January 28, 2007

Greetings from Jingletown!

Sunset over the Estuary, Jingletown, Oakland California

Inspired by Spike's This Isn't Sydney CafePress.com shop, I've put my own Greetings from Jingletown! shop up at CafePress (under my real name), based (to some extent) on the original Jingletown article I did here last year. There's a bunch of slightly oddball and off-kilter postcards, greeting cards, coffee mugs, etc., for sale with themes mostly from the whole Jingletown neighbourhood thing (it's about bloody time someone gave Oaktown and the surrounding areas the recognition they deserve…).

So take a look… and note that while it's still a bit of a work in progress, you can probably see where it's going (there are also a couple of other shops in store, so to speak, for my other ventures), and there's likely to be a few more images and products added over the next few months. And if you have any requests (fridge magnets or dog shirts or whatever), let me know. And yes, there'll be a Jingletown 2008 calendar available later this year.

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January 26, 2007

What's The (Check) Point?

Here's the problem: you're taken aside at an airport security checkpoint, questioned, searched, detained, and generally treated like a terrorist for a few hours before being let go (after having missed your flight). But you know for an absolute fact that you're innocent, so you also know that either the authorities are generally clueless, or they're just putting on a show (of strength, or to mollify the public at large), or they're trying to create an atmosphere of threat and fear, or they just enjoy lording it over the helpless masses. You know it's probably a combination of all these things, depending (perhaps) on the individuals concerned.

But what would it take to avoid all this? Do you really want Them to know enough about you (and everyone else) to know you're innocent?

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January 21, 2007

Taking The Fifth

In the Milano, the guy behind the counter switches the radio from some tired-sounding Conjunto to the local classical cheese station, and there's something terribly familiar about the results. It takes a minute or so, but I realise I'm hearing Beethoven's Fifth for the the first time in maybe a decade, and start actually listening along with the bagels. It's one of my short shameful confessions, I guess, but for me this concise little piece of bombast transcends "warhorse" at times, and if it weren't so often verging on the delirious, it could almost be Classical rather than Romantic, with those clean lines developing with such well-measured logic. One day I'll have the courage to listen to it properly again… damn the critics.

I wander down to Moe's and torture myself by browsing books I can't afford to buy. There's yet another of those twee many-words-with-few-pictures books on (this time) female nudes now (they always have that "now!" there with the unstated exclamation mark). Give me nakeds instead, any day.

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January 15, 2007

MLK Jr.

A genuine American hero, a man on a religious mission — can you listen to his speeches and not hear the clank and rattle of the old King James Version? — but one whose religion is so often igonored or downplayed in liberal or leftist circles, especially those in UnAmerica. But religion's at the heart of almost everything he did, and informed his thoughts and actions in ways difficult for UnAmerican secularists like me to empathise with or even understand. He was a product of — not a reaction to — a very American religious tradition, a tradition almost extinct in the rest of the West, a tradition that goes hand-in-hand with (without necessarily being part of) the sort of Fundamentalisms that the rest of us tend to think of as utterly alien to political activity on behalf of freedom. Not a typical product, and not (maybe) what comes to mind when you think "American religion", but still unthinkable without that pervasive religious tradition.

I still find Malcolm X more interesting and compelling, if only because he changed his mind.

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January 09, 2007

Iconic

This is iconically self-absorbed: "What's clear is the enormous price our nation is paying for President Bush's character flaws" — Paul Krugman, in an OpEd piece ("Quagmire of The Vanities") about Iraq in Monday's NYT. Gee, Paul, do you think the price their nation — you know, Iraq, the nation that didn't democratically decide as a nation to visit "freedom" on another country under utterly false pretenses — do you think they might not be paying a much bigger price? It's iconic that in the entire piece (a piece I otherwise enjoyed reading) the focus is on what's best for the US, not for Iraq. And it's iconic in blaming it all on a single person's character flaws — as if the US populace as a whole were really blameless good-hearted level-headed innocents, and that we can just blame it all on Bad Man Bush and (perhaps) a few of his crazier cronies.

And this is likely to become even more iconic in the near future: "It seems increasingly clear to me that the bame for the violence in Iraq, and for its frenzied recoil from what Fouad Ajami hopefully called 'the foreigner's gift', belongs to the Iraqis. [...] For three and a half years the Iraqis have been a free people. What have they done with their freedom? [...] After we invaded Iraq, Iraq invaded itself" (Leon Wieseltier, quoted in the LRB, 4/1/07). That last bit is sharp and insightful in a nicely soundbiteish sort of way, and I'm sure it was deeply satisfying to write. But the patronising tone of the rest of it and that well-honed ability to excuse the US by blaming Iraq for being ungrateful or unworthy for the US's gift of … well, just what exactly? … is the road to the future for both the Right and bits of the Left in US politics, I suspect. Poor old America, always being picked on by an ungrateful world.

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January 02, 2007

This Isn't Woy Woy

(With a nod to Spike…) just a little morsel from a recent evening's walkies around my immediate neighbourhood:

The Estuary and the ConAgra grain silos from Alameda


(Now pop on over to Spike's This Isn't Sydney Cafepress store and buy some Woy Woy cards. I especially like the "No 97" cards from Booker Bay — I'll be buying a few more soon, I suspect…).

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