Friday, February 27, 2004
We Are Experiencing Ethical DifficultiesIt's a disaster over here. My phone line and DSL are fully operational again after a near week-long hiatus, which I naturally blamed on the phone company. Yesterday a phone guy came by and discovered that, as it turns out, someone had taken a blowtorch to the telephone box, which sits outside my upstairs neighbor's back door. Naturally we asked him if he'd seen anything, and as a matter of fact, he had—just the other day he shood away a guy he found soldering this utility box upon his return home, and, incidentally, this incident had nothing to do with the fact that the guy who gives him free cable (and threatens me from time to time) offered him free phone—I assume my phone—which he sternly refused. (What else can I do but shake my head and walk away? And prepare for another drawn-out, thunderous night of steel-toed Jazzercise or whatever it is he's doing up there as he sleeps his way through every male in the District.)
People, issue all the quasi-legal marriage licenses you want, but please, I must beg you to respect the law when it comes to your utilities. I wondered down that path once and now my neighbor's hook-up man, who assures me that he's my cable technician "forever," turns up to service our line in the middle of the night (meaning that I pay him to leave). I walk down my street and shake my head at these digital huslters, preying on fresh-from-undergrad country boys on the rise. Let my cautionary tale serve as your warning.
With that, I'm up for another 12-hour day of work. I'm reduced to the diary form here because I haven't been keeping up—until the end of next week, I'm a goddamned zombie. Wish me strength and check in this weekend.
This weekend, I think I'll catch up on this primary election people keep talking about.
posted by kriston at 6:48 AM........
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Inverted Civil Disobedience III'd like to add an historical component to the great debate below. One reason (separate from the legal considerations) why I believe Mayor Newsom's decision is unimpeachable is that he's clearly on the right side of history. I know it's a weird determinist-y sounding take, but I bet that even his fiercest detractors wouldn't tell, say, Rosa Parks to go ahead and give up her seat for fear of prematurely inflaming racial tensions—and, more relevantly to this discussion, I doubt that Newsom's critics would recommend (in retrospect) that a city official prosecute her. That's one meager example; African-American history is peppered with white officials who blatantly disobeyed the Law in order to promote progress.
I typically hesitate to telescope this gay marriage crisis into the Civil Rights era, when the stakes were clearly so much higher. Still, when this battle sees the light of day in history textbooks, there will be actors designated right, and actors designated wrong, and Newsom will be assigned to the former, and Mel Gibson will be assigned to the latter.
If anything, I hope Newsom's behavior accelerates the debate. I hate history—I have no patience for it to catch up with my liberal perspective on the larger world. I want to see arrests, martyrs, lewd acts in public, dogs and cats living together, better gay television than Will & Grace, and three more Mardi Gras's a year. In fact I hope Bush asks the Senate to show his cards on the FMA tomorrow, now that it's officially DOA—over 40 Senators oppose it.
Especially dogs and cats living together.
posted by kriston at 10:35 PM........
A Major Conservative Pundit Drops the F-Bomb on Yours TrulyIf conservative pundit-spotting grants you official DC residency, then after today I'm now the mayor. So I'm standing outside in Dupont Circle, enjoying my right to pollute my lungs, and I see Bob Novak, standing about 25 feet away from me (and looking ancient). He's heading in my direction, and I know he's going into the building directly behind me, and I happen to know that the building is the seat for one of DC's biggest firms. Our stage is set:
Me: Um, hello?Novak could hear that hyperlink in my voice and didn't like it one bit. (It sounds a bit like a sneer.)
Now I think it's kind of prickish to take celebrity figures off guard who probably think you just want to say hello, get an autograph, such them off, whatever. (It's DC, he's a celebrity.) Do as I say and not as I do—be nice to sleazebags, people.
I would've pushed it further but Novak's rumored to drop the People's Elbow on hecklers. Where's Al Franken when you need him?
posted by kriston at 9:52 PM........
Hits by JesusYesterday saw the opening of The Passion of Christ , the most controversially anticipated film since, well, His Last Temptation. In Western art, of course, the Christ story has always been the template through which artists develop the themes of their generation. I understand that Mel Gibson has exposed Christ to our cinematic fetish with realism, and the result has been more or less described as pornography. I'm bothered by the fact that for both Gibson and his detractors, debate about this movie has turned into a referendum on Jesus and about proper ways to worship and what-not.
To me, it's all further evidence that Christians have no business making art about their Lord. For a good long time now—since Constantine—Christianity has commissioned artists to portray the story of Christ, and it's turned out to be a fine template for developing processes and banging out a style. Good work if you can get it. Now at pub quiz the other night we're talking and it dawns on one of our pub quizzards that seeing this film might be contributing to Gibson's ministry. That might even be the purpose. I shudder to think. Suffer the artists!
I was going to post my two favorite Christ-oriented pieces of art, The Crucifix of Santa Croce by Cimabue (c. 1270) and Masaccio's Trinity (1427), but I'm having some trouble loading the images. So class is cancelled for today—but I'm just lookin' for a reason to reschedule...
Yep—I'll be going to see the film.
posted by kriston at 7:49 AM........
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
"Inverted Civil Disobedience"Phrase coined by Josh Marshall to describe the San Francisco preemptive marriage permissions. I'm having a debate with a buddy of mine, a 3L at Boston University, who insists that civil disobedience is the recourse of the private actor only. I say that Mayor Newsom & co. aren't acting in civil disobedience, but are giving precedence to one law (all Cali laws shall be applied equally blah blah) over another (marriage shall consist of a man and a woman), which is SF's crafty angle on what is clearly civil disobedience. I'm not going to open up my salvo on my friend, but I'm wondering if you have thoughts: Do public officials have the right to wilfully misinterpret the law? Any thoughts?
I think this question leads to two deeply unsatisfying answers.
posted by kriston at 7:35 AM........
JewbustersAdbusters remains the most annoying publication that won't die a natural 'zine death, a fact I thought bore some testament to a wily editorial staff (trust-fund babies through and through, I'm sure). Nope—turns out they're just horrible and stupid. Headline: "Why won't anyone say they are Jewish?", in which they reveal that these neocons you need to hate are filthy Jews; Adbusters comes with the tough obvservations, like "[d]rawing attention to the Jewishness of the neocons is a tricky game." It's frustrating to watch a nutty, lefty institution give fuel to the blazing, anti-Semitic inferno the right perceives in criticism of neoconservatism. Just stick to raging against the machine, guys, and leave the heavy-lifting for someone less offensive.
Courtesy of Matthew Yglesias.
A spoonful of anti-semitism helps the anti-capitalism go down.
posted by kriston at 7:14 AM........
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Try Abstinence Education with this Bunchor
Kids Do the Darnedest ThingsJustin at Apt. 304 wonders how gay integration (via gay marriage) will affect conceptions of sexuality. Smart stuff, if both a willful (and maybe rueful) interpretation of the direction of gay/straight affairs. Justin's comments reminded me of some sculpture/installation work by Robert Gober that I saw at the 2001 Venice Biennale. (Not even about to try to explain that thought train.) Anyway, it just so happens that the New Yorker that arrived today features a Peter Schjeldahl piece on the Tate, and for reasons unrelated includes a photo of a sculpture that also brings Justin's conversation (and Gober's sculpture) to mind:
Jake and Dinos Chapman, Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-sublimated Libidinal Model, 1995
I won't presume this is what Justin has in mind, but he asks, "could sexuality, as a constitutive element of identity, (1) be rendered as meaningless as (oft-invoked) handedness or (2) be diffused over a spectrum of social/sexual behaviors and identities regulated by dominant (nee "hetero") norms?" and I think that this sculpture presupposes the state Justin envisions. Like "handedness," hair color is the only identity determinant within the group and even commodification can be accomodated (hence the Nikes in this piece, or "metrosexuality" in real life). So I guess the answer to Justin's question would be "Sure!" as far as sculpture is concerned.
Unless, of course, I'm pretty far off the mark on the Chapmans' stuff.
posted by kriston at 11:40 PM........
Whither the Bush Dynasty?What's most significant to me about Bush's muscular endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment is that it has no hope of passing. Not in this decade. Two-thirds of each house of Congress and then ratification by 38 states? Even had the FMA that kind of support, the process would take years—obvious enough, but Bush speaks about it in terms of such urgency that you wonder if he understands that. But more to the point—the FMA can't pass the laught test, much less the amendment threshold. (Kevin Drum reminds that in spite of an overwhelmingly popular mandate, the Equal Rights Amendment never got off the ground.) Even Tom DeLay, no fan of having homosexuality stuffed down his throat, has the good sense to step away from this Edsel. (Good sense as in strategic sense, not moral clarity or what-have-you.)
With this decision today, Bush has proved that his administration will play out as poorly as his father's did. W's been submerged by the contesting factions of his party, and his flailing gestures have included an impossible promise of Mars and an immigration innovation rejected by his own corner. The FMA is the flag-burning amendment redux: Another last gasp by a Bush president. He's telescoped the entirety of his domestic record into a single issue designed for those voters for whom it is the only issue. It won't be enough.
Bush's FMA threat doesn't bother me in the slightest.
posted by kriston at 10:47 PM........
When I Saw Him He Wasn't Destroying EverythingAndrew Sullivan, that is; I saw him smiling and talking yesterday in Dupont Circle, meaning that I can now claim full DC residency, though had Sullivan been walking his dog or working out in one of our many windowed gyms my sighting would've counted for more. Were I to have seen him today, of course, his mood would be somewhat changed. I've wondered for a long time when he would break up with the Bush administration. We knew they weren't meant for each other.
Whose waiting arms will Sully find himself wrapped up in tomorrow?
posted by kriston at 10:31 PM........
The Sickness Unto WorkSo I'm slammed at work and getting ill, too, and my upstairs neighbor is on some kind of cabana-boy sexathon. Good for him and all, but I'm not getting any damn sleep—so if the blogging gets spotty or altogether insensible (see post below!), my apologies.
For now I'm an a prescription of Bonnie Prince Billy and decaffeinated tea.
posted by kriston at 8:10 PM........
Sex and the CriticsIt would appear the two don't know each other very well. Not to pick on Noy Thrupkaew and Sarah Blustain alone, but to choose two from the several that bid adieu to Sex and the City by parsing its politics, they missed the mark with the feminist critique. It's a real problem, especially for writers: On the one hand, there's this LuAnn Platter of generic, prescriptive feminist criticism readily available to anyone who needs it and it's good for any purpose. But for actual feminists or users of feminist theory it's rather a la carte: Writers and writings, perspectives, studies, "takes" on feminism inform actual theory with actual meaning. With the former, one-size-fits-all version, you only need an example featuring either women or sexuality and you're set—your reader is vaguely aware of the general cuckolding specifics from 60s feminism, and you can nudge him with suggestions about what feminism ought (not) be doing. An actual feminist critique would involve some question about why women are watching, what function these awful cocktails play, yadda yadda yadda, and only gets stickier from there.
The trick is that any good pop writer, like the two above, knows that people don't want to read papers about television shows. I don't either. Still, it's no excuse for getting sloppy with the critical language. I don't have cable and didn't search out a bar—I respect alcohol too much to endure a cosmopolitan for any cause—so I've got nothing on the actual show. My take would be about how everybody's wrong about SatC/feminism because feminism isn't actually prescriptive like it once was and you'd all certainly move on to bad identity-politics criticism on The Sopranos before I even got warmed up.
Oh—and what I said about misapplying feminism goes double for Caitlin Flanagan and her Atlantic tenure.
posted by kriston at 7:54 AM........
Monday, February 23, 2004
MattyHis post on loneliness is both well-written and a good assessment of how a lot of people feel walking away from college. It's also the sort of stuff we never deal with over here at G.p, but occasionally we do look up from the switchboards long enough to let in a little poetry. I'm happy to have him join me up in DC for a week next month, if not for his shopping prowess alone.
...now enough of that, back to work, you think these Democrats are going to elect themselves?
posted by kriston at 9:36 PM........
Back in IraqNice to see that the Democratic primary coverage has mostly abated, and we're getting real world headlines again. From Iraq, for instance:
American ground commanders in Iraq have announced plans to move troops away from major cities, where they are conspicuous and potential targets, to surrounding areas from which they could rapidly respond to emergencies in urban areas. The new Iraqi security forces are to be given greater responsibility for maintaining order in the cities. But Rumsfeld, during a refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland, on his way to Kuwait, said the process of redeploying troops would be marked by "ebb and flow."On the face of it this sounds smart, but the Iraqi insurgents have proven themselves to be an indiscriminate bunch. Seems to me that the latest wave of suicide attacks in Iraq have been directed either at Kirkuk or at Iraq police/military recruits. And I'm a little skeptical that this shift strategy is much more than cut-and-run prep, and our central strategy in Iraq right now is as dubious as all that. How it came to be about leaving, when Donald Rumsfeld openly refers to the insurgency as "terrorist networks," I'm not sure.
At the end of the article, it mentions that Donald Rumsfeld gave an impromptu pep talk to National Guard troops flying through Shannon on their way into Iraq. What exactly would an Iraq pep talk sound like at this stage in the game? The Iraqi elections will be better than Iran's?
Letterman: Bush is preparing to transfer authority to Iraq by June 30th, and transfer power at home to the Democrats on Nov. 2nd.
posted by kriston at 7:11 AM........
Sunday, February 22, 2004
(sigh)I'm entirely tired of Ralph Nader Day—which was today, if you either turned on the television or used the Internet at all—but I'm comforted that all signs suggest this is the last day I should expect to hear from him. Everyone's reliving the pains of the 2000 realization with Nader's announcement to run for presidency, and that's reason enough for the media to give him the stage.
But folks, he's done. In 2000, Nader, under the imprimatur of the Green Party, pitted Al Gore against incredible voter apathy among jaded (and particularly young) voters and swiped significant votes from liberals in New Hampshire and Florida. It is important to note that he did not do so because he's Ralph Nader. Votes cast for Nader tended to be either 1) a negative referendum on the state of the Democratic Party (a vote of protest), possible given the seeming irrelevance of the election, or 2) earnest support for the Green Party platform (a fledgling group). Not only are neither of those conditions applicable today, but apathy isn't an issue for the voter demographic that Nader previously mined.
I certainly applaud all the bloggers who've taken this opportunity to shoot Nader a resounding middle finger—sure, he still deserves it. But Ralph Nader today bears all the threat that Lyndon LaRouche does, and he'll get all the same media attention from this point forward. So go ahead and disband your Nader watch site; his fifteen minutes was up four years ago, and he'll be a footnote in history for playing a small role in the screwiest presidential election of American history.
As it is Ralph Nader Day, former Green Party supporters: Amnesty!
posted by kriston at 9:04 PM........