The Lindisfarne of The Snark Ages

“As I said before, the April 19 debate between Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Žižek is a great waste of time. Žižek, the philosopher, exists on a planet that has a pretty close relationship with reality. Jordan Peterson, a self-help guru, exists on a planet that glows only with the fantastic and sheer power of willing things to be so no matter what the reality. But the debate is going to happen. Žižek, who used to be one of the great philosophers of our times (if Alain Badiou is our Plato, then Žižek is certainly our Socrates), has decided that something or other will be achieved by this Toronto encounter with the self-help guru. And so, what I have to say in this post is much like the transformation of matumbu to maguru. In Shona, the former is the guts of an animal (in this case, that of a cow), and the latter is how you cook them into something edible. To get from one to the other, you pull and wash the crap out of the matumbu. The whole kitchen smells during the process.” Charles Mudede

“This isn’t to say there wasn’t something sinister in the air. As I was entering, a group of beefy dudes started wondering if there were going to be any agitators. One of them kept taking quick glances to see what I was writing in my notebook. While a fair chunk of the audience was there due to intellectual or, at least, ironic curiosity, the Peterson fans began to stand out. A huge tell, a friend noticed, was of course posture: ramrod straight as if they had just been rapped across the knuckles by a grumpy nun. A strange phenomenon is how many dressed like him; tie and a blazer, skinny dress pants or dark-washed jeans ending in nice, pointy shoes. Peterson and his flock all dressed like I did the first time I went to a wedding after making a little bit of money, like, ‘Look at me, I can dress nice now, look at my pointy shoes.’” Jordan Foisey

“It’s just marketing, but it’s worked astonishingly well. It lets a company like Disney, nearing monopolistic status in the film industry, pretend to be victimized by minor dissent. And their fans are such obsessives that they weaponize themselves in its defense. Disney doesn’t need to pay critics to give their films good reviews. Critics will do it for free, because who wants to be the one guy who isn’t on board? Who wants to be the bully? Certainly no one wants to be inundated with cruel and vindictive comments. I’m not saying that every critic who writes a positive review of an Avengers movie isn’t being genuine. But the culture Disney has built for us makes it harder to write a negative review than a positive one.” Ester Rosenfield

“Before social media, people watched the TV shows they liked. If you tuned-in and didn’t find it amusing seeing Hillbillies in Beverly Hills, you changed the channel. If you didn’t like watching a soap opera with pretty people in a hospital E.R., you didn’t watch it. But today, there is the phenomenon of hate-watching–– willfully viewing something you don’t like just so you can bitch about it and be snarky in social media. What’s up with this? I confess, I’ve engaged in this practice. I hate-watched my way through the second half of the second season of True Detective, then posted my sly criticisms on the Facebook playground where other hate-watchers joined the feeding frenzy. We chased this show like it was our white whale, throwing harpoons and riding it to the horizon until it died. What did this say about us? Nothing good. It said we were cultural bullies, trying to win favor with others with our clever, snide barbs. What does it tell marketers about doing business in the social media age? It says now everyone has a voice and a megaphone to broadcast it, and you better be prepared to take on all opinions–– even those of the comic book store guy in the weeds. It’s not pretty. And the worst thing you can do is try and control the conversation. People are going to say what they’re going to say. Oh, and going back to TV viewing habits, some of us were amused by Jethro Bodine with his rope belt and impressive fifth grade education who knew his guzintas. ‘One guzinta two, two times. Two guzinta four, two times…’” ** The Empathetic Ad Man

“The center was not holding. It was a country of bankruptcy notices and public-auction announcements and commonplace reports of casual killings and misplaced children and abandoned homes and vandals who misspelled even the four-letter words they scrawled. It was a country in which families routinely disappeared, trailing bad checks and repossession papers. Adolescents drifted from city to torn city, sloughing off both the past and the future as snakes shed their skins, children who were never taught and would never now learn the games that had held the society together. People were missing. Children were missing. Parents were missing. Those who were left behind filed desultory missing-persons reports, then moved on themselves. It was not a country in open revolution. It was not a country under enemy siege. It was the United States of America in the year 1967, and the market was steady and the GNP high, and a great many articulate people seemed to have a sense of high social purpose, and it might have been a year of brave hopes and national promise, but it was not, and more and more people had the uneasy apprehension that it was not.” Joan Didion

“Nothing is more despicable than the old age of a passionate man. When the vigour of youth fails him, and his amusements pall with frequent repetition, his occasional rage sinks by decay of strength into peevishness; that peevishness, for want of novelty and variety, becomes habitual; the world falls off from around him, and he is left, as Homer expresses it, to devour his own heart in solitude and contempt.” Dr. Johnson

The Memorial Day Weekend is upon us which means this page has been around for 20 years or rather I’ve had one page or another similar to this for about 20 years. A writer given to more luxurious and romantic prose would go on and on about grand travels only to return to one’s roots in the same way Luke went back to the original temple or how Superman went back to that North Pole timeshare he splits with Santa. Truth is, and you’ve been witness to it, such comparisons would be like putting lipstick on the lead singer of a German heavy metal band. Therefore, for the purpose of this exercise, we’ll stick to a rudimentary and straightforward posting.

For those of you just tuning in – the word “blog” is a manufactured contraction of the term “blurb log.” The original blogs fell into a category of what could be called “LOOKIT what I found!” pages. Those pages were an offshoot of a bookmarking program which Netscape abandoned in the late 90s. If you’ve ever picked up a copy of Harper’s and seen their Index page then you have a pretty good idea of what the original blogs looked like. A couple of the LOOKIT! pages still exist (e.g. MeFi and Boing Boing) but for the most part blogs moved on to being long winded textual affairs.

To honor that spirit and note this page’s 20th year we’re going to get a little blurb-ish for a minute.

“A man named Stephen Blackwood, a philosopher, defender of the private sphere, and potentially an aristocratic werewolf came out to introduce the pair.”

Alaska Wolf Joe watched all 2 hours and 40 minutes of the incredibly well hydrated Zizek-Peterson debate. (Above) He said the following was a very accurate description:

Jordan Peterson sat in front of an open laptop and a field of San Pellegrino bottles, his legs crossed and fingers splayed across his chin, in a pose that seemed to say, “I’m thinking so hard right now.” When he spoke, he paced and bounded around his podium, his fingers constantly poking at and prodding at the air, or he would hunch over, his face pained with torment as if the marvels of his ideas were just too much for a man to bear.

AWJ’s takeaway – “We’re doomed. They both agreed on that.”

But “a self-help guru?”

Damn, that’s cold.

Going Forward –

1. I’m all done talking about cryptocurrency. Soon the folks keeping track of such things at MIT will be done too. Around the start of this year their daily crypto news letter became weekly and recently it’s dropped to twice a month.

Why?

Because the newsletter started to read like a summary of teen drama played out in the crowded high school lunchroom. This one can’t get along with that one, somebody else felt slighted and/or snubbed and now half of them aren’t talking to the other half while the crypto prom (featuring 50 Cent and Snoop) is right around the corner.

Until or unless it becomes less painful to read the crypto stuff is going in the crypt.

2. There will be no lengthy examination of Modern Monetary Theory. (MMT)

Because it is crap.

Most of the people who encounter MMT get all bent out of shape over its central thesis that government deficits and surpluses don’t matter. At best it’s a knee-jerk reaction which misses the much larger problem with the theory.

MMT’s prima facie argument cannot be wished away. Starting with the premise that all currencies are fiat currencies (I.e. Nixon took us off the gold standard in 1971) then governments can spend as they please and print more money and everything will be fine.

OK, but if that’s the case then what is the point of taxes?

Unless there’s some secret Hooterville Rothchilds out there, the average city, county, and state governments can’t just print their own money to spend as they see fit. Also there’s the strange case made by the original MMT theorist Warren Mosler. Mosler says – flat out – taxes are only needed to create incentives for businesses to operate. If it weren’t for taxes we wouldn’t have the industrial bounty we have to day. If it weren’t for taxes Og would never have discovered fire, the Romans wouldn’t have conquered half the then known world, and we’d all still be living in caves.

Sure must be nice to be you Mr. M.

“How’s the wife? Is she home enjoying capitalism?” Zippy

(Above: Somebody Alaska Wolf Joe calls, “Dragon Hillary Clinton.”)

Spent time talking to a couple of business associates this past week, one said, “Did you know last week’s MacGyver had more viewers than Game of Thrones?” To which the other gent said, “I haven’t see GoT or any of the Avengers movies, I’m so out of touch with the monoculture.”

The Monoculture, that is a phrase I have no heard in a long, long time.

Years ago you could go backpacking in a cave for a month or spend the summer lallygagging in a swamp. Upon your return all you had to do was pick up a copy of People and you’d know what was in and what was out, who got married, who got divorced, and what the next big thing was. While I can’t find any proof that Mac outdid the Thrones people it proves one point my associate made – there’s no social media hype machine built up around MacGyver. Certainly the question, “OH MAN, DID YOU SEE MACGYVER LAST NIGHT?” used to be heard frequently among fifth graders c. 1988.

Today?

Not so much.

As GoT wound down there was much talk about how it was the last hurrah for the monoculture as the finally allegedly gripped the public’s attention.

Which brings us to:

DISCLOSURE: Alaska Wolf Joe has watched one episode of GoT which is one more than his parents have watched. Per him – calling her Dragon Hillary Clinton is something that’s been running around Millennial circles for months – a larger metaphor for drone strikes in the Obama years followed by her failed election attempt. Other than that we don’t know anything about the show as it did not interested us.

Why?

Speaking solely for myself it’s all about the time I spent watching Lost only to have the final episode cough up a rendering of Sister Eugenia’s first-grade catechism lecture on Limbo. Yes, Limbo because I am so goddam old that I was in the target demo for Sister E’s talk which was firmly rooted in the old school Vatican-I -Baltimore-Catechism teachings. Limbo, or Purgatory as it is now known, is a mid-range existence that is neither Heaven nor Hell. You could get stuck there for all Eternity or you could get out with some karma/dharma kinda effort which would get you a cheap nosebleed seat in Heaven. But you have to really, really watch your step in Limbo because the place is just overrun with unbaptized babies.

You see, your soul is just like a bottle of milk that has just been left on your porch by the milkman, pure and white with the sun sparkling off the lovely clean glass of the bottle that holds it. But when you sin it’s like putting a drop of ink in that milk.

Right about there Alfonse Edward ‘Sonny’ Paturzo blurted out, “Ink in milk? That’s dumb!”

I’d like to think that what followed didn’t leave him with a physical scar. (Granted, he did walk with a limp for a couple of days, but then who hasn’t?) His monumental mistake in interrupting Sister Eugenia while she was passing along the very core of Church teachings was so great that his other two offenses, not raising his hand to be called on and failing to stand by his desk while speaking, were set aside.

Sister E’s follow up was the old one about making room at your desk so your guardian angel could sit with you and that’s about all the last episode of Lost had going for it – it never asked me to sit on the couch so my guardian angel could have the Lazy Boy. Otherwise it was a two-hour recap of The Wit and Wisdom of Sister Eugenia minus Sonny’s theological effrontery.

Therefore rather than watch and bitch we have chosen not to watch anything with zombies, stranger things, or thrones. Instead I do the dishes or screw around with the laundry which are pretty much my version of monastic devotions. Mom will the first to tell you that if were on my death bed it would come as no surprise if I said, “I can’t go now, I have stuff in the dryer!”

Speaking of getting older –

The Adventures of an Elderly Contrarian: Please Children, Enjoy the Vast Expanse of My Lawn

Setting aside Sonny’s limp nothing says he escaped having any emotion or psychological scars. (Who knows?) After all these years he could have grown a figurative callous over his wound and wound up being what AWJ calls “emotionally constipated.”

Or maybe it comes with age.

All I know if everybody my age or thereabouts is constantly running their respective yaps about how the kids are on their phones all the time listening to that damn rap hop music. Look at ’em, no matter where they are they’re on their phones listening to that rap hop music. Now where they get that rap hop noise? From their phone, you can bet on that.

I’ll save my lecture on the effect disruptive technologies on the physically and emotionally constipated for another time.

You’re welcome.

When I was a kid I took no end of shit off my elders for my hair, my clothes’ and the music listened to. Back then I swore when I got old I would not repeat their constant nagging unless some kid did something that might bring me physical harm. So if the kids are constantly on their phone listening to th’ rap hop then it’s no skin off our respective pock marked, wrinkled, varicose-vein streaked noses.

Know what?

That’s not important now.

For the rest of the summer the rest of the family will be undertaking an long term project which will result in the right jaunty hat I should wear now that I’ve lived long enough to be an old guy going about town in a jaunty hat or cap.

Newsboy cap? Greek fisherman’s hat? Bowler? Straw boater? LBJ Stetson? Or maybe one of those big-ass Billy Jack motherfuckers?

So many possibilities.

Or maybe I’ll settle for a haircut like Till Lindemann’s.

Mr. L is the gent behind the microphone in this throughly NSFW video which highlights the tension between letting people enjoy things vs. those who would differ.

** NB: Mr. Bodine went on to finish the sixth grade and was also capable of doing what his uncle called cypherin’. (i.e. “Naught goes into naught naught times.”)