Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Sound of One Idiot Griping

After delving into the wretched drek that passes for contemporary literature, I'm back at the library for only stuff by authors who are sufficiently foreign and dead.

And that's still no guarantee...

Envy by Yuri Olesha is one of the many anti-Soviet books produced in the early 20th century and beloved by western academics because they're anti-Soviet. There's some other stuff too but that political stance is mainly why it's remembered. 'Cause I can tell ya, it ain't for the characters.

Olesha sets out with a fun and interesting topic - the contrast between Babichev the successful Soviet official and Kavalerov the bitter loser. Bitter losers have a celebrated place in 20th century lit and Kavalerov shows why - he's a whiny, principled mediocrity constantly outrun by his own ambitions. Babichev takes him in, feeds and clothes him and gives him something to do with his life so naturally Kavalerov hates the fat bastard. Babichev is huge by the way, in contrast to Kavalerov's scrawniness. Lots of fun symbolism here.

Porkers of the world, unite!

...Except at times you wonder how much Kavalerov is the standard satire of the egomaniacal loser and how much Olesha is being sincere. I've been re-reading the worst novel in the world at the same time for my side project and I can't help noting similarities - a celebration of individualism at the expense of anything sensible, a denouncement of socialism clearly born from an inferiority complex, and a fetishizing of industrial machinery.

Olesha may very well be satirizing every side here but it's hard to make out because he's opted for that frenetic modernist style of prose. And he's bad at it. Most writers are, that's why you don't see it much anymore. The narrative surges forward like a drunken frat boy who just saw a tit, crashing through people and furniture in a clumsy mess that ultimately goes nowhere.

And then there's Ivan. Half way through the novel, Olesha introduces Babichev's wastrel brother as a foil to the successful Soviet - despite Kavalerov already serving that purpose. While Kavalerov is a fussy jerk, Ivan is just annoying. A deus ex machina who rehashes the entire characterization of the first half of the novel for the second half, before being eaten by his own emotion machine or something.

An editor with no pity might have fixed this. As it stands, this is an embarrassing addition to the company of Bulgakov but you can bet it'll stay in print as long as there are humorless old drips willing to lecture everyone about how Communism was bad and stuff.

Achtung! VectorPress will now be updating weekly on Wedensdays due to the effort required to maintain Atlas Shirked. So you should go read that too. Right now.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bow Down Before The One You Serve

Everyone's still patting themselves on the back over the apparent defeat of SOPA, the anti-piracy bill that wouldn't have stopped a damn thing. Wherever you look, people are high-fiving and going on about how the internet has been saved and how we're all free to join fake communities online where members dress up like marsupials and jack off to children's cartoons.

But what you won't hear much of is the real reason SOPA got cut. What, you thought it was because your favorite webcomic put up some pissy banner? How stupid are you? See, SOPA was just broad and clumsy enough to be a threat to the bottom line of someone now much more important to Congress than Hollywood and the RIAA...


It's a simple matter of aristocratic in-fighting. SOPA angered Google and you do not anger Google under a president who received six figure "donations" from the web giant. Obama came out against the legislation over the weekend not because he loves liberty and all that jazz - he's a politician and he owes a favor.

"So what?" some of you are saying. "At least Google's on our side!" Seriously, I know there are people saying that right now and it hurts my brain. First of all, no they are not. Second, this victory betrays an ugly truth about the modern economic climate.

The Guardian and a few others have touched on this, though couched in happier language. "New Media beats Old Media." If you're unfamiliar with those terms then I envy you, because that's webtard dialect for "internet stuff" and "legitimate publications" dressed up to be as self-serving as possible. Though it does reflect a previous slogan - New Economy. Remember that? It was the e-everything craze that was going to let us all work from home in our underwear and make a million dollars by the time we're thirty.

And then it imploded. Mostly. New Economy - meaning fakey internet economy - outfits still exist, though in fewer numbers. Google and Facebook are the most prominent... and powerful. Powerful enough to face down another DC lobbying army and defeat a bill that would've hurt their own bottom line.

But here's the thing you should be asking - just what the hell does Google make, besides a search algorithm? 'Cause only 3% of their revenue comes from Chrome, Droid, and other stuff you don't use. They're an intermediary service with backdoor profits, not charging you when you search for "chinese restaurants" or "cartoon fetish porn" because they store those results and sell them to their own advertisers. You see the blinking GoogelAds everywhere and someone must be clicking on them because Google is a multi-billion dollar company. But again, what they hell do they actually produce?

Say what you want about the RIAA and MPAA - lord knows it's all true - but they still have a tangible product to sell. And they need people every step of the way to get the product from the drawing board to the customer's hands. Google just needs a server and a few nerds. That's what New Economy has always meant - making more money with less labor and material.

If that sounds like a bullshit house-of-cards system, that's because it is. And it's why you still can't find a job.

And you can bet SOPA will be back. Maybe with a different name, definitely with some tighter legalese, and the whole song and dance will repeat because another unspoken truth of the New Economy is it leaves the majority too poor to buy any Old Economy products. So if you want it, you have to pirate it.

Ain't the 21st Century grand?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Growing Up Russian

If you're a right thinking individual, you hate coming of age stories. They're almost always an excuse for adults to wallow in adolescent bathos, typically set to a very bad but very familiar soundtrack.

The Return (Vozvraschenie) is one of the rare exceptions. It takes a look at just what it means to "come of age" in a the world we really live in. The one where nothing and nobody cares about your precious goddamn feelings.

We have two brothers - Andrei the elder and Ivan the younger - who are just going about their aimless lives in provincial Russia when one day their long absent Father reappears. And takes them fishing. This is handled not as some joyous reunion but an awkward change from their daily routine. The tension and discomfort in the family is so refreshing because it's real - you know this is how families are because yours does the same thing. Only few works of film or
 literature are ever honest enough to say so.

The Father has an unexplained past and it remains as such for the entire film. Where others would try to focus on the man he speaks to at the wharf or the box he digs up on the island while his sons are off catching worms, the story remains squarely focused on the dynamic of the three main characters and is all the better for it. See, the boys' Father is not the nicest of people. Few movie fathers are, it keeps things interesting. But in the world they inhabit, their Father's cruelties are quite clearly preparing them for life as men.

Russian readers are free to correct me on this but there is the distinct impression - both in the context of the film and in a century of literature - that life in Russia is not easy. It's damn near Hobbesian in fact. The Father is gruff and hard with his boys but you can see it's to prepare them for a brutal and unforgiving world. Ivan is the most resistant to these lessons and yet the most in need of them - the film opens with him chickening out of diving off a tower along with all the other boys from school. There's nothing inherently wrong with chickening out - it's a great survival instinct - but in the world Ivan and Andrei inhabit, doing so shows weakness. And there is no sympathy for the weak here.

So this is what I mean when I say this is the rare honest coming of age story. Andrei and Ivan go off on a fishing trip with their Father, to do the whole bonding thing but also so their Father can try to mold men out of these two boys. Because their world - and our world, if we're really honest - has no patience for those who can't cut it with no relief offered. Important lessons, honest lessons, like how sometimes no matter how great your effort or noble your motivation, you will fail.

That's the most important lesson anyone can ever learn. Vozvraschenie delivers that, along with some of the most beautiful cinematography I've ever seen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Dumbest Show on Earth

I haven't been paying much attention to the primaries lately. Mostly because I know without looking that they're just going through the motions of crowning Romney the nominee. And damn am I ever right - Senator Man-on-Dog dropped to 9% in New Hampshire last week with Romney galloping past 25%. This is a victory for some reason. You'd think they could make up some better sounding statistics but no, everyone insists 25% is very impressive for a guy who's been campaigning for six years.

I'll be sad to see the primary go, not just because it means a Bachmann presidency will cease to be a possibility. It was never a probability but I was banking on the possibility. The rest was an amusing sideshow and good SNL material.

But now we're in for nearly a year of Romney v. Obama trying to present themselves as different in any way that matters. Mitt was kind enough to offer this -

Ahahahahahahaha!!! Good ol' Mitt! Always the entertainer!

'Cause that's all this mess is, even when it's the real election and not just the extended coming out party we've been throwing for Romney since last July. Neither of these screwheads are going to fix the economy. They can't. Doing so would involve fighting back against the great Hayekian delusions of 21st Century America - taxing the rich bad, austerity good, national debt equals personal debt because no one at the policy level understands their own fucking job. No matter who loses, Wall Street wins.

The real show this year is going to be Occupy, especially in California. And it ain't gonna be pretty, or successful as I'll explain next...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Read Our Sister Blog! It's Funny!

Here's a taste of what's gonna be in Sunday's installment of Atlas Shirked:

Even as little girl, Daffy Braggart knew - just knew! - that one day she would own a railroad herself. Her father's to be exact. She'd read his will. "Someday, this shall all be mine!" she'd declare, standing on the tracks and shaking her little fist. Then one of her many high-priced caretakers would have to snatch her out of the way of an oncoming train because she also believed at the time she could stop them with her mind. She'd mostly given up on that part.

She had always liked the railroad and not just because she could order everyone around, being the boss's daughter and all. No, she'd liked it for the much higher and sublime aspect of how everyone had to do what she said. As she grew, she drew closer to the mighty trains thundering through tunnels, going chugg-chugga-chugga and every blast of the whistle an ejaculation of joy! Of, uh, man's progress and stuff. That sorta high-minded philosophizing. The fact that Daffy became fond of having her own private car in her pubescent years is entirely coincidental...

Though not all happy memories. Others, not recognizing how special she was, had said at times "You're a self-absorbed little brat, you know that?" And worst of all, Daddy couldn't always fire people who said such things! No, Daffy had to endure the slings and arrows against her perfect character from these much more limited "teachers" and "professors" and "truant officers" who so clearly just envied her will to claim the spoils promised in Daddy's will.

And claim it she did. The last words her father spoke to her were, "Where the fuck's my vico -" and then there'd been some coughing and wheezing and he'd slumped over. Daffy spent fifteen minutes looking for whatever that "vico" was before calling in a servant to find it for her. Said servant then broke the news to her of Daddy's death.

She was heart-broken, sure, but now the railroad was hers!

Click here or on the link to the right to read more!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

From the Vault: The Dog Ate My Bazooka

Originally posted August 5th, 2009

With the troops now mostly withdrawn from Iraq, we can look forward to a bright future of all the Pentagon brass-holes blaming anyone and everyone for their failures.

It's been in the works for years now, passing the Iraq Loss Ball. Even some "leftists" in this country jumped on the wagon, arguing how it was a good idea that got bogged down by the dastardly bastardry of the Dubya administration. This of course ignores the fact that it was an idiot imperialist project from the word go, but America is cursed with a mainstream morality defined by fire-breathing Protestant homophobes on one side and humanitarian Protestant losers on the other.

And the one issue neither of them will ever face honestly is just how effective our military actually is when it's in action. It's nice to think we have the best since we've ceded any hope of universal healthcare or other social programs to the massive Pentagon money hole, but the facts on the ground simply don't support such a view. True, we smashed through the standing Iraqi army in 2003 -- after over a decade of starving that whole country when not just bombing them for the hell of it. But, once the Saddam statue came down and we congratulated ourselves on being so cool, then every Ahkmed with an AK buried in the back yard started kicking our ass in a decentralized gang war. Conservatives, war fetishists, and other swine will claim this doesn't count because it's not real war, but that doesn't change the fact that we lost.

That's right kids, we lost! Just like Vietnam, no matter what those Chuck Norris movies try to say. And we're in for another decade of crappy propaganda and even crappier acting blaming the loss on Dubya and peaceniks and not shopping enough -- but never, ever will anyone blame the military that couldn't hack it.

Well not here! The rest of the country may be happy in it's delusions but we here are thoroughly against delusions, and more thoroughly against happiness! We lost Iraq because we sent over a bunch of kids loaded down with useless gizmos and the firmly indoctrinated belief it would all go like a video game. When they found themselves in the middle of a centuries old tribal feud, they didn't know the enemy from their own assholes. Hell, how could they? Most of our intel came from Iranian moles, not exactly a trustworthy source. And all those shiny jets, built to fight the Soviets in a war that could never happen, well they just sat on the runway waiting for the order to go vaporize a suspicious mule cart.

If you doubt the American war machine is a waste of meat and material, if you still cling to the stupid notion that we are some invincible giant, then just look at North Korea. It's the backwater fiefdom of some histrionic drag queen yet continues to brazenly screw with us. And get away with it! It took Bill Clinton threatening said drag queen with his massive member to retrieve a pair of American citizens captured and sentenced to slave labor simply so said drag queen could stick his tongue out at us and go "Nyah nyah nyah!"

You don't see little tin pot dictatorships trying this shit with Russia. Oh wait, you do -- and Russia cornholes them. Georgia tried stirring up trouble in Ossettia last year [at the time of this writing] and what did the russkies do? They curb-stomped Georgia so hard it's still in rubble. Now that's an empire! America's just a great big bitch.

Yob tyovu mat!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hey Look! American Conservatives Are Behaving Like Stupid Assholes Again!

So some scientist wrote a global warming chapter for Gingrich's new book. An honest chapter about how it's, y'know, real. And it kicked up a shit storm.

Pill-popping closet-case Rush Limbaugh was the first to take a swing at it. Then people started questioning Gingrich at campaign stops. Since getting elected trumps integrity - or actually doing anything once in office - the Gingrich team axed the article and left it for the author herself, Katherine Hayhoe, to find out through a third party - a reporter who called to ask her, "So how do you feel about your chapter getting axed?"

"What? It was!?"

Really. The Gingrich team didn't even bother notifying her. You can't blame 'em, after all she's just a scientist. It's not like she does anything important like write million dollar checks for the Gingrich Campaign.

This is all just a stupid little flare up in the ever embarrassing fight between people who deny global warming exists and everyone else who is right. That first category should really be limited to industries that would face stronger environmental regulation but thanks to the twin efforts of propaganda and the manufactured Red versus Blue political climate, there's plenty of Joe Six-Packs and Mary Jane Rot-in-Crotches who are jumping on the "skeptic" bandwagon.

I use quotes because it's not really skepticism. At best, it's being a recalcitrant jackass. Your average "It's only a theory!" screwhead hasn't looked at the science because that's not what they care about - they care about being on the opposite side of whatever position those durn dirty libruls take. Al Gore says global warming is bad, therefore - to the mind of an American Conservative - it is not bad or doesn't exist in the first place.

There's no logic to this. People who vote Republican, identify as "strongly conservative," deny the Tea Party is in the least bit racist - they're not mislead or cleverly oppressed. They're just jerks. If you've ever had the misfortune of living in the "Heartland" like I did for several years, you'll recognize this. American Conservatives are mean and stupid and proud of it. And we've got another ten months of Wall Street stooges trying to flatter their stunted, provincial brains with bullshit just like this.

Makes you wish Kim Junior would hurry up and launch those nukes...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Buy My Book! Part 2

I'm honestly sad Michelle Bachmann dropped out of the race. Mostly because it puts a crimp in my marketing strategy for One Nation Under God. I can't exactly scare up sales with the implication that the world presented in the novel is Bachmann's America now can I?

Still, there's always it's larger take on contemporary American politics:

The floor meanwhile came to some form of attention. The few reps who'd actually shown up were shushing each other as a man in a distinct cornflower tie took the podium. Joe had been following this guy for a while now - well-to-do son of some other well-to-do son who really believed what they said on Sunday mornings.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Mr. Cornflower began. "Fellow members of Congress, honored guests. I come here today to speak about something we never like to talk about. Something that goes on every day in this Great Nation while we and others whose conscience would drive them to act instead look away. We pretend not to see."

The fellow members of Congress weren't paying much attention. Joe could see, though, that the majority of those who actually showed up were from Mr. Cornflower's own party. "Easy sell," he whispered to Matt.

"For too long now," continued Mr. Cornflower, "we have refused to acknowledge this disgraceful act for what it is. We have allowed ourselves to be seduced by the rationalizations offered by moral relativists — mostly of a secular and leftist persuasion — who do not share our American values. They assure us that it is an acceptable 'choice,' that there's nothing wrong with the callous throwing away of human life that has yet to live. Let me be perfectly clear, the taking of human life at any time is wrong."

"Wait — doesn't this guy support the death penalty for retards?" Matt asked.

“You should’ve seen him last week,” countered Joe. “Decried ‘entitlements’ while pitching another Capitol One rescue all in the same breath!”

...Yeah, that ain't changing any time soon. So head on over to Amazon and wallow in the misery with me!

You know you want it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Propaganda Revolution

With the primary sideshow scrambling to crown the latest late-night punchline in Iowa, I figured it a good time for a much needed hack job on one Ron Paul.

Because fuck this guy!

This won't be the first time I go after Paul but that's because even now, even when losing to Rick Santurom, his worshippers are loud as ever. Probably hoping to elect the wretched troll with the force of their whining. And as obnoxious as they are, they still might manage it because Paul has built himself a nice little lie-machine to rival the complete works of Joseph Goebbels.

The biggest and ugliest Ron Paul Lie is that he'll end War. Which war? Why all of them of course! It's a common argument put forward by his supporters because they have a short memory and no critical thinking skills. They all happily assume that a Paul presidency would mean an immediate end to the clusterfucks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and all our various drone attacks. Treating this as possible requires a willful ignorance of the absolute bitch-fit the Pentagon threw in 2009 when Obama floated a possible draw-down. It's been over two years and all that's changed is some shuffling of the Generals - the same Generals who will be around if and when Paul takes office.

This little peace and love delusion is the most common argument you'll find from Paul apologists on the left trying to brush off his neofeudal economic policies. "Sure, he'll kill Medicare and Social Security outright but he'll end the wars!" Or, in the most looney attempts at rationalization, we'll have a "fight" for social programs but those wars? Forget about it!

Because the US Congress ruled by John Boner and Harry Reid would okay an isolationist foreign policy but put up a fight on behalf of Social Security and Medicare. How fucking stupid do you have to be to believe such a thing!?

But that gets to the subtler and more insidious lie of the whole Ron Paul phenomenon - that he's some champion of civil liberties. As recently as last year, Paul was pushing for a Constitutional Amendment banning abortion. None of those "if the mother is in danger" qualifiers spouted by Young Republicans still trying to get laid, just a flat out ban. It has nothing to do with "liberty" and everything to do with Paul being a reactionary toad who's cranky about how complicated the world has gotten since 1940. It's also why he's always going on about the gold standard and ending the Fed. There's absolutely no reason to return to the gold standard but that's how it used to be so dagnabbit, that's what Paul is for! Similarly the Federal Reserve serves a purpose besides just being Wall Street's piggy bank but it's too new and scary for Paul's severely stunted mind.

Look at any part of the Ron Paul platform - isolationism, abortion, shiny things - and the positions are clearly not grounded in any principles of freedom or liberty but in the typical reactionary's visceral hatred of all things new and different. And just in case it wasn't obvious enough, Paul then cloaks himself in "constitutionalist" rhetoric, the familiar garb of the bitter old coot demanding the world return to what he knew in his boyhood.

Yet Ron Paul still commands national support for these positions that were archaic in the 60s thanks to the internet. The very same internet where you can find all this clear evidence that he doesn't care about peace, liberty, or any of that crap. He's just a bitter old fart who wants the world to get off his lawn and he's one more argument in favor of SOPA.

It's not a macro, it's a mirror...

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Obscene Buzzard of Capitalism

"Cultures tend to punish harshly those who puncture sacred narratives and reward those who buttress them, no matter how flimsy the claim or unqualified the storyteller." ~ John Dolan

Hey kids, let's talk about Ayn Rand!

As much as I loathe to give the talentless hack anymore free publicity, you just cannot escape her crazy ideas these days. The GOP have been holding her up as their intellectual inspiration since 2009 and no matter how little money trickles down there are still suckers buying her doorstoppers. I've even heard it called a genuine revival of popularity.

Further leading me to suspect American conservatives are the dumbest hominids on the planet.

The appeal of Rand isn't based in reason. Hell, it ain't even based in greed! It's spite - good old fashioned petty malice. That dull monkey part of your brain that gets off on the pain of others. This is why you'll find so many social outcasts flocking to Rand's banner - a chance at revenge, cloaked in high-minded rhetoric about the sanctity of Reason and the Individual and all that good stuff.

Even internet trolls find her offensive...

This gets to the darkest and ugliest root of modern American society - Puritans. Those dull bastards too depressing for even England who washed ashore up north and didn't have the good decency to completely die off during their first Massachusetts winter. They brought this thing most people who never read are very proud of mentioning, the "Protestant Work Ethic." Know what it means? Of course you don't, but everyone knows it's good, right?

This brainwave was a product of the predestination doctrine of 17th century Calvinism. The elect are already going to heaven but God just loves 'em so much he's going to grant them material success in this life first. The non-elect, the damned, get to be poor. This is the rarely acknowledged faith in materialism that has been a bedrock of this country since before its official founding and it's why even today, with Wall Street a flagrant criminal enterprise, people can say CEOs have earned their billions without choking on their own bile.

This further grants moral license to just flat out ignore the less fortunate. Hey, if they were good people then they would be rich too, just like Kim Kardashian! It's a mean, stupid way of thinking that Rand tapped expertly for her ponderous doorstoppers. And it's why so many have embraced her faith-based philosophy of Objectivism as it strokes their existing biases and requires no real consideration or commitment.

But Objectivism's biggest failure is its worship of money. Rand - a spoiled idiot who saw the Bolsheviks take away daddy's pharmacy - declared capitalism the One True God over and over, much as Psalmanazar flattered the Anglican church once he washed up on the shores of Dover. Today, her disciples are uniformly in favor of the gold standard and other economically backwards policies because their worldview does not allow for the reality that money is a social convention rather than a hard standard.

And this ain't a fringe theory but a recognized fact for over half a century. Currency, like the dollar or the shekel, evolved not from materials of value but rather as a standardization of existing practices of credit and debt. The original barter system you heard about in Econ 101? Never happened, it's just a convenient base for economists to spin their chronically wrong conclusions from. Real wealth isn't a direct result of possessing the most shiny things but rather a combination of material and social factors.

Which brings us to the very core of the Randroid faithful - nerds. Nerds are social failures and therefore poor - so why not embrace a mystery religion that enshrines value only in the material? This way, the asocial recluses can indeed achieve wealth and smite their more gifted foes at the same time! Just like in D&D!

So here we are at the twilight of American empire - a failing nation ruled by nerds who can't stop jacking-off to the one ugly chick to ever come out of Russia.

Hey all two of you who reading this! Check out our sister blag, Atlas Shirked!