Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A tobacco roundup

Smoking bans lead to more indoor fires!

Alt-rock band/mellifluous troupe of conspiracy theorists Muse was very nearly banned from performing anywhere in Australia for smoking during a show last week.

"In contrast with smaller regional studies we find that smoking bans are not associated with statistically significant short-term declines in mortality or hospital admissions for myocardial infarction or other diseases. ... An analysis simulating smaller studies using subsamples reveals that large short-term increases in myocardial infarction incidence following a smoking ban are as common as the large decreases reported in the published literature," (emphasis mine).
More here and here.

I Love You, Phillip Morris is in no way about cigarettes.

"More intelligent American children are more likely to grow up to consume more tobacco, while more intelligent British children are more likely to grow up to consume more illegal drugs." This is because Americans are inherently superior.

A one-time niconazi is converted! Also, John Banzhaf continues to be the worst person in the world.

What has become of NYC that police officers can not only mistake a man smoking outside a window for a potential jumper, but bring him in for a psych eval against his will? Have New Yorkers already forgotten what cigarettes look like?

"Ashtray Heart" - Captain Beefheart (RIP)

"You used me like an ashtray heart
You picked me out, brushed me off
Crushed me while I was burning out
Then you picked me out
Like an ashtray heart"

Monday, December 20, 2010

The way to an atheist's soul is through her stomach?

Decorated cookies with Leah of Unequally Yoked yesterday. Don't think we made any breakthroughs regarding her crypto-gnosticism or apparent fondness for Jane Austen, but I did get some sweet cookies out of the deal.
Had a lot of fun being the sole conservative at this get-together. Left to right: paying homage to the 'Pythagorean Brotherhood', an apparently rabies-infected GO-pachyderm (couldn't resist, sorry), and John Galt's pig.
Vaguely Soviet looking star, a snowman-shaped cookie reimagined as a cannon, Russian patriotism as baked good, and a Cairn terrier.

(Yes, Russian patriotism as baked good is probably stuffed with mushrooms and looks like this, but cut me some slack.)

Merry Christmas!

Vaguely related: here is a lovely story about Saint Silouan and atheists (start at "After his experience of the tortures of hell...").

Friday, December 17, 2010

"I will not cease from honoring that matter which works my salvation."

“Our teacher simply commanded: 'Stand up!' and we put our pointe shoes on our bare feet and started the class. At the end of the lesson the slippers were covered in blood. I don’t consider them to be relics, but I could never throw those pointes away. They are a very touching reminder of childhood — like my first essays and my first math exercise books, which are covered in scribbles.”
- Yekaterina Kondaurova, Mariinsky ballet soloist

I was going to try to turn this into an extended post about "memorialism", pneumatic presence, gnosticism, veneration of relics, Christian attitudes toward burial, and ultimately the centrality of contingency and immanence/beauty (together with, if not outright contra in some cases, transcendence/sublimity), but really, I think (as I so often do) that David Hart says it best: "surfaces are always more complicated than 'depths'."

(If, however, anyone is somehow interested in me spouting off on those topics, do let me know.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Sieve: The Third Policeman

The following is an excerpt from Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, a "brilliant comic novel about the nature of time, death, and existence," which I happen to be enjoying rather perversely on this bitterly cold day. The italics indicate what the narrator has dubbed his soul (whom he has named Joe) speaking to him.
"I smiled at him in good-humoured perplexity and said:

'Tricky looking man, you are hard to place and it is not easy to guess your station. You seem very contented in one way but then again you do not seem to be satisfied. What is your objection to life?'

He blew little bags of smoke at me and looked at me closely from behind the bushels of hair which were growing about his eyes.

'Is it life?' he answered. 'I would rather be without it,' he said, 'for there is a queer small utility in it. You cannot eat it or drink it or smoke it in your pipe, it does not keep the rain out and it is a poor armful in the dark if you strip it and take it to bed with you after a night of porter when you are shivering with the red passion. It is a great mistake and a thing better done without, like bed-jars and foreign bacon.'

'That is a nice way to be talking on a grand lively day,' I chided, 'when the sun is roaring in the sky and sending great tidings into our weary bones.'

'Or like feather-beds,' he continued, 'or bread manufactured with powerful steam machinery. Is it life you say? Life?'

Explain the difficulty of life yet stressing its essential sweetness and desirability.

What sweetness?

Flowers in the spring, the glory and fulfillment of human life, bird-song at evening--you know very well what I mean.

I am not so sure about the sweetness all the same.

'It is hard to get the right shape of it,' I said to the tricky man, 'or to define life at all but if you identify life with enjoyment I am told that there is a better brand of it in the cities than in the country parts and there is said to be a very superior brand of it to be had in certain parts of France. Did you ever notice that cats have a lot of it in them when they are quite juveniles?'"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"It won't be my fault if I die an Old Maid"

My mother pretends for a wife I'm too young,
and says that men will deceive me.
But let her look back, she'll soon hold her tongue;
if not, 'tis no matter, believe me.
Sweet gentlemen, don't be a moment in fear,
and suffer a damsel to keep singing here,
remember a thought to no girl is so dread,
as the terrible one--that she may die an old maid.

Mother preaches forever against men, the vile sex,
and says every look is alarming,
but, between you and I, this she says only to vex,
for I know that she thinks you all charming.
Three husbands she has had in the course of her life,
now I only want one, sir, "Pray who'll have a good wife?"
Now men don't be stupid and look half-afraid!
Speak boldly, or else I must die an old maid.

Men boast they are kind, and easily had,
and lovers are willing and plenty,
I vow it is false, for I've not got a lad,
although I'm turned one-and-twenty.
The man I love best now stands in full view--
don't look so sharp, sir! I did not mean you,
but that handsome man there--O, what have I said,
but it won't be my fault if I die an old maid.

- The Quaver; or, Songster's Pocket Companion:
containing upwards of One Thousand of the most popular Songs, Toasts, Sentiments, and Recitations

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A job interview

I'm standing on the platform at the State Street station, waiting to catch an eastbound train to Madison, CT. I've already missed the train I was planning to take and my anxiety isn't much relieved by the total absence of Amtrak ticket kiosks at the station. I ask a few people nearby whether eastbound trains stop here, and just as I'm starting to feel reassured the train pulls in. An Amtrak worker leans out the door: "Train to New Haven, anyone going to New Haven?"

Despite the fact that I was already in New Haven, I approach him and ask whether his train is eastbound.

"Going to New Haven. You going to New Haven?"

"I'm looking for the Shoreline train... I want to go to Madison."

He leans in conspiratorily. "Alright, this is what you're gonna do." He brushes me into the empty train and the doors close behind me. "You're going to get off at the next stop and switch to track number four. You been there before? Know what it looks like?" I nod from my perch on an armrest. He doesn't charge me for a ticket. I watch the completely empty cars rock back and forth, an eerie sight now that all the doors between cars are open. I'm suddenly aware of how close to the churning metal I really am and realize this is the technocratic Wondrous Wonka Boat Ride.

Eventually I step out onto solid ground at the Madison train station. I'm in the middle of nowhere in suburbia and the sun has long since set. Undaunted I make my way to the main road and take out my phone to figure out in which direction I ought be walking.

"Do you need a ride?"

A man in his late 50s has pulled up next to me and is smiling that ingenuous smile of kind paternity. I hesitate, knowing how far I have yet to walk, and how the air's already begun to sting.

"Well... where are you going? Do you know where West Wharf Street is?" By now I'm at his passenger window and he's opening the door for me.

"Oh, sure, sure... where ya headed?"

"73 West Wharf Street... the Dolly Madison."

"Oh God, yeah, I know the place. Food sucks. I'm headed that way anyway."

I tell him I'm going there for a job interview; he gives me his condolences and tells me about his small town; how though it couldn't be safer, "you're wearing heels!", and he just couldn't let a young lady walk all that way in the cold. He tells me I look like a Yale student, "pre-med or somethin'."

We arrive at the Dolly Madison within ten minutes but he insists he drive a bit farther to take me to see the water, and the new monstrosity of a hotel complex some millionaire is building atop the ruins of a historic inn.

"Now this is a very, y'know, a very wealthy area," he says, lowering his voice, "but this thing... this is for the super rich, super super rich."

Before letting me off he asks how long my interview will be-- he's only going to get a haircut and would be willing to meet me to drive me back to the train station; offers to give me his number. Again I hesitate, but this time decline his generosity, thanking him profusely.

The Inn itself is quaint. There are gourds lining the walkway to the front entrance and sloppily strung lights dripping from the roof. I walk in and the bar itself exudes warmth-- lots of dark wood tacky with too much varnish, a cheap but well stocked bar, four older men and two middle aged women clustered at the side around the television set to Fox News (there are four other televisions scattered throughout, at least one set to MSNBC, although no one's watching it).

An older woman in a cozy looking pastel sweater walks up to me.

"Hi, my name is Tristyn, I'm looking for David? I'm here for a job interview."

"Oh, David's my son, he's back there somewhere. That's a picture of him," she laughs, "twenty years ago, the one with the mustache." She walks me over to a candid shot of her and her family, one photo among many hung throughout the bar. She points out David and herself in the frame while calling behind her, "Someone's here for you!"

An obese man with greasy black hair, twice the size of the one in the photo, emerges from the kitchen. He still has the mustache. He glances at me quickly before handing me an application form.

When I finish filling it out I walk over to where he's shooting the shit with the older men by the Fox corner.

"Here ya go, David." He walks me over to the cashier and gives the forms a cursory scan. He asks me what hours I'm available, whether I can work holidays, and whether I own a car. I tell him I took the train from New Haven and was comfortable walking to the bar from the station in Madison.

"Oh, jeez, you came all the way here and I'm sittin' here googling Cat Stevens." He had apparently been in a heated argument with some bar patrons about whether Cat Stevens sang "Another Saturday Night". David begins to sing it himself, in case I'd forgotten the tune. We pause our discussion to look up Cat Stevens's Greatest Hits (after he asks me how to spell "greatest"), and he announces his victory by turning off all the televisions and blaring "Another Saturday Night" from his laptop.

"Just because he recorded it doesn't mean he wrote it!" one of the old men yells, and David and I resume our conversation.

At some point one of the older men leaves, saying there were no women in the bar, and that's what he came for. One of his friends points me out- "there's a woman right there, go talk to her!" Then he addresses me.

"What're you doing here, anyway?"

"Here for a job interview."

"Oh yeah? Hey Dave, whaddya think? I think you should hire her." The other men loudly agree. David laughs, but is silent.

"So why Russian?" David asks me, after seeing my major. I respond with some nonsense about my family being Russian and loving Russia's literature and history.

"Eh, that Anna Chapman stuff... serious stuff. They have deep moles in the government, espionage. I don't like it." We start talking about Russia and I end up giving him a ten rouble note to tape to the wall, lonely between a lost euro and a sad looking yuan. He was inordinately proud of the yuan and insisted that "nigganigganigga" meant "that one over there" in Chinese; a bar patron who'd taught English in China for a year had told him that. The Fox men were skeptical, noting that you can't trust those types. One of the men had worked in Zaire and promised to bring in a banknote from that strange foreign land.

"Why were you in Africa?" I ask, trying to be sociable.

"Hell if I know," he responded, with an unsettling sincerity.

Eventually all the men leave and it's just David and me. We somehow go from talking about whether I can reliably get transportation to and from the bar to the US deficit, and this is where things get interesting.

He leans forward, his balloon-like forearms framing his swollen face, and tells me how he thinks that actually, the Obama administration is consciously trying to run the country into the ground.

"You're educated," he says. "Have you heard of George Soros?" He tells me about his fears of a New World Order, and how George Soros's Jewish parents sold out their fellow Jews during the Second World War and became atheists.

"It's not a left or right issue," he says for at least the fifth time, "it's a right or wrong issue." He assures me that he's not a conspiracy theorist, but that he can't help "noticing things". He tells me he's a licensed hypnotist and we spend fifteen minutes figuring out how many Yale credits his hypnotism course would've been worth in terms of hours spend in class. Turns out it's two. He was very pleased.

We talk about the liberal bent of Yale, and I try, briefly and politely, to explain how things have changed since Buckley, and what it's like to be a conservative there now (I had long since given up hiding my own political leanings).

We were talking about immigration when suddenly he stops mid- sentence.

"Hey, we just made a big batch of soup. You want some soup?"

Realizing that saying 'yes' when I would have otherwise declined seemed to be working well, I asked what kind.

"Minestrone." He said it like the Italians back home do, with three syllables, not four. A minute later a giant bowl of warm soup with parmesan on top is sitting before me, and I eat while he tells me how he'd rather work with ten Mexicans than a hundred white kids, because Mexicans aren't lazy.

A woman comes in, also to apply for the job. He goes through the motions of having her fill out an application but is distracted by the latest updates on the wikileaks situation being broadcast on all the televisions surrounding us. He again begins to mutter about treason and espionage.

Eventually his mother comes in and distracts him with some business matter. The woman turns to me.

"How long you been workin' here?"

"Applying for a job, actually."

Her tone changes. "Oh. Me too." She pauses. "Did he... did he interview you?"

"Not really."

"Okay, cos I was wonderin'... d'you think he'd mind if I went out to have a smoke?"

By then I'd been sitting in that bar for at least an hour, so I told her I'd join her.

"We're going outside to bond," she says, as we pull on our coats and walk outside. We smoke in her car with the windows rolled down and make fun of David and his conspiracy theories, and she tells me stories about other bars she's worked at.

As we walk back inside David asks me if he can get me a drink-- fuck it, I think to myself, and ask what kinds of beer he has. He explains that they're supposed to have three on tap, but the Sam Adams has been empty for a week and a half while they're waiting for a new shipment. I settle for some bland IPA and as I'm drinking it he passes me a napkin on which he's written: "DON'T WORRY ABOUT GETTING BACK TO NEW HAVEN I FOUND YOU A RIDE."

I finish my beer as David explains that publishing leaked government documents is like copyright infringement and wonders aloud whether death by hanging is still a legal form of execution for traitors. His mother returns and compliments me on my heels: black patent five inch pumps.

"They must hurt like hell, though!"

"Oh, they're not so bad."

"Maybe she likes pain," Dave interjects. "She's Russian, after all. They like that." This is one of many bizarrely passive aggressive comments about Russia he made throughout the evening. I begin to suspect he thinks I'm a spy.

Eventually a small Mexican man emerges from the kitchen, clearly ready to go home, when David pulls him aside. After a moment David tells me that that man will be driving me home and that he'll "definitely be in touch."

I climb into the passenger's side of a beat-to-shit pick-up and the Mexican asks me if I mind whether he smokes. I of course say no, and he repeatedly offers me cigarettes, no matter how many times I say "no thank you". He tells me how he used to live in Sag Harbor where it was quiet, and that he hates the noise of cities.

"So when you start working?"

"Ha, soon, I hope."

"We need a beautiful young girl like you. Maybe we get customers. Maybe I help you get job?" He laughs. "I hope David call you soon."

It was a long drive and he eventually let me off at the New Haven green. I thanked him earnestly and just as I begin to walk back to Old Campus I run into my friend C, who was returning from a Bridgewater Information Session. I begin to tell him about my evening, and he assures me that the Bridgewater people are stranger.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Russians, Banjos, and Cinema Verite, oh my!

If you told me there was a documentary about young Russians with a passion for bluegrass trying to make their way in mid 90s Nashville available for free on hulu, I'd knock back whatever cocktail I'd been nursing and run home to watch it.

Unfortunately, there is such a documentary, and it doesn't quite merit that reaction.

The Ballad of Bering Strait is at its best when treating the absurdity of its subject head on, which, perhaps out of respect for the rotating cast of musicians, it rarely does. The following clip, in which Ilya Toshinsky performs before his music professors on the banjo, is one of the few times the documentary even comes close to acknowledging just how bizarre its subject is:

The rest of the film, unfortunately, feels more like a classed-up reality show that could be about any country act at all. It doesn't help that for whatever reason, the band (Bering Strait) tends toward unbearably bland country pop. Another clip that embodies the let down this film truly was is the final concert, recorded at the Grand Ole Opry itself. Here's their first song, typical of the rest of the stuff on their album:

Not a damn thing distinctive about that, anywhere. See the lead singer, the blonde one? At the beginning of the documentary she had waist length black hair. She shaved her head on a lark and only dyes it in preparation for this concert. Her father was a nuclear scientist who died prematurely because he was among the first to investigate the Chernobyl disaster. Absolutely nothing in her music bespeaks how interesting a person she must be. Maybe aping American top 40 style is marked enough for these people-- in which case the documentary would have done far better to focus more on them in the Russian environment, not the American. But wait, what's this?

(For the uninitiated, that was Porushka-poranya, a fairly traditional, well-known song.) Damn, how much more engaging was that?! The freeness in the vocals, the creativity of the instrumentation, the overall energy present on the stage-- blows that crap they were singing before out of the water, and I don't think I'm saying that just because I'm a fan of Russian folk music. People who make music like that might be interesting subjects for a documentary-- those Shania Twain wannabes earlier? Not so much.

Not to say that the film is entirely without merit- these are Russians, after all, and watching them wax philosophical from time to time proves amusing, and if you're at all interested in the inner workings of the country music biz this wouldn't be a waste of your time. The musicians themselves all speak scarily good English, but much of the Russian that is spoken goes untranslated, which might be frustrating for you non-Russophone viewers.

Overall, not the worst way to spend an hour and a half, but not nearly as quirky or entertaining or culturally thoughtful as it could've been.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ode to B&H

Reblogged from The Cigarette Book:
"In the 2001 film Mike Bassett: England Manager, Ricky Tomlinson play the clueless manager drafted in at the last minute to run the national team. He announces his squad list, which he had earlier scribbled down on a gold cigarette packet. He’s puzzled by the inclusion by his secretary, Margaret, of a forty-three-year-old Third Division player and another nonentity.
MARGARET: Here’s the squad list, and I’ve given copies to the press, like you asked.

MIKE: Ah, well done, Margaret, thank you … hey, hang on a minute! There’s 28 names here, I only picked 26.

MARGARET: Well, that was the list you gave me.

MIKE: Tony Hedges, York City? I didn’t pick him, love.

MARGARET: You must have done, Mike. I wouldn’t have put him down, otherwise.

MIKE: Never heard of him, have I? And who’s this clown? Ron Benson, Plymouth Argyle?

MARGARET: Look, Mike, they were on the list of players that you gave me!

MIKE: (holding up the cigarette box he wrote the squad list on) Oh, come on, love! Show me where it says ‘Benson and Hedges’ on that."
The first cigarette I ever smoked was a Benson & Hedges DeLuxe Ultra Light. I was young and tired and angry and had stalked to the 24-hour Walgreens in the middle of a cold February night, only to realize once I got to the counter that I didn't know a damned thing about cigarettes-only that, whatever they were, I wanted them, needed them (my relationship with tobacco hasn't changed much). I concentrated on maintaining my poker face, worried that I'd be found out as a non-smoker, and gruffly pointed to the most lavish looking pack I could see, grabbed some ornate "designer" lighter that broke within a week of purchase (like they all do), and stole back into the night.

By the time I bought my next pack I'd decided to move onto the full strength variety, but taxes soon caught up with me and I've been a Marlboro girl for a few good years now. I still look for full strength B&H whenever I pop into a drug store, but for about six or seven months now I've noticed the full strength variety is never in stock. I imagine there simply isn't the demand for it anymore, given that the CT excise tax is $3 per pack. Damn shame.

The Cigarette Book itself, by the way, looks wonderful, and can be yours for the price of two cheap packs in CT/four cheap packs in VA. Unfortunately, given that I already have many unread books and need what little money I have to purchase more tobacco, I won't be owning it for quite some time, which is why it's lovely that its authors have been posting excerpts (RSS feed here).

Friday, October 29, 2010

That interview

Remember that Newsweek interview I did a month ago?

As promised I look a fright, but I think I managed not to embarrass the entire conservative movement. I also apparently earned the distinction of being the only right-winger interviewed who made it into the final cut. They misspelled several names throughout the video, mine included, but that is a small quibble.

It is very bizarre to see one's self on camera and hear one's voice recorded. I sound much younger than I thought.

EDIT: I, in my infinite arrogance, completely neglected to mention the others interviewed in the video (all fellow members of the illustrious Yale Political Union!): Miss Leah Libresco (fellow HUS veteran), Mr Adam Stempel, Mr Dominick Lawton and Mr Matthew Shafer.

EDIT II: The youtube video has apparently been taken down, but you should be able to watch the video here.

Fanaticism is the only way to love

Alexander Ivanov's "Appearance of Christ to the People", 1837-1857
"Throughout [Ivanov's] long labors on this painting, he was driven by a concern for authenticity that astonished all who came in contact with him. He spent long hours in synagogues studying Jewish faces, made trips to the courtrooms of Rome to study the expressions of despair on the faces of condemned criminals, and invited peasants into his otherwise impenetrable study to tell them jokes and then sketch their spontaneous expressions of happiness and enjoyment.

He was particularly haunted by the problem of depicting Christ in art. He sought, up until the very eve of his death, to find the oldest and most authentic representation of Christ's earthly form--studying in museums, Byzantine frescoes, and finally embarking on a trip to Jerusalem and the Near East...

Slowly but inexorably, driven by some dark inner force which bears the mark of either sainthood or demonic pride, Ivanov became obsessed with the idea that he must in fact be Christ in order to be worthy of depicting him."
(No, The Icon and the Axe is not the only book I read, I swear.)

The neurotic is a wise man without disciples.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mysticism in vending machines is the American way

"MYSTIC surprised by its beauty and intensity. It was created to live an intense and fleeting moment. Its racy style describes a supernatural world which soars skyward. Its skin has a sculpted unique spiritual experience.

We discover in the palm of our hand soft and aerodynamic forms. Its living surface is shaped by a force mysterious and transparent.

It sends us all the energy and excitement of Coca-Cola
Its sexy lines and red color give happiness in 3 dimensions.

Both organic shapes intertwine and form a body ambiguous and fascinating. Its loving silhouette, ties into a true popular poetry."
- Jerome Olivet, designer, visionary, and at least three tabs in
There's a video, too! Words that apparently describe this bottle include: "spiritual", "supernatural", "sexy", and "fascinating".

Granted that as an eager worshipper of the Cigarette and ardent Klein devotee, I can't fault him for overreading a consumer product, but... well, it doesn't look like much more than a Gatorade bottle's evil twin, frankly. Even in the universe where "supernatural" has been so gutted that it could feasibly describe a sugar-and-caffeine dispenser redesign, it sure as hell wouldn't apply to this one.

Come on, Mammonites. You can do better!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Favorite song of the moment

Dance, ballerina, dance
And do your pirouette in rhythm with your achin' heart.
Dance, ballerina, dance
You mustn't once forget a dancer has to dance the part.

Whirl, ballerina, whirl
And just ignore the chair that's empty in the second row.
This is your moment, girl,
Although he's not out there applauding as you steal the show.

Once you said his love must wait its turn
You wanted fame instead.
I guess that's your concern,
We live and learn.

And love is gone, ballerina, gone
So on with your career, you can't afford a backward glance.
Dance on and on and on
A thousand people here have come to see the show
As 'round and 'round you go
So ballerina, dance
Dance, dance!
Courtesy of the fantastic music selection always playing at the Owl Shop.

I have suspected, for some time now, that for the great man (artist?), eros (perhaps all love) is ultimately a distraction.

A dream

Actually dreamed that I was some kind of Slavic mystic healer last night.

I was a middle aged peasant in peasant homes, and an older bearded man (not yet greying) was taking me from house to house, and would gather a group of people around the sick one's bed, and was very adamant that I stand at the front of the bed, behind the sick person, but for some reason I would only ever stand at their feet. The dream was mostly in Russian, and even though I, in the dream, was one of them, I was still plagued by my lack of fluency, which only added to the confusion I felt at what everyone was demanding of me. I didn't understand why they thought I could be looked to to do this.

Like all dreams I have of an even vaguely spiritual bent, I woke up in horror and tried to erase it from my memory. I looked around my room and felt the panicked anxiety I knew so well as a child afraid of the dark, worried, convinced, that my fear would summon forth something terrible.

I successfully freed myself from the memory all day, until this passage in The Icon and the Axe reached something in my subconscious and brought it flooding back:
"A Russian colony had assembled there around Zinaida Volkonsky. She had brought with her a rich art collection and memories of her intimate relationship with Alexander I and the poet Venevitinov. She seems to have viewed herself as a kind of Russian Joan of Arc--having written, and sung the title role in, an opera of that name. It was in Rome, in the shadow of the Volkonsky villa, that Gogol and Ivanov were to create their greatest masterpieces."
I do not like that my life is a postmodern novel.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Profundity Game

Christianity is more x than x:
Christianity is more stoic than stoicism.

Christianity is more Aristotelian than Aristotelianism.

Christianity is more satanic than Satanism.

Christianity is more egalitarian than egalitarianism.

Christianity is more aesthetic than aestheticism.

Christianity is more Marxist than Marxism.

Christianity is more individualist than individualism.

Christianity is more leftist than leftism.

Christianity is more existentialist than existentialism.

Christianity is more rational than rationalism.

Christianity is more sadistic than sadism.
Suggest your own!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I am reblogging this because it is that damn good

From the Awl:
The cynicism with which adults rebel comes from the nihilism of doing what you know is bad for you because you’re old enough to understand that these things usually go unpunished. The kind of joyless self-indulgence that adults traffic in doesn’t exist for teenagers. For the young, it’s unfathomable that act of self-indulgence can bring anything but joy. In the twilight of childhood, you’re not sure what’s like to be an adult but you know what it feels like to not be a child. Every brush with adult behavior-anything from smoking, to sneaking out, to driving, to fucking-is wrapped in a gauzy, loving haze. (It’s bittersweet though: as the twilight of childhood dims, there is within the heart of every teenager a dull throb that comes with the mourning of lost innocence.)
What’s alarming, then, is when grown-ups act like teenagers: denying themselves nothing, cherishing their transgressions like merit badges, constantly chasing the beginning of something, unable to parse the sensations of joys from despair.
And also:
Almost all addicts are childishly immature; full of demands, empty of offerings. When they want something, they it want it yesterday, and they want it effortlessly. Nothing is their fault-the addiction, their degradation, their desperation…. Psychiatrists who have studied them over long periods know that most of them are extremely narcissistic, that their intense preoccupation with heroin is a surface manifestation of a more profound emotional preoccupation with themselves.

Monday, October 18, 2010

But I'm still a Party hack / Just because good sense I lack

1. Try to mold life into a genre and fate, more often than not, will relegate you to a farce (been a particularly eschatologically psychotic day, if you know what I mean).

2. Tomorrow evening at the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan I will be representing the illustrious Yale Political Union in our "annual" (you know, five levels below "traditional") debate against the Hudson Union Society. Because the world is fallen I, along with the rest of my team, have to take the negative on Resolved: This house believes the government's economic stimulus is a failure (catchy, right?).

To give you some idea of just how much I'm the odd man out on this venture, here are our team bios:
Leah Anthony Libresco [note: of Unequally Yoked fame, among other things] is continually disappointed in her own failure to stimulate in others the intense fascination she feels for smallpox as a Masters student in epidemiology. To mitigate her sorrow, she turned to the Yale Political Union for training in persuasion and coercion that will be a little subtler than brandishing smoking flasks in true mad scientist style. Her attempts can be found at the Huffington Post.

David Broockman has so far made a living doing what he will in front of the society: being a partisan shill. He was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2008 from Texas and has worked for several left-leaning groups including the AFL-CIO. He plans to pursue graduate study in political science next year in hopes of being a political science professor and remaining impecunious. He is in the Yale Political Union's Liberal Party, of which he served as Chair last year. He also thinks postmodernism can cure everything.

Naomi Lisan is a senior history major from Cleveland, Ohio, with a minor in mildly angry feminism. After enjoying a semester of hands-on studies in abnormal psychology as Speaker of the Yale Political Union, Naomi is considering rejecting her intended profession, history, in favor of becoming a shrink. If that doesn't work out, she hopes she can turn her madrigal-singing skills into a career, since they're about as useful as a history major, anyway.

Tristyn Bloom is a Russian Studies major torn between pursuing an exciting career in Orthodox Christian theology and joining the academy to study Kievan Rus', and so clearly knows a lot about both economics and success. A self-described "right-wing nutjob", she isn't quite sure how she ended up on this side of the resolution, but is fairly confident it's Nancy Pelosi's fault and plans to ensure the motion's failure just for spite.
Being both a fairly radical libertarian and an almost complete partisan hack (this election cycle) I've been wracking my brain to find an angle on the resolution that is both potentially something that I could maybe in some universe believe, and more exciting than, say, your average C-SPAN broadcast. Here's what I've got so far:
  • The Cynic: It wasn't a failure because it did exactly what it was designed to do: expand bureaucracy, entrench special interests, and allow Obama to say "Look, we tried!"
  • The Hack: It wasn't a failure because it helped get the right-wing base really worked up about how completely incompetent the Obama administration is!
  • The Deconstructionist: 'This house' doesn't really believe anything- what does collective belief even mean, man? What's the difference between believing and knowing, and, while we're at it, trusting! Does this house trust that the stimulus is a failure? Whence flows this sudden epistemological modesty? Why are we assuming that the word "failure" can even have shared meaning across subjects? How can anything that exists coherently in one narrative really fully inhabit another (simultaneously, no less!)?
  • The Prophet: It wasn't a failure because it's hastening the decline! Starve the beast! Heighten the contradictions! COLLAPSITARIANISM 2012!
  • The Class Warrior: Of course 'this house' doesn't believe the stimulus is a failure- it's composed entirely of self-hating haute bourgeoisie with too many degrees and too much free time. SWPL: ARRA!
  • The Evangelical: It doesn't really matter that we're going to have crippling debt and skyrocketing inflation a few years down the line-- Jesus gonna be here soon!
I'll probably just talk about the tax cuts and pretend they're not just dolled up welfare payments, or something. At least decent vodka won't be far away.