Archive for December, 2008

How Fiction Works
December 29, 2008

Just finished that one last night. I’m trying to figure out what to read next right now. Dubliners, maybe?

It was incredibly illuminating, especially the sections where Wood talks about metaphor and simile. But I think the book strays a little bit from its stated purpose–and starts to seem less essential–when he mounts his defense of realistic fiction as the alpha and omega of literature in the very last section. It’s a reminder that while a lot of the techniques Wood discusses are universal to all fiction, he’s still something of a traditionalist and and times his definition of what makes good literature can be unnecessarily limiting.

Still, if you like writing or you’re just an avid reader, this one should probably be at the top of the pile. It will make you write better, and it will deepen your appreciation for great fiction.


The Ghost of Tom Joad
December 28, 2008

Ali sent the above video to me late last night. The backstory is this: in 2000, Rage Against the Machine released their last studio album to date (hopefully now that they’ve reunited, it won’t be the last one ever). Called Renegades, it was basically their very own “The Spaghetti Incident?”–an album made up entirely of covers, a self-indulgent victory lap for one of the defining bands of the 90’s.

Except Renegades is really good. Some of the covers, such as “Renegades of Funk” and “How I Could Just Kill a Man” vaulted right over the source material, while the rest of them (except for a couple of duds) made you hear old classics in a new light.

One of the more interesting covers was of a Bruce Springsteen song called “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” While the original was all mournful acoustic strumming, their version was, well, a Rage Against the Machine song. I guess The Boss liked it though, or else he wouldn’t have invited RATM’s guitar god Tom Morello to perform it with him live.

Everyone Do the Neocon Shuffle
December 28, 2008

There’s not a whole lot that’s new or revelatory in AmCon’s cover story for this month, but if you want to get a clear picture of what’s going on in the neocon war room right now, it’s an excellent primer.

The second half of the article did a lot to remind of why I’m so uneasy over making Clinton Secretary of State, but I think that the vulcans who are closing ranks around her are ultimately going to be disappointed; it’s still the Obama administration, and he’s clearly more engaged policy-wise than his predecessor, meaning that it will be more difficult for members of his administration to shift the basic philosophical underpinnings of his foreign policy in any significant way. And at this point, Clinton would be crazy not to play ball.

So for now, at least, the Home for Wayward Advocates of Preemptive Warfare is probably on the other side of the aisle. Which, given that those are the guys who are out of power, is very good news for the country.

Obama’s Approach to Israel
December 28, 2008

In the aftermath of the most recent slaughter, we’re starting to see some hopeful indicators that it will be different from the Pavlovian endorsement of anything and everything Israel does that you get from most American politicians. Unlike Pelosi, Obama shied away from supporting Israel’s strike. He’s not the president yet, and so he’s still equivocating, but I’m going to take this as a hopeful sign that he’s going to treat Israel like an ally instead of an infallible SuperState.

I Want Y’all to Meet Deltron Zero
December 28, 2008

One of the things I do over break–besides trying to read all the books and watch all the movies I’ve missed–is listen to a bunch of music I missed as well.

One of those albums I’ve been listening to is Deltron 3030. The whole album is sick, but the best track has to be “3030.” The instrumentals are so epic that you basically have no choice but to swallow the premise behind the lyrics.

Hip-hop is corrupting our youth and turning them all into futuristic cyborg freedom fighters.

Old Time Religion
December 27, 2008

Here’s something I’m confused about:

Without getting into the old reductive argument about whether that massive, homogeneous entity we call THE MEDIA is liberal or conservative, it is true that the majority of reporters are fairly socially liberal.* And that makes sense; by and large, they’re big-city, liberal-arts-college-educated professionals. I’m not saying they’re all atheist homosexuals, but the ones who are probably aren’t getting ostracized by their peers.

So why is it that when it comes to the religious convictions of political figures, they expect everyone to be fucking Ned Flanders?

Our Breathtakingly Stupid Discourse
December 27, 2008

Politico says:

As the curtain comes down on 2008, it’s hard to let go. Political junkies couldn’t have asked for a better year — even news veteran David Broder dubbed the 2008 election the best he ever covered.

Greenwald replies:

Indeed. For a politically engaged person, it is truly difficult to conceive of how any year could ever be more satisfying than one marked by riveting scandals over shopping sprees, bickering among campaign operatives, and an extramarital affair of someone who, at the time of disclosure, held no political office and was running for absolutely nothing.

Is there honestly anyone outside of the Village that isn’t just relieved that this whole clusterfuck is finally over? I’d say, “Now at least we can get back to real news,” but then I remembered that the news cycle of late has been dominated by the president-elect’s six-pack and church attendance.

Look, this shit isn’t just a bothersome distraction. With a global financial crisis, a global environmental crisis, two simultaneous wars, a corroded system of government and everything else that’s going on, this is downright pernicious. If the folks who have taken it upon themselves to inform the nation don’t rediscover hard news, then we’re in very deep trouble.

links for 2008-12-26
December 26, 2008

Deep Thought
December 26, 2008

Why do spaceships in movies always have self-destruct sequences? I mean, they always seem to inevitably come in handy, but the advantages of being able to detonate your own ship at any second are surely outweighed by the risks associated with rigging the entire thing with powerful explosives. What if something catches on fire?

Conversely, even if for some reason self-destruct sequences are as common as seatbelts, why don’t the villains ever take that into account? You never hear any Klingons say things like, “Hey, maybe before we all board that spaceship, we should make sure they haven’t initiated their self-destruct sequence.” You’d think the whole “blow up my own ship” thing is the sort of clever stunt that would only work once.

And while we’re on the subject, if you really, absolutely must have the capacity for self-destruction built into your ride, you might want to consider some kind of remote detonation device instead of a loud, ominous countdown. Just sayin’.

The First Millenniposterversary
December 26, 2008

This blog has cycled through a lot of domains–I think the first one was on blogspot, a few weeks after the end of the Lamont campaign. Those intervening weeks were not good weeks for me. I was depressed and angry about the outcome of that election, and with no campaign to throw myself into, I was pretty restless. Blogging ended up being a lot more therapeutic than it was productive, especially since nobody was reading it except for my parents.

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