at a tree (#4 on the top-10 list)


... and (1 Kings 18:25-27) the time David goes on a murderous spree, killing 200 men and collecting their foreskins as booty (#6).

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Don't Piss Off Harry Truman

posted by on January 30 at 10:23 AM

Margaret Truman Daniel, daughter of President Harry S. Truman, has died. She was 83.


An accomplished mystery writer and TV personality, Mrs. Daniel was also once a singer.

A curious anecdote from her life was a performance in December of 1950 at the famed Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. The performance did not go well. The next day, Washington Post critic Paul Hume's review of the show was brutal, containing lines such as:

...Miss Truman cannot sing very well...

...There are few moments during her recital when one can relax and feel confident that she will make her goal, which is to end the song...

...She communicates almost nothing of the music she presents... And yet still the public goes and pays the same price it would for the world's finest singers...

...[A]s long as Miss Truman sings as she has for three years, and does today, we seem to have no recourse unless it is to omit comment on her programs altogether.

So pissed off was President Truman after reading the review that he dashed off an angry letter to Hume. David McCullough reprinted the letter in his great biography Truman:

Mr. Hume: I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”

It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need to a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!

[Westbrook] Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you’ll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.

Hume and his editor decided it would be unseemly to print Truman's letter. But copies had already circulated, and the Washington News, in true tabloid fashion, put the letter on page 1. The resulting scandal filled the letters pages of newspapers across the country -- and Mrs. Daniel's singing career never recovered.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Why of Now

posted by on January 24 at 5:20 PM

Stimulus, stimulus, and stimulus--all financed with more debt. Zero wage growth for the working class in the recent economic expansion. A collapsing dollar--against everything but the Yuan. Massive losses to the American manufacturing base. Huge public and private indebtedness.

How did we get into this mess?

Through the quarter-century in which China has been opening to world trade, Chinese leaders have deliberately held down living standards for their own people and propped them up in the United States. This is the real meaning of the vast trade surplus—$1.4 trillion and counting, going up by about $1 billion per day—that the Chinese government has mostly parked in U.S. Treasury notes. In effect, every person in the (rich) United States has over the past 10 years or so borrowed about $4,000 from someone in the (poor) People’s Republic of China. Like so many imbalances in economics, this one can’t go on indefinitely, and therefore won’t. But the way it ends—suddenly versus gradually, for predictable reasons versus during a panic—will make an enormous difference to the U.S. and Chinese economies over the next few years, to say nothing of bystanders in Europe and elsewhere.

Check out the fantastically lucid account by James Fallows of how this obscene and unsustainable mis-balance was created, sustained and will likely unravel.

If you find the machinations of global capital as unbearably sexy as I do, here's a tidbit explaining how the Chinese government forces this situation:

At no point did an ordinary Chinese person decide to send so much money to America. In fact, at no point was most of this money at his or her disposal at all. These are in effect enforced savings, which are the result of the two huge and fundamental choices made by the central government.

One is to dictate the RMB’s value relative to other currencies, rather than allow it to be set by forces of supply and demand, as are the values of the dollar, euro, pound, etc. The obvious reason for doing this is to keep Chinese-made products cheap, so Chinese factories will stay busy. This is what Americans have in mind when they complain that the Chinese government is rigging the world currency markets. And there are numerous less obvious reasons. The very act of managing a currency’s value may be a more important distorting factor than the exact rate at which it is set. As for the rate—the subject of much U.S. lecturing—given the huge difference in living standards between China and the United States, even a big rise in the RMB’s value would leave China with a price advantage over manufacturers elsewhere. (If the RMB doubled against the dollar, a factory worker might go from earning $160 per month to $320—not enough to send many jobs back to America, though enough to hurt China’s export economy.) Once a government decides to thwart the market-driven exchange rate of its currency, it must control countless other aspects of its financial system, through instruments like surrender requirements and the equally ominous-sounding “sterilization bonds” (a way of keeping foreign-currency swaps from creating inflation, as they otherwise could).

These and similar tools are the way China’s government imposes an unbelievably high savings rate on its people. The result, while very complicated, is to keep the buying power earned through China’s exports out of the hands of Chinese consumers as a whole. Individual Chinese people have certainly gotten their hands on a lot of buying power, notably the billionaire entrepreneurs who have attracted the world’s attention (see “Mr. Zhang Builds His Dream Town,” March 2007). But when it comes to amassing international reserves, what matters is that China as a whole spends so little of what it earns, even as some Chinese people spend a lot.

Swoon! Worth a read...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Two King Videos

posted by on January 21 at 3:48 PM

Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech...

...and a Brave New Films documentary pointing out that King's dream wasn't just about racial justice, but economic justice as well--and how corporate greed makes the realization of King's dream impossible for many Americans today:

Via Towleroad.

Happy MLK Day

posted by on January 21 at 12:03 PM

The notion that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's sweeping Turkish revolution gave us record company man Ahmet Ertegun—the guy who revolutionized America by churning out early rock and roll records in the late 1940s and 1950s—is worth savoring.

Check it out: An exile from Sunni Islam, a Turk, comes to America where he hooks up with blacks and Jews (and white country players as well) to create rhythm & blues, rock 'n' roll, civil rights, electric signal generations. This is a jolt to extremist Sunni Islam losers like al Qaeda, who cling to their 7th Century fetishism.

On October 29, 1923—some three months after Ahmet Ertegun was born—President Mustafa Kemal declared Turkey a republic. He diminished the power of Islam, rid the Turkish language of all Arabic words, and began the long process of dragging his country into the twentieth century.

To my glee, this is the first sentence of the book I started reading this week, "Music Man: Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records, and the Triumph of Rock'N'Roll."

Beginning Ertegun's biography by instantly linking his legacy to Kemal Ataturk's secularist revolution—Kemal abolished the Caliphate in March 1924—is a canny move by authors Dorothy Wade and Justine Picardie.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, circa 1923

Sometime last year, when I found out Ertegun was Turkish—I'd always thought he was Jewish—my mind exploded in the flash of a 20th Century unifying theory where Ataturk's anti-fundamentalist revolution is extended into America by Ertegun's R&B revolution, and stands today through America's lovely affront to Caliphate fetishists like al Qaeda.

Here's my big theory.

In addition to being the father of modernization (Turkey is a secular beacon in the Islamic world), Ataturk was—unwittingly—the father of radical Islamic fundamentalism as well. Ataturk's rise fostered a backlash, creating the Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitor of al Qaeda.

Quick history: In 1928, when Ataturk's secular movement began redefining the Muslim world at large, angry reactionaries like Egypt's Hasan al-Bana founded the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood's most famous adherent was philosopher Sayyid Qutb, the religious intellectual who's right wing writings about orthodox Islamic governance and the dangers of Western influence mesmerized a generation of Egyptian youth who came of age in the late 60s. These campus radicals—they were ultra conservatives (it became fashionable for the women in their set to wear the veil)—defined themselves in opposition to then-Egyptian President Gamal Nasser. Nasser's Pan-Arab Socialism was a 1960s, left-wing version of Ataturk's secular nationalism of the 1920s and 30s.

One anti-Nasser radical was Ayman al-Zawahiri. As a teen in the 1960s wrapped up in Qutb's rhetoric (Nasser sentenced Qutb to death in 1966), Zawahiri founded a radical off-shoot of the Brotherhood called al-Jihad. Al-Jihad was implicated in the terrifying 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat, Nasser's successor. At their trial, the assassins decorated their holding cages with banners proclaiming the "caliphate or death."*

Sadat assassination, 1981

Zawahiri went underground and continued his jihad in the late 80s by joining forces with Saudi Arabian Islamist cohort Osama bin Laden, eventually creating al Qaeda.

Of course, al Qaeda's war is not so much focused on the apostates in the Muslim world like Egypt's Nasser anymore. The central villain in al Qaeda's equation is the United States. This is where rhythm and blues comes in.

Rhythm and blues is the "Satanic" American hybrid that blossomed at small independent race record labels like Specialty, Chess, and Ertegun's own Atlantic in the late 1940s and early 1950s. R&B, a term coined by Ertegun's white, Jewish partner at Atlantic, Jerry Wexler, was synonymous at the time with the burgeoning civil rights movement. And as R&B transformed into rock 'n' roll in the mid 50s—and into rock, soul, and pop in the mid 60s —this American music became synonymous with the cultural movement that turned America into the kind of open society that threatens religious zealots today.

1953 single "Money Honey."

Unfortunately, I'm now about 100 pages into "Music Man: Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records, and The Triumph of Rock'N'Roll," and I'm realizing it's not a terribly ambitious or in-depth book.

Double unfortunately, my new Manson Family book arrived in the mail today.

*Caliphate or Death.