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Archive for February 2008

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Cyprus goes reddish

The Left Party Gains in Germany

Simon Jenkins on nationalisation

The Nation on Chavez

Rodchenko Slideshow

Zizek Lectures for Download

Wallerstein, ?2008: The Demise of Neoliberal Globalization?

More on Rodchenko, The End of Art

Venezuela’s Medical Diplomacy in the IHT

Washington Consensus doesn’t apply to Washington

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February 26, 2008 at 12:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

excellent, click thru

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February 21, 2008 at 10:30 am

tijuana on the hudson

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From the NY Times today:

About a year and a half ago, Mr. Cruz received an unexpected call from David Deutsch, an artist who runs a nonprofit foundation that sponsors arts programs in Hudson, N.Y. Mr. Deutsch was worried about the effects of gentrification on the town’s poorest residents, many of whom live in decaying neighborhoods just out of view of the transplanted New Yorkers and weekend antique shoppers ambling down its main strip.

Together Mr. Cruz and Mr. Deutsch set in motion an unconventional redevelopment plan aimed at reintegrating the poor and the dispossessed into Hudson’s everyday life. (The plan, which is being supported by the city’s mayor, Richard Scalera, is scheduled to go before the city council in the next few weeks.)

Looks really lovely, this. Let’s hope it makes it through the city council….

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February 19, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Posted in architecture, design

tipping point

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The long-standing allergy to the “s” word may in fact be on its way out. Amazing poll, this… The conventional wisdom has for so long been 1) if you’d like to propose a policy or program that is essentially socialist in nature, you need to find a benign term to use for it. “Universal” is about as close as you’re allowed to come, but even that sounds a bit too pinky and 2) opponents of socialist reform need take one only course of action to stop it in its tracks – that is, label the socialist reform “socialist,” and your work is done….

So this poll, yes, is amazing to see… Hate to think this justifies the reflexive leninism (worse before better etc) that has defined the period of my political consciousness…

(via Yglesias)

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February 17, 2008 at 12:31 am

Posted in socialism

“the safe subject of form”

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From David Orr’s review of Matthea Harvey’s new collection Modern Life.

“The Future of Terror” and “Terror of the Future” are abecedarian poems, which is to say that they follow a particular scheme through the alphabet. There’s a longer explanation for their arrangement — which Harvey unnecessarily provides — but the formal strictures themselves are infinitely less interesting than what’s been done within those strictures. (One suspects that the reason Harvey likes to talk about the safe subject of form so much is that she’s a bit unsettled by her own project.)

Just wondering…. If “form” is a “safe subject,” which again are the dangerous ones?

(For the record, I read Modern Life this week – a single sitting – and thought is one of the better things I’ve read in awhile. Too tired to tell you exactly why just this minute, but, you know, it was good…)

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February 16, 2008 at 12:21 am

Posted in poetry

when ambience attacks!

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Check this out:

Bushwick is big (it’s like saying “the Village”). It’s also notoriously
bad. Bushwick suffered the worst of the rioting that struck New York in
the summer of 1977. The area is home to a mostly poor Hispanic and
African-American population, though there are pockets of
gentrification. My corner of the neighborhood, a loft district that the
city is trying to re-brand as the “East Williamsburg Industrial Park,”
mostly warehouses kids just out of art school. It’s a bleak,
rubble-strewn landscape pocked by cement factories and hemmed in by
towering projects. When I moved to the neighborhood, some of my friends
were spooked by the blight, but I only saw the beauty. This is what
Soho in the early seventies or Tribeca in the early eighties must have
felt like, I thought. When I came to New York almost twenty years ago,
those places had been overrun. But when I got to Bushwick, I knew I had
finally found the New York I was searching for—a scrappy loft
neighborhood full of young bohemians camping in their studios. This was
the pre-gentrified New York I wanted to be a part of.


The real drama of the attack was its aftermath. Within 24 hours of my release from the hospital, I made it back to San Francisco, where I grew up; within 48 hours, I decided to quit my job and move back there; and by the end of the week, it was done: I had given notice to my landlord, quit my job, and asked my girlfriend to move in with me. It all made perfect sense to me, a row of falling dominoes. The only thing I couldn’t understand was why everyone kept acting like I had post-traumatic stress disorder. “Only a flesh wound!” I joked. Now I understand, because in retrospect, I realize that maybe I do have a touch of PTSD. I’m not quite the same person I was. Blight, graffiti, empty buildings—the signifiers of every artsy New York neighborhood for the last 40 years—have lost the romantic appeal they once held. I carry a knife now, a small utility blade that I picked up at the hardware store. And when friends of mine get nostalgic for the bad old days, when lofts were cheap and New York was edgy, I tell them that it’s all still there, if you know where to look.

Morality tales from the gentrifying fringe, ah. Boy goes in search of reality, and reality bites him on the ass. I mean, we shouldn’t laugh, but he’s the one who put the damn thing in the magazine, copped to something obvious and ridiculous at once.

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February 15, 2008 at 6:12 pm

Posted in distraction

creative destruction

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Sisyphus just gave me a little present in the comments below:

She’s right, it’s terrific. And it’s of the same sort as the Sky Movies one below, harnessing adbustery rage in service of brand renewal and the like. But even better is the sense that it’s also some sort of self-expression on the corp.’s part of frustration at its own ineptness – 2005, when the Gap began to die after a good run.

Except more of these to come as things slow to a halt. Citigroup analysts being run over by their own Hummers, Walmart visualizing the clusterbombing its own Chinese sweatshops, etc etc, United Healthcare wishing prostate cancer on their own headset-wearing guardians of the meds, all in 30 second spots.

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February 15, 2008 at 11:18 am

etiqueta negra

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n+1 has something interesting going on the the Lima based Etiqueta Negra.

There are free pdfs available here – always appreciated, those. (Hint: start with No. 50, 46-49 don’t work…)

One of the longstanding problems with our corner of the ‘sphere is the fact that we can’t or won’t or don’t want to or don’t try to internationalize it. We thought about this rather frequently back in the day at Long Sunday, but couldn’t ever quite slip the Northeastern US + Greater Toronto + London axis.

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February 15, 2008 at 10:59 am

Posted in magazines

perils of going plastic

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Just try doing this with your Visa card:

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February 15, 2008 at 10:52 am

Posted in economics

nostalgie de la boom… and ads without ads

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My wife and I have introduced a thing where each of us takes one night a week out by ourselves while the other watches the kiddo. (We’re late getting to this – it was suggested long ago – but what the hell were we going to do with our nights out in the old place, so the time is right…) On my night, I headed down to see the Rodchenko exhibit, but the damn place was closing (nice opening hours here, god). So I had to come up with something else to do with myself. Good movies were out – they’re reserved for some barely imaginable time when we can see them together. So I saw Cloverfield instead. I feel an obligation to see such things, which my wife definitely does not share, and so… 

(Parenthetically: $26 to see a fucking movie? Are you out of your minds? I saw the damn thing in the worst and likeliest of all possible places I guess, but back in the states there’s a constitutional right to affordable consumption of crap movies. I think it’s administered by the Dairy Board, whomever it is who gives the free milk and bread to the starving grad student moms… But I digress…)  

So. Not much to say about Cloverfield. Fun I guess. The genre’s looking very, very tired. But in the very fatigue of the form, I do think we’re seeing something new and interesting afoot. Semi-new anyway. The producers and writers of the thing are all at least my age, but the presumed audience, I guess is a lot younger. Young enough, in fact, to have the same relation to the attacks so heavily quoted in this film as my students are starting to have. For a few years there, we were all in it together. Now, it’s getting a bit strained. Shocking when it dawns on you that your youngest students weren’t even teenagers when the shit when down. In a year or two, when we’re dealing with kids that were seven or so in 2001, it’s going to feel even stranger – for them as much as for us, who somehow can’t stop threading it into our conversations. 

In Cloverfield, I think we see early signs of an anxiety not about terror, but about its absence. It is a movie tailor-made for a demographic that has grown up hearing about 9/11 but which has only vague, mostly false, memories of it. A generation who parents worried about shielding from the tv, even when they were far too young to distinguish the threat of annihilation from the threat of, dunno, the scary shit that lives in your closet. 

(Heard Bush mention the other day the “attack that occurred six-and-a-half years ago.” It’s been a long, long time. Wow…)   

The yupster parties in loft spaces (hahaha) on the Lower East Side (hahahaha) are going to feel something missing, are going to long for the crisping threat that something will happen downtown, that there will be a reason to run up to the roof, that their emotionally desolate choice (just for instance) to leave the girl behind to take a VP position in Japan (? – oh, i see, godzilla. Try Dubai…), the iron continuities in play behind that, will come to a sudden and abrupt end when some rough beast inaugurates another round of trauma sex, epiphanies of “what really mattes,” a war or wars to momentarily back and then, later, pretend that you opposed from the start etc etc etc. 

But unfortunately, this dystopian fantasy is positively utopian in its impossibility. The crows won’t come home to roost, not here, not anymore. The world, dearies, has moved on. The Time Warner Building ain’t the double-barreled omphalous of the world anymore – it’s in the wrong country to matter. No one’s going to expend good fissile material on a nation and an economy doing a great job fizzling out on its own. The catastrophes to come for the kids that were meant to see this film are going to be far less picturesque, and certainly won’t be available for videotaping. 

Anyway, wow. At least I’m blogging again, right?

One other thing, on a related note: saw this little number at the end of the extremely long strand of ads (mostly for cars and other new dystopian movies) that ran before Cloverfields:  Brilliant, and very very strange indeed. And strikingly beautiful! An ad for adlessness, if there ever was one. It may become the totemic youtube of this youtube intensive blog!

And even better, way better, is that the damned thing looks like the opening sequence of an absolutely incredible (and a good deal more horrifying, to many in the wider audience, than Cloverfields, which isn’t very horrifying at all) of a very different sort of speculative fiction, one about a specter lurching back from the place where dismissed specters go in order to decapitate the idols of the era, break open the walls of the buildings in the expensive neighborhoods, and leave most bedazzled and exhilarated at the sweep of violence that has rubbled so many things we thought could never go, that we believed, despite ourselves, that the world simply couldn’t live without.  

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February 15, 2008 at 1:12 am

we’re winning! or, we’re losing!

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Strange and a bit refreshing to see this from Brad Delong….

But, over the past generation, confidence in the “Kuznets curve” has faded. Social-democratic governments have been on the defensive against those who claim that redistributing wealth exacts too high a cost on economic growth, and unable to convince voters to fund yet another massive expansion of higher education.

On the private supply side, higher returns have not called forth more investment in people. America’s college-to-high-school wage premium may now be 100%, yet this generation of white, native-born American males may well wind up getting no more education than their immediate predecessors. And increasing rewards for those at the increasingly sharp peak of the income distribution have not called forth enough enterprising market competition to erode that peak.

The consequence has been a loss of morale among those of us who trusted market forces and social-democratic governments to prove Marx wrong about income distribution in the long run – and a search for new and different tools of economic management.

Never thought I’d see the day….

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February 14, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Posted in economics, socialism

what’ll it be, ladies?

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One day soon, each and every after-seminar-out-for-a-drink with visiting journalists or petty-intelligensia or minor-major academics will be covered in one of the society broadsheets and/or sanctioned niche blogs.

Glancing around McSorley’s, he smiled. “This place hasn’t changed a bit.” He had left England for America in the 1970’s. “At the time, things over there were bleak, to say the least.”

Mr. Hitchens reached for his coat. “I’ve got to meet a friend,” he said. “Martin Amis, he’s flying in tonight.”

I snapped a picture of Mr. Hitchens on my cell phone. He picked up more than his share of the tab. “America’s been good to me,” he said.

Ah, well. Glad to hear on all fronts. And even better to hear CH has started picking up even a share of the tab when he’s out with the kids. Back in the day, etc etc etc…

(BTW – “what’ll it be, ladies” was what the period-piece waiter guy greeted me and my friend with during my first and last time at McSorley’s Olde New Yawk Adventure Ride with Little Tiny Beers and Sawdust on the Floor That They Buy In Bags From Home Depot. Not recommended, especially when there are good ink-stained places to go…)

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February 13, 2008 at 7:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

i know this sort of thing doesn’t belong on my blog but…

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Jon Meacham’s Cri de Coeur: Why Do You Read The Economist Instead of Newsweek? | The New York Observer

After about an hour, there seemed to be no more questions for him, so Newsweek editor Jon Meacham turned to his audience—about 100 graduate students at Columbia journalism school—and said he had a question for them: Did anyone in the room read Newsweek or Time? There was a small, awkward rumbling before finally, a man shouted, “No!”

Mr. Meacham scanned the audience for his quarry and then asked the journalism student, clad in a black turtleneck, whether he read The Economist. Yes, he did.

“It’s the most talked about and least read magazine,” said Mr. Meacham.

Was just thinking about this today. I grew up reading Newsweek – it was the only quality news we received at home, besides the local papers for their sports sections. A lot of who I am and what I am interested in is likely attributable to that Newsweek subscription. But despite the fact that I’ve kept a Newsweek subscription for the, um, 13 or so years that I’ve been out of my parents house (it’s only like $25 / year, right?) its place at the top of my magazine stack was long since taken over by The Economist..

But, in my case, Meacham’s more or less right – I rarely read The Economist, even if I felt like I needed to have it. In the US anyway, it does have a fetishy omnibus sort of appeal – you get the sense that the world world is in there, even if you have to look past all the neo-lib libertarianism in the leaders.

And now that I’m, well, elsewhere (being shy with that, I know, but you must have figured it out by now….), I’ve noticed something interesting. If you’re wrapped up in the UK news cycle – say the Guardian and sometimes the Independent and always the Herald Tribune and the BBC, the Economist feels dead stale, just a recap of what it feels like you’ve read over and over again already during the last week. All the exoticness and world-stretching feel is almost completely evacuated.

On the other hand, I’ll be damned the European edition of Newsweek isn’t a hundred times better than its domestic version in the US. They’ve shaved out most of the cheesy-filling giving space instead to medium-form articles that actually tell you something new, something a bit too feature-y for the papers to take up. Politics aside, a really good issue of Newsweek abroad feels as close to a decent news mag as we might possibly ask for at this late day and age.

Before it melts completely away, for there certain are better places to read about stress-management and Why We Love to Hate Our Stars, Meacham should just let the Euro/Asia guys run the thing as a niche operation.

On a related note, can somebody explain to me why the LRB costs three times as much to subscribe to in the UK vs. the US? Actually, no need to explain. It’s totally par for the course. But it still hurts and baffles…

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February 8, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

the what now?

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From Diane Abbott’s column in today’s Independent:

But, if he survives, the prize for the Democratic Party is not just winning a presidential election. Obama can take the South away from the Republicans on the basis of the huge black turn-out that only he can guarantee. And he can combine that with urban America and the intelligentsia to recreate the old FDR Roosevelt coalition that enabled him to win four presidential elections. Term limits would restrict Obama to two but Washington would be transformed, not just for a presidential term, but for a generation.

Since when did we have one of those?

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February 7, 2008 at 6:54 pm

Posted in uspolitics

“just six letters distinguish the words ‘communism’ and ‘computers,’ but the supplanting of one by the other has transformed the world”

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The glorious thing about the end of history and the triumph of capitalism is the way that it relieves us of the obligation to know our history. There’s something exhilarating about students completely ignorant about their country twenty-years since – something that proves some point about something. And really, in the free market of ideas that is the high school classroom, communism exposes itself as really frigging boring compared to the vivid dramatics of liberalism and open markets, especially when they offer the possibility (unique to capitalism!) to spend twenty hours a weekend im-ing with friends in Thailand and suburban Chicago.

Thankfully, also, all of this is entirely representative of the mindset of Germany as a whole.

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February 5, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Posted in distraction, socialism