How bad is it? Give me a sign…

If there’s one thing about the collapse in the U.S. media’s credibility and sustainability that disturbs me most (aside from its effects on my own potential income), it’s that I can’t tell how deep the crazy in today’s politics really runs.

Like in this NYT Tea Party article here.  Excellent feature, but it doesn’t really indicate that anything but a very small minority of Americans has taken leave of its senses. Which isn’t anything new. Yet the Democrats seem to be collapsing. Why? How genuinely widespread is the crazy and not-crazy opposition when they’re not being shown on a 24-hour news channel?

Or is offscreen even a relevant political category anymore? Maybe I’ll just watch Fox for a while, that should clear up any questions I have.

We, the machine, can write like the wind

Another reminder that the market is sometimes bad for humans. Or writers (and probably readers), in this case.

According to the NYT, Tina Brown is hot on creating a new publishing imprint that will rush books to market just a few months — one to three for writing, another one or two for editing and production.

It’s a fabbo business idea. Books fail because people’s interest moves on too quickly, she argues. True enough. Who cares about Iraq these days? Or Lehman brothers. Or what happened yesterday…  Polanski who?

But, c’mon. Damn. They’ll be short books, some 150 pages, and if you’re a beat writer, know your stuff, don’t mind working like a dog for a few months, it’s totally doable. Nobody’s going to expect prose that shimmers, and yeah, they’ll probably sell.

And this will increase the pressure on writers even more, to produce more, write faster, report less, edit less, fact-check less, write shittier sentences. We’ll get long, sometimes beautifully written academic tomes on one end of the market, and quick-turnaround jobbies by journalists and freelancers (thus further reducing the intellectual reputation of journalists) on the other, and the smart middle will be further hollowed out. More unintended consequences.

I’m going to go invest in some stock for anti-carpel tunnel products.

Stalin in Iran

Stunning how completely the Iranian trials replicate their Soviet models. From Juan Cole, quoting a translation of official Iran news radio:

Asked if his current position was under the effect of his imprisonment, (former vice president Mohammad Ali) Abtahi said the situation in the prison helped him to reach a conclusion about the recent incidents. Abtahi said he had no problems and concerns in the prison and praised his “courteous and polite interrogators.” He added that his friends who have not been arrested yet share the same idea. He concluded, however they “have not the courage to express the same ideas.”

This is horrifying. More so because we have seen this before, seen generations of brilliant intellectuals and dissidents wiped not just off the planet, but out of history, out of memory. Now again.

Don’t forget the Greens.

Eight things, a meme-tag

I have been meme-tagged by the beautiful and eloquent Ms. Balderama, of Intoxifictian, Nonsense Versian, Naxian, and NYT-ian fame. The idea is to expose eight things about yourself. I’m borrowing in part from her borrowed template, since this is a meme, after all. So here goes:

1. I took great pride when young in being born during the witching hour, which (according to me, and not Wikipedia), was the hours between 12am and 1am on Halloween Night. It doesn’t seem to have given me any magical or demonic powers, but I’m certainly still a night person. I can make pretty good scary faces, too.

2. The longest train trip I’ve ever taken was also one of the shortest, scheduled Seattle to San Francisco, but in fact Portland to somewhere in the Oregon Cascades. The train didn’t make it to Seattle, so Amtrak bused us south to Portland. The train met us there, then died in the middle of a snowstorm a few hours later. Night came, people started freaking out without any announcements (or lights, or heat) from the folks in charge, and eventually Red Cross came and gave us coffee, donuts and blankets. At dawn, a bus came and drove us to Sacramento.

3. Ice cream: it’s OK, but it’s really an excuse for the cone, which channels one of the few really celestial textures on the planet: crunchy. See the next entry.

4. I’m mildly obsessed by toast. Or maybe not mildly. Have you ever tried Acme Bread toasted just perfectly with a bit of jam? Or German billion-saat-brot with a slice of ham? See, poetry.

5. I’m scared of flying. You should be too. Big, heavy things oughtn’t to float though the air with the greatest of ease, no matter what physicists say. I know my own personal experience has nothing to do with ease at all, unless a few drinks have been procured beforehand.

6. I have tried to learn Mandarin Chinese several times. The first time, I got so anxious every time I approached the classroom, or even the general area, I dropped out after half a quarter. Better luck the second time on my own, but I remember none at all. I’m doing much better with German, danke.

7. At various times I have played baseball, soccer, run track (hurdles and sprints), run cross country, and been a diver with distinctly sub-Louganian grace. For all my deep and abiding commitment to the computer-driven lifestyle of writing and geekdom, I’m pretty sure humans were meant to get up and move around once in a while. I really ought to take that advice.

8. I have no idea when I’ll leave Berlin. This city has afforded me the time and mental space to write a silly and intermittently serious kung fu novel, for which I owe it a great deal. It is rewarding and infuriating, and I can’t think where I could next be as happily sub-economic as I am today.

Und so, on that note, I meme-tag onwards.

The beer really is better. But you have to hike for it.

Belatedly, our last week: We visited T. and K. last weekend in München, where they moved two months or so ago despite our extreme and desperate protests. Their new apartment is lovely, in a quiet neighborhood northeast of the old town, within a (long) walk to the University where T. is beginning his PhD program as a genius political economist.

I hadn’t exactly done my homework. I knew that at some point they set up lots of tables in Sept-Oct and drank enormous beers (the liter-large glass is called a Maß, I now know). I hadn’t realized the town was mostly destroyed in the war, (see: Berlin). Much has been rebuilt, and the town center’s Rathaus looks as gothic as ever, despite having been built largely in the in late 1800s; but the city as a whole has the feeling of modern German, certainly not medieval or quaint Bavarian.

IMG_3943We spent one day hiking out to the Kloster Andechs, a monastary on a hill south of the city that has brewed its own beer and schnapps since the mid-1500s. It was a perfect fall day, the forests strewn with yellow leaves, the Alps jagged and white in the background. The little villages in the hills there are still what I think of when I think Germany, despite having almost never experienced them. Smoke rising from steep, tiled roofs at sunset, onion-dome church steeples in every town, blue-and-white striped maypoles in front of homes or towering over town squares. A few pictures on Flicker here.