Art and argument. Popping fresh.
(June 2001 archive)
        Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--
Success in circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

(--Emily Dickinson)

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Making Light
(TNH's weblog)

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"Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature."
(--Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

"Just because you're on their side doesn't mean they're on your side."
(--Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

"Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die."
(--Anne Lamott)

"You will never love art well, until you love what she mirrors better."
(--John Ruskin)

"They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came."
(--Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose)

"Details are all that matters; God dwells there, and you never get to see Him if you don't struggle to get them right."
(--Stephen Jay Gould)

"For every complex question, there's a simple answer. And it's wrong."
(--H. L. Mencken)

"History is the trade secret of science fiction."
(--Ken MacLeod)

Thursday, June 21, 2001
9:17 AM: I should have mentioned this several days ago, but this weblog is likely to be relatively quiescent until July 3. I'm travelling in Britain, land of pokey modem connections and per-minute access charges. Meanwhile, do check out TNH's Making Light, now under full sail.
Tuesday, June 12, 2001
7:48 AM: Fifteen contemporary Irish writers, including heavies like Frank McCourt and Roddy Doyle, have written a round-robin novel--one chapter per author--for charity. The results are apparently somewhat chaotic, as each author strives to kill off the previous authors' characters and generally upend what has gone before. The Guardian reports on a social gathering of all the writers involved:
"I didn't kill anyone," says Marion Keyes, sweetly.

"No," says [Joseph] O'Connor, "you just threatened to gouge someone's eyes out with a melon baller."

The fruit of this high-minded collaboration, Yeats Is Dead!, is described by Amazon UK's reviewer as being not "like a book so much as a protracted pub crawl in the company of 15 hyper-articulate pottymouths." A pound from each copy sold goes to Amnesty International, so at worst it's one kind of torture to stop another.
Monday, June 11, 2001
11:57 AM: More on the invisible but profound changes happening to every aspect of our mass media. Specifically, Kevin Maroney sends a pointer to a Salon article that explains a great deal about what's happening to radio, which is particularly interesting in reference to the "payola" stuff discussed in the link posted here yesterday.
10:34 AM: Lie of the day: The New York Daily News front-page headline that, referring to the Oklahoma City bombing victims' loved ones, blares "THEIR DAY IS HERE."

No it's not. The idea that this is "their day"--the false promise that state-sponsored murder of the guilty will provide emotional "closure" to victims and their kin--is just the the latest in a long line of incoherent defenses of the indefensible. This being 2001, the argument for state murder is now made in the language of humane New-Agery. We kill the guilty in order to enable the self-actualization of the survivors. How thoughtful of us.

Garry Wills calmly rips the logic of this to shreds:

Who can deprive a grieving person of solace? This is the argument Antiphon’s prosecutor made when he demanded emotional relief for the loss of his child to an accident. Attorney General John Ashcroft endorsed the argument by arranging for the families of Timothy McVeigh’s victims to see him die. This conflicts with the logic of deterrence, since the families are not viewing the event to deter them from becoming mass murderers. If the real point of executions is to act in terrorem for other criminals, the Oklahoma families are the least appropriate audience. [...] We feel that the very existence of a McVeigh is an affront to society, a pollutant of our life, a thing we cannot be clean of without execration. But the politician does not want to be seen ministering to atavistic reactions in their raw state. So he invokes deterrence where it does not apply, or says that humane consideration of the victims’ sympathies trumps all other considerations. Seeing the murderer die, we are told, will just help the families to "close a chapter of their lives." But is this really likely? The aim of emotional healing is to bring inflamed emotions of loss and ressentiment back into a manageable relationship with other parts of one’s life. Does that happen when, for many years in most cases (six years so far in McVeigh’s case), a victim’s survivors focus on seeing that someone pays for his or her loss?

What’s more, the sterile, anodyne, and bureaucratic procedures of a modern execution can baffle the desire for revenge encouraged before its performance. Sister Helen [Prejean] recalls a man who said he wished to see more suffering, and who comes with pro-death demonstrators to all later executions. This is hardly one who has found "closure.” The eeriness of the closure language was revealed when McVeigh himself, through his lawyer, Rob Nigh, expressed sympathy for the relatives’ “disappointment” after his execution was delayed. He is more the manipulator of these grieving people than an offering to them.

Sunday, June 10, 2001
9:17 PM: A poster to MetaFilter asks why this past week's floods in Houston--a disaster of Biblical proportions--have been below the fold in the national media. Several answers follow, none convincing. But if you click through the links, you'll be impressed by the scope of this calamity. [link]
5:47 PM: Just in case you missed the new link on top of the column to the left: Teresa has started her own one of these. [link]
5:38 PM: "New York got paved in order to implement the famous Alternate Side of the Street Regulations, which predated actual streets by almost a decade. The rule, as it was formulated in the early 1800's, specified that whoever paved a piece of the city's grid could bid for towing privileges on that strip (as an incentive for paving the streets). Regulations changed from block to block and there was a continuous movement of carriages throughout the day! Eventually, the city got paved and the text of the laws was changed to refer to street cleaning operations instead. Even later, this free-market approach was changed to our more sensible Alternate Side Of The Street regulations in effect today." More of the secret history of New York City can be found here. [link]
5:31 PM: To nobody's surprise, payola is alive and well. [link]
5:28 PM: "This is in a sense the allure of the Gowanus district. It is the guts of South Brooklyn, a defiant reminder of the borough's hardscrabble industrial past. There is something poignant, tender even, about the pervasive decay and neglect: the Gowanus is Brooklyn's Venice." Interesting and largely accurate New York Times piece about one aspect of our rapidly changing neighborhood. [link]
All contents copyright 2001 by Patrick Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.