30 December 2010

Irony, Projection, Crowds, & Fear

"Very true he had promised to lend her a book. A novel was the only thing worth considering for her. But no mind ever grew fat on a diet of novels. The pleasure which they occasionally offer is far too heavily paid for: they undermine the finest characters. They teach us to think ourselves into other men's places. Thus we acquire a taste for change. The personality becomes dissolved in pleasing figments of imagination. The reader learns to understand every point of view. Willingly he yields himself to the pursuit of other people's goals and loses sight of his own. Novels are so many wedges which the novelist, an actor with his pen, inserts into the closed personality of the reader. The better he calculates the size of the wedge and the strength of the resistance, so much the more completely does he crack open the personality of his victim. Novels should be prohibited by the State." Elias Canetti, Auto-da-Fé 42
Diabolical. Canetti, the novelist, uses his protagonist, Peter Kien eminent Sinologist, to lampoon and, indeed, undermine his (C's) own project. Quite a feat of critical self-examination, I'd say. But it is the feat of someone versed in the arts of critical thinking. Not everyone is, and this is an argument I've been making around here since WoW's beginnings some 3 years ago!


Remember the great controversy last year around this time concerning health care: DEATH PANELS! "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil." quoth Sarah Palin.

Politifact called it the biggest lie of 2009.

Now, the conservative Republican congress of Arizona and Jan Breuer, Governor, have instituted the very sort of thing they feared the Democrats wanted to institute.
"Starting in October, [2009] a measure passed by the Republican-led state legislature began denying Medicaid funds for organ transplants such as bone-marrow, lung, heart and liver transplants, which can be very expensive and are often performed in life-threatening cases.

The New York Times reports that Arizona doctors deem it a "a death sentence for some low-income patients, who have little chance of survival without transplants and lack the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for them."
Is that irony? Sort of, but it's more than that; something more insidious and, some might argue, pathological.


This is not the only incident of this sort of thing. The latest iteration? The Democrats are trying an unprecedented power grab when they talk about reforming the rules of the Senate.

And the constant propagandistic repetition of the use of the words 'government takeover' to describe anything that smacks of regulation or consumer protection.

Why is this disingenuous? Think back to the actual power grabs by the conservatives when they were in power: e.g., the PATRIOT Act; Newt Gingrich's shut-down of the Federal Government in a fit of pique at Pres. Clinton; the impeachment of Pres. Clinton and the series of Republican Speakers of the House who, during their pursuit of Clinton for a sexual indiscretion, had to abdicate power because of their own peccadillos.


Why the need to lie? I'm not sure they are lies.

To explain, I have to draw on some earlier posts here about the nature of the authoritarian personality: the whole series of posts on swarms, crowds and power, etc. [There are several pages of posts.]

I think these are all fairly clear examples of psychological projection. There's nothing earth-shaking about that observation. "Projection" is:
"a psychological defense mechanism where a person unconsciously denies their own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, or to other people. Thus, it involves imagining or projecting that others have those feelings.

Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted unconscious impulses or desires without letting the conscious mind recognize them.

An example of this behavior might be blaming another for self failure. The mind may avoid the discomfort of consciously admitting personal faults by keeping those feelings unconscious, and redirect their libidinal satisfaction by attaching, or "projecting," those same faults onto another."
I made a fairly clear argument to that same effect here with respect to V.Pres. Cheney and Sarah Palin and the Tea Party on the issue of whether Pres. Obama should use war as a tool of domestic politics:
"arguably the two top Republicans in the country are debating whether the President should use war as a political tool. Palin says yes. Cheney says Palin should be careful what she says; presidents should never think this way—out loud. ...Clearly, they think about these things. And that should give us all pause." 

A recent article claims that conservatives have a larger fear center in their amygdala. [N.B. It's not clear whether greater fear causes bigger amygdalas or bigger amygdalas cause greater fears, but it's an interesting observation.]

This makes sense: the anxiety produced by being subject to so much fear must be repressed, especially if that fear is of one's own dark side—the impulse to dominate. The authoritarian personality, as I've pointed out, requires both leaders and followers; it does not, however, allow for critical thought. And by critical thought I mean the ability to evaluate something on its merits in a rational, disinterested judgment—including one's self and one's intentions, goals, actions, merits, faults, etc.

It's easier to lay one's faults and flaws, one's worst impulses, off on an 'other', to blame others for one's failings. Projection.

For the Freudians, the dynamic of projection is unconscious. The projector is incapable of examining themselves and their own impulses and desires—that applies and is, in fact, amplified in the situation of crowd behavior where the desire to be swept up in the emotion of the crowd overpowers any sort of moral reasoning or rationality.

The more authoritarian the personality, the greater the tendency to project (i.e., defend the insecure self). [Gives an interesting twist on the "Project for a New American Century", eh?]

Projection: watch for it. Watch out for it.

28 December 2010

Reference, Allusion, Parody, Unreliability

By and large and for the most part, I eschew naked references in my fiction—allusion, on the other hand, abounds. But in one chapter I've been revising, I go all out. I thought I'd quote a few paragraphs from roughly the midpoint of the book, tongue firmly planted in cheek. Enjoy or destroy:
This night there were cocktails and crackers before the premiere of a one-man performance of a piece, and I guess that really is the only word for it, called "Dying Acts". It was rumored a critic from the Times or at least the Voice would be here. I knocked back a quick bourbon and got a refill before the bartender closed up the till and headed back to man the lighting console. I felt the familiar sting in my nostrils, and a pleasing dizziness settled in a coil at the back of my brain as the lights went down. The performer, Jimmy Hargitay, was known to Nina from the off-off-Broadway and indie-movie crowd. I had no evidence he and Nina were anything other than collaborators. Not that it mattered. Nina did what she wanted and was, by breeding, discreet.


I followed her up five flights of a dingy stairwell. At the top we were buzzed through a heavy steel door into the 'theater'. It had been a warehouse or an old manufacturing loft once—an expanse of unpolished wooden floors, dusty red brick walls, and exposed, unpainted steel girders and beams supporting a dark concrete ceiling. In the middle of the room sat a make-shift, semi-circular, wooden platform backdropped by a scrim of television sets and video and movie screens set at various heights and angles. An amphitheater of metal folding chairs on temporary risers rimmed the stage. I was prepared for the worst.

At these events of Nina's, I'd seen women in black leather harnesses and white lace tutus bathe in a bin of honey then roll around on a stage covered in sand and sawdust and ashes to the trance-like beat of what might well have been a techno version of "Swan Lake"; I'd cringed at the piercing sulfuric stench of a man burning off braided strands of his knee-length red beard while reciting from The Cantos of Ezra Pound ("There is a wine-red glow in the shallows,/ a tin flash in the sun-dazzle.") and The Maximus Poems of Charles Olson ("It was fishing was first.") and, apparently, one of his own poetic ravings A Belcher's Odes ("we eat/ we love/ we love/ to eat/ until/ we're done/ or 'til/ it's gone"); and I'd sat through the full five acts of Macbeth recited without blocking on a bare stage by seven men clad only in body paint and loin-cloths and ancient pig and dog masks, grunting and barking where the director obviously felt the script called for emphasis. Nina supported the arts, produced these things. It was indeed what she did. But tonight I merely wanted to be amused. TV would have done. Or even some quality time among my own dreams.

. . .

Nina and I were the last to find our reserved seats down front. The house lights dimmed. The hundred or so members of the audience hushed. A solitary spot shone on Hargitay standing upstage left holding a wooden oar in his arms. He began:

...and turning our stern toward morning, our bow toward night,
we bore southwest out of the world of man;
we made wings of our oars for our fool's flight.

That night we raised the other pole ahead
with all its stars, and ours had so declined
it did not rise out of its ocean bed.

Five times since we had dipped our bending oars
beyond the world, the light beneath the moon
had waxed and waned, when dead upon our course

we sighted, dark in space, a peak so tall
I doubted any man had seen the like.
Our cheers were hardly sounded, when a squall

broke hard upon our bow from the new land:
three times it sucked the ship and the sea about
as it pleased Another to order and command.

At the fourth, the poop rose and the bow went down
till the sea closed over us and the light was gone.

[N.B.: from Dante Alighieri, The Inferno: A Verse Rendering for the Modern Reader by John Ciardi, Canto XXVI, lines 115-131. (1954)]

Behind him, the screens operating for the moment as a single screen showed a film of a brilliant moon in the night sky, its reflection rippling on the surface of the ocean. The sound of oars dipping in the water filled the theater. Then, near the end of the piece, the screens went dark soon to be filled with a clip from an old black-and-white film of the ocean opening up into a vast maelstrom and swallowing a wooden sailing ship.

Then Hargitay crossed to stage right and recited a passage I recognized from the Bible:

"And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces." [N.B.: (2 Kings 2: 11-12) [KJV]]

While saying this he ripped his shirt off. Behind him, a cartoon of a fiery chariot and horses against a night sky leaped from screen to screen all the way across the stage. The effects were dazzling.

For the rest of the evening, the screens showed death scenes from the movies and television—or, more accurately, cropped reaction shots of the mourners in those scenes—the dead and dying having been cut out. Hargitay spoke his own lines as if to the actors on the screen, and they responded as if to him and his dying. After each set of lines, the videos went blank, or staticky, and he crossed the darkened stage. And each time he toed a new mark a somber bell tolled. As with a pendulum, each swing brought him both closer to center stage and closer to the audience. The shots of the mourners countered him in both their proximity to center stage and the angle of the shot, each swing bringing both performer and mourner slowly closer to an equilibrium. At various points in the drama, Hargitay removed more clothing.

Some of the filmed scenes were appropriately somber. Others out of phase. Occasionally, only static or test patterns shone on the screens. There were moments of bombast and wit, of patriotism and irony, of maudlin regret and manful resignation, even a certain amount of religious hope, however delusional. I was prepared to close my eyes as Hargitay whipped through his lines and, perhaps, drift off. But the brilliant glow of the screens mesmerized me into a harsh wakefulness; I couldn't keep my eyes closed. My thoughts roamed wide and wild, using the text, the scenes, as springboards. Some of the scenes were from war movies, others from parlor or hospital dramas. Many were ludicrously overblown: strings swelled; a camera zoomed in on a fat, glycerine tear or a quivering, shellacked, collagen-shot lower lip; fists clenched and pounded tables or wrenched handkerchiefs or other articles of clothing; stony-faced cowboys held their hats over their hearts or their genitals or rode their horses into vast desert distances. Dark birds flew. Lengthening shadows drenched cramped rooms. Raindrops trickled from dark foliage. A few lines, such as Oscar Wilde's "Either this wallpaper goes, or I do!" drew appropriate titters from the audience, whereas at least one, Socrates's "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?" evoked an inappropriate snigger from me (there is so little humor in philosophy we all learned to enjoy a naughty pun when we saw one) and earned a well-aimed elbow from Nina to my ribs. Once or twice, when the program music on the screens resolved on a particularly sublime chord or phrase, I felt a dampness coating my eyes and found it difficult to swallow or even breathe. I attributed it to the inherent manipulativeness of the medium or my own lack of sleep.

Then, at the end, Hargitay stood stock still at center stage, his momentum stilled, his bared back to the audience speaking to the hooded face of a sobbing, pleading woman—a Clytemnestra or Antigone who bore more than a faint resemblance to my mother—which spanned all the screens on the stage and dwarfed the naked actor. I looked up from whatever reverie this deeply moving, even archetypal, scene had spun me into only to confront from my seat—third row, center aisle—Hargitay's large, hairy backside. Then he turned around. I winced. Covertly shuddered. The audience gasped as, behind him, brilliant on the screen, a piercing white light exploded from the screens, filling the room and a deep, booming voice said "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." And Hargitay raised his arms and collapsed in a heap on the floor. Total darkness engulfed the room. Only the exit lights over the door to the stairwell were visible. The lights went up to a moment of shocked silence and then earnest applause as the naked actor trotted off stage. He returned in a robe for a brief bow.

The house lights came up. The caterers once again brought around canapés. The bartender returned to his station. As did I. The lighting was kept low, allowing Nina to shield her scars in the shadows. The crowd crowed over the performance—"profound", "moving", "magical", "hypnotic", "spiritual", "transformative", "by the end I felt like I was the one being mourned"—and feted Nina and Hargitay.

"Jimmy's the creative one," she protested.

"I just loved the way Hargitay deconstructed all the traditional categories of our supposed 'feelings' about dying. It was so totally transgressive of the religious clichés that we have been force-fed by the media our whole lives!" a woman in black leotards, a short black skirt, leather jacket, and tall cowboy boots said. "Don't you think?" Her eyebrows, as well as her short, lopsided hair, might have been dyed black.

"Well, it didn't have much of a plot," I said.
The rest of the chapter is an argument between the protagonist and his wife, the producer of the piece, over its meaning (or lack thereof). As in Hamlet, the parodic aspects relate to the theme of the novel, and thus the narrator is, as they say, unreliable.

19 December 2010

The Unanswered Question, So What

Wisdom of the West will be dark for the next week as I take a family holiday.

Best wishes to all of you for the New Year.

18 December 2010

O Captain, My Captain: R.I.P Don Van Vliet

'Tis a sad Zappadan. Captain Beefheart died today. I know I'm not the first to post this. I saw the crawl on MSNBC this a.m. before I took my kids to buy Christmas stuff.

In college, whenever I wanted to be alone, I could always clear out my dorm room by putting the Captain on the turntable (the Bad Company, Fleetwood Mac crowd would flee; the progs would listen curiously for awhile and bow out; etc.). And I knew I was heading in the right direction the night I met the woman who became my bride when she told me she'd seen CB & the Magic Band in concert. The opening act, by the way, was a chimp.

The music speaks for itself. You either do or don't.

16 December 2010

Run Better Run

The data are in.

Forgive me as I return to the personal space. Many of you will recall back in Aug. '09, I got a pair of Vibram Five-Finger shoes for my birthday and began running fairly regularly again for the first time in years. You can follow the saga here.

Beginning last December, I started keeping a running log using Gmaps Pedometer and a cheap watch. Here're the results:

From Dec. 1, 2009 through Nov. 30, 2010, I logged a total of 496.7 miles over 101+ hours (62.15 of those miles I ran barefoot)—just under 10 miles/week. I competed in 10 races: 2 5ks (3.1 miles), 4 10ks (6.2 miles), 1 15k (9.3 miles), 1 11-mile, and 2 half-marathons (13.1 miles). I ran on many different surfaces (asphalt, chip seal, boardwalk, trail, mud, granite, sand) and many different terrains (beach, hill, mountain, island, city, country) and in all types of weather (from 20° to 90°+, snow, deluge, sun, fog, humidity). Over the course of the year, my times improved to the extent that my 'easy' training runs now are at about the same pace as my first competitive races. In one 10k race, I ran my age!

One of the main questions I get from fellow runners when they see my shoes is: how many miles do you get on them? Thanks to my generous family, I now have three pair, VFF Sprint (black/blue), VFF KSO Trek (black), VFF Bikila (blue/gold) [as pictured on the left], each for a different type of run. Here're the mileage stats on each shoe for the year in question and the types of runs in each:
  • Sprint: 177 miles: 49 asphalt, smooth concrete, grassy field, and easy trail runs
  • KSO Trek: 68.5 miles: 16 trail runs
  • Bikila: 169.45 miles: 40 road runs
Note: these mileage figures do not take into account any runs from August to December, 2009, or after December 1, 2010. They do not account for the half-mile (approx.) I walk before and after each run, nor for the hikes I've taken in the N.C. mountains in the KSO Treks, nor the gym exercises (plyometrics, cardio, etc.) I do in the Sprints. Also, because they're so comfortable, I like to wear the KSO Treks to the movies and shopping and driving! [And for those of you keeping track, I ran an additional 19.7 miles in basic $5 water shoes.]

All of these shoes are still in regular rotation.

14 December 2010

Breadcrumb Trail

Thanks to all of you for your votes in the 3QuarksDaily politics contest. Thanks to you, my post made the semi-finals but didn't qualify for the finals as determined by the site's editors. You guys are the best!


Here are FlowingData's 10 Best Data Visualization Projects for 2010. My favorite:

Nature by Numbers from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo. Fibonacci be praised.


Did you know that Harvard scientists have reversed the aging process in mice. The process of aging is complicated, but boiled down:
"The ageing process is poorly understood, but scientists know it is caused by many factors. Highly reactive particles called free radicals are made naturally in the body and cause damage to cells, while smoking, ultraviolet light and other environmental factors contribute to ageing.

The Harvard group focused on a process called telomere shortening. Most cells in the body contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, which carry our DNA. At the ends of each chromosome is a protective cap called a telomere. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres are snipped shorter, until eventually they stop working and the cell dies or goes into a suspended state called "senescence". The process is behind much of the wear and tear associated with ageing."
The problem with humans is that we don't function quite like mice. Raising telomerase levels in humans can dormant cause cancers to bloom as well. Still, a good diet of antioxidants can help nip those pesky free radicals in the bud.


Stories create us, not the other way around: "State-of-the-art neuro-imaging and cognitive neuropsychology both uphold the idea that we create our "selves" through narrative."


There's a socio-political component as well, according to George Lakoff. (Here also) Per the dominant narrative of the day, there are certain 'untellable truths' that simply do not enter the discourse, and we are the worse for it. What are these truths?
"There is a Principle of Conservation of Government: If conservatives succeed in cutting government by the people for the public good, our lives will still be governed, but now by corporations. ...

The moral missions of government include the protection and empowerment of citizens. Protection includes health care, social security, safe food, consumer protection, environmental protection, job protection, etc. ...

The moral missions of government impose a distinction between necessities and services. Government has a moral mission to provide necessities: Adequate food, water, housing, transportation, education, infrastructure (roads and bridges, sewers, public buildings), medical care, care for elders, the disabled, environmental protection, food safety, clean air, and so on. Necessities should never be subordinated to private profit. ...

Services are very different; they start where necessities end. Private service industries exist to provide services — car rentals, parking lots, hair salons, gardening, painting, plumbing, fast food, auto repair, clothes cleaning, and so on. It is time to stop speaking of government “services” and speak instead of government providing necessities. ...

The market is supposed to be “efficient” at distributing goods and services, and sometimes, with appropriate competition, it is. But the market is most often inefficient at proving necessities, because every dollar that goes to profit is a dollar that does not go to necessities. ...

Public servant pensions have been earned. Public servants have taken lower salaries in return for better benefits later in life. They have earned those pensions through years of hard work at low salaries. ...

Education is a public good, not a private good. It benefits all of us to live in a country with educated people. ...

Huge discrepancies in wealth are a danger to democracy and a cause for major public alarm. ...

Tax “cuts,” “breaks,” and “loopholes” sound good (wouldn’t you like one?) even for super-wealthy individuals and corporations. What they really mean is that money is being transferred from poorer people to richer people: The poor and middle are giving money to the rich! Why? ...

Markets in a democracy have a fundamentally moral as well as economic function.  Working people who produce goods and services are necessary for businesses and should be paid in line with profits and productivity. ...

Carbon-based fuels — oil, coal, natural gas — are deadly. They bring death to people and animals and destruction to nature. We are not paying for their true cost because they are being subsidized: tens of billions of dollars for naval protection of tankers, hundreds of billions for oil leases, hundreds of billions in destruction of nature, as in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska coast. Death comes from the poisoning of air and water through pollution and natural gas frakking. And global warming pollution destroys nature itself...

What is called “school failure” is actually a failure of citizens to pay for and do what is needed for excellent schools...

Taxpayers pay for business perks. Because business can deduct the costs of doing business, taxpayers wind up paying a significant percentage of business write-offs — extravagant offices, business cars and jets, first-class and business-class flights, meetings at expensive lodges and spas, and so on. Businesses regularly rip off taxpayers through tax deductions. ...

The economic crisis and the ecological crisis are the same crisis. ...The causes of both are the same: Underestimation of risk. Privatization of profit. Socialization of Loss. ...

Low-paid immigrant workers make the lifestyles of the middle and upper classes possible."


I can recall no time in the last nearly 40 years when I did not have a copy of this album in my collection. One of my favorite songs of all time (classical, jazz, blues, rock, pop, whatever) begins at 5:05 "Theme from Burnt Weeny Sandwich." Enjoy. Happy Zappadan to all!

10 December 2010

Vote For My Post

It's that time again. Last year, one of my posts was nominated for the Politics Quark (Judged by Tariq Ali) at the estimable 3QuarksDaily. From a large field, my post was among the five finalists. There's a banner over on the right that will take you to that post entitled "Blunderbuss", as will this link.

Loyal reader, author Frances Madeson, has nominated another of my posts for this years Politics Quark (Judged by Lewis Lapham). The post is titled "Politics", and it deals with the outcome of the recent mid-term elections. Here is the link to the list of nominated posts over at 3QuarksDaily. There's some good stuff. Read through them, and, if so inclined, vote for mine here. They're in alphabetical order; mine is close to the bottom. Thanks.

UPDATE: Voting closes Monday, December 13, 2010, at 11:59 pm NYC time

08 December 2010

What a Fool Believes

Julian Assange is not the story. Neither is the honey trap, unless of course it is. Either the guy has a terrific PR agent, or someone else is unwittingly doing the work of promoting Wikileaks for him by incongruously calling attention to it by promoting a Swedish sex scandal. We all know that in this country it's not the steak that generates eyeballs, but the sizzle. This story has all that and more. But all this reportage of gossip and cyberwar is taking eyes and ears away from the substance of what is being released.

This is the Wikileaks story:
"The Nuremberg trials established the principle that political and military leaders would be held accountable for waging wars of aggression. Now however, we have a situation where invasions of other countries on manifestly false and manufactured premises in breach of international law, suspension of habeas corpus, unlawful renditions and detentions, torture and other breaches of law and international conventions are carried out without those responsible being held accountable."
Don't let all that other stuff take your eye off the ball.

Neither is Liu Xiaobo the story, but the total effort of the Chinese to discredit the Nobel Prize and squelch Liu's criticism of its repressive regime is making him the story and, at the same time, reinforcing his point—probably everywhere but on the mainland.

Meanwhile, while the former U.S. Vice President is not the story, Dick Cheney's corruption, venality, and criminality should be and always should have been.

In politics, taxes are not the story. Getting them out of the way so the Senate can get on to the business of ratifying START is. "Duck and cover" anyone? Mitch McConnell trying to make himself the story by blocking this truly monumental action should be the story as well.

And, speaking of BIG things, I ask again: why isn't the UNFCCC a BIG story? It should be.

Lastly, John Lennon is not the story, nor is his death 30 years ago. I never knew him except via his celebrity. I was saddened that he got murdered by a lunatic. But that's the point: it's not about celebrity; the man wrote and sang some lovely songs that have had a remarkable shelf life for pop detritus.

02 December 2010

Global Warming, Alien Life Forms, and Republicans

There's a U.N. Climate Change Conference going on now in Cancun, Mexico. You can follow developments here.

Early indications are that 2010 has been at least the third warmest year on record since records began in 1850 and that this has been the warmest decade.

Meanwhile, here at home, the incoming Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has disbanded the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming created by Democrates in 2007 to focus on the causes and effects of continued climate change.

NASA has just announced that it has discovered a new form of life here on planet Earth. It is an arsenic-fueled life form. It is a type of bacteria that lives in California's poisonous Mono Lake and uses arsenic as the building block of its DNA. We are, of course, carbon-based life forms. Bottom Line: We have a competitor for life space on this planet.

Now if you follow the periodic table of elements' "two-down-one-over" theory for finding the complete elemental poison (such that arsenic is the complete poison for carbon-based life) [see Evolution], then, as this blogger suggests, if the Republicans continue to deny global warming and block scientific analyses and solutions for it, we'd better stock up on polonium (the element two down and one over from arsenic) before these microorganisms start evolving which, contrary to biblical theorists, they will—especially as the environment becomes increasingly more hospitable to them.

Who else, I ask you, is continually making Star Trek allusions:

or keeps coming back to silly Monty Python skits:

Speaking of Republicans, this guy (he who must not be named) apparently fell for one of the oldest cons in the world, the so-called Nigerian Prince scam (aka the Spanish Prisoner), to the tune of $180 million.

Not Over the Moon

Speaking of passion, book reviewer James Wood has a personal essay in the Nov. 29, 2010, The New Yorker about The Who drummer Keith Moon. It's worth a read. I saw Moon perform with The Who in '75 in my hick corner of N.C., festival seating, pressed up against the stage. I've experienced nothing like it before or since. The man truly was a beast. (N.B. My two roommates at the time have gone on to be professional rock drummers.)

When we saw The Who, the By Numbers tour, we were already starting to wonder if they were over the hill. We knew The Rolling Stones were—"It's ONLY Rock 'n Roll?" YFKM. We were big proponents of their early, rawer stuff, not the operatic jag Townsend took them down with "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia". The studio band, they proved, still had a spark of life in them, and it was ignited by Moon's amazing playing. And they were the undisputed loudest band, at least until My Bloody Valentine.

Maximum R & B.

Wood's three favorite The Who albums are "Live at Leeds" (no quarrel there), "Who's Next" (the first LP I ever bought with money I'd earned at a real job [pumping 25¢/gal gas], and "Quadrophenia", ignoring their first three albums.

I'm not sure why Wood felt he needed to bring Thomas Bernhard or William Walton or Georges Bataille or Gogol into the mix, however. The Glenn Gould I get (btw: my mother-in-law went to conservatory with GG, knew him fairly well). I guess he just felt he needed to show off. Like this:

Give a listen to the early Moon: