a new low in topical enlightenment

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Issue #13 (September 30, 2009)

Chicago Skyline, Through the Remnant of Chicago Stadium; April 1995

Photo by Joe Carducci

by Chris Collins

Presentiment of an end is the root of all meaning.

Fall is the coming of overhanging clouds, dark and full of definite shape and distance, not the impalpable gray of LA's June overcast. Autumn in California feels like someone ripped the color out of your movie. Or like God hit the dimmer switch. The sky is determinative again.

But the coming doesn't feel like a death, only an intermission, and the relative austerity of winter has its merits. Acquisition of experience slows, the time for turning it over arrives.

Dam up the damned river of the present moment. Write because it's all you'll have left.

[Photos: LACMA, September 18, 2009]

Drawings by James Fotopoulos

From the midwestern desk of Carducci...

I don't like to play CDs in the car unless there's truly nothing on the radio. My drive to Illinois from Wyoming was the first time since my car had a CD player that I didn't give up on Nebraska radio somewhere east of Sidney because there's a new rock station in Cozad and as soon as Rush started taking phone calls I found it. I listen to Country radio too but not for the whole four hundred miles between Cheyenne metal and The River at Western Iowa. My favorite songs this trip were the new Alice in Chains microtonal drone-trudge during which they sing "California's alright / Somebody check my brain", and George Strait's low-key depressoid ode, "I'm Living for the Night".

AiC has a new album out today with their new singer William DuVall. I saw him at my bookstore event in L.A. last year. He did this interview with Greg Ginn last November. And you can see him and the others in this promotional interview feature for AiC.

I thought George Strait was drifting off the C&W charts so I was glad to hear his tune repeatedly on the drive. In fact, these tunes were the ones I most wanted to hear and they seemed to be number ones -- meaning right up there with Nickelback and Tim McGraw (whose "It's a Business Doing Pleasure with You" is also a great C&W radio hit of the moment). Here's a short George Strait interview.

Another thing about Iowa and eastern Nebraska is that they see alot of sub-Classic Rock like Head East, UFO, Blackhawk, etc., and so you hear them on the radio there too. Heard a real nice old Head East tune, "One Against the Other", from their debut album, Flatter Than a Pancake, which they put out themselves in 1974 and was picked up by A&M. The Classic Rock format could be alot richer than it is. Also heard a new Tesla song somewhere along in there that I couldn't ID by ear. Improved, I'd say, but no "Modern Day Cowboy". Now that I'm in range of Chicago I can listen to sophisticated stuff like Wilco, and Sea and Cake. Or maybe not.


FT letter re Banksy's defensive bravado.


A couple of interesting pieces ask questions about the strangely self-serving humors about today. The New School's Marshall Blonsky focuses on three ad campaigns, the most familiar being the Progressive Insurance campaign, although the professor doesn't seem up to speed... I'm often caused to remark: "Watching television is not as easy as it looks." The spot he's referencing ends in the fist-bump, not the salute. It's dumber and more smug than he seems to realize -- or could be his editor is a Christian Scientist. The campaign he should get aload of is thetruth.com's endless ouroboros over on Fuse TV. The tobacco tax has funded a bonanza of cheap unfunny stunt-based autophagia, though what may be funny is the pride of these bootlicking children as they stick it to the baffled Man in the street. The Atlantic's Christopher Hitchens sticks mostly to the insta-books produced by Al Franken, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. He isn't merciless exactly but then it's too easy. But neither Blonsky nor Hitchens grounds his complaint by underlining what is the best comedic strategy -- the offering of oneself as the butt of a joke that portrays human fallibility. It's a simple matter of performer's generosity, observed today mostly in its absence. However it's how comedy reaches art through schtick. It never reaches art when the comic's joke is merely that it's that guy over there that is a doofus, because that's not disinterested general, human-condition humor. That is vain bullying.


There are crosscurrents in every election, but in Europe I'm wondering if there isn't a major barometric effect caused by the ongoing centralization involved in the E.U. project. If voters across Europe worry about their political class graduating into the superstate's superstructure where it can escape en masse the voters' veto, one might anticipate a new right in Europe that is, in a sum of nationalisms, a continental check on the semi-democratic Brussels regime. Another contributing factor might easily be the immigration issue, especially the challenge posed by muslim immigrants, where Brussels and the left parties are often completely voiceless.


Brave New Brasilia at 50.


Reddish China at 60.


This William Chace piece is a good rundown of what the vulnerabilities were that allowed for the collapse of the Humanities, if not of the culprits themselves. TAS seems unsure of the title of the piece as if the creeping People mag-style of headline writing and the news-you-can-use of local news television has infected academe on top of all else. The cover is better than inside, oddly, where "Where Have All the Students Gone? -- The demise of the English department" transforms into the less grim "The Decline of the English Department -- How it happened and what could be done to reverse it". Next we may find ourselves addressed as the informal non-royal We that weekly coos at us from the covers of Newsweek and Time as in "The End is Near -- and what every American can do to procrastinate". The Atlantic's cover story titling has the New York Times' disease; it reads "Dear Mr. Bush, You Approved Torture. Only You can fix the damage. Here's How. By Andrew Sullivan" Sounds like he wants Bush to try to trump Jimmy Carter as our finest ex-President. Luckily I don't have time to read that either.


Back in Greater Chicagoland where you get to read Rev. Jackson's Sun-Times column at least as long as the paper lasts. Today's comes maybe a year after the news broke that the subprime lenders and lendees were all broke, but Rev. had alot to think about before his staff lent his pen to paper for him. Here's the relevant sentence:

"Mortgage brokers and banks such as Countrywide, Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo allegedly went from redlining minority areas(*) to targeting them -- intensely marketing exotic mortgages in the name of extending home ownership -- and then often systematically steering borrowers into subprime mortgages that they could not afford."

Where I stuck the asterisk a book ought to be written about the old community organizers of the seventies as they bilked and shamed these banks who being businessmen cut deals that after the riots yielded non-redlined neighborhoods, some quite improved it's true, but let's have the famously shy Reverend take credit for his share of the cost as well. The Rev. only recently discovered the word "allegedly" because he's as guilty as they are.


Amy Annelle has a nice photo essay on her site.

Photo by Amy Annelle

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

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