for 21 August 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
When I got to the end of "Muggling
Through" I kicked myself for not
recognizing Reason's "Pop culture
is good 'cause lotsa people like
it" stance before seeing your
Bloom's an ass, but I have to agree
with him about the Potter books.
They're not bad; I can see why
people enjoy them (I did too), but
I quit half-way through the second
book because there are too many
other, better books to read. I have
to wonder if a lot of Potter fans
wouldn't feel the same way if they
had someone more winsome than Bloom
to help them find the really good
stuff. Good critics are more
valuable than the NYT best-seller's
Who says everyone has to run around
reading really good books all the
time? There's plenty of room in the
world for OK books, especially when
they're made for children.
But you're right we've spent
a long time reading books based on
whether or not they got good
reviews in the NYT Review of Books.
Boy, did we end up reading some bad
books. While You Were Gone? What a
Dear Mr. Mxyzptlk, what a great job
of pricking of Harold Bloom's
flatulently over-inflated balloon.
As one who had a chance to observe
Bloom in action some years back
when he was a guest speaker
at a conference on fantasy and
science fiction lit where I gave a
paper I relished every word.
Actually, I think Bloom is quite
good as long as he sticks to the
turf he knows, that of English
Romanticism. He deserves some real
credit for having rehabilitated
Romanticism from the trash can to
which the New Critics had consigned
it. I am old enough (56 going on
57) to have had an instructor as an
undergraduate at San Diego State
College who was a Yale product, a
student of Maynard Mack, Cleanth
Brooks, and W.K. Wimsatt, who could
hardly mention Shelley's name
without foaming at the mouth. What
I find interesting is how quickly
Bloom got off the
"deconstructionist" bandwagon once
he saw it was running out of gas
probably the guilt by
association with Paul de Man's
political past unnerved him as
well. But the pompously oracular
position Bloom is trying to strike
on these shores is utterly
farcical, quite apart from the
conceptually threadbare quality of
his most recent excogitations on
literature. Bloom seems to be
aspiring to the sort of eminence
held by European intellectual
figures like Martin Heidegger,
Theodor Adorno, J.-P. Sartre, or
Jacques Lacan. But those characters
were a dying breed at the height of
their fame, and no one in this
country has ever occupied a
comparable position all to
the good, as far as I'm concerned.
Henry David Thoreau remains the
prototypic American intellectual in
my books. But Bloom is hardly alone
in suffering from this folie de
grandeur. Susan Sontag, who used to
offer an interesting antidote to
the pieties of the academic
establishment, has become just as
stuffy, if not as overtly
conservative, as HB she seems
to have taken herself for the
reincarnation of Hannah Arendt.
Once more, my congratulations!
Oh, intellectuals and all their
foamings at the mouth. It's enough
to make you eat a six pack of
chocolatey ho-hos and watch 10
straight hours of Brittany babbling
on about her oh-so-precious
virginity on Big Brother.
Thinking the Salon Big Brother
coverage deserves a Pulitzer
For what it's worth, I was watching
Letterman or one of the other late
night talk shows when Bill Cosby
came on in order to promote his
(then) new movie, Leonard Part VI.
He actually apologized for the poor
quality of the movie, stating in
his own defense that, "They payed
me an awful lot of money." I
believe that this apology came even
before the move came out. However,
this incident was so many years
ago, that my precise memory of it
Mark H. Ehrlich, Esq.
That would have to have happened
many years ago, because we're
pretty sure that most promotional
contracts celebrities sign state
pretty clearly that you're not
allowed to openly trash a movie as
long as it's in the theaters.
Or maybe that's something their
contracts should say. Either way,
it's amazing he got away with it.
If only everyone would tell the
truth, we'd never have to waste our
time with shitty movies again.
Damn that Joel Siegel!
10 points if you get the reference.
With respect to today's Suck, I
think Harold is suffering from a
mental attitude that does not allow
him to take a more sociological
approach to reading. The readers of
recondite stuff don't need his
approval, and those of us who are
Potter fans are fans because the
books are either 'cracking good
reads' or because for all their
flaws we can close our eyes and see
the story happening in a way TV
can't touch, or maybe because of
the unbelievably angry subtext of
the books, which takes on the
British class system with about as
much steam as George Orwell. JK
writes from the rage of the
outsider and this animates her
stories above the usual kiddie
kark. And she dares to be
politically incorrect, which takes
more balls than the feminists are
displaying these days, alas.
Critical thinking, I agree, is
missing. I can wail at the wall of
western civilization along with
Prof Bloom on that one. But the
smartest purveyors of literature
use the popular stuff to point to
Other Things; they don't sniff and
wail about clichés. It's a long way
from Archie comics to Maus, and
it's a fuck of a long way from
Transformers to Ulysses, but it's
up to the critical thinkers to
connect the dots, and I don't see
Bloom doin' it.
Thanks for a good column.
Allegra Sloman (Mrs.)
Wow, sniffing and wailing about
clichés sounds pretty fun.
Suck: Sniffing and Wailing About
Cliches Since 1995.
Whee! The People
Note that, by your definition,
Paris is a theme park. While
business is still done there, it's
all been moved to the outskirts
(easily reached by excellent public
transportation), where highly
efficient high rises hold the
high-tech companies that power
France (and that the French prefer
to pretend don't exist). Downtown
is Gigi and baguettes and the
world's best produce and some
really pretty street scenes. It's
all done so well that the
Parisians, by and large, don't seem
to realize they're extras in the
It's not unique to Paris of course:
there's Prague and Florence and
Amsterdam and.... It's just that
Paris is bigger and does it
better.I'm sure there's a moral
I'm more than suggest Europe be
viewed a gigantic theme park
complex, if only for the chance all
currency would then be destroyed in
favor of the convenient,
around-the-neck day pass.
40th Street Black
Hit & Run
Nice to see the Great Patriotic War
get its correct recognition. Nobody
who wasn't there, or at least
hasn't seen the remains, can
conceive of what the Russian people
suffered. The Russians, at least,
still remember. A visit to St
Petersburg (nee Leningrad - where
are the Snowdens of yesterday?) is
incomplete without a few trips to
the Summer Palaces, and every room
shows what they looked like after
the Germans left. Almost
unbelievable mindless destruction,
for no real reason. The Amber Room
- where in Germany is it buried?
When you read that the Russians
won't return war booty, take a look
at what they're owed. In theory,
war vets still get preferential
treatment in the subways; and you
won't find a lot of people who
don't think they deserve it.
Which brings me, without noticeable
transition, to my rant about "the
greatest generation." Yeah, they
were all seriously brave guys. My
father, my uncle, my girl friends'
fathers: serious bravery. But if
they (or, more fairly, their
fathers and older brothers) hadn't
criminally fucked up before then,
would all that bravery have been
necessary? The Great Depression
was, more than anything else, the
fruit of incompetent fiscal
policies. The Second World War was
a function of massive moral
cowardice and a refusal of the US
to take its responsibilities
seriously. Just as adventure is
somebody being uncomfortable far
away, bravery is the result of
somebody making a very bad bet that
has to be paid off, in blood. Bear
that in mind the next time somebody
whines about how "they don't make
them the way they used to."
"Insulter of both national
and personal dignity.
Sherman Alexie had a good insight
on that not making them the way
they used to business. During a
recent tirade against the founding
fathers, he said, "I would take any
white man of the current generation
over George Washington, who was an
imperialist, racist, sexist,
A leftist candidate (hmm, would
that be Unsafe at any Speed Nader)
declaring the triumph of
collectivism over the evils of the
Nazi War Machine and asking us to
celebrate with another "May Day."
It would then be up to the real
lovers of liberty to point out that
Nazism is but another version of
the collectivist mind set. Stalin,
Hitler; does it really matter who
steals your life?
We don't know who stole our lives,
Daniel, but we know our hearts were
stolen long ago by the Trentonian,
the best-kept secret in American
newspapers. You lucky stiff, you
get to read that fine publication
The Code War
"The revelation that Oracle hired a
group of bungling private dicks to
dig into the finances (and through
the trash) of trade groups that
support Microsoft surprised exactly
These "trade groups," as you call
them, were actually lobbying
organizations that were part of
Microsoft's "Freedom to Innovate"
campaign. As you may recall, this
campaign was aimed at getting a
favorable decision for Microsoft in
their antitrust dispute with the
When Microsoft covertly funds
"trade groups" and "grass roots"
efforts to affect a decision of
this magnitude, the public's
interest is clearly involved.Oracle
performed a service by exposing
this covert funding. The fact that
it indirectly helped Oracle by
making Microsoft look bad is beside
the point. A question to ask: why
don't media organizations get
involved in this sort of reporting?
This would have been a great story
for some up-and-coming
investigative "new media" site.
This trash-digging story is not
just about Oracle - the facts that
they uncovered about Microsoft are
the real news.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah.
Microsoft gives out money in
exchange for good press? Why,
I'm... I'm shocked!
The fact that the folks up Redmond
way are unethical scumbags doesn't
exactly come as a surprise. But to
defend Oracle as champions of
democracy and the flag-bearers for
a laggardly Forth Estate is a load
of crap. Oracle was looking out for
exactly one thing: Oracle, just as
Microsoft was looking out for
exactly one thing: Microsoft.
They're both bottom-feeders,
equally so, who wouldn't recognize
fair play if it walked up and
kicked them in the ass.
Bill Gates and Larry Ellison
deserve each other.
Are you the guy that did that
wicked parody of Slashdot?
Yep. Unless you're armed and angry.
Then it was Polly.
As someone who soldiered for a few
years (that's in a green beret and
jungle fatigues, not Polo over
Dockers) I propose the following
Turing-like test for software-biz-
as-war. When one company can get
someone to strap explosives to his
or her body, walk into the
executive suite of the competition,
and detonate themselves, then
software biz is war.
Love and kisses and the answer to
the question "What is the Spirit of
* "To kill!"
Actually, I know a few consultants
who would be happy to do this, but
only because they think they
wouldn't have to stick around to
see how it works out.
And while actual murder hasn't
played into the software industry
much yet - (Dramatic chord) that we
know of - can Outlook Express be
considered anything but a terrorist
I like it. From the employees
perspective, it couldn't get much
worse in the shallow end of the
software industry - games. Check
out the fatbabies.com forums. I
learn all kinds of things there.
For example: did you know that game
testing causes body odor? Or that
code writing makes your wife ugly?
Neither did I, until I started
surfing the internet while I was on
Y'know, in the great Cold War of
the software industry, people who
browse at work are the moral
equivalent of slacker, drop-out,
Dude! Pass the bong!