My Chris Carter fatigue has reached trypanosomic proportions: my only reaction to the latest development is that this could work out badly for Labour because National will probably run a strong candidate in his seat. But National has pretty patchy form when it comes to picking ‘strong candidates’ so it could all turn out to be a huge lotta nothing.
June 25, 2010
The New Yorker book blog celebrates the Stonewall riots with a showcase of book covers from pre-Stonewall gay and lesbian pulp fiction. They are appropriately fabulous. My favorite (pictured below) is apparently now a rare and coveted collectors item.
Late last year I read through a bunch of Ruth Rendell novels: I always thought she was one of those elderly English murdered-clergy-in-the-vestibule writers but most of her early work is psychological and rather gritty – like a UK version of Jim Thompson. Anyway, you can buy classy looking reprints of all her books in the chain stores but the original novels were published with lurid pulp covers similar in tone to that of Satan Was a Lesbian and these can be purchased in the second hand stores for a couple of dollars – they are, to my mind, the superior editions. My copy of Burroughs’ Junky also shows a picture of a sleazy guy ravaging a helpless girl on the cover, which is nice and ironic.
June 24, 2010
If – like me – you know next to nothing about Australian politics this primer from 538 has an overview of Rudd’s decline and fall seen through the prism of US electoral politics.
The Columbia Journalism review recently ran an article on the transformation of modern journalism. The whole thing is worth reading but this excerpt popped into my mind today:
when the Internet forced journalism to compete economically after years of monopoly, journalism panicked and adopted some of the worst examples of the nothing-based economy, in which success depends on the continued infantilization of both supply and demand.
Housing has become a competition, let us see who can have the biggest house, cause if you have the biggest house you are the biggest man. Interestingly Hotchin is short. Why do we think like that? Here is a quick straw pole for you to run in your work place, ask the women, “when choosing a man, what do you pick big heart, big house or big …?”
Well in most groups when I run this politically incorrect survey the house wins by a country mile. So it is the woman’s fault, they want the man that can provide the best for them and his kids.
You can find lots of non-MSM bloggers that are just as infantile, half-witted and confused as Sheppard – but you can also find real constitutional lawyers talking about controversial new legislation that you simply cannot find any discussion of in the mainstream media. Of course an MSM blog needs to be palatable to a mainstream audience – but Sheppard’s writing is – frankly – terrible and some of his advice is even worse. This does seem to be a case in which a mainstream media outlet has bafflingly replicated the worst qualities of the blogosphere for no apparent reason.
War is too important a matter to be left to the military.
Georges Clemenceau, as quoted in Soixante Anneés d’Histoire Française
I was thinking of Obama and McChrystal, but Clemenceua’s wikiquote page turns out to be a goldmine.
Is (a) a good new book by China Miéville and (b) another excuse for me to drone on about my theory that most interesting modern novels are genre novels. Although I don’t understand why the publishers blurb on the cover and most of the reviewers claim the book is ‘comparable to Kafka and Orwell’ – Miéville’s writing and themes are really totally dissimilar to either of them. The Telegraph reviewer gets it and provides a good summary:
The first city in The City and the City is Beszel, somewhere in south-eastern Europe: local names and words mingle Germanic and Slavic roots, the old Jewish quarter has been settled by Muslim refugees from the Balkans, and the cafés serve Turkish-style coffee. Inspector Tyador Borlú is investigating the murder of an unknown woman. She turns out to be an American postgraduate, Mahalia Geary, who was working in the other city of the title, Ul Qoma, Beszel’s rival and, for want of a better word, neighbour.
As Borlú’s investigation proceeds, the reader is slowly initiated into the bizarrely intimate relationship between Beszel and Ul Qoma: two cities which occupy the same physical space, overlapping, crosshatching, mingling. What separates them is not a conventional border – though there is one, which can be crossed with a passport – but the equally impenetrable barriers set up by law and custom.
The citizens have learnt the art of “unseeing”, of never quite being conscious of the other. So two houses may sit next to one another, one in Ul Qoma, the other in Beszel: the inhabitants will never meet, talk or even glance at one another; two people can walk down the same pavement side by side, one in Beszel, the other in Ul Qoma, never bumping into one another, and each seeing a different set of passers-by, shops, beggars.
To acknowledge the presence of the other, even inwardly, would be to tempt the attentions of “Breach”, the feared secret police force that patrols the borders. It begins to look as though Mahalia Geary has endangered this age-old order.
Over at Red Alert they’re polling the political inclinations of their readers. This made me stop and think about what my political inclinations are. I’m left, but cautiously so: a couple of weeks ago I joked to a friend that I was a Progressive-Conservative, but the more I think about it the more that sums up where I’m coming from.
As a Progressive-Conservative I believe that government can make people’s lives better but that it can also make them a lot worse, that because of the increasing complexity of our society politicians trying to achieve the first goal will often accomplish the second, and so the best way for governments to proceed is through cautious incremental change rather than radical revolution and by implementing empirically tested, proven ideas instead of using our nation as a gigantic laboratory to trial crackpot theories.
Turns out the Canadians actually had a Progressive-Conservative party. Oh Canada! Their ideology doesn’t really dove-tail with mine, but I thought we should have a poll of our own to get some good hard statistics on Dim-Post reader ideology.
Bryce Edwards has a good post up postulating that the transition of our politicians from public servants into careerists contributed to the credit card expenses scandal and the wider implications of this change:
there is a significant and growing decline in the linkages between the parties and civil society. This is a key characteristic of the modern model of parties often labeled the ‘electoral-professional party’. The linkages between parties and voters have been weakened in terms of social cleavages (with less class voting in elections), by means of the weakening relationships with societal groups (with weaker relationships with interest groups, trade unions, business organisations, etc), and through declining membership numbers and participation. Correspondingly, political parties are professionalising and using technology and media and public relations specialists to communicate with society. The parties’ organisational penetration of society has, thus, become shallower, with the result that parties and their representatives in Parliament are more autonomous entities. So whereas in the past an MP was constantly surrounded by – and having to answer to – party members and activists, the modern MP is surrounded by other political professionals (rival MPs, communication advisers, researchers, journalists, lobbyists, etc). In fact the party organisations outside of Parliament in the electorate are virtually dead, only kept alive via the lifeline of Parliament.
I wonder if the sophistication of modern polling contributes to this – politicians feel they don’t need to be in touch with their voters, since their polling, focus groups and data-mining gives them a much broader idea of what voters think on key issues.
I’m also not convinced that a class of professional politicians is a bad idea – government is a lot more complicated now than it was a generation back. But the insularity it breeds is an issue, particularly for the left. It’s not that difficult for a right-wing politician to stay in touch with lobby groups that represent their voters and supporters but the only left-wing organisations that have that kind of presence in Wellington are the unions and environmental groups. That’s why Sue Bradford seemed like such an anomaly in Parliament: she was a politician that actually cared about beneficiaries, children and other demographics that couldn’t afford to hire Saunders-Unsworth to lobby for them.
Most of the analysis of Rudd’s spectacular decline in popularity point to his decision to backtrack on implementing an Emissions Trading Scheme – so it’s worth taking a minute to point and laugh at people like Fran O’Sullivan and Charles Finny who advised Key to imitate Rudd’s cowardice and delay introduction of our own ETS in perpetuity.
There’s an (inevitable) Downfall video about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. As usual Hitler makes a lot of excellent points, but everytime I see those maps of the extent of the spill and it’s impact on the ocean I remember that most of the oil we extract is burned, turned into gas and expelled into the atmosphere. The Deepwater Horizon spill accounts for less than 0.1% of all oil extracted globally on a daily basis – look what it’s done to the local environment in a few weeks. Imagine a thousand times that amount of CO2 getting released into the atmosphere every day for a hundred years (of course the atmosphere is much larger than the ocean – although much of it gets absorbed back into the ocean). Remember that the position of the deniers is that this activity has no impact on our environment and can continue in perpetuity.