Thursday, February 02, 2006

What You Talking About, Willis?

Remember that speech two nights ago when a Texas straightshooter announced a plan to reduce oil consumption by 75%, mostly Middle East oil? He was just kidding:
Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble.
And Republicans try to steal their own elections:
Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

by Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks

From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,
And cries,
"Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,

"Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance."
Twee vs Fey vs Wee (or, A Couple of Things)

About a month ago I wrote about the distinction between twee and fey, or the lack of distinction. (And if you do link back, do listen, if you haven't yet, to the Laura Veirs' cuts). I expressed a preference for twee vs fey, citing Mazzy Star, a band I like, as twee, and Belle and Sebastian, a band I don't, as fey.

Today's NYT has a long review of the new Belle and Sebastion album in which the reviewer, Kelefa Sanneh (who I find smart, most times), referring to Belle and Sebastion as a "quiet, wee band." The review, which includes a lot of background history of the band, is written by a fan, is written as much about Belle and Sebastion's fans as much as it is about Belle and Sebastian, which in part may explain why Belle and Sebastion are such a black licorice band for me. I've never gotten it, and friends of mine who are fans consider my not getting it an existential mark against me.

But "wee?" Can one of the biggest indie bands be "wee?"

And this morning, on NPR's Morning Edition, an interesting audio article on the internet and music business. CD Baby, something new to me, that provides indie record makers with an outlet other than big box stores to market their music, has formed an alliance with Best Buy, one of the monster big boxes. Here's CD Baby's classical page: has anyone used this service, either to buy or sell?
We Are the Enemy (cont)

I've avoided thinking much about the Oprah controversy over James Frey. He swerved, she marked, he got caught, she apologized to her lemmings. I mean, beyond the con getting conned, what's remarkable, if a con being conned can be considered remarkable? The sanctimonious outrage against Frey, the hosannahing of Oprah's (business decision) apology, the autopsies of the affair as a signal event in American cultural history? Snore.

Still, the conjuncture of two seemingly unrelated items in today's paper does deserve remarking. First, Anne Applebaum, in this column in today's Washington Post, comparing the Frey affair to another famous public spat when Mary McCarthy eviscerated Lillian Hellman's memoir in the 70s, concludes her column:
We used to admire people who claimed to fight the Nazis. Now we admire people who claim to have fought their own drug addiction -- and we really, really admire them if they beat up priests, fight with cops, frequently find themselves covered in vomit and spend lots of time in jail while doing so.
Her point: rewards now go to fighting the little fights, the more personal, the better, regardless of what big fights need fighting. And the nastier the little fight, the more coinage awarded.

Second, the Joint Chief of Staff is outraged, outraged, at a Tom Toles cartoon published in the Washington Post. Ignoring the context of the cartoon - more likely, diverting attention away from the contxt of the cartoon, the lunacy of SoD Rumsfeld - they've penned angry letters to the editor complaining to an anti-military bias, and how that bias undermines the military.

How can the US miltary possibly defeat an insurgency in Iraq, capture Osama bin Laden and defeat al-Qaeda, properly arm and armor the troops, meet the military's recruiting needs, provide an intimidating counterweight to the ambitions of North Korea and China and Iran, fight the drug war in South America and on America's borders, when Tom Toles in drawing anti-military doggeral in the Washington Post? Do Liberals have no shame!!!!!

And poor President Bush. How is he to defeat those nasty terrorists when Michael Moore and Al Franken and, most sinister of all, that evil, t-shirt wearing, tent-dwelling Cindy Sheehan, all conspire to undermine his very rule? Yet he does! He does. Think of all he's overcome. It's inspirational, and it's inspirational the way the Right fights the Liberal devils.

And the narrative: by holding off traiterous Liberals in America - a 24/7/365 job, one no one really knows how hard unless you're in the trenches too - Bushco bravely perseveres, Bushco overcomes horrifying obstacles that would daunt lesser mortals. Before all else, Bush must rescue America from its addiction to Liberalism. Covered in the vomit of partisan wrangling, Bush emerges recovered, resilient, clear-eyed, unbowed. Still, it's no wonder OBL is still free to taunt America from his caves in Afghanistan. Aargh! does the weight on this President ever ease?

The only sin is getting caught. Perhaps Oprah, when she went on Larry King and defended Frey before she reconsidered her position, before she realized her continuing existence as Queen of Media depended on her accepting unpleasant truths, considered her own desire to remain deluded before she recognized her very survival required her to face those truths. If Frey had not been caught, Oprah would have happily lived in obliviousness. The only sin is getting caught. Perhaps there is a broader metaphor in the episode after all.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Nest of Wipers

Max Lead, speaking after yesterday's Cabinet Meeting, on what he hopes to achieve in tonight's SOTU speech:
"One of the things I will do is call for Congress and the executive branch to have a good, honest dialogue, but to speak candidly with each other, but to do so in a way that brings credit to the process. And I'll do my best to elevate the tone here in Washington, D.C. so we can work together to achieve big things for the American people."
Let's see: nominate the judge the furthest to the right you calculate can get through the Senate to be confirmed to SCOTUS. Order the Senate's GOP leadership to set the confirmation vote for the morning of the SOTU. Once he's confirmed, rush the swearing in to the afternoon before the SOTU. Victory parade Alito as a member of SCOTUS for the SOTU, announce him to Senate, bask in slurpy Pig adoration, in your own heightened self-adoration, your own self-glorification. Smirk at the humiliation of the opposition while calling for them to "elevate the tone here in Washington DC," keeping as straight a face as possible.

Look, he obviously can do whatever he wants, and he won this battle. But this is emblematic of an entire philosophy of governance: No opportunity to tell the opposition to Fuck Off is to be wasted. Then, just watch the pumpkinheads in the media fall over themselves talking about Bush's conciliatory tone - the elevated tone - in their post-SOTU analyses. Ask yourself - with doxies in the media like this, why would a bully like Max Lead ever rule any other way?
Busy Tuesday Listens

Courtesy of Sub Pop Records, simply a great label.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Another Dog's Death

by John Updike

For days the good old bitch had been dying, her back
pinched down to the spine and arched to ease the pain,
her kidneys dry, her muzzle white. At last
I took a shovel into the woods and dug her grave

in preparation for the certain. She came along,
which I had not expected. Still, the children gone,
such expeditions were rare, and the dog,
spayed early, knew no nonhuman word for love.

She made her stiff legs trot and let her bent tail wag.
We found a spot we liked, where the pines met the
The sun warmed her fur as she dozed and I dug;
I carved her a safe place while she protected me.

I measured her length with the shovel’s long handle;
she perked in amusement, and sniffed the heaped-up
Back down at the house, she seemed friskier,
but gagged, eating. We called the vet a few days later.

They were old friends. She held up a paw, and he
injected a violet fluid. She swooned on the lawn;
we watched her breathing quickly slow and cease.
In a wheelbarrow up to the hole, her warm fur shone.


There is much flutter about this article in today's NYT regarding the Federalist Society's plan, devised in 1982, to stock the judiciary with conservatives, and their apparent success with the appointment of John Roberts to Chief Justice and the seemingly inevitable elevation of Samuel Alito to SCOTUS.

The congratulatory subtext is that Conservatives are steadfast rather than doctrinaire, patient rather than obsessed, that Liberals are vacillating rather than intellectually rigorish, inconsistent rather than rigidly unswerving. Because Conservatives created, funded, sponsored, and promoted judges over the course of 24 years who've been Stepforded in training and who owe their allegiance to their patrons, this somehow proves the Conservative ideology is superior to a Liberal ideology by sheer weight of relentless, myopic persistance. Because the Conservatives hatched a batch of cloned jurists, ensuring those jurists' fealty through technically legal but morally questionable patronage, they MUST be superior by simple dint of effort.

In essense this comes down to the fight motif that the Right uses to define the difference between them and us. If Liberals were as serious as us, the argument goes, they would have used the very same tactics we use. Why aren't Liberal think tanks creating an army of Liberal judges who all think alike? And the answer, in Conservative terms: Because Liberals don't take the law as seriously as Conservatives do. If they aren't competing just as ruthlessly, as seriously as Conservatives they must be weaker. If Liberals aren't as rigid - if they have these foolish notions of nuances and relativism and fairness - they can't be considered "serious," a code word of vast importance to the Right.

As long as the political debate pivots on the Conservative meme that in domestic and foreign policy, in interpretation of the law, in matters of morality, truculent rigidity is synonymous with intellectual seriousness, then the majority of us who understand that the issues confronting the country and the world are far too complex to be solved by an adherence to an hortatorily propounded single and simple and childish truth are going to be labeled as unrealistic, idealistic, unserious, and therefore our relevance to any debate dismissible.

It's - I've said this before - a brilliant trap: The world is a vicious sandbox. Believe it can be made better, you're a Liberal dreamer, idealistic, unrealistic, not to be taken seriously. Behave like Conservatives, you're a Liberal hypocrite. That the Conservative worldview believes that all the problems in the world can be reduced to a bipolar war between irreconcilable opposites, rewarding the trained warriors who delight in the war, condemning the world to that endless war - ensuring that nothing ever gets any better - doesn't get any play in today's discourse. Pointing that out wouldn't be serious.
SOTU Contest!

Since Maximum Leader will be giving the exact same speech tomorrow night he has been giving since, well, since, we can expect the standards, but there should be some new tag lines.

How many times will Max Lead say:




Strict constructionist

Alito (both if he's been confirmed by time of SOTU, if he's not been)

Terrorist surveillance

"Some say" (count the straw men)


Iraqi elections

Spreading democracy

Ownership society

Guess the most repeated new tag line

Bonus question: which MSM pundit will tent his pants most emphatically, declaring Max Lead's speech the bestest darn speech he's ever made, a speech that changes the dynamics of current politics, ensuring Repignican victory in November? Think carefully! The competition is heavy and horny.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Roberto Sierra?

Roberto Sierra, a new name to me, debuts a new choral work Thursday night in DC.

I'm curious about Sierra, and I'm going to make an effort to go to the Kennedy Center Thursday, but I'm more curious about this article in the Post about Sierra, especially these quotes:
Every composer must confront musical modernism at some point in his or her career. The Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra, whose new choral work, "Missa Latina," will receive its world premiere Thursday at the Kennedy Center, moved past that forbidding style after some encouragement from the most unlikely of people.

Gyorgi Ligeti, Sierra's composition teacher in Hamburg in the early 1980s and one of the enfants terribles of the avant-garde, gently pushed the young composer away from his own style of atmospheric, tuneless music. "Having little Ligetis was not his thing," Sierra says in a phone interview from his home near Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where he heads the composition department.

Sierra recalls earlier Latin American composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos and Alberto Ginastera, who featured sounds from their respective Brazilian and Argentine homes. Osvaldo Golijov of Argentina is perhaps the only other composer today who possesses the same command of the Latin world's unique idiom.


Sierra is unapologetic about his use of popular and folk music, saying that Beethoven and Bach, among many other composers, similarly merged popular and classical styles. Sierra sees the approach as a much-needed break from abstract modernism and a source of energy for classical music over time. "Composers of my generation needed to move away from that narrow path," the composer says. "I want structure, but I want people to be moved at a basic level."
"Much needed break from abstract modernism?" "Composers of my generation needed to move away from that narrow path? "Atmospheric, tuneless music?" Ligeti is an "enfant terribles of the avant garde?" "Must confront musical modernism at some point in his career?"

What the?