Tuesday, June 29, 2004


If you see something in the media, assume that it has been deceptively altered to be more interesting:

“Serdyuk had known for a long time that most of the foreigners he encountered on the streets of Moscow were not foreigners at all, but petty trader riff-raff who’d scrabbled together a bit of cash and then tarted themselves up at the kalinka-stockman shop. The genuine foreigners who had multiplied to quite an incredible extent in recent years had been trying to dress just like the man on the street, for reasons of personal safety. Naturally enough, most of them got their idea of what the average Moscow inhabitant looked like from CNN, which in its attempts to show Musovites doggedly pursuing the phantom of democracy across the sun baked desert of reform, showed close ups of employees of the American embassy dressed as Muscovites because they looked a lot more natural than Muscovites dressed up as foreigners.”

Victor Pelevin “Moscow Dynamo”

Thoughts on the Source of Wealth

If it wasn't for my grandfather's supreme skills in business your ancestors wouldn't even have had jobs in the first place, and it is for that reason I will continue to cut you off with my SUV.

"In our society there is a standing antagonism between the conservative and democratic classes...between the interests of dead labor -- that is, the labor of hands long ago still in the grave, which labor is now entombed in money stocks, or in land and buildings owned by idle capitalists -- and the interests of living labor, which seeks to posess itself of land and buildings and money stocks"

Emerson “Napaoleon; or, The Man of the World” p. 501 Modern Library 1940


Hospital walls should be painted jet black. It would make the world a more interesting place.

Maybe it is just because I am immersed in a particular demographic, but it seems like there are so few people who have health insurance. As this site points out, the people who are not poor enough to get insurance from welfare but not lucky enough to have a job with benefits are the real losers in this situation.


Clarence Darrow's Autobiography

Old words, but suprisingly relevant to a few:

“If there are still any citizens interested in protecting human liberty, let them study the conspiracy laws of the United States. They have grown apace in the last forty years until today no one’s liberty is safe. The conspiracy laws magnify misdemeanors into serious felonies. If a boy should steal a dime a small fine would cover the offense; he could not be sent to the penitentiary. But if two boys by agreement steal a dime then both of them could be sent to the penitentiary as conspirators. Not only could they be, but boys are constantly being sent under similar circumstances.”

-Clarence Darrow “The Story of My Life” 1932 p.64

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Death of Howl

Recently I have been hearing a Wendy’s commercial on the radio that uses Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” in a (supposedly) clever way to sell hamburgers. This is a perfect example of capitalism’s ability—for better or for worse—to assimilate dissension.

The music industry is a good place to see this mechanism at work. The art has been taken captive by economics, and for a band to “make it” in their mind they must play music that is within certain parameters, like being family friendly and three to four minutes long. Even music that seems to be rebellious (and this is the very worst kind) really is not. An example of this is mainstream heavy metal, which is a safe, family friendly genre in many respects. It sounds like metal, and it smells like metal, but when it comes to down to it there is some core aspect missing—namely, an edge and a relevant message. For a while there it looked like Hip Hop was going to be a vocal form of protest that would lead to change in our country, but anyone who has seen the never-ending “Big-Pimpin” like videos knows that this is no longer the case.

Victor Pelevin, in his satire of the new Russia titled "Homo Zapiens" points out many things about capitalist society that we miss since we have lived in it our entire lives (it is not critical of capitalism, just observant of it). One comment he makes is about his character Tatrsky's encounter with a Che Guevara T-Shirt: "On the piece of cardboard under the tee shirt it said ‘Bestseller of the month!’ There was nothing surprising about that –Tatarsky knew very well…that in the are of radical youth culture nothing sells as well as well-packaged and politically correct rebellion against a world that is ruled by political correctness and in which everything is packaged to be sold.”

Part of this process is something that happens naturally; just as certain phrases become clichés over time and therefore meaningless. I do not think most people realize the reason why cliché’s are so bad. They are bad because they become meaningless and fail to convey a thought in the way they use to. When we hear something like the phrase “I do not want to put my job on the line,” we do not think about it in the same way a person would if it was the first time they heard it. It merely means, “risk my job.” We no longer imagine the metaphor. The same process happens in art. When this does happen, enterprise aids in the process and is quick to assimilate it.

My point is that we need to keep innovating to stay ahead of industry. If the industry takes a poem like “Howl” and uses it on the radio, then we have to write new poems to get our messages across. If industry assimilates something as rebellious as heavy metal, then we must make new music, until that too, is watered down for fourteen-year-old girls.