Distraction


Lots of paycheck earning labor to do to-day, so I’ve not aggregated much.

There was world cup action on to-day.  A flash of World Cups past at the bottom (under the fold?).

An interesting essay by a sex worker in LA.  Some of the commentators think this is about the human condition.  I think they probably live in LA.  This loneliness is total LA, and only LAites think it’s universal, so they can go on with their lonely selves.  Not that the LA condition doesn’t infect some/most of us outside of LA.  It’s a cultural capital after all, Paris’s Vichy.

Bruce Sterling’s keynote speech from The Augmented Reality Event.

Not many distractions.  1.  It’s the weekend and good content needs to be searched out, instead of being pushed onto me as it is during the week.  2.  A holiday or somesuch, so that also dries up the output.  3.  The paying gig has kept me bizay to-day.  Really, that’s the only distraction.

But…there was a short story by Palahniuk that I read this morning.  If you don’t know Palahniuk, then I suggest you acquaint yourself.  He wrote Fight Club and other books that I like more.  His sensibilities are in the right place.  Sadly, he, like I do, tends to repeat the themes and messages in his ouvre.  So, this short story is “Loser” and it’s sweet.  Below is the money shot, which probably helps explain what is going on.  You should read the story though because the action the protagonist takes is BRILLIANT.

It’s like, if you live a boring-enough life, knowing the price of Rice-A-Roni and hot dog weiners, your big reward is you get to live for a week in some hotel in London?  You get to ride on some airplane to Rome.  Rome, like, in Italy.  You fill your head full of enough ordinary junk, and your pay-off is giant supermodels giving you a snowmobile?

If this game show wants to see how smart you really are, they need to ask you how many calories in a regular onion-cheddar cheese bagel.  Go ahead, ask the price of your cell phone minutes any hour of the day.  Ask you about the cost of a ticket for going thirty miles over the speed limit.  Ask the round-trip fare to Cabo for spring break.  Down to the penny, you can tell them the price of decent seats for the Panic at the Disco reunion tour.  (198-9)

Palahniuk, Chuck.  (2010).  Loser.  In Neal Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio, eds.  (2010).  Stories: All-new tales (194-201). NY: William Morrow.

Al Sarrantonio’s “The Cult of the Nose” has been following me around all day.  Appropriate, since the story is about a secret cult that shows up at massively traumatic events.  People in catastrophic photos are wearing fake noses.  The protagonist tracks them down.  I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s obvious how it has to end.  The story makes me think of two things.  First, structure.  Massumi calls structure that place where nothing happens.  The Cult of the Nose is structure, and the story comports to that theory of how structure works.  Second, why Nose?  Is it because the nose is a hindrance?  It shadows our eyes, it is a permanent blot that we somehow learn to deal with.  It’s obtrusive, and a cult that wears a fake nose which is larger than actual noses must be especially competent or powerful to embrace such a handicap.  That’s the Nose on the field of vision.  But there is something else, dealing with smell and its primacy and/or subsequent downplaying.  Not sure.  yet.

Germany and Argentina played to-day.  The intersections of these two is rife for more conspiracy theories.  Watched for Noses.  As well as Martin Borrman.

Even though I read a lot of Zizek, I am not intolerant of multiculturalism.  I do see proof of the argument that it’s counterproductive, but rarely.  And it does make us feel better about ourselves; there is value to that.  However.  The emphasis FIFA puts on ending racism seems overly cynical to me.  Racism is a problem among futballers and their fans.  It makes sense to reach out and try to prevent these racist outbursts, but these measures are too demonstrative.  I wonder if they are so demonstrative precisely because those in charge are either racist or see the problem as too big to overcome and so they do it as a distancing move.  I may be cynical, but this distancing move of the over-the-top protest is a more insidious cynicism.

Sarrantonio, Al.  (2010).  The cult of the nose.  In Gaiman, Neal and Al Sarrantonio, eds.  (2010).  Stories: All-new tales (304-312.)  NY: William Morrow.

Remember yesterday’s distraction about tweeting a reduced Declaration of Independence?  NewsRealBlog has a problem with it.  Supposedly, it’s further proof of our cultural decline.  Did I mention this is David Horowitz’s site?  Here is an article describing the intersection between my academic discipline and Horowitz.  Looking at the other entries, I am nonplussed.  I thought they’d be funnier.  Meh.

Ian McEwan.  If you’ve not read him, you should.  A quotation I came across this morning, which has occupied many of my thoughts for the day.  I’ll set it out just to emphasize its perspicuity.

Cruelty is a failure of imagination.

Here’s another one by McEwan.  It’s monstrous in its scope if he is correct, of which I am not so sure.  Measuring it is worthy of a career, let alone a passage on some random blog, ergo… a distraction.

When the Enlightenment was being sort of undermined by the theorists in the academies, that was done with a general sense of security about the ultimate cultural victory of Enlightenment values, and now I think that victory is a lot less assured.  (185)

Smith, Zadie & Ian McEwan.  (2005).  Zadie Smith talks with Ian McEwan.  In V. Vida, ed.  (2007).  The Believer book of writers talking with writers (165-191).  San Francisco: Believer Books.

Twitter feeds.  Let’s begin with LitCrit Hulk.  Here’s a sample:

HULK LIKE DUBLINERS. ANYTHING AFTER THAT MAKE HULK BRAIN HURT AND FEEL RAGE COMING ON.

It pains me to credit genius to someone, as there is then less genius left over for yours truly, but this is genius.  The the #TinyDeclaration hashtag.  People are tasked with in a single tweet summarizing the Declaration of Independence.  My not so brilliant entry:

We’re out. PS. King George, you suck.

Slate will compile their favorites and post it later (I’m guessing on the 5th, unless they take that as a holiday like everyone else.)

Sestina.  It’s a poetic form that seems really complex.  Natch, I feel compelled to try my hand at it.  It is really complex and it has managed to kill an entire Wednesday all by itself.

Not quite true.  I was hungover until afternoon, so it wasn’t completely the sestina.  And the game Spectromancer made by James Garfield and friends.  I have a slight man-crush on Garfield.  He has a big brain and uses it to make the world a more leisurely and fun place.  He has a podcast that is highly recommended, Games with Garfield. If I ever finish the sestina, a distraction unfinished due to other distractions?, then I will post it.  It’s based on a joke.  A good joke, unlike the kinds Nate tries his hand at.

The Blair Witch Project was an okay movie, even though it scared the bajeezus out of me.  Only The Shinning has had more affect on me.  There’s an interesting movie critic gimmick at The Rumpus called 10/40/70.  But the latest piece has branched out to also include House of Leaves, which is not a movie but instead a book about a movie.  It’s easily the most terrifying book I’ve ever read and at the same time one of the best.  I learned a lot.  Let’s just say this piece of criticism is…interesting.

A Bing commercial turned me onto this clip of a Dog Shark versus a Giant Pacific Octopus.  I actually feel badly for the shark.

And this flash from the past.

Entourage is back on.  And I have never been more bored.  Seven seasons and the guys are the same.  No growth or personal development.  There is no subtext, only jokes and gimmicks.  The jokes and gimmicks are great.  The show is entertaining, but oh so predictable.

I’m not sure it qualifies as a distraction, since the series of interviews done by The Believer are writers talking to writers, usually about writing.  Reading this stuff is necessary to be a writer.  Meh.  In any case, this morning I read “Vendala Vida talks with Shirley Hazzard.”  Hazzard is a voracious – and vicious, if you believe Graham Greene – writer, and she had some of the better stuff to say in this series of interviews.  The one that left me stunned was, “one wouldn’t dare put into a novel the amount of coincidence that occurs in life itself.” (100)  What stuns me about this is how true it is.  My life has been ful of coincidence and my biggest complaint with stories is how full of coincidence they are.  I should probably temper my ‘bullshit’ threshold.  As long as the line between coincidence and deus ex machina remains solid.

I have also been catching up on The Office.  Netflix streams it, so the cost is sunk if I watch it or not.  Some episodes bore me, but some are great.  The best portion of the show is Michael’s hatred of Toby because Toby is the one person that constantly calls Michael on his silly inappropriateness.  Which brings me to a thought about politeness.  Slavoj Zizek:

Are not all good manners based on the fact that “what is said is not what is meant”?  When, at a table, I ask my colleague “Can you please pass the salt?”  I do not say what I mean.  I ask him if he can do it, but what I really mean is that he simply should do it.”  (13-14)

It’s not the most persuasive of examples, but it does get at what he is trying to claim.

Hazzard, Shirley.  (2003).  Vendela Vida talks with Shirley Hazzard.  In V. Vida, ed.  (2007).  The Believer book of writers talking to writers (97-109). San Francisco: Believer Books.

Zizek, Slavoj.  (2010).  Living in the end times. London: Verso Books.

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