Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
July 6, 2009 - June 29, 2009

Monday, July 06, 2009

Playing the Palin Game

Churchill had his Wilderness Years. So should she.

UPDATE. As everyone here should know, I like Sarah Palin, but I'm dismayed by the amount of fire and brimstone that's surging through the rightosphere in the aftermath of her very odd announcement. You can get a snapshot of said F&B at HotAir, in a 'Green Room' post that quotes extensively from Ace of Spades. Just a snippet of Ace's tirade:

...I do think I am taking off the week. You guys only seem to want to talk about Sarah Palin and furthermore you only want to hear the same thing — she’s running, this is a great move, she’s now perfectly poised for the race, etc.

It’s nonsense. And I hardly need to blog about it, because you all seem to know the words to the song. So you don’t need me as part of the chorus. You can sing the same words well enough without me.

I am really tired of this relentless nonsense and occasional nastiness whenever someone is believed to have departed from the conservativey correct line.

If people really are going this nuts about it, they need to stop. Nobody really knows anything, so everyone's speculating. Why is that the case? Because she hasn't explained anything. Which is hardly a sound foundation on which to base a national campaign for the presidency in the next election. Which leads me to conclude that if she's really running, she's a fool and should give up her plans at once. And if she's not running, for either the presidency or the senate, all we can do is wait and see what she has in mind.

But I can tell you what I hope she has in mind. I hope she stays away from public office at least through 2012. I hope she spends her time in the interim reading books and otherwise educating herself about matters of public policy she still knows little about beyond Alaska. She also has an opportunity to accept speaking engagements and earn enough money to put her family on a sound financial footing. If she wishes to remain somewhat in the public eye, she can also ally herself with the Tea Party movement and its trans-party calls for reduced spending, reduced taxes, and reduced government interference in our lives. Those folks don't seem to like officials presently serving in office, bless their hearts. And Palin can turn a desultory rally of 500 into a fired-up crowd of 5,000.

If she takes this tack, she also won't waste much of her time campaigning for professional politicians in order to win official Republican backing she is unlikely to get until they come hat in hand to her, years down the road.

Quitting her elected responsibilities before her term was complete (regardless of how valid the private and personal reasons for it) makes her an anti-establishment figure for a long time to come. Given enough time, she could work that to her advantage. But not in the short term. That's why the professional pundits are busily writing her off. A traditional political career of dues-paying followed by big-party endorsement is out of the question now. Any political career still available to her will have to be nontraditional, unique, and transformational -- of her in fact as well as in the media image of her. That will not happen in three years. If it even seems to, it's a recipe for disaster. She'll lose. And if she doesn't, she won't be ready.

She's young. That's a huge advantage. Now she must learn to be patient and learn period.

If you like her too, quit scolding those who are being critical now. To a significant extent, they are right. If they're writing her off altogether, only Palin can prove them wrong. And she'll need a lot more than two or three years to do that. Fortunately, she has more than two or three years. She has twenty or thirty.

My two cents.

Just a Hunch

A BRIEF SENTENCE. Now, we're waiting. One celebrity death every day or so. Today it's McNamara. This won't be a long post. Just a grim prediction. When people start to die in increased numbers, it means something big is about to happen. Something big and bad. Something a lot of people don't want to be a part of. Meaning they'd rather be dead. Something about Jung's Collective Unconscious*  I just hope I'm not one of them. Obama is going to rain down hell on all of us. Some of us don't want to wait for it. Some of us are willing to fight to survive it. I hope I'm one of the latter. Which are you?

*My creation story, the one I believe, lies in the field of potentialities between Hawking's possibly nonexistent (because always -- Zeno's Arrow-like -- infinitely approaching the unreachable limit) Big Bang and Roger Penrose's quantum mind. There is a space in that conceptual interval which leaves room for all presently conceived possibilities and innumerable ones we can't conceive of. It may allow for all kinds of relationships that science cannot presently comprehend, including a universe in which ideas, art, poetry, symbols and allegories -- and Jung's synchronicity -- interact seamlessly with the physics we keep trying to reduce to (mere) math. In this context, there might be a place for humanity's many metaphorical creation myths and its curiously parallel religious convictions to be something more than fairy tales, fallacies, jokes, proofs of mankind's talent for self-delusion, and catalysts for your contempt. The continuously unfolding and infinitely reinterpretable story of Christ's sacrifice on the cross may -- may, I say -- actually be of a piece with the universe itself. These are conceptions which have the potential to expand minds and deepen the most minute aspects of human experience -- without consigning us all to fanaticism or irrational denial.

Death is stalking us. Thank you, Obama.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Blinking Cursor Effect

Obama's response to the Iran uprisings, the Honduran crisis, the Russian
invasion of Georgia, North Korean saber rattling, and for that matter
 the Reverend Jeremiah Wright situation. Mystery computer indeed.

THE FUTURE COMETH. This isn't an ideological post. Never mind that I almost always disagree with Obama's policies and positions. This time I'm talking about something more basic: his ability to respond to surprising and changing circumstances. I think he is seriously deficient in this vital leadership attribute.

Great executives, great leaders of the military and of matters of state, tend to be men who excel at making decisions in the absence of complete information. They have a gut instinct for judging the odds and placing their bets when all around them are uncertain, conflicted, or in disagreement with one another. It's not that they're shallow thinkers per se. It's that they automatically perceive the dangers of too much deep thinking when situations are in danger of tipping into chaos or disaster. They're prepared to be wrong. It's not that they're necessarily rash, either. Rather, they recognize those times when delay is more perilous and costly than a calculated risk that goes awry. Because they'll be on the job to deal with those consequences too.

Consider, for example, that very few great generals are remembered as intellectual giants, able to comprehend all the complications of all the variables in play at a given moment in time. I'm sure military historians know of more, but I can think of only two: Napoleon and MacArthur. Interestingly, both of them experienced dramatic instances of what I'm calling "the blinking cursor" phenomenon, when for no apparent reason they both shut down completely for critical hours at the height of a military emergency. Napoleon sat down on a log at Waterloo and did nothing for hours while the tide of battle turned irretrievably against him, though it's possible he could have saved the day if he had acted. MacArthur had a similar shutdown for eight hours after Pearl Harbor, issuing no orders to protect the Clark Field air resources whose subsequent destruction was probably as damaging as the ships lost at Pearl. According to eyewitnesses, he was seemingly paralyzed out of action during this interval. Like Bonaparte, he was betrayed by an all-encompassing intellect that suddenly couldn't wrap itself around the enormity of the variables in motion.

For Napoleon and MacArthur, of course, these were anomalies. For Obama it has become an all too familiar pattern. When bumptious reality conflicts with his ordered conception of reality, he becomes suddenly inarticulate, repetitive, almost stuck. The blinking cursor effect to a fare thee well.  It seems to happen to him on matters both great and small. An unexpected question invariably releases the torrent of "uhs" with which we're all so familiar. Initially, like a lot of you probably, I chalked that up to the fact that he wasn't quite as good an extemporaneous speaker as he was an orator-cum-teleprompter. Even his friends noticed.

I hoped it wasn't the case, but I did remember that we had identified this phenomenon as serious in Shuteye Nation's Y2K AmerianGlossary, half a decade at least before Obama rose to prominence. The Glossary defined it thus:

Uh. 1) You know. 2) An interesting but incorrect alternate definition is contained in the following entry penned by the Nutz Station Journal columnist known as The Gadfly:
The blinking cursor of human speech, often a precursor of screen lockup and the imminent need to reboot.
In other words, "uh" is not just a verbal tic; it's an indication of a state of mind. Which means we don't have to hear it every time to know that it's present. Like all those "Present" votes in the Illinois legislature. And the indeterminate official statements that have clarified absolutely nothing for the American people or the world in the early stages of the Russian-Georgia Crisis, the Iran Crisis, the North Korean Crisis, and now the Honduran Crisis.

In computer terms, the blinking cursor is a passive non-response to an instruction the CPU, for whatever reason, can't comprehend or process. I'm thinking this is pretty close to an accurate description of what's happening in Obama's head when events defy his own intentions, plans, and worldview. The Iranian people got in the way of his plan to negotiate with Ahmadinejad. The reality did not compute and he was unable to process it. The Honduran semi-coup does not compute with his plans to charm the world by negotiating equably with Chavez and the Castro brothers. Does not compute.

But it better compute. This is a world in which serious and unexpected events happen all the time. Like an airline pilot who is paid not for all the routine flights but for the moments of sheer terror that require instant action, the President of the United States is paid at least as much for his responses to catastrophe as he is for the policies he soberly noodles out with his experts.

If Obama can't make decisions when things go differently than he expects, we're all in a ton of trouble. Republicans and Democrats alike.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Cream King Trove

MORE. The old Boomer Bible Forum folks are checking in, here and in emails, so I'm responding to their requests for more explanation of the archaeological dig that turned up "proof" of the punk writer movement. It's hotly contested to this day, but there are multiple manuscripts that argue for the existence of the movement that produced The Boomer Bible and much else. Here's an excerpt from just one:

The Punk City Paradox

Chapter 1

Punk City, born of Kain, and all its wings, will fail,
Falling toward Eden, widout a sound, in the mutement
Of allathings what never were, nor will be,
The undecoming of the inpossible, what may not be,
Nor would be, all gulpated by the intrails of the Raven...
                                    - Excerpt from CKT MS No. 616

        There are no photographs in the Cream King Trove. In their place are paintings, unschooled mockeries of works by the great masters of every age. The three large classrooms containing the relics of “Early Punk” include the most outrageous of these, cartoonish parodies of twentieth century masterpieces. There are stacks of them. Hopper’s Nighthawks at the Diner transmogrified to Philadelphia’s South Street, where punks with pancaked faces and black-rimmed eyes hunch over coffee at The Rattery, perusing Cliff Notes of MacBeth, Pride and Prejudice, and Portnoy’s Complaint. Picasso’s Three Musicians, renamed The Shuteye Train, rendered in hallucinogenic reds, blues and greens, with a fourth incongruous figure wedged into the tableau as if cut and pasted from the painter’s earlier blue period.
        Sapinaire’s portrait of Verrone, redone in blacks and blues as a Tarot card of The Boss, which may represent the first king of Punk City—if we can trust the intuition which seeks to reassemble its cubist fragments into a real human face. But it is difficult to trust one’s intuition about punk artifacts, and the more so with this painting, because it may be the only surviving image of the punk ‘demortal’ known as St. Nuke.
        He is the central enigma of the Philadelphia punk phenomenon. If it existed, and if he existed, St. Nuke is the key to unlocking its secrets. He runs through all the punks’ abundant and wildly contradictory histories of themselves. He is by turns a god, a mythic king, a dueling Renaissance dilettante, a maniacal tyrant, a passionate lover, a self-destructive rock star, a dogmatically puritanical pagan priest, an inspired spiritual and artistic leader, a satanic villain. The blurred and fragmented visage which stares at us from his maybe portrait is a visual analogy rather than a resolution of the ambiguities. St. Nuke’s essence, whatever it is or was, has been concealed from us by the filters of the punks’ borrowed styles of painting and writing. And so we yearn for just one photograph, one single cracked and fading Polaroid of a real human being to put with the name of St. Nuke. For even the matter of his human-being-ness remains somehow an unsafe assumption.
        But why does it matter? To what end has this distinguished old classroom building at Eberhard College in rural Pennsylvania been converted to an archaeological museum and laboratory? Outside, the college’s smooth lawns are perfumed with dew and bright with the cut-grass green of spring. Inside, the dry remains of a bizarre urban subculture lie dead in labeled plastic bags awaiting the revivification of understanding. Students scarcely older than were the vanished punks at their height scurry like coroner’s clerks among the lab tables, inspecting microscopic clues as if in search of an exact cause of death to write on the certificate. But there are no certificates, not of death or birth. The questions that consume these students and their professors are much more basic: What is this stuff? Who made it? Where did they come from? Where did they go? And why, in all the world, is this assemblage of junk the only evidence that anything out of the ordinary happened on Philadelphia’s South Street two decades ago?
        No one disputes that there were punks on South Street. Like New York, Philadelphia had its own contingent of the rock-and-roll rebels who, according to music historian Tricia Henry, “broke all the rules and declared war on all previously existing musical trends and rules of social behavior.” In the late 1970s, South Street was the logical place for such a community to congregate. And if casual witnesses are to be believed, congregate they did. Half a dozen punk nightclubs sprang up along the rat-infested street whose roots are sunk in Philadelphia’s colonial era, and Yuppies now gray at the temples recall that black-garbed punks came out at night to roam the tree-lined stretch of asphalt that merged with the circus atmosphere of historic Headhouse Square. There were the usual Sex Pistol lookalikes, minor league versions of Wendy O. Williams, and endless variations on the costumes and makeup of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which in those days reigned at South Street’s TLA theater in midnight shows all weekend long). Those with strong sensory memories claim that bass chords rippled underfoot along the brick sidewalks, shivering the tired mortar of bars, punk clothing shops, and second-hand musical equipment stores. The only trouble is, the punks of the Cream King Trove were not musicians but writers, and their histories claim that they ruled South Street—owned it, guarded it, and fought wars to keep outsiders out. This does not square with the recollections of most.
        Yet the evidence of the Trove is physical, substantial, at times incredible, but undeniably present and provocative. The inventory records list 643 items of (nonmusical) computer equipment of a configuration claimed by no current manufacturer; 13,262 computer disks of unique physical design and data format; 1,159 weapons, including 454 bullwhips and 502 ‘swords’ fashioned mostly from extra-long screwdrivers, many showing trace amounts of human blood; 3,844 items of clothing, including combat coats armor-plated with green plastic circuit boards, blood-soaked gloves, and welded steel helmets evocative of bronze-age designs, as well as female apparel ranging from the frankly erotic to combat-scarred Amazonian; 108 paintings; 921 paper manuscript scrolls, most of them eaten by mold and mildew from the outside in, so that there are many beginnings but maddeningly few endings; 16 issues of a newspaper called The Punk City Shriek (sans photographs); five decks of well-worn tarot cards, each of unique design and nomenclature; 126 broken sheetrock panels covered with hand-painted script in a punk-pidgin dialect called The Tung; one Egyptian-style sarcophagus (empty); four plaster murals adorned with brilliantly colored hieroglyphics; 88 ‘band’ flags or pennons; and more than 200 isolated artifacts, including such items as a five pound sledge, a lock of hair, an eyepatch, a small vial of elaborately cut crystal, and what can only be described as a full-combat motorcycle featuring a computerized sonic ‘silencer.’
        Confronted by such a mass of unexplained relics, one seeks a focus, a recognizable starting point. The one the punks nominate again and again in their writings is of unexpectedly childlike origin, encrusted in layers of riddle and myth.

        The Shuteye Train

        The painting hangs over Lynn Wyler’s desk behind a protective slab of glass.
        “It’s the only one,” she explains, “the only image we have on canvas of the Shuteye Train.”

        She gazes at it with an almost devotional raptness, her head tilted slightly upwards as if to receive a blessing or rebuke. A lovely young woman dressed in a prim wool jumper, she seems an unlikely candidate for obsession. Yet that is a word she has become comfortable with.
        “Maybe it’s because I remember hearing it as a child,” she says, breaking her connection with the painting to smile at her own intensity. “The name is from a nursery rhyme, you know. My mother used to read it to me. I was all tucked in and safe, and her voice was so warm and soft.” Lynn’s voice remembers her mother’s and she recites from memory:

    Through the blue where bloom the stars
    And the Mother moon looks down
    We’ll away
    To land of Fay—
    Oh, the sights that we shall see there!
    Come, my little one, with me there—
    Tis a goodly train of cars—
    “All aboard for Shut-Eye Town!”

        She breaks off, blushing. “I can’t get it out of my head anymore,” she confesses. “I am obsessed. Until a month ago I was engaged to be married. But my fiancé got fed up. ‘You care more about the Shuteye Train than you do me,’ he said. And when I realized he was right, he saw it in my face and broke off it off. So here I am, the hostage of four cubist-looking guys who, according to all official accounts, never existed.”
        She pauses, then goes on in a lowered voice. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this but I do dream about them. They don’t look like the painting, but I still know it’s them, four figures in black coats. I see them pass through an intersection, no cars, no pedestrians, just them headed somewhere at night, and I run after them as hard as I can. But when I get to the corner and turn it, they’re gone.”
        She laughs at the suggestion that she is suffering from a classic anxiety dream. “Of course,” she says. “The obvious explanation. The problem is, there isn’t anything about this whole phenomenon that yields to obvious explanations. I think maybe that’s what this is all trying to tell us. Forget the obvious explanations. They may work everywhere else, but not here, not on South Street.   
        “Look,” she says, slipping into her pedagogical persona. “Everybody in this building is a scholar or technical expert of some kind.  We have all been imbued with the scientific method. We have been taught the discipline of logic and the perspective of absolute objectivity. And now here we sit, surrounded by this mountain of stuff—manuscripts, computer equipment, weapons, clothing, artwork, sacred relics—the archaeological remains of a fully developed subculture that simply cannot have existed. But does logic make this painting disappear, does it empty this building? No. Somewhere in all this stuff there's a fact, a reality, maybe even a truth of some kind. But everywhere we go to look for it we find filters in the way, like deliberate screens put there to keep us from seeing what happened. Because something did happen. There isn’t anybody working on this project who doesn’t believe that something happened, whether they admit it or not. And personally, I don’t think we’re going to make any headway at all until we admit the fact that we all do believe it happened, in spite of the evidence.”
        She holds up a stack of photocopied manuscripts. “And whatever it is that happened, it starts here, with the Shuteye Train. It’s one of the few points on which all the materials agree. The first verse of the Punk Testament says, “At the beginning there was the Shuteye Train.’ Every other punk account keeps saying the same thing in different ways.”
        She reads from the top of her stack:

    In Shuteye Town did Shuteye Train
    A nightmare children’s home ensee:
    Where Fish the secret symbol reigned
    O’er boomers destified for Kain
    Deep in a quantum sea.

        And again:

    The sleeping car that snores along on bloody tracks,
    The tired pullman that drones our song on bloody tracks
    Gave tongue to all our hammered dreams of morning.

        And again:

I return to the day a week or so before when I first arrived on South Street, where I had come in search of an entity known as the Shuteye Train, rumors of which had circulated as far north as my home in Boston... The Shuteye Train, it was said, wrote vicious stories live on stage, then went out and made them come true. I heard that they were maniacs, that they were murderers, that they lived in hiding, somewhere between half a step and a step and a half ahead of the law.

        Lynn Wyler stops to clear her throat and observes, “There’s more, of course. A lot more. And these are just the fragmentary manuscripts we found in the Trove. When—if—our computer jocks crack the code on the disks, there are bound to be thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of pages we know nothing about today.”
        How, then, does she go about her work? Is anything known for sure, and what has she concluded about the Shuteye Train?
        She is more than willing to talk, to explain, to speculate, but she will not lay claim to knowledge.
        “We are given their names. Loco Dantes is their leader. You’ll find evidence of that in The Boomer Bible. The other three are Pig Millions, Reedy Weeks, and Joe Kay. These are obviously symbolic, selected names, but then so are all the other names in Punk City. Eliot Naughton declares in his preface to The Boomer Bible that the Philadelphia Police knew of an organization, or something, called the Shuteye Train. That’s intriguing because the Naughton preface is otherwise adamant in its dismissal of the value and reality of the punk writer phenomenon. But Naughton died in 1995 and we don’t know where he got his information. I should tell you this is a touchy subject with me.
        “Eliot Naughton had a brother, Thomas, also a professor of literature, at Princeton I think, who inherited whatever records Eliot left behind.  He’s recently published a book of his own on the subject—An Autopsy of Punk Authors or some such condescending title—and it’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever read. The book contains some real information. But it’s fundamentally untrue in that it purports to know all kinds of things that are no more than patronizing guesswork. He’s managed to beg, borrow, or steal a handful of punk pieces—many of them tiny fragments of larger works—which he presumes to analyze and explain as if he had read the entire manuscript. His selections are not representative of the scope and variety of punk writing, and his introductions to individual pieces are nothing more than preemptive dismissals
         "Worse than that, the book is just plain terrible, a thudding academic bore. It’s as if he deliberately wrote it to be unreadable. He’s got it so larded with pompous nonsense and sententious academic prose that it’s impossible not to think Naughton’s real purpose is to sabotage the publishing prospects of everyone working on this project. I’d like to jam the ridiculous crap he made up about Loco Dantes and the Shuteye Train right down his lying throat. And what really steams me is that he’s obviously got a mole in here feeding him some of our material, which is not supposed to be freely available, and artifacts, which are never supposed to leave here for any reason. Which means he knows it’s not a simple-minded, easily dismissed phenomenon. But his book treats it as an accepted reality that’s just not very interesting when a real scholar takes the time to concoct enough dismissive lies and misrepresentations about it. I’d love to know who’s pushing his buttons on this, and I’d love to read some of his files, but if I ever meet him I’ll probably light into him so hard I won’t get to find out anything. Oh well, that’s off the subject. I won’t bore you with any more on that fiasco.
        “What it boils down to is, there’s not much to go on except what we already have here. Nobody I’ve talked to in the Philly PD will even acknowledge the existence of the Shuteye Train. So that leaves us with the records in the Trove, except for Frank Frelinger, of course, the last person to claim an encounter with them, which was described in the second preface to The Boomer Bible.
        “I interviewed Frelinger and came away with the sense that he had a hidden agenda of his own. He was keenly interested in why I was questioning him, and he seemed to have learned more than I’d have thought possible about the Trove research effort. I don’t assign any particular weight to his contention that he’s had contact with the Shuteye Train, but I don’t necessarily regard him as a liar either. It could well be that he’s just a journalist who fell into a story he can’t get away from.
         “That’s nothing new, though. The prose passage I read you was supposedly written by Boz Baker, the famous ‘new journalist’ of the sixties and seventies. He died during the period when the punk phenomenon was presumably still underway, and critics familiar with his work have told me they believe the Trove fragment attributed to him is his writing. So he may be a credible witness, but all we have of his account is a few pages, he’s not available for questioning, obviously, and he never claims in the material we possess to have seen the Shuteye Train in person. Apocryphally, Boz Baker became obsessed with Alice Hate, the de facto queen of Punk City, and lost interest in everyone and everything else. For my purposes he turns out to be ancillary material. Still, he’s another ‘real world’ witness to the supposed ‘unreal world’ of Punk City.
        “Which leaves me to look for the Shuteye Train in other ways. In the Trove, we have only a hanful of fiction fragments attributed to their authorship. We have numerous references to them in punk history—that is, what purports to be history but more closely resembles mythology because of its apparent preference for semiotics over facts. And we have an overall pattern of punk iconography that seems to originate with the Shuteye Train and continues to proliferate, most notably on the Internet. That’s the angle I’m pursuing now.
        But what of the story, she is asked. Isn’t there a real human story to find amidst the tales of an undying punk writer band called the Shuteye Train?
        She laughs, peals of genuine merriment. “Certainly there’s a story. There are many stories.  Every story line you could imagine is in there. At least, that’s my bet. But if you’re looking for a single line, an epic Punk City story, if you will, you have to be tolerant of contradictions and confusion. You wind up having to back your way out of all the conflicting detail accounts to the point where everything blurs, to the point of myth really, and then you get a community coming of age story that goes some-thing like this—
        “In the late 1970s, maybe 1978, there’s a kind of second-string punk rock community living on South Street. It’s just an imitation, really, of what’s happening in new York and London. But these aren’t the punks of the Cream King Trove. The punks that go on to leave us all this are the losers and hangers-on of South Street., the ones who can’t even get into one of the rock bands. The Boomer Bible speaks of ‘the lowest of the low’ and it seems apt here. The punk writers speak of themselves at this stage as being ‘noth-ing’ in the truest sense of the word.
        “But then some kind of crisis comes to South Street. Symbolically at least, it comes in the form of a biker gang which takes over the drug territory of which the community is a geographical part. The bikers run roughshod over the punks. There are beatings, rapes, murders, a campaign of intimidation and terror.
    “Now the police will tell you that this never happened, that there was never any overt biker presence on South Street at this time. That’s why I refer to a symbolic event. The important thing about it is that it represents some kind of ultimate ordeal, a crucible that wreaks a transformation. That’s where the Shuteye Train comes in.
        “You see, there is a moment in there somewhere that we can’t find. We can’t find it but it has to be there. A moment of inspiration or rebirth that alters the context, invisibly perhaps but profoundly. The underlying nature of the circumstances acquires a radically different identity. What had been nothing but a sordid vignette of drug abuse and aimless youth becomes, in the blink of an eye, a heroic and even sacred quest for meaning, redemption, and salvation. Imagine watching a movie about gang-bangers in an L.A. barrio and then somewhere in the middle of the first act you realize you’re watching the Iliad instead—a full-blown literal dramatization with Greeks and Trojans in crested helmets—and you have no recollection of the transition. That’s the scale of context change I’m talking about, and it’s the same kind of change. That’s why it’s also the key to whatever happened on South Street in the late seventies. In the punk accounts, this change is represented in terms of dramatic physical conflict.
        “The hostility between punks and bikers erupts suddenly into war. Not a skirmish, but a war. All accounts use the word. Something has made the South Streeters resist. A mysterious ‘it’ has intervened and empowered the punks. Even though the challenge they face is terrifying. Here, let me read to you from the fragment we call the Gypsy manuscript:

It is an effort, even now, to recall this time, an eternity of fear and blood and death that made each night into an abyss. I watched or heard it all unfold outside my window, deep inside the hell of South Street, where the bikes rolled in at midnight and out again before dawn. In between my memories are splintered and painful as shattered bone. The gang had a leader, a man with a hammer, who withstood every assault like a cliff. He appeared one night in December when it seemed the punks were at last growing stronger than the bikers.... It was then that the Duke spoke, in a loud hoarse voice. “I be ready to settle this thing for good right now. One on one. The best you got against me.”

        There is a low, thrilling power in Lynn’s voice as she utters the words of “the Duke.” It is obvious that she can see the scene unfolding in her mind’s eyes. More of her dreams, one wonders? But she resumes her exposition in a normal scholarly tone.
        “To me, the important part of this passage is, ‘memories... splintered and painful as shattered bone.’ It’s my theory that this is the key to the beginning. It won’t come together for us because it’s not together for them, either. It’s like some terrible wound that can’t heal—a wound that may have elevated them but which has also bequeathed them a permanent legacy of pain. They come back to this moment of their history again and again and again because they want to perceive, directly if they can, the origin of this incredible, ennobling and agonizing gift. But no matter how many times and ways they tell the story of their beginnings, they can’t quite get back to the real origin. There is a point at which the physics of punk reality crumbles into jagged mismatched shards of quasi-remembrance. And interestingly to me at least, this ‘shattered’ effect is strikingly present at the very climax of the war event, just where you’d expect a purely mythological structure to enforce some unity.
        “You can see the problem most clearly in the confusion of identities that runs through this episode. For example, the Gypsy manuscript is the only eyewitness account we’ve found so far of the pivotal showdown between the punks and the bikers. The way he tells it, the Duke turns his challenge into a ritual that is repeated every night: ‘The best you got against me.’ An invitation to single combat that sounds straight out of the middle ages. When he’s finally taken up on his challenge, who is it that comes forward to fight him?

But as everyone looked one to another, searching for the source of the voice, four masked men dressed in black stepped out of the ECCE doorway and crossed the street through the snow, silent as wraiths.

        “The Shuteye Train,” Lynn explains. “’Four masked men dressed in black’ is absolutely standard iconography for the Shuteye Train. It just can’t be anyone else. And so it’s Loco Dantes of the Shuteye Train who engages in combat with the Duke, and it’s Loco Dantes who ‘stuck an icepick in the monster’s ear, deep into his murderous brain.’

The Duke dropped to his knees, a look of astonishment wiping the menace from his face, and then he pitched forward, blood pouring from his ear onto the white blanket of his deathbed.

        “And then, bang!” Lynn continues, “Just like that, according to Gypsy, the war is finished and the ‘punk writer’ phenomenon takes over. The coming of age that is the rest of the punk story has been initiated, and it has acquired the momentum that will push it forward through the remainder of the history. Thus, it is the beginning which is most important to all subsequent punk writers.
        When you look at this beginning for the purpose of explaining the primacy of the Shuteye Train, the Gypsy account of the duel between Loco Dantes and the Duke serves as a fascinating clue to their symbolic identity. For this is the precise moment at which the punks cease to be nothing, when they become victors instead of losers and are enabled to manage their own destinies.
        “That’s not how most of the punk writings we’ve found describe this episode. Despite Gypsy’s account—and Gypsy is an important figure, we believe, who went on to become a power in Punk City—it is St. Nuke who is given credit for killing the Duke. The book of Angels in the Punk Testament says, ‘Whereupon St. Nuke planted an icepick in his ear, all the way to the handle, which slew the one called the Duke, before he hit the ground.’ The physical details are the same, but the identity of the protagonist is changed. While the Shuteye Train waits mysteriously and implacably down the street, the king figure plays the vital role.”
        Which version takes precedence with Lynn Wyler? “Neither,” she responds. “Gypsy’s is the eyewitness account, but this does not mean that his version carries more weight than the book of Angels, which is, after all, the document purporting to contain the collective memory of Punk City. One could take the obvious cheap shot and say that it’s the ‘official’ version, the one that’s politically correct in a community writing effort being managed by the hero of the story, but that, to my mind, is an unnecessarily cynical explanation of the discrepancy. I think there’s a sense in which they work best together.
        “Gypsy never says that the slayer of the Duke is Loco Dantes. He has used literary language that makes the Shuteye Train unmistakably present at the scene, just as Angels uses scriptural language to do the same thing. Both could be saying, ‘It’s as if the Shuteye Train were there in person, ensuring that the punks would prevail. The outcome is the same in both versions, as is the clear implication that the decisive factor is this invincible presence that resides in no single person, including the king.”
        Lynn Wyler smiles. “There are those in Agley Hall who will tell you that questions about the Shuteye Train pale beside the questions about St. Nuke. I acknowledge that perspective, but I don’t want to dwell on it. I’ll just point out that if the punk writer movement occurred, St. Nuke will be confirmed as an historical personage, a living breathing human being who led his people to a fairly notable accomplishment. This cannot be said of the Shuteye Train. There is every chance that they were, in the context of Punk City, the personification of an article of faith, not a physical but a metaphysical presence of extraordinary gravity and authority. If that’s the case, then it will be impossible to understand anything about the punk writers without understanding how and why  they came to believe so fiercely in the Shuteye Train.”
        She smiles again, this time at the suggestion that she already has her own answers to such questions. “Provisional answers,” she concedes. “Theirs, I believe, is the power of untraceable memory, the authority of a reference that seems to predate any meaning to which it refers. Like me, some one or ones in Punk City had heard a nursery rhyme in childhood and developed a series of implied associations—of comfort, meaning, and significantly, of journeying—which were triggered into mental and emotional reality by the identity crisis arising from adolescent drug addiction. The result was a subconscious but exceptionally powerful return to the innocence and belief of earliest childhood, which—if any of us could manage it—would indeed seem like a rebirth. The courage to fight back comes from seeming flight into a fantasy realm where reality itself is diminished in intensity and immediacy.”
        Does this mean that the Shuteye Train should be understood as a kind of mass delusion, or worse than that, as a mass hallucination of childish figments of the imagination? And doesn’t such an explanation reduce the ‘epic’ punk story to a cheap allegory, like some Hollywood western? The Duke is drugs. The Shuteye Train is dreams. And when they face each other down at high noon, the good dreams outdraw the evil drugs?
        Lynn seems taken aback for a moment, then recovers her composure. “That’s not how I think of it,” she says. “I’m inclined to the idea that the Shuteye Train begins as an accepted symbol without a deterministic meaning, but as the punks grow in knowledge and experience, the preexisting symbol is used to embody the value system that has been developed along the way. In this sense, it’s a microcosm of the human relationship to the notion of divinity. The image of God appears first and accrues successive layers of metaphysical identity which reflect the minds of the believers as they learn more about themselves and the universe.”
        But is the Shuteye Train nonetheless real? Time, it seems, for a very pointed question: Does Lynn Wyler believe in God? She blushes at the question, crosses her arms, glances toward the door. “What I believe,” she says slowly and distinctly, “is that we are all waiting for the code on the Trove disks to be broken. And while we wait, we are hoping for a miracle—recovery of the lost testament of the punks. The Apunkrypha. I will cheerfully change any or all of my pet theories if The Apunkrypha shows me a new way to understand it all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work.”

In case you're interested.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Queen of Punk City

Alice Hate on "stereotypewriter" from her days fronting "The Fetal Circus."

THE OLD DAYS. To quote Apotheosis, our favorite commenter Penny is "nuttier than a bushel basket of hydrocephalic squirrels. But God love ya." True. And that's exactly why we love her. I have no freaking idea where this came from in in her comment on Dirty Rotten Varmint's post:

In an "insta"nt, we are reminded that they are only "polite" about their wives. Or maybe to Lake, because he nearly "gets it", and is of course "in-step" and even more polite than the punks on their best behavior.

DRV said nothing about wives. Nor did IP. Is she miffed that the names named in the post were all male? That's only because the names named are mostly alumni of the old Boomer Bible Forum, which flourished for several years as a duelling ground for internet punks like Null (the forum's visionary founder), Malachi, Winston Sith, Lake, Apotheosis (under a different nom de guerre then and a royal pain in Instapunk's side), Kajeshell, BalowStar, and many many others who debated everything from technology to Christianity to quantum physics to, most importantly, literature and, expressly, the literary output of the punk writers of South Street in Philadelphia. So if Penny was offended, it was for an invalid reason she couldn't be expected to know about. But...

And this is why we so love Penny. She lives in a realm more akin to Jung's collective unconscious than anyone we know or have ever met. We don't disregard her because she's often in touch with relevant concepts that simply wouldn't occur to anyone else. This time, she gave us an idea we're surprised we didn't think of before. Of course, maybe we're wrong and nobody would be interested, but it's certainly within our power to use this site to publish some of the works of the original punk writing movement discovered in the "Cream King Trove" back in the early 1990s. Would anyone like that?

Today we're giving you a sample, one that Penny's dudgeon provoked us to recall. The punks of South Street were not sexists. Much to the contrary. They had five kings in their seven year lifespan as a literary movement but only one queen. Her name was Alice Hate. She had her own band and she walked like a goddess among the other punk writer bands of the time. When she was felled in the final days of Punk City, punk writers -- who loved to rewrite great works from the canon for their own purposes -- memorialized her with this, a hand-inked parchment manuscript recovered in poor but legible condition from the Cream King Trove:

The text is reproduced below. Bear in mind that punk writers did everything in chapter-and-verse, not just The Boomer Bible. It was their signature and an indispensable component of the physics of their universe.

Here, where the rigs are quiet,
2 Here, where punk fiction seems
3  Dead words and failed chips’ vomit
4  On ruined reams of dreams;
5  I watch the green mold blighting
6  Remembered bands and writing,
7  Their painted wrath and fighting,
8  A mildewed frieze of screams.

I am tired of pain and anger,
2  And punks who warred and bled
3  In hope of hope hereafter
4  For offspring of the dead:
5  I am spent of floods and fires,
6  Red realms of climbing spires,
7  Green seas and woods and mire,
8  And everything but dread.
Here Alice lies for ever,
2  Beneath the Headhouse Square,
3  Where weeds and weak reeds quaver,
4  Whipped dogs and seagulls glare;
5  They sense the swallowed thunder,
6  Entombed, brave heart asunder,
7  But hear her not down under,
8  Nor see her sightless stare.

No deep looks glad or tragic,
2  No gazes veiled or straight,
3  But blueless vials of magic,
4  Blank eyes of Alice Hate;
5  Cold stones of grave decision
6  Choose neither light nor vision,
7  But gray of cancelled mission,
8  In cataracts of slate.

Asleep, without dream or dragon,
2  Inside her wall of thorn,
3  The queen does not awaken,
4  To kiss of life at morn;
5  Her tale is stopt unbidden,
6  Prince Charming’s mount unridden,
7  The ending still unwritten—
8  Her beauty full forlorn.

She waits for no lord’s favor,
2  She waits for no man’s form;
3  Forgets St. Nuke her lover,
4  The nights of moon and storm;
5  Though arms of punks surround her,
6  And prayers kneel about her,
7  No words have yet unbound her,
8  Where she awaits the worm.

From too much faith in caring,
2  From blood and loss escaped,
3  She fell to sleep forswearing
4  The hopes your gods had raped:
5  That no sleep lasts forever;
6  That dead men rise up ever;
7 That even the blackest fever
8  Yields victims who are saved.

Then quest nor queen shall waken,
2  Nor any fire or ice:
3  Nor winged foe of Raven,
4  Nor hibernating mice:
5  Nor living seed nor kernel,
6  Nor greatwing ghosts eternal:
7  Only an Eden infernal,
8  Your vacant paradise.

Punks aren't just "polite" to their women. They adore them.

Let us know if you want more excerpts from the Cream King Trove. If you don't, that's fine. This is an appropriate candidate for "one and only." If you do, thank Penny. It would never have occurred to us to do it without her "hydrocephalic squirrel" genius.

UPDATE: Poetry already. This from Billy Oblivion, our correspondent in Iraq:

We adore the women around us
As all adore that which is precious and rare
Even after life bangs off the corners and
The gilt wears off

Other blog sites worry about death threats and obscene language. We here at Instapunk worry only about poems that go on after they've already laid down the perfect completion. Which this was. Who else has commenters like this?

No one.

Thank you.

But our question remains. Do you want more punk writing here? Or not?

Women Are Nuts, Part 2

SUBJECT REVISITED. Yeah, I know, last post excepted, we get slammed here quite a lot for noticing that women as a sex have as many problems as men do. Which makes us politically incorrect. It's not acceptable to perceive that modern women have created their own mythology of human history that entitles them to rule the roost for the next hundred or two hundred years. Reparations, don't you know. Which is where Sotomayor's "wise Latina woman" bullshit comes from. So I didn't post my Sotomayor entry after Mrs. LP read it and dinged my choice of four-letter legal characterizations beginning with "C". Even though it was mostly about Obama (titled "First American Consul") and featured this most excellent Photoshop of our most p____-whipped president ever:

There's almost a Michael Jackson quality about him, isn't there?
Kind of vulnerable, sweet, and overdressed all at the same time.

So. No Sotomayor/First Lady as WWE bullies post. But I am willing to tunnel a bit deeper into the whole attitude women are exhibiting today. They think they're better and smarter than men, and they don't care how they get to that opinion. Which is abso-fucking-lutely typical. That's why I'm going to reproduce the following essay in full, which I generally don't do. But I'd hate for anyone to think that I was Dowdifying this woman's argument via my choice of excerpts. I apologize to the author: I know I'd hate to have an entire post hijacked to another website. (Yeah, it's happened. Some woman who tittered through her plagiarism: "FYI - I stole most of this bio info from another blogger who apparently can't stand Fox and Friends either [source].") But I just can't risk being misunderstood. I'm hoping against hope she understands:

Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship

"Harder to kill than a vampire." That is what the sociologist Joel Best calls a bad statistic. But, as I have discovered over the years, among false statistics the hardest of all to slay are those promoted by feminist professors. Consider what happened recently when I sent an e-mail message to the Berkeley law professor Nancy K.D. Lemon pointing out that the highly praised textbook that she edited, Domestic Violence Law (second edition, Thomson/West, 2005), contained errors.

Her reply began:

"I appreciate and share your concern for veracity in all of our scholarship. However, I would expect a colleague who is genuinely concerned about such matters to contact me directly and give me a chance to respond before launching a public attack on me and my work, and then contacting me after the fact."

I confess: I had indeed publicly criticized Lemon's book, in campus lectures and in a post on I had always thought that that was the usual practice of intellectual argument. Disagreement is aired, error corrected, truth affirmed. Indeed, I was moved to write to her because of the deep consternation of law students who had attended my lectures: If authoritative textbooks contain errors, how are students to know whether they are being educated or indoctrinated? Lemon's book has been in law-school classrooms for years.

One reason that feminist scholarship contains hard-to-kill falsehoods is that reasonable, evidence-backed criticism is regarded as a personal attack.

Lemon's Domestic Violence Law is organized as a conventional law-school casebook — a collection of judicial opinions, statutes, and articles selected, edited, and commented upon by the author. The first selection, written by Cheryl Ward Smith (no institutional affiliation is given), offers students a historical perspective on domestic-violence law. According to Ward:

"The history of women's abuse began over 2,700 years ago in the year 753 BC. It was during the reign of Romulus of Rome that wife abuse was accepted and condoned under the Laws of Chastisement. ... The laws permitted a man to beat his wife with a rod or switch so long as its circumference was no greater than the girth of the base of the man's right thumb. The law became commonly know as 'The Rule of Thumb.' These laws established a tradition which was perpetuated in English Common Law in most of Europe."

Where to begin? How about with the fact that Romulus of Rome never existed. He is a figure in Roman mythology — the son of Mars, nursed by a wolf. Problem 2: The phrase "rule of thumb" did not originate with any law about wife beating, nor has anyone ever been able to locate any such law. It is now widely regarded as a myth, even among feminist professors.

A few pages later, in a selection by Joan Zorza, a domestic-violence expert, students read, "The March of Dimes found that women battered during pregnancy have more than twice the rate of miscarriages and give birth to more babies with more defects than women who may suffer from any immunizable illness or disease." Not true. When I recently read Zorza's assertion to Richard P. Leavitt, director of science information at the March of Dimes, he replied, "That is a total error on the part of the author. There was no such study." The myth started in the early 1990s, he explained, and resurfaces every few years.

Zorza also informs readers that "between 20 and 35 percent of women seeking medical care in emergency rooms in America are there because of domestic violence." Studies by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, indicate that the figure is closer to 1 percent.

Few students would guess that the Lemon book is anything less than reliable. The University of California at Berkeley's online faculty profile of Lemon hails it as the "premiere" text of the genre. It is part of a leading casebook series, published by Thomson/West, whose board of academic advisers, prominently listed next to the title page, includes many eminent law professors.

I mentioned these problems in my message to Lemon. She replied:

"I have looked into your assertions and requested documentation from Joan Zorza regarding the March of Dimes study and the statistics on battered women in emergency rooms. She provided both of these promptly."

If that's the case, Zorza and Lemon might share their documentation with Leavitt, of the March of Dimes, who is emphatic that it does not exist. They might also contact the Centers for Disease Control statistician Janey Hsiao, who wrote to me that "among ED [Emergency Department] visits made by females, the percent of having physical abuse by spouse or partner is 0.02 percent in 2003 and 0.01 percent in 2005."

Here is what Lemon says about Cheryl Ward Smith's essay on Romulus and the rule of thumb:

"I made a few minor editorial changes in the Smith piece so that it is more accurate. However, overall it appeared to be correct."

A few minor editorial changes? Students deserve better. So do women victimized by violence.

Feminist misinformation is pervasive. In their eye-opening book, Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women's Studies (Lexington Books, 2003), the professors Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge describe the "sea of propaganda" that overwhelms the contemporary feminist classroom. The formidable Christine Rosen (formerly Stolba), in her 2002 report on the five leading women's-studies textbooks, found them rife with falsehoods, half-truths, and "deliberately misleading sisterly sophistries." Are there serious scholars in women's studies? Yes, of course. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, an anthropologist at the University of California at Davis; Janet Zollinger Giele, a sociologist at Brandeis; and Anne Mellor, a literary scholar at UCLA, to name just three, are models of academic excellence and integrity. But they are the exception. Lemon's book typifies the departmental mind-set.

Consider The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World (2008), by the feminist scholar Joni Seager, chair of the Hunter College geography department. Now in its fourth edition, Seager's atlas was named "reference book of the year" by the American Library Association when it was published. "Nobody should be without this book," says the feminist icon Gloria Steinem. "A wealth of fascinating information," enthuses The Washington Post. Fascinating, maybe. But the information is misleading and, at least in one instance, flat-out false.

One color-coded map illustrates how women are kept "in their place" by restrictions on their mobility, dress, and behavior. Somehow the United States comes out looking as bad in this respect as Somalia, Uganda, Yemen, Niger, and Libya. All are coded with the same shade of green to indicate places where "patriarchal assumptions" operate in "potent combination with fundamentalist religious interpretations." Seager's logic? She notes that in parts of Uganda, a man can claim an unmarried woman as his wife by raping her. The United States gets the same low rating on Seager's charts because, she notes, "State legislators enacted 301 anti-abortion measures between 1995 and 2001." Never mind that the Ugandan practice is barbaric, that U.S. abortion law is exceptionally liberal among the nations of the world, and that the activism and controversy surrounding the issue of abortion in the United States is a sign of a vigorous free democracy working out its disagreements.

On another map, the United States gets the same rating for domestic violence as Uganda and Haiti. Seager backs up that verdict with that erroneous and ubiquitous emergency-room factoid: "22 percent-35 percent of women who visit a hospital emergency room do so because of domestic violence."

The critical work of 21st-century feminism will be to help women in the developing world, especially in Muslim societies, in their struggle for basic rights. False depictions of the United States as an oppressive "patriarchy" are a ludicrous distraction. If American women are as oppressed as Ugandan women, then American feminists would be right to focus on their domestic travails and let the Ugandan women fend for themselves.

All books have mistakes, so why pick on the feminists? My complaint with feminist research is not so much that the authors make mistakes; it is that the mistakes are impervious to reasoned criticism. They do not get corrected. The authors are passionately committed to the proposition that American women are oppressed and under siege. The scholars seize and hold on for dear life to any piece of data that appears to corroborate their dire worldview. At the same time, any critic who attempts to correct the false assumptions is dismissed as a backlasher and an anti-feminist crank.

Why should it matter if a large number of professors think and say a lot of foolish and intemperate things? Here are three reasons to be concerned:

1) False assertions, hyperbole, and crying wolf undermine the credibility and effectiveness of feminism. The United States, and the world, would greatly benefit from an intellectually responsible, reality-based women's movement.

2) Over the years, the feminist fictions have made their way into public policy. They travel from the women's-studies textbooks to women's advocacy groups and then into news stories. Soon after, they are cited by concerned political leaders. President Obama recently issued an executive order establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls. As he explained, "The purpose of this council is to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy." He and Congress are also poised to use the celebrated Title IX gender-equity law to counter discrimination not only in college athletics but also in college math and science programs, where, it is alleged, women face a "chilly climate." The president and members of Congress can cite decades of women's-studies scholarship that presents women as the have-nots of our society. Never mind that this is largely no longer true. Nearly every fact that could be marshaled to justify the formation of the White House Council on Women and Girls or the new focus of Title IX application was shaped by scholarly merchants of hype like Professors Lemon and Seager.

3) Finally, as a philosophy professor of almost 20 years, and as someone who respects rationality, objective scholarship, and intellectual integrity, I find it altogether unacceptable for distinguished university professors and prestigious publishers to disseminate falsehoods. It is offensive in itself, even without considering the harmful consequences. Obduracy in the face of reasonable criticism may be inevitable in some realms, such as partisan politics, but in academe it is an abuse of the privileges of professorship.

"Thug," "parasite," "dangerous," a "female impersonator" — those are some of the labels applied to me when I exposed specious feminist statistics in my 1994 book Who Stole Feminism? (Come to think of it, none of my critics contacted me directly with their concerns before launching their public attacks.) According to Susan Friedman, of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, "Sommers' diachronic discourse is easily unveiled as synchronic discourse in drag. ... She practices ... metonymic historiography." That one hurt! But my views, as well as my metonymic historiography, are always open to correction. So I'll continue to follow the work of the academic feminists — to criticize it when it is wrong, and to learn from it when it is right.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author of Who Stole Feminism? (Simon & Schuster, 1994) and The War Against Boys (Simon & Schuster, 2000), and editor of The Science on Women and Science, forthcoming from the AEI Press.

I still love women. Here's my favorite quote ever from an academic article: "That one hurt! But my views, as well as my metonymic historiography, are always open to correction." Nothing gets me going faster than when Mrs. LP starts putting exclamation points in the vicinity of her "metonymic historiography." Dee-licious.

Brizoni here. Quick heads up: InstaPunk is now on the popular social networking site Facebook. Now you can network with InstaPunk, socially. To find us, type "InstaPunk" in the seach bar.

We tried to get a "" address, but the requirements were... elaborate. To say the least. They wanted the page to be created before May 31, to have had 1000 fans by then, as well as the sacrifice of a goat "without blemish," which sacrifice shall be carried out by only an authorized Facebook "Priestrix." Said Priestrix was to be paid 44 pieces of gold in a lambskin sack. We had the gold, and the sack, but found out about the thousand fan deadline too late.

What kills me is this, like, all offended attitude they copped when we offered to slit the throats of two goats for each requirement we didn't meet. As if sacrificing one goat is all on the up and up, but any more than that constitutes some big abominable moral breach? Friggin' east coast snobs.

Anyway. InstaPunk on Facebook. Check it out. I run the page. But it's good.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Man Who Shot Liberty...

"A stranger came... with a lawbook in his hand."

AWAY. "Now Honduras on the Brink..." "Chavez threatens military action..." "NKorea criticizes US missile defense for Hawaii..." "Israel approves 50 new settler homes in West Bank..." "Russia holds major war games in Caucasus..." One glance at Drudge's headlines this morning is enough to remind me of an entry posted here a few days after Obama's election. It's called The Gathering Storm, and here's an excerpt:

When Bush leaves office, it will be like the marshal turning in his badge and riding out of Dodge City. It's the worldwide fear of how the United States will react that has kept the global pot simmering just below a boil. Even if they suspect that Bush won't call in airstrikes or a battalion of marines in response to a truly provocative act, they don't know it for sure. And so they hesitate, they think and think again, and then they wait. What are they waiting for? For Bush to be gone. As he will be in January 2009.

George W. Bush has been a one-man Cold War, the kind of stabilizing influence created by the perception of a danger that transcends local, personal rivalries and grudges. That's the irony of our current situation. And it's a truly colossal irony. Americans are tired of being not liked around the world. Obama promises to change that. He proclaims his intention to conclude the American Cold War against the world. He will no longer act hastily and unpredictably. He will put away the big stick. He will be reasonable. And we are buoyed and reaffirmed in our support for him by the fact that the world cheers when we elect him to the presidency.

Why are they cheering? Because things will slowly get better in international affairs as the civilized norms of traditional diplomacy are gradually restored to their proper place? Or because there will be a sudden sizeable window of time in which a young, naive, and inexperienced president of the United States will be trying to do too many things at once -- learn the job, staff his administration, resolve an economic crisis, and pursue an extraordinarily ambitious domestic legislative agenda -- leaving the door open for bold moves around the globe he can't possibly respond to effectively?

It makes us think of this guy.

Too bad our new guy isn't even Ranse Stoddard:

You've got to admit there's a physical resemblance, too.

But let's hope he's as lucky as his role model. Because what usually happens to amateurs isn't good:

Even the whores around you pack up and leave.

And then the credits roll.


WE'RE ALL ABOUT FUN. IP's last post gave me an idea. So I thought I'd try it out. What do you think? If you're browser-challenged, here's an automated file that might work for you.

Dirty Rotten Varmint

In olden days, punks debated with scrivers. Anyone could challenge.
We were always vermin. The thing about being vermin is that sometimes
you can recognize when a dirty rotten varmint is a peer. He commented.
So he gets his time in the Blade. You're all qualified to do it too. So Choose.
Apotheosis? Lake? Chain Gang? Guy? Johnny? Tell him about the Blade.

EXO-PUNK. The "cap-and-trade" bill, whether it is passed or not, will be extremely successful at achieving its purpose. Which has absolutely nothing to do with what is written in the bill.

The Punks and the Instapunk commenters tend to be realists. Well, okay, we may believe in an ideology and hold to a personal creed, but our eyeglass prescriptions are reasonably up-to-date. We know the difference between fantasy and reality.

The political class in the Western world doesn't care a fig for reality. And it is a social class, which includes not just the entire political establishment proper but also the university systems, public schools, the Hollywood entertainment industry and the rest of the MSM (including, yes, even Fox News.) It's a separate social class just as the Roman senate became a social class, so completely removed from what was actually happening in the Republic that the republican government was allowed to vanish and Caesar elevated to supreme dictatorship on the wings of a plebeian uprising. (One might argue that under certain emperors Rome was actually much more "republican" in virtue than under the pampered and inchoate Senate. Not, of course, that any of us would support a military coup in the United States, because that would of course be much worse than the idiots who have controlled the government in living memory. Right? Right?)

So. End of digression.

The cap-and-trade bill is a playing card in a great big fantasy game. It is not meant to have an "effect". Its very existence provides the intended effect, because it helps add color to the fantasy world in which a large number of Westerners live. Merely by spreading the idea of something like a cap-and-trade bill they succeed in wallpapering the empty rooms of philosophy they inhabit, secure in the knowledge that if only [fill in the blank with the latest sociopolitical trend] succeeds then Earth, 2009 will be followed by a Rousseauian paradise in which the evil pollution of humanity will be gone, except for the deserving few who will all get laid regularly, and will get along in perfect harmony, except that all the brown people will of course voluntarily stay on their side of paradise (or if they are brown, vice versa.) (Many non-Westerners also live in a fantasy world, it's just not the same one. At least bin Laden's fantasy has the benefit of being loosely based on a fantasized ideal of the height of the Ottoman Empire.)

The utopian world of the American Left has never existed anywhere ever. It doesn't matter that [blank] won't actually succeed in ushering in the first days of the unending utopia, because of course any such failure is not because paradise without the presence of a benevolent Creator is an oxymoron (no, of course not) but because of the evil [fill in the blank - capitalists, soldiers, Instapunk, orcs...] who must be defeated by the forces of Light in order for the new atheist paradise to become a reality. The "cap-and-trade" bill is a dice roll in a giant ongoing game of dungeons and dragons. The point is not to _win_: the point is that the "good guys" fight orcs (capitalists. whatever.) So long as they are fighting orcs they do not have to face the reality that they are just playing a game and the world is never going to look like Rivendell.

And of course the fantasy game is unending, since they make it up as they go along. Isn't it fun.

This is why, much as the kind of curmudgeonly front-porch sociopolitical stick-shaking seen in this post is necessary to provide perspective for those of us who do try to keep our fantasies separate from reality, I greatly prefer the Punk posts about important things. Like, say, Sinatra. The wonderful thing about living life in the real world is that reality is inhabited by wonderful, beautiful mysteries which far surpass anything Al Gore's speechwriters can think up.

IP SAYS:  Yeah, DRV's a punk. He can write. Does he want to post? Or is he just a one-time tantrum? The Blade is filled with the bodies of punks who had one great explosion. Maybe he should write for instructions on how to post here. Didn't you know? Any punk can post here. As long as he can withstand the slaughter we call editing. You too, JS.

And, uh, the editing isn't about censorship. It's about grammar, spelling, diction, and logic. Can you write as well as DRV? Or Brizoni? Then join the front lines of InstaPunk and take your chances. Brizoni will tell you how easy it is.

UPDATE. DRV already has a fan -- and an estimable one at that. Congratulations, you dirty old varmint you.

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