Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Racist things are not racist because I don't associate them with racism.

How would you like it if I changed this blog's format to all-people-who've-said-crazy-things-on-my-facebook-feed, all the time? Does that sound good? Actually, they don't usually do that. People criticize facebook on all kinds of bases, but honestly, I find it to be a generally pleasant place. I'm not friends with people who have awful politics (or if I am, they keep it to themselves), so basically, it's just people I like and posts from Disney-comics groups I follow. It's fine. The only potential problem is the occasional temptation to get into arguments with other people's awful friends who comment on their posts, but I know full well that this is the most stupid and futile thing I could possibly do on the internet, so I never do it.

Well, anyway, still. There's this dude I'm friends with. I don't know him particularly well; just someone I sometimes saw in the company of other friends when I was in my Doctoral program. He has a PhD in music theory and perfectly conventional liberal politics, as far as I've been able to tell. Certainly not a stupid person. Which is why it was so friggin' bizarre to see him having a truly spectacular meltdown on the subject of the Cleveland Indians deciding to de-emphasize their cringe-inducing logo. He started by writing--to paraphrase--"it's funny how all the people happy about this change have probably never even gone to an Indians game or can name any players." The relevance of this was...not clear, but as became apparent in the trainwreck of a comments thread, the real issue was that he had all kinds of nostalgic memories wrapped up in the team, racist mascot and all, he saw any criticism of it as some sort of personal attack, and he believed that because he personally did not associate the logo with actual Native Americans, it was not racist. Truly an impressively sub-rational display. Apparently he realized how awful the whole thing looked, because he ended up deleting the thread, but then he made ANOTHER post really emphasizing the whole nostalgia thing and how his dad used to take him to games and now his dad is dead [and has been for nineteen years, mind; this isn't a recent psychic wound that would make this sort of thing understandable] and SCREW YOU for calling him racist (which I don't think anyone had actually done, but WHATEVER) (he also deleted a comment on this post which--seemingly with no awareness of the, uh, issues here--characterized Native Americans objecting to Chief Wahoo as "uppity." With friends like these...).

Anyway, there's no real point to this beyond GOOD LORD people are crazy. Even people you have every reason to think AREN'T crazy.

Whither Felix Gilman?

Seriously, man, it's a real bummer: he deleted his twitter feed, his website has been devoured by spambots, and basically neither hide nor hair has been seen of him since shortly after the publication of his last novel. I hope the fact that I found it disappointing didn't strip away all his motivation to write. His other books--in particular the half-made world duology--were SO FUCKING COOL. If he's abandoned fiction writing, it's a huge goddamned shame. I know this isn't a very substantial blog post, but the question "What happened to Felix Gilman?" gets zero hits on google, so I just wanted to point out this apparent loss.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

[Cannot think of good post title off top of head]

Looking through one's blog archives, one learns things that one had forgotten about oneself. For instance, I'm kind of amazed at what a hate-on I once had for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party in general. Here is me angrily declaring that I'll NEVER EVER vote for her if she wins the 2008 primary. It's kind of eye-opening to realize that if I met 2008-me, I'd kind of hate him.

To be clear, it's not that my politics have moderated since then--quite the contary; all the Marxist theory I read during graduate school dragged me further left than I was. It's just that now I take a more pragmatic approach to things. If nothing else, the person in comments who talked about Supreme Court nominees was absolutely right and I was absolutely wrong. It's not that there isn't a lot to criticize about the party; of course there is. A lot of that is no doubt down to the two-party system: when you have one party that's absolutely committed itself to hateful nihilism, it forces everyone else into the other party, and then with such a heterogenous mix it's awfully damned hard to find any sort of philosophical coherence. But the system is what it is; and the Democratic Party--imperfectly, painfully slowly, incoherently, and often in a one-step-forward-two-steps-back way--is trying to drag the country in the right direction, and if you refuse to be down with them, well, you don't matter. Yes, I KNOW Democrats do things, especially in the foreign policy arena, that are indefensible, but ferfucksake, do you want ANYTHING to get even a TINY BIT better, EVER, or don't you?  You can make abstract philosophical arguments about how if enough people break away from the Democrats you can force a political realignment, but A) that's never going to work if you're stuck with the two-party system; and B) when goose-stepping ICE agents are dragging people away from the only homes they've ever known RIGHT NOW, you kind of look like a monstrous sociopath for not supporting the party that would reign them in.

I have a dear friend who nonetheless has a less-than-lovable trait, which is that she buys into the whole Democrats-suck/Clinton-sucks thing I was doing ten years ago--and she's like fifteen years older than me, so she doesn't have the excuse of being young and naive. In particular, the continued vociferousness of her Clinton-hate is just perverse. Clinton lost. She's never running for anything again. And yet, the anti-Clinton facebook macros will not stop. Where the hell does this COME from?

She recently shared THIS bizarre thing on her facebook wall:

Um. Has a SOTU rebuttal EVER lead to someone being widely feted as the next Presidential nominee? Survey sez no. I mean, I suppose it's conceivable that it could happen if they delivered a real barnburner of a speech, but this specifies that that can't happen, so...? It's just an out-of-nowhere fantasy from someone who apparently can't come up with enough REAL reasons to hate the Democrats and thus has to create special fanfic on the basis of which to hate them more. It is SO DAMN WEIRD.

But the question is, will the person who wrote this and the people who shared it reexamine their priors at all when this event signally fails to come to pass? You know they won't--anymore than the people predicting apocalypse after Obama's election reexamined theirs. It's not about logic; it's just pure emotion. God knows I have my own biases, but like to think that I at least make an effort to ground my beliefs in some semblance of reality. It is sobering to note that you don't have to wander over to the fever swamps of the far right to find people who don't.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Macedonio Fernández, The Museum of Eterna's Novel (the first good novel)

Here's a novel by an Argentine writer (1874-1952). He was apparently kind of a local capital-C Character; literarily, he was more admired locally than internationally, even in the Hispanophone world. That's my understanding, anyway. But, he was admired by various Argentine writers, including Borges (to whose work his influence was apparently vital). This--which, like most of his work, was published postumously, under the editorship of his son; he was writing it, on and off, for the last twenty-seven years of his life--is his only work to have been translated into English thusfar, by Open Letter Books, a cool publisher whose mission is to publish ten interesting literary translations a year. Worth keeping an eye on!
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

All that is solid melts into air.

As you know, "postmodern" is sometimes used as a general-purpose pejorative by right-wing types. I feel fairly safe in saying that none of these people have the first clue what the word actually denotes, historically. I mean, that's okay; it's really slippery and most people don't, but then again, most people don't use it to try to sound hifalutin while doling out abuse. Still, being a linguistic descriptivist, I have to accept that if a critical mass of people is using it to mean "stuff I don't like, librul elitists, something something moral relativism," we must accept that as one possible definition.

But I can't help feeling that we really are moving into a kind of postmodern (in a meaningful sense) fever dream, where words and concepts are completely disconnected from actual things. Like, Tony Perkins saying it's A-okay for President Mango Madness to have had an affair with a porn star? You might not have liked what it meant, but there really was a point in time when being a Christian fundamentalist actually did mean something. Nowadays, nothing appears to mean anything. Hyper-patriotic American hawks being cool with Russian agents fucking with our elections? The Greatest Generation having no problem with actual, honest-to-god homegrown nazis? These should be logical impossibilities, AND YET. Where will it all end?

You talk about "postmodernity," but nobody's really a postmodernist in the sense that they're advocating for the state of affairs that the concept describes; it's just a way to characterize the world, whether you agree with it or not. And yet, now I can't help noting that that's not true. If things mean anything, then the republican party and the right in general just collapses in on itself. Weakening to virtual non-existence the relationship between the signifier and the signified is the only way they can hold power. Okay okay, I know this isn't some sort of startling new idea that's just come into play since Trump has been around, but his election sure puts the whole thing into stark contrast. And I can't help but feel that until we don't have a political movement embracing the worst fucking kind of postmodernism, we have no chance of moving towards a healthy society.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

An extremely important musical interlude

Can we talk for a moment about the Depeche Mode song "World Full of Nothing?" The allmusic review characterizes it as "hyper-nihilistic," and given the title, you would probably presume that Martin Gore would agree with this assesment. But...I mean, is it? Really? I feel like the actual song is at odds with the writer's intention. The lyrics are actually rather brief. Here is the first verse:

Skin on skin
Tears are falling
Tears of joy
Her first boy
His first girl
Makes a change

Okay, so far that doesn't seem nihilistic. But the second verse:

She's lonely
And he says
It's for her only
That he lusts
She doesn't trust him
Nothing is true
But he will do

I mean...really? A certain amount of teenage self-deception, and this is "a world full of nothing?" Don't you think you're overdramatizing a little, or a lot? And those are the only verses there are. And then the refrain: "though it's not love/it means something." Seriously, man. That sounds hopeful to me. The song is asserting that regardless of whether this is "love," it's not nothing. I mean, I don't know. Is this whole thing meant to be ironic? It sure doesn't seem very good at it if so. Part of the confusion comes from the fact that the album, Black Celebration, does include a fair few over-the-top grim songs. But I feel like this one just doesn't know what it wants to be. And that is all I have to say about that.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Steve Erickson, Rubicon Beach (1986)

The fact that I took so long to read this novel should be attributed to me having being somewhat preoccupied with other things. It says nothing about the novel one way or the other.

But Christ, man, it could. So the novel is in three parts. The first is a first-person narrative by a man named Cale who, in some dream-like alt-American went to jail for being accidentally involved in subversive political activity. While there, he accidentally reveals the leader of this political movement and gets him executed and himself released. He's taken to an apocalyptic Los Angeles where radios are outlawed and put under a semi-house arrest for unclear reasons. He witnesses, or possibly has a vision of, a woman on a boat beheading a man and becomes obsessed with finding her.

The second part of the novel switches over to the third person and concerns the woman in question, a South American Indian, and her eventual journey north. Midway through, it more or less switches over to being about the family of the screenwriter which takes her in as a maid.

The third part is about a young man growing up in Depression-era America and beyond. It is at first not at all obvious what this has to do with either of the first two parts, though it later becomes apparent, or as apparent as anything is in this novel.

So. The thing is. Erickson's talent is obvious, and there are parts of this novel that are really gripping. Mainly the first and second sections, but even the third has its moments. But I have to say, put together, they are decidedly indigestible, and the conclusion is one of these things where you just want to say, for fuck's sake, Erickson, we get the picture: you're extremely good at being abstruse. Congratulations. But do you have anything else for us? Maybe an author deserves praise for pursuing such an uncompromising vision, but I left this book feeling more exasperated than anything else. I still plan on reading more of Erickson at some point--his vision is too singular not to--but not at this exact moment.   

Thursday, January 11, 2018

This is too obscure for most people to get...

...but I wanted to put it out there anyway: Donald Trump is TOTALLY Pokey from Mother 3, and it is SUPER EASY to imagine that, given the right circumstances, he would gladly consign himself to the same horrific fate.  That is all.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Steve Erickson, Days Between Stations (1985)

Steve Erickson, not to be confused with Stephen Erikson (note that C-less surname) who writes interminable fantasy series. Easy mistake to make. I bet people have ordered books by the former while looking for the latter and been confused as hell. Well. Erickson's interesting in that he's published ten novels, and every single one has an amazon description that makes me think WOW THAT SOUNDS COOL. Also, his first novel, this one, has a quite good blurb from Thomas Pynchon. However, I suspect Foul Play: go to Erickson's website and look under "contact," and you'll be directed to his literary agent, the Melanie Jackson agency. Huh. Why do I know the name Melanie Jackson? BECAUSE SHE'S PYNCHON'S WIFE, THAT'S WHY. What kind of sneaky quid pro quo is going on here, anyway? It'll disqualify him from running for President, if nothing else.
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