Saturday, April 18, 2009

Social Networking

I've been on Facebook since January and blogging for 14 months. But really, what does it all mean?
It isn't just Twitter.
The great paradox of "social networking" is that it uses narcissism as the glue for "community." Being online means being alone, and being in an online community means being alone together. The community is purely symbolic, a pixellated simulation conjured up by software to feed the modern self's bottomless hunger. Hunger for what? For verification of its existence? No, not even that. For verification that it has a role to play. As I walk down the street with thin white cords hanging from my ears, as I look at the display of khakis in the window of the Gap, as I sit in a Starbucks sipping a chai served up by a barista, I can't quite bring myself to believe that I'm real. But if I send out to a theoretical audience of my peers 140 characters of text saying that I'm walking down the street, looking in a shop window, drinking tea, suddenly I become real. I have a voice. I exist, if only as a symbol speaking of symbols to other symbols.
H/T Andrew Sullivan 

Some Of My Best Friends

Love Leonard Cohen. Guess this is why:

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in.

Thanks, Adele.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bye, Bye P—I, Gap, Borders...

12 brands down and counting.

Howsee Doon?

Politifact releases report on his progress so far on keeping more than 400 campaign promises during his first 100 days. Notice, there's also an Obameter to your right to plug you in to their main page.

My Hero

If I have one for the last few years, it's not Obama but David Simon, former Baltimore Sun police reporter turned TV icon with the non-fiction book Homicide, shows Homicide, something intervening on HBO, The Wire, Generation Kill and a record of bluntly stating what he thinks about newspapers and the media in general.
Remember at the end of The Wire, we see that the newspaper has missed the best and most important stories in the city — political and police corruption, drug wars, union corruption. The newsroom can't even muster up the energy to respond to a fire they can see from their windows. I know this syndrome. I was this syndrome.
Oh, yeah, Simon's on Bill Moyers tonight, 9:30 p.m.

Friviality Friday

Presidential pets

Pauline Taft
Or the Mexican first lady's smashing shawls.
Thank you, Huffpo.

Banality of Evil

Sullivan sums it up:
Many of the people who did this are mild, kind, courteous, family men and women, who somehow were able to defend slamming human beings against walls in the daytime while watching the Charlie Rose show over a glass of wine at night. We've seen this syndrome before, in other places and at other times...

These legal memos construct a form of torture, through various classic torture techniques, used separately and in combination, that were to be used systematically, by a professional torture team along the lines proposed by Charles Krauthammer, and buttressed by a small army of lawyers, psychologists and doctors - especially doctors - to turn the US into a torture state. The legal limits were designed to maximize the torture while minimizing excessive physical damage, to take prisoners to the edge while making sure, by the use of medical professionals, that they did not die and would not have permanent injuries.
The core point of this, one infers from the memos, is to create a sense among the prisoners that their assumptions about the West, the US, and countries constructed on the rule of law are without any basis whatever. The torture techniques were all the more brutal in order to push back against the reputation of the US even in the minds of Qaeda or alleged Qaeda members. What Mukasey and Hayden are arguing for today is a scheme whereby, in secret, the US government credibly allows captives to believe they are in an endless, bottomless pit of extra-legal terror. This is the state of mind they are trying to construct by torture. That's the point of the sensory deprivation, the disappearances, the sequestering from the Red Cross, the endless solitary confinement, the IRFing, the hoods, the nudity, and all the other sadism. It is precisely to persuade the barbarians that we are as bad as they are and have no limits and no qualms in doing to them whatever we want.
Looked at from a distance, the Bush administration wanted to do two things at once: to declare to the world that freedom is on the march, and huamn rights are coming to the world with American help, while simultaneously declaring to captives that the US has no interest in the law, human rights, accountability, transparency or humanity. They wanted to give hope to all the oppressed of the planet, while surgically banishing all hope from the prisoners they captured and tortured. And the only way they could pull this off is by the total secrecy they constructed and defended. So we had a public government respectful of the rule of law, and a secret government whose main goal was persuading terror suspects that there was no rule of law at all. It is hard to convey just how dangerous this was and is.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Word Twit, er, Twist

What kind of a word game wants four different spelling for schlep (shlep, schlep, schepp) but does'nt recognize satan or santa...or pooper or poopers for that matter? This isn't frustration, it's contempt. Not that I ever did all that well.
Oh, it's on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Death Barged In
 by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno

        In his Russian greatcoat
slamming open the door
with an unpardonable bang,
and he has been here ever since.

He changes everything,
rearranges the furniture,
his hand hovers
by the phone;
he will answer now, he says;
he will be the answer.

Tonight he sits down to dinner
at the head of the table
as we eat, mute;
later, he climbs into bed
between us.

Even as I sit here,
he stands behind me
clamping two
colossal hands on my shoulders
and bends down
and whispers to my neck,
From now on,
you write about me.


I Am Juclie Lucca

What's your NPR name?
(Okay, I don't know which foreign town I visited is the smallest. I just guessed.)

Lies, Mark To Market and Orphan Months

I'd seen some discussion about this but was unprepared for NPR to be reporting the Wells Fargo and Golman Sachs alleged profits as cheerful signs of recovery yesterday.
In case you're interested, go here for a start.
Killer quote:

Since this accounting change, we've seen two major institutions prettying up their financial statements. Wells Fargo recorded record profits, and its stock jumped more than 20% in one day on the news. Goldman Sachs also reported tremendous earnings, surprising in these difficult times, and sold $5 billion of stock in the secondary market immediately afterwards
Both banks have used odd accounting tricks designed to obscure the truth of their status to investors. Earnings season just started, so we'll soon see if this is a trend, but so far, I'm not encouraged. Journalist Jonathan Weil, who helped uncover the Enron scandal, pointed out that much of the increase in Wells Fargo's earnings came from a new accounting term called 'Level 3' gains and its application to Wells Fargo's mortgage servicing portfolio. "So what are Level 3 gains?" asks Weil. "Pretty much whatever companies want them to be."
Floyd Norris of the New York Times noted that Goldman Sachs used a more prosaic trick having nothing to do with mark to market accounting - the company moved its fiscal year up a month and simply left out its losses from December, which is now known as an 'orphan month'. Is the rule that says a year has twelve months also open to subjective judgment?

Dylan, As In Bob

Big new album, big new interview. More here.
I never had Dylan crush and couldn't stand is voice, but the songs, the songs. Then a couple documentaries later (one early, one Scorsese a few years back) and I find I have an interest in him not just because he's a cultural icon, but because he's interesting and worth listening to for that alone. So many people just aren't.

Killer quote:

BF: But you've sold over a hundred million records.
BD: Yeah I know. It's a mystery to me too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I feel I owe them a plug, since they apparently picked this up and sent me an unheard of 186 hits last Friday.

Monday, April 13, 2009

It Ain't Jesus, Baby

What do (mostly) Red States and East Coasters have in common? Neurotic as hell, apparently.

Lights In Baskets Dept.

Sullivan's all verklempt. So am I.
"Embedding disabled by request," so ya gotta go here.
Susan Boyle. ( I think with a little work, she could look a lot like Jessica Lange.

What Do Ikea and Google Have In Common?

They're among the world's 99 most ethical companies. And besides, I have a crush on them, as well as Target, Safeway, Trader Joe's, and some others. Okay, I know you're saying, "Starbucks, that behemoth spirit killer?" But I've a sweet spot because it was there I had my first life-chaning latte in 1977.
Time Warner, not so much, thanks to Mr. Mark "Merkin" Halprin.
Anyway, here's the whole list and the methodology.

Culture of Narcissism

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, having encountered a number of people who believe that God takes a personal interest in their lives and steps in to fix things or give them some sign of progress. (I never hear them attribute God's intervention to their bad experiences.)
If it makes them happy and keeps them sober, I'm fine with it. But it's interesting.
And I'm hardly immune to the underlying syndrome.
Studies reveal that most ordinary people secretly think they're better than everyone else: We rate ourselves as more dependable, smarter, friendlier, harder-working, less-prejudiced and even better in the sack than others. "The paradox about narcissism is that we all have this streak of egotism," says Mark Leary, chair of the department of psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "Eighty percent of people think they're better than average."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Here's to Ostara

Imagine: a famous monk makes up a weird story about a goddess who never existed who turns a bird into a rabbit that lays colored eggs; and it morphs into a mega-watt holiday celebrated the modern world over.

But nothing about the chocolate.