Apparently the Ohio Republicans are in the Bertholt Brecht Room at the convention. I’m not sure if I should be horrified or amused. Probably amused.
from Lapin Lapin
by Coline Serrau
[Lapin makes his way to the front of the stage.]
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to make you my monologue. I love my mother very much, I love my father very much, and my brothers and sisters too, I’m very glad I’ve landed in this family, they’re very nice to me, it’s really as if I was one of them, they’re even quite sure that I am.
I arrived here in a spaceship and the ethers injected my fertilized egg into my mother’s womb one day when she was fast asleep with her legs apart. Like a breath of fresh air, an invisible puff of wind, I entered her and grew, feeding on her.
I still don’t know why they sent me here. But I see everything that happens with the eye of a stranger. I have powers, but I’m not using them for the moment. One power I have is that I see everything. This completely changes the way I feel for people.
For example I know the cure for every illness, for every misfortune. It’s horrible, it’s as if it was written in white chalk on a blackboard in front of my eyes. And I also see written on this blackboard that for the moment it wouldn’t do any good if I were to tell these cures.
So I observe their misfortunes in silence, I watch them grow and flourish like beautiful plants and I don’t tell their cures. You, out there in front of me, I’ve learnt you. One day it may perhaps be written on my blackboard that it will do some good to tell these cures.
And now I can see something written on my blackboard that is a bit useful for me to tell you. The cataclysms that are going to descend on this planet won’t bother anybody. There’s nothing interesting for the ethers here. They already possess your resources. They observe you, and they don’t have any feeling for you.
The big difference between them and you is that they know they aren’t the center of anything. And now I can see it written on my blackboard that it won’t do any good to say what I still could say, and nor will the last thing I said mean anything. Right, I’ll go to bed. My love to you all.
I played a game of checkers with spare change today at Brewed Awakening on one of the square-tiled tables that extend like teeth from the south wall of the coffeehouse. I haven’t played checkers in years, so it was a bit difficult to remember good strategy, but I had a particularly stunning three-jump capture, including a newly-kinged piece of my opponent. Actually it wasn’t a King, it was the Proletariat. In the end, true to life, Marx was toppled like the stack of pennies that was his representative.
We had to play checkers because we lacked the coins to play chess (one side heads, the other tails). Our favored coin-to-piece assignment is:
Pawn — penny
Rook — nickel with a dime on top
Knight — nickel with a penny on top
Bishop — penny with a dime on top
King — quarter
Queen — quarter with a nickel on top
In total, $1.27 per side, which is a bit steep, but the chess set comes rife with symbolism.
The nickel is the thick weight of cultural expectations and mores. The queen is weighed down with the nickel, but it is this burden which makes her strong. The penny is the common person, the Public, pawns in our struggle. The knight then is a person elevated, riding atop the cultural expectations. It is not a glorious position. Regular movement in the straighforward manner of pawns is forbidden. Instead the knight is shifty, representing an individual who manipulates culture and dodges responsibility. The dime symbolizes religion in its multifarious forms. The bishop, high in the hierarchy, uses religion to oppress and keep down the people. The rook represents the high tower on which religion places itself as the arbiter of cultural mores.
As you can see, with this symbology we can see chess for what it really is. It is not a mere game with which to pass the time, but a model for the clash of contemporary societies, slaughtering pawns in an eternal struggle for the board, which in the end is an empty plain, devoid of the corpses which are conveniently whisked away at the instant of death.
UPDATE: spelling fixed — sometimes I wonder what all this “education” was for.
Brad DeLong’s murmurings on Richard Ben Cramer’s book, How Israel Lost, makes it sound like just the book I need to read to better understand the underpinnings of the divestment debate that Ranjit pointed me out to. I can just add it to the queue of books I suppose…
1. Speaking In Tongues I (Sheila Chandra)
2. Kanonen-Song (Kurt Weill)
3. Fit But You Know It (The Streets)
4. Gallop of a Thousand Horses (Kronos Quartet)
5. Head Rush on Lafayette (David Holmes)
6. Midnight In a Perfect World (DJ Shadow)
7. O Fortuna (Carl Orff)
8. The Girl at the Typewriter (Raymond Scott)
9. Seed 2.0 (The Roots)
10. Hang On St. Christopher (Tom Waits)
11. Take Me Home Country Roads (John Denver)
12. Mustang Sally (The Commitments)
13. Summer Song (Dave Brubeck/Louis Armstrong)
14. the pennycandystore beyond the el (Leonard Bernstein)
15. Promenade/Gnomus (Modest Mussorgsky/Vladimir Ashkenazy)
16. Ana Ng (They Might Be Giants)
17. P.P. (Picolo Pesos) (Ornette Coleman)
18. Fugue in C minor, BWV 847 (J.S. Bach)
19. Ain’t Nobody’s Business But My Own (Ella Fitzgerald)
20. Oh, Good Grief (Ellis Marsalis)
21. God Bless The Child (Billie Holiday)
22. Madness (Deltron 3030)
23. Fitter Happier (Radiohead)
24. I Am Superman (REM)
Via Ranjit’s new blog, Cultural Sabotage, I read this article from ZNet. I don’t always find myself agreeing with ZNet on a lot of issues, but they frame the debate in more interesting ways than most “mainstream” publications, which don’t seek to have a debate. What follows below the fold are disorganized first impressions on the topic of academic boycotting of Israel, and is likely to be riddled with self-contradicting statements.
Why is it that terribly uncomfortable situations happen in the kitchen? Is it because the proximity of sharp knives lends an subtle threat of violence to the air? Needless to say, I am highly tempted to retreat to my corner of the house and hide there until the coast is clear.
I learned a new word today from Inequalities, by Hardy, Littlewood, and Polya (definitely on my wishlist): an analytic complex function f(z) is “wurzelfrei” if it has no zeros in |z| < 1. Note that a wurzelfrei system may have an unstable inverse if it has zeros on the unit circle.
As if we didn’t know enough already, Mugabe wants to ban human rights workers in Zimbabwe.
The bill requires non-governmental organisations to apply for a licence, but says none will be granted if the group’s aim is to promote human rights.
I’m pretty much speechless on this one.