After years of rebuffing your advances, George, I’m ready to admit…I love you.

From what can only be described as hailing from a zero-degrees-Kelvin circle of hell, the following news item has appeared:
Bush Urges Conservation as Retail Gas Prices Rise, the New York Times, September 26, 2005:

President Bush called on Americans to conserve gasoline and avoid non-essential driving today as the average national prices for retail gasoline climbed higher for the first time since they peaked over the Labor Day weekend.

Slowly but surely, you’ve been opening these floodgates of passion, my liberal, free-spending darling.
Let’s do it, George. Leave your clown-faced wife. It’s you and me, now. Just us. Let’s roll around in the protected marshlands together. Let’s run off to Northampton and get married. You and me, let’s start hugging the trees when we’re not too busy making sweet, gay love.

Shallow Versus

Lesbian Ass vs. the Commuter Class

This past weekend, Manhattan’s customarily quiet and genteel neighborhood of Chelsea was overtaken by lesbian rage, as 22nd Street became the site of the LTTR Block Party, in honor of the release of the fourth issue of this largely-unknown feminist art/literature/music journal. (That’s one more issue than n+1, in case you’re wondering. Collect them now!)
So, what sort of clash ensues when the upper-income brackets of Chelsea’s brownstone-residing queers play host to a bunch of art-world dykes? Hmm…phrased like that, the whole situation becomes confusing. Let’s sort it out by pitting LTTR versus that beacon of aspirational capitalism, BusinessWeek.

BusinessWeek LTTR
lesbian_cover_businessweek.gif lesbian_cover_LTTR1.jpg
The publication’s title pretty
much says it all…you’re getting the news of "this week in business".
Concise, but boring. Kind of like your typical V.P. of Development. Not very
gay in the least.
The publication’s title
serves a dual function; first, it’s an artful abbreviation of LETTER,
get it? Because the printed word is comprised of letters. Secondly,
it’s an acronym of sorts, wherein issue number 1 went by the longhand
variant of LESBIANS TO THE RESCUE, issue number 2 spelled out LISTEN
TRANSLATE TRANSLATE RECORD, and then there’s some additional wordplay
with the idea of LESBIANS TEND TO READ. Semi-clever, mostly creative.
And, therefore, very gay.
Inserts: Each issue includes subscription
invitation cards that frequently fall out on the floor of the Metro North
train on which its readership rides.
Inserts: Past issues have included
insert CDs with rare and exclusive tracks by artists such as Le Tigre.
Apparently the group’s frontwoman Kathleen
has some sort of penchant
for lesbianism?
Current Cover Story: When
Rita Came Calling
, examining how "after Katrina, Gulf Coast outfits like
SBC, Coke, and Texas Instruments prepared extensively for this hurricane."
Informative and matter-of-fact. And, again, boring as all fuck.
Potential Cover Story: When
Rita Came Calling
, examining what happens when an ex-lover
comes by your studio apartment in Williamsburg while you’re racing to
hide your new girlfriend’s undergarments. Assuming she wears undergarments.
Poetic and beautiful.
Packaging: Bound like ninety percent of all other magazines. Three staples straight down the side, gloss on the front, and poker in the rear. (Sorry, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Account Executives are just so goddamned aggressive after happy hour!) Packaging: The latest issue comes wrapped in textured paper, bound by a frilly ribbon. Very feminine, but not very durable –– and certainly not built to last in perpetuity. Where are those all-important subscription cards?

This, then, is why the breeders will always win.


Damage Control Watch: In the Bubble or Off the Wagon?

From Living Too Much In the Bubble?, Time, September 11, 2005:

On the Monday that Hurricane Katrina landed and the Crescent City began drowning, Bush was joshing with Senator John McCain on the tarmac of an Air Force base in Arizona, posing with a melting birthday cake. Like a scene out of a Michael Moore mockumentary, he was heading into a long-planned Medicare round table at a local country club, joking that he had “spiced up” his entourage by bringing the First Lady, then noting to the audience that he had phoned Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff from Air Force One. “I said, ‘Are you working with the Governor?'” Bush recounted. “He said, ‘You bet we are.'” But the President was not talking about the killer storm. He was talking about immigration, and the Governor was Arizona’s.

From Bush’s Booze Crisis, The National Enquirer, September 21, 2005:

“When the levees broke in New Orleans, it apparently made him reach for a shot,” said one insider. “He poured himself a Texas-sized shot of straight whiskey and tossed it back. The First Lady was shocked and shouted: “Stop George!”

Sure, it’s a logical explanation for the last month’s worth of public appearances — but does this make the President the second man to appear before the United Nations General Assembly smashed out of his gourd?
Or the third?

Grave Unintentionally Hilarious

Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 58


Grave Unintentionally Hilarious

Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 57


Shallow Versus

Ronald McDonald’s Happy Steal

From L-R, McDonald’s new female Ronald McDonald, as seen in a current Japanese TV campaign, and Milla Jovovich as Leeloo in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element (1997)
Talk about Hamburglars! (Ba-dum.)


Lining Up for Good News: This Week in the Job Market

Sony Corp. to Slash 10,000 Jobs Globally, Thursday, September 22, 2005
Delta Plans to Cut Up to 9,000 Jobs, Thursday, September 22, 2005
Philadelphia Newspapers cutting 100 staffers, Tuesday, September 20, 2005
New York Times Co. to cut 500 jobs, or about 4% of staff, Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Fed raises interest rates for 11th consecutive time, Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Federal Reserve raised a key short-term interest rate Tuesday and suggested more rate hikes are on the way, saying it believes the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the economy would be temporary.
The central bank’s policy-makers boosted their target for the federal funds rate a quarter-percentage point to 3.75 percent, the highest level in more than four years.
For consumers, the increase in the fed funds rate, an overnight bank lending rate, means higher rates for credit cards, car loans and adjustable-rate mortgages.

Satirical Shallow

Ask Ben Kunkel

Today’s Salon features an insightful, probing piece by Rebecca Traister on the humdrum, sorry state of being a Modern American Woman, and the trouble with dating the contemporary early-adult American male – specifically, how today’s women are dissatisfied with this “new breed of man: a man of few interests and no passions; a man whose libido is reduced and whose sense of responsibility nonexistent. These men are commitment-phobic not just about love, but about life. They drink and take drugs, but even their hedonism lacks focus or joy. They exhibit no energy for anyone, any activity, profession or ideology.”
Traister sagely acknowledges that writers such as Candace Bushnell et al have explored this subject to death, and, as such, she seeks a new hook: What might Ben Kunkel, the author of Random House’s Indecision – this month’s literary hotcake amongst the city’s subway- and nightstand-reading set – have to contribute to this line of discussion? Of the author and his text’s protagonist, she asks, “After I finished Kunkel’s novel, I was curious about the man who had so precisely drawn a figure whose initial indifference is so painfully familiar. With Kunkel, I thought I might be able to have a safe, objective conversation about the kind of guy Dwight is as his story begins. How did we get a population of Dwights? Will they ever get better? Why do my friends and I continue to date them?”
But why limit Kunkel to a simple, one-track discussion on dating and relationships? We asked him, this literate, Harvard-trained man-about-town, to help our sullen readers with some of their sundry dilemmas. And boy, did he ever!
Welcome, then, to the first installment of our new, groundbreakingly opinionated, and most important, gentlemanly advice column.
ask_ben_kunkel.gifDear Ben,
I recently left my wife of five years after – for lack of a better way of phrasing it – losing my passion for her. Not falling out of love, mind you…just losing that sense of passion that keeps people together. Lately, however, I have been regretting my decision, and want her back. The problem is, she has taken up reading all sorts of self-help books that seem to discourage exes from reuniting. What should I do?

It can be very difficult dealing with the repercussions of our actions, particularly when it comes to love and the causalities thereof. Do we love for the sake of loving, or do we love merely to stay afloat in this pool of the everyday, the human interactions that define our existence? Hannah Arendt hit it right on the head when she put forth that being female was akin to being imprisoned by one’s mind and morality, and that, no matter what we may do to attempt to break free, we – and, it may be said, all of humanity – will forever be subjected to a greater external framework, an ethical morass the likes of which no mere mortal can transcend. Which is why she encouraged her lover, Walter Benjamin, to take his own life. Ever the slattern, she then wound up fucking Heidegger over, too.
Dear Ben,
I recently moved into an elite co-op in Chelsea, and was thrilled to become a part of what felt like a second home, this tightly-knit community of likeminded, intellectually vibrant, book-reading wage-earners. But since settling in last month, I have learned my upstairs neighbor insists on playing his music far too loudly, and usually at moments when I am trying to sleep. I have thought of leaving notes on his door, but am uncertain of what this might do to upset the otherwise tranquil balance of our collective abode. Any ideas?

Noise, and music in particular, can be a source of great asymmetric tension. Historically, one may note, Theodor Adorno espoused nothing but the severest disdain for jazz music, or rather, what he termed “jazz music”, but which was, in fact, a series of sounds akin to “big band” music, henceforth confusing generations of Marxists and music critics alike. It was his literal reading of this cacophony, the simpleminded focus on aberrant rhythms and layered ideas, that confounded his aesthetic judgment, and led to a great deal of turmoil in his dealings with his onetime partner in the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer. Horkheimer really got down with the horns, the clarinet, the vibrato…all of which conveyed an intricate melding of joy and sadness and expedient physicality. This tapestry of the old and new, incidentally, can be found in the recent works of Radiohead.

Benjamin Kunkel grew up in Colorado. He has written for Dissent, The Nation, and the The New York Review of Books, and is a founding editor of n+1 magazine.


September 2005: Black History Month for the White House

From Bush Questions Reopening of New Orleans, the Associated Press, September 19, 2005:

“We have made our position loud and clear,” Bush said. “The mayor is working hard. The mayor _ you know, he’s got this dream about having a city up and running, and we share that dream. But we also want to be realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles that we all confront in repopulating New Orleans.”

Mayor Ray Nagin, for what it’s worth, is a colored man.


George Bush doesn’t care about poor people

President Bush, center, stops for a group photo as he greets visitors at the White House on his return from a two day respite at Camp David, in Washington, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2005.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In his televised address to the nation from New Orleans last Thursday night, President Bush inspired millions of Americans who had become concerned with what was perceived to be the federal government’s belated and inadequate response to the Disaster That Was Katrina. Channeling the finest moments of FDR, he lifted our wounded spirits and explained how the wrongs that had inflicted America over the past several centuries were going to be corrected under his watch…the true, idealistic Compassionate Conservative.

As all of us saw on television, there’s also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.

Stirring. Resonant. We saw this poverty on our flat-screen TVs in the White House situation room, and, fuck, we’re going to fix this shit. We’re going to throw cash your way. Cash. Money. Bills. You black people like that shit, right? Yeah? Yeah? Check this shit out, all these noble actions and understanding gestures we’ve got for you poor, penniless motherfuckers:
Sensenbrenner: Nix on Bankruptcy Delay, TPMCafe, September 14, 2005:

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, refuses to even consider a vote delaying bankruptcy law changes for Katrina victims.  The party line is, the law is, was, and always will be perfect, and why mess with perfection?

Medicaid Cuts to Continue Despite Hurricane Katrina, TPMCafe, September 19, 2005:

While legislation was delayed last week, House leaders are determined to introduce legislation cutting $10 billion from the Medicaid program once they can turn their attention away from the hurricane cleanup.

OK, but what does our First Black President Who Also Happened to Be Poor think?
Clinton Levels Sharp Criticism at the President’s Relief Effort, the New York Times and ABC News, September 19, 2005:

“I think it’s very important that Americans understand, you know, tax cuts are always popular, but about half of these tax cuts since 2001 have gone to people in my income group, the top 1 percent. I’ve gotten four tax cuts. They’re responsible for this big structural deficit, and they’re not going away, the deficits aren’t. Now, what Americans need to understand is that that means every single day of the year, our government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina and our tax cuts. We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, military conflict, by borrowing money from somewhere else.”