“Inner Archaeologist,” by the Corner Laughers

Thanks again to the great Ukulele Hunt for embedding a fun video.

The Nation, 16 March 2009

nation-16-marchFrances Richard reviews recent books about the nature of photography, citing along the way several not-so-recent but extremely interesting titles.  Among these is Downcast Eyes by Martin Jay, a study of twentieth century French thinkers who have argued that vision is overrated.  Also, Michael Fried’s 1967 essay “Art and Objecthood,” in which he introduced the idea that he’s been working on ever since, that we change people and situations when we make them objects of vision and that it is dishonest of us to pretend that our making images and looking at them is an innocent activity that has no effect on anyone or anything else.   

A review of Steven Shapin’s The Scientific Life: A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation focuses on the influence of corporate money on scientific research.  The reviewer holds that this is the most important question Shapin ought to have addressed in his history of the last few decades of science, and that it is a question he takes far too lightly. 

Gary Younge argues that only an energized Left can turn the populist impulses that the current global economic crisis has spawned into something constructive.   “The last time things looked this bad globally, we ended up with Nazism, fascism and war,” Younge points out, claiming that today’s right-wing populists are little better than their counterparts of the period after the Great War.  The most memorable part of Younge’s column for me was the story at the beginning:

When I was a student in the Soviet Union, during Gorbachev’s final months, my landlady used to take the dog out for a walk at the same time every night. Since it was winter and I am no dog lover, I decided not to join her. But when the weather cleared up I once accompanied her and found that she met several other local dog owners at exactly the same time. The timing, it turned out, was no coincidence. They called it Dog Hour–the moment when the state-sponsored news program RUSSIA-VOTEVremya came on, and they therefore left the house.



Following the news over the past few months, I have felt like taking a quick walk around the block myself. Watching global capitalism disintegrate in real time is a dizzying experience.

Chronicles, March 2009

same-sex-weddingI first became aware of the political question of same-sex marriage in 1980.  I was in fifth grade and we were supposed to conduct debates in class about issues of the day.  I was assigned to the group opposing this proposition: “The Equal Rights Amendment should be passed.”  Researching for my part in the debate, I found an argument that the plain wording of the proposed amendment (“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex”) would grant men the right to marry other men and women the right to marry other women.  This was in the context of an article opposing the amendment. 

At first I was excited to find this claim.  Up to that point all that I had been able to find were dry legal arguments that would never capture the attention of my classmates.  Here at last was a point that would grab the imaginations of everyone in the room and hold them for as long as I needed. 

But as I thought it over, I realized that there was an obvious question that would stump me if anyone asked it.  Why shouldn’t same sex couples be free to marry?  The only argument in the article was that same sex couples couldn’t reproduce.  My immediate response to that was to think of my grandmother.  When my grandfather died, she was in her fifties, most assuredly past childbearing.  Yet she remarried, and no one thought to object.  So why was the sterility of same sex couples a reason why they should not be allowed to marry? 

In the decades since, I’ve kept an eye on the debate.  I’ve found some very sensible arguments supporting the right of same sex couples to marry, and some intriguing arguments to the effect that no one should marry.  But what I have not found are many substantive arguments in favor of reserving marriage for heterosexual couples.  This is quite surprising.  One would assume that by now someone would have come up with a worthwhile argument  in favor of the status quo

In this issue of Chronicles, Thomas Fleming explains why he is opposed to same sex marriage.  (more…)

Gord’s “Gold”


Lately I’ve been thinking about “Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald,” but I have no idea what reminded me of it, in the first place.  In any case, it is much deserving of its fame.  Only an amazingly talented individual such as “Gord” could transpose a current event into modern folk legend.


I was noticing that, in the lyrics as posted here:


they accidently typed “words” when they meant “waves”:  “Does anyone know where the love of God goes / When the waves turn the minutes to hours?”  Surely one of the best lines in a beautifully-expressed song.

A full world

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen

Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen

The 1-15 February issue of Counterpunch carries the third of three short articles in which Paul Craig Roberts surveys the academic discipline of economics.  On the 15th, I noted the first two parts, in which he defended supply-side theory and attacked the theory of comparative advantage.  This third part concludes with Roberts declaration that “If economics is to be of any use to humanity, it must cease being absurd.” 

Roberts points out that the world mainstream economists describe is one empty of things humans have made.  In this “empty world,” the only limits on production are the limits of human productive activity.  “Nature has no role in the game.”  In the real world, by contrast, nature is full of things humans have made.  The limited availability of natural resources, of “natural capital,” imposes sharp, sometimes terrifying limits on production.  Roberts calls for economics to be reinvented to give a realistic description of this “full world.”     

Roberts takes up the banner of mathematical economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, who proposed that the discipline of economics essentially start over.  Georgescu-Roegen attacked the “Solow-Stiglitz production function,” which, according to Roberts, “assumes that man-made capital ias a substitute for nature’s capital.  Therefore, as long as man-made capital can be reproduced, there are no limits to growth.”  Roberts asserts that Georgescu-Roegen “destroyed the Solow-Stiglitz production function,” but mainstream economists cling to it “because it is a mathematical way of saying that ecological limits on economic growth do not exist.”  Georgescu-Roegen proposed replacing the Solow-Stiglitz function and the body of economic theory that depends on it with a new understanding of production.  “In contrast to the Solow-Stiglitz absurdity, Georgescu-Roegen made it clear that production is the transformation of resources into useful products and waste products.  Labor and man-made capital are agents of transformation, while natural resources are what is transformed into useful products and waste products.  Man-made capital and natural capital are complements, not substitutes.”  Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen died in 1994; the most notable living exponent of his ideas is economist Herman Daly.  Roberts particularly recommends Daly’s 2007 book Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development.

The American Conservative, 23 February 2009

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Daniel McCarthy chronicles the American Right’s shift from the skepticism about the office of US President that fueled the principled critique of excessive presidential power that thinkers like James Burnham and Willmoore Kendall sustained in the middle decades of the twentieth century to the abject presidentialism of the Bush/ Cheney Republicans.  McCarthy does not suggest an agenda for curbing the power of the presidency; still less does he express agreement with my favorite idea, abolishing the office.  He does not even hope for a return to the arrangement of the nineteenth century, when the Congress was the senior partner in the leadership of the federal government.  The wish he does express is that conservatives will once more express a wish for a return to those days.   

Richard N. Gamble, author of the magnificent book The War for Righteousness: Progressive Christianity The Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation and of a neat article about Irving Babbitt’s view of Abraham Lincoln, reviews several  recent books about Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy.  Most interesting to me were Gamble’s remarks about What the World Should Be: Woodrow Wilson and the Crafting of a Faith-Based Foreign Policy, by Malcolm D. Magee.  The key paragraph is this:

Magee gets Wilson largely right, but one further refinement of his analysis would have been helpful in connecting American Christianity and the “faith-based foreign policy” of the subtitle. It is not enough to say that Wilson was a Calvinist or a Presbyterian. Wilson, as Magee’s evidence makes clear, was a particular kind of Calvinist and Presbyterian. He adhered to a branch of Calvinism that tried to reorder every institution by bringing it under Christ’s dominion. Magee refers to “the Presbyterian tradition,” but it is doubtful there ever has been anything so unified in American history. Wilson owed his view of the church and the world not to confessional Presbyterianism but to the transformationist strand of evangelicalism that came to dominate mainstream Presbyterianism in the late 19th century. Wilson imbibed an activist faith that in many ways distorted historic Presbyterianism. He rejected creedal, confessional Presbyterianism. In order to understand his foreign policy, then, we must understand not his Presbyterian roots in general, but the fact that he emerged from a branch of Protestantism that had more in common with low-church, sentimental, meliorist evangelicalism than with historically Reformed Christianity. Magee fills in an important dimension of Wilson’s thought and personality, but finding the precise faith on which Wilson based his foreign policy requires that the story of American Christianity be told a bit differently.

Kirkpatrick Sale reviews a novel by Carolyn Chute, The School on Heart’s Content Road.  In a fictional town in a rural Maine, a commune full of aging hippies form an unlikely alliance with the local underemployed rednecks.  Forming a militia, they decide that the only way for Mainers to reclaim their freedoms is to secede from the USA.  Since Chute is herself a member of the real-life 2nd Maine Militia and an advocate of the dissolution of the USA, it is perhaps surprising that the militiamen are an unimpressive bunch whose revolt peters out into drunkenness and random fornication.  But not so surprising that she promises a series of four sequels. 

Bill Kauffman goes to his favorite gun show and reports that the American Left is missing a fertile recruiting ground there.  The attendees are “working and rural citizens who are pro-Bill of Rights, anti-corporatist, and open to radical alternatives.”

It’s official!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/02/27/gop.poll/  The 2012 presidential campaign is under-way.  I, for one, just don’t want to hear about it.  I’d much rather hear about Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, and that’s saying a lot.

Movie Review- MARS ATTACKS!




Cymast’s Synopsis: Technologically superior Martians attack Earthlings in a full-scale planetary war. But 2 humans stumble upon an unlikely and effective weapon against the Martians. And it isn’t a pickle.

Noteable Cast:

Jack Nicholson- USA’s President James Dale/property developer Art Land

Glenn Close- USA’s First Lady Marsha Dale

Natalie Porman- USA’s First Daughter Taffy Dale

Annette Bening- Art’s wife Barbara Land

Pierce Brosnan- National Academy of Astronautics Chair and Presidential Advisor Professor Donald Kessler

Danny Devito- scumbag lawyer

Martin Short- White House Press Secretary Jerry Ross

Michael J. Fox- reporter Jason Stone

Sarah Jessica Parker- reporter Nathalie Lake

Poppy (dog)- Nathalie Lake’s pet dog Poppy

Rod Steiger- USA Army General Decker

Lukas Haas- donut shop employee Richie Norris

Jack Black- USA Army Soldier Billy Glenn Norris

Sylvia Sidney- Richie and Billy Glenn’s grandmother Florence Norris

 Joe Don Baker- Richie and Billy Glenn’s father Mr. Norris

O-Lan Jones- Richie and Billy Glenn’s mother Mrs. Norris

Christina Applegate- Billy Glenn’s girlfriend Sharona

Lisa Marie- Martians

Ray J- truant child Cedric Williams

Brandon Hammond- truant child Neville Williams

Jim Brown- retired champion boxer turned casino greeter Byron Williams, Cedric and Neville’s father

Pam Grier- bus driver Louise Williams, Cedric and Neville’s mother

Tom Jones- self

Paul Winfield- USA Army Lt. Gen. Casey

Brian Haley- Secret Service Agent Mitch, presidential bodyguard

Jerzy Skolimowski- inventor Dr. Zeigler

Janice Rivera- waitress Cindy

Barbet Schroeder- France’s President Maurice

Cymast: I abhor gratuitous violence. I detest banal cartoons. Show me a gratuituosly violent, banal cartoon and I will run away screaming, literally. I never understood the adage “The exception proves the rule,” but I do know it can be applied to the puzzling curiosity of ME + MARS ATTACKS! = RAPTUROUS GLEE.

Mr. Cymast: Goofy. It didn’t make sense.

Roger Ebert: Burton has made a common mistake: He assumes it is funny simply to *be doing* a parody, when in fact the material has to be funny in its own right. It isn’t funny *that* Jack Nicholson is the president–it’s only funny if the writing makes the role comic. 

James Rocchi: A frantic, funny love letter to an era of entertainment gone by, but also a top-notch example of modern comedy.

Cymast’s Favorite quote:

“Why are they doing this?”

“Maybe they don’t like the humans!”

Cymast’s High/Lowlights:

DR. STRANGELOVE is respectfully channeled several times, particularly with Jack Nickolson’s dual role. 

Lukas Haas as Richie Norris pleasantly channels Darren E. Burrows’ Ed Chigliak from TV’s Northern Exposure.

The only 2 flaws in the movie are the casting of Glenn Close and Sarah Jessica Parker. Sure, they’re big names, but they’re more suited to villain and misfit roles than to leading lady and glamor roles.

In my opinion, the most riveting performance is Lisa Marie’s as the mute decoyed aliens. Her deadpan, silent role is the drop-dead stunner of the movie, special effects meltdowns and explosions notwithstanding. It’s a you’ve-got-to-see-it-to-believe-it scene!

Thailand’s anti-pornography campaign

Here‘s a public service announcement against pornography currently running on TV in Thailand.

Latest out of Iraq Plan

Obama set to unveil Iraq plan

Obama won’t be getting  s out as soon as some of us thought.