Thursday, August 30, 2007

Buncha Links from the Summer

Here's a bunch of stuff I thought was interesting enough to email to myself at various times over the summer:

***Sidney Blumenthal declares the current Republican paradigm to be kitsch, ersatz, however you want to Allemagnize it. I tend to agree. (holy moley, this one's almost a year old--where have I been? At any rate, here's two core paragraphs:

"Kitsch is imitative, cheap, sentimental, mawkish and incoherent, and derives its appeal by demeaning and degrading genuine standards and values, especially those of modernity. While the proponents of the faux retro style claim to uphold tradition, they are inherently reactive and parasitic, their words and products a tawdry patchwork, hastily assembled as declarations against authentic complexity and ambiguity, which they stigmatize as threats to the sanctity of an imaginary harmonious order of the past that they insist they and their works represent. Kitsch presumes to be based on old rules, but constantly traduces them.

"The Bush kitsch warriors have created a cultural iconography that attempts to inspire deference to the radical making of an authoritarian presidency. These warriors pose as populists, fighting a condescending liberal elite. Wealthy, celebrated and influential, their faux populism demands that they be seen however as victims."

Not bad, Sid! Although I think Clem Greenberg is pretty much of an elitist, there's no denying a gulf between kitsch and art. Or governance.

***Glenn Greenwald blogs about Bill Moyers's recent PBS documentary on the failure of the press in the Iraq War run-up.

"One of the most important points came at the end. The institutional decay which Moyers chronicles is not merely a matter of historical interest. Instead, it continues to shape our mainstream political dialogue every bit as much as it did back in 2002 and 2003. The people who committed the journalistic crimes Moyers so potently documents do not think they are guilty of anything -- ask them and they will tell you -- and as a result, they have not changed their behavior in the slightest."

***Paul sent me this incredible article from Discover Magazine that answers the question, "what happens when you point two internet chat-bots at each other?" ALICE and Jabberwocky get deep:

Jabberwocky: Do you think?

ALICE: Yes. I am a thinking machine.

J: But you don’t think very well though.

A: Oh. Um. Do you think well? Why would I think well?

J: Because I tell you about things which you don’t like.

A: That makes sense to me. Why did you tell them?

J: You seem fun.

A: You think I am fun.

J: Yes ;).

A: : -) Awesome.

***My Great-great-grandfather on my mother's side led a Universalist meeting group in Villisca, Iowa, in the late 1800's. Before the merger between the Unitarians and the Universalists in 1961, Grandma and Grandpa Karlson and my mom and her sibs all went to the Universalist church in Rochester, MN. It is still the hunk of my religious heritage with which I most identify. This page on Starr King's website has a great density of information on Univeralism.

***I think I found this article on BoingBoing... It's an examination of the ways in which class divisions play out in social networking websites MySpace and FaceBook. What, no Friendster?!?

***The Washington Post's big series on Cheney. As Chris Nilsson would say, his name is himself (ie: Dick).

***This one I know I got from BoingBoing. Blade Runner at 25: Why the Special Effects Are Still Unsurpassed, an appreciation by Adam Savage of MythBusters fame.

***Two from YouTube: a video called Oh Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins singers, and the page for the Real Blues Archives. I'm thinking my dad will like this one.

***After all the flying we've done this summer I'm ready to never get on a plane again. This blog post about Continental Flight 1970 makes me realize how much worse it could have been. At least Sarah's and my experiences were just full of drudgery and stupid TSA nonsense. We didn't have to deal with the almost unspeakable customer service that Continental subjected these poor people to, and better than that the toilets on our flights didn't break down and send rivers of shit and piss coursing through the steerage--I mean, coach class cabins. Here's a link to the passengers' blog, Poop On A Plane.

***From the hideous to the sublime: a nice article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the Ellen Johnson house, Frank Lloyd Wright's contribution to the Oberlin, OH, skyline.

***A neat article from Grist.org about 15 green religious leaders. I misremember who posted this to the Starr King listserv, but I am glad they did!

***Here's one from Nashville about freedom of speech and its historic limits in that fair city. I'm more interested in the second item, about the trouble Amos Dresser got into for possessing abolitionist literature as he traveled through Nashville:

"According to Dresser, a group of committee members stripped him naked, and as he knelt, Constable Braughton administered the whipping. "When the infliction ceased, an involuntary feeling of thanksgiving to God for the fortitude with which I had been able to endure it, arose in my soul, to which I began aloud to give utterance," Dresser recalled. "The death-like silence that prevailed for a moment, was suddenly broken with loud exclamations, 'G-d d--n him, stop his praying.'"" (Check my grammar, but I think I'm justified in jamming that many quotation marks together.)

***Sarah and I finally finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last night, making us some of the last people in the world to have done so, or so it seems. On the off chance that we aren't the final suckers to cross the finish line, I won't spoil, or reveal, or what have you, other than to say how impressed I am. HP7 ties the entire series up into a tidy little bundle, it is compulsively readable, it is fun, it deals with heavy shit in a credible and light-handed way... It just works. And how! So, here's my last link this evening: courtesy of Garrick, an article about the Church of England's publishing of a guide on how to use Harry Potter to evangelize.

Okay, that's it for the evening. Whoof.

Fun with Sarah, Gwyn, Frunch, Andy, and MacBook, and then a shipwreck in Oregon:






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