Monday, September 15, 2008

Swimming in it

I feel like I'd have nothing at all to blog if I didn't read Jay's blog, but hey, such is life. I'm moving Friday. Life is insane, but in a good way.

So yeah, Jay linked to David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, and it's quite brilliant. Go read it. It starts like this:
Greetings and congratulations to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.
The rest of it is just as great. And if you're still hungry for more, Harper's has a DFW archive online.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Q: What do Lysistrata and Little Red Riding Hood have in common?

A: They were both on the wanna-be-banned book list from our favorite Alaskan, Sarah Palin. By now you've no doubt read about Palin's failed attempt to purge unwholesome influences such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Whitman from the Wasilla stacks. You can read the full list here and join me in a full-bodied sigh.

(Thanks to Jay Bushman for the link.)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

So much work to do

And yet, I cannot pull myself away from the train wreck.

This must be how Republicans feel all the time.

More on the kakistocracy's femme du jour

Thanks to Colin for the link to Sam Harris' op-ed piece on Palin in the LA Times. I know I should just tell you to go read it, but I don't trust that you will, so here is the part that made me guffaw:

McCain not only has thrown all sensible concerns about good governance aside merely to pander to a sliver of female and masses of conservative Christian voters, he has turned this period of American history into an episode of high-stakes reality television: Don't look now, but our cousin Sarah just became leader of the free world! Tune in next week and watch her get sassy with Pakistan!

Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the "Who would you like to have a beer with?" poll question in 2004, and won reelection.

This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism. Let me put it plainly: If you want someone just like you to be president of the United States, or even vice president, you deserve whatever dysfunctional society you get.
That line, "This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism" is certain to recur in my consciousness more times than is healthy.


Everyone else is already saying what you know I'm feeling about McCain's running mate choice--that it's delightful to watch the Republicans making ridiculously stupid choices.

So just to lower the level of discourse a little more, here are a few linguistic notes:

  • Yesterday during a conversation about Palin's pregger daughter, Nick let me know that "Bristols" or "Bristol City" is Cockney slang for "titty."

  • Then later in the day, my sister sent me an email telling me that she went to a neighborhood party and was surprised to discover her neighbors were all Democrats. "We had a blast Palinizing," E wrote.

  • Stephanie Miller is Calling Palin "Caribou Barbie."

Best knitting project ever

Craftzine's How to Knit a Dissected Rat
(This almost makes me wish I could knit.):

Via tinyblip