And when I shout, “Curse all cowardly devils in you who like to whine and fold their hands and pray,” they shout, “Zarathustra is godless.”…Well, then, this is my preaching for their ears: I am Zarathustra the godless, who speaks: “Who is more godless than I, that I may delight in his instruction?”
You know, it’s one thing for people to dispute whether Israel’s incursion into Gaza is disproportionate. It seems obvious to me that it is, but people can argue that in good faith. However, I’m frankly gobsmacked by the cavalier attitude of some Israeli and American politicians, like Michael Bloomberg, who blithely assert that a disproportionate response is exactly the right thing to do:
“The concept of proportional response is one of the stupider things I’ve ever heard in my life. If it was your family, would you want a proportional response? No, you’d want every single resource to be brought to bear to stop those who are killing innocent people.”
Well then genocide and nuclear holocaust are logically on the menu too, eh?
Why am I not surprised. Once we became a nation whose leasers casually describe torture techniques as “no-brainers” why would anything be off limits? This is the natural snowball effect of a nation which no longer even tries to pay lip service to the idea of international law.
Again, Digby rehashes her belief in some sort of Garden of Eden myth, where BushCo. being more or less open about the fact that we torture people is the event that caused our fall from grace. She seems to think that the concept of “disproportionate” responses in warfare are directly descended from Abu Ghraib or something. I have a nagging feeling she’s forgetting something…
Her myopic obsession with the issue of torture and our national morality has really left me gobsmacked. She’s by no means stupid, yet…
All right, let’s put it like this. We occupy this land because our ancestors exterminated the original inhabitants in a manner that Hitler himself would approvingly cite as a model he hoped to follow, sometimes by deliberate proto-chemical warfare in the form of germ-laden blankets offered ostensibly in peace. For the first few hundred years of our existence here, we kept millions of humans as property, and only stopped after the most destructive war we’ve ever been in, one from which the ripples are still extending outward. We started our career as an imperialist power by brutalizing the Philippines and deliberately lying to gin up a war with Spain. We incinerated Dresden. WE FUCKING NUKED THE JAPANESE (TWICE!), as I’ve already mentioned. A large portion of the country maintained an apartheid regime that only ended a few decades ago. We fought a useless war that eventually extended to two other countries based entirely on lies and paranoia about enemies who desired to dominate the world the way we wanted to, dropping more bombs in the process than had been dropped in the entirety of World War 2, which still maim and kill people to this day. We turned Central America into an abattoir in the ’80s, we cynically supported the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, and we’ve been brutally, sadistically torturing Iraq for almost two decades now. Oh, and our “intelligence” agencies have been overthrowing democratically elected governments, smuggling drugs and instructing sadists from other countries in the most effective methods of torturing and terrorizing their own populations when we haven’t actively been doing it ourselves. And that’s just a thumbnail sketch!
And yet, despite all this evidence showing that Americans are only hairless chimpanzees just like everyone else in the world, equally as violent and depraved but perhaps even more certain of our own righteousness despite the fact, Digby seems to think that we absolutely drew the line at holding down an individual in a secret room somewhere and making them scream in agony. Does she honestly think pieces of paper like the Constitution are some sort of secular talismans that can keep some of the most gruesome aspects of human nature at bay, like the desire to brutally – disproportionately – revenge oneself upon the enemy, or the “other”? We can vaporize entire cities and drown jungles in jellied gasoline in order to murder people who have never done anything to us or our homeland without rending our star-spangled garments in agonized self-recrimination, but holding down a captured enemy and tormenting him with loud noise, electrical shocks, sleep deprivation, beatings and needles under his fingernails? Heaven forfend! What do you think we are, barbarians? I said GOOD DAY, sir!
I’m really not sure what’s more shocking – that she honestly believes something like the scenario I just suggested, or that she can rationalize away all the macro-level atrocities as long as there’s a convincing gesture towards basic humanity on the micro-level.
…adding, 1/6: co-blogger dday raises the stakes in the purple prose competition:
They were flown around the world, interrogated and tortured, and in the process, America not only created thousands of new terrorists while received no actionable intelligence, but lost its soul.
I’ve never laughed while throwing up in my mouth before. That was a unique experience. The amazing ever-replenishing reservoir of national soul and innocence. Oh, George, I can hear you laughing now…
I keep hearing that America lost its innocence on 9/11. I thought that happened when JFK was shot. Or was it Vietnam? Pearl Harbor? How many times can America lose its innocence? Maybe we keep finding it again. Doubtful. Because, actually, if you look at the record, you’ll find that America has had very little innocence from the beginning.
What Pam says. I have six APBT’s myself, having been involved in rescue work for almost fifteen years, and I’m always glad to see an eloquent defense of the breed. Ninety days in jail, though, what a fucking joke. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll teach him. Personally, I would happily cover DMX and Michael Vick in steak sauce and throw them into a pit full of starving, abused dogs.
And in other animal news, this time from the “water is wet, sunrise in the east” category: hunters are driving evolution in reverse.
How fitting that the Great Purge should begin with Comrade Bushkov, the man who hung the “Grand Re-Opening! Under New Management!” signs out in front of former Soviet gulags. The system will eat itself!
The divisions taking hold among Republicans are becoming more severe as the party prepares to accuse its outgoing president of embracing “socialism.”
…At its meeting next month, the Republican National Committee is set to vote on a resolution formally opposing the bailouts, accusing Bush of helping nationalize the banks and taking “another dangerous step closer toward socialism,” the Washington Times reports Tuesday.
I forget exactly how this became a little tradition of mine, but I always like to read this poem by Rilke every New Year’s Eve. Maybe it’s the theme of change over time that appeals to me at this reflective time of year. Translation by Stephen Mitchell:
Dove that ventured outside, flying far from the dovecote:
housed and protected again, one with the day, the night,
knows what serenity is, for she has felt her wings
pass through all distance and fear in the course of her wanderings.
The doves that remained at home, never exposed to loss,
innocent and secure, cannot know tenderness;
only the won-back heart can ever be satisfied: free,
through all it has given up, to rejoice in its mastery.
Being arches itself over the vast abyss.
Ah, the ball that we dared, that we hurled into infinite space,
doesn’t it fill our hands differently upon its return:
heavier by the weight of where it has been.
Taube, die draußen blieb, außer dem Taubenschlag,
wieder in Kreis und Haus, einig der Nacht, dem Tag,
weiß sie die Heimlichkeit, wenn sich der Einbezug
fremdester Schrecken schmiegt in den gefühlten Flug.
Unter den Tauben, die allergeschonteste,
niemals gefährdetste, kennt nicht die Zärtlichkeit;
wiedererholtes Herz ist das bewohnteste:
freier durch Widerruf freut sich die Fähigkeit.
Über dem Nirgendssein spannt sich das Überall.
Ach der geworfene, ach der gewagte Ball,
füllt er die Hände nicht anders mit Wiederkehr:
rein um sein Heimgewicht ist er mehr.
I know, it’s a pretentious post title, but I didn’t want to call it something generic like “Best Albums of 2008”. I’m just jazzing it up a little. That’s how I roll.
At any rate, I was going to aim for the usual ten or so, but I realized that I really didn’t hear ten great albums released this year. Many of the ones I was eagerly anticipating turned out to be uninspired (Dandy Warhols, Earth to the Dandy Warhols), uneven (TV on the Radio, Dear Science), or just plain bad (Primal Scream, Beautiful Future). So I’ll just list what occurs to me, and maybe throw in some other notable discs that weren’t actually released this year, but I played the hell out of anyway.
Beck, Modern Guilt
I was overjoyed to finally hear of the release date for this back in the summer, but that was quickly tempered by fear: how could this possibly follow the sublime one-two punch of Guero and The Information? I utterly worship those records; should I just steel myself to accept that chances are he’ll never be that good again and just enjoy whatever moments he can still offer? Well, I’m happy to report that I don’t have to cross that bridge for a while yet. The biggest disappointment for me was the album’s brevity, barely more than a half-hour long, while on the plus side, songs like “Profanity Prayers” and “Soul of a Man” are as good as anything he’s ever recorded, and several others aren’t too shabby either. The worst of Beck is still better than the best of many other artists.
The Vines, Melodia
The pop sensibilities and psychedelica of the Beatles mixed with the bipolar punk of Nirvana, sometimes in the same song. Their first disc, Highly Evolved, cast a shadow that the subsequent three haven’t quite escaped from, but Craig Nicholls still writes great songs within those boundaries.
Tribe After Tribe, M.O.A.B.
African acid rock. That’s how Robbi Robb described their music way back when, and I guess it suits as well as any label can. I couldn’t possibly detail all the ways he and his band have influenced me. I bought their record Love Under Will on June 14th, 1994. I still remember the date because…well, because it was one of those life-altering events that make it impossible to forget where you were and what was going on. It was so heavy, but in a percussive way, not like the wall-of-guitar sound I was used to hearing from metal bands. The lyrics were abstractly poetic without being completely impenetrable. I spent months listening to it every single day, and always seemed to find something new in one of the songs. It changed not only the way I wrote music and poetry myself, but the way I thought about and understood music, for that matter. The only other two records I could name that had a comparable effect were Metallica’s …And Justice For All and Type O Negative’s October Rust.
A decade and a half later, they’re thankfully still at it, even though I had to buy the album through his website thanks to a lack of distribution – isn’t that always the way of it? In a just world, this band would be a household name.
Favorite song: Burning Bush
Econoline Crush, Ignite
Last I had heard, their criminally overlooked 2001 album Brand New History was their swan song, but I heard of this one shortly after it had been released (late last year, technically). Picked up right where they left off, they did. I’ve always loved that Trevor Hurst’s voice sounds like Ian Astbury of The Cult mixed with…new wave influence, maybe? Something ’80s, I just can’t quite place it. Sharp, punchy alternative rock with a little electronic feel added in. Bonus fun fact: a friend of mine saw these guys in a club many years ago, and the local paper had screwed up the time and date of the gig. Combined with their invisibility on most music fans’ radar, this led to no one being there for the show but the aforementioned friend of mine. Rather than go back to the van or motel to sulk, they decided to treat it as a rehearsal and played their entire set while he watched, then hung out and shot the breeze with him for a while afterwards. Super cool guys.
Favorite songs: Get Out of the Way, The Love You Feel
King’s X, XV
The legendarily underappreciated Texas trio, King’s X. Almost every rock musician knows and reveres them, but that’s never translated into record sales. They’ve got it all except mainstream success. Other friends of mine have gotten to open for them and share the stage for a couple songs, even, and once again, great guys. Fifteen releases later, they show no signs of letting up, and thank goodness for that.
European electro-pop. I didn’t like it at first listen, but then it grew on me. Another one of those where the expectations are so high, it’s almost a sure thing that you’ll be initially let down, and that was the case here. I still don’t think it’s their best overall, but the song “Versus” would be good enough to cancel out ten more shitty songs.
Best New Old Band of the Year: Folk Implosion
How the hell did I miss these guys back in the late ’90s? I heard the song “Natural One” on the radio one day this past summer, recognized it, thought, “Hey, I like that song, I should find out who it is and look them up,” and so I did. Nothing extraordinary, just great alternative rock with Lou Barlow’s subdued, almost insecure voice tucked away inside it somewhere.
Sigur Rós, Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
Takk..and Ágætis Byrjun will always be the gold standard for me when it comes to these guys, but while this may not be on the same level, it’s still Sigur Rós. ‘Nuff said.
Favorite song: Inní mér syngur vitleysyngur
The Fratellis, Here We Stand
Good ol’ raucous rock ‘n’ roll. Not quite as good as Costello Music to me, but still fun, and that’s all that matters here.
Jon Crosby leaves behind his folk-traveling minstrel experiments for a return to the industrial/electronic rock that he started with. Favorite song: Lift Me Up
The Black Crowes, Warpaint
The roots-rocking, rabble-rousing brothers Robinson finally got back together and put out something new, hilariously taking a bite out of Maxim in the process. Once again, this doesn’t compare for me to their best work (Amorica and Three Snakes and One Charm), but I still enjoy it and think the Crowes deserve better than to be constantly slagged off as Stones/Faces ripoffs. Favorite songs: Oh Josephine, Locust Street
The more we think about all that has been and will be, the paler grows that which is. If we live with the dead and die with them in their death, what are our ‘neighbors’ to us then? We grow more solitary, and we do so because the whole flood of humanity is surging around us. The fire within us, which is for all that is human, grows brighter and brighter – and that is why we gaze upon that which immediately surrounds us as though it had grown more shadowy and we had grown more indifferent to it. But the coldness of our glance gives offense!
Behavior that is excited, noisy, inconsistent, nervous constitutes the antithesis of great passion: the latter, dwelling within like a dark fire and there assembling all that is hot and ardent, leaves a man looking outwardly cold and indifferent and impresses upon his features a certain impassivity. Such men are, to be sure, occasionally capable of neighbor love – but it is a kind different from that of the sociable and anxious to please: it is a gentle, reflective, relaxed friendliness; it is though they were gazing out of the windows of their castle, which is their fortress and for that reason also their prison – to gaze into what is strange and free, into what is different, does them so much good!
But the really reckless were fetched by an older, colder voice, the oceanic whisper: “I am the solitude that asks and promises nothing. That is how I shall set you free. There is no love; there are only the various envies, all of them sad.”
— W.H. Auden
Cool article. My favorite part:
“Solitude is a healthy way of being alone with oneself. One engages in an inner dialogue,” Dumm says. “One of the things that our culture really tries to discourage is thinking, reflection, seriousness. I think that we have to have more confidence in our ability to be thoughtful people. We spend an enormous amount of time worrying about ourselves, but not an awful lot of time caring for ourselves. Caring for ourselves means thinking very seriously and carefully about the conditions under which we’re living our lives, and how others are living theirs, and taking instruction from the way that others have lived their lives.”
The part I would take issue with:
While technology has given us all sorts of novel ways to connect and stay in touch — from Facebook to texting to Twitter — Cacioppo contends that such digital communications are great if they facilitate and enhance face-to-face interactions, but they can increase feelings of loneliness if they are a substitution for in-person interaction. He compares online communication as a balm to loneliness to eating celery when you’re hungry; it’s food, but it’s not going to fill you up like a nutritious meal.
I’ve always been a solitary person, content to spend hours or even days alone with only superficial social contact, and I’ve never considered it a problem. Others have, as I’ve been accused of being everything from rude to mute to mentally retarded for my tendency to speak very little to strangers or mild acquaintances, and then only when spoken to. I have very little ability or patience for meaningless small talk, and wish other people didn’t feel the need to drown out the sound of the wind whistling through their heads by jabbering about nothing in particular. I am definitely one of those who most often feels “lonely” in a crowd or a social gathering where I don’t really have time or freedom to be alone with my thoughts. I don’t know whether it’s a question of being overly cerebral or intellectual (not in the “good lord, I sure am a genius” sense, but in the sense of being analytical and dispassionate) or perhaps some genetic factors, but it is as close to being an essential part of my being as I think a person can have. Personally, the Internet (and especially the blogs) has been a godsend for a social misfit like me. I suppose I would be considered by Cacioppo to be one of those who use it as a substitute for face-to-face interaction, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve found just as much, if not even more intellectual stimulation and interesting characters online in the last several years than I have in the previous few decades of real life. I feel just as much affection for Roy Edroso, Scott & S.Z. Heywood J. and IOZ as people I encounter in the course of a day; maybe in a different way, but no less meaningful. I wouldn’t claim that I “know” people I interact with on the blogs in the same way that I would in person, but who cares? This sort of medium allows you to distill the most interesting parts of what people are all about, their better essence, without the dross that makes up much of their lives. I don’t “know” the artists whose work I treasure either, but my life is no less enriched just because I haven’t seen them sitting around in their underwear scratching themselves. In fact, that might lessen the effect they’ve had on me, might diminish some of the magic. I don’t doubt that for most people, they need to regularly see a smiling face or feel a warm body near theirs to feel well-adjusted, but I’ll take passionate written exchanges of ideas over up-close-and-personal yammering about the weather any day and feel completely satisfied.
“When evening comes, I return to my home, and I go into my study; and on the threshold, I take off my everyday clothes, which are covered with mud and mire, and I put on regal and curial robes; and dressed in a more appropriate manner I enter into the ancient court, of ancient men and am welcomed by them kindly, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, and for which I was born and there I am not ashamed to speak to them, to ask them the reasons for their actions, and they, in their humanity, answer me; and for four hours I feel no boredom, I dismiss every affliction, I no longer fear poverty nor do I tremble at the thought of death; I become completely part of them.”
Speaking of art…I’ve been single for the last few years, and long ago passed the grace period where people left you alone out of respect for a recently failed long-term relationship. Now I get hints from everyone from my mom to my friends, who ask if I’m dating again, who was that girl they saw me talking to, don’t I get lonely around this time of year, and so on. It’s a shame that thanks to centuries of moping Romantics, the epigones of Young Werther disingenuously turning all the best reasons for being a lone wolf into hackneyed clichés, nothing I could say won’t sound like sour grapes or desperate posing or overcompensating. But the truth is, I realized some time ago that music is what makes me happier than anything on earth, with literature a close second. The most transcendent moments I’ve ever experienced have been in the grip of a song or a beautiful passage in a book. I know what it’s like to be in romantic love, of course, and I’ve had moments in a relationship where I felt very happy and content, but still, that sublime sense of dissolving in something much bigger than my tiny ego, of almost existing temporarily somewhere beyond space and time – that belongs to art. Perhaps for all the pleasure Nietzsche has given me with his grandiose, bombastic literary style and quirky insights into the nooks and crannies of life that make me laugh at the discovery of things I never would have thought of on my own, I’m moving more towards a Schopenhauerish view of life, to escape the horrors of the world via the contemplation of art. (I haven’t thrown any talkative old ladies down a flight of stairs yet, but there’s still plenty of time for that.)
So, yes – I might be the only person bounded in the nutshell of my house on Christmas Day, but as long as I have a rack full of CDs and shelves full of books, I will count myself a king of infinite space.
The broader point of Digby’s post is fine with me, but when it comes to “anti-Lincoln cranks”, allow me to put forth an alternative view: I think Lincoln was one of the worst presidents for not letting the South secede in the first place. Seriously, why do we venerate the guy? He made clear many times that he only cared about keeping the union together, he had views of blacks that would make Strom Thurmond applaud, he freed the slaves as a tactical manuever, not a moral one, and thanks to that stupid fucking move of keeping the southern states in the union by force, we’re still cursed a century and a half later with recalcitrant, angry, anti-intellectual rednecks who insist on voting their prejudices and bitter resentments. If he had let them go, they would have eventually noticed their northern neighbors enjoying luxuries like basic literacy, shoes and toilet paper and come crawling back begging to rejoin.
Hey, I’d be fine with letting our own snake-handlers have their religion in public schools as long as we could have an alternative like this. Of course, religious instruction in an academic sense has never been the name of the game, just the opportunity to preach to a captive audience while preening and making a spectacle of themselves, despite some fairly clear instructions to the contrary.
This must be some of that post-partisan comity I’ve heard so much about. Ah, it’s nice to see that Sensible Liberals and voices of right-wing reason like the New York Post (headline: Bush Dodges Crazy Iraqi’s Flying Shoes) can come together to sing along with Eric Cartman: Respect mah authoritah, you ungrateful wogs! When we want to hear what you think, we’ll waterboard it out of you!
(My only complaint is that dogs are noble animals, and in no way deserve to be slandered by having George W. Bush named as one of them.)
If it were just one of the dimmer lights at Pandagon, I wouldn’t think too much of it, but I was really amazed to see how many people, bloggers and commenters alike, had a similar reaction as I checked out what several other liberal blogs made of this. Here you have a feeble, impotent expression of rage, of no real threat to anyone, but that didn’t stop people from hyperventilating over the fact that dear lord, one of those barbaric mud-people actually threw something at an elected official of the United States government! (Quick! Back to the safety of the gated community! Where’s those nuclear launch codes?) What if had been a stick of dynamite cleverly disguised to look like a shoe, huh?! What if someone does that to Obama one day, what then?!
(Well, if he actually makes good on all his bellicose threats towards Iran, I’d say flying shoes would be the least of what he would deserve. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.) But all kidding aside, I guess that good old American Exceptionalism runs deep, even in liberals. Hey, if there were any justice in the world, hundreds of our officials would be lined up at the Hague for their war crimes trials, but that’s no reason to get all huffy about it! Don’t you know we’re the indispensable nation?
Seriously, what the fuck do you expect Iraqis to do, send a scathing letter to the editor? Post a vlog on YouTube calling Bush names? It’s fucking obscene for people like this to cluck their tongues disapprovingly at people who have been forced to live through a hell they could never imagine. In fact, just try to do that, you cosseted motherfuckers. Imagine being that weak and powerless. Imagine standing a dozen yards from the smirking monster who had invaded your country using the most risible, transparent lies as a fig leaf, who had sent one entire quarter of your population into exile or an early grave, and ask yourself what you would do. What would you do, you fucking cowards? Stand in line, raise your hand and voice strong reservations about his actions, possibly even ask for an apology?
If Americans had any guts, they’d be pelting this bastard with garbage and rotten fruit any time he stuck his head out in public. Thank goodness not everyone in the world is that meek, frightened and whipped.