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Archive for September 2008

“this blind world”

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From the NYT review of the new movie of Saramago’s Blindness:

In the movie, as in the book, every character but one — an ophthalmologist’s wife played by Julianne Moore — comes down with the title affliction, which is, bafflingly, contagious. (And which, just as mysteriously, manifests itself not as darkness but as total, blank-page whiteness.) “In most films everything is based on the eyes,” Mr. Meirelles said. “You cut to show where the character is looking, that’s how you tell stories. It’s all about point of view, and I wasn’t going to do this film showing only Julianne’s character’s point of view. So how do you get people involved with the characters when you can’t put them in the same position visually?”

His solution, he said, was to “put the audience in this blind world, to try to deconstruct the image, if I can say that.” (Just this once, but don’t let it happen again.) “Sometimes the image is washed out, sometimes it’s out of focus, sometimes the framing is totally wrong, deliberately,” he continued, “and toward the end of the film I even tried separating the sound from the image — showing a character with his mouth shut, but you’re hearing his voice.”

“It was all very experimental,” he said. “Very scary.”

We live in interesting times. One spends their weekend moving around as one is accustomed to moving around on weekends. Let’s see… Saturday went over to Highgate to spend time in a park, noticed that Andrew Marvell used to live where this park is now, ate lunch, returned to same establishment to drink a bit more once the kiddo was asleep in her stroller, watched the US debate on tv. Sunday: walked from Archway past Highgate Cemetery and through Parliament Hill to Hampstead where I ate a crêpe avec jambon et frômage from that cart there, saw Russell Brand eating lunch (didn’t realize he was anything other than a Guardian sports columnist till, like, yesterday – I’m still new to the UK), and almost bought Mary Beard’s new book on Pompeii. While doing all this, found time to purchase snacks and groceries and beer, watched Arsenal lose, watched the Mets lose, made headway on the novel that I’m reading and enjoying, and read some but not all of the newspapers I’d purchased.

So very bourgieboho and parental, no? Everyday life as it’s been lived in the age of the rising tides, the rising boats. It was a sunny weekend in London, so the parks were full, the outdoor spots at the eateries were packed.

But of course all this normalcy is playing out against the backdrop of some very very dire analysis that I don’t need to link to – I’m sure you’ve read it all already. Let’s not even talk about the bailout – even its authors don’t seem at all convinced that it will be effective in any palpable way. And really, it’s been clear from the start that that’s not the point. But the general consensus seems to have turned toward the inevitability of something very depression like, and perhaps deeper even than the depression with which we’re all familiar. So… the destruction of the last vestiges of the better bits of the state, soaring unemployment, insane inflation, the end of consumer credit, the evisceration of retirement accounts, mass repossessions of homes, bank failures beyond the means of the authorities to insure, and did I mention soaring unemployment? It was, apparently, ten minutes to midnight seven minutes ago – this is the takeaway from the papers and internet today.

Ordinary weekend days in London. I’ll go to work tomorrow and put the finishing touches on my lectures for the week. Reports of the imminent collapse of the world financial order. Collapse. Rubble. I’ll try to make it to the shop on campus, for once, before they sell out of the sandwiches I like. I’ll order that Beard book from Amazon; I’ll check CNBC.com thirty or forty times especially once the US markets open.

Listen: not everyone has the luxury of this disjunction. I know that very very well, and it’s true a hundred times over. Titannic numbers worldwide never got lifted on the upswing, or were directly punished by it. More locally, lots have already lots their shirts. I know this. I know it very very well.

But that said, this disjunction is something else. I suspect just about everyone who is in a position to is feeling it by now. And there are a bunch of things to say about it. The temptation is simply to keep detailing the uncanniness of the whole affair, where life goes on as an LCD mushroom cloud rises over the affluent corners of the earth. It is so easy to aesthetize it, to keep typing it out – especially since it feels like we’ve been in training to paint in just the tones we have on hand now for a decade or more.

But there’s something more profitable to do than painting for painting’s sake at the moment. Something is showing itself through the very failure of lived experience and financial news to line up properly. It is, perhaps, a promising pedagogical situation – or even a perfect political entry point. It goes something like this: the difficulty that we have reconciling our day to day lives with the problems in the market, the trouble that we might have actually believing that everything might be about to change, and change for the worse, and change as if overnight, is an appropriate difficulty to have. The fact that our lives are running along as they are, but might be ruined in a blink of an eye by a spreading virus of speculatory paper gone bad, is irrational, insane. I work, I am paid by my employer, I spend my money on the things that I need and sometimes just want – what should that have to do with credit default options or short sold stocks or baroquely structured derivatives?

It actually doesn’t make sense, not any sense at all. Our blindness before this thing, our inability to see (or see and then believe) what is about to happen, makes all the sense in the world. We are the realists; the world has conspired against realism.

If there is a “we,” we would do well to make much of the mysteries of abstraction, the violence that it has but should not be permitted to bring down upon ordinary life. We should cast this as a problem of a simplicity whose rights are being infringed upon by an unnecessary and illicit complexity. We should encourage those who would to wonder about the reasons why the normal circuits of life are being interrupted by factors that can’t even be understood by their administrators, their authors. For there is no reason why this must be – there is no reason that whatever these people in the financial districts of the world get up to, legally or illegally, normal life need be interrupted in any way. It will be, it is almost sure to be, but this is the tragedy. This is not, whatever the metaphors distributed by the news media and politicians, a meteorological event, an unforeseen occurrence. This, we should say, is not at all the case. It is not a sudden storm, a “black swan” – the difficulty of seeing this is part and parcel of the problem at hand…

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September 29, 2008 at 1:07 am

tough love

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Democrats Set Bailout Conditions as Treasury Chief Rallies Support – NYTimes.com

But Mr. Paulson said that he was concerned that imposing limits on the compensation of executives could discourage companies from participating in the program.

“If we design it so it’s punitive and so institutions aren’t going to participate, this won’t work the way we need it to work,” Mr. Paulson said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Let’s talk about executive salaries. There have been excesses there. I agree with the American people. Pay should be for performance, not for failure.”

But he quickly added: “But we need this system to work, and so we — the reforms need to come afterwards.”

Sorry, I don’t follow. I thought, you know, the banks desperately needed this help. I thought that was, you know, the point. We’re worried that they’ll turn their backs on our bouquet and box of chocolates and then do what exactly? Is the idea that if we don’t let the executives keep their packages, they will intentionally destroy their companies rather than take the fed’s gift money?

Um, the fix is in kids….

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September 22, 2008 at 10:14 am

Posted in crisis, marketing

counterbranding, slow economists, etc

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Would rather they’d stop branding this as ours, as what our ism would look like:

This is the state of our great republic: We’ve nationalized the financial system, taking control from Wall Street bankers we no longer trust. We’re about to quasi-nationalize the Detroit auto companies via massive loans because they’re a source of American pride, and too many jobs — and votes — are at stake. Our Social Security system is going broke as we head for a future where too many retirees will be supported by too few workers. How long before we have national healthcare? Put it all together, and the America that emerges is a cartoonish version of the country most despised by red-meat red-state patriots: France. Only with worse food.

They keep writing that piece, over and over and over. It’s attributable to the stupidity of the people who write for the respectable papers and magazines, their pavlovian ass-covering refusal to think for even a few seconds. That said, despite it’s actual origins, it has the look of a perfect last ditch PR campaign concocted in the dark recesses of one of the Madison Avenue imaginariums, doesn’t it. They starve the beast, reward their cronies, and the American public walks around thinking “Jesus, this is what France is like? This is socialism?”

One really does wonder also about economists. I’m not going to name names – because it’s potentially libelous – but I’m pretty sure one very prominent econoblogger (used to work in the Clinton admin, now teaches) who has been consistently wrong about this whole thing has actually pulled posts from early last week and from the week before. It shouldn’t come as such a surprising relief finally to see Krugman (not the one I’m talking about) come forward against what is happening.

The Paulson plan calls for the federal government to buy up $700 billion worth of troubled assets, mainly mortgage-backed securities. How does this resolve the crisis?

Well, it might — might — break the vicious circle of deleveraging […] Even that isn’t clear: the prices of many assets, not just those the Treasury proposes to buy, are under pressure. And even if the vicious circle is limited, the financial system will still be crippled by inadequate capital.

Or rather, it will be crippled by inadequate capital unless the federal government hugely overpays for the assets it buys, giving financial firms — and their stockholders and executives — a giant windfall at taxpayer expense. Did I mention that I’m not happy with this plan?

The logic of the crisis seems to call for an intervention, not at step 4, but at step 2: the financial system needs more capital. And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to — a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don’t go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

[….]

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a “clean” plan. “Clean,” in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached — no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review “by any court of law or any administrative agency,” and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.

I’m aware that Congress is under enormous pressure to agree to the Paulson plan in the next few days, with at most a few modifications that make it slightly less bad. Basically, after having spent a year and a half telling everyone that things were under control, the Bush administration says that the sky is falling, and that to save the world we have to do exactly what it says now now now.

But I’d urge Congress to pause for a minute, take a deep breath, and try to seriously rework the structure of the plan, making it a plan that addresses the real problem. Don’t let yourself be railroaded — if this plan goes through in anything like its current form, we’ll all be very sorry in the not-too-distant future.

Really doesn’t seem all that difficult to see this for what it is… except, apparently, for anyone in a position to say something about it. Thankfully PK’s getting there, but too little and too slow and too late, I’m sure.

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September 22, 2008 at 9:01 am

Posted in crisis, markets

here, this will make you feel better

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From a big New York Magazine piece on the end of book publishing:

It’s inherently risky, though. You have to wonder about the prospects for one new book that Elberse had her students case-study—Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. Grand Central, inspired by the best seller Marley & Me, is betting on the new mini-genre of cat-related nonfiction. Grand Central initially offered $300,000, then went up to $1.25 million. Gobs more will be spent on marketing. You’ll likely be hearing about Dewey when it comes out this month, and if half a million of you still feel that you can’t get enough heartwarming pet stories, it just might earn back its advance.

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September 19, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Posted in such as it is

preview

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Everything happens five hours earlier here:

The public finances suffered yet another lurch into the red last month amid warnings of a record deficit this year that would force the next government to raise taxes or cut spending – or possibly both.

[…]

The national debt figures lurched higher as the government’s nationalisation of Northern Rock’s £87bn debt came onto the books for the first time, pushing debt up to 43.3% of national income, well above the government’s self-imposed 40% ceiling.

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September 19, 2008 at 12:22 am

Posted in crisis

“a Keynesianism largely military”

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Letter in the Guardian yesterday:

Despite the main finding in the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency that it “has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran”, the western media has focused on the issue of Tehran’s lack of transparency over the IAEA investigation into recent intelligence allegations (Report, September 12). These involve missile re-entry vehicle projects and have been rejected by the Iranians, who have not even been permitted to see the documents upon which the allegations are founded.

This week the US Congress is debating two non-binding resolutions which, if passed, will greatly increase the likelihood of military intervention against Iran. They call on the US president to “increase economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities”, and demand “stringent inspection requirements” of all goods entering or leaving Iran and an embargo of refined petroleum products to Iran. Although both resolutions exclude authorisation for military action, the embargo will require a naval blockade. Such a blockade could result in skirmishes with the Iranian navy which could rapidly escalate.

The US is massing the largest armada of warships in the Gulf since 2003. Two aircraft carrier task forces are already there and a third was dispatched on August 22. French and British warships and carrier groups are also reportedly on their way. This has increased speculation that George Bush might authorise military attacks against Iran before the end of his term in office in January, or before the November elections to boost to the likelihood of a McCain presidency.
Stefan Simanowitz
Westminster Committee on Iran

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September 19, 2008 at 12:16 am

Posted in crisis, war

the socialisation of finance

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From Willem Buiter’s Blog at the Financial Times:

If financial behemoths like AIG are too large and/or too interconnected to fail but not too smart to get themselves into situations where they need to be bailed out, then what is the case for letting private firms engage in such kinds of activities in the first place?

Is the reality of the modern, transactions-oriented model of financial capitalism indeed that large private firms make enormous private profits when the going is good and get bailed out and taken into temporary public ownership when the going gets bad, with the tax payer taking the risk and the losses?

If so, then why not keep these activities in permanent public ownership?There is a long-standing argument that there is no real case for private ownership of deposit-taking banking institutions, because these cannot exist safely without a deposit guarantee and/or lender of last resort facilities, that are ultimately underwritten by the taxpayer.

Even where private deposit insurance exists, this is only sufficient to handle bank runs on a subset of the banks in the system. Private banks collectively cannot self-insure against a generalised run on the banks. Once the state underwrites the deposits or makes alternative funding available as lender of last resort, deposit-based banking is a license to print money.

That suggests that either deposit-banking licenses should be periodically auctioned off competitively or that depostit-taking banks should be in public ownership to ensure that the tax payer gets the rents as well as the risks.The argument that financial intermediation cannot be entrusted to the private sector can now be extended to include the new, transactions-oriented, capital-markets-based forms of financial capitalism.

The risk of a sudden vanishing of both market liquidity for systemically important classes of finanial assets and funding liquidity for systemically important firms may well be too serious to allow private enterprises to play. No doubt the socialisation of most financial intermediation would be costly as regards dynamism and innovation, but if the risk of instability is too great and the cost of instability too high, then that may be a cost worth paying.

These are issues that must be pondered not just in Washington but everywhere modern financial intermediation has taken root or is threatening to do so – in the financial heartland (Wall Street, the City of London, Frankfurt, Zurich, Tokyo and Dubai) and in the emerging markets that until recently were having their ears bent on the desirability of precisely the kind of financial institutions and markets that have now turned into trillion dollar collapsing dominos.

From financialisation of the economy to the socialisation of finance. A small step for the lawyers, a huge step for mankind. Who said economics was boring?

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September 18, 2008 at 9:19 am

Posted in crisis, markets, socialism

a suggestion

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The Guardian has a relatively interesting feature talking to prominent leftists and leftishists about the crisis and capitalism.

It would be a good thing if “we” could all get together and come up with something. Whether or not it seems likely that “we” could ever actually prevail even just slightly in a moment like this, it does seem like it’s part of the deal that we’d at least, you know, give it a poke.

But I’d like to make one suggestion before / if we do. If you happened to be selected to be left public intellectual of the month (seriously – I’m being serious now), and are asked to speak or write about the current crisis, by all means avoid expressions of schadenfreude, apocalyptic glee, giddiness and the like. Ordinary people are not going to share your popcorn as you settle in to watch this film. Say something about what should be done – normal folks want their retirement accounts to stay semi-there, want to keep a job, and don’t want their bank deposits to vanish into a bad dream of a customer service call that never gets answered, they’d like not to haul their currency to the Wal-Mart in a wheelbarrel – all reasonable things. 

Not trying to be hypocritical about this, believe me. This blog has been about 80% apocalyptic glee from the start, and is in part a chronicle of ten years that I’ve spent watching CNBC and waiting for the Big Event. It’s just, you know, we’re really bad at the PR side of the game, and it’d be nice to see “us” take things seriously, for once.

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September 17, 2008 at 11:35 pm

the canary’s dead

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Not the one that lives at the wharf, the one in the coalmine.

I’m lucky to have in-laws that I can use as my own personal focus group of middle american attitudes and reactions. Middle to lower-middle class, from the middle of the country (though down a bit from the exact center), a smattering of evangelicals and irreligious libertarian conservatives, also one Hilary Clinton supporting (now Sarah Palin? I’d bet) late-middle-aged single mom, they run the gamut. I’m not being arrogant – I come from rather ordinary to sub-ordinary stock as well (you should see the stuff that comes across the google alert thing I’ve set up for my very very rare last name – police blotter clip after police blotter clip), it’s just mine are from the wrong side of the St. Lawrence and I don’t really keep in touch.

Anyway. Um. Yeah. Mom-in-law emailed today saying that she’s thinking about pulling her $ out of the mutual fund in her retirement account. I’m sure I’m not the only person that’s been wondering at what point the bad news penetrates the awareness bubbles of ordinary americans, but I think, folks, that day is coming soon. Tomorrow? And when it does, watch what happens. They keep writing articles calling various abstract things that happen “the postmodern version of a bank run.” I think that the pre-postmodern version is still a viable form. We’ll see.

I’ve suggested that it’s probably not smart for her to pull the money, given the tax liability and the fact she’s yanking it back at a very unfortunate time. Who knows though. But even if she goes ahead and does it, where then should she put it? After all, from what I understand, the FDIC is funded to handle maybe one significant bank failure – say Washington Mutual if (when?) it goes.

Here’s guessing tomorrow’s going to be an interesting day.

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September 17, 2008 at 11:18 pm

Posted in collapse, crisis, economics

bounce

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The incessant, miraculous deferral of the catastrophic rupture, the long-awaited break. Always a bounce. That’s the thing about abstraction – that’s the thing about it’s marvellous ability to keep the story rubbing along. Come on now, try not to think jouissance. Try not to think interminable foreplay, a ten year tease. The rewewed high street shops, the cost of a terraced house, the dip and peak of oil. The end of the story will never arrive.

Today like many days, the futures numbers were in, the European markets had spoken, the crowds had delivered their wisdom, the columnists had typed – braving a bit of hysteria, the ever-reasonable had allowed a soupcon of panic into their columns. The disaster metaphors had circled, abroad and in our skulls. Perfect storm, category 5, smoke rising over lower manhattan, past the window at speed. And then the historical comparisons: Like the 1980s, but bigger. Like the 1930s, only worse.

It will never arrive, the collapse. It will never arrive because they will not let it. That is the thing about abstraction, storytelling. But also, the nationalization of failure, counterfeit, false paper, the spoils of ill-fought battle, the moral hazard. Something else will fail, the currency, the state, the national welfare, but not this.

The EKG is not broken; it’s the patient that’s undead.

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September 15, 2008 at 2:42 pm

cage match

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CNBC:

“This is a perfect storm in a perfect storm,” said Justin Urquhart Stewart, investment director at 7 Investment Management. “It’s a return to pure capitalism, the survival of the fittest — government can’t and won’t bail everybody out.”

That’s the spirit! Get off your welfare-engorged asses and fight like the rest of us!

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September 15, 2008 at 1:52 pm

Posted in catastrophe, markets

“seek for seas / They never find”

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I have a post coming soon, a wee bit belatedly, on what I mean by “ads without products.” It’s only been 2.5 years – what’s the rush? (Problem is I’m still figuring it out myself…)

For now, here’s a bit that inverts the logic of the ad without products. It’s the fifth part of Wallace Stevens’s “Sunday Morning” and you should probably go read the whole thing….

VI

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

Well, it’s a semi-inversion anyway. Again, I’ll say more later, but for now: there you are at the end and everything’s dressed just as it was back before the end… The “mystical” is great just after he runs the “Alas” equation out without quite getting there. And the way that “silken weavings” picks up the peignoir from the start of the piece is too much, too wonderful.

Maybe it’s not such an inversion after all. More to come. Too bad I didn’t get to this one in my “single day” post

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September 14, 2008 at 10:41 pm

dfw

with 4 comments

Ah, this is fucking terrible…

David Foster Wallace, the novelist, essayist and humorist best known for his 1997 tome “Infinite Jest,” was found dead last night at his home in Claremont, according to the Claremont Police Department. He was 46.

I’m usually unsentimental about such things, but this is terrible, and is upsetting me a bit. Who knows about Infinite Jest, fuck it really, but the stuff in Brief Interviews and especially Oblivion is excellent, as good as anything out there, writer’s writing, and all the rest.

Who can know what was going on, but it’s not a superfun lifepath, this one, no matter whether it seems to be turning out well, badly, or – as it always does or seems to do – somewhere in between, tending toward badly.

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September 14, 2008 at 12:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

the mitotic phase

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From the NY Times just now:

Lehman, one of the nation’s largest investment banks, said it expected to report a $3.9 billion loss for the third quarter, an even bigger deficit than analysts had forecast, and cut its dividend to shareholders. It also announced long-expected plans to sell most of its prized investment management division and, more radically, to split itself into a “good” bank and a “bad” one.

The split, a strategy employed with mixed success by several other banks in the 1980s and 1990s, would enable Lehman to isolate worrisome commercial mortgages and real estate.

Lehman planned to spin off about $30 billion of such problematical assets into a separate company — the “bad” bank — which would be owned by Lehman shareholders. The hope was that the holdings of the bad bank will eventually increase in value, yielding profits for its shareholders.

No, it’s a brilliant idea. And following Lehman’s lead, I am delighted to announce that as of 00:00 12/9/08 GMT, I will split myself into two entities, a “good” CR and a “bad” CR.

The former will henceforth spend his evenings reworking his manuscript per the reader’s orders, will limit his alcohol consumption to UK government’s suggested 28 units per week, and will only blog about high-minded matters and without self-involvement.

The latter will continue to spend afternoons in a crappy coffeehouse filling up a moleskine with poetry better written back when he was a kid, continue writing posts that he wakes up to regret the next morning, and will check the JIL * first thing tomorrow because he was both made and broken by that system and refuses to recover from his addiction, even though he’s no longer on the market.

I’m not sure I understand the technicals of the Lehman thing, but seems a wee bit unfair, no?

* Good luck, JILers of the world.

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September 11, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Posted in economics, me

not yet, not yet, picture mickey mantle, picture joe d…

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I’m not an Ian McEwan fan. Look, he writes very elegantly. And Saturday is an excellent teaching text (in large part because you get to show students something fairly subtle about the Iraq War, rationalization, and a particularly novelistic form of lying…) His politics are… not very good… And he is one very clear case where the bad politics make for aesthetic failure. You’re really not supposed to be able to label a properly written novel symptomatic this quickly, but there’s no other word for what Saturday is. But that’s another post.

But I am reading On Chesil Beach right now, for some reason or another. Might have something more substantive to say about it soon. But for now I wanted to share something quite excellent with you. The situation is, basically, that a young man and a young woman have just been married and are spending their honeymoon night at an inn on the Dorset coast. Both are virgins. He is tremendously excited to get laid for the first time; she is absolutely revolted by the thought of sex. They’re about to get it on for the first time, and he’s totally misreading her panic reaction as an erotic swoon:

He was thrilled by the light touch of her hands, not so very far from his groin, and by the compliance of her lovely body enfolded in his arms and the passionate sound of her breathing rapidly through her nostrils. It brought him to a point of unfamiliar ecstasy, cold and sharp and just below the ribs, the way her tongue gently enveloped his and he pushed against it. Perhaps he could persuade her one day soon – perhaps this evening, and she might need no persuading – to take his cock into her soft and beautiful mouth. But that was a thought he needed to scramble away from as fast as he could, for he was in real danger of arriving too soon. He could feel it already beginning, tipping him toward disgrace. Just in time, he thought of the news, of the face of the prime minister, Harold Macmillan, tall, stooping, walruslike, a war hero, an old buffer – he was everything that was not sex, and ideal for the purpose. Trade gap, pay pause, resale price maintenance. Some cursed him for giving away the empire, but there was no choice really, with these winds of change blowing through Africa. No one would have taken that same message from a Labour man. And he had just sacked a third of his cabinet in the “night of the long knives.” That took some nerve. Mac the Knife, was one headline, Macbeth! was another. Serious-minded people complained he was burying the nation in an avalanche of TVs, cars, supermarkets and other junk. He let the people have what they wanted. Bread and circuses. A new nation, and now he wanted us to join Europe, and who could say for sure that he was wrong?

Now if you’ve read your Barthes, maybe you know where I’m going with this. Always awkward to do the groundwork of social contextualization when you’re doing your histoire d’amour. But here, the relationship is literalized: the social detail, political factuality, the newspapery stuff is what the novel, like the novel’s protagonist here, tells itself so that it does not come too quickly.

Perfect.

(About the title of this post. Avert your eyes if you’d like to maintain an image of me as a sexless demiurge tapping away at posts morning noon and night. OK. In the USA, the shorthand version of this practice as delivered in popular culture usually takes the form of “thinking of a ballplayer.” Which is very, you know, heteronormative and homosocial and all. But that’s not my point. It went around as a mini-trope when I was an adolescent and was sensitive to such information. But when it went around tv and movies during my adolescence, it usually went around as a practice of middle-aged men, middle-aged men who could remember a different era of baseball than I could. Usually, they “thought about” Mickey Mantle. Every once in awhile, Joe DiMaggio if they were a bit older. And so, any time I’ve been tempted to, erm, try the technique out myself, my mind’s eye fills up with sepia toned portraits of players I never watched, Mantle, DiMaggio. The idea is, I guess, is that the practice take you back to the innocent b/w tv years of childhood, when matters like coming too quickly – or coming at all –  were not yet on the table. But when you get blocked this way, and are instead delivered to a strange screen-image nostalgia rut and rude citationality, everything gets all askew, you grow pensive and kind of meta, and, well, I won’t go into details, but you know. It’s not the best place to be when you really are where you want to be.

But it’s OK. Next time, for sure, I will think about Harold Macmillan, whoever he was. Sure to work, especially since no image, sepia or otherwise, erm, comes to mind….)

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September 9, 2008 at 12:25 am

Posted in distraction, novel, sex