Sunday, September 30, 2012

"In old movies people scream, choking on their fists when they see shadows like these."

There's a new Mountain Goats album, Transcendental Youth, coming out very soon. This is on it. I like it.


The Mountain Goats, "In Memory of Satan"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dollar Makes me Holler: Honey Boo Boo's Critique of Post-Capitalist America

As I said in my previous post, I've just been to a cultural studies conference. In one of the papers, the speaker condemned HBO for producing slickly unambigous fodder for the educated bourgeoisie, thus shamelessly affirming the debilitating forces of post-Capitalism (in the US and elsewhere).

So. There. All I can say is that I won't ever be a fan of Game of Thrones anyways. But I'm glad to have discovered that subversive alternatives abound, especially on the more discerning educational TV channels:

Proposed thesis: "The subaltern cannot only speak, it can also let rip!"

Or: "A spectre is haunting capitalism: The spectre of Honey Boo Boo"

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Post-conference trauma (again)

Have just returned from a conference. One of those conferences where my humble and harmless ideas are greeted with baffled silence, theatrical eyerolling and straight-out spite. It is astounding how reliably the mere suggestion that some (a few) human attitudes and behaviours might be universal leads to the spontaneous collective performance of shaming rituals like avoiding eye-contact or denying verbal communication. An evolutionary psychologist would interpret all this as evidence of the old cheater-detection mechanism. Stupid, just-so story-telling evolutionary psychologist!

That is not so good. But on the positive side: I'm far less palpitatious in these situations than I used to be. What is more, these days I even manage to come up with halfway sensible ripostes (even when feeling under the weather!). In fact, I think that this time I managed to make points that are not dissimilar to those made by Terry Eagleton in a recent review of an academic study of John Cleland (of Fanny Hill fame) - only maybe not quite so eloquently.

So this is what I kind of said today:

In postmodern eyes, sexuality is at its best when deviant, since the normal and conventional are thought to be on the side of power. This is the reason words like 'normal' and 'natural' are nowadays swathed in scare quotes, as they are in this study. Yet crooked bankers and serial killers are deviant, while sunlight, death, panic and arthritis are natural. Whatever else they may be, human beings are natural material objects. Normality and convention can be on the side of enlightenment; if being allowed to go on strike isn't normal, it ought to be; convention dictates that you shouldn't kick vagrants who ask you for money. Postmodernists celebrate the marginal, while failing to note that neo-Nazis fall into that category. They also take the side of minorities, a group which includes tax evaders. In any case, those who prize the deviant should also cherish the normative, since there would be no deviancy without it.

Thank you Terry. I only wish I'd read your review before the conference.

The poetry of the police log

At the end of the written record (published today in the Telegraph) of a series of events that happened at the main gates of 10 Downing St. not too long ago -- which involved some colourful language from the Tory Chief Whip Andrew "Thrasher" Mitchell directed at the police officers guarding the gate -- one finds these delightfully deadpan words:

"I write this for your information as Mr Mitchell's last comments would appear to indicate that he is unhappy with my actions."

Indeed, Officer Pleb, he's probably, in retrospect, most unhappy about your action of writing it all down.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Book launching

At the blog for my new book, The Most Remarkable Woman in England, I have posted a few photos from the recent launch event for it and two other criminal justice histories that was held at the third British Crime Historians Symposium a couple of weeks ago.

A very good time was had by all, as I think is apparent.

The book, as a reminder, is now available in the UK and Europe and will be released on 2 October in North America.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Down the Property Ladder

Even people who enjoy a reputation of bohemian quirkiness can have a bad day on the home purchasing front.

This "mediterranean" atrocity reminded me of Fred MacMurray's comment, in Double Indemnity, as he is about to enter the Dietrichson pile where lurks the fatal Phyllis D.:

"It was one of those California Spanish houses everyone was nuts about 10 or 15 years ago. This one must have cost someone about 30,000 bucks - that is, if he ever finished paying for it."

To buy that house - now that would be hip and neatly self-referential in a Baudriallian sort of way!