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Archive for April 2005

Ishiguro’s Future Past

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Serious spoiler alert re: Never Let Me Go. (I’ve never understood, really, why anyone cares about "spoilers"… but some do, really do…)

I’m serious – if you’re worried about me spoiling the end of this utterly mediocre novel, stop reading now….

Ok. I’ve looked at most of the reviews listed here. And no one seems to even hint at one of the central premises of the work, in my view: the Nazis won WWII in this novel, right? That’s the point of the strange dating of the novel in the 1990s… The Germans won the war, somehow, and thus theraputic cloning was both invented and accepted much earlier than "in reality." Or am I totally crazy?

It’s not a good book, in general. Perhaps I’ll tell you why soon enough. (I’ve gotta defend the dissertation at 3 PM, twelve or so hours from now, so it’s time for me to hit the sack).

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April 26, 2005 at 2:38 am

Posted in literature


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From the New York Times: Obrador_1

A capital typically clogged with traffic was thronged Sunday by
hundreds of thousands of people who marched into the main plaza to
protest a government effort against Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador
that threatens to force him out of next year’s presidential elections.

police estimated that more than one million people participated in the
march. Aides to the mayor estimated that there were 750,000 people.
Several political observers described it as the biggest in the
country’s recent history.

And this:

Unlike most other demonstrations, there was no real disorder or
rowdiness. And people covered their mouths with hospital masks and
marched without chanting.

"Our silence says everything," read many of the banners that floated above the crowds.

And this from the Guardian:

Yesterday’s "march of
silence" recalled a 1968 student demonstration of the same name which
took place a few weeks before a massacre of students which crushed the
pro-democracy movement.

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April 24, 2005 at 10:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Another kind of fog

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The locals kept saying, insisting, that it was dust from the Gobi Desert. It wasn’t dust from the Gobi Desert.


Here’s a small section of the incredibly long line to see plasticized Mao. We skipped that ride. But Mao was the only one not coughing that day. Not a camera malfunction – this is really what the air looked like.


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April 24, 2005 at 2:51 am

Posted in Places


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Foggy tonight… Lower Manhattan (or the lack thereof) from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.


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April 24, 2005 at 2:42 am

Posted in Places

Vera Drake

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Fantastic movie, Vera Drake.
Finally saw it tonight on DVD.

The dramatic action in the
film is between Vera and the state for sure, but it is underwritten by a
conflict between incommensurable vocabularies. For the cop, the magistrate,
what Vera’s done is “abortion.” But she denies that this is what she’s done: “I’ve
helped young girls in trouble.”

The Latinate language of law
against the old city of words where Vera lives and acts. The expression on the
actress’s face upon hearing the word “abortion,” the shock, says all that needs
to be said. It is as if she is hearing the word, even thinking it, for the
first time. The Latin wears a wig, searches for a defendant to accuse. The
other – and what do we call the English that Vera speaks? – looks for work,
helps out where it can…

(I had heard that the
"accents" were thick enough that Americans could use subtitles at times – and this
proved to be true. It took awhile to realize that Leigh had a point in doing it
this way…)
Finally, Vera’s businesslike
manner in administering the wash of carbolic soap and water testifies against
the psychologism of our time. The fact that even the most neutral description
of the “way things really are” whispers an order, a command.

The modal shift, in which
each declarative sentence is an imperative statement in disguise:  “Women suffer psychological difficulties as a
result of an abortion” becomes “Women, suffer psychological difficulties as a
result of an abortion.”

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April 24, 2005 at 12:35 am

Posted in Film


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Nicely done, Professor Krugman.

The money-shot: "It’s perverse but true that this system, which insures only 85 percent
of the population, costs much more than we would pay for a system that
covered everyone."

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April 22, 2005 at 2:17 am

Posted in Politics

“So calm and gracious about it…”

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StorysmithapStoryfondanewlineap_1Wow, a spontaneous enactment of the entire story of US politics! The whole story in a nutshelll, played out on the aisles on Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kansas – a suburb of Kansas City. From CNN:

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — A man spit
tobacco juice into the face of Jane Fonda after waiting in line to have
her sign her new memoir.

Capt. Rich Lockhart of the Kansas
City Police Department said Michael A. Smith, 54, was arrested Tuesday
night on a municipal charge of disorderly conduct. He was released on
bond and is due to appear in court on May 27.

Fonda covers a wide
range of topics in "My Life So Far," including her 1972 visit to Hanoi
to protest the Vietnam War, during which she was photographed on a
North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. She has apologized for the photo,
but not for opposing the war.

Smith, a Vietnam veteran, told The
Kansas City Star Wednesday that Fonda was a "traitor" and that her
protests against the Vietnam War were unforgivable. He said he doesn’t
chew tobacco but did so Tuesday solely to spit juice on the actress.

consider it a debt of honor," he told The Star for a story on its Web
site. "She spit in our faces for 37 years. It was absolutely worth it.
There are a lot of veterans who would love to do what I did."

who flew to Minneapolis Wednesday for another appearance on her book
tour, issued a statement through Jynne Martin of Random House.

spite of the incident, my experience in Kansas City was wonderful and I
thank all the warm and supportive people, including so many veterans,
who came to welcome me last night," she said.

Fonda drew a crowd
of about 900 at Unity Temple, said Vivian Jennings, whose Rainy Day
Books of suburban Fairway, Kansas, sponsored the event.

said the 67-year-old actress never got up from her seat and continued
autographing books after the tobacco juice was wiped off.

"The important thing is that she was so calm and so gracious about it," Jennings said. "She was wonderful."

So let’s see. A bumblefuck, set on a romantically inflected mission (a la Civil War, a la Walter Scott, the whole shebang) by anti-Fonda rantings of the usual wingnut blogs, takes his stand by splurrting on a Hollywood leftist.

This is the best part of the whole show: "He said he doesn’t chew tobacco but did so Tuesday solely to spit juice on the actress." He self-consciously performs the part of the rednecked neanderthal – that he perhaps isn’t in real life… Sound familiar? Will and Grace watching moral values voters? Tech working drones of hypercapitalism in Atlanta settling into the pews of their suburban megamadrassa, all-medieval laserlight show of anti-modern veiled and not so veiled disgust with the new… And come election day, do they vote neo-liberal or for God’s other son?

But it’s not just the spitter but also the spittee that’s playing out the script.

Let’s see: a former "radical" that’s devolved into Oprahistic memoirism. Once Hayden’s wife, but broke with Ted Turner because she found religion and he couldn’t… And best of all, there’s her reaction to the whole thing: a gob of Red Man running down her face, she "never got up from her seat… she was so calm and gracious about it."

Sounds about right, oh so familiar, to me…

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April 21, 2005 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Politics