Monday, May 28, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Fox Sports Flag-Wavers

I have nothing against Memorial Day in principle. (Well, maybe I do: are "we" supposed to be honoring U.S. troops who died in the 19th-c. "Indian Wars," too?) But I consciously had sports talk radio on in the background today to escape all the flag-waving on the cable news networks. However, Fox Sports Radio's segues today are little more than an extension of the Republican-P.R. arm of Fox News. Besides these constant reminders to remember our troops (including quots. from G. W.), how many sports-talk people have I heard in the last few days say something like—"Without our men in uniform, we wouldn't have the freedom to even be talking here." Ah, and what a freedom that is—to deliberate on whether the Yankees can make up a 12-and-a-half-game deficit in the American League East. John Fricke–whom I usually consider one of the more intelligent & articulate personalities on FSR—even said today that, without the troops, we wouldn't be able to enjoy "our braughts and beer"! And we wouldn't be able to surf for internet porn, and droolingly follow the tabloid reports on Lindsay Lohan, and freely & bravely choose—between Coke and Pepsi.

Obviously, our "freedoms" are much more limited than we commonly think, by the sheer ideological force of the discourses in which we live, speak, and act. The founder of French surrealism, André, once wrote, [Quot. of the Day:]

The man who cannot imagine a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot.
But, au contraire, the person who does imagine such things today is deemed psychotic. Politically, the U.S. political spectrum from the most radical liberalism to the most reactionary conservatism is but an iceberg-tip of ideational possibilities. Musically, the same old chord progressions and clich$eacute; lyrical hooks are recycled over and over, as if the really new would blow open the "doors of perception" that corporate capitalism must keep closed, or else. . . . I'm going to take a nap now, to better consider the opportunities of pRuNe CiRcUsEs and SiLiCoN lIzArDs. . . .

Wait—there's Memorial Day, on TV right now: it's Pat Boone, dressed in an American-flag suit, hawking his new book. Hmmm. I think he just called me a communist.

* RADIO RANT: "fair & balanced," stupid & wrong

Never mind that their top-of-the-hour radio news already offers the least content of any radio network, FOX News has now added these minute-or-so "human interest" segments at the end of (some of) their news feeds, apparently to placate or anaesthetize those who can barely stand more than a minute or two of world-news reality. Each one ends with—"from the audio archives of Fox News Talk," but they sound more like new segments made expressly for this purpose, as epilogue to their news. (For one thing, none of the voices are recognizable as known talk-radio people. [And, for better or worse, I should know!])

Well, the only two of these segments I've heard are just plain "stupid & wrong." #1: a fluff interview of Serena Williams, in which the interviewer begins, "You're probably the favorite at Wimbleton this year . . . ." Well, sentimental favorite, maybe, and perhaps the only woman tennis player the person-on-the-street knows, but I doubt if she'll even be seeded in the top four this year, unless she kicks ass at the French. Or—IF this is truly a dated archive from, say, two years ago, no such context is provided, and so the interview/story remains problematically misleading in its ostensible timeliness.

If #1 was a mere quibble, perhaps, witness #2. "Archive from the past" or not, in this segment, FOX truly shines: it's another fluff piece, this time on Ernest Hemingway, in which the speaker "ernest-ly" tells us that the famous American novelist and big-game hunter won the "Nobel Peace Prize" in 1954. (I have heard this segment at least three times, so I'm not mistaken.) Hmmm. No, his Nobel was for Literature. His major efforts at "peace" seemed to have consisted mainly in displacing his own internal battles into an external war upon other species.

[Added 6/6/07:] I've now heard several other of these segments, including a hard-hitting exposé (NOT) on the 1960's cartoon, The Banana Splits.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

* Eco-Boring

As I sit here writing a book review of Native poet Kimberly Blaeser, and as my mind wanders, thinking of cool questions for Lawrence Buell's visit to my class this fall, a metaphor (gasp—no, not another one!) for ecocritical studies in general comes to mind. Ecocriticism—as a humanities enterprise—is still a fine front lawn, of Kentucky bluegrass, or whatever; but there are still a few "weeds" or "varmints" (often Native American) cavorting on said lawn, saying, "Geez, this is boring. Give someone else a chance." (Or—we can analyze the tree imagery in Tennyson once again. . . .)

* "Who the Hell Is Roger Miller?"

I spent much of last night "backtracking" my only real responder to these blogs, feeling fairly blown away by her own clever and serendipitous blog entries (link added, on the right), and by those of her other "blog friends." She" is the best noun/pronoun that I can employ here, since it seems that everyone else in their right mind blogs anonymously. Obviously, I'm just a stupid old f#$k in this regard, to the potential detriment of my daughter in a Denver-suburb high school, and my own tenure at a Division I midwestern institution of higher education. But at last, even if I dubbed myself "Freakmeister X," I'd still feel incomplete not linking to my home page; and so . . . .

But what struck me last night was "mahnu.uterna"'s profile; under music, she listed "Roger Miller"! She's so much more hip/contemporary than I am in so many regards that I could scarcely believe that this is the Roger Miller whom I revered in the 1960's—singer/songwriter of "Dang Me," "Chug-a-Lug," and, my favorite, "Do-Wacka-Do." At the time, my other musical heroes were Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings; but here was a man who did mutlisyllabic rhymes, who wrote songs about London ("England Swings"), who played an eccentric acoustic blues, and who, in sum, cared damned little about the musical norms of either Nashville or the two "pop" coasts. It's hard to describe, in fact, in today's musical milieu, how different he was allowed to be: nobody from the 1980's on has been so popular and yet so à rebours (against the grain).

Friday, May 25, 2007

* News from the Zoo

Some [much reduced in size] photos from my "shoot" (what a lovely metaphor) today at the Folsom Children's Zoo: Bearded Barbet; Red-crested Cardinal; East African Crowned Crane (3 shots); and Bald Eagle. Oh, the cage wires in some of the backgrounds! Indeed, taking photos of zoo birds is pretty much amateur night: I felt like Dick Cheney on a quail hunt. But I am an amateur, obviously, and my camera isn't up to many good pictures of (small) birds in the wild, unless I'm lucky (never have been) or patient (never have been, or will be). As further evidence of my amateur status, I thought "12x optical zoom" meant 12x magnification, as with binoculars. (Nope—turns out to be focal length, er somethin'.) Magnification-wise, the lens seem closer to a antique pair of 3x or 4x field glasses. I see now that I should have paid just a hundred or two more for an entry-level DSLR camera, but I wasn't sure my interest would match the investment, and—hey—I've always been "cheap."

But the real story here is that this zoo is another venue that brings back fond memories of daughter Emma & me. Oh, how she loved that baby Pygmy Marmocet! Better yet, oh, how she squealed in pre-teen shock-plus-delight as we watched a Euro. White Stork catch a ground squirrel, spear at it for minutes, then swish it around in a water dish, and then—(repeat steps 1 & 2 several x's)—then finally, with a back-thrust-of-the-head, gulp it down in a flash! . . . "Solid, dude." . . . I'm probably projecting, but it seemed that the new dark twinkle in Emma's eye was of a new awareness & acceptance, of a Darwinian stork-eat-squirrel world, of some sado-masochistic cosmos in which the animals of Disney are the worst of pale simulations.

Finally, on a(n even) sadder note: I'd forgotten that these places are somehow allowed to keep native birds (and not just endangered ones)—e.g., the egrets (2 species) and stilts, and the pair of pathetic Bald Eagles, so miserable in the 100-degree day when Emma and I were there. . . . (Hey, they weren't too happy today, either!—see photo above again. [You noble—you poor, bedraggled—one.])

Thursday, May 24, 2007

* A Movie Review of Sorts (Tryin' to Relate)

Saw Shrek the Third tonight, alone—just had to get out of the apartment. Plus, memories of seeing the first Shrek with my daughter (who now lives in Denver w/ my 1st wife) probably urged me on, memories from when she was still so young that we shared one bag of popcorn (with chocolate-covered raisins dumped in for good measure), when she hung upon and cherished every clever & knowing aside that I whispered to her. And of course, she always ended up eating nearly all of the chocolate; I wasn't there for the candy.

The movie itself?—ho-hum, especially compared to the first of the trilogy. The best scene is the parody of contemporary high schoolers (at "Worcestershire High"); the best line soon follows: after Shrek has just tried to talk "hiphop/street" to young Artie, the latter runs towards a house they've come upon, screaming, "Help! I've been kidnapped by a monster trying to relate to me!"

My daughter Em is now fifteen, and I'm sure, as she's spent time with me the last couple summers, she's already wanted to shout these very words! . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

* The Pope Speaks, of Purification and Injustice

The Pope has spoken:

BRASILIA, May 14 (Reuters) - Outraged Indian leaders in Brazil said on Monday they were offended by Pope Benedict's "arrogant and disrespectful" comments that the Roman Catholic Church had purified them and a revival of their religions would be a backward step.

In a speech to Latin American and Caribbean bishops at the end of a visit to Brazil, the Pope said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

They had welcomed the arrival of European priests at the time of the conquest as they were "silently longing" for Christianity, he said.

The Pope has spoken again:
VATICAN CITY (Reuters [May 23]) - Pope Benedict, under fire in Latin America for saying the Catholic Church had purified Indians, acknowledged on Wednesday that "unjustifiable crimes" were committed during the colonization of the Americas.

But he stopped short of apologizing [. . . .]

These two news items pretty much speak for themselves, given the hypocrisy of the Pope's subsequent (lack of) "apology." For among the "unjustifiable crimes" he admits to, on the part of the conquistadores, etc., the hemispheric deicide performed by Christian proselytizing "purifications" was as great a CRIME as any, and more significant, at last, than the "material" history of such episodes as Sand Creek and Wounded Knee.

* Avian Immigrants

I see on the news that an Indian Peafowl is loose in Santa Fe, NM, having eluded the authorities for over two days. As one news site so brilliantly informs us, "Peacocks aren’t native to New Mexico, so animal control officers assume he’s an escaped pet."

I implore these people: please catch it! Avian immigration has long been a curse to native bird populations. (I'm being both serious and tongue-in-cheek here.) Where were these animal-control people when the House Sparrows and the European Starlings were let loose in New York City in the 19th century? We must catch this—thing—before its concupiscent ways (as with most over-breeding foreigners) lead to a vast reduction in our native grouse, quail, and turkey populations. (Oh, wait—we've already taken care of that.)

A final, totally serious aside: in the last year or two, I've noticed good numbers of an other introduced immigrant, the Eurasian Collared-Dove, in both eastern and western South Dakota, rapidly expanding its range from the southeastern U.S. (It had only become an established U.S. resident, in Florida, in—1982!) I'm not sure how native Mourning Doves are going to be affected by this interloping cousin; all I know is that this new bird's wheezy, jay-like ehn ehn is just plain creepy. (For some reason, I'm reminded of the then-utterly-alien, ironically incongruent strains of "Gary Owen," as played by Custer's men on their way to Black Kettle's camp.)

* RADIO RANT: "The man that hath no music"

Michael Savage was harping on the 60's hippies movement again last night (5/22/07), as the major impetus of contemporary liberalism—itself the ruination of the nation. As a true conservative, Savage even asserted that Plato was right in kicking all the poets and musicians out his his ideal Republic. (An overgeneralization: music of certain less "emotional," more "rational," modes [scales] would still be allowed, if I recall. But no doubt the modern "blues" scale would be verboten.) Plato was "on to something," Savage continued, because artists (read: liberal artists) have always been dangerous to "family" values and social order.

But if you've read Plato's Republic, it's pretty clear that this conservative utopia borders on a police state, run by philosopher-kings whose claim to a greater rationalism is only rivaled by certain contemporary radio-talk-show hosts; social order would be maintained by a military class (the "brawn" to the elite rulers' "brains"), who would keep the workers in line, since this third class could only be mindless bundles of emotions & appetencies (cf. the "lower animals" in Orwell's allegory).

Yes, by God, I'd keep Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix out of the ears of such masses, so easily turned by metaphor and melody. Let them only read (if allowed to do so) lame treatises in support of the party line: this is Savage's true calling, after all, to provide the propagandistic accoutrements for a latter-day politbureau; and as in Stalin's day, such soporifics would be officially dubbed the only "good"—because "true"—art.

Finally, it was rather strange that Savage put forth—uh—Joan Baez?? as the epitome of 60's aesthetic radicalism. The bourgeois coffee-house drivel that was much "folk-rock" of that day was already smug co-optation, the kind of the stuff Savage himself probably enjoyed at one time. I prefer(red) "hippie" music that employed a distortion pedal, at least; but that, too, was quickly co-opted, as "Purple Haze" became a bumper tune for Rush Limbaugh—and (later) Metallica, a musical segue for the Savage-meister himself {1}.  [Impromptu Quot. of the Day: "You know you're gettin' old when your favorite teen-age-rebellious rock anthems start showin' up as background music to car & ketchup commercials." --TCG]  So, really—NOT TO WORRY, Mr. Savage: the radical artists that you fear have damned little chance to "corrupt the morals of the youth" when the youth are corrupted from the crib already, interpellated into the Law of the Father from day one. . . . Quot. of the Day:

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.
    --Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice 5.1)

{1} In fact, one wonders why all that speed/goth/death-metal bumper music is allowed in the great "Republic" that is the "Savage Nation"—a rabid, visceral, arational subtext that rather deconstructs the message of this man who dons a mask of reason.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

* God's "Lesser Creatures"

So there I was, listening to CNN today, as two Christian theologians fought it out: an ultra-conservative evangelist combatting a "progressive" pastor who believed in global warming, etc. Kudos to the latter. However, the latter's seemingly positive phrase, [in defense of] "our lesser creatures," is so totally Biblically hierarchal & demeaning that it makes one wonder if any brand of Christianity can ever be truly eco-egalitarian. . . . (Ditto you, Mr. Coleridge, and your damned "Mariner" poem, with its moralizing conflation of—yet still implicit distinction between—"all creatures great and small.")

* RADIO RANT: Conservative Literary Criticism

Kipling's "If" is not a "great poem": it is wretched didacticism, a series of bromides & anodynes set to verse.
I see that I have been truant in my role as chief tormentor of Michael Savage. (Well, I'm sure that plenty of others wear the same mantle, so I don't worry unduly in this regard.) But last night (5/18/07), "Doctor Savage" raised my hackles once again, in praising Rudyard Kipling's "If" as a "great poem." "If" is not a great poem: it is wretched didacticism; "If" isn't even poetry, really (in the post-Coleridgean sense of the word): it's a series of prosaic bromides and anodynes set to verse. (Frankly, I would think that even most college freshmen today have more "taste" than to put up the poster-art of such verbal schmaltz in their dorm room.) Savage's judgment is no doubt colored by his fond childhood memory of having memorized this doggerel in school; it certainly isn't based on any accepted criteria of literary criticism. (The criterion that a fine work of art should have a "good, moral message" went out of fashion a century ago. But this was probably due to the onslaughts of amoral liberalism, Savage would no doubt claim.) The good Doctor did acknowledge that Kipling was ultimately criticized as a blithe spokesperson for British imperialism, but Savage couldn't fathom how being such a spokesperson is an—uhm—bad thing. (Rather, he ironically goes on to boast about how he's imparting "greater knowledge" to his listeners, about poems and such.)

To go beyond Savage to better objections to my objection—yes, recent critical theories of alterity (e.g., postcolonial theory, feminism, queer theory, and ecocriticism) ARE political/ethical stances in their own right, liberal & idealistic defenses of the "underdog." As a poco/eco-critic, I am inordinately conscious of my own ideology, as but one aspect of a multitude of contemporary discourses—NOT as the norm that sets itself up as a theo-philosophical "Word" for the rest of the world, as Savage's nostalgia about (and deification of) his smugly-content-because-blindly-monolithic Euro-American classroom & neighborhood of a half century ago does. (Boy, that was one god-awful sentence I just wrote.) "IF" only, Mr. Savage: "IF" only you could look at the "Other" and be more able to better see yourself. . . .

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

* Bad Bird Bandits

I had the great pleasure of an afternoon/evening at Fran K.'s last Sunday, a wonderful antidote to my utterly mundane urban existence, a place outside of town that reminded me of childhood summers at my grandma's in the small town of Ft. Pierre, SoDak, Grandma Mollie's old house a mere block away from a deliciously "uncivilized" slough and three blocks away from the Missouri River (sans tourist traps).

The human conversations were entertaining as well. But at one point, my wife told the story of Blue Jays robbing a House Finch nest on her front porch. And I felt half-brained & incomplete, in not being able to quote Robert Francis's moving retort of a poem, called "Blue Jay." So here it is [Quot. of the Day]:

So bandit-eyed, so undovelike a bird
to be my pastoral father's favorite—
skulker and blusterer
whose every arrival is a raid.

Love made the bird no gentler
nor him who loved less gentle.
Still, still the wild blue feather
brings my mild father.
    --Robert Francis

The subsequent conversation involved rationalizations regarding "nature's way," etc. (I even referred to Darwin myself, if I recall.) But I was too tongue-tied/brain-dead to bring up "intuition's way," my own identification with the vultures & corvids, etc., of our ecosphere. And so this poem.

* RADIO RANT: Christian = Jew ≠ Native American

Yet another conservative talkshow host, Michael Medved, didn't let me down this early morning in his irrational close-mindedness. To the possibility that GW Bush might actually sign onto some federal "apology" to Native Americans, Medved was vociferous in his opposition. As is my wont, I only listened for about ten minutes—the most I can handle of these people before I want to put a revolver to my temple—but I was surprised how even several of his "fans" actually called him on such insensitivity. He ultimately retorted, in disdain: "I don't hate Indians. I hate multiculturalism."

Hmmm. And yet you a member of a minority group, Mr. Medved? (He's Jewish.) But you are for "monoculturalism"? Which would thus be an ultimate erasure of any Jewish ethnic identity? . . . Medved reminds me of another Jewish conservative, "Dr. Laura," who eternally conflates Christianity & Judaism into some moralist melting-pot that would rule the universe—some essentialist "right way of behaving" that all good Christians & Jews adhere to—to the detriment of any cultural difference between even, oh, say, Irish Catholicism, and Utah Mormonism, and Hassidic Judaism (and common sense). . . . In sum, in trying to deny the Native American any historical "exceptionalism," Mr. Medved, you've denied your own heritage, too. (Or, just as bad or worse, you've claimed that your heritage is the norm for all humankind.)

And of course, your argument is ultimately an attempt to erase any guilt regarding Euro-American colonialism per se. "We—uhma—SAVAGES, Mr. Medved, outside your—ughh—enlightened morality. Save—ugha-ugha—us! (And teach us, above, all the fine sophistry of employing theology to support true asshole bourgois materialism!")

* RADIO RANT: Snipe Hunting—Irony of Ironies

I was just listening to The Jim Bohannan Show (7/14/07)—usually the most innocuous of (semi-)conservative talk shows; but his final segment on a birding competition brought up an old complaint of mine that must be vented once again. Jim's "final segments" are inevitably several-minute amalgams of the worst, most unoriginal puns imaginable on some "everyman" story of the day and, given how great a role birds play in the metaphoric discourse of humankind, you can well imagine how the lame banter went. . . . Now, one attempt at verbal play was that, well, at least these crazy birdwatchers weren't partaking in "snipe hunting," or some other just as ludicrous pursuit.

I grew up in the northern Great Plains, among hunters and others who know & admire hunters & hunting, and I can't tell you how many times someone has told me the grand joke that is "snipe hunting" (see Wikipedia, or whatever, if you don't know the details of this summer-camp-esque prank, based upon an imaginary bird in the woods). And yet every one of these souls who told me the story, knowingly, with an ironic "wink-wink," had no idea—I am sure—that there is indeed such a bird as a snipe, or that snipe hunting per se is actually an—uh—"sport." (I saw my first Wilson's Snipe when I was nine or ten, along the Missouri River, just outside of Fort Pierre, SD. But to most people, the snipe may as well be a Phoenix, or a Roc.) My psyche both lives and dies through ironies such as this—both revelling in the sheer irony per se, and despairing at the ignorance that created it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

* "Back in the Day"—of the Internet

Back in my day {get off the grass, punk!}, when the Internet was young—the early 90's—there was email, there were USENET groups (of specialized interests), and there were web pages written with the textual content paramount—since graphics, etc., were pretty bandwidth prohibitive. It was then that a person {get off the grass!} measured his/her words, to make them worthy verbal entries in a Brave New Digital World; it was then that "written" discourse (if you will) still mattered. {Get off the grass!} Sure, acronyms soon became rampant (e.g., ROTFLMAO) and type-emoticons were popular (   :-{  ). But, given the bandwidth investment, an email was often more an essay than some toss-off casual affair, and a web page was an original contribution to the world of knowledge, not a mere digital appendage to a capitalist enterprise, or a report to the world on one's children and pets.

Now I can barely READ my email, without a plethora of misspellings, comma splices, et al. (and oh, yeh—sex for sale). Now I can't access a web site for information purposes, without gaudy & mindless graphics, commercial banners (and misspellings & comma splices), etc., etc. {Get off the grass!} Supposedly, the democratization of the 'Net has been a good thing—that is, if Fortune 500 companies and pornography are your forte. They're not mine. {Get off the grass!}

So—humankind IS the "rational animal"?! Some sociologist should do a content analysis of email spam and/or web pages to document once again—what Nietzsche & Freud already well knew—that we are ultimately arational and, above all, animals.

And then there's the irrational stupidity of the boxing match I just saw on ESPN2 tonight: a "bloody, brutal TKO win!"—as the announcer said . . . and I loved it, ANIMAL that I am. (But isn't this also the human sacrifice that many of the world's religions require?)

* Tornados and Fires and Drought—Oh, My!

Gaia lives! (And "she" is pissed.)
Uh, listen to the news—er, the WEATHER—and tell me that the planet Gaia is not angry with us all. . . . (Go ahead and call this statement a personification of an inanimate being; I don't. There is more "animism" in the universe than was ever "dreamt of in your philosophy," Mr. Dead-Matter Business Man.)

* Mormon = Christian? = ?

A new poll out today (regarding Romney's candidacy) says that a good third of Americans don't believe that Mormons are Christian; another third do; and another third don't know/aren't sure. This correlates well with my own experience with college undergraduates, who—Christian or not—have little notion of the history of (even Western) religion. Thus I often get comments from well-meaning Protestants that not only are Mormons a wacko non-Christian sect-of-a-nut-job, but so are—Catholics! (And never mind any knowledge of the history of Protestantism.) Maybe I'm thankful that I don't get so many student essays quoting the Bible as their only source anymore—but maybe not: this new generation of Christian irrationalists seems to have acquired its entire ideology from parents and conservative media—and they have little idea of the actual tenets of whatever sect they adhere to, short of "I'm anti-abortion," "I hate faggots/queers," and "I'm 'agin' all that evolution-monkey talk." (Recall that, at the recent Republican presidential-candidate debate, when asked who DIDN'T believe in evolution, three of the ten old-white-males actually raised their shaky, Bible-toting hands.)

Likewise, my students also have written me, on occasion, that the Lakota Sun Dance is an inhumane cruelty of a ritual—usually the same students who claim that The Passion of the Christ is one dang fine edifying movie. . . . (I remember that at least one Christian web site was selling commemorative "spikes"—to be worn around the neck—during this movie's heyday; I also recall that I didn't buy one, however tempted. [Wait, my wife did buy me a cheap "facsimile" thereof for my birthday or Christmas—it was "so kewl."])

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

* RADIO RANT: Metaphors Are a "Rush"

Readers of this blog (BOTH of you, and both related by blood or marriage, I'm sure) may be surprised that a certain R. Limbaugh has hardly come up in my frequent "Radio Rants." Well, he's been on the radio so long that his shtick has lost all its shock value; moreover, he's so obviously a shill & "water carrier" for the Republican party line that he seems passé to even some other conservative talk-show hosts. (Savage, for instance, irreverently calls him "Lush Limbo," or something of the sort.)

But, busy on the computer the other day, I endured his opening for a few minutes before changing the station. And I was taken back to the late '80's, when I first heard him, and when I first wondered, "How can people who are fairly articulate actually think this way?" But his shtick hasn't changed a bit, as he still rehearses his formulaic intros: here I am, the Great Limbaugh, with "talent on loan from God"; and—by God, I can stick it to you godless liberals with "half my brain tied behind my back." Now, I admit that the refrain "talent on loan from God" is semi-tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, as is the in-your-face egoism of the "half my brain" phrase. And I won't even rail, for once, against the current "Sea of Faith" that, to my deep chagrin, inundates my daily consciousness. But I will get to my point, then: "half my brain tied behind my back" is an utterly ridiculous, botched figure of speech that reminds me of Joyce Kilmer's "Trees" poem, and Cleanth Brooks' marvelous critique of its awful series of mixed metaphors. The point of a metaphor is to make more "real" & concrete & sensual a more abstract concept. But just try to visualize half your brain bound behind your back. Rush, you better get that other half of your brain back in your "head"—the right half, I assume, which more righteously handles analogous thinking—and start using it, rather than letting it remain an idle appendage dangling somewhere down your backside. . . . (Maybe then you can feel some empathy for others who aren't cigar-chomping white male capitalists.)

Monday, May 7, 2007

* "The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold"

These are four [reduced in size] photos from this January's snowstorm in Lincoln, NE, of a Dark-eyed Junco, a Blue Jay, a Northern Cardinal, and a European Starling (damned immigrants!). I'd laid out a "ground feeder" on my 3rd-floor-apartment balcony, and the juncos were there a good 50 minutes out of every daylight hour; their ten-minute absence?—usually a Blue Jay or two insisting upon a morsel. The photos are so murky because 1) it was usually overcast, and so poor lighting (but for the junco pict); and 2) my patio-door window was/is filthy!—and it was too wretchedly cold to leave it open. (Talk about "through a glass darkly": I feel an extended metaphor for my own existence coming on, but I'll resist. . . .)

* RADIO RANT: "All Praise, American Woman"!

With Mother's Day coming up, some local morning talk show fellow mentioned "American Woman" as a song glorifying good ol' U.S. womanhood—that's why it's also such a popular song on the 4th of July, he added. (I didn't know this, if true.) To his credit, the fellow noted the irony of the fact that it was written and popularized by a Canadian band, the Guess Who (in 1970; their guitarist went on to form another popular band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive). To his discredit, he (and apparently many Americans) have never listened to, or understood, the song lyrics, which pretty much slam that "American Woman," and tell her emphatically to "stay away from me." One might cleverly argue that this is ironic, too, that the fellow really loves her desperately and is "protesting too much." However, the following lyrics belie such a possibility [Quot. of the Day]:

I don’t need your war machines—
I don’t need your ghetto scenes—
Coloured lights can hypnotize—
Sparkle [in] someone else’s eyes—
Now woman, get away from me—
American Woman—mama, let me be—

Now there's a song fit for a 4th of July parade. . . . So: play along! (preferably, w/ a little "tube-screamer" fuzzbox effect)::::

B5 D5 E5 D5 E5
4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

Sunday, May 6, 2007

* "Oh, Pioneers!"

Regarding the Kansas tornado, George W. Bush said this morning that "[t]here's a certain spirit in the Midwest of our country, a pioneer spirit that still exists. . . ." On the one hand, one must feel sorry for those East-Coast people who never got the "spirit" (paralyzed by some old-world ennui, perhaps) and for those West-Coasters who got all the way to the Pacific Ocean—and to the blunt-dead-end of Manifest Destiny. (Bummer.) On the other hand, the Native American in me feels rather appalled by such an ongoing discourse of imperialism, a celebration of a pioneering spirit that was thoroughly complicitous in land-grabbing and cultural genocide. Indeed, I must confess to being none too proud of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's relatively recent change to a new slogan: "Pioneering New Frontiers." And so here is my editorial from the Daily Nebraskan (March 2004):

In response to [Professor X]'s critique of those who are unhappy (as I am) with UNL's new tagline invoking "Pioneers," I would first readily acknowledge that the "American" in both "American Indian" and "Native American" is a thoroughly Western linguistic imposition. But the whole issue of naming and identity politics boils down to Audre Lorde's perception that the colonized, in any debate regarding political justice, are stuck with the "Master's tools": i.e., the language (English) of the colonizers—the pioneers.

And of course, "Indian" is a complete misnomer for those peoples on this continent before Columbus's—uh—pioneering voyage. But it was the Euro-American discourse accompanying all subsequent pioneering efforts to the "New World" that interpolated the native as "Indian," and (I would argue) "American Indian" and "Native American"—all linguistically enforced identities that the native has had to adopt by necessity or has been relegated to an ontological void. In sum, following Gerald Vizenor, the "Indian" (and "Native American") was and is the recuperative creation of a Western worldview insecure in its "pioneering" and "progressive" venture of land theft and ethnic cleansing.

Professor [X] wonders, "Should the Sioux change their name ... ?" Well, in line with my main argument—and as a Lakota myself—"Sioux" was never the name of the Lakota, the Dakota, or the Nakota: all three tribes "changed their name" long ago. If the Lakota Standing Bear nearly a hundred years ago employed the term "Sioux," it was as a necessary obeisance to the "Master's tools," the awareness that Anglo society would only recognize him as a person through this god-awful Anishinaabe-French-English appellation. (A viable remedy in "naming," then, might be to refer to each indigenous people by the best English transliteration of their native name [Lakota, Dine, etc.]—and lose all this "Indian" and "Native American" nonsense altogether.)

But as for "PIONEER": yes, one can find completely innocuous denotative definitions thereof, but [X]'s own call for historicism begs one to appeal to the cultural-historical context. Close your eyes, and IMAGINE a "pioneer." I would think most people of the United States, and especially the Great Plains, might well picture a prairie fleet of covered wagons, or Lewis and Clark, or some lone white explorer surveying the plains from the highest butte available. Denotative definitions are fine, but it is the connotation, the undercurrent of ideology, that carries the day.

"Perhaps these insensitive people [others who already protested the slogan] should change their name [emphasis added]," Professor [X] says by way of conclusion. Or perhaps other insensitive people should change their worldview, which continues to see the "unknown"—including the human and natural Other—as eternally fit fodder for conquest.

P.S.: I feel the same way towards recent blithely positive academic conferences concerning "homesteading."

Friday, May 4, 2007

* Human = Rational? (redux)

In the Republican debate last night (5/3/07), Rudy Giuliani stated that Iranian President "Ahmadinejad is clearly irrational." Uh, by Western standards. Uh, but even by "Western standards," how rational has U.S. foreign policy been? (And as for "rational," as for "REASON" itself as a bogus Western project, Derrida has already laid all that to rest. . . .) In sum, Giuliani's statement means nothing, connotes only irony, and falls off the cliff of "rationalism" upon which it so precariously pretended to perch.

Oh, by the way, it's also another fine example of Said's "Orientalism," in which the non-Westerner is othered as a less-than-"rational" being. (Now where's my cell phone [referring to the just-previous blog entry]? I gotta call someone about this, as self-and-other acknowledgement of my very existence. . . .)

* Cell-Phone Youths

In response to my wife's blog entry, on the subject of new technologies and student communication (oh, there's a picture of her there: "pretty hot, for a wasicu (winyan), en'uh?"), I would like to comment upon the cell phone as an pretty much an entirely novel habitus. This techno-phenomenon has created a whole new sense of "place" for, say, the college students on this campus—and for me. Besides being personally irked by the person behind me yelling "Tom"—and turning around to see that the person is talking to a "Tom" on the phone, I must note that, in general, the cell phone has created a strange breakdown of "borders," a weird going-public w/ one's own personal life. For instance, I can recall at least two instances, in the last year or so, of students sitting on a campus bench or stoop, bawling their eyes out w/ phone to ear, obviously having just learned—on their cell phone—that a significant other has just died. (Hey, in "my day," we at least had the courtesy of doing that initial mourning in the privacy of our homes.) More petulantly, I also can't get over walking into a campus bathroom and hearing a student talking on his cell phone while he was taking a shit. It was bad enough that I knew of such multitasking: my biggest question was—did the person on the other end know it?!

I guess my biggest/general beef is with the erasure of any time "alone," and/or with one's immediate environment. I can understand necessary calls; I can't understand how 2/3's of the students on the UNL campus seem to have to have a phone (or iPod) at/in their ears at all times—as the cardinal and catbird are waxing eloquent with their wonderful courtship songs; as the trees themselves "stand" for something more wonderful than all human discourse. . . . That's what I have trouble stomaching in this whole botched human scenario.

(Yes, I have an iPod myself—but I use it mostly as a backup for my iTunes and iPhoto[s]. When I need to "crank the [I]tunes," headphones thru my PowerBook work just fine, thank you. [Geez, I sound like such an old fogey.])

Thursday, May 3, 2007

* Republican = Religious

The Republican debate tonight was, in part, a love-fest of religious "faith": as Mitt Romney put it, "everyone who's a person of faith holds values deep in the heart," whether one is Mormon, Catholic, etc. But I know that such a grand "blanket" hardly covers the Lakota on the Rez doin' the Sun Dance, or the "pagan" deep ecologist, or the Wiccan, all of whom "worship" the natural processes that maintain this planet. I, too, perceive the wonderful mystery that is the cosmos around me every day—and feel awestruck—and treat my fellow humans and other species accordingly; but I suspect that such a "religion" doesn't count in the quarters that are a Republican primary precinct. But then, they called P. B. Shelley an "atheist" (and he had to call himself such, as a youth), who was, I would claim, one of the most truly "spiritual" people of his day. . . .

* "And I'm, LIKE, . . ."

The interminable, like, use of like as, like, an interjection is, like, a simile for a society of, like, simulations.
Quot. of the Day:

The interminable use of like as an interjection is, like, a simile for a society of simulations.
    --TCG [from a March 2005 journal entry]
(In sum, it's an unconscious deconstruction of one's own identity and reality? In my best Eric Cartman voice: "kewl.")

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

* Literature = "Lies"; The Shortest Epic Ever

Quot. of the Day:

All literature: the left brain's lame attempt to verbalize (and so botch) the right brain's non-verbal truths.
    --TCG [based on a February 2004 journal entry]

. . . And so I appreciate all the more the following poem—the shortest "epic" ever written (quoted entire):

Book I: Oh, Goddess[,] help me sing of Nothing.

Books II-XI:

Book XII: Thanks a lot.

    --[(20th-c.) anonymous poet]

* RADIO RANT: ELLinois & SAYRicuse

Another sportscaster bugbear of mine is the pronunciation of college names. I'm not even qualified to comment upon the regionalist phonemic vicissitudes of (the Universities of) Missouri, Louisville, and New Orleans; but what does bug the hell out of me is how Illinois so often becomes "ELL-uh-NOY" and Syracuse becomes "SAYR-uh-KYOOZ" in mainstream sports-media discourse. Maybe some new "great vowel shift" is occurring that I'm unaware of, and maybe even the majority of the people at these institutions/places actually pronounce them this way, but it still grates upon the mind's ear. . . . Hmmm, the phrase "ELLinois and SAYRicuse" is so lilting that it begs for a song lyric; e.g.—

DAH-duh-DAH—gotta pay their dues
At ELLinois and SAYRicuse—
—but who's got time to even pick up the guitar (then GarageBand) nowadays? . . .

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

* Of Space and Time

Moving to a larger town makes you realize how much one's "geography" is based upon perception & subjectivity. Those few days/weeks driving in Lincoln (NE)—why, it took forever to get anywhere! . . . because I was noticing every little novel thing. But a few months later, and hell, that 10-mile drive to Wal-Mart takes no time at all. It's habituation: one simply stops paying attention. . . .

From space, then, to time: just so is the "habituation" of childhood to adulthood. As a kid, everything was so new and full and vibrant—and it seemed to last forever; but to the adult (for whom the "world" has been "too much with us," for whom the "glory & the freshness" of those first days have fled), time itself goes so much "faster," as whole decades fly by the "driver" who scarce bothers to look out the car window anymore. [based on a January 2004 journal entry]

* RADIO RANT: Beck & G.M.; Savage & Reality

I imagine a smoke-filled caucus room in D.C., of Democrats hunched around a hookah, muttering, "We gotta get outa 'Nam, man."
Glenn Beck, conservative compatriot of the "let's pooh-pooh global warming" movement, had to tread gingerly as he did an ad for one of his corporate sponsors yesterday (4/30/07). It seems that General Motor's new PR campaign emphasizes its enviro-friendliness, its great number (a relative term) of new vehicles that are flex-fuel capable and/or get > than 30 mpg. Beck's distancing from the (original) campaign's obvious attempt to address the global warming problem led to such embarrassing waffling as "For those who believe in global warming"—well, shucks, folks, these are the cars for you! Beck's own tone thus became a rather strange New Critical rhetoric of ambiguity and tension, as if unsure how far to take his own eternally cutesy ironic tone regarding a product/message payin' him the big bucks. (Of course, and maybe more disingenuous yet—given Beck's brainwashed listenership—GM probably doesn't even mind such waffling. . . .)

But at least Beck is semi-amiable in his non-pretentiousness. Michael Savage's tirades against the "Left" last night found him in especially fine form. For one thing, I don't even know what to make of his assertion that "[m]ost Democratic politicians are using psychotropic drugs"—if not "marijuana," then at least pharmaceutical depressants, etc. (Thank God Rush L. got off the pills so that Savage can't confuse him with the "mental illness" that is liberalism.) I imagine a smoke-filled caucus room in D.C., of Democrats hunched around a hookah, muttering, "We gotta get outa 'Nam, man—I mean—Iran. Er, Iraq. Yeh. Iraq. . . . Hey, Doritos and brie go pretty good together!"

But this is all status quo for Savage, a mere toss-off by the "good Doctor" that he can perform on auto-pilot. What really set me off last night was how his intolerance & hypocrisy achieved a notable crescendo that epitomized his modus operandi. He defended his own right to be controversial (indeed, incendiary) by giving his brow-beaten audience a lecture on "FREEDOM OF SPEECH"; and "if you don't understand that [concept], you can move to Somalia or [another third-world country]." (Your tolerance, Michael, of my freedom to question your definition of "freedom of speech" is stunning.) Furthermore, the ACLU and other seditious liberal activists "need to be thrown out of the country." (Ah, we'll have true freedom, then—an oligarchy of reactionary talking heads & their dittohead acolytes.) Hmmm. Psychotropic drugs are startin' to look pretty good right now. . . .

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