“‘Bad Luck Banging‘, or ‘Loony Porn’, the Romanian director Radu Jude’s exuberantly rude and bawdy new film, is a movie about us. Or rather, it’s a comedy about our world: how we live under surveillance, with diminished boundaries, plagued by conspiratorial thinking and multiple pandemics—virtual as well as actual. As if tossed in a bottle, Jude’s message arrives from an obscure corner of Europe, albeit one that as of last November was suffering the world’s highest per capita death rate from Covid-19. Romania is another land where vaccine hesitancy has mutated into a political movement. The leader of the country’s vaccination effort told The New York Times that this is a result of widespread disinformation: ‘Fake news has a huge influence on our population.’ In the same article, Alina Bargaoanu, a Bucharest communications professor who studies Internet-driven conspiracy theories, explained that many of them originate in the United States and are given particular credence because ‘Romania is a very pro-American country.’” J. Hoberman
“Yet my team’s research at the Stanford Internet Observatory suggests that the conspiracy theories pervading conversations about COVID or politics typically originate with Americans, and they spread because enough Americans want them to. Although some foreign agitators do play on the fringe of some hashtags, they are seldom the primary drivers in the public conversation. If flooding social media with propaganda is an act of aggression, Americans are our own worst enemy.” Renée DiResta
“Fire’s sheer destructiveness and capacity for spectacle make it dear to censors, as exemplified by two of the most infamous cases of book burning in recent centuries. The first comes from the United States, where in 1873 Anthony Comstock persuaded Congress to enact laws making it illegal to send lascivious materials through the mail. As a postal inspector, and with the help of mobs associated with his New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, Comstock claimed to have burned 160 tons of obscene literary material in the forty-year period following passage of the so-called Comstock laws, as well as illustrated playing cards, sex toys, marriage guides, and abortion and birth control devices. The second example is the notorious Nazi bonfires in 1933 that turned to cinders and smoke hundreds of thousands of books, including “degenerate” works by Marx, Mann, Proust, and Einstein. Both at the time and subsequently, this was so widely condemned that it seemed no one would dare to repeat it, or at least would not film and display it to the world. And yet in Chile, forty years later, that is exactly what happened after the coup against the democratically elected president Salvador Allende. Watching television in September 1973, I saw soldiers casting books on a smoldering pyre, among which was my own ‘How to Read Donald Duck’, an experience that helped convince me, as it has authors over the ages, that it was necessary to go into exile lest I endure the same mistreatment. Heinrich Heine expressed it best in 1823: ‘Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.’ Eight years later, he went into exile in Paris to escape German censorship.” Ariel Dorfman
“The danger of such unbounded liberty and the danger of bounding it have produced a problem in the science of Government, which human understanding seems hitherto unable to solve. If nothing may be published but what civil authority shall have previously approved, power must always be the standard of truth; if every dreamer of innovations may propagate his projects, there can be no settlement; if every murmurer at government may diffuse discontent, there can be no peace; and if every skeptick in theology may teach his follies, there can be no religion. The remedy against these evils is to punish the authours; for it is yet allowed that every society may punish, though not prevent, the publication of opinions, which that society shall think pernicious: but this punishment, though it may crush the authour, promotes the book; and it seems not more reasonable to leave the right of printing unrestrained, because writers may be afterwards censured, than it would be to sleep with doors unbolted, because by our laws we can hang a thief.” Dr. Johnson on Milton’s ‘Arepagitica’
“I think you should acquire a taste for opera, Robin, as one does for poetry and olives.” Batman
“Oh, woe is me, To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!”
As of last week our new cat, Blofeld has been living with us for six months. Over the course of that time he’s been communicating with us and he’s proven to have a pretty good grasp of human language. It’s been said that most dogs and cats can understand English as well as a five year-old. Given his conversations with Mom we’ve come to the conclusion that his vocabulary is about the same as a college freshman’s.
OK, from a state school, but still…
Last week I followed Blofeld at a distance to watch him carefully examine each and every door frame. Not that we have any idea what he was thinking, but at least we made a written note of it.
Yes, a written note lest I forget. You see, life has taken some turns not the least of which was learning that the place I’ve been getting my hair cut for the past 25 years is closing as the owner is retiring to Lake Havasu City, AZ where he will emit puffs of steam after his many, many years of living in Seattle. This leaves me with no choice but to eventually visit one of the countless hipster barber shops that have sprung up over the past 10 or so years. The day is coming where I will have to make small talk with Josh or Jeremy who command a variety of styles that range from Heinrich Himmler to Ross Perot.
Compounding matters was an email from someone I have not seen in almost 50 years. He’s now retired and ready to catch up. “Catching up” includes, from what can been gleaned from his emails, driving around the country in his new motor home to see family and find out what happened to the people he knew in the third grade. This creates the specter of a Winnebago pulling up in front of the house and finding him at the front door wanting to, in the parlance of my people, “Find a place to set and do some visitin’!”
You know, the curb is lovely at this time of year.
The next item from the inbox offered no relief. Sent by the relatives, it was a collection of memes that had been put together in America’s Bayreuth, The Villages. Alaska Wolf Joe found the note disappointing, given the note’s origin, as there were no political items. The whole thing was largely composed of the old lady in sunglasses from the Hallmark cards firing off one knee-slapper after another about constipation and high blood pressure.
There’s distraction we can all do without.
And BTW – if you’re wondering where the title of this post came from – originally this post was to examine The Right’s clueless obsession with popular culture especially the new attempt to try to come up with a parallel set of children’s programs to offset the programming shoved down our throats by that woke vermin, Mickey.
But that’s all out the window now for obvious reasons.
“NEVER CALL ME THE LEADER! I AM MERELY THE EMERGENT MANIFESTATION OF THE WILL OF OUR COLLECTIVE DISORDER!”**
There are a couple of valid takes on history that never get mentioned much. The first says that the tenor of any given century does not begin on January 1st of any year ending in ’00.’ Secondly, Henry Kissinger once said that more history is made by the Bismarcks and not the Napoleons as the Bismarcks are the ones who put many things in motion which then lead to the Napoleons.
Or something like that.
Over the past several weeks the unlikely alliance of Vladimir Putin and Samuel Alito managed to bring forth the tenor of the 21st Century. Of the two it would seem that Alito is the Bismarck in question or at least he’s the one who has created the Archduke Ferdinand moment in our culture wars.
Several people have coughed up the idea that Alito wants us to have it out once and for all. It’s time for the electeds to get off their ass. If he really is agitating for America’s shit-or-get-off-the-pot/rip-the-bandaid-off-fast showdown he makes a good point. There’s no end of state reps who, in every election season – like clockwork- turn out press releases affirming the sanctity of life and marriage while making the rounds on the rubber-chicken circuit talking about they’re working like dogs to get the government off your backs. Then after being re-elected they return to their cozy two- or four-year naps on the floor of the legislature.
Think of it this way – for such a hot button issue why does abortion get treated like something we stashed in a far corner of the garage that only comes out when the season’s right?
Maybe it really is now or never.
Meanwhile such brinkmanship shoved the punditry into overdrive wondering, how did we get to this point?
In a wholly separate matter – a couple of weeks ago AWJ sent this tiny passage from Rick Berman’s Tale of Two Utopias which lead me to consider how we got here.
the student uprisings, the building occupations, marches, strikes, battles with the police, the insurrections that were sexual, feminist, and gay, the bursts of ecological passion, the noisy entrance of the first mass of African-American students into the previously segregated American universities, the slightly crazy effort to raise insubordination into a culture, to eat, dress, smoke, dance differently . . .
The quote brings up 2.5 points that I’ve long been thinking about.
– Reagan’s election brought forth various affiliated folk intent on making it look like the 60s never happened. Such stalwarts (e.g. Falwell) were going to see to it that all the genies would be put back in their bottles. Over 40-some years that hasn’t happened so now it’s up to two branches of our government to make sure that all the libertines, hippies, and perverts are eradicated from the public square.
– Back when Dubya was president I wondered if the day was coming when we’d have our own Cultural Revolution. Sooner or later I thought the conservatives would reach a point where they were going to go around demanding fealty among the ranks.
Put another way – could The Right eventually try to rid itself of backsliders, revisionists, and lackey running dogs?
Well here’s two words for you – Liz Chaney.
The .5 of an idea came at 6 am while finishing up an episode of Dragnet while waiting for the morning cartoons. The words “insubordination” and “culture” from that quote really pull together everything thing we’ve experienced since Jack Kennedy was elected. But I’ll save it for another time.
SPOILER ALERT: It pits Timothy Leary against Jack Webb as the Dionysian and Apollonian forces still at work in our society.
Right now I’m waiting for UPS to bring a package. I’ve order a piece of clothing to wear after the Republicans take control of the House and Senate. It will work much like Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility. Once I put it on I will be pass through large crowds without being noticed or creating any suspicion.
Let me know if you want one.
While we wait let’s all tap our toes to one.
* From Beta Testing the Ongoing Apocalypse by Tom Kaczynski