This is out of the English Der Spiegel in Germany, complete with video.  They’re in the final weeks of a relatively boring, sanitzed campaign there – it’s hard not to be boring coming from four years of Seinfeld government – and apparently some local wags have decided upon a relatively, shall we say, unique campaign.  Flash mobs are dispatched – a singularly inappropriate word, I know – to speeches by the Chancellor (and Chancellor-candidate for the CDU/CSU) Angela Merkel.  At the end of every sentence – every single one – the mobbers shout “Yeah!” in the manner of an American tent revival.


At one point Merkel apparently chided the crowd for simply saying “Yeah!” to

Presumably, this is not what theyd intended to cheer.

Presumably, this is not what they'd intended to cheer.

everything, so the crowd immediately started shouting whatever word Merkel’s last sentence ended with, regardless of relevance.  The article cites cheers of, “Growth!” “Five!” and – yikes – “Back door!”  I’ll bet her speechwriters will learn a valuable lesson about ending sentences.  Or perhaps they’ll work with it?  Can you end sentences in a preposition in German?  I’d delight in the spectacle of 20,000 people shouting “With!  Of!  For!”

Most of the people interviewed for it confessed that it was basically for fun.  However assholes like me can’t help but search for political subtext in it.  (And to be fair there are reasons things come across as ironically funny.)  Spiegel suggested, via a blogger, that the “protests” (?) were “all about reclaiming public space for debate.”  Another confessed a desire to find “a subtle [Huh?] way of presenting the other members of the crowd with a big question mark.”

Personally, I see it as no small reaction to the scripted, anemic character of modern political events.  Anyone who has ever watched the excruciating display of a presidential speech, with every other phrase interrupted by polite semi-spastic applause from an acceptably docile audience (and despite exceptions this is no more true of anyone than of Obama) can appreciate the desire to break loose from this stultifying spectacle.  In this sense the crowd’s repetition of whatever word Merkel concludes with is rather trenchant, wrecking the careful rhetorical balancing act that has turned every political statement into an act of Byzantine diplomacy, endlessly-dissected by a political lumpenproletariat that would make Marx blush.

In the event, I would be pleased to see this trend spread.  Perhaps I could even recommend a theme song for the Yeahppie movement.

If you live in the Western world and have at any point crossed paths with a television set, you’ve probably seen, heard or rioted against this classic Kanye West moment:

(N.b. In order to prop up Viacom’s flagging market share this grainy, shitty video will probably be removed in fairly short order. This means you’ll have to do their own research. I trust you.)

Now it would be easy to simply dismiss Kanye as a gay fish, but I won’t.  I’m a sensitive man who understands the soul of the frustrated, lonely multi-platinum recording artist.  Indeed, I dare say Kanye’s story is not as  superficial as it seems. He’s not just some nutty overpaid radio star. Oh no, my friends. Kanye’s doing something here. Something big. Something, dare I say it, historic?

I must tell you first about a favorite philosopher of mine.  His name is Soren Kierkegaard.  His first name is spelt with that fucked-up Danish ‘o’ and I don’t have the patience to look up the alt-code.  But you get the idea.untitledLittle Soren was a strange child – needless to say.  There was a sense of brilliance to him, tinged distinctly with creepiness, perhaps inspired by his selfish siblings who insisted on dying of unpleasant 19th century diseases while Soren was young.  Except his brother. He became a bishop. It’s enough to fuck anybody up.

But eventually little Soren’s parents died and he now had both a solidly middle class upbringing and enough disposable income to avoid real work – as any true philosophical genius must.  And so he set off to make his great works, which challenged the assumptions of his society – and eventually all the world.

Starting to sound familiar?

Try this on for size:

“He writes because for him it is a luxury that becomes all the more enjoyable and conspicuous the fewer who buy and read what he writes.” – Kierkegaard, Either/Or

“I wanna make popular music, but I want less fans.” – Kanye West, Vibe Magazine

Kanye helpfully said that quote while I was in the middle of a second reading of Kierkegaard. It was thoughtful of him. I think it might have been fate.

Because you see, it got me thinking. The work from which that quote was taken, Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, was a really obscure attack on the philosophical mores of the time. He charged that it allowed only two ways of living life: engaged “aesthetically” in drinking, carousing, whoring and other assorted douchebaggeries; or “ethically,” which consists of getting married, being bourgeois and dying old with children. But Kierkegaard said no!  There is a third option. In his case it consisted of Jesus, but this was the sort of Jesus in whom belief and love are accepted as absurd and cherished for it. Kind of a bad ass Jesus.

Both you and Coach Carr need to step away from the underage girls.

Both you and Coach Carr need to step away from the underage girls.

In order to communicate this point Kierkegaard wrote stories, not works of philosophy, and made his point through characters of his own creation – all of whom were thinly-veiled puppets himself, buried deep within still more obscure twists and turns. The person referenced by the quote above was one of these, Johannes the Seducer, who busies himself by trotting around Copenhagen stalking, meeting and then seducing underage girls before he unceremoniously dumps them at the end of a six-month period. (Consumer protections have always been strong in Denmark, even if statuatory rape laws have not.) The book is about Johannes’ relationship with Cordelia, a 16 year-old girl. You might be forgiven for mistaking this character for Kierkegaard, who had his heart broken by… a 16 year-old girl.

Johannes the Seducer, Kierkegaard’s doppelganger, acts a lot like Kanye does. Kierkegaard did, too, at least in his youth. Both were devil-may-care; both stirred unending controversy in the media for their public comments; both, despite protesting about wanting fewer readers, could barely contain their word vomit. (Kanye shouts in that blog of his; Kierkegaard published constantly, including a postscript five times longer than the book it followed.)  Both have issues with their treatment of young girls. And both, of course, are deeply concerned about finding their place in a world in which they don’t quite fit, a world with nothing to believe in. Kierkegaard was never really accepted by anybody, or read outside of Denmark before 1900; as for Kanye,  as late as 2005 some of his plastics still said Kayne.

This is how I cracked the code, you see. Kanye is not just an out-of-control narcissistic superstar. He is not just the out-of-control narcissistic superstar. But he’s not doing it simply because he has everything a person could ever want and still finds himself empty, unsatisfied and alone. I mean, he’s not Michael Jackson. (Too soon?)

No. Kanye is in fact out to teach us all a grand lesson. Kanye is in the process of creating from his very own self a living embodiment of the philosophy of Kierkegaard, one that will make Kierkegaard’s own seem petty and silly and in the process shake our very world to its core.

First he attains his greatest success and greatest controversy. He’s young, insecure, desperate to set his place in the world. (Why else his madcap declarations about already being in the history books?) He does everything wrong and nobody likes him even as they recognize his brilliance. But it can’t go on forever, can it?

Him... or Kanye?

West 52, Monkey 48

He’ll have a change of heart, settles down. Pumps out some kids, maybe gets himself elected to Congress? (Don’t you even tut like it’s at all improbable. People in England elected a monkey.) He’s calmed down, got respectable. But he’ll still be missing something, as will we all, deprived of random outbursts of his lyrical genius and social insanity.

That’s when he reaches the third stage – the religious stage. But this isn’t the 1900s, is it? Maybe this isn’t anything like what Kierkegaard wrote. Maybe it won’t involve Jesus at all. I don’t know. Who can know what a genius like Kanye, who has by now transformed his entire life into a very living a work of philosophy and art, the greatest of all time, will develop when the glorious climax of his life explodes into our consciousness? Will he bring upon us an entirely new philosophy? A new religion? Will he, indeed, reveal himself as the Promised Return of Christ himself?

None of us can know where this onrushing epiphany will lead, or indeed when it will happen. None of us can dare to predict. But we can have faith – dear friends, we can know that it will someday come! Because the sheer tonnage of excellence that Kanye revealed last night, the depth and breadth of his long and tortured road into our very souls, cannot be foreseen any more than it can be denied. He is doing something great – just as he has always said. And we’ve never listened!

Kanye will teach us. He will teach us because he loves us… and he loves us because he loves himself.


Where were they then?

11 September 2009

It’s always a sick little secret pleasure for me to watch old/older movies and see celebrities, especially actors, in unexpected microscopic roles from long before they were famous.  (This happens frequently as I’m uncomfortable with anything less than five years old.)  Just from the last week:

  • Taub and Cuddy from House as a couple on a date in Jack Nicholson’s restaurant in As Good As It Gets; and
  • Oscar from The Office as a security guard who calls a cable repairman at Edward Norton’s house in the remake of The Italian Job

Feel free to post others.  I’ll add more as I see them, since it means I can post without actually writing anything.

A blogger I am become!

Marked for life?

8 September 2009

One of the more curious features of the 24-hour news cycle seems to be that it contributes to this weird Lazarus phenomenon amongst disgraced public figures.  It’s inevitable that there should be a flip side to the intense, hysterical, vitriolic heat that falls upon a politician or celebrity accused of the most passing and insignificant of failings.  It appears to be that attention is so focused that just a year or two later we no longer remember who the person is.  Frankly I can’t help but acquiesce to that; if your life must be utterly destroyed it’s best that society at least grants you the opening to rebuild it.  Being all to human myself – to my occasional disbelief – I think that perhaps it’s better than the long, low-level shunning we used to dole out to reprobates in public life.

The newest member of this club since Eliot Spitzer‘s semi-resurgence is Mark Foley, formerly a Republican-Florida-Central Southeast and Everglades and inadvertent architect of the Democrats’ 2006 sweep. He’s apparently got a new radio show out called “Inside the Mind of Mark Foley” (if only it really were) to debut on “Adult Standards” AM Radio in the Palm Beach-Miami area.  He’s apparently being billed most for his health care savvy, as he was member responsible for the subject on the Ways and Means Committee.  This is one of like twelve committees dealing with public expenditure, all of which are apparently very powerful.  Let’s hope he’s been taught a little humility and doesn’t make the meal of it that everybody else in the media has.

Press release here.  Hats to the almost inevitable Politico Scorecard blog.

BBC News has this report that a 31 year-old man from Caerphilly in Wales allegedly murdered his wife when she changed her Facebook relationship status to “single.”

Let this be a lesson to us that it’s better to put in the call to the significant other first and then Facebook it.  Better yet: just leave the relationship status out altogether.

800 pounds of FAIL

Check out this little gem, a song honoring Oregon Trail and its more ubiquitous features (absurd sexually explicit character names, the tendency to underbuy food and clothes in favor of bullets, the usefulness of a robot companion).  Despite the title, I quite liked it.  I just needed something pithy to say.

By the way, what the fuck was with the 100lbs limit on food you could carry from hunting?  I take an entire day – eight hours – to go hunting, and I can’t make two fucking trips?  Or bring a guy with me?  These people have conestoga wagons but haven’t heard of knapsacks?  I’m pretty sure the General Store in Independence could hook me up, if not those ridiculously extortionary forts.

Group’s called FATAWESOME, if you’re interested, with Vega Teknique.

Peer-to-peer lending?

19 August 2009

Suffice it to say this article in the Guardian caught my attention.

Apparently schemes rather like microfinance and powered via nonprofit social networking are starting to crop up here and there, offering people with spare cash the opportunity to lend it out to those with a business idea, in need of cash, etc.  The lending is in small parcels – so if I have $500 to spare, I won’t lend it all to one person – and because the system involved is all person-to-person both overheads and interest rates are very low.  (Though the website itself runs “extensive” background checks on potential debtors.)

From what the article suggests their default rate is something like one-half of one percent, which is on par with microfinance institutions and far below the industry standard for banking, though this particular website has only organized 10,000 loans, so it could just be bold and saavy early adopters.  The innovators admit it would be ill-suited to some sectors of the lending market, especially long-term investments, but if this model proves robust it could be a massive boon to the market, as lower rates of interest (or, to whit, higher trust, if you consider that interest rates are reflective of overhead and the cost of those loans that fail, both of which are necessitated by information asymmetry between lender and borrower) could potentially free up billions in capital for investment.

Worth a look.

Inglourious Directurds

9 August 2009

The Guardian today has this pretty brutal write-up both of Tarantino’s latest film, Inglourious Basterds, and his notoriously-fragile state of mind.  I’m not a big fan of his but even I can’t help wincing for the poor guy.

It’s definitely worth a read whatever your sentiments, so check it out.


30 July 2009

Though they’re not yet over – we still have one American premier season left, at least – the Guardian is already compiling a clusterfuck Best TV Show of the After-Nineties-But-Before-Teens online instapoll.  For my money I don’t trust it unless it involves Jack Cafferty and an introductory segment that alerts me as to the proper way to vote.

The Guardian reports about the changing relationship of women to Hollywood from the unlikely venue of this year’s Comic-Con.  If I can find a non-YouTube quality video I’ll put that up too.  Plaudits go to Sigourney Weaver (who really did kick ass in Alien) and more surprisingly to Zoe Saldana, who played Uhura in the latest Star Trek, who was apparently entirely cogent, incisive and vivid.  Check it out.

UPDATE: Here’s at least part of it. Props to YouTube user geektyrant.