a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Issue #26 (December 30, 2009)

DuPage River, Naperville, Illinois

Photo by Joe Carducci

From the desk of Chris Collins...

fragments (or: this is lower-case cognition in the internet age)


"As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The only day of the year we admit we wear costumes." --Mike Watt on Halloween; Watt from Pedro Show, 10.31.09

"I don't like the country; the crickets make me nervous." --Brando; On the Waterfront


art must do justice to the strangeness of life.

tragedy is about nobility, comedy is about ignobility. the purpose of fiction is to present us with these two extremes of the human condition.

if it doesn't have a serious point, it's not irony.

the problem is not that the majority of product released, as in books, is no good. that's always been the case. what matters is that the very best stuff being produced is not as good as the very best stuff produced in past years.

beauty is transcended suffering.


americans don't argue politics, they argue people.

politicians represent the people who vote for them rather than the people they're elected to represent.

the news cycle mentality: "if it happened yesterday, it didn't happen."

politics is about resources, about how the pie gets divvied up. ideology is the matter of how the requisite 'we' of politics is defined. now how do 'we' obtain a larger slice of the pie?

recovery? here's a measure of economic malaise: tally the commercial real estate vacancies in your neighborhood.


the psychotic minimalism of the two chord Stooges groove may have its origin here. see also: the metronomic hammering of c. '65-66 american garage rock.

dissonance is to music as suffering is to tragic narrative.

the look-ma-i'm-clever indie ethos

indie rock characteristic: lack of inflection (rhythmic autism); in contradistinction to blues which is inflection-heavy

genre which by some psychological quirk I have absolutely no use for: mopey british pop/rock (the cure, the smiths, radiohead, coldplay)

holst: the bringer of metal?

rarely is the question asked: what would husker du?


the dread of the lucky man: when will the luck turn?

pentecostal delirium, perfervid romanticism

Suicide rates by nation

old politicians never die, they just get shot and become saints. (lincoln, gandhi, king, the kennedys, john lennon)

It's worth keeping in mind that the states were reunified in the mid-19th century with violence. The subsequent American union may be only incrementally more natural than the Soviet was. Assassinations of the executive could be an index of latent political violence. Four presidents out of 43 were assassinated, two were injured in assassination attempts: a rate of 9% assassinated while in office. Furthermore America's 1-per-100 incarceration rate, the world's highest, is not altogether indicative of a healthy polity.


quantity degrades quality. technology has granted us infinite means to deliver thoughts prematurely or merely strangle them in the crib.

rock & roll ambition: waking at the crack of dusk


LA-based Jerry Quarry was a top heavyweight contender of the late '60s and early '70s. His was another sad story of a good fighter fighting on for too long. In the last years before his death in his 50s, he was reportedly in an advanced state of dementia.

Quarry was initially a cautious counterpuncher. Counterpunchers are not aggressors. They start slow, feeling out their opponent in the opening rounds, studying his timing, then striking when the other guy opens himself up to throw. When his performance in a fight with Jimmy Ellis brought him volumes of public criticism, something changed in him.

"The hate mail started coming in, all these punks who wouldn't have the guts to get into a ring... telling me how to fight. My back was in a cast for two months after that fight, and I did a lot of thinking. If they wanted me to be an animal, then that's what I would be." (New York Magazine)

So he began to trade punches, most dramatically in his first bout with Joe Frazier, a blow-for-blow slugfest in which Frazier eventually pulled ahead.

Quarry was able to take the punishment without going over. In most of his big losses he was stopped on cuts. His losing bouts with A-level fighters Frazier and Muhammad Ali -- two with each -- tarnished his reputation. However, by general consensus he's now ranked among the best heavyweight contenders to never win a title.

Jerry Quarry Chronicles: Part 1. Part 2.
(a good career summary narrated by Bert Sugar. Quarry's spot-on Ali impression is featured at the start of part 2.)

TV interview (Quarry sums up his career, probably in the early '80s. Audio is poor.)

[photo: Quarry vs. Floyd Patterson, 1967]

lifestyle section

Trend pieces have long been regarded as an emblem of lazy workaday journalism, the mere lumping together of long extant phenomena into an apparent sociologically significant adjustment in lifestyle or consumer behavior. Recently, however, given the enduring stress of filling a major newspaper, writers are finding that the utility of the trend piece template has, contrary to the conventional wisdom, not abated at all. "It's simple," says Arthur Rosen, section editor for the New York Times. "As a newspaper we've got space to fill. The trend piece may not be flashy but it gets the job done. Sometimes the old ways are the good ways."

Further information: The Universal Modular Trendpiece, by Chris Mohney.

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci...

The Investors Business Daily was founded by William O’Neil in 1984 in Los Angeles. Its main reason for existence is stock analysis, which O’Neil had been doing on his own since the fifties. Like the Wall Street Journal has done over a longer period of time, the IBD has built up a useful couple of pages of editorials which one can get for free online. The rest of the paper is Greek to me, though it is pitched for the younger trader and has a charming feature where they profile some high-achiever’s qualities that got him to the top of his field, be that sports, science, literature, business, etc. Here’s a sample of those; this on Maurice “Rocket” Richard.

The IBD is high-priced on the newsstand, and not a full-service newspaper in the way the WSJ and the Financial Times are, but I always check the editorials in the newsletter they email out every evening. That the IBD is based in Los Angeles gives it its own kind of impatient, practical bent as well. It doesn’t have that sense of itself as a player on the stage, unlike the WSJ, the NYT, or the L.A. Times. So they often hit things first and sharply, and they aren’t above a little venal shin-kicking; this means they can make mistakes but usually when they are accused of lying they are hitting home hard. Of course it doesn’t do the kind of business or news reporting the WSJ does, but you do find useful and mercifully short editorials that present some information or analysis about the issues of the day. These are the unsigned editorials. The guest columns are usually paired left and right and include well known DC columnists well distributed elsewhere.

Here’s a recent editorial about yet another variable stumbled onto by someone studying something else in the air, namely the ozone hole and CFCs. And here is one from last week about California and what seems its only child, Crisis. I’m working/shirking on a larger piece about California so I won’t add to it now. But onto health-care here’s the IBD take on Medical innovation which seems to me relevant in other ways too, since what we’re getting is something modeled on Canada or Britain… If most technical, therapeutic and pharmacological innovation occurs here, then these slower moving national health systems have been keying off of the American system’s vitality and creativity and are somewhat dependant on them as they can stint on research; they merely have to decide which American procedures and products to provide and which to deny. This means not only might the U.S. “fall back to the pack” now, it might also force changes in what is presumed to be the better way o’er there and then back here before we know it.


Bill Daley, brother of Richard M., doesn’t need the Washington Post editorial page to make a point to President Obama, so this column must be intended to help the President and the party deal with Democratic leadership and committee chairmen in Congress that the Daleys in their likely wisdom feel are leading the party to a fall this autumn. Here’s David Broder seconding Daley’s column in the same day’s IBD (!) but Sunday’s WP.


Here’s Bart Bull on Elvis and the Colonel, and don’t mean to pair Bart with Janet Maslin, but Elvis can bring about any two hominids together. Here’s her review of a new book on Elvis’s women which sounds pretty interesting and down and dirty enough to round out our knowledge as enquiring minds often say.


Noam Scheiber has a nice short bit in TNR called "Upper Mismanagement" that goes into what I would call the inherent, or maybe just the danger of decadence in the explosion of financial and business consultants coming out of biz schools since WWII.  Scheiber is subtle in his sense of the problem because a lot of what those folks did in the eighties was necessary -- Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago were not going to keep their heavy industry as it was, and even that was metastasized unnaturally by the war.  It could never last.   TNV 25’s bit on Dave Bing in Detroit and this from the weekend’s WSJ demonstrate the slow suicide that resulted from Michigan’s routine political choice to serve present existing power centers in industry and labor rather than maintaining an open, low-cost start-up environment for enterprise and the development of yes, new challenging competitors.  This points to what the media left has little interest in parsing -- the different classes of businesses and their different interests in shaving or subverting economic principles and free market philosophy that they may well mouth.

Across the TNR’s masthead, Jonathan Chait gives a perfect example of this reality-aversion with his attempt at big thinking about the Republicans.  It’s too tempting a subject for him to do justice apparently and it conforms to my 180 degree rule of liberal bigthink, and that is that he is in this piece actually revealing his fear that nihilism lies at the heart of his own liberal project which he of course knows inside-out.  Without a communal endgame the left’s idealism descends to just so much vote-buying, witness the bastard child just delivered of whatever remains of the stirring, thirties-era dream of national healthcare.

Back to what makes The New Republic so much more interesting than The Nation:  the new book by TNR contributor Gregg Easterbrook called Sonic Boom, reviewed here by Adrian Wooldridge of the Economist, who writes that the big idea behind the book "is that globalization -- celebrated, reviled and analyzed for at least a decade now -- has hardly begun....  The coming age of global integration, he argues, will produce riches that none of us can imagine and scatter them more widely than ever before." Easterbrook apparently takes in Erie, Pa. as well as Shenzen in his survey.


Whenever one reads a knowledgeable piece on Pakistan you’re left believing this rump state should’ve remained in India so it could umbrella its many dust-ups under their nukes. Then all the bloody rumbling from sea to Himalayas could be one with the obscure wars of nationalists and Naxalites in small areas within the great, absorbing Hindu mass. Here’s Christopher Hitchens on the Pakistani elite who should know better.


Former FT China bureau chief James Kynge on a history of western journalists there: Through the Looking Glass: China’s Foreign Journalists from Opium Wars to Mao, by Paul French


Obituary of the Week: Gene Epstein on Paul Samuelson.


The new issue of Ugly Things is out.

This issue (#29) has good articles on Imperial Dogs and Back Door Man mag and Bomp! and Sky Saxon and you know how they do it: too much great information to summarize.


China’s modernization takes up most press space but what is going on in Vietnam is interesting too. Here’s an ex-military officer’s conviction for democracy activism. Some early development schemes in Vietnam were military-Party expropriations of Montagnards in the highlands for coffee plantations, which quickly sent the low-end robusta bean market through the floor, to Brazil and other lowland coffee growers’ chagrin. The Vietnamese people are more in touch with the world than the ruling Communists, who if they weren’t obsessed with China’s economic and political development wouldn’t move a muscle.


They’ll be a lot of these phantom claims whether for olives or anything else product or services as the new peons petition the new barons for not just the bread of life, but for a few crumbs on the side too.


Los Tigres del Norte’s latest hit.


100 new green College Programs launched this year, which will be pumping out yet more bright-eyed utopians to fight the battle of the green collars against the white collars and blue collars and maybe even pink collars.


Korean hangul scripts Indonesian tongue.

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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

1 comment:

  1. Most annoying "look ma, I'm clever" "indie" (what the fuck does that mean, besides your choice of pants?) behavior: the incessant need to shout out "clever" comments towards a performing band. Ugh.
    Thanks for the great boxing story, too!