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expatriangst

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Every once in awhile, a flash of it: Time to go the fuck home. Semi-random times it comes, tonight on the stupid bus from Finsbury Park. For the familiar groceries and pizza, for the Yankees game on at an appropriate hour, for the New York Times not disguised and shortened as the International Herald Tribune. But mostly, honestly, it’s for people that I understand implicitly.

Someone was joking today about having no Gaydar. I said, yeah, that’s because you’re British, but what I really wanted to say is Imagine feeling that way all the time and not just about sexuality. I am an intuitive, empathetic guy, but that all goes wrong when stationed in a seductively similar place like London.

There’s always the job-list in September, especially if my book gets taken up by the Prestigious Press. Mid-June. We’ll see. I might not say, but you’ll be able to tell.

There’s always a post like this, which will truly have to be deleted when I go post-pseudonymous.

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May 5, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Posted in america

ads in sum

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Spending my Saturday rushing a bit to write… a paper that in a sense will encapsulate quite a bit of the argument of this blog over the years. (I mean especially when I was writing posts about things rather than simply being moody and attitudinal…) Luckily, looking back through my posts on the topic, I’m finding quite a lot of the paper pre-written. Perhaps I’ll post some bits of it up here, new stuff, as I go along and you can reassemble my talk at home…

But for now, let me repost one of the greatest ads ever made, something I know I’ve posted about four times already:

As I’ve said before, the ad

crosses a nascent geopolitical conflict with an aesthetic tension – a tension, actually, between two unreconcilable aesthetics: the collectivized bodies-as-machines of the Chinese against the pouty individualized hotness of the Americans. (Isn’t this, in a sense, the work that international athletics almost inevitably performs? Jesse Owens’s sole black body against the Riefenstahl logic of Hitler’s review platform etc… War by other means – by means that come closer to the aesthetic register than any other…)

Until today, I hadn’t considered the very opening shot – where she is woken up by the shaking glass of water – is playing on a disaster / crisis trope that’s very 2003. Something’s happened out there… And indeed it has – but not the thing that most media were trying to get us to worry about circa 2003. And it further occurs to me today that there’s something more to it than I wrote in the earlier post that brings into the picture something quite uncanny. The conflict, yes. And while the ad is focalized through the Americans’ experience of the confrontation, at the same time it’s utterly clear that the ad isn’t taking sides, isn’t picking a winner… Or, really, if there is a prediction in play, it has to go with the Chinese, who can do all that while the Americans have nothing to counter it with but attitude and haircuts. All this mirrors the fact that the corporation that produced it is hedging its bets between its old marketing base and the booming new markets of Asia, their burgeoning new urban middle classes. The ad was in fact shown both in the USA and China in the run-up to the 2003 Women’s World Cup, thus the dual language titles at the end…. The very fact that Adidas could and would make an ad for both markets is significant subtext of the ad itself, and informs the unsettling strangeness of its content. We still see the world through your eyes, America, but the fact of the matter is that this might be about to change.

Anyway, exciting stuff. Perhaps I ought to write the hard stuff now about Marcuse and Marxism and Bernays and the rest. Tempting to fill up the entire thing with unmediated ad clips that simply tell the whole story I’m trying to tell… Hmmm… Not avanty enough for that, I don’t think. And my wife’s going to come to the paper, at least if the babysitter accomodates, so I’d like to make it, you know, good.

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February 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Posted in ads, america, china

someone smelled anglophobia, but it’s more complicated than that…

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Every once in a while, a work-permit American gets the sense that things are slightly, well, retrograde when it comes to good old political correctness, academically speaking, in the UK. But then the American reads an essay by an American visiting student, and remembers how uselessly sanctimonious everything is back home. Jesus! And how politically and personally confusing! The student will think from my comments that I’m some sort of weirdly rightist lecturer in English, when all I’m trying to do is to get her to make things slightly more difficult for herself…

Teaching is somewhat difficult, at times…

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February 25, 2010 at 1:18 am

Posted in academia, america

obama on k street

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Frank Rich and Thomas Frank, both excellent on Obama’s failure to “tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over,” as he promised during his campaign. If you read carefully, you’ll see where Rich seems to lift a bit from Frank only to double it down quite nicely – has to do with the poster above.

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October 4, 2009 at 8:39 am

Posted in america

sunday post – 660 AM

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We almost always end up eating separately, in various combinations, now. Sometimes it’s my wife and I in the kitchen and the kids in the other room (in front of the tv, ugh, sorry god of parenting!) but tonight it was my wife and the baby in the living room and my daughter and I at the table in the garden.

She actually sits and the table and eats. She is 4 and I am still 32. Negotiates, of course, but does eat. There is corn on her plate – they call it sweetcorn here, but I say of course it’s sweet, it’s corn for christ’s sake! She doesn’t want to eat it because it is yellow and yellow “is not a tasty color.” I know what she means, but still – it’s fucking corn!

I tell her that she is American, and that all Americans, by nature and nuture, love corn and so she should eat it. She reiterates the issue of the yellowness. But still she is sitting and eating with me, alone at a table and under the broad London sky, and I think a new thought: ah, a lifetime of having dinner with my daughter. I will take her out when she is 8 and when she is 16. I will visit her at the university she attends – maybe I’ll give a paper at the university she attends and have dinner with her after. I will be older then, and she will tell her friends that she is having dinner with her father, who is giving a paper.  And then later too, when she is working and loving and maybe having her own kids. We will sit like this.

I am surrounded by females. It is as if someone were around to bless me because this is not what I deserve. I deserve much worse than to be surrounded by females, which is what I would have selected from the menu if menu there were.

I tell her about corn on the cob. It is astounding, in a sense, that she does not know what this is. When I was growing up, I can remember right from the start the special corncob holders, the plastic holders with metal spikes. I will get her some – they sell corn on the cob at Tesco, I noticed. The holders may have to wait till we’re in the US at Christmas.

I decide that we should listen to the Yankee game, in the late summer eating dinner in the garden – in our yard. But the iPhone indicates that the Yankees are playing later. We try the Mets instead – and the iPhone feed is WFAN. I tell her that her grandfather and I listened to WFAN together all the time, and before WFAN was WFAN we listened to its predecessor, WNBC. Both at 66o AM in New York, in New Jersey. She asks if Poppy is listening to this too, the Mets game, and I tell her maybe, though I doubt it. I tell her that we listened to this station while he drove me to school everyday, and since she has just in the last week or so started going to school herself, she is interested.

I eat my salad and my buttered bread. I soak up the dressing with the last piece. I promise to dance with her if she eats four bites of the corn that she calls sweetcorn, and she does, and we then dance.

I’ll be a better father to them the older they get. I tell myself this, but it is probably true. My daughter, at any rate, is now a person, one who eats dinner with her father and talks about stuff.

I hope all of  the females in my life will forgive me –  I will get better at this as I go along.


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September 20, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Posted in america, in the yard

it’s time

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Obama and Dems getting aggregate, and getting out ahead of the kitchen table ads that are bound to be on their way. No one expects single-payer at this point, but please let’s open some Overton Windows!

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July 19, 2009 at 12:59 am

Posted in america, socialism

americorps realism

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This photo, which accompanies this NYT article on the “digital switchover” in the US, is captioned “Danielle Eberhardt, front, and Katherine Daniel of AmeriCorps set up a TV converter box for Laura Wilson, left, in Baltimore.”

There is something at once thrilling and unsettling about this picture… I’ve never been sure about the studium / punctum distinction, but there’s a whole list of points of interest that grab the eye: the rabbit ears of course and what they’re streaming through the set, the khaki shorts of the corpswoman, the double rhyme of the color of the lamp and the paintscheme of the truck and of the off-kilterness of the lampshade and the off-kilterness of the photograph itself (look at the upper-left-hand corner).

Ah, no, that’s not it at all – being too specific about this. It’s the fact the photograph is a bizarre half-echo of socialst realism – technocratic youth come to the workers’ districts in uniform, bringing digital enlightment to the masses! Funny how easy it is for America to wear these clothes, but only fractionally, half-wholeheartedly, and with the framing all aslant….

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June 7, 2009 at 8:28 am

Posted in america, photography

ghost airports: fantasies of over-capacity

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The BBC on a South Korean “ghost airport”:

Yangyang International is an airport looking for a reason to exist. Built on South Korea’s east coast just seven years ago, you won’t find any delays or long queues here. In fact, you won’t find any passengers at all.

The initial vision could not have been more different.

Up to three million people a year were meant to throng the gleaming floors of the departure and arrival halls, built at a cost of almost $400m (£260m).

But last year an average of just 26 passengers a day came through the doors, vastly outnumbered by the 146 airport staff on hand to serve them.

In November the last commercial flight took off, and the terminal became what the Korean national press has dubbed a “ghost airport”, an impressive monument to overestimated demand.

The novel that I’m working on this summer basically starts in an airport like this one… I’m trying to think just what the fascination is, for me or in general, with this sort of space. Asia, in my limited experience, is full to the brim with things like this – empty airports built to serve as-yet-non-existent populations, high-volume roadways built for the traffic and trade of 2030 rather than 1958.

Americans on the other hand make do with the opposite – infrastructural elements always seem to be handling triple the load they were intended to handle and living on thirty-years past their projected obsolescence horizon. If an airport is under-crowded in the US, this is generally because the city to which it is attached is in the process of dying. We might even say that the Asian ghost airport is the geopolitical inversion of that utterly common American form – the ruin formed by the triple processes of state defunding, creative destruction and geographical dislocation.

So, while the Korean airport discussed in the BBC piece seems to have been born of political corruption – and even America has its own cases of that sort of thing – there’s still something to this I think. While it’s not at all hard to drive around the US finding the architectural materialization of private-sector speculations and public-sector dereliction, things like empty bullet-trains to unbuilt cities, hulking universities for student populations not yet born, hospitals for patients not yet sick, and slick public housing for populations yet to arrive but who vividly anticipated are very difficult to imagine in anything other than the light of the utopian apparitions. Those of us familiar with the post-industrial portions of the USA, the northeast and the Great Lakes region, know only the bent tracks and silted canals and abandoned silos and factories – the native flora cast in concrete and iron of unemployment, casualization, and privatization.

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May 23, 2009 at 9:59 pm

i left just at the wrong time

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Normally wouldn’t import a whole post (from Lenin’s Tomb), but this is astounding:

Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.

Investors by a 5-to-1 margin choose capitalism. As for those who do not invest, 40% say capitalism is better while 25% prefer socialism.

There is a partisan gap as well. Republicans – by an 11-to-1 margin – favor capitalism. Democrats are much more closely divided: Just 39% say capitalism is better while 30% prefer socialism. As for those not affiliated with either major political party, 48% say capitalism is best, and 21% opt for socialism.

(link)

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April 9, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Posted in america, socialism

rust

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Via wood s lot, a series of 100 photos by Kevin Bauman of abandonned houses. I’m guessing they’re from Detroit from the look of them and from the photographer’s biographical statement.

It’s hard to explain to people elsewhere about America. Can’t ever hit that sort of tragic pitch, the one that works just right without false tears and advertising tactics. It’s gotten even harder, I suppose, since the celebrity cities that people are likely to have visited have completed the great shift that happened just at the start of the bubble – that was in fact the run-up to the bubble – with the creatives leaving their parental suburban homes to bed in “post-Giuliani” Brooklyn, get advanced degrees, have children, and start worrying about the local primary schools and complaining about the graffiti on the swingsets.

I remember my first night living in the rust belt, the elsewhere of the place, not at all unfamiliar to me for reasons geographical, macro-economic, biographical, and familial, but still thick after Brooklyn. I lived in a house not unlike the one pictured above, at least structurally. Beautiful hardwood, a crazed Swiss theme to the outside, overlooking a large circular park in the center of the city.

A feral cat with one eye lived in the bushes by the front door. Kids re-enacted scenes from The Wire in the park in front; my wife would watch them as she breastfed in the baby’s room. A car would pull up to the circle, idle on the median, and a little black kid would come bounding around the corner, hand something to the driver through the passenger-side window, and then sprint away in the other direction. When we called the police about this, they said they knew – said they were working on it. They never came.

You could walk to a supermarket that opened the week we moved in and closed ten months later. But it wasn’t a nice supermarket, so we drove out on weekends to one in the suburbs.

When then pipes clogged the basement filled to ankle depth with raw sewage. The place felt fuller of narrative, narrative potential, than any place I’ve ever lived before. That first night, fearful and panging already for Brooklyn, I thought to myself, This is the sort of place where one sinks back and writes. There are things, even in the little backyard, the house next door, to write. Be calm, or panic if you must, but there is work here.

And then I left for England, almost exactly thirty months after I arrived.

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April 1, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Posted in america

u.s.s.a.

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Just keeping a running count of things like this:

It seems that “socialist” has supplanted “liberal” as the go-to slur among much of a conservative world confronting a one-two-three punch of bank bailouts, budget blowouts and stimulus bills. Right-leaning bloggers and talk radio hosts are wearing out the brickbat. Senate and House Republicans have been tripping over their podiums to invoke it. The S-bomb has become as surefire a red-meat line at conservative gatherings as “Clinton” was in the 1990s and “Pelosi” is today.

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February 28, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Posted in america, socialism

and then suddenly he receives a MacArthur “genius” grant

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!!!!

Synecdoche, N.Y. Well, yes. And there’s lots for me to say about it, I think, but most of it’s still working its way out. And, look, I understand that there’s a certain (hohoho) degree of identification that’s at work in how I watched the thing.

But one thing for now.

One thing that is amazing is how hard Kaufman goes at, among so many others but in particular, Lars Von Trier and David Lynch. With Von Trier: Kaufman enframes the gesture of staging the epical theatrical work on the unfinished floor of the unfinished studio space, in effect thematizing and really psycho/aesthetico-pathologizing the primary formal conceit of LVT’s semi-completed, seemingly-halted two part triology. All of these actors carrying on daily life insanely in an unmarked, inapproriate production space in SNY slips into what it perhaps always was: not just a Brechtian estrangement technique, but more pressingly a seriously belated estrangement technique that slides over into directorial sadism verging on the pervvy interest in making people perform ordinary actions as if unobserved and in inappropriate locales. (The bit where Cotard [spoiler!] sees his daughter performing behind glass would be the underscoring echo here…)

I even wonder if the little tiny traumwitz about the set of twins with three names isn’t a sort of crosshanded smack at Von Trier and the fact that the third part of USA – Land of Opportunities trilogy has a name but no substantial presence. Three names for two films. And throwing Emily Watson into film – who’s never quite lived up to her early performance in Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves – only underscores what Kaufman is working through here….

With Lynch: Kaufman appropriates the movie-as-screen-fantasy-for-inappropriate-desire and relegates it to the status of just one of many possibilities for the ultimate “meaning” of the film. Further, it is distinctly a “relegation” because repressed or not-quite repressed homosexuality of the protagonist is perhaps the least interesting possibility of the many on offer. When (spoiler, I guess) Cotard’s daughter asks him for an apology for running off to have “anal sex” with his homosexual lover, we feel that we’ve arrived at a place where reductive resolution to the questions on offer in the film has been offered to us, and we’re glad when the film moves past it. In short, Synecdoche exposes the ultimate reductive simplicity of Mulholland Drive (lost Hollywood, yes, fucked up love affair, yes, broken career, sure) – which is an incredibly ballsy and unexpected bit of meta-critique, and incredibly effective for its ballsiness and unexpectedness.

(Oh, and the old lady in the hall outside his ex-wife’s apartment is the lady from Mulholland Drive, Coco, right? Sorry – I have crap for internet tonight, so my research opps are a bit crimped…)

He hits these two very, very hard, I think, while at the same time swiping enough from them that the entire film comes to seem to be something paradoxically like a retaliatory homage, a devastating genuflection. There’s lots of other meta-theatrical and cinematic work to talk about, ranging from the small but lovely joke about Harold Pinter at the start of the thing to the amazing homage to Samuel Beckett at the end.

Truly, the metatextual stuff is the easiest thing to talk about – there are way better things to take up. Not the least of which is Kaufman’s presentation of the particular sort of mental / spiritual illness whose primary symptom is having a career that teeters between miserable local productions (whether staged at the Schenectady community playhouse or they feature Nicholas Cage) and impossible ambition bent (but distractedly so) on nothing less than world encompassing hypermimesis (there’s 17 million people in the world and each one of them…) that nonetheless resolves down to death and dating. And further, CK’s contextualization of this malady in turn as a symptom of a particular sort of white male early middle-agedness and early-middle-aged life-situation is, well, similar at least to one of the barely but all-too-visible subthemes of this blog, among many, many other things.

Trying to work this shit out while living in a dying old company town upstate is at once something I’m intimately familar with (I’ve heard the local academics talking seasonal poetry on NPR, yes I have) and a consumately American theme that touches on the less-than-volatile relationship between intellectual and material production in the era of diminishing returns, returns that just keep diminishing and on all fronts at once.

Oh, and how all that there relates to an unstinting preoccupation with dystopian collapse. Yep, that’s there too. Jesus.

More when I can.

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December 23, 2008 at 8:00 pm

my holiday’s more ballardian than yours

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Shooting so far with the iPhone camera. I think it adds to the effect, but sorry in advance… Imagine it adds to the effect even if it doesn’t!

My daughter, lucky her and thank god, has become urban enough a kid that while she pukes almost automatically in cars, she’s quite content on the train, in this case Gatwick Express. She colors pictures of famous TV pigs instead of throwing up. The ticket guy never came around and so we’re ₤30 up for the trip. As of last night’s rates, that’s almost $12 or €4.

Gatwick was a madhouse!!!!!! Actually, it wasn’t. It was fine. Funny that, on some level, we’ve come to think a strange set of perverse thoughts about things like this. The airport is something less than nightmarishly crowded, and just a week before Xmas! The world will end just after the start of 2009! This is the second to last plane ride I’ll ever take!

The crisis is tough to visualize, to render visible, when strange logics set the score. It’s an ordinarily busy day at the airport / mall / supermarket…. Except that ordinary is extrordinarily bad!

I’ve seen this sort of machine before in the lobby of a very downmarket hotel in Bloombury, but here it is in the US Air depature lounge. Books like candybars, like prophylactics in the men’s room! Obviously, I’m not often in the market for the sort of stuff dispensed – soduku isn’t my game. But I like the idea at back of this. Only I think they should take it further. No author’s names, no titles. Just covers of varying colors, and texts composed by Boolean algorithm to somehow suit the shade in question. The green brings Thoreauvian meditations on pond scum cut with Irvine Welsh describing the inscape of a glaswegian pubpot. Mauve runs you choice bits of homopanic in Victorian novels as well as extrapornolatemiddleaged chic lit. I don’t know – maybe this needs another post. I’m running out of battery and have to move on.

My vacation reading unfortunately doesn’t come out of a machine and includes, more or less exclusively, this 1000 page novel that I a) have never actually read before and b) will intensively teach this term. It’s brilliant but, yeah, long. And so far on this trip I alternate between only three positions: 1) free to read but unable because I am sitting on an airplane and nicotine withdrawal makes attention and retention difficult for me 2) unable to read because I’m busy vacationing and/or 3) unable to read because I’m so fucking tired and/or blogging instead.

Fuck I’m back.

The end of the boom means, perhaps, that there’ll be no one left to put ads in strange spaces. Sixty seconds of prime time during the season finale of I’ll Do Anything For Money! Well, No, Not That. How Much Again? Well OK…. will cost as much as this traytable did to  clutter adhesively.

Finally here after 21 hours, door to door. The iPhone’s camera captures only the spectral essence of other condos at night. It’s not a special setting; it’s just that the camera sucks.

There, that’s better. My father took the car keys this morning, so I was forced to walk to Barnes and Noble in order to get my morningly Mayfairs in and to stock up on the daily news. But it’s good – walking allows for better photoessayism.

A portrait of the artist as a shadow on a decorative rock.

The famous Ballard River of southwest Florida. You notice that it sprouts rather unceremoniously out of otherwise normal looking grass and soil, and that it’s too small to be a river or a stream. Things in American quasi-suburban developments are always and at turns either too large or too small. Nothing is ever just the right size.

I used to think of this place in Florida where I keep coming as a sort of American Herculaneum, a beach resort where the sons and daughters of the Empire would frolic, especially in their golden years. It’s all a bit more tame than that, I suppose. And even tamer now, as it’s core constituency is made up of retirees from GM and some of the other car companies. There are Michigan plates all over the place. I should write about it, do a bit of research and write something. But I’d rather photoblog, so, here:

The underworks of American sprawl hide in the bushes. At night, the pipes and plugs slide off their groundings to enact the brutish rituals that keep America running, keep the shit flowing into the sea. I was thinking I’d like to hide in the bushes with them, and was about to until a security van slowed down to figure out why I was holding the iPhone sideways and peering into the bushes…

But the good news is, following from recent events in Greece and at 5th Avenue and 14th Street, a wee little communist republic has declared it’s sovereignty over this patch of very thick grass. Either that or landscapers have recently treated this grass with pesticides that will kill your dog or infant if either steps on it and then licks the appendage in question, as dogs and infants are wont to do.

Where? You’ve got some? Well maybe they currently have it in stock, but just you wait to see what happens if the Fed injections finally do comfort or provoke the banks into lending money to each other and other businesses. Wait, if? I mean when, right? After all, that’s the point of TARP, if I’m not mistaken. When that happens, good old U.S. Trust – in the greenback, in the guys administering the bailout, in Paul Krugman, in ourselves and our way of life – will have to close up shop. Perhaps a dollar ten dollar store will open up in its place.

Ah, here’s the sole pathway through the bushes that gets me from the semi-sidewalk of the five lane road I walk from apartment building to bookstore. Without it, I’d be jumping the hedge – and hedge jumping, you may not know, is illegal in the USA.

Now we’re in the store itself. Ah, Carrie, I know what you mean. I’m eighteen days without a drink and counting. It’s a test being here, what with the parents driving-me-to and the cold beer on offer at the beach. On the other hand, and luckily, all of Florida taken together still contains fewer drinking opportunities than a single block of Tottenham Court Road, so on balance being here is something of a relief.

I have decided that when and if I actually get a book to print I will not be pictured in the guise of any of the many space opera characters I have played. Gotta take your stand somewhere – are you hearing me HUP?

There’s a specter haunting American book jacket design, a specter called Hatherleyism….

Hey, there’s the boys! Hemingway, Orwell, Nabokov, Joyce and some unnamed chick who loves the coffee… It’s a little known fact that these murals were actually painted on the escalator overhangs by leftist artists employed by the WPA during the Great Depression. Rumor has it that some of us will soon be paid to add new panels featuring present day celebrity authors including Gordon Ramsey, Jewel, Dr. Phil, Bill O’Reilly and, yep, Carrie Fisher.

I bought no books, as I have no time to read anything but the monstrous Bleak House but I did get a stack of papers. Which? Oh, just the NY Times, USA Today (sports section, especially for dad who only reads the sports sections of things), the local paper, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial TImes (better over here, weirdly, than in the UK, because it’s tauter), the NY Post, and, yes, the Daily Mail (choice was this or The Sun… ugh…) The latter is important because, well, now I understand what my GP was up to the other day when he kept asking what year it was and who the current prime minister is. And I was only in for a sinus infection!

BTW. I read each and every one of those papers today, though I’ll admit I skimmed the WSJ. Cost me $11.50 in total! And I’ll buy them all over again tomorrow! Vacation!

Man, are there a lot of fucking churches in America. This despite the fact that 3/4 of them have been turned into condos. Maybe 3/4 of those in turn about to be retrofitted back into churches as the nation comes to grips with its abhorrence in god’s eyes or something…

On the church’s front lawn, they had a mock up of some new form of temporary housing for those whose homes have been repossessed. It’s not as nice as those IKEA prefab apartments that come flatpacked in a box, but they are, from appearances, pet friendly and that’s something as rural Americans love their barnyard companions.

I couldn’t believe my good fortune when, as I made my way back to our place, I found an uncannily perfect image to end this photoessay on. What unforeseeable, romantic comedy-style, luck! A positive case of um

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December 23, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Posted in america, photoessay, travel

first time as woolworth’s, the second time as woolworths

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This is the second time I’ve had a Woolworth(‘)s close in my town. The first was in the middle of the early-nineties recession, that hit New York and environs harder than anywhere else in the US. (Can remember the teacher giving us a talk about parents being laid off and what this means and doesn’t mean… Someone must have been absent that day…) Woolworth’s closed for good in 1993, turning into a Foot Locker, when I was fifteen years old. (Weird! Just found this!)

Last night, the remaining employees at the one at the center of my little urban village were standing outside smoking and talking churlishly to the passerbys who seemed drawn to speak to them as if they were strange, minor celebrities for a night. “Yeah the store’s closing. Yeah you might have seen something about it on the telly?” I was nervous about taking the shots with my phone’s camera. I didn’t want them to see me taking them, or if they did, to be where I could get out of earshot as quickly as possible. But still, I too wanted a souvenir, something for the blog.

Oh and you should go read this for sure….

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December 13, 2008 at 12:25 pm

bakery closure microtragedy / fits on one page

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From the NYT and via Bitch Ph.D.:

Starla D. Darling, 27, was pregnant when she learned that her insurance coverage was about to end. She rushed to the hospital, took a medication to induce labor and then had an emergency Caesarean section, in the hope that her Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan would pay for the delivery.

[…]

Ms. Darling [was] among 275 people who worked at an Archway cookie factory here in north central Ohio. The company provided excellent health benefits. But the plant shut down abruptly this fall, leaving workers without coverage, like millions of people battered by the worst economic crisis since the Depression.

[…]

Ms. Darling, who was pregnant when her insurance ran out, worked at Archway for eight years, and her father, Franklin J. Phillips, worked there for 24 years.

“When I heard that I was losing my insurance,” she said, “I was scared. I remember that the bill for my son’s delivery in 2005 was about $9,000, and I knew I would never be able to pay that by myself.”

So Ms. Darling asked her midwife to induce labor two days before her health insurance expired.

“I was determined that we were getting this baby out, and it was going to be paid for,” said Ms. Darling, who was interviewed at her home here as she cradled the infant in her arms.

As it turned out, the insurance company denied her claim, leaving Ms. Darling with more than $17,000 in medical bills.

Some of you might have taken a look at my strange, unfinished little dystopian fiction, part of which I posted for you to download a few weeks ago. Well, this is, in a sense, just the sort of thing I was anticipating and trying to render… The thousands and thousands of microtragedies and banal collapses that will come of this thing, this thing that has been inevitable and totally visible from a long, long way back. In a sense, I’ve clipped this NYT story into a shape that would have fit almost without seam into the project… There’s more to be said about why that would matter, the size and the shape of this type of story, and I’ll get to it soon if not (tempting!) later tonight.

(BTW, there is no such thing as a “cookie factory,” as the NYT has it. They are called bakeries… Believe me, I would know, but not for any admirable reason…)

Written by adswithoutproducts

December 9, 2008 at 10:35 pm