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Archive for December 1st, 2004

“As democracy is perfected”

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Another great one from William Gibson‘s blog.

How seldom, in our study of literature, do we come across evidence of a genuine prescience.

"…the larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, the first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide…the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre… The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people… On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a moron."
–H.L. Mencken, writing in The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Me again: How many of us have had the chilling feeling of late that things aren’t so much falling apart as perfecting themselves?

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December 1, 2004 at 10:26 pm

Posted in Politics

Guardian Weekly

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I’ve been trying to cut down on the magazine / newspaper subscriptions of late. Motive: cost-cutting, focusing in on the work I’m supposed to be doing, the usurpation of blog-reading-time upon print-reading-time, and most importantly, a general effort to reduce the intellectual clutter around the house. Unread materials – whether books or ephemerals – make me feel wasteful and lazy.

But, try as I might, I’ve sent my credit card number in to the Guardian Weekly. Including the extra credits for a monthly translation of Le Monde Diplomatique.

With a little dilligence, could have read it on-line, right? And there are perhaps more important things to do with my time than page through this tabloid every Saturday afternoon.

What turned me around? Think it might have been a single factoid in the "We Haven’t Heard From You Yet" materials they sent day after day:

Apparently, Nelson Mandela had a subscription during his years on Robben Island.

Who the hell am I not to take out a subscription?

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December 1, 2004 at 1:05 am

Posted in Personal

Kinsey (The End of Sex)

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In the car today, was treated to a fantastic interview of Bill Condon, director of the new film about Kinsey, on Terry Gross’s show on NPR. Sounds like a true fellow traveller, this Condon. Kept twisting the knife about Kinsey’s atheism, for instance…

(You can listen to it here: NPR : The Man Behind ‘Kinsey’: Filmmaker Bill Condon.)

But all this Kinsey stuff got me thinking: if Kinsey had gotten his way, liberated humankind from the shackles of religious superstition and cultural prohibition on sex, what would "sex" have been like? Can "sex," and the interest that it holds for us, be separated out from repression? Can good clean fun be fun?  (C.f. the end of the first volume and the start of the second of Foucault’s History of Sexuality, of course…)

(This is one of the central questions that I take on in my work on literature – except it doesn’t have to be sex… Is "interest" inextricably linked to inequality? What sort of art would we have in a perfected world? What sort of literary plots after the "end of history"? Might seem like questions of purely historical import at this point, after the failure of the modernist utopias, but I’m not so sure… Not so sure that we’re not, right here and right now, verging on some sort of bizarre and unexpected tipping point, saturation, terminal equilibrium of interest a la the "heat death" that kept the late Victorians up at night…)

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December 1, 2004 at 12:49 am

Posted in Culture