Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Link Updates

I've added two new sites to The Ever-Evolving list of Links. Under the Fiction and Literature heading, Three Percent and under Culture, General, I first found out today about Three Percent from this video interview of Chad Post, director of Open Letter Press, devoted to publishing literature in translation. For some reason, I thought I already had included PopMatters, a natural for the General Culture Category. A quick check revealed otherwise, so I promptly added PM.

Click on All Links in the sidebar to see the latest changes.
1 February 2009 update: I've added Get Kempt to the Fashion and Appearance section, and added a Peak Oil section.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Poverty Statistics

Anup Shah, Poverty Facts and Stats,, Last updated: Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cf. Global Rich List

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

I thought I'd share this poem by Kingsley Amis, which John Derbyshire posted a couple years back. Although the poem addresses newly-minted quinquagenarians--today I turn thirty-three, not fifty--"Ode to Me" speaks to anyone older than thirty.

Ode to Me

by Kingsley Amis

Fifty today, old lad?
Well, that's not doing so bad:
All those years without
Being really buggered about.
The next fifty won't be so good,
True, but for now—touch wood—
You can eat and booze and the rest of it,
Still get a lot of the best of it,
While the shags with fifty or so
Actual years to go
Will find most of them tougher,
The going a good bit rougher
Within the Soviet sphere—
Which means when the bastards are here,
Making it perfectly clear
That all that double-think
(Both systems on the blink,
East and West the same,
And war just the name of a game)
Is the ballocks it always was.
But will it be clear? Because
After a whole generation
Of phasing out education,
Throwing the past away,
Letting the language decay,
And expanding the general mind
Till it bursts, we might well find
That it wouldn't make much odds
To the poor semi-sentient sods
Shuffling round England then
That they've lost what made them men.
So bloody good luck to you, mate,
That you weren't born too late
For at least a chance of happiness,
Before unchangeable crappiness
Spreads over all the land.
Be glad you're fifty—and
That you got there while things were nice,
In a world worth looking at twice.
So here's wishing you many more years,
But not all that many. Cheers!

Monday, January 05, 2009

But I Do!

"Why You Should Know Who Michael Shannon Is"--New York

22 January update: Michael Shannon is a Best Supporting Actor nominee. To explain this post's title, I knew of him from his roles in 8 Mile, Kangaroo Jack, and Bad Boys II. In these movies his characters were all louts but each was distinct: Greg Buehl was the boyfriend of B-Rabbit's mother, Frankie "The Vermin" Lombardo, a mob henchman, and Floyd Poteet, a scuzzy Klansman. Until now, these were his most famous characters.

Kunstler on the Bush Years

Kunstler doesn't hold back.

January 5, 2009
Farewell GWB

I never believed that GWB actually tricked the nation on the "weapons of mass destruction" rationale for invading Iraq. Rather, the nation fooled itself into thinking that the war, in the first place, was anything but an act of vengeance for the gross injury of 9/11. After a couple of years, the public adopted the stupid narrative that they were "lied to," rather than recognizing the difficult truth that 9/11 had to be answered with lethal force, that international hostilities are far from wholly rational, and that Saddam Hussein got whacked because he was the Arab head-of-state who was the best candidate for getting whacked. A nation in thrall to psychotherapy, and self-esteem building programs, and the "win-win" bullshit of business Babbitry, couldn't imagine a tragic dilemma when one was staring them in the face.

GWB won reelection in 2004 -- running against the weak John Kerry, "a haircut in search of a brain," as Kevin Phillips put it so memorably, who was not smart enough to pander successfully (though he tried) to the dominant, Jesus-soaked Nascar fans who inhabit the Moron Crescent that runs from West Virginia south through Dixie and then west into Idaho. GWB was still riding pretty high when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the swamps and beaches east of Lake Ponchartrain, and the president failed to direct anybody to so much as air-drop bottled drinking water for survivors dying on rooftops and highway overpasses in New Orleans. The Left, once again, adopted an idiotic narrative to explain the event -- that Bush acted to punish African-Americans -- when plain incompetence combined with grandiose expectations for a televised happy ending to instead produce tragedy.

The fiasco in New Orleans was matched by the apparent failure to police Iraq back to stability, making the whole project appear feckless and futile, and GWB began his long swoon into discredit. But two other conditions were intensifying in the background, one the consequence of the other: peak oil and peak credit. As the primary resource of industrial capitalism reached its all-time production peak in 2005, the managers of the US economy allowed borrowing-from-the-future to replace productive activity as the basis for everyday life.

GWB barely acknowledged this compound problem. He asserted that America was addicted to oil, but he failed to take the idea a step further and say that our vaunted "way-of-life" could no longer be taken for granted. If anything, he endorsed the popular idea that a suburban lifestyle and WalMart consumerism was a Jesus-driven entitlement, and his circle in governance did everything possible to replace the industrial economy with an economy based on suburban land development and credit card spending -- which was enabled by fantastic experiments in finance that proved to be nothing more than an impenetrable web of swindles.

Those swindles began to unwind in 2007 and they now threaten to sink the USA as a viable enterprise. Their exact extent and nature still remain obscure, like the algorithms used to engineer the "alphabet soup" of fraudulent securities and recondite derivatives. In this stupendous failure, GWB is joined by his cohorts and minions in Republican polity, whose flamboyant misfeasance continues to make the credit blow-up worse by the minute. He leaves his successor, Mr. Obama, a predicament so dismal that the secession crisis of 1860 begins to look like a mere procedural quarrel in comparison. And despite the temporary crash of oil prices, the peak oil problem still looms very large in the background and has barely begun to work its hoodoo on what's left of the US economy.


To me, GWB will remain the perfect representative of his time, place, and culture. During his years in Washington, America became a nation of clowns posturing in cowboy hats, bethinking ourselves righteous agents of Jesus in a Las Vegas of the spirit, where wishing was enough to get something for nothing, where "mistakes were made," but everybody was excused from the consequences of bad choices. The break from that mentality will be very severe, and we may look back in twelve months and wonder how we ever fell for the whole package. The answering of that question will occupy historians for ages to come.