Kyle's Republic
Sunday, February 27, 2005
 
A kindred spirit

Except I think he doesn't really mean it. From the blog that gave us "Poker with Dick Cheney," some spiritual self-wrestling at The Poor Man:

I'm sorry. However hard this has been for Mr. Gannon, I assure you it has been
twice as hard for me. Every long moment of my life since the story broke, I have
been at war with myself. It is as if, with this Gannon affair, I have been given
the One Ring, a gift of tremendous power, cunning, and temptation, - but,
knowing that to use the Ring is to fall, I must risk everything to destroy it,
and fling it down to the bottom of the Pit from whence it came. Except, instead
of a lidless eye wreathed in flame, the Enemy is Beavis. If you even thought
about smirking when I said "hard", "long", "ring", "bottom", or "came", then you
know the great war of which I speak. If you haven't stopped cackling since I
said "assure", well, there but for the grace of God go I.
 
Friday, February 25, 2005
 
Self-assessment

Lately I've been getting real loose with this blog, like Wayne Newton at a midnight show. But hey, it's all to the good.
 
 
That's just sick

Okay, here's another from my favorite radio station. (Which I might as well identify: it's K92, Montreal's Light Rock.) In my usual fashion as blogger, this item is not even current. I heard it this morning, thought I'd get around to putting it up, and have finally done so now.

And here's the item:

You may have heard Queen Elizabeth isn't going to Charles and Camilla's wedding. Yes, she says her role as mother ends with jumping out of the cake at the bachelor party.
 
 
Pull my finger

Click this link and see what happens.

(I heard maybe the site on the other end of the link isn't for real. But what if it is, liberal critics? What if . . . it is?)
 
 
Somebody read this

Here's Christopher Hitchens's Vanity Fair piece outlining his suspicions that the Ohio presidential vote got cooked. Electoral mechanics make for tough reading and I don't trust Hitchens to give an authoritative, or trustworthy, account of anything. So I link but I do not read. (All right, I did skim the published piece.)

Still, 1) an election is an election, and 2) maybe Hitchens isn't just indulging in retro-Safire, pseudo-maverick positioning. So somebody please read the piece and then take the action you think appropriate. I'll wait here.
 
Thursday, February 24, 2005
 
Yeah, maybe he does

A few days back I suggested maybe G-G liked all the attention from his disgrace. Now this from Americablog by way of PBD:

Trolling for a date: James Guckert (aka Jeff Gannon) is angling for an
invite to the gala White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in April,
saying his recent notoriety qualifies him as a great guest.

"There is still time," he told Editor & Publisher this week. "There is always someone there trying to make news. Maybe this year it is going to be me."

He also revealed that he's trying to line up paid speaking gigs, telling the trade mag: "There are people who are definitely interested in some of my behind-the-scenes work in the press room."Yes, this is the same guy who, after being linked to gay escort sites a couple of weeks ago, posted on JeffGannon.com: "In consideration of the welfare of me and my family I have decided to return to private life."

 
 
God keeps very bad company

The parade's gone by on the Wead tapes, but I'll pretend that godly man's late expressions of remorse justify giving the public my thoughts.

I liked what Bush said about gays to his pal. There is also an anecdote from the president's Yale days that indicates Bush has voiced similar sentiments for quite a while. Of course I don't really agree with the rationale Bush gave for his viewpoint, but he doesn't either.

Bush said that he was a sinner and therefore he could not condemn another's sin. First, doing your own sex is not a sin. Second, I would assume that lying is a sin. (It's in the commandments as not bearing false witness.) But there we have Bush calling Gore "a pathological liar." So, well, gee.

Next, let me note that Bush goes on to fault Gore for telling the truth. Both men smoked pot when young. Gore said he did; Bush decided to cover up his own indulgence to protect impressionable kids. Bush seems to feel that Gore should have lied too, in the interest of the greater good. In the old days this was called situational ethics; now it's moral clarity.

To sum up, God is telling Bush to steer clear of tactics that would offend "compassionate conservative" swing voters (that is, no gay bashing). God is also telling Bush to keep quiet about habits (drug use) that would offend the Republican base. And God says it is okay throw stones at a political enemy. Meanwhile, He is telling the man on the other end of the phone line that it's also okay to secretly tape the conversations for undisclosed future use.

So I'd say God has pretty good political sense but poor ethics, or else he should find people to talk to who are better listeners.
 
 
Moonbat!

That's a great word. Tom Tomorrow says it isn't, but he's just being mulish. The conservatives came up with a winner: it feels good in the mouth, sounds good in the air, resonates in the heart. Moonbat! It's no substitute for logical argument, but the right's shortcomings in that area are another issue.

Mr. Tomorrow (if I may call him that) argues that the word has no logical derivation and is therefore puerile. He's wrong on two counts. Invective doesn't have to make sense. And moonbat clearly runs together "batty" and "moonbeam." The latter has signified daffiness since at least the days when Mike Royko was sticking it to Jerry Brown.

"Wingnut," a portmanteau of "right-wing nut," is also fine and comes in for much use on the left. I sometimes fall back on "frothers," a sign of my '80s heritage and memories of Alexander Cockburn mocking Norman Podhoretz in each week's Village Voice. Lately I've used "nutbar," which I doubt I've invented but can't remember seeing anywhere. It's on the order of "fruitcake" and certainly no great shakes for creativity, but it's serviceable and compact.

Invective and "rants" aren't my style. I appreciate them in small doses, but there's usually something better to be done with words. "Nutbar" recommends itself chiefly as a word that's shorter than "conservative" and, unlike "right," does not begin with an r. R words tend to gum up the mouth and bog down prose. The contempt that "nutbar" conveys is more of a secondary benefit, if that. I see no reason not to show contempt for the right; accordingly, I see no reason not to use "nutbar." But the desire to prance about thumbing one's nose in print is beneath a person of my moral and intellectual development. It's kid stuff, which is why some nameless conservative came up with "moonbat." I am big enough to honor his achievement, but somehow I doubt he has done anything to keep it company.
 
 
Self-understanding

I was just rereading my post below and its profession of gay-joke remorse. All I can say is that, like Richard Nixon, I want to be good but my personality gets in the way.
 
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
 
"What Do You Have There, Galileo?"

I just ran across these two genuine titles of educational CD-Roms. The field seems a natural for The Daily Show. (The heading of this entry is not a genuine CD-Roms title.)

Shh! We're Writing the Constitution

Where Do You Think You're Going, Christopher Columbus?
 
 
I provide a voice of moderation in the G-G debate

First, let me note that in my earlier post defending the use of "Gannon," I stumbled upon an alternative that I like better. I notice that Digby and Tom Tomorrow have hit on much the same approach. So I'm going to stick with "G-G" for a while.

Second, I am not against gays. Not only that, but I am not against prostitutes. If a White House reporter wants to sell his body for sex, that's okay. My one caveat is that a White House reporter should be a reporter. I won't rehash the evidence here, but it appears that G-G does not measure up. So why did the Bush apparatchiks let him in? And why did they keep Maureen Dowd out? She's not a journalist I like, but she has a Pulitzer Prize and 20 or so years at the New York Times. Journalsim is what she does, as opposed to collating the good bits from White House press releases. This is all very familiar to those of us who remember, say, Ashcroft suddenly declassifying the Jamie Gorelick memo. The Bush view holds that rules are there to be gamed; and Bush's people, of course, are the ones administering the rules. In a small but pungent way, this is very ugly.

Third, and it hurts me to say this, but Dowd makes a good case. She argues that the G-G mess and her own shunning fit into a White House -- well, "plan" might be too strong, so let us say "inclination" -- a White House inclination to subvert the press. Dowd brought up the Armstrong Williams case, and I must say it beats me why G-G has touched off a louder bomb than that mess did. The government bribing journalists? The government bribing journalists? That's Putin. That's Mexico in 1955. A dumbass shill with some nude shots doesn't rise to the same level.

Fourth, I think conservatives have deluded themselves straight out of their little minds, and I find G-G typical of the crew. Peddling dick over the internet is not commonplace behavior, but doing so while whacking John Kerry for being pro-gay -- that strikes the true, pure note of America's modern conservative movement. What a bunch of self-righteous conmen.

Fifth, let me get personal. The liberal blogs, some of them, have been having a good time hammering the gay-prostie angle. And the winger blogs have been getting indignant that anyone would ever think conservatives were somehow against gays or sex-for-sale. Obviously, there's a lot of garbage in the air. For my part, I'm torn. I love cheap laughs, and sex is a great source of them. Gay-man sex is even greater. That's because I'm still 50 years away from fully accepting homosexuality. I'd say that was my problem, or perhaps our problem, since most of the western world seems to be of the same mindset here. But my (our) problem doesn't cause me (us) much in the way of consequences. It's the gays who get stuck with the crap. So do I stop with the gay jokes? Hey, why not. Let's see how long I last.

On a related note . . . some of the liberal bloggers seem especially ready to dump on G-G for being a prostitute. God knows, it's a tough profession to respect. The work lacks dignity, perhaps especially in its marketing aspects (consider "hotmilitarystud.com," or whatever it was called). But I don't accept that it's a disgrace. I don't accept that the rest of us are entitled to look down on them. In fact I bet that G-G is not the first reporter in the history of the White House to have been a prostitute at some point, and by that I mean an actual, non-figurative, sex-for-money prostitute. As for how many have been customers . . . spare me.
 
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
 
"Hello, I'm a moron"

That's my free translation of this occasionally popular formula: "I've been called a lot of things, but I've never been called stupid."

I overheard a fellow named Mulqueen say that back when I worked in an office. So I said, "No, we just call you Mulqueen." Unfortunately, I said it louder than I thought. Yet, taken on balance, the entire experience was worth it.
 
 
Hey, somebody linked to me!

And it's my good friend Matthew.

UPDATE: A message to Matthew. Body and Soul is indeed back in operation, and this weekend's mysterious business about a password was just technical fumbling.
 
 
Was Hunter Thompson really that good?

A pioneer maybe, though Tom Wolfe did at least as much to shake up journalism, and Tom Wolfe has a real eye and ear and a style that forces you to see what he sees. Thompson just seemed good at producing overbearing, intimidating sentences with a certain swoosh to them. He specialized in the kind of rumpty-dumpty, up-and-down rhythmic spiel that Dennis Miller and a thousand others have since made their own. It's a contribution, but one not so easy to appreciate if you're past 17. That was my age when I read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, and man did I like that book. But then I tried Las Vegas and felt that I'd already caught the act.

Also, as I tried to explain to my girlfriend at the time (she told me, more or less, to be quiet), Vegas suffers from a shortage of straight men. The flying bats and ibogaine references are a lot saltier if you're describing something that is at least supposed to be respectable and mainstream, such as a political campaign. Substitute a drug bender in Las Vegas and there's no backboard for the ball to bounce off. Though maybe it got better on the second page.

UPDATE: Tom Wolfe indicates that Hunter Thompson was all that and also an entertaining companion. Hey, could be. I assume Wolfe has read more than one Thompson book, which gives him the advantage. Also, as one who is all that, Wolfe should be able to recognize a fellow all-thatnik. On the other hand, artists often have loopy opinions (as I explain in my much-anthologized preface to the Alan Moore interview posted below).
 
 
Well said, sir

The jolly DJ on my favorite radio station came up with another good one. It's along these lines:

"They say President Bush was worried that his mistakes as a youth might keep him from getting elected president. When actually his mistakes as president couldn't keep him from getting elected president."

(Blogging a light-rock radio station. Already I have brought our young form to a point of decadence.)
 
Sunday, February 20, 2005
 
Me? Oh, I'm a Gannon man

Some of the liberal bloggers are insisting that since "Gannon" is not the fellow's name, we should not call him "Gannon." We're the reality-based community, they say, and it's up to us to vindicate the man's drivers license and stick to "Guckert."

I can't deny their view has principle going for it. But damn, who would say or write "Guckert" if they had any kind of choice? "Gannon," like the fellow says, is easier to say, spell, remember, sing songs about, or whatever. I'm sticking with "Gannon."

A related point: in the Cooper Anderson (sp?) interview, our man proved cagey about his reasons for the pseudonym. Very cagey. Desperately cagey, in fact. In good Michelle Malkin fashion, he kept homing back to a precise set of words ("easier to spell," etc.) as if it were a shield against his interrogator. Americablog (I think) suggests G-G has a dark reason for this that involves covert ops or God knows what. Personally, I think he sticks to his formula because it is a polite, circumlocutory way of expressing a mildly embarrassing truth: he wants to be called "Gannon" because it sounds kind of cool.

"Guckert" sure doesn't. What a shitty name.
 
 
Why is he doing this?

Fragments of media interviews with Gannon have been popping up on the blogs. And you have to wonder: why is this man giving interviews? What does he get out of it? They won't get him his job back. They won't get him . . . well, they won't get him anything, as far as I can tell. So why sit there and chew over your talking points and stick to your dogeared little verbal formulas and duck your head and hope the interviewer doesn't cut you up? What's the point? Especially since without the interviews there'd be far less opportunity for the media to spend airtime on his disgrace.

Well, I guess he likes attention.
 
 
Evenhanded

So the other night I was down in the basement with my friend Michel and he started getting on the Jews. This comes out rarely and only when he's several stages past his usual state of drunkenness.

"My carrots are cooked," Michel began, which is Quebecois for being so shit-faced there's nothing to do but shut up and hope you can still find your bed. That being the case, he started telling me about life and what it requires, especially as regards money. First, he said, there's being "money-shy," which means not wanting to come right out and say you expect payment. Michel was like that at the start of his working life, around 12 or 13, but not for long. Because it's no way to stay alive.

"Oh, you have to be like a Jew," he told me. "Just grab the money and put it in your pocket and you don't make change unless you have to." He reflected some more. "That's what started the second war," he said. As he saw it, the Jews took everything they could get in Germany and the Germans were "reduced to servitude," a phrase he returned to like a Republican with a talking point.

"They bought up Germany and now they buy up the United States," Michel said. "Oh, but they're more discreet now. " This introduced a spate of bird-calling and whistling to signal the Jews' discretion. "Oh yes, they're more discreet now," he resumed. "Not like in Germany, when people were reduced to servitude."

"You don't know what you're talking about," I told him.

"Oh, this is history. You have to know history."

"Yeah, I know history and you're full of shit. You are completely ignorant."

"This is what happened. This --"

"You don't know anything."

"I don't hate you," Michel said, since I'm half-Jewish. "I don't hate any Jew." Then he got statesmanlike. "What was done to humanity, the crimes against humanity, on both sides --"

"No! Not on both sides."

"On both sides. What was done . . . terrible."

By this time I was popping my DVD out of the player and heading for the door. "The truth is hard to take," Michel called after me.

But at least he was evenhanded about it all.
 
 
Big, big thoughts

I am slowly closing in on a thesis that explains the modern conservative movement as a mass exercise in make-pretend. By which I don't mean simply that the frothers are wrong (though they are), or that they lie for their cause (and, yes, they do). I mean that the make-pretend is not for the sake of the frothers' political cause; instead the cause is for the sake of the make-pretend.

Modern U.S. conservatism conduces quite well to fostering a joint illusion about modern life, one that feels comfortable and real to the nutbars as long as they keep talking to each another. What is the nature of this illusion? I won't say just now, partly for fear that getting words involved will show me my idea is boilerplate from a 1985 think piece on Reaganism by Garry Wills or (God forbid) Anthony Lewis. Of course maybe I'll get lucky and come up with something profound. But either way, stop worrying. You will not find the rest of the thesis in this post.

Instead I'll note an aspect of the Gannon case that is especially pleasing. The fateful question that popped our man into the spotlight had as its gimmick that the Democrats "are cut off from reality." And it was asked by a man with a fake name and a fake occupation who was plagiarizing a media figure who is well known for fabricating and who, in fact, was fabricating this time as well. Not that our reality maven could tell.

So we have a plagiarizing alias user who at the same time is a dupe, and who at the same time takes as his rhetorical touchstone the idea of reality . . . Well, whatever my modern-conservatism thesis is, it has something to do with this moment.
 
 
Flash! Conservatives learn conservatives are assholes

Man, look on your laptop as a metaphor for the country and John Fund as being the modern Republican Party . . . ah, screw it.

UPDATE: A great thing about this is we get to see right-wing bloggers in a real-life confrontation. And God, they aren't much, are they? All that tough talk on the screen, but face to face with a jerk and all they can do is loiter about, take supposedly damning photographs (you see? you see?) and compose tortured sentences about their ordeal.

What would President Bush have done? I mean, if President Bush didn't have the Secret Service or the U.S. military to back him up. Beats me, but now I see why the nutbars want to think their man is a tough hombre. Because they aren't.

The poor guys couldn't even shout "moonbat," since Fund is one of their own. And where does that leave them? Looking for sympathy. Oh, the primal ruggedness of Conservative Man.
 
Saturday, February 19, 2005
 
How times change

Several full days into the Gannon-gay-hooker story and no one has made a joke about "Where's the beef?" (Or offered variations like "Where's the sausage?") Time was no political event could pass without some journalist dragging in the beef line. Now a real opportunity comes along . . . and nothing.

All right, maybe this point wasn't worth making.
 
 
Judith Miller or Jeff Gannon?

If I am communicating to my readers exactly what the White House believes
on any certain issue, that's reporting to them an unvarnished, unfiltered
version of what they believe.
 
 
Funny

This was posted on The Poor Man last year but it just won some kind of blog award (I think).

Poker With Dick Cheney
Transcript of The Editors' regular Saturday-night
poker game with Dick Cheney, 6/19/04. Start tape at 12:32 AM.

The Editors: We'll take three cards.
Dick Cheney: Give me one.
Sounds of cards being placed down, dealt, retrieved, and rearranged in hand. Non-commital noises, puffing of cigars.
TE: Fifty bucks.
DC: I'm in. Show 'em.
TE: Two pair, sevens and fives.
DC: Not good enough.
TE: What do you have?
DC: Better than that, that's for sure. Pay up.
TE: Can you show us your cards?
DC: Sure. One of them's a six.
TE: You need to show all your cards. That's the way the game is played.
Colin Powell: Ladies and gentlemen. We have accumulated overwhelming evidence that Mr. Cheney's poker hand is far, far better than two pair. Note this satellite photo, taken three minutes ago when The Editors went to get more chips. In it we clearly see the back sides of five playing cards, arranged in a poker hand. Defector reports have assured us that Mr. Cheney's hand was already well advanced at this stage. Later, Mr. Cheney drew only one card. Why only one card? Would a man without a strong hand choose only one card? We are absolutely convinced that Mr. Cheney has at least a full house.
Tim Russert: Wow. Colin Powell really hit a homerun for the Administration right there. A very powerful performance. My dad played a lot of poker in World War 2, and he taught me many things about life. Read my book.
TE: He's extremely good at Power Point. But we would like to
see the cards, or else we can't really be sure he has anything to beat two pair.
We don't think he would lie to us, but ... well, it is a very rich pot.
Jonah Goldberg: Liberal critics of Mr. Cheney's poker hand contend that "he doesn't have anything". Oh, really, liberal critics? Cheney has already showed them the six of clubs, and yet these liberals persist in saying he has "nothing". Why do
liberals consider the six of clubs to be "nothing"? Is it because the six of
clubs is black?
Matt Drudge: ****DRUDGE REPORT EXCLUSIVE*********MUST CREDIT
THE DRUDGE REPORT*****The Drudge Report has learned that Dick Cheney has a royal flush, hearts. Developing ...
TE: Perhaps if you could just show us a subset
of your cards which beat 2 pair? Or tell us exactly what your hand is?
DC: We will show you our cards after we have collected the pot. It is important that
things be done in this order, otherwise the foundation of our entire poker game
will be destroyed.
TE: We aren't sure ...
DC: Very good. And here are my cards. A straight flush.
Judith Miller: Dick Cheney has revealed a straight flush, confirming his pre-collection claims about beating two pair.
TE: Those
cards are of different suits. It's not a flush.
Mark Steyn: When will it end? Now liberal critics complain that Dick Cheney's cards are not all the same suit. Naturally, these are the same liberals who are always whining about a lack of diversity in higher education. It seems like segregation is OK with these liberals, as long as it damages Republicans.
MD: ****DRUDGE REPORT
EXCLUSIVE*********MUST CREDIT THE DRUDGE REPORT*****A witness has come forward claiming that The Editors engage in racial profiling in blog-linking. Developing
...
TE: Wait! It's not even a straight! You've got a eight and ten of hearts,
a six of clubs, and the seven and five of diamonds. You have a ten high. That's
nothing.
Sean Hannity: Well, well, well. In another sign of liberal desperation, liberals now complain that a ten high is "nothing". Does ten equal zero in liberal mathematics? That would explain a lot.
Robert Novak: It's a perfectly valid poker hand. Apparently, liberals have never heard of a "skip straight". It's a kind of straight, just with one card missing. But if you skip around the missing nine, it's a straight.
Alan Colmes: Mother says I mustn't play poker.
TE: There is no such thing as a "skip straight".
Brit Hume: It seems like some people are still playing poker like it's September 10th. Back then, you needed to have all your cards in order to claim a straight. But, as we learned on that day, sometimes you won't have perfect knowledge. Sometimes you have to learn to connect the dots, and see the patterns which are not visible to
superficial analysis of the type favored by the CIA and the State Department.
Dick Cheney's skip straight is a winning poker hand for the post-9/11 world.
Rush Limbaugh: Do The Editors have two pairs, or a pair of twos? First they
say one thing, then another. What are they hiding?
Andrew Sullivan: Dick Cheney never said he had a straight. He was very careful about this. His cards can form many different hands. None of these hands alone can beat a pair of twos; but, taken together, the combination of all possible hands presents a more compelling case for taking the pot than simply screaming "Pair of twos! Pair of twos!" as unprincipled liberal critics of the Vice President so often do.
MD: ****DRUDGE REPORT EXCLUSIVE*********MUST CREDIT THE DRUDGE REPORT*****Did The Editors claim to have "a pair of Jews"? Are they anti-Semites as well as racists? Developing ...
Zell Miller: As a lifelong liberal Democrat, I believe Dick Cheney, and I hate liberals and Democrats.
William Safire: Why are liberals so obsessed by Dick Cheney's poker hand? The pot has been taken, the deal is done. If liberals are upset that we are no longer playing by the Marquis of Queensbury patty-cake poker rules, they clearly lack the stomach to play poker in the post-September 11th environment. And why do they never complain about Saddam Hussein's poker playing, which was a thousand times
worse?
Christopher Hitchens: The Left won't be happy until the pot is divided
up equally between Yassar Arafat, Osama bin Laden, and Hitler. Orwell would have
seen this.
Ann Coulter: Why do liberals object so strenuously to the idea of
conservatives having a "straight"? Perhaps because it doesn't fit in with the
radical homosexual/Islamist agenda they hold so dear?
Report of the Bipartisan Commission on Poker Hands: There is no such thing as a "skip straight".
DC: I have access to poker rules that the Commission doesn't, and so I know for a fact that the cards in my hand are all intimately connected.
George W. Bush: Dick Cheney is telling the truth. I'm a nice man who would drink a beer with you.
Vladimir Putin: I dealt Dick Cheney three aces and two kings.
DC: My deal.
Posted by The Editors

 
Friday, February 18, 2005
 
Right on!

Having just sneered at Salon, I am going to lift and reprint the site's interview from 2004 with Alan Moore. I haven't read it yet, but there has to be something good there and this will save passers-by the trouble of dealing with Salon's intoductory ad.

Warning: the Mage of Northampton tends to be "right on," and the interview looks like no exception. ("Right on," in its British incarnation, indicates a political correctness that sweeps well beyond respect for minorities to include such traits as seeing fascism perpetually creeping in everywhere.) Well, that's his right, but it's not always the most scintillating viewpoint. Unlike, I suppose, moderate centrist progressivism. Let's just say that being pissed at Bush does not make me any more tolerant of the many Left viewpoints that don't quite match up with my own.

[ UPDATE: I read the interview last night and, yeah, it's pretty egregious. Right-wingers go in for bluster, but it's terse, hard-jawed bluster. Left-wingers, on the other hand, tend to get windy and Alan Moore is no exception. His comics writing never wastes a panel, but let him loose with a microphone and his jaw starts flapping.

Moore also has the woolly-left habit of fretting over supposed dislocations in the modern psyche. For instance he spends some space below deploring a tendency to compare 9-11 to a movie. Well, in some ways it was like a movie -- where else does your average Westerner see thousands of people get killed at one go? There was certainly nothing else in my experience with which to compare 9-11, and nothing in Moore's either. So noting similarities with a Jerry Bruckheimer production was indeed one element in the general reaction to the attack. Bulking much larger were other elements such as fear, outrage, shock, and grief. Nowhere in the Western world did anyone simply sit back and enjoy the event as a spectacle. That reaction can be found only on the wilder side of the planet, where 9-11 videos and DVDs enjoy a market in China and Pakistan. And even there appreciation for the show was mixed with a great deal of schadenfreude.

So common sense is not kind to what Moore has to say about 9-11 and the post-modernist society of the spectacle. That's how it is with artists, including such fine artists of the Right as Tom Wolfe. Admire them for what they do well and recognize that they are not thinking machines. In short, take them less seriously than they take themselves. But anyway. ]

And now . . . Alan Moore!


"The whole thing is a movie," says Alan Moore. The comic-book visionary behind such epoch-changing works as "Watchmen," "V for Vendetta" and "From Hell" is actually talking about the war in Iraq. But the statement could sum up his view of the ceaseless complexities of 21st century life, where reality TV and celebrity culture have usurped individuality, and the human body has become not much beyond more information needing to be assimilated.


Every once in a while we are horrified by a beheading (albeit one seen only on videotape) and human culture remembers that it is not much more
than a vulnerable collection of flesh, bone and nerve endings. "This is what
wars are; it's not Hollywood," Moore cautions. But ultimately we return to the
womblike safety of our media universe with its push-button wars and Internet
porn, where sex and death are hidden behind splashy corporate graphics.

The funny thing is that Alan Moore hates to talk about film and television, because,
as he explains later in our interview, both "have a lot to answer for." He's not
talking about how they've distilled his densely researched, intricate tales of
socio-historical interrogation, like "From Hell" and "The League of Extraordinary
Gentlemen,"
into narrowcasted popcorn movies. Instead, he means the way
they've had such an impact on human consciousness that many people were only
able to articulate the horrific reality of 9/11 by comparing it to a disaster
film.

Moore clearly believes that the same mechanism has foisted a deadly,
unwanted and unnecessary war upon the world. "Television and movies have
short-circuited reality," he asserts. "I don't think a lot of people are
entirely clear on what is real and what is on the screen."

Moore, now 50, has a peculiar perspective on this problem of "misrecognition" between fiction and reality -- because so many of his works have seemingly anticipated or prefigured so much of what has come to pass. "V for Vendetta," Moore's dystopian early-1980s narrative about a future fascist Britain under siege by a notorious terrorist who was subjected to unbearable torture, echoes much of our current dilemma in the so-called war on terrorism, all the way down to the
criminalization of homosexuality, the panoptic PATRIOT Act-like surveillance
state and a homogeneous media that glosses over real news in favor of
sensationalism.

Similarly, "Watchmen," Moore's groundbreaking serial that
blew the comics genre wide open, unmasked our presumed comic-book heroes as
nothing but a set of neuroses and psychoses in action, figures who look the
other way (some in protest) as one of their own unleashes a devastating act of
terror that kills half of New York's population -- ironically enough, in order
to save the world from nuclear annihilation. It is the same kind of warped
cost-benefit analysis that, some would argue, led to 9/11 and its resultant wars
in Afghanistan, Iraq and who knows where else.

Then there is "From Hell," a labyrinthine masterpiece of historical research, detective work and social commentary worthy of Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" or William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch." Moore's calculated tale of turn-of-the-century England -- as seen through the eyes of its prostitutes, public servants and aristocrats -- achieves its apotheosis in the birth of the serial killer, which Moore considers one of the 20th century's key innovations.

There's so much information to absorb in "From Hell" that it's almost impossible to gather it in at one sitting. In one 38-page chapter alone, Moore's Jack the Ripper takes his driver on a city-wide tour of London's points of diabolical interest, connecting the bastions of secret societies, mythical and true lineages, transcendent architectures, phallic topographies and other landmarks into a pentagram shape. This allegorical voyage, which Moore says he made himself, relying on both recent and ancient maps of London, so terrifies Jack's driver that he vomits, sick with the
realization that he is connected to his culture, his history and his employer in
ways he never could have conceived.

The lesson there, as Moore explains it, is that to understand the world one lives in, one has to give "coherence to ... complexity, to say that it is possible to think about politics, history, mythology, architecture, murder and the rest of it all at the same time to see how it connects." And Moore's work is nothing if not complex. His explorations of the ways humanity deludes and condemns itself have done more to overcome the anti-comics prejudice of the American and European literary establishment than anything else in the comics genre. And he imparts a whole lot more information than Fox News or CNN.


In other words, Moore is not simply one of the finest writers in comic book history. He's one of the world's finest writers, period. He's capable of illuminating postmodern culture's disorienting information overload as well as any accepted literary genius, whether it's Melville, Pynchon or Joyce.


When it comes to our current wars for democracy and struggles for
identity, Moore has more than a few words to say about George W. Bush, Tony
Blair, comics, Ronald Reagan, "Friends," holy wars, quantum leaps and his own
peculiar place in cultural history. I spoke to him by telephone from his home in
England.

I find quite a few similarities between the fascist dystopia of
your early work, "V for Vendetta," and our current political situation.
Well, the one thing with writing stories about the rise of fascism is that
if you wait long enough, you'll almost certainly be proved right. Fascism is
like a hydra -- you can cut off its head in the Germany of the '30s and '40s,
but it'll still turn up on your back doorstep in a slightly altered guise. I'd
agree that the current situation is particularly alarming. I tend to think that
this momentum seems to have sprung up entirely from a group of largely
discredited, extreme right-wingers who have been skulking in the shadows since
the Ford administration and have suddenly come into the light of day surrounding
George W. Bush. I think they've overreached themselves, at least I hope that.
And I really hope that people are not morally lazy or weak enough to elect
this guy; I won't say "again" because he wasn't elected the first time. And it
is true to say that across the world there is quite a lot of anti-America
sentiment, which is different than anti-American sentiment. I think that even in
the majority of Muslim countries that have been polled, nobody blames Americans
-- they blame George Bush and the people surrounding him. Mind you, we'll see
what happens this November, because you can have someone take over your country once and still have it be an accident. But twice? Well, that would be
regrettable. [Laughs.]

When you look back at "V for Vendetta," do you think the comparison sticks?
I heard someone recently talking to David Lloyd [the
artist who illustrated "V for Vendetta"] about it, because there's still
occasional talk about a film. And he said, probably accurately, that the world
is not quite ready for a terrorist hero at the moment. But yeah, "V for
Vendetta" has had an annoying way of coming true ever since I wrote it in the
early '80s. Back then, I wanted something to communicate the idea of a police
state quickly and efficiently, so I thought of the novel fascist idea of monitor
cameras on every street corner. And the book was, of course, set in the future
of 1997. But by that year -- and I don't know if Tony Blair and Jack Straw were
big fans, but evidently they thought its design for future Britain was a really
good one -- we had cameras on every street corner along the length and breadth
of the country. My general thought is that yes, it's depressing, but not
unexpected, when this stuff happens. And I do tend to think that, given the
upsurge of the religious right over the last couple of decades, these are the
last spasms of those dinosaur organisms.


Why do you think that?
Because they are standing in the way of history, trying to turn everything, politically
and spiritually, back to a medieval vision of the world. Whereas they're
perfectly entitled to have whatever worldview they like, I would suggest that
humanity is moving in a forward direction. And that any attempt to turn the
clock back to a mythical, simpler, or better age would probably be about as
effective as Britain's ancient King Canute, who famously sat on his throne along
the tide line and ordered the waves to go back. To be fair, he was only doing
this to demonstrate the futility of expecting leaders and rulers to be able to
command the forces of history and the world. But yeah, I tend to think that this
conservative backlash that has been going on since the '70s is the final spasms
of a dying creature; history is not moving that way, and no matter how much
people dig their heels in and assume this is the 1950s or the Middle Ages,
that's not the truth of the situation. No matter how powerful our political and
religious leaders think they are, they are as dust before the immense and
implacable forces of history and progress. I just hope that they don't make too
much of a mess or take too many more people down with them.

One of the other similarities between "V for Vendetta" and our current situation is that the populace is cowed by fear, to an extent, through the media, whether it's television propaganda or electronic surveillance.

Of course. One of the reasons we singled out media in "V for Vendetta" was because it is one of the most useful tools of tyranny. We invite it into our own home every night; I'm sure that some of us think of it as a friend. That might be a horrifying notion but I'm sure there are people who think of television as perhaps one of their
most intimate friends. And if the TV tells them that things in the world are a
certain way, even if the evidence of their senses asserts it is not true,
they'll probably believe the television set in the end. It's an alarming thought
but we brought it upon ourselves. I mean, I think that television is one of the
most diabolical -- in the very best sense of the word -- inventions of the past
century. It has probably done more to degrade the mind and intelligence of its
audience, even if they happen to be drug addicts or alcoholics; I would think
that watching television has done more to limit their horizons in the long run.

And it has also distorted our culture.
TV and politics have always made inevitable bedfellows, but the results have been disastrous. Look at the situation we have now. Let's say that tomorrow someone who is a political genius were to emerge -- and I'm not expecting this to happen, but say that it did. Say that a politician emerged who seemed, for once, basically competent, who seemed to be able to do their job as well as the average cab driver, comic writer or journalist. If they were the most intelligent, visionary, humane political
thinker in the history of mankind, but were also fat, had some sort of blemish
or something that made them less than telegenic, we would not be able to elect
them. All we're able to elect are these telegenic, photogenic crypto-Nazis. As
long as they look good. I suppose it's too early to go into my rant on Ronald
Reagan? That would be tasteless.


Actually, I was going to mention him. Especially his recent sanctification by America's television news media. [Laughs.]

Well then, OK. You've got Ronald Reagan -- the much eulogized,
recently deceased former president -- who everyone seems to have forgotten was
regarded as one of the most low and treacherous individuals by those in
Hollywood that he sold out to the McCarthy hearings. This is someone whose
response to the AIDS epidemic was probably responsible for hundreds of thousands
of deaths worldwide. This is someone who created Saddam Hussein and Osama bin
Laden, or at least set in motion the policies that would create these creatures.
This was the architect of much of the world's present misery. Why did we elect
him? Because he had been in a lot of films that some quite liked. We thought him
an honorable man because in his films he played a lot of honorable men. I
believe there are some who believed he had an outstanding war record. Even
Ronald Reagan himself talked with misty eyes about the time he liberated
concentration camps, which he may have done in a movie. But Ronald Reagan was
out of World War II, fortunately for him, because of ill health. So all of his
memories of military service came from movies. I've got to say that there are
probably better people to elect than film stars.


And now there's Arnold.
What is it with California? They keep doing it! Who's next? Is Robert Downey
Jr. going to be the governor of California after Schwarzenegger? This is
ridiculous. Television and movies have short-circuited reality. I don't think a
lot of people are entirely clear on what is real and what is on the screen. They
will take what they perceive as qualities of fictional characters and attribute
them to the actor called upon to play them, and then disastrously elect those
actors to higher office. I think television and movies have a lot to answer for.
It's when they start to have an impact on our politics that we should become
anxious about it. I used to joke a lot after Ronald Reagan was elected that the
future probably promised a President Springsteen. Or a President T; you know, "I
pity the fool!" Who knows? Unless we get our democratic system overhauled fairly
urgently, there is really no telling what manner of monsters or buffoons we'll
have steering us into this still-young century.


It's amazing how much power media can have if we let it, especially if we're using it to supplant our political dialogue.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see. At the start of
this current conflict back in 2001 and 2002 when we were starting into
Afghanistan, I said to my girlfriend -- Melinda Gebbie, who's Californian --
that I believed there was a possibility George Bush could walk away from this
with his political career intact. Because, and this may be a sweeping
generalization, the American electorate has a somewhat shorter attention span
than the English electorate. There's a good chance that many people in the
American electorate have already forgotten that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do
with 9/11, that he was supposed to have weapons of mass destruction ready to
deploy in 45 minutes. I think they're going to forget that they were lied to;
there's a good chance that many of them will forget entirely who they were at
war with. That may be doing a terrible injustice to the American electorate, and
I hope that I am.


How about Tony Blair?
No, I don't think so. I mean, I think that the recent savaging Labor was handed at the European Parliament election is purely attributable to Tony Blair having taken us into this war against our wishes. We despise him. He is an object of almost universal hatred.


People who voted Labor feel that they've been misrepresented, that they've been
made party to things that they would never in a million years have voted for if
they had known that Tony Blair was going to suck up so shamelessly to the
American presidency over this. No, I don't think that we'll be forgiving him
anytime soon. I'd be very surprised if Labor wins the next election with Tony
Blair at their head; the fallout from this is going to take several years, even
decades; it's going to take us a very long time to sort out the mess these
clowns have made.


I was reading today that NORAD used to run simulations in
the late '90s in preparation for hijacked planes being flown into the World
Trade Center. They would have been prepared; they could have sorted it all out.
Except that the rules of engagement in such a situation were changed by the
secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. He changed them so that there suddenly
wasn't a way to cope with planes flying into the WTC. And then to basically use
that terrible disaster to validate something they were going to do anyway?
Rumsfeld had been talking for years about invading Iraq to safeguard U.S. oil
supplies, and all of a sudden he had George Bush, a scion of the Bush dynasty
and someone with unresolved issues about the way his dad had been humiliated and
laughed at.


Emasculated.
Right, he wanted to show the world that you can't laugh at a Bush. I was reading this excellent book called "American Dynasty," that gives the whole lineage
of the rotten bastards all the way back to Prescott Bush, who was dealing with
the Third Reich up until 1942. I mean, it's not that long ago! We shouldn't
forget these people, or their sons or grandsons. I tend to think that the whole
tree is rotten, that's the only conclusion I can draw. These are dynasties; they
carry out the will of the family, which is old, avaricious, power-mad, arrogant.
Generation after generation, they see that the family's will is done. I'm
surprised that the Bushes are doing so well over there. You people actually had
a war of independence to free yourselves from a dynasty of blue-blooded Georges.
I thought that was the whole idea! You were fed up with having a bunch of
aristocrats named George ruling your country, but obviously it seems that you
can't get enough of it! [Laughs.]


We're addicted to them. My chief problem is that he keeps bringing along a bunch of Bible-thumping fundamentalists who are stoking this global holy war we've got going on.
Well, that's because of the alarming influence that Southern Baptists now have upon the American presidency. His language is very often cribbed from the Book of Revelation; it's obviously very emotive for the religious fundamentalists that make up so much of his base. As far as I understand it, George W. Bush is the de facto leader of the Christian right in America. Pat Robertson kind of stood down, didn't he? I mean, for the first time you've got an American president who's also a major
American religious leader. And it's a funny kind of religion. I was noticing
that Bush's buddy Rev. Moon -- in front of a number or Republican and Democratic
senators he declared himself the messiah and savior of mankind.

We don't have this terrible problem with the religious right that you have over there, and I truly have every sympathy for you. If there's anything that makes America a laughingstock, it's those people. America is a huge, surging, relentlessly modern country that will nevertheless send Oral Roberts millions when he tells them that if they don't, the Lord will send him home. They'll actually give credence to people who -- in any other country of the world except perhaps some of the equally addled
fundamentalist Muslim countries -- would be laughed at. At the same time, since
it's a crusading religion, it's difficult for them to accept that some might
possibly reject their frankly retarded values. It's certainly dangerous that
you've got a president who's playing pope to all these frightening, God-struck
rednecks, which is probably a bit sweeping. But what the hell, I'm in the mood
for it.


One thing I did want to mention to close out this subject is that
there is no shortage of American moral outrage over the various beheadings going on in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Such acts have enormous symbolic power, and your work, especially "Voice of the Fire," is full of them.

Oh yeah, there are heads all the way through "Voice of the Fire." They're a kind of punctuation that runs through the entire book. Well, yeah, heads -- they're important. I mean, I was up visiting my youngest daughter, Amber, in college sometime last year and noticed a carved head at least above every third or fourth doorway. This is a surviving practice of the Celtic cult of the head, where you would
place the real heads of your enemies above your doors as a way of usurping their
power. After all, if you've got your enemy's head above your door, all of their
power is now yours. So I should imagine that it's got a certain symbolic
strength.

Do you find it curious that those of us in our part of the world
are repelled by these visceral beheadings, but we can't find the time to blink at the fact that we've already killed thousands by pushing buttons?

Yeah, because it's remote, impersonal, and you don't have to look your enemy in the
eyes while you're doing it. This is a thing that has come to typify much
American warfare over the past 10 or 15 years, and can be explained by Sigourney
Weaver's strategy in the second "Alien" film: "Nuke 'em from orbit." It doesn't
matter if those black dots so far beneath you are enemy troops or a wedding
party. Or your own troops, for that matter. You're up there in the stratosphere
and all you have to do is press a button, just like Super Mario. For people who
have grown up on Pong and Space Invaders, it's only a small step. And it does
show that when you do finally get to the unfortunate physical aspects of
warfare, like beheadings, they still have the power to shock. And the Americans
do seem rather squeamish, especially with the blackout on the body bags or
disabled soldiers coming home. I mean, most of the people we saw on television
were gung-ho at the start of this war; surely they understand what happens in
war. People do tend, for some reason, to get killed.


This is not a pillow fight.
No, it's not. People tend to come home with bits missing, or
sometimes they don't come home at all. This is what wars are; it's not
Hollywood, not that ridiculous manipulation of Jessica Lynch, where they had
soldiers shooting blanks into the air to make it look as if they were rescuing
her under fire. It's Jerry Bruckheimer warfare; they even had to dress it up to
make it seem as if she was sodomized or raped by her captors. And there's no
evidence of this, she doesn't remember it, and it seems that the people looking
after her were trying to get her back to the Americans. The whole thing is a
movie.


We always win our wars in the movies, and I think there are people
raised on war movies who thought that was what real war was going to be like,
that once the cameras stopped rolling, all the people who were killed would be
able to get up and carry on with their lives. It's a shame that we seem to need
one of these things every generation just to teach a very simple lesson: War
never accomplishes anything. It's never going to look good in the history books.
People are never going to look back and think, "He started a lot of wars; what a
great leader he was!" That's not the way it works. God knows how many more of
these things we're going to need before it starts to sink in.

It's an eerie correlation to the devastating terrorist act visited upon New York in "Watchmen" -- which is itself, along with other narratives, an eerie textual precedent for 9/11 -- one that is ultimately preferable, for all the superheroes involved, to a full-blown nuclear war between America and the Soviet Union.
Oh yeah, I've heard some people who were apparently in New York during 9/11 say that it felt like the last episode of "Watchmen," that they were expecting some giant alien jellyfish to turn up in the middle of it all. Because it all felt staged somehow.


It felt like a movie. That tended to be one of the more popular refrains about 9/11.
Yeah, that's it. It felt like some sort of entertainment or spectacle.

Is there a kind of cultural disconnection between the image and fleshly reality? You interrogate the idea of the body in your work, especially in "Promethea," "Watchmen" and "From Hell," where Jack the Ripper's dissection of prostitutes' flesh gives him epiphanies as well as the power to transcend his own body, time and space.
Well, the body is one of our first sources of metaphor. One of the ways in which we create our language is to talk about things that are unfamiliar to us in terms of things that are familiar to us. Most of the metaphors that we use come from our own bodies. Of course, in magic, such as that I'm interested in, every part of the body has its own symbolic significance. We were talking earlier about the cult of the head.
Various parts of the body, such as the sexual organs, have profound meanings in
most systems and cultures. The eyes, the hands -- these are all very rich in
symbolism because they are so immediate to us. We all know our bodies
intimately; it's all we have and all we are. It tends to provide the easiest
sort of metaphor. We talk about the face of a clock, or the foot of the stairs.
The limbs of a corporation. In the case of Jack the Ripper, they tend to get our
attention; same with the beheadings of those unfortunate hostages we talked
about earlier. Although, with regard to those hostages -- and I've got enormous
sympathies for their families -- but you don't really hear the word
"mercenaries" much these days, do you?


No, now they're called contractors.
Oh, contractors, that's right. I heard about these security contractors and
wondered whether they're the same guys with shaven heads and bandoliers and
knives in their teeth that you'd sometimes see going around to the hot spots of
the world. You know, to help out with the humanitarian effort.

To shift gears a little, my contention in this article is that it's pretty much undisputed that you're the heavyweight champion of comics, but that you should also be considered among the world's literary greats, up there with Pynchon and DeLillo, because of what you do with language and narrative.
Well, thank you. That is praise indeed. I'm a huge Thomas Pynchon fan. But, I don't know, it's nothing that I'm really that bothered about. Over here, the literary
establishment is still running, as back in the days of Jane Austen, on the novel
of manners, which she more or less invented. And, of course, they're about the
social intricacies of the middle class, who were also the only people at the
time who could read or afford to buy the books. They were also the people who
made up the book critics. And I think that, around this time, critics were so
delighted by this new form of literature mirroring their own social interactions
that they decided that not only was this true literature, but this was the only
thing really that could be considered true literature. So all genre fiction,
anything that really wasn't a novel of manners in one form or another, was
excluded from that definition.


Do you still find that to be the case?
I recently saw a program about the history of the novel on TV over here -- it was
a short series and it was ridiculous. I predicted before the thing was actually
shown that there would be nobody representing any form of genre fiction
whatsoever -- and I was, for the most part, right. They managed to get through
the 18th and 19th centuries without a mention of, say, the gothic novel. Fair
enough, perhaps the gothic novels weren't as extraordinary as literature, but
they also didn't mention Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," which is an incredibly
important book for all sorts of reasons. But I guess it has become what they
would term genre fiction, so it is amongst the literary damned. My only mistake
was that I said I didn't think there would be a mention of H.G. Wells, but my
girlfriend told me they did mention "The History of Mr. Polly," which is one of
the few works by Wells that I have not been able to get through. To completely
ignore "The War of the Worlds," "The Time Machine," "The Invisible Man" and all
his other work shows you the way that the literary critical establishment tends
to regard even people in so-called lower literary genres. So if you are working
in comics, which is considered a whole lower medium, well, let's just say that
I'm not anticipating being given the Booker Prize anytime soon -- and I'm
immensely glad of that.


You're not too worried about mainstream appreciation.
No, I think that the real life in any culture happens on the
margins. I'd agree with what the brilliant, divine, wonderful Angela Carter said
about Booker Prize-winners; I believe she referred to them as shortlist victims,
which I think pretty well sums it up. The most interesting writers are the ones
that are seldom going to get anywhere within shouting distance of a literary
prize because they are considered too vulgar. Take Michael Moorcock, for
example, who wrote the wonderful "Mother London," one of the most astonishing
London novels ever written -- and there have been a great many astonishing
London novels. "Mother London" is a tour de force; it is the best thing he's
ever written, but there is no chance of Moorcock ever being given literary
respectability because he has dabbled in ignored, disregarded and, some would
argue, frankly juvenile comics or fantasy.

Are there other authors you feel are devalued because of the nature of their work?
Sure, people like Iain Sinclair, who is I think perhaps one of the best writers of the English language who is currently alive and working. His books are not an easy read. They're very dense with a lot of information on a single page. Culture today predisposes us to receive our information predigested and prepackaged, and most, as a rule, tend to shy away from anything which hasn't been simplified to the level where anyone could understand it. That is not the job of an artist or a creator, yet
all too often in the mainstream you'll find that is what people are doing in
order to remain popular. They know their audience, and they know if they push
the right buttons in the right order that they can create another bestseller or
whatever. I'm very content with this kind of strange, underground ghetto that
I've been shunted into. It's a wonderful place and you meet a much nicer class
of people.


Have you been thrown into that same ghetto in America? It seems
that the American literary establishment is at least a bit more free-form and chaotic.

It's a lot looser in America, although I'm sure you still have a
literary establishment. It may be a lot less snooty than over here, although I
bet you there are still a good portion of readers and critics who tend to think
that American letters begins and ends with Henry James. There are probably
strands of snobbishness that exist in American letters just the same as in their
English equivalent. I'm kind of an anomaly, but I'm treated very nicely. That's
because there's only one of me, so there's no danger of me reproducing and
ruining the neighborhood! [Laughs.] I don't really fit into any category, so I
am more or less left to my own devices, which is exactly how I want it. I don't
think there is a great deal of difference between the American and European
response. They are probably both more vociferous than the British response. Not
to say that I don't get a fair amount of attention here in Britain, but perhaps
the British see me as less exotic than the people across the water.

One of the things about your work that is so striking is that it is utterly dense with information, history, myth and legend. You pack more political and social history into one comic like "From Hell," for example, than we're likely to find in an actual history book.
I'm trying to produce work adequate to my times, and one of the things which makes our current times stand out is that we are saturated with information. Yes, there will be -- especially in my longer works like "From Hell" -- complex layering of levels of symbol, information and narrative. But that's my experience of being an inhabitant of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. All of us have an astounding amount of information in our heads. Hence the rise of the trivia quiz, where we've actually got a brief opportunity to download some of this useless junk our craniums are crammed with! [Laughs.] If we look back a few generations to perhaps our great-grandparents, we've got a very different world in terms of its information content.

You have a world where the people's heads were more than likely filled with the details of their own lives. I know that sounds completely unlikely from our cultural
standpoint, where our heads are filled with the doings of Joey, Chandler, Ross,
Fabian, whoever the other ones are, I can't remember.

Sacrilege!
How quickly we forget! [Laughs.] But, yeah, people's heads are stuffed with a
fantastic amount of information, and I think all too often they cannot
assimilate, digest or connect up that incredible amount of data into a coherent
worldview. And I like to think that if my work is complex, it's because we live
in a complex world. What I'm trying to do is give a bit of coherence to that
complexity, to say that it is possible to think about politics, history,
mythology, architecture, murder and the rest of it all at the same time to see
how it connects.

With reference to my interest over the last 10 years in
magic, one of the most useful formulas in alchemy, specifically, is "solve et
coagula," where "solve" is the act of dissolving something, where we take
something apart and study how it works -- what in our modern terms would be
called analysis. In a scientific framework, it would be called reductionism. The
other part of the formula is "coagula," which is synthesis rather than analysis,
holism rather than reductionism, the act of putting something back together in a
hopefully improved form. Once you take the watch to pieces and see what was
making it run slow, you put it back together and hopefully it works better.
I'd say that we've had an awful lot of "solve" in our culture, but far too
little "coagula." There are people who seem daunted by the complexity of our
culture to the point that they'll shy away from it rather than try to put those
thousands of jigsaw pieces together into some sort of useful, coherent picture.
Which is not to say that everybody is like that. You mentioned Thomas Pynchon
earlier, and he would be one of my primary inspirations for that worldview.
Reading "Gravity's Rainbow" first alerted me to the fact that yes, you could
work with this sort of complexity and richness. Pynchon was an authentic 20th
century voice adequate to his time; the same with writers like James Joyce and
Iain Sinclair.


Writers who have not shied away from the complexities of the
world.

Right, and I've tried to do the same in my work. Connection is very
useful; intelligence does not depend on the amount of neurons we have in our
brains, it depends on the amount of connections they can make between them. So
this suggests that having a multitude of information stored somewhere in your
memory is not necessarily a great deal of use; you need to be able to connect
this information into some sort of usable palette. I think my work tries to
achieve that. It's a reflection of the immense complexity of the times we're
living in. I think that complexity is one of the major issues of the 20th and
21st centuries. If you look at our environmental and political problems, what is
underlying each is simply the increased complexity of our times. We have much
more information, and therefore we are much more complex as individuals and as a
society. And that complexity is mounting because our levels of information are
mounting.


Information is the 21st century's primary currency, it seems.
Information is funny stuff. In some of the science magazines I read, I've
found it described as an actual substance that underlies the entirety of
existence, as something that is more fundamental than the four fundamental
physical forces: gravity, electromagnetism and the two nuclear forces. I think
they've referred to it as a super-weird substance. Now, obviously, information
shapes and determines our lives and the way we live them, yet it is completely
invisible and undetectable. It has no actual form; you can only see its effects.
Information is a kind of heat. I would suggest that as our society accumulates
information, from its hunter-gatherer origins to the complexities of our present
day, it raises the cultural temperature.

I feel that we may be approaching a cultural boiling point. I'm not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing; I really don't know because I can't imagine it, quite frankly. But I think we may be approaching the point at which the amount of information we are taking becomes exponential, and I'm not entirely certain what kind of human culture will exist beyond that point. Except it will happen sooner than we expect, and the difference between us and the kind of people that will exist after such an event will be vastly different than the difference between us and the
hunter-gatherer society we've evolved from.


You're saying we might not be able to recognize human beings of the future that well.
Yeah, it could be a quantum leap, a sudden, massive and unprecedented leap. Boiling point is a good analogy, because what you have before that stage is water. What you have after it is something that does not behave at all like water; it's a completely
different substance altogether. And that's what I see looming for society -- and
it's probably necessary, probably inevitable, probably scary. That's my
prognosis. I suppose, as an artist, one of the obligations upon my work is to
try and prepare people for the more complex world, to try and make it more
palatable and accessible to them and not quite so frightening. That would seem
to be a worthy goal, illuminating reality.


That's the "coagula" part of the formula. Synthesizing the future.
Yeah, that's it. If you can find a new synthesis, as I try to do in my work, you can help people find new ways of seeing, thinking and dealing with the times in which they find themselves. That's my intention. Whether or not I've succeeded is up to the readers.
- -
- - - - - - - - - -
About the writerScott Thill is the editor of Morphizm.com.
He has written on media, politics and music for Popmatters, All Music Guide,
AOL, XLR8R and other publications.

 
 
First From Hell, Then League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Now . . . Oh My God

My worst suspicions prove true: Constantine, the Keanu Reeves vehicle, is indeed based on the comic book series about John Constantine. Which means that the Great Haddock is playing a role that deserves Jimmy Cagney or at least Mel Gibson. Cagney of course is dead, but so is Reeves. So how did he get the part?

Poor Alan Moore. He comes up with great ideas that become fine comics and then, years later, land before the general public as really bad movies. Thank God the Watchmen adaptation never got anywhere. (Though if HBO did miniseries, we could have a shot at brilliance.)

UPDATE: Who would have thought? From Salon's review: "Keanu Reeves is -- let me just get this off my chest -- very good." Well, he wasn't so bad in that Nicholson-Keaton film last year, but still . . . One must remember that this is Salon, which has a track record of vapidity in its cultural coverage. Still, the reviewer does know about Alan Moore (or "hallowed comics genius Alan Moore," as the review puts it).

As a side note, the review provides evidence of the spread thru non-blog Internet venues of the filthy disease known as blog facetiousness:

OK, but here's the thing: "Constantine" pretty much rocks. It doesn't rock in
the sense of "Dude, I just saw the best action movie ever," the way you probably
felt when you walked out of the original "Matrix" back in '99. It's a more
relative kind of rocking, the rocking that indicates, "Land o'Goshen, that was
much better than I had any reason to expect."


Land o'Goshen.
 
 
My political memoirs

In 1988 I worked for a crappy magazine called Business Month that paid top-drawer journalists for their bottom-drawer product. During the summer one submitted a political column that, like many other political articles that summer, related how the Democrats' insufferably dull presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis, once took along a book called Swedish Land-Use Planning as his reading for the beach. Wanting to verify the book's title, I did the usual checking and found that, in fact, no book anywhere had ever had that title.

The column's author didn't mind that his anecdote's central prop had proved nonexistent. He suggested only that we knock out the caps and italics and change the reference to "a book on Swedish land-use planning," which we cooperatively did. The editor who liased with this journalist reported the man to be no little bit impressed that anyone would bother to investigate the alleged book's title, let alone continue investigating for the rigorous 10 to 30 minutes (I forget which) needed to establish that there was no such title.

The journalist's name? Why, Fred Barnes, of course.
 
Thursday, February 17, 2005
 
Talent counts

For years I was the copy chief of a trade newspaper where bright young reporters funneled to me what they thought were news articles. All right, many of the reporters were not bright. But many were. And only a tiny fraction could write a paragraph without doing harm to themselves.

Then there's the Onion, which has been acclaimed for its brilliance right from the days when its staff was two months out of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It deserves the praise for many reasons, not least that the writers hit a pitch-perfect imitation of the slick daily newspaper style my young friends tried for and missed. The Onion staff, of course, goes further. They not only mimic the style, they turn it inside out and bring forth every potential for inanity it contains. By doing the newspaper style right, they show how stupid it is.

And the people I knew couldn't even do the style right. Kids from good colleges, some of them better than U-WisMad. But God . . . that prose.

Which just shows how cruel the universe is. Because, as I say up top, talent counts. And not everyone has some.
 
 
Radicalized!

I just read a post on the dire situation facing pro hockey and realized how far the Bush administration has taken me.

I know nothing about hockey and the post was written by a friend who both loves the game and is distinctly to my left. He presents a good common-sense reason for believing the owners when they say player demands are putting the game in jeapordy. Yet I cannot believe the owners. The men with the money are lying. After WMDs and the Social Security "crisis" (and, retrospectively, Whitewater, Chinagate, etc.), I have given up my moderate's reflex of assuming that claims made by the other side can be boiled down to some ascertainable nugget that deserves respect. Now I assume the other side is full of shit and out for whatever it can get. And another thing: fuck them.

I may be wrong as regards the particular case of pro hockey. Like I said, Matthew follows this stuff and his argument makes sense. But really . . . fuck them.
 
 
It's different when you're wrong

Kevin Drum remarks today on Rumsfeld's "arrogance-a-thon" before the House Armed Services Committee, as reported by the Washington Post. Understandably, Drum gives pride of place to the moment where Rumsfeld disavowed any connection with "intelligent work." Hey, he meant intelligence work, but the point here really is that this man gave us the Office of Special Plans.

I suppose another point would be that the Pentagon has a vast intelligence apparatus of its own and Rumsfeld ought to stop by now and then and see how it's doing. But never mind that. Back in 2002, Rumsfeld was presuming to second-guess the intelligence establishment outside the Pentagon, and now he tries to slap away anyone who thinks he might possibly have some intelligence estimates about the insurgency. You could say he has learned from failure, but why is he still so arrogant?

Judging by the Post article, Rumsfeld is quick-witted and humorous and says what he wants instead of what is politic. In fact you could say he was like the two-fisted Ron Nordland of Newsweek, whose unbuttoned Q&A I admired here yesterday. Except that the congressmen's questions sounded rather intelligent, and Rumsfeld's performance in office has not been intelligent. It's no good not suffering fools gladly when you're the fool.
 
 
Hey that's a good one

The mid-morning DJ on my favorite radio station does one-liners about the news (celebrities, really). He just told us that Michael Jackson is out of the hospital "and feels like a kid again."

Pretty tough for a light-rock station.
 
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
 
Hah! I was right

Seventeen years ago I listened to two coworkers dismiss the Beastie Boys as a flash in the pan. I didn't say anything, but I'll say something now: Hah! I was right, you were wrong.
 
 
Funny stuff

By way of Kevin Drumm, Matthew Yglesias, and David Holiday, comes these excerpts from a rousing Q&A with Ron Nordland, who covers Iraq for Newsweek. The document will stand as evidence that not all members of our era's top-line media got by with pomposity instead of brain cells. Notice especially how Nordland hews to a centrist position that has nothing about it of let's-split-the-difference or moderation-above-all. He is on the scene, he sees what is in front of him, and he reacts when the uninformed kneejerk their way out of reality.

The prize exchange, already celebrated on the blogs, is the following:

Hopatcong, NJ: Do you, Masland and Dickey mean "F---ing Murderers" when you say "insurgents" and "fighters" in your STUPIDITY? I've grown sick and tired of you "politically incorrect" reporters. Why don't you have the gumption to call a
spade a spade?

Rod Nordland: OK, you're an idiot. How's that?



Yes!
 
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
 
Good times for frothing

This is a period of brisk expansion for wingnuts. From my latest Publishers Weekly e-mail:

Over its successful recent history, Regnery has sometimes functioned like a
minor-league team for corporate publishers, supplying authors and editors to
those houses after having its own good run with them.

Now the D.C. publisher is serving as a feeder for another area: publicity. A trio of former Regnery publicists have started MNS Publicity, a boutique shop in D.C. that will handle overflow on other houses' conservatives titles.

The growth of a freelance publicity industry is usually a sign that other houses are becoming too strained to handle their own promotion, and the birth of MNS (which stands for the founders and partners, Stephanie Marshall, Gwen Nappi and Sandy Schulz), highlights how publicists at some larger publishers may not have the
resources--or the experience--to handle conservative titles.


MNS has already signed on to work on SMUT: A Sex Industry Insider (And Concerned Father) Says Enough is Enough, from Sentinel (also the new employer for a former Regnery editor). MNS is also doing Nelson Current's March tribute to CBS anchorman Dan Rather, Rather Dumb: A Top Tabloid Reporter Tells CBS How to Do News, by Mike Walker. Unlike most PR firms that delegate assignment, the three principles will be the only employees and will do all the pitching themselves.

The group's pedigree is heady- together they have worked on more than a dozen bestselling titles by conservative stars like Bernard Goldberg, Laura Ingraham and Dinesh D'Souza. And their contacts both as Regnery employees and freelancers--in a
world that's still relatively insular--could help them more than it would the
usual startup. "We all have the same ideology," said Marshall. "We all get it.
We're not just publicists trying to cash in on a hot book market."

--Christopher
Dreher

 
Monday, February 14, 2005
 
Our times

Winning Grammys is getting to be old news for Clinton:

Last year, he won a Grammy for his work on the children's recording
Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks by Clinton, Mikhail
Gorbachev and Sophia Loren, with Kent Nagano and the Russian National
Orchestra (Penta Tone Music).


Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Sophia Loren. That's from an e-mail newsletter sent out by Publishers Weekly. Further down in the newsletter, every husband's dream:

Today the View welcomed Richard Cohen, author of Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir (Perennial, $13.95), now available in paperback, and the husband of co-host Meredith Vieira. PW's view: "In this wrenching memoir, [Cohen] tells how he has for the past 30 years succeeded in his determination to 'cope and to hope' . . . [His wife] has been portrayed in popular magazines as a martyr who bears a terrible burden. Cohen proves that nothing could be further from the truth."
 
Friday, February 11, 2005
 
Fox in the airports

I didn't know this: Fox operates a chain of bars and newsstands in airports. Step inside any one of those spaces and you are in FoxLand. From Tapped:

I was out in San Francisco on a fellowship from the Institute for
Justice and Journalism at the University of Southern California's Annenberg
School of Communications for much of the past two weeks. Coming back on the
red-eye, I stopped over in the Las Vegas, Nevada, airport, where my options for
sustenance and entertainment included slot machines, dueling Taco Bells, and a
centrally located FOX Sports Skybox bar.

Now, most people aren't aware that the FOX News Corp. has partnered with
other groups to run a chair of very successful FOX programming-themed bars, restaurants, and, yes, even FOX News Channel newstands in airports across the country, designed to provide "a total news experience for travelers, complete with direct feeds from FOX News Channel."

All I can say is, anyone who ever wants to design ads for a Democratic
presidential candidate needs to spend an evening hanging out in one of these FOX
environments. Even the menu at the Sports Skybox was politicized, with the wine
labeled as being "for whiners." It cost just $2 extra to double the shot in your
mixed drink, as the bartender kept reminding customers, and beer was offered by
the liter.

Maybe it was just Las Vegas, but about seventy percent of the customers
appeared to be smoking and a significant number were tattooed. Completing the
picture were video feeds of gruff-looking guys in programs on motorcycles, golf,
and football, all silent but incongruously accompanied by Motown hits and disco.

Absorb that kind of vibe for a while, and what looks tough and masculine
and what looks weak starts to feel a little different. And once in the mindset
of that kind of environment -- one which is, as I noted, now routinely
experienced by airline passengers across the country -- ads featuring a
windsurfing John Kerry can only appear absolutely devastating, while Senate
Minority Leader Harry Reid's delicate Democratic response to the State of the
Union appears the stuff from which mocking shows and guffaws are made.
--Garance Franke-Ruta

Posted at 12:46 PM
 
 
From Guckert to Gannon: the right-wing aesthetic in four words

There's something very typical about the real name of the White House's pseudo-reporter versus the nom de guerre he took up. "Guckert" is the name of someone with an adam's apple and a bald spot; "Gannon" is, to paraphrase Martin Amis, a flat-stomached, hard-thighed, big-dicked sort of name. The shill was stuck at birth with Guckert, but he became Gannon as soon as he had his druthers.

"He said he used the pseudonym Gannon because it was 'easier to pronounce and remember,'" the New York Times tells us. Which is the sort of calculation conservatives are more likely to make than liberals. The right has a feeling for, how to put it, the way things should feel. Along with that comes a certain inability to cope when reality doesn't provide right-feeling experiences. And this inability brings with it a certain willingness to play make-pretend, something the conservatives do with great flair and skill, though bad results when it comes to making policy.

From Guckert to Gannon: and there you have the mental self-transformation undergone by about half of the right's knock-kneed, wavery-jawed shock troops of freedom.
 
 
More on Montreal as Athens, Ga.

I've now read the New York Times's entire appraisal of the Montreal music scene. The article says the record industry's focus is Mile End, a neighborhood dominated by anglophone bohemians from across Canada. Montreal is a gathering place where they can all collect. Which seems different from a homegrown scene catching on, though at least the newcomers have good taste. At any rate, the neglected sock drawer now being pulled open (to revive a metaphor from a few posts down) is not Montreal but instead Canadian alt-rock.
 
Thursday, February 10, 2005
 
Lifestyle triumph, again

At age 43 I'm teaching myself to touchtype because my fingers and joints really need a break. I always figured I was too clumsy to learn, but today I took my guide's first speed test and found I was typing twice as fast as the target rate.

Tomorrow I start lesson 7, which is w, y, and the comma.
 
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
 
Right-wing PC

Over at Tapped, young Sam Rosenfeld makes the point that has to be made:

In a whole array of arenas, conservatives are now the ones most likely to
employ a politics of victimhood and grievance -- the persecuted Christian! the
intolerant academy! the oppressive elite of blue America! -- to try to foreclose
substantive debate over issues and subsume political disputes into zero-sum
battles of culture and identity. The conservo-race card is only the most obvious
(and obviously cynical) manifestation of this kind of right-wing identity
politics.


And don't forget the troops, the right's stand-in for all minority groups everywhere. The war must not be criticized or else the troops' feelings will be hurt.
 
Sunday, February 06, 2005
 
As cool as Athens, GA

Montreal, the city where I live, has a lot of bars and lots of young people playing music. The New York Times says, at length, that the music being produced just now is interesting enough for record exceutives from around the US to be paying attention.

The fame is guaranteed not to last, as the article explains quite fully in its lead. Any city dinky enough not to be on the cultural radar will sooner or later get its moment of music industry attention -- Omaha did, as the article says. People who are short of cash start looking any old place -- sock drawers, computer casings -- when they need enough change to afford pizza. The record industry is most often short of ideas and goes yanking out sock drawers (cities, if you will) at what may or may not be random.

Anyway, I may have more to say when I've read the second paragraph.
 
Friday, February 04, 2005
 
Hey, here's a meme

Over on Crooked Timber, John Holbo deposits the name "Soylent Security" on Bush's privatization/destruction plans. Kevin Drum mentioned the Holbo coinage, and now I am as well because I want to be a true meme-pushing blogger.
 
Thursday, February 03, 2005
 
Lifestyle triumph

This morning at about 11 a.m., I laid my hand on the novel Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie. This was up on the 5th floor of the McGill stacks. The discovery ended a day and a half of mental self-gnawing triggered when I read McGill's e-mailed overdue notice. First I had sworn to myself, doubtfully, that I had returned the book; then I called McGill; then, this morning, I marched over to the library (about 20 minutes one way over frolicking hummocks of gravel and beaten slush). I went to the root of the problem and found vindication waiting.

Then I went downstairs (five stories, widely separated by generous numbers of stairs bearing students and their cellphones) and the nice circulation lady expunged my non-crime.

So no $100 fine. The book was there, even though the universe's laws make that occurrence a freak. Since 11:20 a.m. I have had a sense of life's tail being firmly in my hand; I am master.

My life must be the size of a thimble for this event to ring so loud. But there it is.
 
 
Hochelaga Depicta

Everyone go dig this new blog, the voice of moderate Canadian progressivism to a retrofitted funk beat.
 
Everything the others don't get

ARCHIVES
12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 /


Powered by Blogger