Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘The Braindead Megaphone

Getting into the Real Good Procrastination Now Links

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* Bush-era flashback and general-election-2016 flashforward, courtesy of Chris Hayes: George Saunders’s The Braindead Megaphone.

* Today in stadium boondoggles: St. Louis has stadium debt, but doesn’t have a team.

* An ecological argument sure to catch fire: What we can do is learn to offer each other patience, compassion, courage, and love. We can learn to accept that just as every human life has its natural end, so too does every civilization. Contrary to what Purdy argues, we don’t need more politics. We need more hospice. We need to learn how to die.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. While neoliberal capitalism has been remarkably successful at laying claim to the future, it used to belong to the left — to the party of utopia. Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’s Inventing the Future argues that the contemporary left must revive its historically central mission of imaginative engagement with futurity. It must refuse the all-too-easy trap of dismissing visions of technological and social progress as neoliberal fantasies. It must seize the contemporary moment of increasing technological sophistication to demand a post-scarcity future where people are no longer obliged to be workers; where production and distribution are democratically delegated to a largely automated infrastructure; where people are free to fish in the afternoon and criticize after dinner. It must combine a utopian imagination with the patient organizational work necessary to wrest the future from the clutches of hegemonic neoliberalism.

tumblr_nzx16hOyNR1qap9gno1_500* Eugene V. Debs, accelerationist.

Keep your scythe, the real green future is high-tech, democratic, and radical.

Inside the Police-Industrial Complex.

* Sesame Street has heard your gentrification jokes, and they have decided they are really into it.

* From my friend James Tate Hill: On Being a Writer Who Can’t Read.

* On the Run on trial.

* Keywords for the Age of Austerity 25: Competencies.

Before I Can Fix This Tractor, We Have to Fix Copyright Law.

* Relax, nerds: It Turns Out the Next Game of Thrones Book Isn’t Late at All.

* The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland. A counterpoint.

* My favorite little bit of fan fiction/overthinking from The Force Awakens, I think. Elsewhere on the Star Wars front: The 13 Most Nonsensical Theories About The Identity of Supreme Leader Snoke.

* The end of Mad Max?

MST3K is that for me. It saved my life, at least twice.

* An interview with Ahmed Best. From the archives.

* Successful squirrel cyber attacks as of January 2016.

Angry Militia Leader: Stop Mailing Us Dildos.

* Life in Wisconsin: Was it a ‘frostquake’ or an Air Force sonic boom? And then there’s the education beat.

* If left-liberal people don’t stop embarrassing themselves with this Ted Cruz eligibility stuff I might vote for Cruz in protest. Okay, no, but seriously this is embarrassing.

More Than Half of Americans Reportedly Have Less Than $1,000 to Their Name.

This Professor Fell In Love With His Grad Student — Then Fired Her For It. And you’ll never guess what Caltech did next!

* I’m considered adding a running closer to these link posts that’s just headlines from the day’s Journal-Sentinel that amuse me. Today, that’s Shorewood man pursues insanity defense in voter fraud case.

* But for now, nothing gold can stay: Mysterious Wow! Signal Came From Comets, Not Aliens, Claims Scientist.

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Daily Show v. CNN

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Rush Limbaugh’s From the Future and He’s Here to Help

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I think this situation in Honduras is very instructive. Anybody who thinks that [Obama] intends to just constitutionally go away in 2016 is nuts … These are people who seek power for reasons other than to serve. They seek to rule.

Rush Limbaugh, Cassandra: Will no one stand with Rush to stop Obama from seizing dictatorial powers and a third term in 2016? Wake up, sheeple!

Written by gerrycanavan

June 30, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Why *Did* We Buy Alaska in the 1950s?

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Once again Glenn Beck raises the questions the liberals in the MSM won’t: Why did we buy Alaska in the 1950s if not to drill for oil?

Written by gerrycanavan

June 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm

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I spent most of last night and this morning shunning the Things I Ought to Be Doing and instead read The Braindead Megaphone, George’s Saunders’s excellent new collection of essays. It occurs to me that often when I read Saunders I’m never quite sure afterwards if I liked what I read—but I’ve lately decided that this is a good thing. Saunders’s writing gets under your skin, even (especially?) when the words he writes aren’t necessarily the words you might have wished that he would write.

I mean this “not necessarily” in at least two senses: sometimes I find Saunders a bit naive, his prose too easy, and other times I think he’s tried too hard to make a simple issue complicated and multi-perspectival. And sometimes, of course, he manages to peel back my skin, twist open my skull, and expose my very own grey matter to the world at large, saying it (whatever it is) exactly how it is.

But no matter which Saunders I wind up with, I’m never, ever sorry to have read him.

Most of the essays in The Braindead Megaphone, like the title essay discussed a few days ago, revolve around the uses and misuses of language, roughly half concerned with media criticism and the vacuity of political discourse in contemporary America and the other with short readings of what Sauders sees as seminal literary texts in his development as a writer and thinker: Johnny Tremain, Slaughterhouse-Five, Donald Barthelme’s “The School,” and Huck Finn, with that essay being perhaps my favorite in the book.

Huck and Tom represent two viable models of the American Character. They exist side by side in every American and every American action. America is, and always has been, undecided about whether it will be the United States of Tom or the United States of Huck. The United States of Tom looks at misery and says: Hey, I didn’t do it. It looks at inequity and says: All my life I have busted my butt to get where I am, so don’t come crying to me. Tom likes kings, codified nobility, unquestioned privelege. Huck likes people, fair play, spreading the truck around. Whereas Tom knows, Huck wonders. Whereas Huck hopes, Tom presumes. Whereas Huck cares, Tom denies. These two parts of the American Psyche have been at war since the beginning of the nation, and come to think of it, these two parts of the World Psyche have been at war since the beginning of the world, and the hope of the nation and of the world is to embrace the Huck part and send the Tom part back up the river, where it belongs.

The few deviations from this strong organizing principle make the book on the whole slightly worse, in my opinion, even though several of these are quite good and one (his article about immigration and the Minuteman from GQ) is another strong contender for my favorite essay in the book:

If this isn’t the essential American story, I don’t know what is: Guy hews a life out of nothing, by working every waking moment, with no education, no government help, no external advantages whatsoever, and no ulterior motive. What did he want? A place where his kids could grow up, with less fear and more material comforts.

Did he get it?

Yes, he did, God bless him.

Likewise, the pieces on the six-month-fasting Buddha Boy, Dubai, and “Ask the Optimist!” are certainly interesting pieces in their own rights (the former two considerably moreso than the last) but don’t seem to fit quite right in this book. I much prefer the pieces on language itself and the assumptions (political and otherwise) it directs us to make, as in, for instance, “Thought Experiment,” a rumination on essentialism and the genetic lottery and the way we think and talk about each other, or “A Brief Study of the British,” which despite being still another travelogue has a lot to say about English as well as the English.

This fixation on collection-unity may, in all fairness, be entirely my hangup, but as you may recall from my thoughts about Consider the Lobster I’ve gotten to a point where I need my collections to have something to say beyond “This is a new book by ______!” The Braindead Megaphone, in the main, definitely has something to say, and that something is important, and I sincerely hope the book finds market penetration into areas outside the already vibrant Saunders Nation. (Oprah, are you listening?) This is precisely the sort of conversation the country needs to be having right now: about language, about politics, about recognition and ethics and empathy and what it means, really, to be good. I hope we’re finally ready.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 3, 2007 at 4:14 pm

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My status as Private First Class in the George Saunders Army brings to my attention his new essay collection, The Braindead Megaphone, coming out next week. Here’s Saunders blogging at Amazon, and here’s a GYWO special Saunders edition. I’ll pick this up next week and let you know how it is.

(6) The central premise of the title essay in my new book, The Braindead Megaphone, is this: Our cultural discourse is being dumbed-down by mass-media prose that is written too quickly, and therefore fails to due justice to the complexity of the world. On the other hand, prose that is revised and that the writer lives with awhile can go deeper and deeper and become more nuanced and truthful. This doesn’t happen for me in one or two or even five drafts. At the one-level draft, I don’t feel I really have much to offer. I am just: Guy, Typing.

(7) In addition, we’re being dumbed-down by people who, though claiming to be objective and curious and truth-seeking, are actually pushing a (political/corporate/financial) agenda.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 31, 2007 at 1:39 pm

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