Moments

I spend a lot of time reading things on the internet. Every month I’ll post a collection of lines from articles and that made me giggle, blush, gasp or murmur in awe. Sometimes I scoff, mainly at this worthless ‘unclothed emperor’ brand of journalism they publish in the UK. I’ll let you know if I’m mad with a resounding WRONG after the citation. Also, I just came up this idea two weeks ago, so it only covers half of December. Today’s newspapermen of honor are Woodward and Bernstein. Enjoy!

UK girls, in my opinion, are the greatest natural beauties in the world . . . when they’re 17 or 18 years old. The girls I was surrounded by when I was a teenager were sublime roses with lustrous hair, flawless skin, bright eyes and lithe, athletic bodies. They dressed as if there would be a prize at the end of the night for the girl wearing the least. I then went away to Philadelphia for university. Four years later, I came back and wondered: “What the hell happened to all the beautiful girls I knew?” My first assumption was that one half of them had eaten the other half and washed them down with a crate of lager…

I remember dancing with a really lovely English girl. She was gorgeous. Things were going well until I took her hand. I actually recoiled. Her palms were rough and leathery like a tree-climbing monkey’s…

Sophie was a truly beautiful girl I used to be friends with, but hadn’t seen in 15 years. I was surprised to hear that she was still single and was excited to meet her again. At dinner, I found myself sitting opposite something that surely would have been happier hunting for truffles in the forests of France or grazing on the grassy marshlands of Canada. My friend’s wife had told me that Sophie still had the body of a 20-year-old. Maybe she did . . . dismembered in her freezer at home.

-Tad Safran, “American Beauty

Once we Americans have ushered a writer into the contemporary pantheon, we will lie to ourselves to keep him there… [Denis Johnson] is often called “a writer’s writer,” with the customary implication that this is far better than being a reader’s writer.

-B.R. Myers, “A Bright Shining Lie” [I haven’t read anything this brutal since the New Yorker took down Paulo Coelho.]

When I worked at CIA headquarters in the early 1990s, I once suggested to a friend who worked in counterintelligence that up to a third of all CIA agents could be doubles. He said the number was probably much higher.

-Joseph Weisenberg, “With Spies Like These…” [Cool little article about intelligence.]

I know it’s hard to believe, but during the past 12 months I sometimes went two or three weeks in a row without finding anything to mock, deflate or be disappointed by, and my inner curmudgeon was frequently elbowed aside by a wide-eyed, arm-waving enthusiast.

-A.O. Scott, “Stopping at 10 Just Seems Wrong

More than anything [top 10 lists] are a public ritual, which is their most valuable function. I tell you what I liked, and you either agree with my list (which flatters us both) or denounce it (which flatters you). It’s a perfect circle... [These two films] made me feel like the woman in the start of Orson Welle’s film “Touch of Evil” who says, “I’ve got this ticking noise in my head,” just before she’s blown to smithereens by a time bomb. I’m still intact (more or less), but these films shook up my world in the best possible way.

Directed by Cristian Mungiu, [“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”] is one of those putatively dark, difficult movies that industry mouthpieces try to use as proof that critics are out of touch with the audience when it is actually the audience that is out of touch with good movies. Americans consume a lot of garbage, but that may be because they don’t have real choices: 16 of the top box-office earners last weekend — some good, almost all from big studios — monopolized 33,353 of the country’s 38,415 screens. The remaining 78 releases duked it out on the leftover screens.

Manohla Dargis, “A List, To Start the Conversation” [Wow.]

The second stanza of Friedrich Schiller’s poem that is set to the music in “Ode to Joy,” coming on the heels of a chorus that invites the world’s “millions” to “be embraced,” ominously ends: “But he who cannot rejoice, let him steal weeping away.” With this in mind, one recent paradox of the marcia turca is difficult to miss: as Europe makes the final adjustments to its continental solidarity in Lisbon, the Turks, despite their hopes, are outside the embrace.

So, when in the forthcoming days we hear again and again the “Ode to Joy,” it would be appropriate to remember what comes after this triumphant melody. Before succumbing to the warm sentiment of how we are all one big family, I think my fellow Europeans should spare a thought for all those who cannot rejoice with us, all those who are forced to “steal weeping away.” It is, perhaps, the only way we’ll put an end to the rioting and car burnings and other forms of the Turkish march we now see in our very own cities.

-Slavoj Zizek, “Ode to Joy, Followed by Chaos and Despair

…Pamuk remarked to a Swiss weekly news magazine that “thirty thousand Kurds, and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody dares to talk about it.” By “these lands” he meant Turkey. By “nobody,” it is not quite clear what he meant; as far as I can tell – and I live in Turkey myself – nobody here will stop talking about it. But the sentiment in Turkey, generally speaking, is that the Armenians had it coming, and quite a few more Kurds want killing…

…The collection has been received with rapture by many critics, who celebrate this offering as a unique window into Pamuk’s interior life. Indeed, it is precisely that. Unfortunately, it seems that Pamuk’s interior life is largely that of a lugubrious poseur… For page upon page, Pamuk stresses in these self-enamoured tones that he is a man who really likes to read books. Good ones, too, by famous writers like Dostoyevsky and Borges – not, you know, easy ones. He’s different from other Turks, you see. But he’s not like the Europeans, either. He’s an outsider, eternally apart, rejected by all, accepted by no one (the Nobel committee aside). Life hurts. A seagull croaks.

It is physically impossible not to be caught between East and West, actually. We all are. So may I take this opportunity to beg Pamuk, everyone who writes about Pamuk, and indeed, everyone who writes about Istanbul, to retire forever the phrase “caught between East and West”? … Yes, Istanbul is located geographically between Asia and Europe. Yes, Turks tend to be rather aware of this. Turkey, as Pamuk observes – and if you think about it for even a second, it should not come as a surprise – exhibits both Oriental and Occidental qualities. But this “caught between East and West” business – how much more literary mileage does he plan to get out of it? First time: a fair observation. Thousandth time: 999 times too many. (Next up: New York is a melting pot; Paris is the City of Lights; there’s nothing in Texas but steers and queers.)

-Claire Berlinski, “Pamuk: Prophet or Poseur” [I take back what I said above. This is a brutal takedown, although slightly too ad hominem.]

In a report of their findings published in Psychological Medicine, Pope and his colleagues concluded that the absence of dissociative amnesia in works prior to 1800 indicates that the phenomenon is not a natural neurological function, but rather a “culture-bound” syndrome rooted in the nineteenth century. They argued that dissociative amnesia falls into the diagnostic category “pseudo-neurological symptom” (or “conversion disorder”)—a condition that “lacks a recognizable medical or neurological basis.”

“Clearly the rise of Romanticism, at the end of the Enlightenment, created fertile soil for the idea that the mind could expunge a trauma from consciousness,” Pope says. He notes that other pseudo-neurological symptoms (such as the female “swoon”) emerged during this era, but faded relatively quickly. He suspects that two major factors helped solidify “repressed memory” in the twentieth-century imagination: psychoanalysis (with its theories of the unconscious) and Hollywood. “Film is a perfect medium for the idea of repressed memory,” he says. “Think of the ‘flashback,’ in which a whole childhood trauma is suddenly recalled. It’s an ideal dramatic device.”

-Ashley Pettus, “Repressed Memory

I don’t have a mobile phone, I don’t have a computer or an iPod – I don’t have any of that crap. I think it’s much better to be like Amy Winehouse than to be aged 24 and stuck in front of a computer all day… If you are stuck in front of a computer you aren’t actually living, you’re living by proxy.

-Shane MacGowan (lead singer of the Pogues), in The Mirror [Touché. If I do spend more time out and about, however, I hope to follow healthier habits than you.]

[Celine] Dion is the Antichrist of the indie sensibility, an overemoting schmaltz-bot who has somehow managed to convert the ethos of Wal-Mart into sine waves and broadcast them, at kidney-rupturingly high volume, directly into our internal soulPods. A book pondering the aesthetics of Céline risks going wrong in about 3,000 different ways. Most obviously, it could degenerate into one of those irritating hipster projects of strategic kitsch-retrieval, an ironic exercise in taste as anti-taste in which an uncool phenomenon is hoisted onto a pedestal of cool simply as a display of contrarian muscle power.

-Sam Anderson, “Taster’s Choice” [Nice!]

Robb learned from his travels that the centralization process was never as rapid or as complete as previously thought. In 1800, only 11% of the population spoke French (the official Parisian version) and a hundred years later only about 20% spoke it.

-Amazon.com User Review, “The Discovery of France

Looking at “Così fan tutte” as Mozart’s “late style” or as some kind of summing up is hindsight invented by the people who outlived him. He didn’t see it as “late style” at all. Mozart — always living high and never the impoverished garret dweller of myth — had financial security in sight and more music to write.

Bernard Holland, “Composer’s Lives: Speed is Critical, Not Length

The death of Baudrillard left a gaping hole in the cultural landscape. Suddenly, we lack a great POFT — a Pointlessly Obscure French Thinker. Baudrillard, like Kristeva, Foucault, Lacan and many others, was a poseur and rhetorician. But, like some of the others, though certainly not Foucault, he was also a very brilliant man. His insights into the constructed nature of contemporary reality were, while usually buried beneath pointless obscurity, scintillating. If the French could shake off the posturing that has disfigured their post-war thought, they could perhaps recover their role as the great essayists of the world. We need a new Pascal, a new Montaigne.

-Bryan Appleyard*, “Twilight of the Greats?” [WRONG: Man, this guy is a real prick. I welcome a new Pascal, and those authors certainly would benefit from Strunk & White, but when you’re looking for examples of willfully obscure French philosophers: bitch about Derrida; Foucault was a fucking genius and his writing is nowhere near as dense as its reputation. Also, why does Philip Roth writing two not perfect books in as many years render him irrelevant?]

By 1997 the ubiquity of Puff Daddy helped cement hip-hop’s new image: the rapper as tycoon. Like all pop-music trends, like all economic booms, this one couldn’t last […] Because hip-hop is so intensely self-aware, and self-reflexive, it came to be known as big-money music, a genre obsessed with its own success. If we are now entering an age of diminished commercial expectations, that will inevitably change how hip-hop sounds too.

-Kelefah Sanneh, “Decline in Hip-Hop Sales

To understand what makes these measures so absurd, we first need to revisit the morning of September 11th, and grasp exactly what it was the 19 hijackers so easily took advantage of. Conventional wisdom says the terrorists exploited a weakness in airport security by smuggling aboard box-cutters. What they actually exploited was a weakness in our mindset — a set of presumptions based on the decades-long track record of hijackings.

And rather than rethink our policies, the best we’ve come up with is a way to skirt them — for a fee, naturally — via schemes like Registered Traveler. Americans can now pay to have their personal information put on file just to avoid the hassle of airport security. As cynical as George Orwell ever was, I doubt he imagined the idea of citizens offering up money for their own subjugation…

Patrick Smith, “The Airport Security Follies

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~ by ohkrapp on December 31, 2007.

2 Responses to “Moments”

  1. thank you for these hot links. I especially appreciated the peak into Shane’s world by The Mirror. However, am I alone in wishing that The Mirror, esteemed publication though it is, would embrace the internet revolution and post more pictures? I could have used closeups of Shane, action shots, or a bit of the mise en scene.

  2. “hot links”

    haha

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