Thursday, March 15, 2007



NTodd is in my house.


Monday, July 24, 2006



Whiskey Ashes is Moving! Name changing, too.

Go here for the new site:

whiskeyfire dot typepad dot com

Don't be a square. Check out the new digs.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Holy Shit


Holy shit.

Man, these people are brazen.


Too cool...

Good news, and a preview!


Saturday, July 22, 2006



This is so shocking in its shockitude that you will not merely be shocked -- you will be shocked!!!!

I was in the grocery store today and I saw THIS:

T Rex, dude, you are so busted.

Why did you do it man? WHY! WHY!

This story by the way is from The World's Only Reliable Paper -- says so on the front cover. And that's even more persuasive than "All the News That's Fit to Print." So you know this is true.

So I exclaim to the Heavens:
Oh wait. Sorry. Here is what I shout:
Damn. I mean:



Big changes a-coming. Hold on to your hats.

Friday, July 21, 2006



Can anyone explain why on earth anyone sees any value at all in "vlogging," besides its capacity to permit crazy people to gibber nonsensically at you in the comfort of your own home? I mean, damn, I used to have to go down to the N train at 2 AM to see these people...

Though yellow walls are a pretty appropriate look for Althouse, all things considered. Can't deny that.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Sex and Power at Disneyworld!

The Happy Panopticon

At Crooked Timber, the question is asked, was Foucault secretly a Habermasian? Tongue in cheek, but also semi-seriously. Without getting into the whole argument (read the post and thread if that's your thing), this caught my attention:
To me, Foucault is a little like Bourdieu – his theory of power is less valuable as an abstraction than as a method; an intellectual tool for critiquing social practices that we would otherwise take for granted. But for a critique to really work, it should hint (at the very least) at a vision of how things might be better if they were organized differently. The Foucault of Discipline and Punish isn’t entirely the Foucault who wrote The Order of Things and is more attractive for it (just as the Marx of the Eighteenth Brumaire is more attractive and complicated than the Marx of the Grundrisse).
Foucault and Bourdieu are not often mentioned together, at least in the States. I think part of the reason is to do with an assumed distinction between "method," as the CT post calls it, and capital-T Theory. Foucault and Bourdieu don't necessarily work well together as Theory, perhaps because of the pressure that you first start to feel in grad school to sort of pick your theorist to be loyal to like you'd pick a football team to root for. But for practical purposes I see no reason why various aspects of what they say about specific social and political modalities can't be used in a complementary way to illuminate a particular issue or phenomenon in literature or history or literary history or whatever. The question is, what do you put first, the work to be done or the theoretical theorizing? I've always thought it was the work before all, and then you install the theory to support it, as it were, or, maybe a better image, to help you examine and reweave the knots as you untangle them. (I mostly lean towards Bourdieu myself, but really, my work on censorship owes a lot to Foucault, whose insights on sexuality and repression are more or less right on and indispensible for my project.)

This is why I'm a bit suspicious of the remark that "for a critique to really work, it should hint (at the very least) at a vision of how things might be better if they were organized differently." I don't see why; if a theory helps one produce a compelling description, that is a fairly major accomplishment. Description, I've come to somewhat sourly observe, is rather a lost virtue in the humanities. More of a premium is placed on arguments that are directed at ambitions such as "liberation," or an overthrow of the patriarchy, or an end to neocolonialism. Not that these aren't worthy goals. I just could never get my head around how an analysis of the minor works of Walter Scott was supposed to advance them particularly. (My dyspepsia here is genuine, though my more patient readers will be perhaps recognize the comedy of the fact that this has been my position for literally years in the light of certain of my recent online adventures. Oh well, what the hell.) Anyway, I don't like the notion that the ultimate value of criticism lies in its ability to point a way forward to a better future for all humanity. This strikes me as the ghost of Arnoldian sweetness and light knocking feebly at the door. Ah... that's maybe too harsh. I really have no beef with progressive literary analysis. I just stubbornly refuse to concede to it the capacity to ultimately judge what is and is not good theory or analysis. If that makes sense. And if it does, drop me a line, and explain it to me...

Oh, and yes, Disneyworld. (I admit, I used the word "sex" in the title of the post purely to titillate. I am SO ashamed.) ANY-way, a brief aside here:

Is it not obvious that the architecture of Foucault's Discipline and Punish is precisely the inverse of that of the EPCOT Center attraction Spaceship Earth? Disney sees the emergence of new communications technologies, such as video cameras and computers in every home in the world, all connected to a central "Network Operations" command center, as profoundly liberating, in that in the future it can help your extremely blond kids talk about karate with some prepubescent Japanese girl with an accent like she grew up in Scarsdale (I'm not making this up). Foucault was perhaps somewhat more skeptical of these sorts of technological advances.


Corpse Metrics

In the 1990s I closely followed the unfolding Irish peace process. This was and is a confusing, complex issue laden with all sorts of political and historical and cultural contradictions. And the process itself was and is perpetually on the verge of collapse. At various points it actually did collapse, only to rise again and stagger on.

It's easy to get lost in all the arguments and counterarguments when you're trying to make sense of this kind of a messy situation, where even the most apparently sincere actors clearly have more than one motive and are obviously responsive to more than one set of imperatives and one class of audiences. But of course the fact that some political issue is difficult is no excuse for ignoring it, or for refusing to pass judgment on the grounds that it might damage your own standing, whatever that is; that is of course the dishonorable way out, tempting as it may be to keep silent, or to just ignore it altogether. I have this crazy idea that reasonable people need to develop a reasonable language with which we can describe these seemingly unreasonable conflicts, in the hopes of perhaps maybe one day solving them. Eh.

I mean, there is a powerful censorship effect that is exerted by all such struggles, like the Troubles, and also of course Israel/Palestine. This censorship effect is not just negative, producing silence, although that is of course quite powerful. Whatever you say, say nothing, as Heaney diagnoses it. But even more important: all knotty conflicts produce their own jargon, their own set of cliches and expressions, their own more or less irreducible linguistic chunks of ossified ideology. "Israel has the right to defend itself"; "the Zionist entity." This is an insidious kind of productive censorship, one that defines the conflict in language that does not explain anything but protects the speaker from having to, well, run the risk of encountering an uncomfortable explanation. Heaney again:
As to the jottings and analyses
Of politicians and newspapermen
Who've scribbled down the long campaign from gas
And protest to gelignite and Sten,

Who proved upon their pulses 'escalate',
'Backlash' and 'crack down', 'the provisional wing',
'Polarization' and 'long-standing hate'.
Yet I live here, I live here too, I sing,

Expertly civil-tongued with civil neighbours
On the high wires of first wireless reports,
Sucking the fake taste, the stony flavours
Of those sanctioned, old, elaborate retorts:

'Oh, it's disgraceful, surely, I agree.'
'Where's it going to end?' 'It's getting worse.'
'They're murderers.' 'Internment, understandably ...'
The 'voice of sanity' is getting hoarse.
It occurred to me at some point as I was watching the events in Northern Ireland that part of the confusion I felt was confusion over what I really wanted to see happen. What would be the best outcome?

I think the kind of censorship I'm describing obscures a simple answer to this question.

It is my opinion that the only reasonable metric that can be used to figure out the best way forward in these situations is to count corpses. The best approach is the one that produces the fewest dead people. This approach would be the one that performs the magical feat of transforming an actual armed conflict to one that is essentially symbolic, where saving face is a matter of diplomacy and not of missiles or special forces.

To put this another way, a difficult conflict, like the one in Northern Ireland, or in the Middle East, can really only be achieved when the true goal is shifted from that of victory to that of peace.

Sounds banal, I know. But I don't think this argument is widely understood, let alone accepted. Certainly not by this administration.

Fewest corpses wins. How about that as a foreign policy objective?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


A Response to a Critic

What shall I say to this?

Merely, that Phila exhibits, inevitably, a lamentable misapprehension of the ontological res ipsa of the conservative Weltanschung, perpetrating a lachrymose conflation of the ineffable, foundational values of the national genesis with an ahistorical, anachronistic hothouse exhibition of contemporary mores, producing in extremis, naught but jejune animadversions upon the essence of the contemporary genus of the American l'homme naturel; and, more is the pity, Phila is also indelibly guilty of a disgusting liberal inability to accord Mexicans all due contempt, especially the gay ones.

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