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.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Here's a thing

 It's no good leaving a glum post and then leaving for god knows how long.  Not that I'm claiming I'm going to take another hiatus, or anything (although "hiatus" seems to imply that this blog is a much bigger deal than it is).  Anyway, here's a bag of potato chips flavored like another brand of potato chips:

I suppose it's pretty benign as these things go, but it seems like a good exemplar of the capitalist ouroboros eating its own tail. 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Gotta say something

Or do I?  Definitely not.  I mean, I can't say anything original or penetrating, so why bother?  Well, for whatever reason, I will.

9/11 was indefensible. The attacks were cruel, savage, and barbaric, and to note that they're the result of years of poison foreign policy fruit isn't in any way to excuse or justify them. And yet, with our violently disproportionate response, we pissed away a good portion of the international sympathy we'd gained, and the violence that we inflicted on mostly innocent people was every bit as indefensible as the initial act, and much, much larger in scale. And so, we ensured that nothing would get in the way of the continuation of the cycle of violence.

Yes, well, I think you get the point. It amazes me--it shouldn't at this point, but it still does--how, beneath our veneer of civilization, we just desperately lust for any excuse to revert to our lizard brains. If we can't get past that, how is civilization ever going to advance, or indeed persist at all? If you want to be a Nobel laureate, all you've got to to do is solve this conundrum.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Anthony Trollope, The Prime Minister (1876)

I'm going to reveal plot points in the following with no spoiler warnings at all; WHATEVER, it's not like you were planning on reading it anyway.

Right, so there's this sketchy dude, Ferdinand Lopez. No one really knows who he is or what his profession is or financial situation is, except that he's not really British; he's Portuguese, or something, and possibly (sigh) Jewish, though there's really very little anti-Semitism here. At any rate, he's fixed his sights on marrying Emily Wharton, the daughter of a successful barrister; he knows that her dad is loaded and thinks to get his hands on some of that dosh through her. For her part, she already has a suitor, Arthur Fletcher, who's a super great guy and everything, but she's fallen in love (or convinced herself she has) with Ferdinand instead. Her dad is extremely not down with this match, but after a certain amount of persistence and pressure, he decides he has no choice but to let the marriage go through. Things go from bad to worse pretty quickly, as Ferdinand is constantly pressuring Emily to prevail on her dad to give him money, which he had assumed would be forthcoming in spite of no such thing having been agreed upon prior to the marriage. He makes a failed run for Parliament. He tries and tries to extort money out of Wharton père. Finally, when all his avenues of pursuit seem definitively walled off, he throws himself in front of a train (reducing him to "bloody atoms"--first suicide I've seen in a Trollope novel; it's fun to note that this was published a year before Anna Karenina, but it's hard to imagine that it was an influence). So now (having long since realized she didn't love Ferdinand) she can get together with Arthur, right? Well, yes; this isn't a Lily Dale situation, thankfully, but not until after a more or less tedious amount of "oh no I don't deserve happiness after marrying that guy you must find someone worthy of you."

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Friday, May 19, 2023


 Jordan Neely was failed by society.

When he expressed this, a stranger decided to murder him as punishment.

Right-wingers were absolutely fucking delighted by this, and have donated millions of dollars to the killer's legal defense.

Right-wing pundits and politicians quickly coalesced around the term "Good Samaritan" to describe the killer.

The Republican Party has been wholly subsumed by Antichrist Spirit.  Nothing more to say.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Reading Round-Up

 Here are three short novels I have read since finishing with Tokarczuk.  What more can I say?

Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle (1963)

I've often thought I should read more Vonnegut, but I don't know--I somehow always feel like if I haven't by now, it's kind of too late for me to really appreciate him--his ideal audience is younger than I am, at this point.  I feel the same way about David Foster Wallace and Joseph Heller.  Well, regardless, I did read this here book.  This is the one where the world ends in ice--well, from the perspective of the narrator it does, at any rate; it's not really clear if his judgment on this made-up science can be trusted.  Not clear to me, at any rate; I don't think it's something we're really supposed to think about.

I mean, it was fine.  I liked it better than Breakfast of Champions; not as much as Slaughterhouse-Five.  It certainly wasn't unpleasant to read.  And yet, it does have something of the feel of a shaggy-dog story, where you get to the end and wonder, is that it?  Did I get anything out of this?  Well, having read these three novels, I feel like I can in good conscience ignore the rest of Vonnegut's output.

Ryu Murakami, In the Miso Soup (1997)

How many people--Westerners, at any rate--do you think have read Murakami either because they confused him with Haruki, or because they had some vague sense that this seemed like it was probably basically the same sort of thing?  Probably a lot, I bet.  The two of them ARE almost exact contemporaries, but aside from a general patina of weirdness, they're nothing alike, at least based on this.

It's about a guy named Kenji who makes a decent, if sleazy, living serving as a guide for foreign sex tourists in Tokyo.  His latest client is an odd guy named Frank who, he starts to think, may actually be a gruesome murderer.  There's one scene of very unpleasant violence (which comes on quite abruptly; be prepared), and then things end ambiguously.

Well, I thought this was all right, actually.  I was sort of interested in the milieu because I've been playing Sega's Yakuza games lately, and they always feature some element of the kind of...thing you see here.  I mean, sex clubs that we're frequently told aren't actually sex clubs but clearly...are?  Japanese culture is confusing to me.  But it was interesting to see these issues addressed from a different perspective, though it's difficult to tell what if any argument Murakami is trying to make.  Regardless, I might try one of his other novels, but if it relies on shock the way this does to some extent, that might be enough.  I can neither confirm nor deny at this point, but he might be a one-trick pony.  As, indeed, that other Murakami is.

Heinrich von Kleist, Michael Kohlhaas (1810)

Here's something different!  This is a very strange story where the title character, a horse trader, gets angry because he's compelled to leave his horses at a local castle, and when he comes back for them, they've been maltreated and they're all emaciated.  So, to get revenge he wreaks bloody violence all over the place, until he gets a message from Martin Luther (yes!) urging him to knock it off.  This shames him into stopping, and the rest of the book is concerned with the question of whether he'll be recompensed for his horses or put to death or both or what.

If this sounds a bit odd, you're not wrong--it is VERY odd.  From my perspective, anyway.  I have to imagine the contemporaneous audience would have read it differently--in the same was we're being anachronistic when we call Tristram Shandy "postmodern."  Very interesting, though.  Also, Kleist died in a murder-suicide pact with his terminally-ill lover, which is the most German-Romantic way to go possible, so good work on that, I guess.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Olga Tokarczuk, The Books of Jacob (2014)

OH MY GOODNESS GOOD LORD.  Yes, I've been reading this book on and off for...months.  I thought I was past lollygagging around like that, but in this case, not.  Well, I finally finished it.  It seemed like a good book to read; the wikipedia entry describes it thusly:

The Books of Jacob is a 912-page novel divided into seven books. It begins in 1752 in Rohatyn and ends in Holocaust-era Korolówka. Its title subject is Jacob Frank, a Polish Jew who claimed to be the messiah. The novel combines dozens of third-person perspectives of those connected to Jacob Frank.

It sounds like the sort of maximalist thing I have traditionally enjoyed.  Also, for whatever it's worth, Tokarczuk won the Nobel Prize in 2018.

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