Evil Forces in the World

Reflections on ''Evil Forces in the World,'' as well as occasional remarks concerning ''Good Forces in the World.''

Saturday, February 16, 2002

My pair of jeans are definitely a force of good. They're extremely comfortable. People don't seem to mind that I wear them everyday. In fact, I've even gotten a few compliments. Alternatively, these pair of socks I'm wearing right now are purely the work of the devil. Once I take them off, I hope they burn in hell. With Martin Amis.

Friday, February 15, 2002

British novelist Martin Amis, son of Kingsley. Force of good or force of evil? "Force of good" all you sniveling Anglophilic illiterates say? But why? 1. Perhaps because of his impeccable journalistic reputation: in 1999 Amis was found to have plagiarized portions of an article he published in Entertainment Weekly (thanks to Might magazine for this one). 2. Perhaps because of his polymathic intellect encompassing all realms of science, literature, and culture, as demonstrated in Einstein's Monsters (a "penetrating look" into the "atrocities of science in the 20th century" says Vintage): while earning high marks in language and literature at Eton as a high school student, Amis regularly earned dismal scores of 1's out of 5 in math, physics, and biology. According to The Atlantic Monthly, "this sounds about right." Perhaps because of his oft-praised, "marvelous" prose style that typically conceals "poignant truths and ironies": verbatim, from The Rachel Papers: "after 5 more minutes of gyrating my pelvis, she finally came, and then I changed positions. The sexy thing about sex isn't the position, it's the changing of the position. I finally came, and collapsed on top of her." And last, because of his unwavering integrity in refusing to cash in on his nepotistic fame and personal connections: in 2000, Amis releases a memoir documenting his relationship with old Kingsley, and likewise, Amis finds himself on the masthead of Talk magazine, fronted by ex-Oxford girlfriend, Tina Brown. Now, wasn't that delightfully sarcastic. Martin Amis: I hope you burn in hell.
I've heard a rumor that there are a number of thugs at large who've failed to respect Ms Pope (unfortunately, she seems to be rather, well, wet, which is distracting), the living embodiment of Mediterranean loveliness at its very best. Air strikes are in order, I suspect.

You must respect the Pope. Take note: the Pope has arrived.
I am deeply saddened by the world at large right now. How on earth could this have happened? I find myself frustrated on lines often enough. I can understand a desire to, say, verbally chastise a thoughtless or rude customer, but would I deliver my very own savage beating, complete with gift wrap? There are, to be sure, those deserving of savage vigilante beatings. Take Saddam, for instance. Or even, at a stretch, Gideon Yago. Now, he's no Saddam, but he is very smug and might benefit from a good spanking. That's evil for you.
Unemployment: as far as I can tell, neither completely good nor evil. I spent my first week of joblessness hanging out with my mom and dad, and watching the animated, sassy black woman on BET. The second week, I lay in bed with an injured foot, unable to walk, reading far too much Paul Theroux. Needless to say, this nearly killed me. And as for the current third week of unemployment, I've taken to mindlessly walking around Washington, DC, looking for people to hang out with. I know what you're thinking: a very lame first Blog.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

For those of who are wondering, by the way, Evil Forces does not have a proper theory of evil at the moment; we are using an impressionistic, fragmentary approach for now, but Rich So is on the case. In a few weeks, we will no longer be undertheorized; instead, we will be overtheorized.
I occasionally miss home, which is neither good nor evil.
I came across the transcript of a debate between the famous Leon Fuerth, a man with an embarrassingly slender C.V., and Richard Perle, a neoconservative veteran of the Reagan administration and Scoop Jackson's office who has become something of a Dr Strangelove figure in the feverish imaginings of many on the left, on Andrew Sullivan's excellent web site. (Full disclosure: I edit the letters column.) Without referencing the substantive questions raised in the debate -- my position on the controversy is, I suspect, very clear -- I was struck by Fuerth's disdainful tone, shared as often as not by Leslie Gelb, perhaps better known as the Establishment personified. If we assume that there are intelligent and thoughtful arguments on both sides, which I can safely say there are, such a tone is not only ugly and unnecessary -- it borders, in large doses, on evil.

As for Fuerth's arguments, leaving aside the fact of my disagreement, I can't say I find them terribly thoughtful; Robert Wright does a better job.

But this ain't another damn newsblog. First of all, "who let the dogs out"? Bad news. And second, I'd like to go to Skatetown USA, and so should you.

America rules.
Sacramento Kings basketball phenom Chris Webber, irate over an article in The Sacramento Bee linking him romantically to supermodel Tyra Banks, has commenced a retaliatory media boycott. Overzealous media are evil. I, for one, was blindly enraged last year when Fort Lee newspapers circulated rumors linking me to Katie Holmes. Fight the power, CWebb!

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

It's important to stay healthy, but too much exercise is a bad thing. Dare I call it evil? Perhaps. My good friends--and by good, I mean that they're forces for good--have something to say on the matter.
I wrote these two miniature essays for a friend of mine, Kate "Terror Attack Roundup" Taylor, back when she was the features editor of The Harvard Advocate. Alas, as the overzealous among you may already have noticed, that venerable address now points either to some kind of casino or a magazine vendor. For posterity's sake, here are the incoherent ramblings in question.

In this vein, I heartily recommend Flirting, the second-best movie ever, starring Noah Taylor -- a good force if there ever was such a thing.
A few weeks ago, an eminently reliable source told me that the English, hooligans all (with the notable exceptions of the Plum Mouth girls and Andrew Sullivan), sneer at Superchunk, one of the finest American bands of the century. And when I say "American band," I mean American band. For example, have you noticed the way all Australian bands somehow manage to incorporate the didgeridoo? Those rocking guitar solos (I have in mind the song that goes: "When you leave this coast / take me with you ..." -- perhaps the best rock lyrics of all time) are American rock music personified, darn tootin'. Damn limeys!

Superchunk is a formidable force for good, and of good.

So is the Earned Income Tax Credit. On the other hand, I could do without Russian strategic rocket forces, Al Sharpton, Survivor's loathsome Jerri, and dengue fever, with which I had an unfortunate run-in some time ago.

Speaking of which, ODB rules. Word.
I know what you must be thinking. "Elitists? Hardly well-loved, wouldn't you say? Characterizing elitists and elitism as evil might be a bit excessive, but it certainly isn't taboo or even terribly controversial. In short, you are a silly and trivial man."

Here I am, weeping on my feet. You sicken me!

No, that's not true. That's an entirely reasonable characterization. You want controversial? I think Frank Rich is a walking national scandal. Not controversial enough? I heartily endorse scrapping the Constitution.

Also, Reagan's a cool cat and Gosford Park is so overrated as to be sinister. So go sniff some glue, Altman. On a related note, slavish Anglophilia, and its sister-disease, Europhilia, is flat-out evil.
That's it. Enough prattle. I've been playing it safe, artfully avoiding confrontation by doing a kind of half-hearted two-step, the kind of dance performed by ninnies, nincompoops, dupes, and scads and scads of drug-addled cads. I loath all mediocrities with elitist tendencies. Elitist tendencies in general are presumptively bad, I think it's fair to say, but can be justified in rare instances by rare loveliness (I couldn't resist) and rare intellect; for those who lack either quality, and there are many names hurtling to mind, live and in technicolor, ought to be shot. Metaphorically shot, that is -- perhaps with a pie.
A few short moments ago, I was sitting at my desk, slack-jawed and dazed by the primitive pixelated planetary pyrotechnics of Shadow President, released by DC True in 1992. I love this game a hell of a lot more than, say, bunnies or punk kids. But then I thought: "Good grief, you really ought to be, for example, muckraking. And you're playing a bloody game!" I was red-faced with shame. Keep in mind that I am normally of an Indic hue -- I mean business. So yes, I was mildly disappointed in myself -- a force which, within reason, can most assuredly be a force for good, chastening as it does our worst instincts. As it turns out, however, I subsequently happened upon the following blog, written by a Mr Charlie Toft, which is both wry and sly. Incidentally, while I maintain that rye bread is neither here nor there, whole wheat is very nutritious. Also, salmon allegedly contains many fine oils and acids. Do you believe the children? I know I do, at least in this instance. I am trying to transition to an all-salmon diet.

Potatoes, on the other hand, will make you plump. This might eventually give you one of those sweet round faces, which certainly ain't a bad thing. That said, it will also make you grunt and wheeze as you run, which I already do despite being fairly slim.

Which is to say: Sloth is evil.
Good grief. Alright, that's enough of that.

(In the interests of "netiquette," I ought to note the web site in question.)
Quote from another blog on the Popester:

This is madness. We should all bow down to her might and swear fealty. Hers is an empire that will endure long after the apes rule the earth and the sky is blood red. Millions of years later, when the roaches are king, the last remnant of human civilization will be the glory of Carly Pope. There can be no compromise. She is the law personified. We are all doomed.

Alright, my voice, tinny and odd, has joined the chorus of nattering nabobs: let's discuss a good force, a dizzyingly wonderful force. Yes, Carly Pope. I ask you: What else is there in life? What is life? What is good? What is not good? What is not good is all that which is not Carly Pope, if only in relative terms. And it's a crying shame. And where is Pope's Oscar nomination for her brilliant performance in Orange County? It's a crying shame. I say we protest.

A crying shame.
This is indecent.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

I'm not sure how I feel about the commodification of religious figures. But there's little doubt that thinly veiled evangelism masquerading as sound financial counsel is--pardon me--evil as all hell.
Ja Rule is evil.

I was reading the Boston Review symposium on binationalism in Israel-Palestine and it has sparked something of an internal debate -- internal, that is, to my own brain, which is now throbbing. First, I should note that I am sympathetic to the State of Israel, mainly because I see it as a benign, tolerant, and democratic regime. As for the Zionist project understood as a theoretical enterprise, I have mixed feelings which can be traced directly to my mixed feelings concerning all liberal nationalisms. I've never found talk about ordinate charity and the like very interesting as normative arguments; rather, I find them useful as, say, anthropological assessments of lived experience, which is of course extremely useful. And so, in contrast to Yael Tamir or Isaiah Berlin, I accept the Jacob Levy thesis on the place of ethnicity in normative political theory and institutional design: recognizing the depth and endurance of nationalist (and other "parochial" -- noncosmopolitan?) allegiances is an important and necessary concession to political realism, not a positive affirmation of such identifications as central to human flourishing -- the universalist coda of liberal particularisms.

Of course, Zionism is sui generis, product of a complex dialogic interaction with the liberal and illiberal nationalisms of Europe, the Levant, the Americas, and so on -- as much a forceful response to narrow nationalisms as a nationalism itself, as reflected in its antireligious tendencies and its alliance with socialist humanism. And so it defies caricature as a "colonialist" or "racist" doctrine, a charge long levied by anti-Zionists. But there is an inescapable tension between humanist commitments and nationalist commitments. Questions of citizenship and membership in the Jewish state are thorny, to say the least. The Jewish state treats its religious minorities with dignity and respect, but the membership of said minorities is always suspect. Mind you, it is, to my eyes, very easy to get around these thorny questions as follows: these are all relative calculations and, on empirical grounds, Israel deals far more humanely with its minorities of conscience than any of its antagonists, so I have no qualms in defending Israel. That said, a binationalist critique of the State of Israel has a great deal to offer, not only in relation to the horrendous status quo (horrendous due to terrorist violence) but on normative grounds.

Before I go on, I should say that my qualms with regards to liberal nationalism are sort of odd: I'm an instinctive liberal nationalist. (Viroli would argue otherwise, but I'm with Yack.) But anyway, the woman who wrote the binationalism essay is something of an Ahmad type: she often sees no need to make an argument where unfounded prejudice will do. For example, her unexamined contention that colonialism is necessarily bad. This strikes me as utterly wrong-headed. Her fast and loose use of "neo-dominance" and "neo-colonialism," as well as her ill-informed asides on political economy, mar an otherwise thoughtful essay. I'd like to ask her some questions about this.

But then there's the Efraim Karsh reply: "binationalism" has always been the political strategy of those seeking to end the Jewish majority, the bulwark of Jewish survival. Convincing as always.

What's evil? Snide po-co intellectuals.

Monday, February 11, 2002

It has come to my attention that some foreign journalists and Olympic athletes have publicly complained about the time consumption of security checks at the Olympics. They have asserted that the detailed inspections are humiliating and demeaning. Typically, I would refrain from comment because I am not there, but this is too preposterous and backwards to warrant my doubt's benefit. Athletes and journalists, the security checks are detailed and time-consuming precisely because we care about your safety and ours. Your public grousing demonstrates asinine insensitivity for reasons that should be obvious to any sentient Earthling. With deepest Olympic sentiment, I say to you: Please shut the hell up. And when you return home in a few weeks, after what I sincerely hope is a wonderful Olympic experience, please pass the message along to your like-minded leaders. Americans are uniting around the slogan, "Let's Roll." I invite you to unite around the same slogan or, in the alternative, "Shut The Hell Up."

Security guards at the Olympics and everywhere, I say to you: keep getting your check on. You are forces of good.
I have a container of CVS Menthol Sore Throat Spray on my desk. It has been here for a very long time. Right now, I will sample the spray to see if it has retained its freshness.

Yes, it still tastes great. A triumph of medicine!
Here's some evil for you:

BORON: It occurred to me that you are a menace, an evil being sent from the innerverse, the microscopic world that thrives unnoticed within our bodies, a world featured in the movie Inner Space and also in a really fine ride at Disney World.

GARY: That's a lie. I hate you. You're just saying that because I'm Russian.

BORON: Hey Comrade, why don't you go eat some borscht? You smell.

That's right: prejudice against others on grounds of national origin is bad news. Also, you never know: the group you've decided to hate could turn out to be really good-looking. This is incidental.
I'm so glad to be part of this universe. I'll do my best to contribute to the greater good. Generally speaking, I don't endorse the excessive use of cutesey-wutesy acronyms. In the case of the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, I'm willing to make an exception. They are, without a doubt, an unstoppable force for good.
There is a fair amount of reasonably good news in the world. I just finished reading an excellent book. I'm not sure if I'm at liberty to disclose the book's title or the name of the book's author right now as it has not been published as yet, but I do know that I loved it. And no, that isn't too strong a word. I think I may love this book more than I love some of my more distant relatives, particularly since, paraphrasing Janet Jackson, what have they done for me lately? But that's silly. Clearly one shouldn't evaluate friends or relatives on the basis of what they've done for one lately. That said, a fair proportion of my extended family is just plain prickly and unpleasant (which can perhaps be said of most extended families, to be sure), so I make no apologies. This book concerned limited U.S. interventions, the undeclared wars that have been the bread-and-butter of the American military. It offered more ammunition for my belief that the United States has been, on balance and with notable exceptions, a tremendous force for good in the world.

Right on.
Speaking of my personal demons, I've decided that, were I given the rare opportunity to select my own personal demon from the wide array of demons available both on the open marketplace and in the secret underground "monster dens" reserved for specialists, I'd select a demon of compact size, thus saving money on gas. Also, I'd want a demon in a top hat, all of which are more formidable than hatless demons. What is a demon without a hat? I'll tell you straight away, with no delay (while others are making hay, eating whey): An unambiguous force of evil.