Friday, September 30, 2005

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Banned Book Week

This week is Banned Book Week, brought to us by the American Library Association.

"Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met."

Here are just some of the books that have been most frequently challenged from 1990-2000. A lot of these books were mandatory reading in my schools and I am happy that those ideas were allowed to be presented to me. Many of these books have played major roles in my intellectual development and I would have been missing so much without them. It's amazing that these books below are still being challenged to this day. Some books that were challenged in the past, but are not included on this current list are "The Great Gatsby," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Twelfth Night," "Moby Dick," and of course "Ulysses." Who could fathom a world without Gatsby?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine LÂ’Engle
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The Witches by Roald Dahl
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Native Son by Richard Wright
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

Between 1990 and 2000, of the 6,364 challenges reported to or recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom:

1,607 were challenges to “sexually explicit” material (up 161 since 1999)
1,427 to material considered to use “offensive language” (up 165 since 1999)
1,256 to material considered “unsuited to age group” (up 89 since 1999)
842 to material with an “occult theme or promoting the occult or Satanism” (up 69 since 1999)
737 to material considered to be “violent” (up 107 since 1999)
515 to material with a homosexual theme or “promoting homosexuality” (up 18 since 1999) and
419 to material “promoting a religious viewpoint” (up 22 since 1999)
Other reasons for challenges included “nudity” (317 challenges, up 20 since 1999), “racism” (267 challenges, up 22 since 1999), “sex education” (224 challenges, up 7 since 1999) and “anti-family” (202 challenges, up 9 since 1999)

Awakened from the "Dogmatic Slumber"

Just came back from the coffee bar to get some tea, and ended up in a conversation with a woman who is going to therapy to "bridge the gap between her conscious experience and physical reality." She said it. I spit out tea. What is this the 18th century? Who the fuck are you, Kant? Seriously.

Bridging the gap? I am sad to leave the office for the very fact that each and every day not one bit of sensory information makes a damn bit of sense to me. And that is funny.
When Congress agreed this spring to tighten the bankruptcy laws and crack down on consumers who took on debt irresponsibly, no one had the victims of Hurricane Katrina in mind.

Of course they didn't. That's exactly the point.

Friday, September 23, 2005

On Why I Choose 66th Street As Opposed To 68th Street On My Way To Work

I really like the man that stands on the corner of First Avenue and tells me, every day, to have a nice day. I do not know him and he does not know me, but he repeatedly wishes good things for another human being. After punching my way through another commute, this is more than I can say for myself. I am in for a rough weekend, and I appreciate his support.

Man that stands on the corner of First Avenue: I salute you.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Michael Rappaport Minstrel Hour

Bamboozled was on TV last night. Spike Lee is the kind of guy people get red-faced about. Maybe you despise him, maybe you appreciate him, but his ability to provoke is unquestionable.

I remember how critics slaughtered Bamboozled when it came out, and upon actually seeing it for myself I can say that it bolstered my belief that the most splenetic critical reactions usually reveal more about the biases of the critic than the relative quality of the work being criticized.

As for the film itself, I think it can be parsed two different ways. As a think piece, a cinematic version of an Op/Ed column, it’s pretty effective, at least in spurring contemplation of the issues presented. As a movie it’s something of a failure, mostly because the structural technique, acting, and character development are flawed.

The idea of using the minstrel show as a satirical device is brilliant and provocative but instead of it being a huge sparkplug incident it falls flat through repetition and a muddled sense of satire. It’s hard to tell if Lee is implicating the audience of his film, since we are viewing the film’s minstrel show from essentially the same perspective as the film’s audience. There’s a scene where the black audience members are laughing riotously at the show and the white people are looking around uncomfortably and I’m sure this is a comment on something, I’m just unclear as to what.

The other problem is that Damon Wayans is simply not a capable enough actor, nor is his character developed enough, to carry the emotional weight of the movie. It’s a shame too, because he could be a poignantly sympathetic and conflicted character of huge proportions, but Wayans’ ridiculous, ever-changing accent and the confused motivations ascribed to his character prevent this from happening.

You gotta wonder about Spike Lee. He so often flirts with greatness, it’s a shame he doesn’t rein in his over-the-top tendencies a bit more. But he takes risks, and I have to admire that. I can’t think of anyone else making a film like Bamboozled, and for all its flaws I think its will only grow in stature as time goes by.

Reading Books After Midnight

I really did quit my job. Now I spend the night reading Careers with Animals, How to Start and Successfully Run a Magazine and What You Can Do With Your Degree. I do not want a career; I do not want to be anything. I want to watch TV.

No, that's a lie. But it looks sometimes like the truth. For all the things I say I really want, I sure have a hard time following-through. But in the obsessive-compulsive personality description it says, "Obsessive-compulsive personalities are so taken up with the mechanics of efficiency – organizing, following rules, making lists and schedules – that they cease to be efficient, for they never get anything important done." It's that easy. I am not responsible.

I wish. This is why I do not read psychology books (except for this one book, plucked from the shelf at random).

A few weeks ago someone asked about my history, or rather of my misfortunes, all the things that made/make me, me – the bad things of course. What about how much I like books? All this looking into sadness to figure out people makes me tired. A lot of people do it. It seems the sadness people look for is in some way related to our significance.

I am guilty too. I do this to others and to myself. I look up disorders when I think I am being lazy. Then I drink beer and pass out. Except tonight I do not seem to be passing out so soon…“For the schizoid person…One is a detached observer of life who takes a bemused interest in things as a sort of curious intellectual exercise but has no personal investment in the way things turn out.”

Friday, September 16, 2005

I Am Not and Never Have Been a Member of the Communist Party

Forget everything I said yesterday. Last night's Arcade Fire show in Central Park revived my faith in humanity. Seriously.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Is There Really No Hope Left?

Ok. So I've had a relapse. I once worked a really boring office job, and spent most of my time scrolling thru various internet sites and blogs, on topics ranging from music to advertising to sex to culture to politics to sexy music and sexual politics. I usually ended up with a massive headache.

These days I work a very similar job and find myself slipping into old habits. I just read a comments thread on a very popular music/celebrity-oriented blog (I won't say which one cuz honestly I don't want to encourage anything) that was an unholy mish mash of name-calling, middle class guilt, the Katrina disaster and an argument about Hilary Duff's "credibility." It made me nauseous. Forget the points/counterpoints of any of the arguments, the level of discourse really didn't reach much greater heights than a hysterical catfight.

Now I realize that it is hypocritical to criticize the internet forum from a position within the internet forum, and I'm just indulging in the same medium that I'm deriding and that means I'm perpetuating precisely what I'm ostensibly critiquing and blah blah blah. But this gets directly to the real issue: we are living in an echo chamber world. The dominant forms of discourse are labryinths which lead nowhere. Everything is self-aware and self-referential and any statement oh so self-consciously contains within it its own self-critique, protected by a shroud of irony, so it's pointless to even try and rebuke it, and really you can't say anything about anything, right?

So all I'm asking is: is that it? Many of us are genuinely interested in offering something of value to the world, whether physically or intellectually or whatever, but are we permanently hamstrung by the conditions around us? We all know the drill: someone does something, or says something, or sings something that grabs people's attention because it seems fresh, it seems to have integrity, and then said person becomes famous and vapid or else is crushed by the weight of expectation, in either case certainly drowned by the wave of backlash which inevitably follows a wave of praise. Can this be avoided, and through some means other than deliberate obscurantism?

Albert Camus wrote beautifully and inspiringly about creating meaning in a fundamentally meaningless world and he drove his car into a fucking tree on a perfectly clear day. So I say it again, to quote the Strokes (yeah, remember the Strokes?): Is this it?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Anthropomorphism Run Amok

"Some of the circumstances they experienced seemed to parallel those of Christians," he said of the penguins. "The penguin is falling behind, is like some Christians falling behind. The path changes every year, yet they find their way, is like the Holy Spirit."

Or, maybe, they are birds.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Certificate of Destruction

From: (E__)
Sent: Wednesday, September 07, 2005 4:44 PM
To: E__-NYC ALL 360

Subject: Re:Shredding

To All:
Please note we have engaged the services of Confidential Shredding for secure disposal of sensitive materials. They have installed locked collections consoles on the 10th, 8th, 6th floors. Documents (stapled or bound) can be dropped through the slot into the consoles for shredding. The units are emptied at the end of the month by uniform employees and shredded into unrecognizable bits for recycling. The destruction is done curbside in one of their trucks provisioned with industrial grade shredding equipment. A certificate of destruction is provided after each visit and one of our office services staff will observe the destruction process. Note the consoles are gray and feature a drop slot. The units are located in the following large mail/copy areas:

Location: 10-12 Center of floor
Location: 8-10 Center of floor
Location: 6-12 Center of floor

The mailroom staff will be glad to assist in transferring materials to the console locations.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Agony & Ecstasy of Cable Television

My roommates and I have recently purchased a Time Warner cable/internet package. I finally feel like a member of modern society.

As I type this, at home at my newly hooked-up computer, James Spader is talking to Tony Aiello in a car overlooking Los Angeles. Top Gun has just finished. Has there ever been a sillier movie than Top Gun? I love the way the characters refer to each other by their nicknames even in casual conversation.

Now the guy who played the crippled veteran in Deerhunter is trying to have sex with Teri Hatcher.

My introduction to the concept of sex came via Top Gun. "Take My Breath Away" and Kelly McGillis and deeply silhouetted kissing all mixed into one unholy melange. I wonder if this has warped me somehow? How many of us have been introduced to sex by some form of mass media, be it movies or porno mags or what have you?

I can't help but think that this method of introduction has seriously impeded the sexual health of America. The other night, flipping thru channels I came across a classic Skinemax soft-core porn - some slightly overweight dude, looking completely, utterly bored as he screwed a writhing, moaning blonde against a bathroom sink. It was the least erotic thing imaginable. I pity the poor adolescent who's sneaking a glimpse of this and thinking its a reasonable approximation of sex. Except, now that I think about it, the Cinemax model probably is a reasonable approximation of sex, because whole generations have grown up thinking so. So just where is the line between reality and cable? It's enough to make your head spin.

I'm out of here, this movie is interesting...

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Long-Winded Supplement to Brendan's Last Post

We pay taxes for every second of our lives so that when this type of shit happens, we won't be on a roof somewhere past the second day, when our elderly, young, or otherwise weaker companions start dropping off from lack of drinkable water. One hundred thousand national guard troops should have mobilized to New Orleans by Thursday- that's why we fund them. The National Guard weren't off fighting foreign wars back when fucking G.W. Bush was in the service and they shouldn't be now- they should be here at the ready for precisely this reason. The shame is we have the resources, manpower and know-how to keep the situation from having dragged on as it has. At this point the only people down there with the shaft still up their ass should be random people on random rooftops with help coming directly, not God-only-knows how many stranded at the Super-dome and Convention Center. We all know many of those who hold power in our country are more concerned with fucking the new red-head intern or crushing political opponents or the next $million in shady deals or simply wielding power, but to see dead bodies on the streets of what everyone thought was a cool city as an illustration of shameful incompetence... I feel terrible. Another injury to whatever pride I have left at being an American. Haunting.


This situation in New Orleans calls into question the fundamental viability of our representative democracy.

I read today that President Bush will be touring Alabama by plane and helicopter. Well thank fucking God for that. This man, if there were even the tiniest shred of integrity clinging to his jutted primate jaw, would be standing at the foot of the Superdome handing out water and food. I'm sure the ranch in Crawford has a bit to spare.

Lest anyone decry my partisan haggling in a time of crisis, let me acknowledge that this goes beyond any issues of Republican/Democrat, it is much more essentially an issue of the attitude of those with power towards those without. The fact remains that it has been the policy of this administration, for five years now, to ignore the concerns of all who fall outside the range of their ambitions. The citizens of Baghdad and Kabul know this all too well, and now the citizens of New Orleans are learning the same harsh lesson.

We are asked to believe for 364 days a year that we are the strongest, richest, most advanced, most free nation on the planet. Why then, on that 365th day, when catastrophe strikes, are we greeted by our "leaders" with a collective shrug and an aw-shucks attitude of "well, we could have never seen this coming?" This is an outrageous lie, and those who speak it should never be forgiven.

This goes deep, to the core, into places that are frankly terrifying. If the structures of security and relief can fail so appalingly, so consistently, then I ask myself what is the purpose of electing these leaders, of buying into this system, of accepting this mode of government? When they say "we just weren't prepared" then the question is, isn't that one of the most fundamental functions of government, to be prepared, to brace for contingencies? It is, and our current system has failed, unequivocally. Where the fuck does that leave us?

I feel sick, outraged, impotent. And of course the queasiest implication, the most damning conclusion, is that the response to Katrina would have been more urgent and steadfast if the hurricane had hit New York or LA, or anywhere that wasn't predominately poor and predominately black.

Our government has failed, our elected representatives have failed. They have failed because their concerns are not our concerns and never have been. Things are bad. Much worse than we realize. It's time to wake the fuck up.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

P. Diddy's dentist

In my dentist's examination room on the wall there is an antique golden frame with two withered roses in it. Under the roses there is a little card that reads:
"You are the best dentist I ever had/Love/P.Diddy"