Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

Apr
21

So I registered for Margaret Christakos‘s 8th “Influency” poetry salon, which is a ways outside of my comfort zone (though it’s proven to be pretty great). The routine is that we read a recent book by a prominent contemporary Canadian poet per week. At the salon, that poet is presented and discussed in a lecture by another prominent contemporary Canadian poet (who will also at some point be under our microscope), they then do a reading, and we have a Q&A. As follow-up, we’re to then write up a short review.

Last week, our focus was Carmine Starnino’s GG Award-nominated collection, “This Way Out.” I took the easy way out for me, and made it about social theory. I’m going to try not to do that so much in the future. Anyway, find my trial run below. (Note: Yes, I know I’m being a bit ridiculous. I feel a bit ridiculous. I hope to get better at not being ridiculous in the future. Pray for me).

~

As I mentioned in class, Starnino’s book immediately evoked memories for me from undergrad; of reading Sartre’s No Exit. In light of this imagined conversation, my reading was coloured somewhat differently than I think it might otherwise have been.

The evocations came in the form of, first, the books’ titles’ perfect and simple disagreement, and second the visual echoes in my editions’ cover designs: a slashing diagonal of text, interrupting a larger pattern of forms. But there are inversions and disagreements here too: Sartre’s coffin-liner purple, thick black, and harsh red are replaced by Starnino with two tones of soft green; Sartre’s sans-serif font couldn’t contrast more with Starnino’s leafy Rialto (named, we’re told, after a bridge in Venice (77), only one of the most subtle of the many instantiations of Starnino’s poetry’s embeddedness in places so much less abstract than Sartre’s imagined drawing room in hell); and while the slashing diagonal text, dwarfed by the larger pattern of forms, is for Sartre occasion merely for a subtitle, Starnino disagrees, and instead asserts its importance over the larger pattern by granting it the honour of hosting his title. The way out, this juxtaposition tells us, is through those things that Sartre treats as peripheral, utilitarian, squash racket-like.

Sartre’s biography is present in the work. For example, Nietzsche, among Sartre’s most famous influences, makes an appearance in Starnino’s first letter from Rome. Culminating a description of his room in the ancient city, he writes:

If, as Nietzsche said, we should try to live
always in expectation of some impossible grace
well, one couldn’t do better than this place.

Note that no sentiment would be more out of place in Sartre’s hell. I picture Starnino gripping Nietzsche by the moustache, swinging him around in two wide arcs before hammer-throwing him straight into Sartre’s face.

For another example, the woman whose body rests beside his in Montparnasse, Simone de Beauvoir’s absence is explicitly felt in “Lucky Me”:

…my mother

who always seemed to draw the short straw,
always found herself on the wrong end of every risk,

tetchy and resentful, glum, bombshell
of her courtship, now counting out the chores,

who never read Chopin, Woolf, Plath or Rich,
never summoned the Second Sex as witness

to self-deception about the life she was lent…

Her absence underlines the modesty and struggle of his mother’s pre-feminist life; to me a juxtaposition to the decadent position from which Sartre wrote his abstract anguish: Sartre, not even a woman, having at his disposal (and often disposing of) perhaps the greatest feminist thinker of the 20th Century, and writing the play’s tagline “l’enfer c’est les autre” while the poet’s mother had at her disposal only her poverty, drudgery, memories of failure, and resentment. Tell us again, Sartre, what and where hell is?

The book is infused with an authenticity that is embedded in reality; that is affirmed and redeemed through its interaction with phenomena that are more than subjective, more mutual than just death: the form of the lines on the page; the semi-transcendent poignancy of le mot juste, of place, of other people. I can think of no more direct way to repudiate the finality often given to Sartre’s conclusions in No Exit by his angsty fanboys-and-girls. So I call bullshit on Starnino’s denial of a relationship to Sartre’s play. Whether or not it was consciously engaged, it is engaged. But that doesn’t make it less as a work. Sartre’s themes of subjectivity and death and memory and regret are some of the most important in the human experience, and his explorations of them some of the most adventurous. But where Sartre becomes so absorbed in these themes that they generate for him an ethics so in awe of the mortal subject that it almost excludes practical, communicative application, quotidian conversation, the other as anything but either hostile or beside the point (a necessary precondition for taking an apologetic position on Stalinism I would think), Starnino is able to keep these important themes in his head and chew gum at the same time : recognizing the beauty and value of the smaller things (compared to death from a subjective perspective) that we do share with other people in the presence of death (see one of death’s quiet appearances in the word “lent” in the excerpt from “Lucky Me” above). He embraces familiar forms but isn’t trapped or limited by them.

The poem “Squash Rackets”—specifically pointed to as an example of not-worth-it-for-choice-of-object banality—read to me like a call for solidarity with, but also a call for self-examination with others who share a smallish (from an existential perspective) passion with him. Why did I read it that way? I suppose because within the context of the book, I’m willing to give him enough credit that he wouldn’t choose to write about something /only/ because it’s cool and he likes it (which is what Murakami seemed to suggest). And there is real meditation, and imagination, and expansiveness in his descriptions, the kind of heavy-for-being-true-at-a-more-immediate-level meaning that Starnino shows us can be carried with deceptive lightness by a relatively simple pleasure.

He’s able to do this for the simple reason that he takes the perspective of someone with a way out; there are doors to walk through, pages to be turned. And recognizing one’s stake in an inevitably social future beyond the scope of No Exit, where else but the details can one look for what might turn out to be significant?

Apr
19

Under the subject line “Adorno explains how Palin is able to deploy such psychologically sophisticated tactics…”, I recently sent Andrew Sullivan the following quote:

“The leader can guess the psychological wants and needs of those susceptible to his propaganda because he resembles them psychologically, and is distinguished from them by a capacity to express without inhibitions what is latent in them, rather than by any intrinsic superiority. The leaders are generally oral character types, with a compulsion to speak incessantly and to befool the others. The famous spell they exercise over their followers seems largely to depend on their orality: language itself, devoid of its rational significance, functions in a magical way and furthers those archaic regressions which reduce individuals to members of crowds. Since this very quality of uninhibited but largely associative speech presupposes at least a temporary lack of ego control, it may well indicate weakness rather than strength. The fascist agitators’ boasting of strength is indeed frequently accompanied by hints at such weakness, particularly when begging for monetary contributions – hints which, to be sure, are skillfully merged with the idea of strength itself. In order successfully to meet the unconscious dispositions of his audience, the agitator so to speak simply turns his own unconscious outward. His particular character syndrome makes it possible for him to do exactly this, and experience has taught him consciously to exploit this faculty, to make rational use of his irrationality, similarly to the actor, or a certain type of journalist who knows how to sell their innervations and sensitivity. Without knowing it, he is thus able to speak and act in accord with psychological theory for the simple reason that the psychological theory is true. All he has to do in order to make the psychology of his audience click, is shrewdly to exploit his own psychology.”

From p. 18 of “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda

It’s an amazing and shockingly current essay considering it’s almost 60 years old.

To my delight, he responded with the following:

wow. chilling.
thanks so much
andrew

Which led me to post the following status update to facebook:

ANDREW SULLIVAN REPLIED TO MY E-MAIL!

Open discourse in good faith

I reposted the Adorno quote, and soon a debate with “G”, a conservative-minded (I think I’ve heard him describe himself as a “paleo-Con”) friend about the applicability of the tactic Adorno describes to Obama. Though frustrating and sloppy at times, this debate was also, I think, illuminating (at least to me). I edited  the following only to eliminate the red-squiggly lines. I didn’t include a couple of the more procedural posts. And I merged multiple, consecutive posts into one (which may or may not have added clarity).

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov
09

You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but this Bar-B-Q Sauce jar has been implicated in more murders than John Wayne Gacy. The story of the jar revolves around “Wonderful America B-B-Q Ribs Restaurant,” a US-themed place owned by an elderly couple in the outskirts of Osaka Japan, just off a busy exit from the main north-bound highway. The couple had bought the jar on their honeymoon in California in 1954.

Up until her arrest three years ago, the restaurant was run by their now twenty-eight year old granddaughter, Miki. Miki had been a bio-chemistry student at Nagoya University when her parents died in 2001. The circumstances surrounding their deaths were odd but hardly bizarreyour basic hit and run. They’d just locked up and were walking across the parking lot in front of the restaurant when a 1998 silver Civic Ferio screeched in off of the ramp, off the road and into them, killing them both instantly. The moment was caught by two security cameras, but thanks to poor resolution and light, neither managed to capture the car’s license plates nor the driver’s face. The culprit has yet to be found.

Miki was devastated by the news, which found her in the middle of exams in her second to last term. She immediately dropped out and came home to live with her grandparents. They were sympathetic and indulged her grief, thinking she would go back to school soon enough. She never did.

A Criminal Investigation Bureau press release said that it was two years later that the first silver 1998 Civic Ferio with a confirmed immediate “Wonderful America B-B-Q Ribs Restaurant” connection crashed, this one about 45 miles down the highway (a bill retrieved from the driver’s wallet was found in the local precinct’s archives). Before suspicion was finally raised three years later, a total of 21 Ferios had crashed and 36 people had died in connection with the restaurant.

Upon her arrest Miki admitted to everything. She’d decided to take revenge on the car a year after moving back in with her grandparents, and had spent nine months synthesizing an adequately tasteless chemical solution that, when diluted in barbecue sauce, would have the delayed but sudden soporific effect she was looking for. She’d kept the chemical-laced sauce in the heirloom Bar-B-Q Sauce jar, hidden in a mini fridge in the managers’ officepainting ribs with its contents only when she saw a car of the right make, model,  year, and color pull into the lot.

As of writing this, Miki has served two and a half years of her life sentence. Her grandparents, out of shame, have yet to visit. In fact, shortly after her arrest they sold the restaurant, as well as every other possession they associated with their granddaughter. I bought the jar directly from Obaasan Mineko (Miki’s grandmother) who told me about its original purchase in America. It was only later, in reading through police, court, and news reports on-line, that I filled in the rest.

Now this murder weapon can be yours! Act fast, and bid high.

~

Note: This was my unsuccessful entry to this.

Aug
26

So I’m staying with a friend right now in New York while I try to get myself established. She however, has just taken off to visit her dad up in the Berkshires, leaving me responsible for her skittish but nevertheless lovely cat, Maggie. The problem is that I’m heading back for graduation tomorrow morning, and she’s not back until the following day.

I proposed that we ask a downstairs neighbour to come in and pet her and freshen her water at some point on Friday, to which Karin responded,

Oh no, don’t worry, I’ve left her alone for 2 days before a few times. You just need to leave her a lot of food [she’s a grazer, and wouldn’t eat it all at once anyway], and a few different bowls of water.

Parenthetically, I agree that that’s totally fine. Unless one has an extremely high strung cat, 36 hours every once in a while ought not be a huge deal. But accepting the point wouldn’t have been any fun, so I responded with the title of this post. I, of course, found myself hilarious and laughed considerably harder than she did (I think she was trying to decide whether or not to be offended). Anyway, new counterproductive “don’t worry…” lines have been coming to me all day. Here’s the list so far:

  • “Don’t worry, I’ve been smoking through my whole pregnancy…”
  • “Don’t worry, I’ve been calling her fat since she was a toddler…”
  • “Don’t worry, I always have a few drinks before going to bed…”
  • “Don’t worry, I always lie to my parole officer…”
  • “Don’t worry, I always wash my hands until they bleed…”
  • “Don’t worry, I’ve only ever crashed twice driving home from a bar…”
  • “Don’t worry, my five-year-old son always sits in the front seat…”
  • “Don’t worry, I never order more than a salad and a diet soda at dinner…”
  • “Don’t worry, I always wipe the needle off with my shirt first…”
  • “Don’t worry, I’ve been living without health insurance since I finished school…”
  • “Don’t worry about her, she’s always crying and covered in bruises…”
  • “Don’t worry, most of the killings in your neighbourhood happen three blocks South of your apartment…”
  • “Don’t worry, I’ve used this doctor for all of my abortions…”
  • “Don’t worry about her, she’s been a total bitch to everyone since starting chemotherapy…”
  • “Don’t worry, I always cry after someone touches me there…”
  • “Don’t worry, they’ve always been killing each other…”
  • “Don’t worry, it’s not just you, I think almost everybody’s going to hell…”
  • “Don’t worry, it’s not rape if it’s every night of our marriage…” (*cringe*)
  • “Don’t worry, we’ve killed dozens of other detainees since 2001…”

Try it. It’s fun! Suggestions? Submissions will be added both to this post (with attribution unless otherwise specified), and to the newly created “Don’t worry…” page at right.

Submissions:

  • “Don’t worry, the doctor says those particular type of anal warts aren’t contagious…” (Eric Sasson)
  • “Don’t worry, it always smells like gas in here. Pass the lighter…” (Eric Sasson)
  • “Don’t worry, I hear he/she likes small penises…” (Eric Sasson)
  • “Don’t worry, I saw this in a movie once…” (Grant Morgan)
  • “Don’t worry, I’ve been smoking so the cops won’t smell the booze on my breath…” (Grant Morgan)
  • “Don’t worry, we’ll just paint over the water damage…” (Grant Morgan)
  • “Don’t worry, the transmission won’t smell by the time he gets the car back…” (Grant Morgan)
  • “Don’t worry, they don’t have the guts to shoot anyone…” (Grant Morgan)
  • “Don’t worry, the AIDS will kill the baby…” (Grant Morgan)
  • “Don’t worry, it isn’t ethnic cleansing if the world community doesn’t notice…” (DM)
  • “Don’t worry, I always let my son lie on top of the oil derrick…” (DM, channeling Daniel Plainview)
  • “Don’t worry, God never answers…” (DM)
  • “Don’t worry, my friend Eli Roth thinks that a Nazi comedy-revenge-fantasy pastiche is a good idea…” (DM)
  • “Don’t worry, OSHA’s never going to inspect it…” (Tom) (presumably OSHA = Occupational Health and Safety Organization)
  • “Don’t worry, I’ll pull out before I finish…” (Tom)
  • “Don’t worry, I have a concealed weapons permit…” (Tom)
  • “Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure marijuana is legal here…” (Tom)
  • “Don’t worry, my car’s been making that noise since I bought it…” (Tom)

Aug
25

Cheney was too long with the ring of power. Sullivan responds with what his assistant blogger Chris Bodenner aptly labelsa barnburner.”  Sample:

King is right, of course, that the difference between what Bush authorized and the new revelations is non-existent. There is no moral or legal distinction between subjecting someone to 960 hours of sleep deprivation (as Bush did to Qahtani), or slamming people against walls, of freezing them to near-death, or murdering them by stress position … and threatening to murder someone’s kids or stage a mock execution. But King then draws the inference that all of it is fine, as long as it cannot be portrayed in the tabloids as literally drilling through a detainee’s skull. (He seems unaware that this would actually kill someone, not torture them.)

But King is not alone in believing that the US should be less restrained by moral qualms than Iranians demand of their own illegitimate regime. Indeed, much of the American people, especially evangelical Christians, expect less in terms of human rights from their own government than Iranians do of theirs’. In fact, American evangelicals are much more pro-torture in this respect than many Iranian Muslims.

This is what Bush and Cheney truly achieved in their tragic response to 9/11: two terribly failed, brutally expensive wars, the revival of sectarian warfare and genocide in the Middle East, the end of America’s global moral authority, the empowerment of Iran’s and North Korea’s dictatorships, and the nightmares of Gitmo and Bagram still haunting the new administration.

Something broke in Cheney with 9/11, for which I feel sympathy. Sadly the world was subject to his subsequent spiral of terrified flailing, culpability, guilt, and terrified and flailing ass-covering. The man needed to be in therapy. Now, IMHO, he needs to be in jail. Instead he continues to enjoy the legitimacy of the highest halls of the purportedly thinking right…

Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute's "Annual Black-Tie Gala."

Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute's "Annual Black-Tie Gala."

Photo via Tim Mak.

~

On another note, I stumbled onto Dramatica’s entry on Sullivan and thought it was priceless (if decidedly NSFW). Sample:

Andrew Sullivan has near superhuman empathy with the victims of torture. Whenever anyone, anywhere in the world is tortured, his butt begins to tingle and hurt. It doesn’t matter whether the victim is being water-boarded, fed feet first through a wood-chipper, or simply wrapped in the Israeli flag; St. Andrew can feel his pain. Because of this, Sully must blog at least 100 times a week about torture, or his empathic powers will overwhelm his already fragile herpes-addled brain and drive him insane.

Irrepressible!

Aug
21

It hurt, but in a good way. That is all.

~

UPDATE: A friend of mine posted a link to A.O. Scott’s review of the movie at the NYT, flagging it by saying “I thought this was great. But it’s not for the queasy.” What follows is the debate that ensued:

DM: Really? I thought that the political statements of the first 30 minutes were entirely undermined by the action film tacked on to the final hour – to spend so much time “humanizing” aliens, only to turn around and de-humanize any humans who oppose the moral position taken by the screenplay, by gratuitously blowing them up in an orgy of video game violence, kind of entirely missed the point.

Not to mention that whole thing about “they’re workers, so they’re aimless and not used to thinking about themselves.”

And my entire life, I have been terrified that a movie would come along where someone’s finger nails would start falling off, so this one pretty much made me lose my mind.

JH: Political statements aside, the mark of a good horror/suspense movie is sometimes that it makes you want to cheer for the “wrong” side (e.g. Wikus as he mows down the MNU in his Transformers suit, or Hannibal Lecter). There’s a dissonance in that cheering that makes you think about bigger questions.

I liked the movie primarily as entertainment. I also liked the uncertainty of the ending.

Me: Elaborate on your problem with the “they’re workers…” thing. I thought it was a cool move actually. They were the vulnerable lower echelon of a hierarchical society whose “protectors” had been eliminated. They were vulnerable specifically to exploitation at the hands of MNU.

The thing is that just because people don’t think for themselves doesn‘t mean that they can’t. What’s cool about the move is that it keeps the alien society from being considered utopian or necessarily good, despite the ideals of Christopher (whatever his last name is). It suggests that the society was no less disempowering to those at its base than human society is. And this ambiguity about the goodness of prawn society is amplified by the ambiguous ending.

DM: But the film suggests that that the disempowerment of the workers is part of their nature – that certain of the aliens are meant to be leaders, and certain of them are meant to be “shiftless” and lazy. Furthermore, it then only takes the time to “humanize” the leaders, the ones who have a family structure to which we relate, and are there to save all the others from their misery. Even right to the end, the workers are portrayed as savages who only defend Wikus (in an absolutely disgusting way) only because he is one of their own.

Essentially, if you want to carry the race allegory through to this aspect of the film, the film only attempts to make us relate to the “Cosbys/Obamas” of the aliens. Wikus, and by extension the audience, only comes to understand and empathize with individidual aliens if they exhibit characteristics that we consider to be “human”. The film never attempts the far braver – and ultimately necessary – step of making us accept the aliens qua aliens.

Me: I think your reaction is one that was fully intentional on the part of the film makers. You’re falling into the same thinking as the people in the “man on the street” interviews, defining what prawns “are” or “are not.” There is nothing, if you think of it, that says decisively that the “workers” are essentially inadequate compared with the ruling class. Just as likely, and far more consistent with the ideology of the film is that they are the product of entrenched social pressures that do render them unrelateable, quasi-barbaric, and completely ill equipped to help themselves. So we get the idealist Barack Obama prawn who goes home to wrangle up a rescue… but does he possibly not come back because his society deems those left behind unworthy of saving? Their being mere workers after all…

How would they make us accept the aliens qua aliens? How do you know what is “qua alien”? And how does that not lock the exploited aliens into a definition that perpetuates their exploitation?

PS – I was assuming that Christopher (whatever) had been in the command module when it fell. Hence his being of the ruling class. They didn’t say they rebuilt the module from scratch did they?

DM: I think that you are overestimating the filmmakers. I really don’t think that they thought through the implications of most of what they put on screen, and that your interpretation (although mostly preferable from a moral perspective) is not really something that they ever put their minds to. I think that you’re bending over backwards to save this movie – which was, by the way, made by a 29 year old special effects expert who was supposed to be directing the Halo movie.

And I do have a basic problem with something in your interpretation – that individuals who we perceive to be “unrelateable, quiasi-barbaric, and completely ill-equipped to help themselves” need some sort of saving from their own exploitation. And I think that this problem fits right in with my “aliens qua aliens” critique. You seem to want to project your own – and possibly “human” – values onto the alien society. Your vision seems to contemplate the aliens being relateable only once they have been “elevated” to display characteristics that we understand and think of as important. While I share your aim of liberating the oppressed from exploitation, I think that will only come from a communicative process that allows us to understand and appreciate the “aliens” for what they are, and give them the capacity for self-determination. I think that by only allowing Wikus (and the audience) to relate to the aliens who might be considered to be most like “us,” the movie sends entirely the wrong message about how reconciliation can be achieved.

Me: Re: “he’s only a special effects guy.” Einstein was only a clerk at a patent office. Elitist. Re: “he’s only 29.” He’s no Orson Welles, but Orson Welles was only 26 when CK came out. Anyway, it’s pretty crappy to assume that because he’s young and does special effects, that he doesn’t have a well philosophically realized vision. Especially since the vision is consistent with the short film the movie is based on, which Blomkamp made 5 years ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNReejO7Zu8).

To respond to your substantive concern, your recourse is honestly to the Asian values argument?? The implication of that argument is liberal quietism at its worse. The fact is that these are communicating and reasoning beings who are inextricably (by the time District 9 unfolds) tied into a socio-cultural system of exploitation that has effectively rendered both the aliens and the humans that are most closely implicated with them completely different from anything they might have been.

By the same token, do you think that the solution to the social problems among aboriginals in Canada would be best rectified by Canadian society generally accepting what the aboriginals were before European colonization? And tell me, what is essentially aboriginal qua aboriginal, or black qua black? I’m still very curious.

To go back to my first point (about Einstein or whatever), you get into the film industry how you /can/ get into the film industry (case in point MP)…

DM: 1. I’m not assuming that the movie isn’t philosophically well-realized because of the director’s age. My impression from the film itself, minus my knowledge of the director, was that it was not well thought out at best, and offensive at worst. I invoke Blomkampp’s youth and lack of experience (along with the overall tenor of the film) to strengthen my argument that the movie lacked the subtlety that your interpretation holds was present. If that subtlety was not present, I think that my interpretation is probably closer to the truth.

2. Whatever is essentially “x qua x” is what a community fully equipped with the tools for self-determination chooses to make of itself. And what that community chooses to make of itself is entitled to a certain level of deference (within certain limits, the definition of which is the difficult part).

3. Don’t personalize this argument by bringing MP into it. Of course anyone can make a brilliant film – but I don’t go out of my way to find brilliance where all I see are failed political statements and action scenes lacking restraint and ripped off from better sci-fi films.

Me: My issue with the film was more that it was too stringently ideological than that it was philosophically scattershot. The reason why I tend towards the interpretation I do is that that is what the Marxism that is so blatantly at the core of the commentary would call for. It falls down for using shorthands that seem pretty obvious for people that have drunk the same koolaid, but that are not intuitive if you’ve not.

Re 2: Rawls had a big impact on you eh? Putting that aside, the prawn community was subjected to 20 years of having the “tools” for its self definition stripped by a dominating system. I think it’s uncontroversial that they deserve whatever help can be given to them to free them from being subject to inhumane medical experimentation, and being stuck in concentration camps.

3: Why not? In our “community,” MP is a reference point I know we can both agree on. And your eviscerating exclamation point still seems unfounded to me. I liked the action scenes.

DM: Yeah … I was wondering if you’d spot the debt to Rawls (but don’t underestimate the Hobbes and Shivji that’s also there). And on your response to point 2 – I agree, but I don’t think that the movie approved of self-determination. I think that it saw the ultimate goal for an alien as being the sort of being to which humans can most relate.

I was actually entirely sickened and often bored by the action scenes. I never want to see a human being vaporized again.

Me: I don’t know Shivji. Is that the same as Shivaji? (who I found on wiki and am no more familiar with except for the wiki entry). I think the film can’t be faulted for not focusing on self-determination. Its core theme was structural domination. That said I don’t think that it was inconsistent with the the ideal of autonomy at all. I also still think that the perspective you’re advancing over-privileges difference over what is or what could be shared and built among communicating and intelligent peoples. It idealizes a world of cloisters based on essential traits. We don’t live in a world of cloisters and nor do I think that a world of cloisters is in any way ideal.

DM: Alright, I need to get to work on other things. Let’s call it a day with this debate.

Me:

JH: Very interesting, you two. Btw Wikus is totally cute.

Aug
21

Case in point, O’Reilly last night:

The Thursday-night show, taped before O’Reilly aired, was the last new Daily Show for three weeks.

Articles 2 and 3. Jim Cramer’s March and May barbs at Jon Stewart (which in and of themselves sounded pathetic after Stewart so comprehensively handed him his ass) came conveniently on Thursdays as well. Maybe it’s a coincidence, or maybe he’s betting that 3 days of weekend will provide more interesting fodder for the Monday show, bumping a possible reach-back response.

Props to Joe Scarborough for not being so calculating:

To which Stewart responded…

Aug
21

with Neil Barofsky (of the TARP oversight committee) and very little obnoxious laughter. It’s almost—but not quite—as interesting as Elizabeth Warren’s fight with Adam Davidson at NPR’s Planet Money a few months back.

Via Metafilter

Aug
18

From the most recent Atlantic comes an amazing piece informed both personally from experience, and generally from substantial research, on the US health care system. Read it if you read nothing else all week. Sample:

My survivor’s grief has taken the form of an obsession with our health-care system. For more than a year, I’ve been reading as much as I can get my hands on, talking to doctors and patients, and asking a lot of questions.

Keeping Dad company in the hospital for five weeks had left me befuddled. How can a facility featuring state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment use less-sophisticated information technology than my local sushi bar? How can the ICU stress the importance of sterility when its trash is picked up once daily, and only after flowing onto the floor of a patient’s room? Considering the importance of a patient’s frame of mind to recovery, why are the rooms so cheerless and uncomfortable? In whose interest is the bizarre scheduling of hospital shifts, so that a five-week stay brings an endless string of new personnel assigned to a patient’s care? Why, in other words, has this technologically advanced hospital missed out on the revolution in quality control and customer service that has swept all other consumer-facing industries in the past two generations?

I’m a businessman, and in no sense a health-care expert. But the persistence of bad industry practices—from long lines at the doctor’s office to ever-rising prices to astonishing numbers of preventable deaths—seems beyond all normal logic, and must have an underlying cause. There needs to be a business reason why an industry, year in and year out, would be able to get away with poor customer service, unaffordable prices, and uneven results—a reason my father and so many others are unnecessarily killed.

Aug
18

Columbia security alert about an attempted robbery (posted outside of my friend’s appartment):

On August 5, 2009 at about 12:10 a.m., a student was the victim of an attempted robbery on Morningsie Ave. near W. 122St. The student was approached from behind by a male, who displayed an imitation pistol and demanded the victim’s I-phone. When the student confronted the suspect about the imitation pistol, he fled from the scene, losing his sneakers while running away. The victim recovered his I-phone and notified the police. The victim provided the following description…

It’s kindof lyrical. Chicago’s are much more alarming. From one April 6th update (which was, to be fair, the worst one I got all year):

At 5:05 p.m., Thursday, April 2- A man, 18, standing on the sidewalk with several acquaintances on Cottage Grove Avenue between 61st and 62nd Street was fatally shot by an unknown assailant.

At 8:50 p.m., Friday, April 3 – A woman, 18, her male companion, 18, and a one year-old child in a car stopped at a traffic signal at 61st and Cottage Grove were shot at by the unknown occupants of a white, 4-door Pontiac Grand Am that pulled up next to their car. The shot shattered the rear door window, but no one was injured.

At 12:40 a.m., Saturday, April 4 – A man, 28, was fatally shot in the street near his residence, just south of the UCPD patrol area, on Ingleside between 64th and 65th Street.

As a side note, I lived on Ingleside at 61st, which is two blocks from Cottage Grove.