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April 26, 2005

On reading Thomas Friedman again
Posted by Teresa at 03:46 PM * 30 comments

I was right. Thomas Friedman is indeed one of those rare enlivening bad artists who inspires better writers to bouts of splenetic eloquence. What better proof could you ask than the following poems, written upon the occasion of my previous post?

The first, by John M. Ford, from the comments thread:

Much have I travell’d on the feet of gold,
And many tumbled walls and maidens seen,
Round many horny Africs have I been
Which bards like bosoms in their welkins hold,
Oft of a spare expanse had I been told
That fence-swung Homer looked on as demesne;
Yet never did I breathe its mountains clean
Till I heard Friedman speak out uncontrolled,
Then felt I like some Cousteau of the skies
When a new bubble undermines his ken,
Or sack-like Falstaff, when with precast eyes
He stared at echoes—and his fellow men
Harked back in multitudes like single spies
Silent, past their peak in Darien.

The second came in the mail from James D. Macdonald:
On first looking into Friedman’s Flathead

Much have I travell’d by commercial jet
And munched betimes upon a Cinnabon;
Upon my iPod listened to Don Juan
Which I downloaded from the wireless ‘Net.
I did not understand the ‘Nineties lore
Of Windows systems and of Pizza Hut,
How one was opened and the other shut,
Till I heard Friedman speak in metaphor.
Then felt I like a steroid in a vein:
Jose Canseco on a level field,
Whose random thoughts of glory and of pain
Were like an ice-cream sundae all congealed.
The moral is, when put by words in train,
That which does not exist can’t be revealed.
This becomes interesting. If it continues, Friedman may conceivably hope to someday outdo Gene Steinberg as one of the Muses of Eloquent Indignation.

Only time will tell.

Addendum: Jonathan Vos Post has weighed in:
Friedmandias

I met a traveller from the New York Times
Who said: ‘Two vast and Lexus legs of stone
Stand in Bangalore. Near their paradigms
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And open Windows, and sneer of the Berlin Wall,
Tell that its sculptor often ate at Pizza Hut
Which yet survive, stamped on this Lilliput,
T.I. that mocked them as ephemeral.
And on the plinth by this Michelangelo—
“My name is Friedmandias, king of the IPO:
Look on my prose, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing coherent stays. Round the decay
Of that steroidal wreck, boundless and bare
The level playing fields stretch far away.’
Those who prefer their inspired indignation in the form of prose may appreciate Ademithopur’s Venting at Cinematic Rain:
a commenter cited this little excerpt from a review of Mr Friedman in the LATimes book review, which set me off, hence the need to vent. my apologies
”’ Friedman recounts that he first realized the extent of these changes recently at the KGA Golf Club in southern India when his playing partner pointed at two shiny glass-and-steel buildings and declared, ‘Aim at either Microsoft or IBM’.’
IIRC, nearlymore than half the indian population is under the age of 25, a good number of whom live in abject poverty.

i seriously doubt that there are enough jobs at any level in IBM or MSFT or all the software startups in the world combined to satisfy such a vast labor market (250 freaking million jobs over the next 15 years, to keep up with population aging). the reason that people are pissed is because the MNC’s have this Massive advantage in the labor market and are abusing it thoroughly, making employees work crap hours for marginally higher pay. these are the ‘haves’ btw. the have-nots are pissed because they have no avenues to get a piece of this action.

i am from south india. my cousin works for HP in B’lore. i visited him this past december. i also visited chennai and hyderabad. there are a lot more poor, hungry people in india than there are employees at HP. these people have not received any of the ‘trickle-down’ effects of globalization. the situation is pretty standard for a developing nation. rich get richer, poor get bent over and penetrated with a wooden spoon. the right-wing politics that held sway the past 4 years hasn’t helped at all, only causing more social rifts while failing to heal or treat the economic ones.
It makes such a difference in the language when the writer knows something.
Comments on On reading Thomas Friedman again:
#1 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 05:12 PM:

Thomas L. Friedmandias
by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Jonathan Vos Post

I met a traveller from the New York Times
Who said: `Two vast and Lexus legs of stone
Stand in Bangalore. Near their paradigms
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And open Windows, and sneer of the Berlin Wall,
Tell that its sculptor often ate at Pizza Hut
Which yet survive, stamped on this Lilliput,
T.I. that mocked them as ephemeral.
And on the plinth by this Michelangelo --
"My name is Friedmandias, king of the IPO:
Look on my prose, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing coherent stays. Round the decay
Of that steroidal wreck, boundless and bare
The level playing fields stretch far away.'

#2 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 05:29 PM:

With respect to the great Friedman's current bestseller "The World Is Flat" -- wow. He's just discovered the world of 1999...

...it's like reading a rewrite of Bill Gates' "The Road Ahead."

#3 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 05:39 PM:

Tim Kyger:

But without the insight and characterization of "The New New Thing : A Silicon Valley Story" by Michael Lewis [Hardcover, 268 pages, W. W. Norton & Company, October, 1999] which I greatly enjoyed at that premillennial time. Then the dotcoms crashed, and wiped out my retirement portfolio. I'd like to see the look on Thomas L. Friedmandias' shattered visage when Globalization 2.0 does that to him.

#4 ::: A Married New York City Math Teacher ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 09:14 PM:

I was sitting in a trendy coffee shop, drinking free trade coffee, and I was thinking about globalization.

While we were fearing it,
that is, globalization,
it came,
whistling through our keyholes like ripe poison gas despite all of our efforts to seal our homes in good Tommy Thompson fashion, and I imagine that it finally came no matter what we did,
but came with less of fear
of the unfortunate consequences of globalization for which we were waiting,
because that fearing it so long,
which we have been doing since the false dawn of the American diminuendo during the troubled days of global stagflation in the 1970s seated the expectations of declinism and global cultural commoditism in our daily lives, altogether, I think that the anticipation of globalization, as it finally has arrived, long expected and normalized in our diminished expectation
had made it almost fair.

My wife was home, trying on bespoke subcontinental saris for which she sent through the internet, and I thought, my home has been outsourced into a clothing store, because in our spare guest room on the second floor, where I keep my spare author copies which I try to sell on ebay to the uncoming global cognoscenti of the Sub-Saharan world, like in a stall at the back of SYMS, and my wife is speaking directly to a seamstress in Bangalore, and when I asked her to parse a phone order so I could use it to write an article she had in her eyes a great disappointment, because the expensive value-added part of shopping at Barney's, that is, the careful assistance of expert fitters and selectors, was no longer in our financial reach.
There is a fitting --a dismay,
because the old certainties of our upper middle class lifestyle are being ruthlessly expropriated and airmailed to Bangalore. My wife tried on another sari, and we saw our future, locked inside of a fortress-like condominium in a reeking slum, my wife in a Burkha.

A fitting --a despair.
'Tis harder knowing it is due,
Than knowing it is here.
The trying on the utmost,
The morning it is new,
Is terribler than wearing it
A whole existence through.

#5 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 11:20 PM:

There once was a New York Times columnist,
Whose prose could be summed up "opt-pessimist".
His new book said that
The world had gone flat
Which left more informed readers feeling... irked.

#6 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 11:32 PM:

Higgledy Piggledy,
Mister Thomas Friedman
Has a new theory he'd
like to expound,

Unbalanced wealth classes
Anachronisticly
Makes folks like him think the
World is less round.

#7 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2005, 08:37 AM:

Glenn Hauman: Higgledy Piggledy,

Glenn Hauman, through your efforts, my screen has been introduced to the delights of V8 Orange Soy Smootie. It would like to thank you.

#8 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2005, 05:56 PM:

Ewwwww, V8 and soy in the same thing? Ewwwwww

#9 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2005, 06:44 PM:

Not only that, but a Smootie comes in a five-foot-seven-inch glass. And you gotta finish all of it, because it's good for you.

#10 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2005, 07:48 PM:

"Smootie" sounds like a 1940s slang-word from a midwestern city for, hmmm, a partially used cigarette covered with gravy you fished out of the trash behind a diner.

#11 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2005, 03:47 AM:

Friedman, Friedman,
Mixturing the metaphors,
Earth is flat, just like his head,
It gets him in a tizz,

Friedman, Friedman,
Polishing the posturing,
Hasn't time to notice yet
What horseshit it all is.

#12 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2005, 04:21 AM:

Higgledy piggledy
Thomas J. Friedman is
Writing the words that
The right wants to hear

Knowing unfortunately
Econometrically
Right sensu politics
Ain't right 'round here.

#13 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2005, 04:38 AM:

To write double dactyloids,
Thomas S. Whitmore says,
Engages a form that
Requires much thought.

Creating such versicles
Extemporaneously
Leads to embarrasment
Often'er than not.

#14 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2005, 01:13 PM:

Higgledy piggledy
Thomas J. Friedman can
step on his tongue
when his foot's in his mouth.

Microsoft Bangalore's
globalization
can't level the playing field:
North versus South.

#15 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2005, 01:24 PM:

(bad scansion in the second/third line of the second verse, JVP; "can't" falls in the second line, and therefore kills the fun almost as completely as the need for an extra syllable in the second line of the first verse around Friedman.

Which is why I consider both of mine an embarrassment.)

#16 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2005, 02:40 PM:

Tom Whitmore:

Thanks! Then I can correct my mistaken line break thus:

==================

Higgledy piggledy
Thomas J. Friedman can
step on his tongue
when his foot's in his mouth.

Microsoft Bangalore's
globalization can't
level the playing field:
North versus South.

==================

#17 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2005, 01:37 AM:

The double dactyl requires a single word in line 6 (see http://lonestar.texas.net/~robison/dactyls.html); to the extent that I'm channeling clerihews through double dactyls, I've bent the rules by not having line two just be a name, but included in both instances a verb form as well. Which is the source of my personal embarrassment at sharing them here.

#18 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2005, 02:14 AM:

From Pope's Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot:
And he who now to sense, now nonsense leaning,
Means not, but blunders round about a meaning.

#19 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2005, 03:27 AM:

Tom Whitmore:

Thanks again. I'm not sure if we're converging, but the next iteration is:

==================

Higgledy piggledy
Thomas J. Friedman can
step on his tongue
when his foot's in his mouth.

Microsoft Bangalore's
globalizational
lev'ling the playing field:
North versus South.

==================

#20 ::: Andy Perrin finds comment scam ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 10:06 AM:

Right.

#21 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 10:32 AM:

I'll take "Identify of Citizen" for $200, Alex.

#22 ::: Nate ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2005, 02:55 PM:

Not only that, but a Smootie comes in a five-foot-seven-inch glass.

Just so that you can be sure that someone did get it, cute M.I.T. reference . . .

#23 ::: Larry Ayers ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:35 AM:

So I'm not the only one who has "issues" with Friedman's leaden prose!

Last week I posted a somewhat critical review of the portion of "The World Is Flat" that I managed to get through, at:

http://www.silphium.net/blog

#24 ::: Solomon Grundy ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2006, 06:01 PM:

Inspired by Jonathan Vos Post above, we just blogged a variation of Kubla Khan, in honor of Tom's favorite colleague at the NYT.

Here's the first stanza (the rest at that link):

In Exurbia did David Brooks
A classless freedom dome decree:
Where profs and hipsters deep in books
And soccer moms and Wasps and kooks
Could live in harmony.
Or rather, in adjacent trenches
Sorted by consumer penchants.
Each latte-drinking bobo her own mentor
In the tribal meritocracy.
For every car on Paradise Drive, an emperor
Of his condo and his SUV.

#25 ::: Xopher HalfTongue sees three spam posts in a row ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 03:24 AM:

spam

#26 ::: fidelio sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 09:50 PM:

a link to a detergent supplier, entwined with a stock insult.

#27 ::: JM sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 12:18 PM:

Probably?

#28 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 02:48 PM:

Why wouldn't you expect spam on a post about Thomas Friedman?

#29 ::: Lee sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2012, 03:00 AM:

@31

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