giovedì, febbraio 14, 2008

Baseball porn

Double fisting books at the moment. First, carrying on with Gould's Full House, which is just lovely and gets better with every page. Last night I stopped reading just before the chapter where he starts talking about the death of the .400 batting average so we'll see if he can maintain my interest. I only like baseball if I'm at the game and if I'm fucking drunk. I'm not a big drinker ordinarily; they don't not call me Mistress La Tipple for nothing. But at a baseball game I like to swill down the liquor and scream at the diamond. God - makes me miss Canada. Once we got kicked out of the Skydome for having smuggled in harder stuff than the watered down beer they served exclusively, and it was awful because I hadn't fully got my drink on yet. But one of the guys in the group had just yelled at a player called Jermaine that the Jackson Five wanted their least popular member back, and I was still laughing.

Anyhoo, listen to this nice passage from Full House - comes in the chapter where Gould describes his own first, non-fatal but badly prognosised bout of cancer:

. . . we must stand resolutely against an unintended cruelty of the "positive attitude" movement - insidious slippage into a rhetoric of blame for those who cannot overcome thier personal despair and call up positivity from some internal depth . . . How dare we blame someone for the long-standing constitution of their tendencies and temperament if, in an uninvited and unwelcome episode of their life, another persona might have coped better? If a man dies of cancer in fear and despair, then cry for his pain and celebrate his life. The other man, who fought like hell and laughed to the end, but also died, may have had an easier time in his final months, but took his leave with no more humanity.

The whole thing so far is written with that much clarity and incision. Fuck, it's good.

Anyhoo, double-fisting that with a book of shorter fiction from the inescapable Paul Theroux, The Stranger at the Palazzo d'Oro. Bought it in all innocence without realizing it was going to be soft porn. Oh, Paul. Well, alright then. Very masculine soft porn, of course, with passages about well-preserved beauties licking jizz off their lace gloves after getting their jollies without even being touched down there, but soft porn nonetheless. I like porn so I'm enjoying it, but not my favourite Theroux so far. Still, I know there'll be some sort of thoughtful or creepy sting in the tail, whether it will be good or not, so I'm hoping that the quality will come half as hard as the Countess does.

What's striking at the moment though is how closely the central female character, besides her age, resembles the media image of Britney Spears. I have a feeling someone in Camp Britney read the book and told her it would be really cool to act crazy in public like the chick in the Paul Theroux porn. Or maybe Theroux is just better at describing a certain kind of crazy lady than I'm appreciating amid all the staged coercive sex. Time will tell.

mercoledì, febbraio 13, 2008

In which I give vent to a mean spirit

So the 'Nicholas Sarkoy-"come back"-SMS-to-ex-Cécila Albéniz-eight-days-before-his-marriage-to-Carla Bruni' story hasn't gone away yet - not because anything new has happened in terms of the president's criminal case against the journalist who broke the story, but because Carla Bruni gave her first First Lady interview and said that such tabloid-y press would have denounced Jews if it had existed during the Second World War. It provoked the appropriate storm of complaints, with the editor of the Nouvel Observateur (the SMS-breaking paper and website) describing the complaint as 'perfectly imbecilic'.

Awesome. Too awesome. Easily the stupidest statement I've heard all week, both in its timing and substance. Belgians? Fucking geniuses. What a monumental victim complex in someone so rich and privileged. I love that shit. So much more adorable than hypocrisy because you can tell she really believes it. Obviously tabloids, if they'd existed the same way then that they do now, would have done the same thing then that they do now - for example, report on a president's (attempted) infidelities. And maybe if there'd been that popular element aggressively presenting the public with the weakness of its leaders, the totalitarian regimes that oversaw some of the worst genocides in history might not have been able to get the support of the masses that they did, indeed, get.

But I suppose if a massive insecurity is making you wedge your head firmly up your own ass, being internationally humiliated through the revelation that your husband is still trying to get his ex-wife back and might even have used your quickie marriage as some sort of attempted emotional blackmail against her could feel like you were a Jew being packed off to the death camps . . . nah, actually, I just don't see it. All I see is a pretty lady whose fame is based principally on having been The Other Woman and who has lost all fucking sense of proportion when faced with the possiblity that the public now sees her as, at best, a consolation prize.

Whoa, that is quite a mean-spirited entry. Rien de grave must have made more of an impression on me than I'd thought.

martedì, febbraio 12, 2008

Full house, stinky city

Oh god oh god oh god. Today is going to be a hard working day. I'm only half Protestant so my work ethic is pretty damn capricious - it whines if I try to employ it on something I only do for the money, as it's listening to my Catholic half saying fatalistically that God'll provide if we just fucked off to the south of France now.

Not helped by the fact that Brussels is one filthy city. The air quality here is fucking rank and even on the clearest days there's a visible miasma of diesel and dust and fuck knows what else in the air. It was illegal levels of mercury the other week. I know one doesn't choose to live in any city for the air quality, but Brussels is not a large place and I don't understand why much larger cities in Germany, the next country over, don't make me feel like I'm being throttled when I go out for a little constitutional. But I am dangerously close to breaking my Lenten resolution to not rib on Belgians so I will now change the subject.

I've moved on to the next evolution-y book I'm reading for review, Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, a reprint of a Stephen Jay Gould book from 1997. Only thirty pages in and I must say that those thirty pages were fucking excellent. I can't wait to read the rest. He had a lovely clean writing style, and it doesn't hurt that thus far his attack on the idea of evolution-as-progress is ringing all my ideological bells. But really, such a great style. So far none of the confusingly avuncular messiness of Wilson and none of the 'we're so clever, aren't we' wankery of Dawkins. Can't wait to keep going and considering putting my tongue in the mouth of the next ailing person I see so that I can take a couple of sick days this week to polish it off.

lunedì, febbraio 11, 2008

Record player

Ugh. Mess at work for me at the mo in terms of one of last week's stories, so at least one hour today will be devoted to unpleasantness. And the rumour mill says, for a shockingly confidential and sensitive reason, that this is the year we must turn a profit, which may mean some people being sacked. I'm pretty sure it won't be me, despite being the newest full time person in our office, due to other shockingly confidential info the rumour mill has loudly spat at me. But whenever a little flap over a story rears its head, which happens often enough and isn't really much of a problem, I get to thinking about what liiiiiiife would be liiiiiiike if they sacked me. The standard payout here is three months. Not riches, certainly, but enough that I could take my sacking as a sign from God that this little flower was not meant to bloom from nine to five in an office block, or for that matter in such a cold damp climate.

Anyways, it won't be much of a flap over last week's story because I kept good records of my sources, and in this case the man flapping at me was my source, so it should settle down today. Playing with my imagination a bit because of a little comparison in Evolution for Everyone about thinking and self-perception in literate and non-literate social groups (I've finished the book now and it's interesting but annoying. I hate that).

Also playing with my imagination because I seem to keep stumbling onto the importance of sources and records on our perception in our literate society. It sounds like a no-brainer when you put it like that, of course; how can we perceive anything that we didn't experience ourselves unless there's a record of it, literate or not? But let's think of two colonial tragedies from about a hundred years back: the Congo Free State and the German genocide in Namibia.

When the Congo Free State was turned from the Belgian king's great big fief into the property of the Belgian state - a result of its flagging profitability as much as of international disgust over the mass slaughter of the Congolese - he ordered all the administrative records of his rule destroyed. The Germans, those organizational maniacs, didn't destroy the record of what they did in Namibia. Now the German state admits that what happened in Namibia was genocide, and the debate has moved to the idea of reparations. Whereas when it comes to the Congo Free State - well. Numbers aren't everything, but the more modest estimates still see millions killed. A shocking, disgusting tragedy, and the 50 odd years of 'paternalistic' Belgian rule that followed on it could only count as any sort of compensation to the most hardened racist - or the most insane, if we look at what's happening in the Congo now. But from the Congo Free State, there's no record, or at least no record from the right people - the perpetrators - the only ones we can believe. I tell you it sends shivers up and down my spine.

Speaking of crazy record-keeping German perpetrators: wow.

domenica, febbraio 10, 2008

In which the French continue to make it easy for me to laugh at them instead of at Belgians

Sorry if this entry seems a little crabby but I am in one shit mood this morning. This weekend was just so good and now work is an unwelcoming prospect. And I just got an email with a picture of my impending bridesmaid dress. 3 C-notes, destined to be traded in for a sack of empire-waist polyester I won't even be able to use as a cleaning rag afterwards. I have a good mind to propose to the F-word so I'll never have to do this again. And clothe my bridesmaids in linen.

On a happier note, Nicholas Sarkozy is pressing criminal libel charges against the Nouvel Observateur, the French newspaper/website that broke the news of his 'if you come back, I'll call everything off' SMS to the wife who'd dumped him last autumn, which he's purported to have sent eight days before marrying Carla Bruni. This is the first time either ever or else in yonks a French president has initiated criminal proceedings against a media outlet so it's very exciting, especially as the Nouvel Observateur is not backing down; indeed, the reporter concerned has elaborated that Sarkozy has been continuing to message his ex constantly.

The question for many people is why he would have done something as drastic as criminal proceedings (the reporter is looking at a possible three year prison sentence) instead of a civil suit, and the answers that come up again and again are, first, that in a criminal suit of this sort, you can force a journalist to reveal his sources (Cécilia?), and second, that Sarkozy is counting on the case being dismissed before it can progress too far but after everybody has forgotten everything about it besides the fact that he pressed charges; criminal cases advance much more slowly and require much more evidence than civil ones in France.

Can you tell how awesome I think all of this is? It's fucking awesome. All he had to do was ignore the story, which didn't even show up in the print version of the newspaper and was couched in conditional language; or have his press office deny it and say, oh, I don't know, that he was too busy being the fucking president of a G-7 country to bother pursuing such a shitty little falsehood in court. But no - he had to turn it into a face-off between the national media and the presidency, to the degree that now all the papers have a great excuse to turn on him just as his popularity is plummeting in all their polls (he's had no balls with the reforms he'd promised, alienating his supporters, and he's a proto-fascist, alienating everyone else). Now he's got Reporters Without Borders bitching him out.

Fucking awesome. Awesome! Because of course there's a third reason he'd have initiated such a drastic action, and such a stupid one in a climate of his crashing popularity ratings, and that's that the man who the French have chosen to lead their country, the man whose finger is on the nuclear button, is so pussywhipped by an aging Italian supermodel who's jealous of his ex-wife that he's lost his fucking mind. Fucking awesome!