Saturday, May 29, 2004

In other news...

Ever wondered how to forge art to make money? New York Magazine tells you how!

Apparently spamming can get you prison time now. And so can selling you underage daughter into "marriage" in Rochester. Australia is href=" 1085641653649.html">itching to ban gay marriage. In my favorite country (Denmark) a member of parliament is pleading self defense as an excuse for breaking and entering. And in Sweden cops confiscated the cannabis plants on display in an art exhibit.

Meanwhile, in all seriousness, the details of the widespread, pervasive nature of Abu Ghraib get worse and worse and worse. Too bad the televised media (and congress) seems to have moved on, because the AP wires and the New York Times seem to be all over this like white on rice.

Friday, May 28, 2004

3 Impacts Part Two

So I realize that Abu Ghraib has faded from the news a little bit and perhaps this essay's current-events value has decreased dramatically, but I haven't had time to blog much lately and I said I'd finish this thing, so here is the second impact for you all:

2: The Horrors of War

Under his helmet, up against his pack,
After so many days of work and waking,
Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.

There, in the happy no-time of his sleeping,
Death took him by the heart. There heaved a quaking
Of the aborted life within him leaping,
Then chest and sleepy arms once more fell slack.

And soon the slow, stray blood came creeping
From the intruding lead, like ants on track.
- Wilfred Owen, “Asleep”

Throughout history, one of the artist’s primary duties during wartime has been to render the reality of the horror of war. Homer’s Iliad (perhaps you’ve seen the movie?) is filled with graphic and disturbing descriptions of disemboweling and other battlefield mutations. The Bible is one of the most graphic books around, and contains within it one of the few instances of a people recording their own genocide in the Book of Joshua. Pistol in Shakespeare’s “Henry V” is given the job of explaining to the audience that the patriotic battles they’ve seen have a terrible cost in human lives and souls.

Wilfred Owen was just a young man when he died during World War I. Despite his youth, he left behind him a cache of poems that elucidate the horrors of war better than any photograph. In reading his “Dulce Et Decorum Est” or the callous irony of “The Last Laugh” one cannot help but be struck by how dehumanizing the day to day life of a soldier is. “War is hell” is a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. War is hell, and all involved are casualties, be they actual dead or walking wounded.

We have been spared this. We have been shielded from the consequences of the actions done in our names. This is beginning to change, and change fast. According to Frank Rich in this Sunday’s New York Times, Michael Moore’s new film will show us all the mutilations of our troops, the blood and gore of our soldiers that our government and self-censoring media have kept from us. We will see what the war is doing to our sons and daughters.

Abu Ghraib is a shock to our system in a very similar way. It brings the hell of war home in a way nothing else has thus far. The photos of flag draped coffins are beautiful in their solemnity. The photographs of stacked up naked men with smiling cherubic soldiers flanking them are neither solemn nor beautiful. They are parodies of everything war is supposed to be: all of the hell, none of the dignity.

The Bush Administration has done its best to keep knowledge of consequences as far away from our minds as possible. By not asking us to sacrifice anything (indeed, we couldn’t find the strength to even repeal a single tax cut!) or to change our lives in any way, shape or form, this administration has told us to not think about the war in any concrete or critical way. By not bringing it home to the citizens of this country, we are allowed the psychic space to avoid the cost of our government’s actions.

Besides shielding us from any real burden, the administration and its apologists have sought to limit our knowledge of things going wrong. This effort has led to the massive credibility gap between what Bush says and what the American public’s perception of reality is. He’d like to blame it on the media, but it is his own efforts to white wash the war that have cost him dearly at the polls.

I’ve already discussed how the soldiers in the pictures could be anybody. When the pictures remind us of the horrors of war it is because we realize that the captives could be anybody too. This everymanness is reinforced by the hoods over their heads and the blurring out of all distinctive characteristics. Looking at the pictures, it is easy to think that in this day and age when nothing is certain it could be someday be yourself under that hood, being strapped to electrodes, having dogs maul your genitals, being water boarded, stripped naked, anally raped.

Once we enter that particular circle of waking hell, we are left to reckon with the morning paper. The papers are filled with euphemisms for torture, calling it “abuse” or naming the specific industry term for the tactic used. This linguistic distance is no longer available to us, however, because we’ve had the images of their meaning burned into our minds. When we see “casualty” we now have graphic representations of the casualty. Not flag draped patriotism, but rather a rotting body in a bag, covered in ice, a smiling soldier posing as if in front of the Empire State Building.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Reviewing the Reviewers

We got in the new book by Dale Peck today at my bookstore. Dale Peck (for those who don't know) is the infamous book reviewer responsible for some of the most stridently vitriolic prose about contemporary fiction around. He has written, for example, both that Rick Moody is the worst writer of his generation and that David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is not work the paper its printed on. His book of collected lit crit is called (ironically enough or not, whatever) “Hatchet Jobs” and includes endorsements from, amongst others, Susan Sontag.

In her quote, Sontag talks about how Dale Peck is an important literary critic and she appreciates his especial attention vis a vis misogyny. For his focus on misogyny, Peck should perhaps be lauded, but the simple fact of that matter is, he’s not a critic. He’s not even a reviewer. He is to the book review what talk radio is to NPR: perhaps more entertaining, but full of sound and fury, signifying absolutely diddley squat.

It is Peck's right to have his opinions, and to hate much of contemporary American fiction. It is somone else's right to publish his rantings, but they should know that what they are getting is a showman, a leech schooled in the art of controversy. What bothers me about Dale Peck is this: It is a vile practice to make money pissing on the labor of others. It is doubly disgusting if you have nothing to give to your audience and nothing to advocate for on behalf of the art your criticize. And Peck doesn’t. He rarely (if ever) chooses one of the millions of books out there to champion. All he has to give is his wit, which he puts in the service of furthering an incredibly narrow view of what writing is acceptable.

His criticisms are also often facile, and he takes advantage of liberals’ lack of confidence in their own tastes. When the New York Times Magazine praised Peck’s “work” (such that it is) they said that you can’t read one of his reviews and not have your opinions challenged, shaken up, forever altered. They’re wrong. You can have your opinions challenged by Peck if you didn’t really believe them in the first place. People who read Rick Moody because other people read Rick Moody will indeed be challenged by some random frustrated novelist calling him “the worst writer of his generation”. Someone who reads Rick Moody because they love Rick Moody will recognize a self-promoting, controversy inviting performance artist when they see one. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never read Rick Moody.)

Or take his critique of “Infinite Jest” (I have read, and very much liked this book). He starts his review from what seems like an understanding place. He writes about how some people like Pynchon and some don’t and he (Peck) doesn’t. He then explains why he doesn’t. He then explains that DF Wallace loves Pynchon and out-Pynchons Pynchon. Okay, you think, he doesn’t like the book, but he’ll explain it from the point of view of the anxiety of influence etc. and so forth. But no, instead we are treated to sentence after sentence of cleverly crafted poison. D Foster W’s Infinite Jest may not be more than the sum of its parts, but to completely degrade every part in a sweeping “paper its printed on” bon mot is to prize appearing smart over being smart and reading David FW’s book.

Dale Peck is the Simon Cowell of the literary establishment-- getting famous for being unjustifiably cruel to people who have done nothing more than try to express themselves through art.

Compare this to the reviewing of John Leonard. For some time now, Leonard has been churning out great prose in the service of critiquing great prose in the back pages of Harper’s Magazine. Leonard is, quite simply, the most exquisite book reviewer around. Regardless of whether or not he likes the book (or you’re interest level in the subject matter) Leonard’s critiques are always elegantly written. He can write fascinatingly about the Haitian Revolution one month, switch to Richard Powers the next and hover around a new biography of Philip K. Dick in the third.

Leonard is also great because he is a champion of the obscure, rather than a degrader of the obvious. He chooses books that you may not have heard of, or that pique his interest, or that fit in with other books he’s pretty sure his readership will like. You’ll never read a review of the latest Joyce Carol Oates because who needs another review of Joyce Carol Oates? In this way, Leonard avoids being stuck in the Kakutani-Peck continuum. Both Michiko Kakutani (New York Times) and Dale Peck are trapped in the establishment. They’re either too busy justifying and encouraging it (Kakutani) or trying to set it on fire (Peck) that they never really notice that their job is actually to advocate for the reader, not themselves or their industry.

John Leonard is an excellent advocate for his readership, while at the same time remaining an elegant writer himself. Take his column from this month's Harpers. It features three books that I’ve never heard of (and I work in a book store). One is a biography of Philip K. Dick, one is a biography of Dylan Thomas and one is a historical novel about Henry James from 1895 to 1899. Besides connecting these books by theme, we then get a recurring theme throughout the piece on Leonard’s thoughts on his own generation’s failings. Example (from the section on Dylan Thomas): “We only thought the sixties were so self-destructive because we forgot about the equally deranged forties and fifties, with hydrogen bombs and Elvis and the Beats, jazz musicians strung out on heroin and race, abstract expressionists slashing at the rain-forest landscapes in their very sore heads, poets lost to lithium, loony bins, and suicide, and the rest of us complicit in our celebration of their excess. We egged them on. They were the fuel we burned.”

No other reviewer writes like John Leonard, and that is why no other reviewer is quite as deserving of his readership as John Leonard.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Quick Note:

read Nicholas Kristof" today. I think it's safe to say that I agree with most of what he has to say.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Now playing on a continuous loop: The Decemberists.

I’m continuing to write two ongoing posts for this blog, the first one being part two of “3 Impacts” the second one being an attempt to pick up the gauntlet thrown by Rob Grace while he was guest-blogger and run with it like a bat out of the props loft.

Honestly, I don’t feel like posting anything deep today, it’s been a long day and it’s hot up here. So instead, I’m going to briefly champion a band that I love, and try to get you interested in their music to.

Ever wonder what would happen if Edward Gorey started a rock band? The chances are they’d probably sound something like The Decemberists, a quintet from Oregon currently on Kill Rock Stars. Mixing a wide range of influences from sea shanties to rock anthems, The Decemberists combine literate, creative lyrics with evocative music. Both of their albums (“Castaways and Cutouts” and “Her Majesty The Decemberists”) find front man Colin Meloy telling cautionary tales, spinning short stories in verse, singing about famous authors and painting landscapes with his words.

The one thing you won’t find on either album are love songs. Meloy and his band (Jenny Conlee on accordion and piano, Chris Funk on theremin and pedal steel, Nate Query on bass and Ezra Holbrook on drums) clearly aren’t interested in boy meets girl. They’re more interested in toe tapping folk rock sung from the perspective of the ghost of a stillborn premature baby who is in love with the ghost of a chimney sweep or 3/4 ballads about being an actor and treading the boards.

It isn’t just subject matter that sets the Decemberists apart. It’s also the quality of their lyrical content. Take the terrifying nightmare of “Odalisque” which builds from a mournful solo guitar number to a thwomping organ and rock drumming Nick Cave epic:

they've come to find you odalisque
as the light dies horribly
on a fire escape you walk
all rare and resolved to drop

and when they find you odalisque
they will rend you terribly
stitch from stitch til all
your linen and limbs will fall

lazy lady had a baby girl
and a sweet sound it made
raised on pradies, peanut shells and dirt
in the railroad culdesac

and what do we with 10 baby shoes
a kit bag full of marbles
and a broken billiard cue? what do we do?
what do we do?

fifteen stitches will mend those britches right
and then rip them down again
sapling switches will rend those rags alright
what a sweet sound it makes

and what do we do with 10 dirty jews
a thirty-ought full of rock salt
and a warm afternoon? what do we do?
what do we do?

lay your belly under mine
you're naked under me, under me
such a filthy dimming shine
the way you kick and scream, kick and scream

and what do we do with ten baby shoes
a kit bag full of marbles
and a broken billiard cue? what do we do?
what do we do?

lazy lady had a baby girl, and a sweet sound it made

Doom and gloom isn’t all they’re capable of. Their first album includes the exuberant hippies-spinning-around-while-gleefully-dancing number “July, July!” (which, while joyous, is actually about the ghosts of murdered people) and “Her Majesty” contains songs like “Billy Liar” and “Song for Myla Goldberg” both of which will put a grin on your face.

The thing about The Decemberists is that when at their best they combine their lyrics and sensibility with a versatile instrumentation. This synchronicity happens more on the second album than on the first (“Castaways” has a few too many slow guitar songs) but when it happens, you find yourself listening to catchy pop rock about the darkest subject matter imaginable. In this way, The Decemberists are the love child of two of my favorite bands: Belle and Sebastian and Firewater. From Firewater, they get the amalgamation of influences from Kurt Weil to the Beatles to Tom Waits to gypsy music and the dark ironic take on the shaggy dog joke of life. From Belle and Sebastian they get a certain sweetness and folksy attitude towards misery.

If you like neither of these bands, don’t get anywhere near The Deceberists. If you like your rock poetic, intense, dark and fun, check them out.

Monday, May 24, 2004

"3 Impacts: Part One"

(note, for the introduction to "3 Impacts" click here)


Abu Ghraib is the brick through the window of American Exceptionalism. A key facet of any empire is the belief that you are exceptional, the salt of the Earth, all evil means necessary for beneficent ends, too busy being a lamp that lights this dark dark world for generations to really worry about the consequences of your actions. It took several wars and many battles of independence to shake England of this most pernicious of diseases. Seeing Americans destroying innocent Iraqis in the torture chambers of a mad dictator we said we were liberating these people from is a painful wake up call. Whether we heed it or not is a different story.

We have tried to limit the damage to our exceptionalism by claiming these despicable acts of torture were limited to a few individuals. Regardless of whether or not the Abu Ghraib scandal goes all the way to the top (I think it does, but that’s not really relevant to my argument) the “bad apple” theory is so obviously an exercise in cognitive dissonance that it shouldn’t require debunking. The prison guards at Abu Ghraib were not exceptional. Put another random group of Americans, and you may very well have gotten the same thing.

Philip Zimbardo knows this probably better than anyone else. The mad scientist behind the Standord Prison Experiment has been getting a lot of TV time lately. He tries to explain how, in barely anytime at all, a group of random college kids became brutal totalitarians, systematically dehumanizing their fellow students as part of a mock penitentiary. And that was at a college campus in the 1970’s, not in a battle field where your friends are being picked off by an anonymous enemy and this guy in front of you covered in shit might have the information you need.

If we need more proof that Charles Grainer, Lyddie England et al are merely ciphers, we need look no further than our hazing rituals. Limbaugh was onto something (inadvertent, I think) when he claimed that Abu Ghraib was like a Skull & Bones initiation. Remember when video tape emerged of a soccer team hazing ritual amongst suburban teenage girls? The older girls covered their younger counterparts in buckets of feces and made them chant and sing. Several of the guards at Abu Ghraib weren’t much older than those high schoolers. Who knows what wisdom they were supposed to gain in those scant few years that would help them grapple with the immensity of holding another human life in your hands, combined with the permission to do whatever the hell you want.

Our exceptionalism led us to believe that we could make this war work, that we could do it on the cheap (and be greeted as liberators to boot!) and it leads our President to be upset because the pictures don’t represent the true character of the American People. The President is both right and wrong at the same time. We are not a nation of torturers. We are, however, a nation of humans, capable of everything that humans are capable of, good and bad. You cannot say that Americans are categorically incapable of torturing people while there are photos swimming in our national consciousness of Americans torturing people. In order to make that particularly worthless argument stick, you have to argue either that those people aren’t Americans, or that they aren’t human beings. So far, the “isolated incident” arguers are taking the latter step: these people, we’re now told, are monsters. This argument is counter factual with what we know, however. There are torture chambers all over the world, some of them operate with our government’s complicity and knowledge. There are now (we know) relaxed regulations for torturing people in US custody at Gitmo and elsewhere. How many isolated incidents does it take to make up a systemic problem? How many monsters must people this world and the United States before we admit that they are merely human, just like us?

My point is not that America is evil. My point is that this country is made up of human beings. In post WWII US culture, we have been told time and again that we are the exceptions to the rules of how the rest of the world works. We have the best system of government, made up of people interested in nothing more than the public good. We are caring, compassionate people, who are always trying to do right even when we do wrong. We are, in other words, supermen, only without kryptonite to keep us back, our shining city on the hill getting its powers from the Earth’s yellow sun and spreading peace, justice and the American way throughout the globe. If it takes propping up some petty dictators, forgiving genocide and toppling democratically elected socialists, that’s just the price of doing business.

This exceptionalism is not unique. Exceptionalism is merely the psychological counterpart to the ideology of nationalism. Why are we nationalists? Because our country is the best. What does that mean? That we are the best, plain and simple. We are not alone in this, and it is becoming increasingly clear that exceptionalism is a debilitating psychological disease that robs people and nations of their potential. The Chinese failed to colonize much of the Middle East (and some of Eastern Europe) in the 15th century in part because they believed the land already belonged to their Emperor, regardless of whether the people in the land realized it or not. You don’t even need to belong to a state to fall victim to nationalism and exceptionalism. We Jews often claim victimhood as our exceptional property. Whenever you hear “6 million Jews and 6 million others died in the Holocaust” you are hearing exceptionalism rear its ugly head. By grouping everyone else into “others” we deny that the “others” (gays, Christian Scientists, gypsies, Jehova’s Witnesses, the elderly, the handicapped etc.) were also systematically hunted down and exterminated. We become a particular kind of Holocaust denier, denying that anyone other than ourselves has experienced the pain and suffering that we collectively have. By denying this, we deny the essential humanity in those other groups that also went to the camps.

This is not to mention Norway, which has one of the most humanitarian systems of government in the world, but ranks dead last in foreign aid. Or the Academy Francais’ dedication to making France’s intellectual progress remain distinctly French. Or Islamic Fundamentalism with its call to slaughter infidels.

No one is special. Certainly, no one nationality or religion or ethnicity is special. We are all humans. We are all just trying to make our way in the world and our humanity is both beautiful and terrifying, capable of descending into a Hobbesian state of nature or writing the works of Shakespeare. We can invent systems that limit the damage one human can inflict on another and even, if we’re lucky, encourage the best that humanity has to offer. Much of religion, for example, seems to exist for this purpose (the Ten Commandments, turning the other cheek, etc.), as do many systems of government.

These systems can be manipulated, perverted and bent toward pernicious ends. For the past few years, if not decades, our politicians have been spoon-feeding us endless ego gratification—America is the best! We will create democracy by force and bend the world to our ends, for our ends are just! After 9.11, this practice slipped the bounds of reason entirely. “Our President is infallible,” the oracles and pundits shouted, “a god-like figure that we cannot touch!” People who dared claim that maybe we weren’t going into the war in Iraq for good reasons (or who pointed out that no one seemed to know what the reasons were) were laughed at as pessimists and traitors. After all, we’re Americans, and what we decide is true and right and just is True and Right and Just.

American exceptionalism is important to talk about because it got us into this mess. Indeed, this war was fought at least in part on the basis of proving that we were exceptional, and it is going so badly because we are not. We are extremely powerful and extremely wealthy and many of our citizens are dedicated to the Rights of Man, but we are not superheroes and we are not messiahs.

Abu Ghraib is another nail in the coffin of our godhead. Learning that we’re merely mortal is traumatizing, and this is one of the ways we as a nation have been traumatized by these pictures and the graphic acts of dehumanization that they depict. 9/11 showed us that the violence of the world can be inflicted upon us. Abu Ghraib shows us that we can inflict the worst violence of the world on others. If we’re lucky, our misfortunes in Iraq and these photographs in particular will steer us towards a more human (and humanist) public and foreign policy. Perhaps then we can fulfill America’s promise without sowing destruction in our wake.

New Feature: Quote of the Week

I'll have part two of the Abu Ghraib essay up later today (to read the introduction, just scroll down, it's the next entry after this one). In the mean time:

In an attempt to shake things up around here, I’m starting to implement a couple of ideas I’ve had floating around in my head. The first one is the quote of the week. So here’s the deal: I’m going to try to supply an interesting quote every week. These are not necessarily quotes I agree with, they are just ideas (often well phrased) that I think my readership will find interesting.

Hey, speaking of readership, we’re up to roughly 40 unique hits a day. Sometimes more (you people like reading blogs on Tuesdays, I’ve noticed) sometimes less. This is great! My blog hasn’t been around for very long and already an average of forty unique page views a day. Please remember to tell your friends about Parabasis! Let’s try to get the readership up up up!

Anyway, here’s the quote for this week:

“Anything under the sun is beautiful if you have the vision—it is the seeing of the thing that makes it so. The world is waiting for men with vision—it is not interested in mere pictures. What people subconsciously are interested in is the expression of beauty, something that helps them through the humdrum day, something that shocks them out of themselves and something that makes them believe in the beauty and the glory of human existence.” -- Charles Hawthorne

Sunday, May 23, 2004

"3 Impacts: An Introduction"

Perhaps it is the elitism of our newspapers that has led them to consult critics, artists, linguists and other non-politicians to help us sort through Abu Ghraib. Certainly, those war supporters who wish to silence the dissent of the Creative Class will claim it is. Personally, I’m pretty sure it’s the utter uselessness of our politicians on both sides of the aisle that has led us to finally, out of necessity, contact a few skilled writers and say “guide us”. This is not to say that the inquiry into Abu Ghraib isn’t important, or that there isn’t good work being done. There is good work, much of it being done by Republicans like McCain, working against Republicans like Inhofe and Democrats like Lieberman to get to the bottom of the Abu Ghraib outrages. It’s simply that while the investigation may eventually create a coherent narrative of events, causes, people, places, things, this determination will be ultimately unsatisfactory.

It will be unsatisfactory because while the hearings will construct an “official story”, we are living in this postmodern hell of complete media coverage, where everyone can have a voice as long as their story is sexy enough and there is no single tale to be told. We live in a Rashoman world of multiple narratives grasping at something like truth, always out of reach, always the next street over, always, ultimately, non-existent. We have seen this time and again with official calamities. Who really thinks the Warren Commission got to the bottom of things when Kennedy was assassinated? Who really thinks we know what happened in the lead up to 9/11 that made it possible? We respond to these things with convenient answers- in the case of Kennedy, we pick an explanation and hold onto it as an article of faith, in the case of 9/11, we claim it as an act of God so beyond the pale that no one was really to blame. With Abu Ghraib, we are already seeing the contrasting narratives taking shape: It was an isolated incident or group of isolated incidents involving these several bad apples. It was authorized from the highest levels of government. It was merely a translation of tactics already approved elsewhere and applied in the Iraqi prison. It was the result of a culture of laxity vis a vis human rights in the DOD. It was pornography. It was a Skull and Bones hazing ritual. It was the result of women in the military. It was necessary to finding the terrorists. It was totally unnecessary to finding the terrorists. The people who killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11 never apologized, so that’s explanation enough. It was the United States’ fault. It was the Iraqi’s fault. It was Don Rumsfeld’s fault. It was Charles Grainer’s fault. It was the digital camera’s fault.

What we are really searching for is a Platonic Ideal of a congressional report. We want the Senators to call down from a misty metaphysical plane hereby untapped by NASA satellites or Sunday morning sermons some distant codified version of real events that led up to the torture, A-to-B-to-C style. Somewhere deep inside us, however, we know that even that wouldn’t do, for facts have no meaning for the current government of the United States and facts would not explain anything about Abu Ghraib. The fact that Grainer was (let’s assume for just a moment) ordered to torture inmates would not explain why the order was given, or why he followed the order or anything like that.

And so it is that we turn to the very same people we often make fun of for not living in the real world: the creative class. Unbounded by facts, our architects of fiction, our champions of subjectivity, our lords of postmodernity finally have found a use. When all else fails, call an artist. At least they’ll tell you how to screw in the light bulb in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

I have this to say to those now seeking the counsel of artists: be careful what you wish for. Call on a cultural critic, and you’ll get a critique of culture, and there’s a good chance it won’t be one you’re particularly interested in hearing. After all, the artists America derided before the war were more on target than the so-called experts, including Presidents Clinton and Bush, PM Tony Blair, multiple secretaries of state, many functionaries at the UN and the majority of public intellectuals on both sides of the political aisle. Can you blame us for saying “I told you so”? Can you blame us for letting America know we have a use? If we dabble in self-righteousness from time to time, can you forgive us for seeking this small comfort in a world so actively hostile to what we have to say?

I say this all as a rather lengthy preamble to some thoughts on Abu Ghraib. I don’t know why Ghraib happened and as I’ve written above, I’m not sure its possible to know. I want to suggest answers as to why the impact of the photos is so powerful in American culture. I have three thoughts on the subject. I’ll post at least the first one later today or tomorrow.

I'm baaack

Special thanks go to talented actor, writer and blogger Rob Grace for filling in for me over the past few days. Give him a round of applause, folks. Hopefully we'll have some more guest bloggers coming in for a day or two over the next couple of months. I'm also toying around with adding multiple writers to the site, so instead of guest bloggers, we simply have a group of people writing, but I don't know yet. We're not that popular (fifty hits a day is our max right now) and I kind of like being lord of this domain. I'd love to know your thoughts about what to do with Parabasis. Let me know by e-mailing me at, or just posting in the comments section.

One of the great things Rob's posting did was give me the free time to think of some things to post about here. One thing I've realized I've been a little too obsessed with is currentness of what I'm talking about. This sometimes leads to hastily thought out, not particularly interesting or new content. I, after all, don't really have anything to say about the Tony awards (I really, really couldn't care less) but I do have some thoughts on te relationship between actors and the creative process, for example, that I'd like to share.

So expect a different kind of post over the next few days, at least for now. There'll be current events stuff too, but I've been thinking a lot about Abu Ghraib and its impact on us, the role of the artist in society, why we do theater, the idea of being giving as an artist etc, and I'd like to share some of that with you. I'll start by posting the first section of an essay I'm working on about the impact (culturally, of course!) of Abu Ghraib and the war in Iraq tonight. I hope you enjoy it!