a few half-formed critiques + assignments

1) the guns of august by Barbara Tuchman.

apparently this is a pretty ballyhooed thing, but i only know the title cuz there was a punk band of that name (i think on the mrr circut. ) i made it through eight unabridged discs (of 23) before going off the rails. this is a work describing the first 30 days of world war I. it won the pulitzer prize upon its publication, and is said to have influenced political theory in general and JFK’s thinking during the Cuban Missile Crisis in particular.

wwi, jeebus. there’s a moment in describing germany’s chauvinistic, utopian nationalism that she describes a turn of the century German general holding forth about glory and the whatever. she follows the quotation with a reminder that before WWI, ideas of glory and nationhood were cherry enough to still evoke longing and trust. that’s what the book is for me, a glimpse into one (not the only) transition into military and geopolitical modernity. that’s fascinating enough, but as a socialist i am more interested in the experiential passage into a world of unprecedented mass violence. ten years prior, lenin and trotsky and luxemborg were positive that socialism would arrive in germany before russia – instead, the kaiser rode to war on a tidal wave of persona and talk of destiny. i needn’t even mention the art of this period to underline the cultural fecundity and tension at play in a moment where socialism and barbarism seemed equally possible. i guess i follow clark in periodizing as “modernity” that time when these dueling likelihoods loomed. i guess i’d call postmodernity in which economic/sociopolitical factors, such as the “triumph” of capitalism (1989) via military finance and paramilitary death squads and the emergence of a “cultural logic” which among other things has “elevated” even material realities such as “the body” and “the economy” to an imagistic, spectacular irreality. we aren’t really “past” modernity, but even war and torture seem remote to majorities of people. socialism and barbarism remain the only options, but they themselves seem bathetic, ‘retro,’ or otherwise remote.

wow, i didn’t realized i had a four/five-sentence modernity/postmodernity narrative in me… what’s yours? please comment with a 4-5 snt. blurb!

anyway, the guns of august focused more on generals’ pedigrees and generals’ egos and diplomats’ egos about their pedigrees. it was still fascinating enough to hold my interest for eight discs. i learned a lot. i have a lot of questions for trefz about his years in Belgium, which to me was the most compelling nation/character – this is the kind of history in which nations have ‘characters’. but enough’s enough, and my daddy just sent me the al gore audiobook in all its’ habermas-osity.


easy tiger talk (reprise)

i dunno, i listen to the deep cuts and think, ‘oh, i like this,’ but two minutes later i’ve completely forgotten there’s anything coming through the speakers. i love 70sish, bearded-dude-in-suede-vest, california country-rock as much as anybody i know, so i’m sure i’ll come around. but it’s not saying much that i even have to take the time to come around if i’m such a partisan.

but then, i would like adams’ inevitable accession into the rolling stone, rock and roll hall of fame echelon to be completed as quickly as possible. that way he can get back to just doing whatever the fuck he wants. more annoying than anything adams’ ever recorded is the idiot banter of people too cool and people too square: he’s too self-indulgent/he’s the second coming of christ/he just needs to polish up the soft-rock turds, etc.

the good news is that i don’t think this accession is too far off, cuz there’s one song on easy tiger (‘pearls on a string’) that has a full-on billy joel move embedded in the chorus. billy joel!

hey, there’s an idea. let’s all admit five billy joel songs we think are really good. if you cannot think of five you either have never heard classic radio or you are a verminous liar with stupid ideas about what you are or aren’t allowed to like in some half-assed, ur-ironic way:

“don’t ask me why,” “vienna,” “the long night,” “the entertainer,” “all for leyna.”

anyway easy tiger feels like a placeholder. if it’s the price we pay for another love is hell, that’d be just fine. and it’s not as embarassing in parts as gold. so, uh, whoop.

(okay, so don’t comment on this post without including yr 4-5 sentence mo/pomo thesis, and 5 billy joel songs. let’s rush the marketplace of ideas with our lobster bibs on!)


8 Responses to “a few half-formed critiques + assignments”

  1. University Update - Al Gore - a few half-formed critiques + assignments Says:

    […] Clark Link to Article al gore a few half-formed critiques + assignments » Posted at The PrisonShip […]

  2. minx Says:

    This strikes me as a vayne-sponsored post by Lex.

    Billy Joel: Uptown Girl, For the Longest Time (is that the title?), Still Rock-n-Roll…, um. I can’t recall any other titles. I’m not so well-versed in the ’70s catalog.

    Pomo/mo anecdote: every book I’ve read recently that steps into contemporary theory/thought contains a phrase like: “. . . and postmodernity, an increasingly disparate and sometimes contradictory set of ideas and hypotheses. . .”

  3. lexdexter Says:

    minkro, thank you for the complient.

  4. lexdexter Says:


  5. km Says:

    while this may be a cop-out, i always maintain that it’s more appropriate to say modernisms, acknowledging the vexed questions and disciplinary squabbles that fall under the moniker. i think the same applies for postmodernism. in fact, from my narrow little literary corner, I can’t think of anything “postmodern” that doesn’t fit under the larger umbrella of modernisms. that is, as far as i’m concerned, we are still in a modernist moment. in other words, to quote pattyjoe, “we aren’t really ‘past’ modernity”

    as for billy joel, how can one choose just five songs? i’d echo Minx’s picks and add: we didn’t start the fire, she’s got a way, tell her about it, innocent man, keeping the faith, back in the USSR… need i go on?

  6. Lainie Says:

    I don’t know much about pomomo, but I do know that “Only the Good Die Young” is at the very top of my list.

  7. m. potato Says:

    what? i thought we were in post-postmodern times. that shows what art school does for a fellow of meager intellect, such as myself…

    as for the billy joel though, i’d have to definitely say that the stranger” is obviously good (just don’t tell figoli), but like many other carry over bands from the ’70’s, most are ruined by the confusion of punk rock/ new wave and all the new hope and despair of the 1980’s. he should have just stuck to “pub-rock”.

  8. Dave3544 Says:

    I thought “modernity” was nominally about “construction” — nation-states, empires, tall buildings, etc.– whereas “postmodernism” was about “deconstruction” of all that the moderns strove for, in an attempt to argue that while we postmoderns cannot accomplish what the moderns accomplished, we wouldn’t want to because all that they accomplished was tainted; nothing was pure, good or right, but actually sullied, evil and wrong. Of course we can’t escape the legacy of modernity, so our resistance is largely confined to putting quotation marks around words like “race” and “gender” to indicate that while we know these are false constructs we still can’t escape their fucking utility; which was the real legacy of the moderns, utility. Them’s was some inventing summbitches and the fact that we live with their industrial legacy, cannot do without their industrial legacy, is what keeps us (those living in postmodern times) in anguish as we struggle to disclaim that which we are forced to rely upon for survival.

    Not sure these are my 5 fav Billy Joel songs, especially since “My Life” isn’t on there, but here are five songs I’ve got absolutely no problem listening to.

    “Leave a Tender Moment Alone”
    “A Matter of Trust”
    “Goodnight Saigon”
    “Don’t Ask Me Why”
    “She’s Always a Woman to Me”

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