June 28, 2009

Action Figures Fragment 3

Stop bemoaning the twilight

for at twilight the sky is beautiful.

Do not be seduced only by the dawn.

Whoever does not want to die of thirst

must learn to drink from all cups.

Whoever would stay clean

must learn to wash

even with dirty water.

One must look away from oneself

to see much:

this is the hardness necessary

for every climber of mountains,

this is the courage necessary

to slay vertigo and sickness

at the edge of the abyss

(and, indeed, where does man

not stand

on the brink of the abyss?

Is not seeing always

seeing the abyss?)

this is the courage necessary

to slay even death itself.

You are moving toward greatness:

that which before had been your ultimate danger

has become your ultimate refunge.

One must look away from oneself

to see much.

(he reached the other peak

at the height of the ridge

a second sea spread before

him. The night was cold,

clear, and starry at this height,

clear and starry bright.)

Whence came the highest mountains?

Out of the deepest depths

come the highest peaks.












June 27, 2009

From Genesis Down

& humans attained memory
& memory is sickness

memory is sickness
memory is sickness
eden, here, now,
memory is sickness
blessed are the amnesiacs
memory –
flash, flutter, & trill
semaphore for the dispossessed
flash of what you know,
original sin
sacred amnesia
original sin
sickness of knowledge
wicked memory
blessed amnesia
holy orders
marching orders
order of nature
the “way things are”
“I remember”, or, “I know”

this is the semaphore of the dispossessed:
to know alone
to feel outside
to remember

The Elephant Joke

The blind philosopher who thought an elephant a snake
visited my youth with promise. There were signs
& ways to interpret them. There was magic,
of the sort expected. My head was full of dreams of competence
and good humor. The world was my pill to shuck.

As they say, that was then.

June 20, 2009

Bill Maher Needs to Shut the F@#% Up

Democracies, even ones as homogeneous as the US Government, are like oil tankers: when one speaks of turning them, one is talking in terms of miles, not feet or yards. After years of conservative control (Nixon through Bush II, with a brief respite for the Carter administration - and yes, Bill Clinton counts as a conservative, except for maybe his first two years), to expect the government to immediately cleave to Obama's agenda is completely unrealistic . . . especially when at least half of the Congressional Democrats are more conservative than the middle-of-the-road president.

Bill Maher is hitting the publicity circuit with his complaints about the president's performance 150 days into his first term. Apparently, Maher has already grown impatient with Obama, comparing him to media creation Lindsay Lohan and repeatedly stating that he needs more of a Bush (or should that be Cheney?) fuck-you attitude toward governance. Maher (through his surrogate Obama) has won his election, now he wants his pound of flesh . . . and he's pissed he's not getting it.

Maher's main complaint is that Obama is running a media presidency - essentially all talk and no legislation. On the surface, he does seem to have a point: Obama is clearly as concerned with maintaining a public profile as he is to ramrodding his agenda through Congress. To a true believer in US democracy, a postmodern media presidency is an abberation.

But the government will never be the source of true change. This much is clear to both the left and the right, and faith is hard to come by even for the political/demographic cluster in the middle. The system is geared to inertia - sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

And so, here we have Maher, pissed at Obama, all because of inertia. Maher believes that Bush II is a symbol of aggressive change, and wants Obama to be his photographic negative . . . and yet, in legislative terms, Bush's rough conservative corners will be sanded down by Obama. As surely as Reagan ran up the deficit and Clinton stripped away financial regulation, the middle will be assumed again over the course of the next 4-8 years. By then, Bush will have been for naught. And, under the traditional model, any trending to the left by Obama will be counteracted not too long after that. So the status quo, and those whom it benefits.

What Maher is missing is that the media component of the Obama presidency may be the most important part: he is bypassing the legislature and going directly to the American people. Now, in and if itself, this is not a novel gambit . . . politicians routinely run for office using the media, and most recently, Illinois's pillar of moral respectability Rod Blagojevich turned to the media when he had no other avenues left. But Obama seems to be moving in a different direction: what I took to be a fog of platitudes during the campaign may be his attempt to shape the public consciousness in his own idealistic image. As president, he has maintained this relentless idealistic campaigning while filling in the details with specific policy objectives. Where he parts from tradition is that the idealism is the point, and that policy is secondary.

And, I should add, he is still running as artful a campaign as the one that won him the presidency. The most interesting aspect of his media assualt is the way he assiduously avoids the culture wars: though he clearly delineates a progressive agenda, he approaches it from a strictly logical as opposed to moral or cultural angle. To Obama, morality supersedes all, but it is a morality based in logic, and beyond culture. This move puts him beyond the culture warriors from Sarah Palin on down through Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and their media ilk. If Obama has his way, the more time passes, the less relevant the culture wars become.

And, for his part, Maher is nothing more than a Limbaugh for the left. He is jingoistic, self-promoting, and less concerned with truth than with his place in the media landscape. Maher has a lot of nerve comparing Obama to Lindsay Lohan, since he is much more a slave to the media order than Obama - at least Obama defines his role, while Maher is an opportunist who breaches like a pimple on the face of media culture. Unlike Michael Moore, who is a gadfly with an agenda, Maher is nothing more than a media whore. It is he who is Lohanesque, not Obama.

I may be projecting my ideas onto Obama inappropriately. I gotta say, though, I like this guy. It's not that I agree with him - he's much too centrist for my tastes. His support of gay marriage is far too lukewarm, his continued support of financial bailouts is troubling, his military policy is dangerously flexible, and his health care policy is a joke. Nonetheless, Obama seems to be a small crack in the facade of things the way they are. If I'm wrong, at least it's nice to have a president who's not an idiot.

June 14, 2009

Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough

Well, the internets seem to be up and running at the new hacienda. It will take a minute for us to settle in, but hopefully the posts here will slowly ramp back up to speed. In the meantime, I will be doing occasional posts at the What We Are Listening Too . . . , a nice, unpretentious music blog where people discuss . . . well, what they are listening to. If, like me, you obsessively are looking for new music, this is a great resource. My first post there is a short discussion of Lou Reed's The Blue Mask.

I will continue to do longer music-related posts here, but I plan to post frequently there as well. Mostly those pieces will be shorter blurbs about various songs and records (and maybe I'll move most of my playlist silliness over there too). I will not be cross-posting, but I will notify my people here when I post there. In the meantime, go ahead and bookmark it - it's a nice blog.