Friday, August 01, 2008

No Mourn I Thee!

I love reading reviews, & I especially love reading reviews that disagree with my opinion. I think they round out my views, because often someone hates a part of a movie, a book, an album, that I totally didn't notice or didn't really care about. In some cases, really good criticism causes you to think about your own criticism, in the same way that open-minded religious folk will compare & contrast different belief systems when confronted with someone else's faith.

& I am not averse to labels - sometimes they're the best way to get you in the door of the small room of understanding. So I'll describe music as "indie pop" or "post-punk" & it's fine as far as it is - although you can sometimes get into trouble with folks who hate that. Describing Pere Ubu as post-punk, for example, might make someone who knows the timeline correctly note that, actually, Pere Ubu began before punk. But in that case, it's not necessarily a chronological description, it's about a sound... But never mind.

Yet I am just as liable as everyone else to be put off by specific labels - labels which are like warning signs about thoughts or ideas I don't agree with. A book I was really interested in reading, which apparently has been getting decent reviews, was described in a negative review as being funded by a "neoconservative think tank." It turns out this is true, the author got a grant from a neocon group. I immediately began to lose interest. Then I started to think about what this made me think about the author - did I believe this person was so weak-willed & greedy that he'd produce whatever the right-wing group wanted him to produce? Did I imagine it always happens this way, money trumping free thought?

I certainly believe every human being has his or her price, & that it's always embarrassingly low. But my point in bringing up criticism is this: if I can read different opinions & not be swayed away from my own, why couldn't I read something from someone who had no affiliation with a deluded money pit but who took the cash offered him? Even if he were corruptible, I'd at least have some information to consider. (& this person is a scholar, not a right-wing blowhard who's better known for being on television or on the corporate dole.)

It may be because he is in fact a scholar with some well-received books under his belt. I personally can't stand what can best be described as the Jerry Springer school of heated debate - it's just too sad to hear someone talk about what they think about the government or god or society without really having any information to back up their idiotic assertions.

I experienced a great bad example of this on the recent 30 Days episode about same sex parenting. A retardedly religious woman opposed the gayness of the two obviously good parent gay men, & neither side bothered to ask her just why homosexuality offended her so. They took it as read that her religion opposed man-on-man action (& though she was a Mormon, she could easily point to the Bible's anti-gay stance) & she just said she opposed it. It was a waste of a very long hour.

A simple chat with anyone who's actually studied the Bible would've made her look like a fool for blindly parroting homophobe talking points. & the same goes for the gay men - their "live & let live" attitude is relativistic quicksand. A slight change of the wind in our nation & their kids are taken away & they're locked up in camps to "cure" their gayness. They may be buoyed by gay liberation's astonishing successes in the last decade, but they haven't really paid attention to how tenuous freedom is. You think they'd know better.

Ah well. What's that? You think I am writing all this to avoid making my show for tomorrow, which is about avoidance? Nonsense! You're only saying that because you don't agree with me. Say! Who funds you?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Link Cookies, a pram

Say! This is a Thursday. Do you have anything Thursdayish to tell me? All you ever do is stare at those schematics. It gives you a vaguely vacant look, like a supermodel or a heroin addict taking a driving test. What he gave you wasn't so much criticism as a meager expression of disappointment - & could you blame him? Every time someone tries to get through your defenses, you circle your wagons. "I'm a rough draft," you say. As if that means anything outside of the newspaper trade!

We were reminiscing about growth & hitch-hiking when, out of the blue, you-know-who started asking for volunteers. I was eating a banana at my steel guitar lesson & no one seemed to be thinking of me. That's when I thought of you - all the time & energy put into the wrong receptacle. Like someone using Google to spell-check. I confess I never learned barre chords for this very reason.

I expect you're wondering why I dally, why I make conversation like this if there are hard feelings. Time to time I do think there aren't so much hard feelings as flaccid feelings. Feelings that can't get hard unless there's chemical help. You should encourage these feelings to stiffen up. It might make you feel a little more Thursdayish. Or able to conceive Thursday thoughts. It would be worth your time.

Some sample Thursday thoughts:

- Christ in a bucket called fish, will this day ever end?
- Of all the Thursdays in the world, why did this Thursday have to be the last day I am allowed to work here?
- This morning... This morning is not good enough.
- Did the Vikings leave more than their teeth marks on the coast of Scotland? Why or why not?
- It's only a fire on the porch. Go back to bed.

I look forward to next Thursday. Although not for the same reasons you think I do. Do I?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Whither Avoidance?

Was Bartleby a shirker? An essay by Tommy Titmouse, age five.

In re-reading Melville's seminal short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener," with my little brother Timmy, I am bemused at the total inability of the titular character to understand even the minutest basics of the capitalist system. Indeed Timmy, who has only begun reading Marx's Capital, grasped the inherent dynamic between personal freedom versus market forces. Bartleby, by proclaiming with terse vapidity his opposition to any ideas of his own, comes across as a layabout, a wastrel, a slacker, & a shirker.

Can we, in these days of nation-transcendent corporate interests & transformative free trade, afford to allow the labor force to so blithely renege on what is assuredly a social contract? More information would be required, of course, & it would be helpful if perhaps Melville had provided ancillary documents, like Bartleby's resume, & perhaps commentary from previous employers. Yet if we are to believe in the maturation of the employed through incentives that only the market can provide, we must empathize with his supervisor's boundless optimism in utilizing someone who surely came with more caveats than praise. When business fails, it can rarely be said to be from the sanguinity of the owners of the means of production!

How to prevent such unhappy outcomes in the labor force? Surely a system of rewards coupled with healthy slogans, perhaps from the works of Adam Smith, would suffice for the average earner. But Bartleby was worse than a Luddite; a wooden shoe thrown into a cogwheel would be more fundamentally fixable than a stubborn dolt refusing to do his work! & unemployment is frankly too generous for the likes of Bartleby; when a hireling causes profit loss through non-cooperation, the punishment ought to be more severe.

Perhaps a critic of my polemic might say, "Didn't Bartleby suffer as you would have him do? Did he not die?" Ah, but he did so first by breaking the law (a right surely reserved only by the most international of consortiums) & then requiring a social network (ie, the police & the criminal justice system) to shelter him as he destroyed himself! As the late Charlton Heston might have said, a firing squad (in an event publicized & attended by his fellow scriveners) would have been quicker, cheaper, &, I daresay, more just.

Indeed, Bartleby was a shirker, & his sorry tale should be as a parable for all who wish the wheels of industry to run smooth & true. I rest my case.

Adds little Timmy Titmore, age three & a half: But Bartleby was cool!

Damn it Timmy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Preface To The Avoidance Show: How Can I Get Out Of Writing In My Blog Today?

A note from Gary's mother:

To those nice people who read the increasingly ridiculous Self Help Radio blog:
Although he no longer lives at home, my son Gary is not well today. He woke up with a bad taste in his mouth & a bad outlook on life. He refused to eat his sauerkraut & sausages for breakfast & looked a little green under his gills. Even though it's been at least two decades since he's had to attend high school, he missed his bus & refused to hitchhike as I always tell him to do. Instead, he went back to his room & crawled under his covers, curled into a fetal position, & refused to tell me he loved me like he should if he really loved his mother.
Therefore he's not able to write in his blog today. He's not getting any dinner either.
Gary's Mother

(It'll be harder to avoid writing in this tomorrow...)

Monday, July 28, 2008

That's Not My Cat!

For the sake of enjoyment, just refer to Friday's Self Help Radio Blog entry (which is below this one), & replace every reference from a "hat" to a "cat." Hilarity will most certainly ensue.

Here's an example rib-ticking entry:

I described my cat & even included a photograph in the ad in which I mentioned I had lost my hat. This looks nothing like the photograph. Granted, the photograph was in black & white, on newsprint, but, even so, here - look! - this is the picture of the cat, that is the helmet-like headgear object you are attempting to return to me

Do you see? A cat is nothing like a hat, which creates absurd incongruities which can only make one laugh!

Please note, while this works with most things that rhyme with hat (cat, rat, mat, gnat, vat, bat, DAT player), it generally doesn't work with things that rhyme with cat which are not nouns (like fat, unless you mean the animal products some gross people cook with) or even past tenses of verbs (like spat, unless you mean the thing that horse riders put on their boots). The absurdity is diminished by the incongruity. It is funnier to think of someone mistaking one thing for another thing instead of someone mistaking one thing for a quality. No one has that kind of sense of humor.

Well, you've certainly taken all the fun out of this exercise. If I were you, I'd just forget all about this & mosey over to & listen to this past week's show, which is about whales. No more of this hat-cat-chat-drat stuff. You obviously don't have as refined a sense of humor as I had heretofore believed. Hrrummph!