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Archive for August 9th, 2007

“but you’re still fuckin’ peasants as far as I can see…”

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Just came across another candidate for my collection of incredibly strange American politico-cultural amalgamations, hybrids, and halfrights: Green Day’s recent cover of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero.”

Did they actually listen to the song before they decided on this Darfur x-over thing? High-Period Lennon Political Ambivalence (see also: “When you talk about destruction, doncha know that you can count me out… in…) meets Teary Liberal Piety about those Poor, Poor People Elsewhere at the crossroads of unmetabolized reflexivity. How about this part, as the noble faces of the Darfurians bubble across the screen, and Billie Joe Armstrong sings:

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV,
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free,
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see,
A working class hero is something to be,
A working class hero is something to be.

Yeouch. Just to make it worse, here’s a bit from wikipedia that quotes the band’s press release about the song:

When asked why they chose the song, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong said, “We wanted to do ‘Working Class Hero’ because its themes of alienation, class, and social status really resonated with us. It’s such a raw, aggressive song — just that line: ‘you’re still fucking
peasants as far as I can see’ — we felt we could really sink our teeth into it. I hope we’ve done him justice.”

You could write a dissertation, not an acceptable one, but whatever, on the topic: “Who does Billie Joe think the ‘you’ of that toothsome line refers to?”

Secondary mystification, or simply vapid distraction, “what the fuck, yeah, the Africans, cool…”? Benettonism gone libidinal? Inadvertent self-disclosure, a profoundly unconscious honesty that leaves Lennon’s navel-gazing in the dust?

(UPDATE: If you’re confused about what I’m saying here – my fault not yours – you can watch me circle back and explain myself over in the comments at Long Sunday, where I x-posted this…)

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August 9, 2007 at 11:10 am

Posted in distraction

fear the centrifuge

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Sven Birkerts against literary blogging in the Boston Globe:

The blogosphere, I would argue, works in the opposite direction. There are arbiters aplenty — some of the smartest print writers are active on blogs as well — but the very nature of the blogosphere is proliferation and dispersal; it is centrifugal and represents a fundamental reversal of the norms of print culture.

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August 9, 2007 at 1:15 am

Posted in criticism

“have you been to the edge?”: photo caption contest

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Need more interactivity, hereabouts. Donc a photo for you to caption:

The NYT explains what the image is here.

What are you waiting for? Get captioning, or I’ll make you watch the Gorbi Pizza Hut ad too.

To hell with it, I’ll make you watch it anyway:

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August 9, 2007 at 12:43 am

“unlike the sociology of the past, [this] is informed by modern economic theory”

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You don’t say… Any guesses on the unmodern economic theory that informed said sociology of the past?

Sisphyus just pointed out this NYT review/article of Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms in the comments to a previous post.

Here’s where it really gets frightening:

Dr. Clark says the middle-class values needed for productivity could
have been transmitted either culturally or genetically. But in some
passages, he seems to lean toward evolution as the explanation.
“Through the long agrarian passage leading up to the Industrial
Revolution, man was becoming biologically more adapted to the modern
economic world,” he writes. And, “The triumph of capitalism in the
modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or

Boy is that ever a heavily thudding "our" in the last sentence. You have to love it, really, and the way that it echoes the hard science cum totally asswild speculation stuff that cropped up everywhere toward the end of the nineteenth century. Thermodynamics and entropy, therefore heat death (well sure, a long, long way off), therefore a universe and its maker that agree on one point: economic equality leads to dissolute catastrophe. At least via this article, and of course we should wait for the book, it doesn’t sound like there’s going to be much to back up the genetic turn aside from a hunch and some handwaving in the genome-decoded direction.

A genetic predisposition to low interest rates, huh? Then again, maybe he’s on to something.

So yuck, yes. But I’m actually more upset at the Times than Clark himself, for an ideosyncractic reason. They have, their information design department anyway, taken Neurath’s Isotype in vain.

You can click through to see a big version of the infographic, but do you see those little guys in the middle, the second graph? Not cool – this is exactly the opposite sort of argument than the one they were, ahem, born to serve.

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August 9, 2007 at 12:01 am