Friday, October 29, 2004

Dauerhafte freiheit, baby!

Homeland security is such a great new growth industry! Once enough of the black male population had been put behind bars, the natural growth curve of the prison industry sort of flattened out, and terrorism was really a godsend for the rural and would-be-rural thick of neck. No longer do we have to build prisons or, indeed, any sort of buildings to provide the underskilled and undermotivated but self-righteous beer-loving males with something to stand next to and "guard."

Now they can provide security to just about anything! Office buildings. Malls. Border crossings. Schoolbus crossings. Stadia. Bush-Cheney events. Gated subdivisions. Everything's all so constantly threatened, that clearly it makes sense to post some fat guys that can't be bothered to retrain to do something productive to stand there with stern viligance. In case of a nucular event, ya?

Other great ideas from lunchtime brainstorming:

  • Stop terrorism by taxing it (but not too aggressively, so as not to stem the entrepreneurial spirit of the terrorists)
  • Have Mark Burnett produce a reality TV show on which terrorists can blow themselves up before a big audience (shades of Network)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Big boxes and offshoring

No real fresh thoughts today, so I'll stick with a canned topic. This is, like, a management consultant's version of stand-up. But stale material.

Did you ever think about how Big Boxes and offshoring are two peas in a pod? In the early 90s, WalMart and other Big Boxes really hammered down on trimming fat from retail processes, getting immense economies of scale from technology and supply chain innovations and so on. Main Street was eviscerated, and everybody boohooed and paraded forth nostalgic visions of mom and pops stores which are really just recastings of the romantic myth of the heroic individual vs. the ineluctability of history. John Henry and the steam engine.

Now there's offshoring, where Indian and other firms are doing the same thing to back office processes with bandwidth and eager young would-be office workers over yonder . But there's really no supporting myth for the resistance to outsourcing. There's no romance of the kind and warm CSR or other paper pushing functionary. Just hand-wringing. We're supposed to have jobs, dammit!

Don't get me wrong, it does suck. There are fewer easy ways to have jobs, and fewer pleasant places to shop than there were 20 years ago. But you can buy stuff cheaper, and nobody's really voting with their feet to show that they'll pay more for charm or higher-touch services.

I know, I know, boring. That's what happens when I'm stuck in the office and don't even watch TV.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Sweet and sour

This morning Natalie came upstairs with her hair in two braids, to model them for me as I dressed. Standing in front of the mirror in the hallway, she excitedly tried to see the back of her head in the mirror by turning her head, rotating her eyes as far to the right as possible, etc. It was beyond adorable.

How about those Greenbergs, huh? I thought it seemed rather coincidental that the CEO's last name was Greenberg, like Maurice Greenberg of AIG. Turns out, it's his frickin dad! I wish my dad would get me a job like that. And brother Evan is at the helm of ACE! So what is it: the world's largest insurance carrier, the world's largest insurance broker (containing the world's largest reinsurance broker, Guy Carpenter), and a significantly sized reinsurer (smaller than Swiss, Munich, and Berkshire Hathaway, but still big), are basically a family fiefdom? Why did it take so long to figure out something was wrong?

Ace is so familial that CEO Evan Greenberg signs letter to staff currently posted on its website simply "Evan."

There was a fine masterpiece theatre on Sunday about the effects of royal families' inbreeding. That one was very sad and touching, the Marsh/AIG/Ace thing is sad and troubling.

Monday, October 25, 2004

No grousing. Home sick.

Must take rain check on grouse and nap. Feeling stuffed up and yicky. Left work early for quasi homeland security reasons.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Nickelodeon vs. CTW

Watching a Blues Clues video with Natalie while paying bills. The eternal question arises: how does Nick's content compare to that of the immortal Children's Television Workshop. Sesame Street is basically untouchable, but much of the other stuff of our youth has proved pretty ephemeral. Who really remembers much of Zoom or the New Zoo Review? Kids slapping their knees and saying their names. Could be it wasn't even produced by CTW anyway? Nickelodeon's content is generally pretty good, fairly educational and public interest despite being for profit. Gotta like that guy Steve in the green stripey shirt.

It's Saturday, it must be Boca Burger time, with that health-giving soy, so reminiscent of public school and convenience store burgers of different slices of yore.

Friday, October 22, 2004


I cheated earlier and edited last night's post, which took up 4 of what should be today's 15. Will be brief.

Graham was up three times in the first hour of last night's sleepytime, striking terror into our hearts. He kept wedging himself crossways in the crib, dropping the pacifier and all that, and then exercising his mighty lungs. "Can he carry this through the night?", I thought to myself. Thankfully, the answer was no. A good night's sleep.

On the way to work, I spied a yellow Subaru WRX. I drove one of those things not long ago. 230 horsepower growling like some Camaro that got lost and transplanted into this little body. The automotive equivalent of Freaky Friday. The arms race for horsepower is pretty disturbing. I don't get it. You can't possibly run your car that hard. My little Volvo has more power than it knows what to do with. I know it's going to get me in trouble eventually.

In general, the universal applicability of the male quest for dominance, power, and protruberance has really struck home over the years. Anything that sticks out is good, so long as it sticks out in the right way (no clown noses at work). Perhaps the most telling instance is in To the Lighthouse when that intellectual (Ramsay?) is talking and the female narrator is listening and all she can hear is "I, I, I, I." That was sort of like me in grad school.

I remember when, in college, feminists would tallk about "the phallic" as a general principle and I would just be sitting here thinking "this is absurd. There's no general type of phallic behavior." But of course I never said anything, for fear of offending them and diminishing my chances of sleeping with them.

Time up.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Shout out to the home of the winter surf

Gentle readers, we've had a visit from one Thomas Dwight Nager, now of Niterroi, Brazil, the town that plays Oakland to Rio's Frisco. Bom dia Tomasinho! Who else will check in in the comments section for their own shout out?

And another thing, Dwight. You mention the Balfour Declaration. Would you believe I'm distant kin to the Balfours? Like, some Troy in Edinboro tied the knot with one Elizabeth Balfour back in the late Mid-18th century, making me about as close kin to the Lord that issued the declaration as Bush is to Kerry. Wow. Living history.

As to your general point about Palestinians and Israeli's getting along, it ain't happening. You'd need to see a truly charismatic figure rise up sprouting the message, and (s)he'd probably be assasinated for impersonating the messiah. We can't send in Rodney King as an emissary to help everybody "just get along." So I guess yall got everything straightened out with them favelas, eh?

But, anyhow. Walked from Columbia U. to the Soros Foundation at 58th today (see my old Central Eurasia web site for excitement). Was struck by the quantity of nail salons and hair places on the East side of the street. I knew there was a price and traffic differential between the West side, where Zabar's, H & H, and all the shiny new stuff is, and the East, but this was pretty striking.

Gotta go. Fear another rough night with Graham up every two hours, now that he seems to have a cough. Why did that stupid painter have to tell us not to turn the heat on? Why did we have to listen to him? Will this rain let up in time to get the cracks in the stucco painted before winter? Will we get our interior painting done in time for the family to gather at Thanksgiving? Stay tuned...

15 minutes per post is now an iron law, much like Matthew Barney's student work with restraints, where he tied himself up with bungies and tried to paint.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


A month or so ago, we found out that Graham is allergic to wheat and seriously allergic to milk (no surprise, given some projectile work he did for Mary). Getting all of the wheat out of his diet has soothed the savage little beast immensely, letting us sleep. But he's clung steadfastly to a preference for mushy food leavened only with Maple Arrowroot cookies and avocado, despite the pediatrician's admonition to get him to eat a more varied diet, lest he develop a "food disorder." And he'd drink nothing but water. Given these constraints, no milk, almost no food but mush, getting enough fat and protein in the little guy was quite a struggle. One in which I, admittedly, played but a collateral role.

So yesterday was huge! He ate two slices of turkey salami, some soy tofu "cheese", and drank 2 oz. of soy milk. Imagine our glee.

I was thinking of scribbling out some deep thoughts on the subject of general threats in the environment, but will hold off. Rapidly approaching the 15 minute cut-off point.

One thing. In response to Ken's response yesterday about a Dostoevskii renaissance. I've thought it inevitable because there's no better way to explain suicide bomber behavior, and better reflection on the problem of evil, than by reading the classic four middle period novels: Crime and Punishment, The Possessed, The Idiot, and The Brothers K.

I keep waiting for someone to have the courage to make a biopic about Mohammed Atta. I suspect there are directors who might risk it, but not studios. Something along the lines of the new film about Che, if necessarily less picturesque. Malkovich is probably the one to do it.

Time up.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Reducible evil?

Ever since 9/11, I've been predicting a big Dostoevskii comeback. Really a no-brainer. And the electoral season has really refocused my attention on the question of evil. So last weekend I headed up towards the bookshelf on the landing by the attic in search of my copy of The Brothers Karamazov, figuring a re-read was due, Ivan Karamazov's discourse on the suffering of a single child, the Grand Inquisitor, Dima getting wasted, the whole nine.

But it wasn't there, must be boxed up in the basement. What I did found was what I took to be a reasonable proxy, Philip Gourevitch's We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, the definitive anglophone accounting of the Rwandan genocides of 1994. The book opens as the author helicopters in to a church in mountain clearing where corpses of slaughtered Tutsis have been left to decompose where they lay as a memorial, much like the sacked Acropolis in Athens or the Cathedral of Coventry. Gourevitch respectively but without an excess of piety recounts how 100 or so women had been raped and had their skulls crushed there. In the next breath, in a pretty funky stylistic turn, he remarks on the jaunty hips and thrust out buttocks of the soldier who is his guide and who guards the site. Caught me off guard. It just goes to show you, if you're contrarian enough to fly around looking at and digging up evidence of a genocide that the rest of us sort of preferred to ignore, you're gonna have an eye for some wierd detail. And so will your editors.

But whatever, it's a book of rare bravery and fortitude. The kind of thing Michael Moore might do if he didn't need eggrolls and a camera crew forever near to hand.

Song du jour A Balkan treat from the Yale Slavic Chorus

Monday, October 18, 2004

Brain dead

I'm quite the underachieving blogger, it would seem. I've got precious little to say.

But in case you were curious about what seemed hip and ironic in Tbilisi in 1994, have a look at these costumes of fully-burkad (or someone correct me on the precise name of those robes, if you care to) women for a production entitled Sahara.

I took a minute to look into a claim by a colleague that the Nation of Islam was 1.7 million strong and that they don't vote as a matter of policy. Judging by the quality of the Nation's website, it's hard to imagine how it could organize 1.7 thousand people to do anything. It also took me back to 1994.

Meanwhile, things are heating up in Belarus, a county seemingly stuck in 1979, whose dictator Lukashenko couldn't get it invited to join the "Axis of evil" only because it's so pathetic that its most threatening WMD is lingering fall-out from Chernobyl, of which it has plenty. Gallup claims that Lukashenko get 48% of the vote in the recent unconstitutional referendum to scrap presidential term limits, which would fall short of the threshhold needed. But says he got 73%, and the official claim is 77%. Who's right? Who knows? But there were protesters across the street today from Lukashenko's house and they've promised to come back tomorrow. This is a rarity in Belarus. Lets cheer them on and hope that Belarus can be drawn as far forward in time as the fall of '89.

Friday, October 15, 2004

A little something

It would be a shame to post nothing, people would stop coming by. That's part of the addictive premise of the blog. Which gives me a great idea for a business. Why not have readymade, even machine-generated blog text which one could purchase on those days when one couldn't write? In fact, you could make it a subscription thing, where, if you haven't posted by 3 or so, you get an auto-post. And you could store up a variety of flavors of blog, "cranky teenager", "disaffected would-be intellectual", "compassionate conservative NAMBLA member," you know, the regular assortment of types, from which one could get text either selectively or randomly. I'll make jillions!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

What's my name?

Certain observant readers have commented that "Graham Berridge Troy" might not in fact be my real name, and not without cause. It is in fact the name of my one-year old son, whose lovely pic I'll post when I get around to it.

I had at first been delighted to set up my own blog, thinking it a wholly liberated space to write as I pleased, "out of all constrictions," as pfunk would have it. And then I read that googling people has become standard practice for managers, hiring directors, and the like throughout the corporate sphere, which means that a space of apparent discursive freedom all of a sudden transmutes into just another place for the superego to lard itself on, a place to reach out and leverage best practices proactively. Maybe I'll get me one of those too where I can burnish the me that gets things done and saves clients money. Not here.

Kerry's comment about Dick Cheney's daughter last night, though inoffensive to me, would appear to have been ill-advised from the blowback we're hearing. As if he had insulted somebody. But the key thing is that he doesn't support gay marriage, which strikes me as craven. People who find the concept of marriage threatened by the spector of homoconnubials would seem to have issues in their own homes which they can't quite put a finger on. It don't bother my marriage.

Song du jour A Rekjavik bildungsroman, methinks

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Morning in America?

What's this? Jesse Jackson announces John Edwards by saying "the Democratic ticket 'represents morning time in America'." Are the Democrats and Republicans trying to one up one another by recycling the greatest hits of the Reagan campaigns? First "you can run but you can't hide" and now this. Does Jackson really want to invoke one of the Reagan team's cleverest bits of propaganda? The whole thing about morning in America was that, if Carter and Caddell's malaise had nominally passed, it was still a let them eat jellybeans and ketchup packs sunshiny day, where blacks and the HIV-positive (read gay) might as well just stay in bed. Maybe the Rainbow Coalition has gone greyscale.

Song du jour. Gillian Welch transcendent

Monday, October 11, 2004

le Jacques est mort, vive le Jacques

"From philosophy, rhetoric, to make of a text a flower, to mount it, or rather, to have it come round and mount itself, reckoning with a lapidary's instinct."

This is the best I can do to recall the opening of Derrida's "White Mythology," but it's hard to overstate the impact that it had on a kid from the south some twenty years back. The idea that the texts of philosophy, of civics, or whatever other texts you could find were shot through with figures, indeed, that you couldn't strictly distinguish between the literal (letter being just another metaphor) and the figural was huge and hugely liberating. And hard to argue with.

Say what you will about theory in general, that it's been simultaneously abstruse, obtuse, and inane, it's all true. But Derrida and his generation brought an energy and a verve to the humanities which had been missing. There had been visionaries in the previous generation (one thinks of Kenneth Burke, and Wittgenstein of course), but the French came in, generated buzz, and broke things open to new lines of enquiry in a way that a Jurgen Habermas, a Yurii Lotman, or a Seymour Chatman could never dream of doing. Is Derrida to blame that the American academy lacked the backbone to know when to call bullshit?

Friday, October 08, 2004

That middle initial

Incidentally, it's rather unprecedented for the sitting commander in chief to be comprehensibly referenced only by his middle initial. The middle name is a wierd marker. Frank Lentricchia once pointed out that it was odd that our famous assassins all are recognized by their full names: John Wilkes Booth. Lee Harvey Oswald. James Earl Ray. In the Russian tradition, only one person has ever had his middle name, or patronymic, function as a standalone reference: Lenin, whose name was invoked so frequently that he was colloquially called Ilyich. These are the history-makers in whose company W finds himself.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Eyes on the prize

Did anybody else notice how, at last week’s debate, Kerry could scarcely look at the camera? He kept his eyes trained squarely on Jim Lehrer, as if he really really wanted his vote. Some speculated that there had been more than one camera and he just didn’t favor CNN, but VP-debate channel flicking didn’t support this hypothesis. There was one camera only.

The current White House tenant, he of middle initial, at least thought to address himself to his putative audience as he spewed his puerile doggerel. Kerry, on the other hand, was thinking so hard about what he was thinking that he almost spaced on what he was doing. As if it was more important to win the debate than the election. But, since he’s our next President, we’ll let it go.

Another thing. W kept going on about “hard work” in the debate. Iraq is “hard work”, the economy is “hard work,” etc. It was probably a rhetorical ploy like his folksy Texanisms and his Cargill jacket and boots, meant to legitimize him in the eyes of the “working man”. But, in the context of the discussion of Edwards’ lack of experience in the Vice Presidential debate, it could also be read as an attempt to impute a work history to Bush. If Edwards’ public resume is shallow, Bush’s was similarly so. A one-term governor who had run a baseball team and some failed wildcatting ventures? Give him the helm of the free world, by all means.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Eat your pineapples

Esh' ananacy
Riabchikov zhui
Poslednii den' tvoi idet,

Eat your pineapples
Chew your grouse
Your last day is coming
You bourgeois louse.

-- Vladimir Mayakovsky

Absurd as it would seem for someone so thoroughly embourgeoised as myself to launch a blog by citing these rather silly and charmingly apocalyptic verses from Mayakovsky, the fact remained that:

1. I had to select a name for my blog
2. I knew that if I didn't do it right now, it wouldn't get done
3. I couldn't think of a better name than "Chew your grouse"
4. I couldn't very well name my blog something silly and not explain it, now could I?

So let Mayakovsky set the tone for this blog, which will surely be no more nor less onanistic than most others. Your host, cast adrift from the humanities on the rough seas of management consulting, will seek to free himself from the confines of the bullet points and think once more in his native tongue, the paragraph. In time, I may actually have something to say.