Perhaps the last Joy Division story anyone needs

This is positively meant, BTW, but I’m beginning to agree with Chris Roberts’ piece in The Quietus about the cultural overload with the band of late. Jon Savage — who admittedly has helped contribute to the overload, which he wouldn’t deny — does redress things a bit, though, with a piece that appeared a few days ago over in the UK, specifically talking about the literary interests of Mr. Curtis and company:

In the same way that Jim Morrison referenced Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night in the Doors’ moody masterpiece, “End of the Night”, Curtis dropped hints in song titles such as “Dead Souls”, “Colony” and “Atrocity Exhibition” that he had read writers as diverse as Gogol, Kafka and Ballard, while the lyrics reflected, in mood and approach, his interest in romantic and science-fiction literature.

This is not to legitimise Curtis’s lyrics as literature, but to make the point that, in the 60s and 70s, pop culture acted as a clearing house for information that was occult in the widest sense: esoteric, degraded, unpopular, underneath the literary radar. And there was a whole subculture and a market that supported these endeavours to go underground, to step outside.

It’s of general interest on a number of levels, but the end is of the most interest to me:

Nearly 30 years after his death, Joy Division have gone mass market: their music crops up in Coronation Street, or as a soundtrack for BBC sports coverage. I’m pleased the songs are receiving their due, but it’s also worth restating that the band, and its lyricist, were products of a particular time in cultural history, when there was an urge to read a certain sort of highbrow literature, and when intelligence was not a dirty word.

While this conclusion and the context of the story as a whole is UK-specific, there is something worth unpacking from this, which admittedly is a canard on the one hand (“these kids today with their texting; back then we were all reading Camus…”) but still is of potential interest for this now well-established century. More on this tomorrow, though.


Okay, I give up, it’s just a day for very weird stories

I mean, choose between these two:

First, there’s the unveiling of a statue of Margaret Thatcher over in Michigan:

Dr. Larry P. Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College, said in his remarks: “Lady Thatcher’s courage was mated with prudence, a moral and intellectual virtue together, the combination making a character fit to govern itself and other free beings. She is here to remind us that we must go about our examination of the most elevated things in an urgent spirit.”

Mrs. Thatcher lent her support to the statue project from the beginning, but upon the recommendation of her doctors she cancelled her plans to attend the dedication. In a letter to be read at the ceremony, she described the statue as “magnificent” and added: “Hillsdale College symbolizes everything that is good and true in America. You uphold the principles and cherish the values which have made your country a beacon of hope. In doing so, you extend to each new generation a commitment to those beliefs which the Founding Fathers enshrined at the very heart of your nation’s life.”

Etc. etc. etc. And what does the statue look like?

Hello, sailor

To quote a post on ILE, “Basic Instinct starring Margaret Thatcher.”

That said, even that might not be as WTF as this story:

Mom appalled at racy books in store for teens at Alderwood mall

All I ask is that you click the link and read the name of the mom in question. I would recommend not having something to eat or drink at the time while doing so.

Hell has frozen over — Karl Rove and I agree on something

As I’ve kept saying — Iraq, economy, and those factors will decide the election in the end.

So today there’s this (mind you, as I muttered yesterday, any time I see the word ‘brand’ now my eyes glaze over):

Why is it tough sledding for Republicans? Public revulsion at GOP scandals was a large factor in the party’s 2006 congressional defeat. Some brand damage remains, as does the downward pull of the president’s approval ratings. But the principal elements are the Iraq war and a struggling economy.

He then adds later:

Has the bottom been reached? It’s too early to know. But Americans are acknowledging progress in Iraq, economists are suggesting the economy will be in better shape this fall, and a recent ABC/Washington Post poll found GOP identification rising.

Vague sentiments all but at least prefaced with the ‘too early to know,’ which is the core part. And there’s other stuff in the piece which is of general interest — otherwise, though, he’s coming pretty close to what I said a few weeks back:

  • If some combination of Iraq and the economy, or even one of them, gets so noticeably bad that the implications are inescapable, the GOP gets the blame because of the current inhabitant of the White House. McCain loses, the Democratic candidate wins.
  • If Iraq and the economy both maintain themselves at the level they are at now — causing discontent and some concern but not otherwise going obviously and immediately to hell in a handbasket, yet — then barring some complete disaster on his part, which I don’t rule out at all, McCain wins. He wins in a close election perhaps, but he wins.

Karl Rove in general is a bit like Rush Limbaugh, referring to my post just previous to this one — if you build him up as some sort of fearful overlord, he becomes that, at least in your head. He got out while the getting was good and is probably chortling at most everybody right now still at the White House. I might have thought of him as an arch-schemer at one point, now I think he’s a biased tea-leaf reader (hey, so am I, in my own small way).

And maybe we’re both totally wrong in the end — but it is refreshing to see someone on the right saying this rather than saying something like “We didn’t make our case clearly enough!” Trust me, all y’all did that already — which explains so much.

Random politically minded thoughts on a Thursday

A lot of amusing/interesting things in the last twenty four hours, actually, and while I was all geared up to talk about one or two in details, better just to do a catch-all in this instance:

  • The big news right this hour is the California decision on gay marriage, ruling that current state marriage laws discriminate. Personally I’ve long felt this was overdue, at the same time while I think ‘judicial activism’ is a wonderfully lame complaint — after all, it’s only ‘activism’ if it’s a decision you don’t like, and all but one of the justices was a Republican appointee anyway — I think there’s a larger point to be had regarding getting the right to gay marriage confirmed via a larger vote somehow. In Massachusetts this was done via the legislature; attempts here going that route have not been forthcoming yet but maybe third time will be the charm. Given the planned November initiative out amend the state constitution to disallow gay marriage, though, that’s one to watch — I suspect it would now be defeated where the original proposition on the matter in 1994 won with 61%. This in itself wouldn’t be a vote for gay marriage, of course, but it would knock the wind out of the sails of those saying that’s all down to the judges. Anyway, early days yet.
  • Rush Limbaugh has long been one of those people who I realized gains influence if you actually pay attention to him. John McCain figured this out a while back and has been having fun with it ever since, which is what makes this snippet of broadcast yesterday interesting, specifically this bit:

    We’re not going to vote for [Obama]. We’re not going to vote for Hillary. We wouldn’t vote for Al Gore. For some of us the question is, are we going to vote at all? But it’s entirely possible, this newly constituted Republican Party which stands for nothing but liberalism lite might end up winning because a lot of the country might look at this socialist bunch the Democrats are offering and say pooey, and want no part of it, and then where are we?

    Ignoring all his usual shtick, what’s interesting about this statement is the implied personal fear — it’s not so much ‘then where are we?’ as it is ‘then where am I?’ Combined with a lot of the malaise and complaints about the GOP I touched on yesterday — the generally head-scratch-worthy Mark Steyn put it succinctly today by saying “John McCain has decided in effect to run for president as an Independent. And, given the assumptions about the diminished appeal of the Republican brand, that might not be a bad idea…” — it will be fascinating to see over these next few months how much of this is simple and ultimately distracting kvetching that the left would too easily fall for (I remain convinced this is most of it) and how much of it is a certain group of self-described non-political purists who, having shaped the debate and perception of the GOP as others regard it all this time, find themselves squashed by the history they claim to boldly stand athwart. Way, way too early to say for sure, though.

  • Oddly enough, though, both Steyn and Iain Murray at NRO ended up today talking about something I’ve long wondered about, reacting to something interesting in a speech by McCain — the institution of the equivalent of Question Time, a core part of British and British-derived political processes, in particular what is known as Prime Minister’s Questions. To quote McCain:

    “I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the prime minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons….When we make errors, I will confess them readily, and explain what we intend to do to correct them,” McCain said. He also reiterated a pledge to hold weekly news conferences, a change from President George W. Bush’s practice of holding them roughly once a month.

    This is extremely canny of him, and also very welcome. The news conference point — which I admit I was previously unaware of — is a crucial step on its own in terms of PR, Bush having dug his own grave quite thoroughly with his sporadic and contemptuous appearances, though at the same time it all might be less striking than realized given McCain’s canny cultivation of the media over time — it would be a way to be more ‘public’ without having to risk much. Arguably Congressional appearances would be similar, at least in the Senate (the House, that would be…different).

    But in an era where there is a sense of wanting to know and participate more in the larger decisions of government, and where the means for it are available, something like Question Time could be of great interest. Murray’s analysis of it, if brief, notes the constitutional questions involved while arguing it could be of great help on a department/Cabinet secretary level, while Steyn suggests the Australian model would be the way to go. Neither folks are people who I agree on with much about anything else, but even so, I’m convinced there’s something here to consider down the line.

  • And finally, the other big McCain thing of the day, so far at least:

    In a speech in the heart of Ohio, a major battleground state in the fall election, Mr. McCain set forth a sweeping, extraordinarily positive vision of what the world will look like 2013, when he says he will have been in the White House for four years.

    “By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom,’’ Mr. McCain said at the Columbus Convention Center. “The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced.’’

    I will quote John at Balloon Juice on this one and leave it at that:

    McCain isn’t even President yet and he is dumping it off on another administration in 2013. That is all kinds of awesome. Political Blogger Alliance

A late night amusement on the Congressional front

In this case, I really don’t know who to blame — the Congressman in question or the Washington Post. Could easily be both, and maybe it’ll be corrected later, which is why I want to capture it now, as my additional emphasis below will highlight. But if this was a copy/paste from the original document, there you go:

“These races were not in New Jersey or New England, where Republican erosion has taken place over the last decade. They were in the heart of the Bible Belt, the social conservative core of our coalition,” Rep. Tom Davis (Va.) fretted in a 20-page memorandum given to House Republican leaders yesterday and provided to The Washington Post.

“Members and pundits, waiting for Democrats to fumble the ball so that soft Republicans and Independents will snap back to the GOP, fail to understand the deep seeded antipathy toward the President, the war, gas prices, the economy, foreclosures and, in some areas, the underlying cultural differences that continue to brand our party.”

Remember, one must plant one’s antipathy in fertile ground. Though it is certainly true that the current president has helped provide much in the way of fertilizer.

Mid-May? More AMG!

Yup yup yup…