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In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Aggressively Wrong-Headed

"Everyone's such a tryhard in this business. God help 'em, they just won't rest until they've outdone themselves in bringin' you some quality entertainment." -something I said this morning on the 'AV Club'.

So true. Let us pour out a 40 for Jay Reatard, who was a pretty damn talented musician, who happened to give himself a deeply stupid name. Of all the people in the neo-Garage scene, he truly was a person who stood out, musically. Also, he decided to call himself 'Jay Reatard'.

This led to a scene in which someone among those who called him a friend actually had to deliver the line, "It is with great sadness that we report the passing of our good friend Jay Reatard."

Hardly the dumbest thing I've seen in my life, though. As you can tell, I've been a little obsessed lately with the different varieties of stupidity.
Like that last post? I wanted to go somewhere completely different with that. I was going to remind congressional majorities exactly how one goes about exercising power. More on that later.

Letters To Phillipa (1937), by Dorothea Brande, is one of the books I found in a bag on the sidewalk. They were all books that had recently been withdrawn from the library at Marylhurst, a local Catholic college.
In it, an older conservative woman writes to her Goddaughter about those things to avoid in life, and that which to seek out. It is telling that most of the really great literature of the day is sternly thrown onto the Avoid pile. There is this ongoing flintiness and overwhelming sense of someone being Put In Their Place that makes the book a hilarious read.

But although I am fond of making fun of it in my finest Awful Old Lady voice: "It is a wicked book, and you must not read it. You must do as I say," actually it differs from similar screeds of the present day in that Brande actually makes an intellectual case for her dislikes. I may not agree with her, but she felt the need to make her case well, in case someone was paying attention.
In short, learning was not shunned as being inherently evil, even among those whose husbands proudly described themselves as "fascist". Now, you need to go a long ways to find someone who will try to make their case at all.

Another example of gloriously well-researched and relatively reasonably stated lunacy resides in the works of John Lilly, M.D. I read The Center of the Cyclone (1972) a long time ago, when I was reading everything I could get my hands on about psychedelics. In the years that followed, I apparently also bought Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer and Simulations of God, and forgot about them.
Go long enough in this world, and you will find a lot more people than you expected that literally believe in angels. Even odder than that though: there's a pretty large subset of them that will tell you with absolute certainty what colors and fragrances are pleasing to angels, and what their houses look like.

Now Lilly didn't do that. But he made a mistake I've seen lots of people make: your experience will be exactly like mine. This is a huge problem with those who write about spiritual and/or psychedelic experiences (Carlos Castaneda is notorious for it), because your trip ain't like mine, and the wise will already know that.
So where Castaneda will do the whole "now after you take the jimson weed, you will be flying. You will see a house. When you go inside, you will see a green woman..." John Lilly was more interested in formulating a large scientific framework with which to understand the oft-confusing and contradictory nature of what he was exploring.

And his central premise -that the human brain is basically like a computer, in that it all depends on what input it receives- is pretty sound. Almost immediately afterward, he falls off. Using words like "adultly", and phrases like "goodness of fit with the real universe", he goes further into the idea's natural next step: so if "mind" is computer, then one may install new programs/realities. And while this is -within limits- true, once it turns into a belief system, you have problems.
Before long, it turns into a mishmash of what is clearly just what he got out of it. What things became clear to him due to the filters through which he viewed them. Like any good scientist, he tried to make a workable formula out of it. Like most people, he set aside a place within his cosmology for a god.

What it ended up looking like (in excerpt) was this:
C*, [+]*, [-]*, L*, Z*, the five energies, the five sources.

Plus star, [+]*, pure positive energy seeking, always seeking, the positive, the orgiastic, the orgasm, the fucking of the universe fucking itself, always doing the fucking.

(Have I, at times, tried to do my own version of Unified Field Theory? Of course I have. And Lilly is still to be admired for his work with dolphins.)

Check this out:

The great thing about Robert Gibbs in this clip is that out of all the things he could have said (all the way from "unfortunate" to "evil"), he picked "stupid," which is exactly the right word. Robertson says shit like this all the time (about 9/11, about Hurricane Katrina), and is only ever briefly made to feel like shit about it.
No doubt that it will be Gibbs who is made to apologize. And he will, since he is a press secretary, and not some rich bastard who lies to stupid people for a living*.

The point I didn't make last time was that there are people still alive now who remember how to push through highly unpopular legislation, from the perspective of the party in power.

One: go ahead and let a shitty version of your bill pass. I think something along these lines is already happening with the health care bill. Once you've got the legislative framework in place, and it gets a budget, and staffers, you have created something that will never go away, for better and for worse. The flawed product opens to door to the improved product replacing it later.
Case in point? The Civil Rights Act went through several much lesser permutations -that all failed- before finally becoming law in 1964.

Two: act like a majority while you have one. So, all those senators and representatives in 1964 who didn't want to pass the Civil Rights Act? You know; most of them? So what got them to change their vote? Withholding federal subsidies on wheat, cotton, and tobacco until it passed.
I mean, some horse-trading was done, but this was the kind of thing where the gentlemanly art of politics had been largely thrown aside, in favor of the bloody artlessness of ancestral hatred. Strom Thurmond tried to strangle Ralph Yarborough, to prevent him from voting 'yes'.
So yeah, the Dems played dirty. And rightfully so.

Three: be okay without those people you could do without. And when the '64 bill passed, Lyndon Johnson signed it, saying that his party had lost the South, for a generation at least, if not forever. Yep, and at times that has really hurt the Democrats.
I have said that the Democrats need to stop thinking that they're ever going to get the evangelical vote in this country, and far more importantly need to stop degrading themselves in trying to get it? Well, I hold it to be true, and at times it will bring pain, but shit: be reasonable. Not only will you not get them, you don't really want them, so be okay without them.

You know, unless you want to be the Unreasonable Jeebus Party. But that's just it: there already is one, and you, my friend, are not it. Not yet.

*(the author is unclear on whether or not he was being ironic there)

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Blogger rich bachelor said...

Ah, crap! I forgot to talk about that stupid fucking Tyler Perry show I worked the other night! Well, next time.

5:17 PM  

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