Roaring Jelly

by Harry on January 4, 2005

About 43 minutes into the end-of-year Mike Harding show, he plays Roaring Jelly’s ‘Valerie Wilkins’. Great, but not their best — BedBug, Babylon, and Christmas In Australia are all superior. I saw them once, and taped their last ever session (with Stuart Hall of all people) off Radio 2 sometime in the 80’s and STUPIDLY taped an episode of My Music over it several years later. My mother sold both my Roaring Jelly records which I never managed to put on tape, and anyway I now have no way to play vinyl. How does one lobby to get a CD of their work brought out?

Waiting for the barbarians

by Henry Farrell on January 4, 2005

Across the way on his other blog, “John Holbo”: passes some acute judgements on the perplexed relationship between the traditional domain of humanities departments (classic texts), and the claim of literary ‘theory’ (or, more precisely, some theorists) to turn everything into text, explain it, and assert imperium thereover. It’s a problem shared by other disciplines with imperialist ambitions – economics too has disputes between those who see its domain as traditional market activities, and those who see it as a universal science of choice under constraints. Meanwhile, Richard Byrne at the “Chronicle”: documents how scholars at the MLA are considering abandoning the outer provinces; retreating from their grand ambitions, and linking teaching and scholarship more closely. Interestingly, this year’s President, Robert Scholes, seems to see the answer (if I’m understanding him rightly) as lying in a stronger assertion of disciplinary standards, returning to the ‘harder’ aspects of literature, and advocating what almost sound to be law-like propositions.

bq. “I can’t say just how long this will take,” he said. “But I do believe that this is happening. There is more interest in these things … grammar, rhetoric, and also logic. … There needs to be an overall recognition that what you say has to be reasonable. That it has to be answerable to certain disciplinary considerations. Within this discipline, you can only say x if y and z are in fact reasonable suppositions.”

Now I haven’t seen the speech, so I’m not exactly sure what he means by these statements. If this is just a call for higher standards and more consistent arguments that don’t do too much violence to to the text, of course I’m in favour. If it’s a call for something more than that – i.e. a more rigorous quasi-scientific literary theory, then I’m not at all convinced. If the desire of the humanities is to reconnect with the outside world, I imagine that they’d be better advised to follow the example of those critics who have maintained some general readership – Guy Davenport and Frank Kermode spring to mind, as (from an earlier era) does the poetry criticism of Randall Jarrell. As far as I can tell, quasi-scientific theories of literature (with a few exceptions, such as Propp’s work on folktales) have been a dead end. Trying to apply formal theories to literature (unless done in a playful, Oulipesque way) seems to me to be a very promising method for replacing one set of useless aridities with another. A renunciation of grand theorising, and a frank acknowledgement that criticism is an inherently subjective and partial enterprise seems to me to be a more fruitful direction (and, if I understand John Holbo rightly, what he too is advocating).

Update: attribution goof fixed.

But, Dad, don’t we eat the antelope?

by John Holbo on January 4, 2005

I’m preparing to teach Nietzsche and am rereading Genealogy of Morals. Here’s a bit from §7 of the first essay.

One will have divined already how easily the priestly mode of valuation can branch off from the knightly-aristocratic and then develop into its opposite; this is particularly likely when the priestly caste and the warrior caste are in jealous opposition to one another and are unwilling to come to terms. The knightly-aristocratic value judgments presupposed a powerful physicality, a flourishing, abundant, even overflowing health, together with that which serves to preserve it: war, adventure, hunting, dancing, war games, and in general all that involves vigorous, free, joyful activity. The priestly-noble mode of valuation presupposes, as we have seen, other things: it is disadvantageous for it when it comes to war! As is well known, the priests are the most evil enemies – but why? Because they are the most impotent. It is because of their impotence that in them hatred grows to monstrous and uncanny proportions, to the most spiritual and poisonous kind of hatred. The truly great haters in world history have always been priests; likewise the most ingenious haters: other kinds of spirit hardly come into consideration when conpared with the spirit of priestly vengefulness. Human history would be altogether too stupid a thing without the spirit that the impotent have introduced into it.

A couple things struck me about this old familiar passage this time around. (But you tell me.)

[click to continue…]

The Dude Abides

by Belle Waring on January 4, 2005

NORML founder and longtime head Keith Stroup is stepping down in favor of younger leadership. Keep fighting the good fight, dude. The following quote is dry, but charming:

Meanwhile he’d begun smoking pot and marching in antiwar demonstrations, sometimes simultaneously.

No. Way.
I never knew they’d gotten this close:

In 1975, five states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine and Ohio — removed criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of the weed. In 1976, Jimmy Carter, who during his campaign had advocated decriminalizing pot, was elected president. In 1977, Stroup visited the White House to meet with Carter’s drug policy adviser, Peter Bourne. Soon NORML would be playing the White House in softball.

It seemed like high times for NORML. Publicly, Stroup predicted that pot would be legal in a couple of years. Privately, he and his NORML pals joked about forming an advocacy group for another drug they’d begun to enjoy — cocaine.

OK, coming clean here, I favor legalization of all drugs, so I’m not mocking him. And who knew that about Carter? A candidate who took the Peter Tosh line got elected in my country?!
Then Stroup got busted and stuff. In the words of the Beastie Boys, “Customs jailed me over an herb seed/Don’t rat on your boys, over some rat weed.” Wait, but why are government officials quoting The Big Lebowski?

Tom Riley, official spokesman for federal drug czar John Walters, agrees. “Keith and people like that have banged their heads against the wall for years saying ‘Legalize pot.’ But they’re farther behind now than they were 20 years ago.”

Riley says Stroup’s career reminds him of a line from the movie “The Big Lebowski”: “The ’60s are over, Lebowski. The bums lost. My condolences.”

We’ve appointed John Waters Drug Czar? Oh, Walters. But yeah, and that guy’s never toked up? Riiight. The Dude Abides. I mean, just say no. [Link to picture of Nancy Reagan in Mr. T’s lap.] Finally, I’d just like to echo the plaintive query of a thousand stoners: “how can you make a plant against the law?” “Workings of Democracy for $100? By passing a law.” “Dude, that packs meager.” It does, people. It packs meager. When I’m Drug Czarina, all this is going to change. (It’s like being Drug Czar, but way more tiaras.)