Sunday, July 29, 2007

750 Words

He fucked a cat. Then he fucked another cat. Then a cat came along and he fucked it. Then he fucked the first cat again. Then the cat fucked him. Then he and the cats fucked a dog. Then the dog fucked the cats. Then he fucked the dog alone. Then he went to the store, the grocery store and fucked everyone in it, including his grandma and his grandpa. He started in the milk aisle. He didn’t fuck the toddlers and the grade schoolers but starting at age fifteen he fucked everyone. Then he went out of the grocery store and into the parking lot and let the dogs and the cats from before out of his pickup truck and he fucked each one of them again. They were used it, so they just stood in a peaceful obedient line. Then he fucked the pickup truck. It hurt a little bit but he mostly liked it because everybody likes fucking everything to some extent. He went to the police station and fucked all the cops. The cops were like what the fuck but he fucked them all anyway. Then he went to the gazebo in the park. Nearby, there was a large bird on a wire, a pheasant, and he went up to the top of the wire, and hung from the wire without touching any of the other wires because he knew that would get him electrocuted, and then he grabbed the pheasant, who could talk and was like, “oh shit, it’s that guy again,” and he fucked the pheasant in the air hanging from the telephone wire. Then he let go and landed in a ninja crouch. These ninjas saw it and they jumped out and guess what happened? The ninja crouch was just a ruse and he fucked one of the ninjas who was like, “yeah, actually that’s not bad, that’s pretty good,” and he walked away and turned the corner, and the left-out ninjas were like, “whoa,” and then he reappeared and fucked all the ninjas because when he left he was just fucking with them. He rested for a week because occasionally you have to rest.

Then he went to Washington and developed a theme system where he’d organize his fucking patterns by theme, like only fucking certain nationalities, like all swedes one month. Or another pattern slash theme would be fucking people without them knowing it, or just blowjobs, which he felt sort of dissatisfied about and went back and fucked those people again. These are the little games you have to come up with to keep yourself motivated when you’re trying to accomplish something special.

Then it was the national badminton championships and during halftime he fucked eighteen people and then a security guard, Jane Fonda, Elijah Wood, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, yet another Alpaca, your dad, you, your mom, your sister, you uncle Craig, Pat Sajack, the skeleton of Abraham Lincoln, then he did that thing where you stretch your penis around and fuck your own self up the ass, and then he fucked Philip Roth, who LOVED it, and then he fucked Shamu 7 and Jessica Tandy at the same time. Then he cyber-fucked that exact list of people over the internet.

Then he went on this wilderness jag where, as a result, he eventually fucked every moose in Canada, all of which he filmed. That catalyzed another theme month, where he went around with a video of him fucking mooses and wolverines and shit in Canada and showed it to people and fucked all the people that were aroused by the video. That was a really cool month, he thought. He was pleased. Then his appendage fell off and he had to have it surgically reattached and he fucked the surgeon. Then he went to the oval office and the people he found there were the first ones he couldn’t bring himself to fuck.

Then, to purify himself, he went to New York and made achingly sweet love to Michiko Kakutani in her drab apartment. He felt they shared something important because she was so beautiful even when she complained about how you can’t do things justice in 750 words.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Diminishing Returns of Critical Self Consciousness

It's probably impossible to establish a perfect justification for a particular critical method for approaching a work of literature.

Would an acceptance of this impossibility and a willingness to conduct criticism in a less formal way make it more interesting?

I've always sort of felt that the self-conscious pursuit of a perfectly virtuous and unimpeachably correct political perspective is an impediment to justice, or at least justice in this place/time/greater historical era. Literary criticism and other veins of thought, say philosophy, aren't, as systems, as dynamic and complex as physical/social/political reality, so they would seem a good field in which to spend time establishing a better foundation for the arguments and narratives they support, but there's a limit to the value we derive from examining and/or restating the context and history of our ideas.

I have no idea what that limit might be.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Picking their spots

I was at a fourth of July party today talking with someone about the MSM's weakness for the false equivalence trap. Blogger's complain about this all the time. They complain that instead of researching the facts, interpreting them rigorously, and then defending or amending them as necessary, a lot of journalists who cover politics simply repeat a talking point and then quote someone they perceive as being in opposition to the party producing the talking point and consider their job done.

Journalists who fail to do more with their reporting then a smattering of he-said, she-said are bad for the nation.

But reporters sometimes do abandon false equivalwilling to represent as fact or consensus understanding what are in truth ill-considered opinions. This was tragic in the case of the Iraq war when television reporters--there is blood on their hands whether they know it or not--didn't bother to have their producers do any research into the quality of evidence vis a vis Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. As long as enough people in Washington or New York say something is true, the case, in the minds of these reporters, seems to be closed.

However, there are exceptions to this rule and the one I've most recently encountered is pretty infuriating. Read the passage below from "Clintons Adjust to Her Turn in His Old Role" by Patrick Healy (the article is labeled "A Political Memo") and ask yourself why it was that this report chose to abandon the he-said, she said protocol :

No matter how much he tries to blend in, Mr. Clinton is one Oscar-worthy supporting actor who can sometimes upstage his leading lady simply by breathing. The Clintons’ political stagecraft — and their goal of shifting the spotlight to her — has been a work in progress since her presidential campaign began in January. This week, her husband’s first campaign jaunt on her behalf showed him in stages of adjustment — relaxed and jokey at times, a bit unpolished at others.

Oscar worthy. Actor. Leading Lady.

This language is full of scorn and it's not a good way to talk about politicians. Not because it's necessarily inaccurate and not because they're actually extremely noble people, but because it's an extremely subjective judgment. And even if you grant it, the sort of acting that Bill Clinton does when he's campaigning cannot be distinguished from the kind of acting that all other politicians do when they are campaigning. It is also something that politicians must do.

Therefore, reporters, if they want to do something with their work besides draw a paycheck, should do their best to identify the traits and characteristics that will govern a politician's policies and decision making in whatever office they happen to be seeking.

If Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton is performing more than another politician does that mean that we can't believe what they say? Does the reporter have information that suggests Hillary Clinton would push policy or ideology radically at odds with the policies she's pushing as a campaigner? This is the kind of "acting" by a politician that might be worth a front page (on the internet anyway) article. But that's not what we're getting in this lazy material from Patrick Healy. What we're getting is a record of one journalists gossamer impressions of the Clintons on the campaign trail tied in with some vaguely attributed gossip. And it's not as if they're insightful. Take this passage for instance:

He plays good cop and, deftly, bad cop as he tries to elevate Mrs. Clinton by praising her rivals for the Democratic nomination while at the same time putting some of them down. For instance, he has described second-tier opponents like Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico in more generous terms than her immediate foes like Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

So Clinton criticizes Hillary's chief rivals and praises the presumptive also rans? What a scoop!

These are the insights and judgments that the New York Times sees fit to meet the public eye without the fig leaf of false equivalence. No counter quote from a Clinton admirer who says, "actually he looks me in the eye and I know he cares about what I'm saying."

Why? I can only imagine it's because they are arrogant enough to believe that when the story is about the personal and when they themselves are their sources, they have the expertise (because all humans make shallow judgments about one another) and the authority (because they know they are not deceiving us about their shallow judgments) to tell the story without defending it or qualifying it or justifying it.

They're wrong.

Journalists have a responsibility to write stories that, to the best of their knowledge are true, even when the story is about nonsense like the one quoted above.

They also have a responsibility to prioritize the material they cover.

So I don't know. Maybe Patrick Healy and his editors at the New York Times think this stuff is significant enough to outweigh other news about the Clintons, or the presidential candidates.

If that's the case, my own personal subjective assessment is that their work falls does not deserve the level of prestige that adheres to it based on their paper's illustrious name. It deserves our contempt.