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Monday 25 October 2010

A Slice of Empty


Old gas station along the road in upperstate Michigan: photo by Carol M. Highsmith, April 2007 (Library of Congress)

The future as Meg will shape it for us offers a full life for everyone, said the paid political commercial.

When I counted her chins, I wondered what the phrase "Hunger in America" might mean to her?

The derelicts and destitutes loitering on the Avenue in the path of the satiated diners exiting the expensive gourmet eatery probably don't have televisions. (This may be a movement Elvis began on that historic night in Vegas when he shot his TV, though in that instance the provocation was relatively innocuous: not the bloated image of a right wing political candidate, merely the mug of Robert Goulet.) Nor do they possess those little black plastic devices the size of playing cards which allow the bonafide citizens of this society to be in touch with each other in every waking moment. For reassurance, I believe it must be. How can one subscribe to an enormous lie without being perpetually reassured everyone else is subscribing too?

So are we having fun yet, my fellow members of the grey majority, earners of 0.00001% of the gross national income?

Is there some part of what this guy's saying that doesn't fit the facts of the present case?

Murals painted on an abandoned building on lower Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama
: photo by Carol M. Highsmith, February 2010 (Library of Congress)


TC said...

Psalm 34:8 (King James Version)

Taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

ACravan said...

You, Carol Highsmith and the scripture-quoting guy all have a lot going on here. I haven't followed your California elections in the same detail that I do our local races, but I share your suspicions (possibly unfairly) about the relation of a politician's weight and personal appearance with broader societal issues. (The first two images that pop up in my mind are always Kim Jong Il and Hugo Chavez, although Mao Tse Tung’s robust, but eventually unhealthy, look asserts itself also.) In Pennsylvania our two Senate candidates, Rep. Sestak and Rep. Toomey, are both slender and fit looking. (Sestak’s a former navy admiral and has that lifelong military trim; it’s his haircut and the lead curtain behind his stare that creeps me out.)

“For reassurance, I believe it must be. How can one subscribe to an enormous lie without being perpetually reassured everyone else is subscribing too?”

I share your reservations about personal messaging devices (Jane once said to me during an earlier phase in my professional career, “Daddy, I’d like to take your Blackberry and throw it underneath a monster truck”), but for many people they’re simply work tools that are fundamentally related to making a living, rather than talismans or trophies. For these people, the regrettable, slothful inattention to things outside the screen that seems so evident both on the streets and in public transportation conveyances is simply a trivial by-product of overwork/overload, I think. It's young people I worry about on that score.

I believe the 2004 elections are where things shifted for me in terms of both parties’ advertising becoming so scary/vicious. We spent a late fall weekend in beautiful but freezing New England that year mesmerized by the cruelty of the advertising, which seemed so out of place with the landscape. I don’t see how much further either side can go on that score. I can’t see anyone ever going in the other direction. The things people say about each other publicly now used to be done only surreptitiously (e.g., when current NY governor candidate Andrew Cuomo circulated the slogan “Vote For Cuomo, Not The Homo” during the NYC mayoral campaign he ran for his father Mario against Ed Koch.)

I keep coming back to that refrain from “Heroin” – “I guess that I just don’t know.”

I enjoyed reading about Carol Highsmith’s life and work. I wish I could quote scripture, but I’m fairly deficient about quoting anything from memory. Lawyers are taught to look up every time that can be researched (in order to confirm details), rather than working from memory and subjecting yourself to possible malpractice claims. It isn’t a bad method, but sometimes you’re really left with a blank mental slate. -- Curtis

TC said...


First of all, let me say I loved your Parrot Collaboration with Paul Bowles today.

But as to the "serious business": in South America, where apparently they have a more, shall we say direct approach to political differences, such differences are occasionally settled on the foofball pitch. When the jogo bonito gets a bit rugged, who's to blame but... what... evolution?

Here watch No. 10 in the green (he is the president of Bolivia):

Well, kneeing opponents in the groin may not be good sportsmanship, but at least it helps keep one fit for public office.

Women can also play this game, I understand.

To the question, "Why did he/she do it?", the standard answer "because he/she could/can" seems to apply pretty much across the board with las figuras politicas.

I don't know why, but the image of politicos in track suits scares me almost as much as the image of politicos in high heels shooting elk from helicopters with the prime ministers of the faded Powers of Old Europe.

It's probably unfair to pick on the physical uniquenesses of anyone. I see Robert Reich around here all the time, and to be honest, one has to be careful not to step on him, even when one is as crippled as this blogger. Giant steps are not easy when one is not a Giant, after all. Nor even a Giants fan, for that matter.

(He does Tumblr, the new Big Thing Easy Way To Blog, by the way. I forget the other advantages besides No sweat.)

Robert Reich could probably get lost in the folds between Meg Whitman's chins. Maybe that way he could escape the Cave of the Plutocrats, the way Odysseus did by holding on to the beard of Polyphemus, and swearing that he was Nobody (which would have been even easier, of course, had he been a micro-organism).

About the personal messaging tools/toys/cameras/phones/whatevers, please forgive me for saying I would happy to see every one of them hauled aboard a large Space Barge and jettisoned somewhere the other side of Saturn, say.

Around the university here, one virtually never sees a young (or even not so young) person without one of those devices plastered to his ear, or eye, or face, or head.

Someone ought to unleash Evo Morales upon them. At least that would remind them they also possess other, lower body parts.

That blank mental state sounds to me like a state of purity. I salute you.

John B-R said...

That is the best application of any Psalm I'm aware of. Ever. As long as there are artists like that, I'm willing to continue life on this planet.

As for the reason campaigns are so vicious, I can think of 2:

1) there's a lot at state, and none of it's theoretical.

2) the difference between the two parties is ... very little.

I see the difference as this: Republicans say, "They get out of line, toss em in jail." Democrats say, "Toss em some crumbs so they won't get out of line."

Personally, I prefer crumbs to jail. Not that my "personally" should extend to anyone else ...

Tho I hope my "only slightly lesser of two complete evils" wins, of course.

John B-R said...

state = stake. Sorry.



"When I counted her chins" -- yes, very good . . . .


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, white circle of moon by branches
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

looking at events or object
which, passing moment

on its way, is between what
is and under it, this

grey-white fog against invisible ridge,
wingspan of pelican flapping toward it

Anonymous said...

I'm feeling a lot of tension these days (hoping it will lift soon), so reading a good Robert Reich joke really cheered me up. Physical comedy and dialect humor are sort of "where I'm at".

TC said...


Same artist, same building, just around the corner, on third image from bottom here.