30 July 2005

- Books, Books, Books -

I love books. They are also the bane of my existence. I'm swimming in them—no make that drowning in them.

In the process of tracking down some references for a book proposal I've been working on, I've ended up cleaning out my office at home. Well, almost. I now have six piles of books, each neatly stacked on the floor two to three feet high but with no place to go. So that's what, about eighteen linear feet of books. Here's the rub: all the book shelves in the house are full. I have one wall where I can replace a short bookcase with a taller one and gain maybe ten additional linear feet. But once that wall is used up, I'm not sure what I'll do.

You may think: well, move the books to your office at school. Besides the fact that I now try to spend as little time there as possible so that I can actually get some work done (the irony), I have to admit that it too is likewise swamped with books. No, make that deluged. Some have threatened to have it declared a disaster area. Me, I think of it as a creative workspace: you never know which two seemingly unrelated bits of information are going to be brought into contact with one another and spontaneously generate brilliant insight. Let entropy be your friend. That's my motto.

But I digress. I think I may well have twenty linear feet of unshelved books in my office at school. I've three or four good sized stacks on the floor. I have them stacked on the filing cabinets. My desk is submerged in them. Yes, I hardly no what to do with all these books. I would just let them float their way to insight around my office if it wasn't for the fact that I occasionally have to wade inside and find something. Finding something when you need it—that's the trouble with the creative workspace.

28 July 2005

- Rereading Redux -

Readers of my earlier post ask some very good questions. I'm quite sure I don’t have satisfactory answers to all of them—maybe not any of them. As I put it in my reply to David, I’m very much groping here, because I feel that something has changed if rereading has indeed lost its resistance to the “commercial and ideological habits” of society.

Though I didn't mentioned it in my previous post, I also think that rereading has to be differentiated from repetition, the social imperative to return to a text as a means of desensitizing us to its affect/effect. Here, radio play of a hit song might serve as the exemplar. Yet the recycling of hit songs in oldies formats suggests that such desensitization cannot be final. These old hits return, however, filled with nostalgia: we return to them to capture, for a moment, a time that seems lost.

Narrative is structured by lack—I think that's an unspoken premise I'm working with here. Narrative moves, as it were, by filling in what is not yet present in the text; but narrative never completes its task of revealing everything of the world it relates: as it closes, it also opens. It’s only the rhetoric of final closure that makes us believe that the narrative has run its course, has presented all of its world that needs to have been presented. Yet if narrative has done its job, it leaves us pondering. Why? Because not all has been said. The lack is foundational.

Ultimately, I would say that narrative is about managing this lack, instrumentalizing it to a certain end, circulating it within a particular economy. How that lack is exploited is a crucial ideological moment of a narrative text. I would agree completely with Jody's statement that "When people fall in love with a world, they want to enter it again." I’ve read The Lord of the Rings about a dozen times. I’ve seen the old trilogy of Star Wars more times than I care to admit. If I had time, I’d read the Harry Potter books, and I’m sure I would love and reread them as well. Indeed, I’m looking forward to having that time.

But how does this “love” relate to rereading as Barthes describes it? While Barthes would agree, I think, that reading gives intense pleasure and that “love” is not too strong of a term to describe it, I doubt he would see rereading as this sort of return, for in the formulation above, which again I think is entirely accurate, this return strikes me, like the oldie, as structured by nostalgia. In this sense, one seeks not more from the text in returning to it, but the same thing all over again. Of course, the text cannot reveal what it once did, so in this sense its excess appears as a lack, and the book is on its way to being consumed, worn out, for our love of it. I don't think this is the whole story, however, and I will return to it in a moment.

Serials partake fully of this economy of return, though from the opposite side as it were. They are structured by excess: they do not demand rereading butmore reading. Yet they stand under the sign of consumption: consuming more narrative. That's the whole point of the cliff-hanger—a textual lack that needs to be filled, that will be filled in the next installment only to leave us hanging again. But each chapter of the serial is presented as "disposable" in just the sense that Barthes suggests: each chapter is consumed as its cliffhanger is resolved: each chapter exists only to produce this cliff-hanger. That some serials also "succeed" when compiled simply shows that they can also succeed as books—I'll postpone discussion here of what that distinction between serial and book might mean.

I don’t know enough about the reading habits of the late nineteenth century to know how often such books might have been reread, but I have to wonder how much income from book sales was calculated into the production of the serials. That is, did authors serialize in order increase book sales or were books understood as an ancillary market to the serials? Did the books circulate primarily in leather bound editions on expensive paper (suggesting that they were being archived as art) or in inexpensive editions that would quickly "wear out"? In any case, my sense is that these books were not sold with the idea that readers would return to them over and over again as viewers do with, say, Star Wars. (I admit that I have to probe this issue more with respect to the issue of the society of the trashheap becoming the society of the archive.)

Gone with the Wind, which Jody introduces as a counter example, is a good piece to consider, as it falls outside the normal mode of Hollywood production at the time, and so is more similar to the modern blockbuster. I can also easily imagine a set of GwtW dolls and a replica of Tara for kids to play with. I’m sure that’s what would happen if the film had been made today. Yet, here are some things to think about: it was made as a "prestige" picture. As with all Selznick pictures, it was also marketed under the sign of "art." So the question remains: was the film designed for re-viewing in the way that Tolkien and Rowling are designed for rereading, and Star Wars is designed for re-viewing? Perhaps. It’s also important to remember that like most film musicals based on Broadway hits GwtW is a derivative product, and the film version was understood, I think, as a means of broadening the audience of the book, no doubt also as a way of “bringing it to life.” The re-releases, in that sense, can be understood as means of further "broadening," bringing the film to "a new generation" of viewers. Subsequent editions of novels can be understood similarly.

I'm still uncertain how the issue of the blockbusters fits into the whole thing. Star Wars was the first film predicated, I think, on repeated viewing. If it wasn’t Star Wars—Jaws, Close Encounters, and a few other films of the early 70s had similar success—it was Star Wars that fundamentally reoriented the film industry toward releasing blockbusters in the summer when adolescent audiences were available to view the film over and over again. Yet, arguably, this re-viewing is simply repetition in the sense that the hit song is repetition. What’s fascinating to me is that this doesn’t seem to be how repeated viewings of Star Wars worked. Instead, each viewing seemed to generate a real desire to see it again, to find something new in it, as well as a desire to flesh out that world in the imagination by recreating it with toys, video games, etc. Yes, of course, tying toys to films had happened before, but I don’t think the exploitation of the connection was ever before quite so systematic. To my mind, Lucas' insistence on owning the rights to the ancillary products clearly demonstrates that he had a real sense that the situation had fundamentally changed, that there was serious money to be made by investing in the world rather than the film, whose income would last only so long as the film played.

I think something similar is true for Tolkien, though it was a long time in coming, and prior to films had spawned mostly ancillary textual products (such as the Guide to Middle Earth and the various edited volumes of Tolkien’s drafts) and unauthorized derivatives such as Dungeons and Dragons. It is clear, however, that Tolkien could have had no idea that his world might grab the imagination of his readers in this way.

I have to think that Rowling did—though probably not at first. You can see the calculations starting to kick in when the first ancillary products start to appear: the little books on quidditch and monsters, for instance, which served to fill in information about Harry Potter's world not available elsewhere. I think this desire for more of Harry Potter’s world goes beyond the excess generated immanently by the serial; I think it goes beyond film adaptations or re-releases. I think the desire to reread the Harry Potter books will continue after the series is completed (even if Rowling does something really, really stupid in the final book, as Lucas did with his prequels). For this world, like Star Wars and Tolkien’s, is not one that is meant to be consumable, to be thrown away. It is also not one that is contained by the novel. Indeed, Rowling, Tolkien, Lucas—all these worlds are predicated on not being disposable commodities. Yet none of them seems committed to be inconsumable in the way that modern art has been. They all seek to profit from these fictional worlds; these worlds—not just the texts—are now managed as real properties. This strikes me as a sea change, a movement away from the planned obsolescence of writing that Barthes complained about. If this is the incipient form of the new capital, a capital invested in the control and management of intangible, inconsumable intellectual properties and informational commodities, where can resistance to it be lodged?

Rereading in the Barthian sense has seemingly lost its power to disenchant society. What might we do with that recognition?

Richard's comment that the investment of time in reading narrative is far greater than that for viewing narrative would probably factor in here as well: if an acceleration of consumption follows an acceleration of production, but our commercial and ideological habits are turning toward archiving rather than disposal, time becomes very precious. How would that figure into the economy of rereading?

27 July 2005

- More on Mister Roberts -

Scary news about Roberts. What especially bothers me is his apparent hostility toward civil rights and his advocacy of school prayer. These papers suggest he may be much more an ideologue than he seems on the surface to be.

26 July 2005

- Economy of Rereading -

David points to Bérubé's post on Harry Potter. I have nothing against Harry Potter—quite the contrary—but I wonder a bit about Bérubé's take.

Not surprising for a literature professor, Bérubé valorizes rereading. In and of itself, there seems to be little to argue with in that stance. Most of us (myself included) presume that rereading is important to the kind of understanding we value. Bérubé quotes Roland Barthes on rereading:

Rereading, an operation contrary to the commercial and ideological habits of our society, which would have us “throw away” the story once it has been consumed (“devoured”), so that we can then move on to another story, buy another book, and which is tolerated only in certain marginal categories of readers (children, old people, and professors). (S/Z, 15-16)

Bérubé also reminds us that "people familiar with his work will remember that [Barthes] was as willing to interpret magazine covers, detergent ads, and wrestling matches as the work of Balzac." Bérubé's point is that Barthes' stance on popular culture cannot be inferred from his valorization of rereading. Yet Bérubé does not really pursue the issue. In particular, he does not mention that Barthes' reading of what he calls our cultural "mythologies" depends itself on rereading, his refusal to throw away ephemera just because culture asks us not to concern ourselves with it once it has been consumed. In this way, his reading of a particular magazine cover, say, depends on "rereading" it after its cultural moment has passed: in this way the social consumptive habit is resisted.

Such resistance may be all well and good when a text is designed to be forgotten in the act of consumption; but what about when a text is made for the economy of rereading? A need to reread seems immanent to Rowling's books; they engender this desire to reread; rereading them to all appearnces gives pleasure. In that respect they are not unlike so-called difficult texts, though the latter seem far less enchanting. We are aware of our labor as we read difficult texts. That is, reading and rereading them seems like real work.*

What is most troubling, however, is the way this desire/pleasure/need is instrumentalized by the Rowling industry. So we get not just the movies, but all the other ancillary products, which seem predicated on the very desire of rereading, of returning to the world of the text—really to get lost in that world: thus do we convince ourselves that we own this world, that it belongs to us. And this is at one with the the commercial and ideological habits inculcated by the film blockbuster, which produces the desire to see it again, not just for the added box office revenue but even more for the ancillary revenue that this desire generates. Think of Star Wars, Batman, Spiderman, etc.; but think also of The Lord of the Rings.

It is the connection to Tolkien that I find most relevant. For his may be the first texts that have been used to instrumentalize rereading in just this way. And though Tolkien could have hardly forseen the transformative commercial and ideological effects of his texts, the Tolkien industry has formed around reaping profit from the desire to reread that they give rise to. This desire is instrumentalized spectacularly in the films and the ancillary products related to it. But it is perhaps even more apparent in ten volumes or so of his notes and drafts that have been released. Name another author whose Nachlass has been published not for scholarly consumption but to feed the ravenous appetite of general readers for more text.†

So then the question: what does it mean culturally that rereading is no longer an operation contrary to the commercial and ideological habits of our society but has rather in some cases at least become identical with those commercial and ideological habits?


*This is not to say that reading Rowling's books does not take real labor. The sheer time commitment certainly suggests that one will have to work at reading the books. It's simply that the work one does in reading them is less apparent presumably because the pleasures it gives rise to seem more intense and immediate.

†As the term "scholarly consumption" suggests, we cannot exempt humanistic scholarship from this economy, which may indeed serve as the source and model for the economy of rereading; the primary difference is that at this time monetary profit cannot as yet be reaped from most products of humanistic scholarship. With perpetual copyright just around the corner, this may well change, since such scholarship may well prove profitable when consolidated and organized into information databanks.

- Art Camp -

Judu started art camp yesterday. She seems to have really enjoyed it. She's doing papier-mâché this week. They spent part of the day making the mold, and part of it getting the papier-mâché ready. Today they'll start doing applying it.

Next week she'll be doing tie-dye and the week after that drawing. The following week school starts, if you can believe it. Where did the summer go?

23 July 2005

- Going for Yellow -

Lance takes the time trial. That pretty much wraps it up. (Couldn't watch it because our cable system doesn't carry OLN in the non-digital package.)

22 July 2005

- Media Matters -

Added the Media Matters news box back into the side bar. (It's under the blogroll.) I'd been missing reading about just how far right our "mainstream media" is these days.

- GMail -

Has anyone else noticed that GMail has been burping "oops" lately? It's really frustrating, since I've begun migrating to it as my main email acount.

21 July 2005

- The Tooth Fairy Doth Come -

Judu lost a tooth yesterday and of course the tooth fairy came last night. It's interesting because neither Spouse nor I encourage belief in the tooth fairy. Not that we wouldn't celebrate the tooth loss in the usual fashion, that is by bringing money and/or gifts in exchange for the tooth. Rather it's Judu who insists on the myth.

Last night she was very concerned that we notify the tooth fairy that her tooth was under her pillow. Then she was worried that the tooth fairy wouldn't be able to find the tooth under her pillow, so she moved to the side of her bed. Then she was wondering how we knew for sure that the tooth fairy would come. Playing along with the conceit—what else could I do?—I told her that though we couldn't talked directly to the tooth fairy directly (because she was out visiting other kids), but we did talk to her assistant. (I had to say this because Judu was having a hard time falling asleep and she couldn't understand why we didn't just tell the tooth fairy to come later.) Judu then jumped to the conclusion that the tooth fairy must have a cell phone that allows her assistant to contact her.

Really, it was all very amusing.

20 July 2005

- Mister Roberts -

Let's start with a compliment: Whatever you might think of Roberts on the SCOTUS, you have to admit that this is a strategically brilliant nomination. First off, the timing was great, knocking the Rove affair off the front pages. Second, Roberts is 50 years old and so if the current court membership is any guide, he will be serving like forever. Third, he's a Washington insider and has cordial relations with many of the Dems.

Nevertheless, blogworld is already abuzz with reasons Roberts is unfit for the position. Of course, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that any Bush nomination would meet the same response. Really, I just don't see how such a predictable line of attack helps at all. Demonization works only so long, and the conservative political machine has long known how to effectively parry these attacks. Besides, since Roberts does strike me as eminently well-qualified, it also seems that this response simply imposes a "litmus test." Are we to be as vile as our opponents? Come on, folks, we can do better than this!

Still this does not mean that we roll over. I agree with Prof. B that it is time to fight. I just think we need to start our fight from a recognition that unless something terribly egregious turns up about Roberts we have very little chance of winning this particular battle. So we need to fight strategically, not to win the battle per se but, if you pardon me putting it this way, to put us in the best position to win the war.

So I just don't think scorched earth tactics are the way to go in this particular instance. Even if we win this battle, which is unlikely, it puts us in a horrible position in the larger war: there is, after all, an endless supply of conservative candidates for the position and the nominees are likely only to get worse rather than better.

Yet I think we do need to mount real resistance. As I said, we can't simply roll over. The question is: what should that resistance look like? I think maybe rather than going after Roberts ad hominem it might be more productive to use this as an opportunity ro remind the public over and over of what's at stake in any SCOTUS appointment. That is, it seems to me that it might be politically more effective to use this nomination not to mobilize the base but rather to secure political ground with the general public that can be used later. Really, it's the political ground that counts, since the only way to reverse the situation is for the left to take command of the political discourse and for the left to start winning elections. We have to remember that.

With that in mind, we also need to keep this nomination from distracting us from the issues that will continue to damage Bush and the conservative agenda: hammering Rove, Bolten, Iraq, the Downing Street Memo, Tom Delay, and so forth. Those are the issues that have sent Bush's and the GOPs numbers downward, and those, rather than this particular nomination, are the issues that will likely to continue to erode support. So we have to be careful not to let go of them at the moment they are really starting to inflict significant damage. It's much better, I think, to use this nomination to underscore the political stakes, the high social costs we'll pay by letting the conservative agenda to go forward. Pay attention to the nomination, then, but don't obsess over it to the exclusion of everything else.

Essentially, the nomination gives us another opportunity to pose the question: is this the vision of America that We the People really want to embrace?

19 July 2005

- DVDs -

I spent the last two days compiling a wish list of DVDs for two research projects. Making these sorts of lists, checking prices, and so forth takes a lot more time than you might imagine. You also learn just how little is actually out on DVD, especially the films I'm interested in (1927-1933). So I also scoured the TCM schedule to see when such films were playing (TCM plays a lot more films than Time-Warner is willing to release at this point).

On a related note, it's getting harder all the time to rip clips from DVDs for use in class. This is getting to be a real hassle, because DVDs themselves are virtually impossible to teach from. I'm sure you all know how ridiculously long the menu sequences for DVDs are getting. Moreover, many DVD players shut themselves off after a certain period of inactivity, and most of those players do not remember the place they have been cued to once they have powered down, so it's not even like you can cue the DVD up before class. No, you have to imagine sitting there in class for 2 minutes as the menu sequence runs, then input the time code. Just think about what that does to teaching!

So what have I done? Well, I have one computer that is devoted to digitizing for class. I won't upgrade the software, the system, nothing. Still, the way things are going I'm going to have to stoop to figuring out how to turn off the macrovision, which would put me in direct violation of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). Gotta love this forced choice between effective pedagogy and upholding the law!

18 July 2005

- Military Matters -

While visiting my folks, I got talking to my sister about the sentiments of the military toward the current administration. She lives near a military base, and since her husband is ex-military, she has a number of friends in military families. She tells me that the enlisted men in particular have become very hostile toward the current administration, and that many are willing to be rather public about their dissatisfaction. She also says that the divorce rate in both the officer and enlisted ranks has just skyrocketed.

Not exactaly sure what to make of reports that re-enlistments are up significantly compared to the significant shortfalls in recruitment. Certainly, the article is pollyannish. But it does contain this little gem:

Army officials attribute the strong re-enlistment rates to unprecedented cash bonuses and a renewed sense of purpose in fighting terrorism. Some of the record bonuses are tax-free if soldiers re-enlist while in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Re-enlistment bonuses range from as little as $1,000 to as much as $150,000, depending on the type of job and length of re-enlistment. The $150,000 bonuses are offered only to senior special operations commandos who agree to stay in the military for up to six more years. The average bonus is $10,000, said Col. Debbra Head, who monitors Army retention at the Pentagon.

That's real bucks. If I had to hazard a guess about what is going on, I imagine that many figure they may as well take the cash bonus for re-enlistment rather than being caught in a stop-loss order where they have to serve and don't get the cash.

- Just Curious -

I'm a Gryffindor!

I'm sure Spouse can tell me what that means. I figured I'd just come out a muggle.

- G-d's Arena -

I was just reading this Times article about a Houston evangelical church that just remodelled a sports arena into a 16,000 seat sanctuary. This paragraph in particular really surprised me:

Like many new evangelical churches, the building has no cross, no stained glass, no other religious iconography. Instead, it has a cafe with wireless Internet access, 32 video game kiosks and a vault to store the offering.

Who knew? Well, with 16,000 people at each service, you figure there has to be a vault. But an internet cafe and video arcade? G-d certainly works in mysterious ways. Still, I'd be most interested to learn which video games have been selected for the arcade.

This reminds me of one of the churches in the town where I grew up. It had a full-service gym attached. Many joined the church not for the theology but for the fully tax deductible gym membership.

17 July 2005

- Montage -

Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) to Gabriele Kuby, author of Harry Potter - gut oder böse?:

It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.


- The Little Dictator -

Another scene at the party

Judu: But it hurts my feelings when the other kids don't do what I tell them to.

- Peter Pan -

Papa: Judu, you know better than that. You're a big girl now. You're six, but you're acting like you're two.

Judu: I don't want to be a six-year old. I want to be a toddler.


16 July 2005

- Baring It All -

A scene at Judu's party


Judu: So I could put them on Mama's head.

09 July 2005

- And He's Off -

Off to the Twin Cities this morning. Don't know how frequently I'll be able to find wi-fi to post and read.

Don't go writing too much interesting while I'm away!

07 July 2005

- Watch What You Write -

A sign in the local coffee shop:

Now Accepting Applications

We are looking for more talented people
at the Caffeine Dealer

I guess the current employees are not sufficiently talented.

- Jailing Journalists -

Even though I knew Judith Miller was protecting an anonymous source involved in a hachet job, I reluctantly supported the intergrity of her stand until I read this. Some "integrity." I'm still not sure what to think, as I don't know what sort of ax Will Bunch and the Philadelphia Daily News might be grinding, but I'm no longer quite so appalled.

- London -

This is bad, very bad, in all sorts of ways.

05 July 2005

- Celebrating the Fourth -

We celebrated the Fourth here more or less as usual. After the run, we went to the neighborhood festivities. This involved saying the Pledge, honoring the vets, listening to the evil "God Bless the USA (I'm Proud to Be an American)", singing other patriotic songs communally, and watching a performance of a local square dance troupe. The caller sang the calls—not sure how unusual that is. Generally, he favored old-time and country, but at the end he called a dance to some funk tune. I found the mixing of genres here completely disorienting, though it actually worked amazingly well.

In the afternoon, we went over to the pool so Judu could participate in the water games. She had a very good time. We then went to a block party for the evening. You might think that we passed on the major fireworks display for a bit of convivial community building. While the latter certainly took place, we did not in fact have to give up on the fireworks.

Here is the post on the local fireworks' culture I wrote last year.

- Yankee Doodle Dandy -

Bombs bursting in air—The place I live has not yet been annexed by our fair city. Annexation may seem a peculiar point from which to embark on a post concerning fireworks, except that being outside the city means that we are governed by county rather than city law. And on the Fourth of July that means that we have fireworks going off everywhere, because basically the county chooses to regulate nothing that it absolutely does not have to. In terms of fireworks, the result is rather ridiculous. We live in a relatively normal suburban subdivision, with the usual density of homes on .25 to .5 acre lots. Yet within a block of us, we had four groups of neighbors setting off extensive displays, each costing well in excess of $1000. Talk about literally having money to burn... Fortunately, for safety's sake if nothing else, annexation can't be too far off.

If, like me, you see fireworks as a sort of dance of light and sound, public displays have a quality of containing this aerial ballet, of turning it into a show, which is a mark of its publicity, its being a public event. In this sense it is recognizable as a form of theater. The public fireworks show constructs and assembles an audience, a public, as for a show. What is different about the displays in my neighborhood is precisely this loss of containment, and so also any sense of witnessing a public show. Fireworks go off first here, then there, and occasionally everywhere; and your attention flits from one place to the next for no discernable purpose other than to see the sky painted again with light. Lacking is any sense of choreography to the display, a sense that it has been planned, that it has been put on, staged, for me. What is exhibited instead then is perfectly private, which means that the displays in the neighborhood seek not public expression but the expression of and for the self. When I step outside and watch, I sense seeing a display that was not meant for me, that, unlike the public show, has not been planned for my presence, and a private exhibition of and for the self that takes place in public is merely indecent exposure.

Yet the flash of the bombs bursting in air does not merely sublimate the uncouth figure of the flasher. If the fireworks necessarily contain an irreducible phallic moment inasmuch as they are personal displays of power, the sky is also transformed into an arena of competition. The displays may be indifferent to me but they are not indifferent to the other displays, which become the measure of one's own display, one's own power. What I as an interloper see as confusion then is a trace of just this competition, a competition that holds no place for me so long as I do not have the capital to burn. Hence, the impression of disorientation, but also of my being caught in a war zone: the almost arbitrary assault on my senses marks my presence as an intrusion, as a stepping into a no man's land between competing displays of subjectivity. This accidental choreography is fascinating not just for the sublime spectacle it produces but also for precisely the way it reproduces in the sky the relation of autonomous subjects on the earth. The sometimes beautiful, sometimes jarring, but always confused dance of competing fireworks is thus a momentary reflection of a society in which I am impotent, where my only power consists of directing my gaze or closing my eyes.

03 July 2005

- The Law of Genre -

I especially enjoyed this paragraph from Frank Rich's column in the New York Times this morning:

Mr. Spielberg's [War of the Worlds] illuminates, too, how Mr. Bush has flubbed the basic storytelling essential to sustain public support for his Iraq adventure. The president has made a tic of hammering in melodramatic movie tropes: good vs. evil, you're with us or you're with the terrorists, "wanted dead or alive," "bring 'em on," "mission accomplished." When you relay a narrative in that style, the audience expects you to stick to the conventions of the genre; the story can end only with the cavalry charging in to win the big final battle. That's how Mr. Spielberg deploys his platoons, "Saving Private Ryan"-style, in "War of the Worlds." By contrast, Mr. Bush never marshaled the number of troops needed to guarantee Iraq's security and protect its borders; he has now defined "mission accomplished" down from concrete victory to the inchoate spreading of democracy. To start off sounding like Patton and end up parroting Woodrow Wilson is tantamount to ambushing an audience at a John Wayne movie with a final reel by Frank Capra.

I've often said that Rich makes some of the most trenchant criticism of Bushworld because he was for so many years a drama critic.

I missed this bit of polling that Rich cites:

Last week an ABC News/Washington Post survey also found that a majority now believe that the administration "intentionally misled" us into a war - or, in the words of the Downing Street memo, that the Bush administration "fixed" the intelligence to gin up the mission.

And likewise this poll, which I again missed:

The Wall Street Journal reports that the current war's unpopularity now matches the Gallup findings during the Vietnam tipping point, the summer of 1968. As the prospect of midterm elections pumps more and more genuine fear into the hearts of Republicans up for re-election, it's the Bush presidency, not the insurgency, that will be in its last throes.

It strikes me that we shouldn't let the SCOTUS fight distract us from pounding on Iraq, which,as Rich notes, may indeed be the way to weaken the president sufficiently that the centrists will feel they no longer have anything to gain from supporting the president and the dems won't get characteristically skittish. If Specter has his way and really waits until until September to hold hearings, this may well be doable—and the conservatives know it.

01 July 2005

- Musikblätter des Anbruch -

Musikblätter des Anbruch was published by Universal Editions in Vienna until 1934 when, under a threat of an economic boycott from Germany and political pressure from NSDAP supporters in Austria, it was transferred to another press. It was ultimately closed down for good with the Anschuss.

You can get some idea of the cover design from the picture down in the "Credits" section of the sidebar.

- The Court -

One thing to keep in mind about Gonzales:

The Supreme Court in Texas is an elected body. Hence it is difficult to vote one's conscience. Not that that necessarily means much, but it does mean that it will be harder to infer how he might vote on various issues from his record. And he may well be the best of a lousy lot.

My suspicion is that Rehnquist will resign this summer as well. Though there have been rumors that he's remained so long because he doesn't think Scalia will make a responsible Chief Justice, his health has continued to deteriorate and with O'Conner going he may well feel that it's time to churn the court. In any case and to be morbid about it, Rehnquist will soon be leaving the court one way or another. Speculation is that Bush will make one conservative nomination and one moderate. Why that's the speculation, lord only knows. I guess because he seems intent on nominating Gonzales, and Gonzales is what passes for a moderate these days.

Extensive links, as always, can be found at Bitch, Ph.D..

- O'Conner Is Gone, and We Are So Screwed -

That's the common wisdom, and I agree with it in the short term. There goes the filibuster deal—not that it was much of a deal to begin with. And we'll undoubtedly end up with some disaster of a nomination and probable confirmation, someone to the right even of Scalia. In some sense, the best case scenario may well be if Bush overplays this appointment to keep the wingnuts happy and winds up forcing moderate republicans to oppose it. Ah, but then he'll just nominate someone else with views only slightly less appalling. No, in the short term, we're definitely screwed.

In the long term, however, the whole thing might play out unexpectedly. Not so much on the court, which will burden us with decisions in favor of corporate America and against civil liberties for years to come; but politically in the sense that independents may stop getting drunk on the flag for a moment and actually pay attention to what's going on; and the democrats may well get a clue and figure out that, really, they need to stand for something and that they can actually succeed by standing for something.

Ok, that's a stretch, but it's all I've got at the moment.