Monday, October 27, 2008

It's like I'm Vexed to Nightmare, or something...

Hey, I love Paul Krugman. I was super happy for him at his Big Moment--apparently he's really good at his old day job, too, that of professional economawhatsitronicologonomics. But of course the big prize is only obliquely related to the reasons that he's a contemporary hero, and to how he's made the past decade livable. He was overly fond of Senator Clinton, and he's kind of a cocky son of a bitch, but he's ours. And he's warmed up to the Big Guy by now.

That said: Dr. Krugman--Paul--this sort of thing must stop.
Economic data rarely inspire poetic thoughts. But as I was contemplating the latest set of numbers, I realized that I had William Butler Yeats running through my head: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

I'm going to right now declare a Mandatory Global Moratorium on the use of "The Second Coming" in any discussion of Current Events. Yes! Of course I've done it. We've all done it! It's so easy, and it always feels horrifyingly appropriate! But that's why it's a cliché! You think oh just this once, it won't hurt anyone; anyone can see that the tragedy is that THE BEST LACK ALL CONVICTION! How true that is! And things falling apart? Hell, that happens to me ALL THE TIME.

Really, anybody who's used that "worst are full of passionate intensity" bit in the past decade--and you know you have!--has to remind themself that they probably don't agree with old W.B., or he wouldn't agree with them, about who exactly the "worst" are. But that's not even the point! We've done him the courtesy of overlooking that whole Unfortunate Politics thing because of the whole Genius thing, and rightly so. But for the sake of decency, we also have to stop beating this creepy poem into the rhetorical ground.

So let's just leave it here. The center cannot hold. Fine. Let's all agree to find another way to point that out. No more blood-dimmed tides! No more mere anarchy loosed upon the world! And for the sake of all that is holy, no more slouching of any kind by anybody towards anywhere! There's a book on my shelf called Slouching Toward Fargo, for the love of god! About minor-league baseball! And of course one-time Supreme Court nominee (and present-day batshit crazy Mitt Romney fan) Robert Bork really did in all seriousness put out a book called Slouching Towards Gomorrah. (For somebody worried about the Decline of the West, that's a spectacularly incoherent mash-up of two different pseudo-Biblical tropes that have long since outlived their usefulness.)

(The same goes for any unironic citing of Polonius's advice to his children. Never do what that guy tells you! Go ahead, kids, be a borrower. It's fun!)

[Footnote: while typing this, I for one brief moment had the title of the poem written as "Teh Second Coming," which should provoke giggles in other online children like myself. That's the perfect shorthand for this kind of Media Yeats Abuse! Yeats r00l1z!!!!11 Ezra Pound is teh suck!]


Dr. Virago said...


Seriously, you are so right. And now I'm trying to remember where I just heard "The Second Coming" used in just the cliched way you're talking about. It wasn't just one line, either, it was most of the freakin' poem.

Or maybe it was just on Fringe. Real life, TV -- it's hard to keep them straight.

adm said...

you know about this right?

Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem.
2 Da Urfs no had shapez An haded dark face, An Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz.
3 At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz.4 An Ceiling Cat sawed teh lite, to seez stuffs, An splitted teh lite from dark but taht wuz ok cuz kittehs can see in teh dark An not tripz over nethin.5 An Ceiling Cat sayed light Day An dark no Day. It were FURST!!!1

best thing to happen to christendom since god died!

shine said...

I always thought I was smart until I met you. I used to consider myself an intelligent human. Not any more. I'd leave a longer comment, but I have to go Wikipedia all of your literary references so I can pretend to lead an informed conversation about this next time I see you. I'm going to go pacify myself and repair my bruised ego by making pretty little clay objects. Later gator.

I got an "A" in Crazy Beeyotch said...

This reminds me of something from this semester's composition book (the Call to write)--their section on text messaging talks about text message cliff notes.

Here's Paradise Lost:

Devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war.pd’off wiv god so corupts man(md by god) wiv apel.devl stays serpnt 4hole life&man ruind. Woe un2mnkind.

(Canterbury Tales, Hamlet
(2B R NO2B?), Pride & Prejudice also available.) may have just inspired a post!


david james keaton said...

yes, you're right. BUT i think it's just that falcon part and the end that got all overused. recently a Canadian movie (Egoyan light, not worth watching) quoted the previously unremarkable middle where it talks about the thighs and the indignant birds and this monster shuffling along and i got all excited again. because besides the birds, it's like a monster lumbering when no one's looking. (!) that's kind of unique, right? if a monster lumbers and falls in the forest and no one gasps, does it make a cliche? i don't know what the fuck i'm talking about. i just drank 9 beers and text messaged a picture of my dick instead of answering a simple question from fellow grad student. banished!