Friday, February 23, 2024

I despair.

I really do.  The plight of the Palestinians is clearly one of the most, if not THE most, important issue today.  It warps reality with its gravitational field.  At first I was reluctant to use the word "genocide"--gawd, am I turning into a centrist?  I was worried on some level that it would make me look extreme or hysterical; there's no point in denying it.  But, I mean, the UN definition fits like a glove.  

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Thursday, February 08, 2024

Cleaners from Venus, "Denmark Street"

 So I've been listening to a lot of Cleaners from Venus lately--that being the name that poet/musician Martin Newell uses to record.  He's not prominent enough that his lyrics are consistently available online, so here's a song I've been sort of preoccupied with.  I don't know what "me, Queen Matilda, and Captain Ray" [Wray?] means, but I find it strangely evocative.  Anyway here, it is:

No Queen Matilda to ease the trials

Of Celtic drunks with broken smiles

Who miss their station by several hundred miles

Asking "where are the fields of Saint Giles?"

The street of starlets who stop to say

"I'm going to make it some day"

Where all the lepers got rich or ran away

Leaving me, Queen Matilda, and Captain Ray

In every window a song for sale

Whistled by the milkman can't fail

You get that hook line you find the holy grail

There's a check for you later it's in the mail

And David Bowie is on the way

The ambulance has gone today

But don't you worry I think he did okay

Now it's me, Queen Matilda, and Captain Ray

Some boy could have been me

Been apprehended by the CID

Looks old but he's twenty-three

Down Tin Pan Alley seeking sanctuary

There's music leaking from underground

Somebody's madness turned into sound

To get them dancing all over London town

This is rags into riches the wrong way round

Now Machiavelli drops by to say

Penny for your tunes boys eh hey

It's never happened in any other way

Not for me, Queen Matilda, and Captain Ray

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

A growth industry for hard times

I have a good idea for a business. It's going to be called either Algr or Indundatr, depending on marketing research. Our target audience is poor but virtuous and hard-working young guttersnipes, hobbledehoys, and tatterdemalions. Once they've downloaded the app and registered, they just have to click a few buttons, and we will immediately dispatch one of our agent to fling the nearest rich industrialist's child into a body of water, so that they can rescue them and get a sweet job from the grateful parent (and probably also marry the child, if she's a she--we'll have to charge a small extra fee for that).

So anyway, how about it? Can you help me program the app? We'll be drowning in venture capital in no time.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Let's listen to the pre-Beatles hit songs of 1964!

This image was posted on some facebook music group I'm a part of:

I'm not exactly sure where the rankings come from, I don't know why it goes to fourteen, and I have no idea what "big bonus means," but it's an interesting look at the calm before the storm, just before the British Invasion changed everything.  Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to listen to them--see what our parents' generation were grooving out to.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Christine Brooke-Rose, Textermination (1991)

So the idea of this here book is that a ton of literary characters gather for an annual conference in California, to try to, I guess, raise awareness of themselves amongst the public and get more readers.  Or something; it's not one hundred percent clear.  At any rate, the particular year, there's some fallout involving the whole Satanic Verses fatwa thing.  So there's that, and also some general academic parody, and then an ending that reminds me of Myron Brinig's Flutter of an Eyelid, a comparison that will be meaningful to exactly no one (but should be. Flutter of an Eyelid is awesome; read it!).

It does have to be said, Brooke-Rose includes an absolute metric fuck-ton of characters, some from remarkably obscure texts.  Of course, you don't need to actually know all these texts to do that--you can fake it with research, as she even notes at one point.  Still, it's undeniably impressive, especially in a pre (or proto)-internet era.  Also--as if this all weren't meta enough--we get an appearance by the protagonist of Amalgamemnon by one Christine Brooke-Rose, who is also posited as the author of Textermination.  So that's all right.

Well, within limits.  I have to admit, as I think about it I realize that, while not without its merits, it's definitely the weakest Brooke-Rose novel I've read to date.  If often does feel like it's just turning into a game of spot-the-reference, which is kind of fun, but also sort of limited.  Also, I strongly object to her characterization of Oedipa Maas as a kind of humorless-feminist type, and also for sticking her with the single worst line of dialogue I've ever read in a Brooke-Rose novel, or possibly any novel: "You're not even bright enough to be aware of Tristero."  Yes, okay, you've read The Crying of Lot 49, but what a horrendously awkward way to show it.  And not character-based, either: Oedipa doesn't know about Tristero for a long time, and then isn't sure if it's a real thing.  Proper postmodern indeterminacy.  There's no way she'd get all obnoxious about her secret knowledge. Bah.

Still, there's another question to be raised--and maybe it's even a relevant question, what with the recent public-domaining of [one version of] Mickey Mouse that everyone's talking about: how can it possibly have been legal to publish it?  Because, as the above mentions of Rushdie and Pynchon may make clear, it extremely does not limit itself to public domain characters.  There are plenty of those, sure, but it uses a comparable number from Brooke-Rose's own contemporaries.  Are you just allowed to do that?  Does it count as some sort of fair-use?  I mean, sure, it would be hard to argue that any given character here is being used as a selling point, but is that really the litmus test?  Or is it just the case that the book has such a small audience that all the authors whose characters were coopted either couldn't be bothered to take legal action of didn't even notice?  Hard to say, but it's certainly interesting to think about.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Wilkie Collins, Poor Miss Finch (1872)

So the narrator is Madame Pratolungo, a widowed Frenchwoman with revolutionary politics (though that last isn't super-relevant).  Penniless, she ends up in England where she gets a situation as a companion for a young woman, Lucilla Finch, who is blind.  Lucilla ends up engaged to this fellow named Oscar Dubourg, who is leading a quiet life.  But then, disaster: some no-good types come to rob Oscar's house and whack him on the head.  That's bad!  But he recovers.  That's good!  But now he's subject to regular seizures.  That's bad!  But there's a cure.  That's good!  But the cure is silver nitrate, which gives people who take it a blue complexion (that's a real thing)!  That's...bad?  Well, what's bad is that Lucilla, in her blindness, has conceived an instinctive revulsion for people with dark complexions.  What will happen if she finds out?  Or even, if she recovers her sight?  Oscar has an identical twin brother (oh yes) named Nugent, living in America; he's a great guy, seemingly; previously, Oscar had been tried for murder and would likely have been hanged if Nugent hadn't found an exonerating witness at the last minute.  And now he's found a German doctor--one of those classic Comedy Foreigners--who may be able to restore Lucilla's vision (she's been blind almost since birth).  But oh no, now Nugent has fallen in love with Lucilla as well.  What follow are...well, "hijinx" would be overstating the case, but a sort-of drama.  It's not exactly that I don't want to spoil it; more that it's kind of convoluted and I can't be bothered.  Anyway, you can probably tell from the above whether you want to read the book, and that the answer is "no."

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Monday, October 30, 2023

My last(?) word on I/P

I know, I know, no one fucking cares what I think, but this shit is keeping me awake at night.  I have to out with it.  So here's a thought experiment for you: what if Israel took no retaliatory action against the Palestinians? What if they maintained a purely defensive stance? I know that the lizard-brain need for some sort of retaliation is so strong that even a lot of people criticizing the current nightmare are going to think, "well, but they have to do something." But do they? Here is a statement that I think, paradoxically, is wildly controversial yet indisputably true: Israel not responding with violence to every Hamas atrocity is necessary if the cycle of violence is ever to be broken. Not sufficient, of course, but absolutely necessary. Why do I call this "indisputable" when a fuck-ton of people would loudly dispute it? Because I'm pretty damn sure that, if they forced themselves to think about it rationally for a moment, even they would have to concede its truth value. Come fucking on: you're trying to tell me they really, in their heart of hearts, believe that that murdering thousands of civilians and radicalizing thousand more is going to help with fucking anything? Get out of here with that bullshit.

It isn't, obviously, that I don't understand the desire for cathartic revenge (though I'm also alarmed by the idea that murdering unrelated civilians can satisfy that desire). But societies can't function on that basis, and they're not supposed to. And I'm not trying to make you feel good about themself here in the short-term; I'm trying to stop you experiencing massive violence in the long-term. I know, I know, you want them both. But guess what? You can't always get absolutely everything you want, a lesson typically learned by small children. So choose.

UPDATE: I realize that I was too generous above, to at least some percentage of Israelis: because "bomb the Palestinians into submission" is not going to solve the problem, but "commit a total genocide against the Palestinians"...well, that wouldn't solve it either, but I can see how people--psychopathic people--would genuinely believe it would.  I know this doesn't apply to all Israelis, but the rhetoric we've seen makes it clear that it does apply to some.  Inchoatia regrets the error, I guess.