From various browser tabs, left open after a morning’s desultory surf—
The American Society of Magazine Editors has this yearly conference where they all get together and jerk off and talk about where they are and where the culture is. So they invited me down a few years ago and asked me to talk about the Esquire covers and tell everybody to stop doing terrible covers, or something like that. I was like, “So you want me to come down and bust balls? Okay.” Just about every editor and publisher in America was there, and I just ripped their eyeballs out. Every magazine except maybe Vanity Fair and the New Yorker was complicit in the Iraq war. I gave them the whole thing about weapons of mass destruction and said, “Every one of you sons of bitches is complicit in what’s going on over there.” They were all, “Oooohhhh.” Ten minutes later I did a little bit more of it [mimes clapping his hands together to demonstrate their applause], and then half an hour later I really ripped into them about the war and I got a standing ovation. All the while I’m talking about why they can’t do good covers, and I’m showing mine at the same time.
And in the end?
Afterward there was a line—about 200 of them—waiting to talk to me. I’m signing stuff, and it’s all bullshit! They all keep doing the same crap. They’re not even trying. It’s so ignorant. Why would you want your magazine to look like the other guys’ magazines? It doesn’t make any sense. Why wouldn’t you want to run a cover image that rips your lungs out?
—Vice, the George Lois interview
Reader Gary P sent me an e-mail about a Planet Money list of “must read” economics books. I had toyed with posting on it, held off because I have a wee conflict of interest as an an author of a book decidedly critical of mainstream economics, but the biases evident in the NPR piece have been nagging at me.
If nothing else, this tally should dispel any idea that NPR is left-leaning.
Lewis’ need to anchor his tale in personalities results in a skewed misreading of the subprime crisis and why and how it got as bad as it did. The group of short sellers he celebrates were minor-leaguers compared to the likes of Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and John Paulson. But no one on the short side of these trades, large or small, should be seen as any kind of a stalwart hero and defender of capitalism. Circumstances converged to create a perfect storm of folly on the buy side, beginning with essentially fraudulent mortgage originations at ground level, which the short-sellers—whether trading at the multimillion or multibillion dollars level—took advantage of. That they walked away with large profits may be enviable, but there was nothing valiant about it. In the end, Main Street, having been desolated by a mortgage-driven housing bust, now found itself the buyer of last resort of Wall Street’s garbage.
—Yves Smith, “Debunking Michael Smith’s Subprime Short Hagiography”
The last week has seen an endless discussion, within the political blogosphere, about the meaning of rhetoric, extremism, and what is acceptable discourse. I’m on break now, so I’ve been more attentive than usual. I find I can barely express what a profound failure, on balance, the conversation has been. Bloggers fail to have this conversation honestly because they are incapable of seeing or unwilling to admit that the political discourse, in our punditry, lacks a left wing.
—Freddie deBoer, “the blindspot”
When the police start killing random citizens out of spite, and then a newly revolutionary army goes a head and deputizes everyone with a knife or stick, it really brings out the worst and best in people.
There was one drunken fat man, whose breath smelled of liquor who was wielding dual butcher knives. He kept threatening other volunteers and vandalizing things and eventually people made him leave.
Most of the people were extremely inspirational and there were some people who took it upon themselves to be sort of leaders or messengers and ran from corner to corner, letting people know what was up. In my neighborhood the people who were doing this were two old men, and (implausibly) one young woman.
The young woman, named Leila spoke some English. She said “you are in our country, in our revolution” I started to say “I just don’t want anyone taking my shit or shooting at my house” but she cut me off “you should get citizenship here, like Che in Cuba.”
My motives are far from revolutionary, and she was totally busting my balls, but it still felt nice.
—methalif, “Next Morning”
For the media dissemination of the uprising, yes, the Internet has replaced the media. The Tunisians have become the reporters on the social networks. Five years ago, without Facebook and Twitter, the same uprising would have been smothered.
The demands of the people: down with Internet censorship, freedom of expression… down with the corrupt regime.
—S, from Karin Kosina vka kyrah’s “The role of the Internet in the revolutionary uprising in Tunisia: a conversation with someone who was there”
As with most nationalist parties resisting colonial rule in the Middle East, the leadership of the Neo-Destour was initially comprised of a small section of the intelligentsia, university graduates who resented the colonial jackboot and the Tunis-based grand familles who connived with the colonists. These educated elites were offspring of the emerging Sahel bourgeoisie, who needed to mobilise the peasantry and the emerging proletariat, without fundamentally altering the relations of subjection and exploitation in which the latter were held. As usual, there was an emphasis on regenerating national culture, and modernising the better to resist colonial domination. But, there was also the particular element of hatred for the crusading policy of the French Catholic church under Cardinal Lavigerie, the French empire’s supernal advocate. Thus, the Neo-Destours emphasised the protection of Islamic traditions, attempting to mobilise them as elements of the national identity they sought to “restore.”
—lenin, “The rise and fall of Tunisia’s Ceauşescu”
“Tastemakers beware,” the subhead warns, “the audience is no longer interested in your opinion.”
What? Say it ain’t so! Mr. Gabler begins with the assertion that, “as anyone who has ever wiggled in his seat at a classical music concert or stared in disbelief at a work of conceptual art can attest, culture in America has usually been imposed from the top down.” And what about the vastly larger segment of the population who avoid such egghead pastimes altogether? They are the heroes of Mr. Gabler’s article, which is about how an anonymous band of “democrats” overthrew the forces of “official” culture as embodied by “media executives, academics, elite tastemakers and of course critics.”
These people, also characterized as “cultural imperialists” and “commissars,” have conducted a long and tireless campaign to force everyone else to look at conceptual art and go to classical music. “For over 200 years,” Mr. Gabler writes, “normal Americans have longed to exercise their independence and free themselves form the tyranny of the elitists.” And now, apparently, that nightmare of oppression is over.
—A.O. Scott, “Defy the Elite! Wait, Which Elite?”
They can’t be human, but they look so human.
—Christopher Higgs, “Notes on Frans Zwatjes’s Living (1971)”
According to the Inglipnomicon, the rise of Inglip and his faith began on January 8th, 2011, with the following events.
—Susana Polo, “Praise Lord Inglip, From Whom All Blessings Flow”