“Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech,” says the ticked off voice from above in the Book of Genesis (11:7) — though modern versions prefer confuse to confound, retroactively auspicious, since Babel sounds like the revised “confuse” (bālal) in Hebrew — thereby scattering our tongues into various, um, babbles, from the harshest Cantonese, bluntest Ebonics, to the always DTF-French. Regarding the etymology of babble, “no direct connection with Babel can be traced; though association with that may have affected the senses,” attests the Oxford English Dictionary. Near bizarrely, the original English word for babble was babeln (c. mid-13th century), that helpful -n a kiss away from Babylon, just for funnies, where this all supposedly took place, meaning “gateway to God.” Early 19th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham conceives the Panopticon, an institutional building (usually prison, though also applicable to hospitals, daycare, etc.) in which authorities at an omniscient center have a 360° view of the entire perimeter. Mr. metaphor Foucault (in Discipline and Punishment, 1975) is moved by the idea of “permanent visibility,” a form of power whose construct was more imperative than its actually being possible: the prison guards, while having access to the sweeping perimeter could only look at one area at a time, their backs turned to everything else. The habitual possibility of being watched was just as effective as actually being watched. Hence, religion as security cam.
The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins. Nonfiction—investigative journalism. A journalist’s stories from Afghanistan and Iraq. Highly violent and disturbing, filled with bizarre wartime details, reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, conveying at times the hallucinogenic weirdness of wartime events (for example, the story “Blonde,” in which an American army platoon displays one of their female soldiers and announces that she is “for sale,” as a distraction to the Iraqi males in a village, thereby allowing the unit to search the Iraqis’ homes without encountering resistance). Obviously not a cheerful book. Just look at the author photo.
The book opens with a prologue entitled “Hells Bells,” describing the 2004 assault on Fallujah from the footsoldier’s perspective in terms that are not mournful but grimly exuberant—just like the heavy metal rock song “Hells Bells” (by AC/DC), which is playing from loudspeakers during the attack. We witness combat as a lethal game of tackle football, in which the marines and the journalist sprint downfield, dive for cover, bullets whip past, and a “jihadi’s head bursts like a tomato.”
September 28th, 2012 / 12:00 pm
Australians have a history of distrust with the suburban space. It’s one that I think is far more ingrained than the ongoing American preoccupation with the suburbs. The abjection, otherness, decay and concealed violence of the suburban space, and the affect this space has on the Australian male, is an important part of the Australian imaginary. This is evident with the continuous repetition of these themes, particularly criminality and violence, in a whole host of recent films: Wish You Were Here (2012), Snowtown (2011), Animal Kingdom (2010), Somersault (2004), The Boys (1998) and Head On (1998).
I’ve chosen to talk about The Boys and Animal Kingdom because I think that they offer a distinct and unique portrayal of masculinity: one that is on the borderline, in between the public and private, criminality and legality, contained in an uncanny domestic space. The everyday suburban space is ruptured, undone and exposed as an unsettling site for a stifling and childlike male development, categorised by violence and the need to return to the maternal. This is the common trope in Australian domestic cinema ‘which finds expression in a distorted reflection akin to a hall of mirrors; each person staring back is undoubtedly familiar, but is in some way simultaneously emphasised, concealed and misshapen.’ (Thomas and Gillard, Metro Magazine, 2003)
September 27th, 2012 / 11:19 pm
Choosing clothes can be very vexing. Sometimes I think that the turmoil of buying clothes is similar to the kind that exists in the Middle East. There’s screaming, destruction, and lots of second-guessing.
My most recent fashion crisis involves not a weird YouTube video but a Mickey Mouse sweater. I first saw the Mickey Mouse sweater at a vintage store in the East Village. When I noticed that marvelous boy mouse on the faded blue garment I became awfully excited.
I’ve been on a lot of planes this week, and I will be on more planes before this week is over. This guy I knew once told me that the best place to sit on a plane is in the back, the very back, by the bathrooms. It’s inconvenient, sure, and you have to wait forever to deplane, but if the damn thing goes down, the back is the safest place. The nose of the plane is obviously the first to go. Bye bye first and business class suckers! You’re dead. The middle of the plane is scary because it’s the weakest point, what with the weight of the wings and general architecture. If the plane is going to snap in half, the end. And so, the back. It makes sense. When the plane dives nose first, the back will be the last to impact. Chances are you won’t survive, but at least you’ll have a few extra seconds and maybe a little luck on your side.
I received a business card.
I was at the premiere for The Descendants and a man in a pink shirt bumped into me. Hard. Oh god I’m sorry, I said. He didn’t apologize, didn’t walk on—he was staring at me. Then I really looked at him; wrinkled pink dress shirt, beard, food in his teeth. In retrospect, I think he had food in his pockets. Movie premieres, and this one in particular, have pretty heavy security, so I thought at worst this guy was just pickled and made eccentric by enormous, casual wealth. Who knows anymore.
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I think you have a duty to contribute, to go on contributing to what Gore Vidal calls “book chat.” For certain self-interested reasons, you want to keep standards up so that when your next book comes out, it’s more likely that people will get the hang of it. I have no admiration for writers who think at a certain point they can wash their hands of book chat. You should be part of the ongoing debate.
From Rick Strassman’s book DMT: The Spirit Molecule. This is the way a DMT test subject named “Willow” described her experience on the psychedelic. I’ve added emphasis to the sentence that struck me:
The other side is very, very different. There are no words, body, or sounds there to limit things. I first saw deep space, white with stars. Then there was this multidimensional experience starting. It was alive. It was the aliveness that I heard.