You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

July 19, 2007

Bad Blurver

I'm not a good political blurver, because (1) I hate politics, and (2) I don't really like blurves.

I hate politics because the struggle for power generally bring out the worst in people on all sides. The most you can hope for from politics is that it will keep us from slaughtering each other and give us the space to do the things that life is actually about.

I generally don't like blurves because, as a medium, they push people towards a focus on the now now now and My Underinformed Opinion On The Latest Outrage. This is not something the world needs more of. Also, as a writer, I'm not keen on doing lots of work with the life span of a mayfly.

On the other hand, I certainly enjoy blurve comments, and would appreciate your views on this subject.

Posted at July 19, 2007 02:56 PM | TrackBack

I think TR is pretty good probably because of 1 & 2. But I've actually been thinking of cutting back on my blog consumption, for the same reasons. In the end, it's just text TV. Unplug, play a CD, read a novel.. for a few weeks anyhow.

Posted by: vince_foster at July 19, 2007 04:03 PM

I enjoy your blog very much, Mr. Schwarz. Please do not disappear from the Internet entirely: I think that you have a very good political blag going here.

Posted by: krinn at July 19, 2007 04:52 PM

Don't forget: you're funny, too, Mr Schwarz. Ya make me laugh. And they say you can't die when you're laughing, so I read your blog instead of exercising.

Posted by: oyster at July 19, 2007 05:35 PM

Dear Sir,

You are one of my favorite blurvers, along with Mr. Perrin and Mr. Silber. I think you are less underinformed than your readers (certainly myself), and you do a service to us in helping to dissipate misinformation. You blergh exquisitely, and you teach us new words for the activity as well.
Your sense of humor is a relief after reading so many angry screeds, I must say; the world being in the state it is, I find myself needing laughter.
I would appreciate it if you continued posting here forever.

I can't imagine why my opinion would be worth anything to you, however.

Save the Oocytes!

Posted by: StO at July 19, 2007 05:41 PM

In a closed or captured system, most of the communication regarding that players in it is going to redound to the benefit of people whom you'd prefer to see in Hell. Our political structure fits the bill for that. It embodies the principle of market mimicry, in which the appearance of an ethical transaction tantalizes people while remaining proofed against any substantive delivery. So the blerrghing as part of activism or "raising consciousness" is going to be ennervating and an exercise in futility, unless you look outside the system or way off to the fringes (which have their own problems).

The core problems for progressive writers, whose organizations and affinity groups have been captured or immobilized, are first:

• the lack of a real answer to the question of what to do when they refuse to respond as their charter nominally obliges them to.

and second:

actually knowing what to do and knowing there'll be no support for it.

It might be better to have no more expectations of the medium than one might from a neighborhood hangout, where art, culture, fun, commerce and conversation are the purpose.

Posted by: Scruggs at July 19, 2007 05:42 PM

I just got back from a short vacation thinking along the lines of both you and vince foster. But also like krinn--I hope you keep blogging. I want to cut back on my blog-reading, but for as long as you post you'll be on the short list of blogs worth reading. You and like-minded types are filling the niche Chomsky invented--showing that the latest American atrocities are part of a grand American tradition, or more generally, a grand human tradition of doing terrible things for supposedly noble motives. It may not be the most fulfilling sort of writing, because once you see the pattern you feel like you're just repeating yourself day after day and it's really kinda boring unless you can be clever and satirical about it (a talent you happen to have.) But it's a boring tedious task because the people in power are boring tedious villains who keep doing the same sorts of things and telling the same sorts of lies about it. Somebody has to point this out, and it certainly won't be the mainstream press.

Not that this somebody has to be you. If you had the readership of atrios I'd say it was--for purely selfish reasons I hope you continue. But it'd be nice if you or people who think like you had a much larger readership.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at July 19, 2007 05:57 PM

So being the only guy to start the conversation is kind of tough. It's why many blogs share the authorship load.

What you need to do is promote some of your fans to cast members ala Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Hint. Hint.

Posted by: patience at July 19, 2007 06:52 PM

Your blog is so bloody good! It's both funny and infuriating. Only you can do that. So please do keep it up. Yours, Paul

Posted by: paul at July 19, 2007 07:01 PM

On second thought, it's just text tv, except when it's not. Like when you were slam dunking George Tenet. They don't do that on tv.

May I suggest a Cindy Sheehan retirement? That is, execute a noisy, bridge burning, narcissistic exit from the blogosphere, preferably via a Huffingtonpost headline entry which serves only to triple traffic to TR, go three days without doing media, and then announce your resumption of 24/7 liveblogging on Hardball "because the blogosphere is nothing without me."

That would be sweet!

Posted by: vince_foster at July 19, 2007 07:02 PM

The first requirement of a good political analyst is to hate politics. That's why Broder is one of the worst.

And Jon one of the best.

And he is funny, too. For example, look to the left. You'll see a menacing picture of Cheney (or some lookalike) and what's the caption underneath? ACTUAL FRIENDS.

Now that *is* funny.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 19, 2007 07:22 PM

In one of the "Hogan's Heroes" episodes Sgt. Schulz says to Hogan: "You Amerikans, alvayss viz ze jokes." Good thing, too, since the humor tradition that runs from Twain to Thurber and Bruce.
Realized how liberating that is when I came to USA as boy in 1948 from Switzerland, where humor was strictly VERBOTEN.
PC and fascists in waiting are killing it. Keep fighting them. They may not laugh, but some of us still find laughter our kind of rapture.

Posted by: donescobar at July 19, 2007 09:29 PM

Sadly you are mistaken Jon, politics is often what HUMAN life IS ACTUALLY about, magnified to a larger scale. We are not a rational species nor a species comfortable with things the way they are. We've been struggling to get by on this Earth with each other since day one, and hell we've always made messes. Power simply put is the ability for action, and isn't the ability to do more, no matter if it's good for us or not, simply what human aspiration boils down to?

I simply think that the worst qualities of politics are simply the flip side of the very best qualities that we can see manifest in Art, in Art we seek to create a world that functions according to our vision and our view. Where objective reality is sacrificed in favour of our own subjective judgments to fit the fabric of the present reality, and what do you know, what we create is not just beautiful when we do it right, but becomes accepted as a new orthodoxy. Maybe what every politician out there needs is just for their self-expression to be appreciated.

We got a package deal, Jon. You can't have the good without the bad.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at July 19, 2007 09:45 PM

Jon: >> Also, as a writer, I'm not keen on doing lots of work with the life span of a mayfly.

I see your point, but don't forget Sartre's reply to someone who asked him what's the secret of good writing: "write, write, and write."

So, writing for the mayflies over here is good practice for writing for the Galapagos turtles
over there.

Posted by: at July 19, 2007 10:11 PM

Never mind that crap.. just keep blogging, I come here every day.

Posted by: Dilapidus at July 19, 2007 11:49 PM


You're a regular stop on my daily circles; a bold POV that borders on dangerous (and dips a toe over the line occasionally). Any day now I expect the black helicopters to swoop in just because I frequent your site. I'll claim I was only here to learn new words. Poltroons. Where else on the internets would one find such intellectual riches?

If you're not here, I'd have to go to some dark places to get the required daily controversies. Places teeming with certifiable nuts. is garish; a barker's carnival -- the others too earnestly serious.

But mostly, ATR is therapeutic -- I come here to confirm that it's not insanity buzzing in my brain; others think the same stupid and useless thoughts.

Look, if you close up shop, I'm going back to the Freepers to get my fill of nuttiness. Do you want that on your conscience?

Posted by: Ted at July 19, 2007 11:55 PM

Yours is the first bluhurg I visit each day and one of the very few I would regard as essential stops. Most of the interesting and useful stuff I've found on "our present situation" has either been here or via here. And then there's the laffs.

But, hey, I'm not going to ask someone to carry on with something if it's getting to be a grind, or a distraction from more important projects. If you fold up the booth, that's up to you. You could just get sporadic. (That's what RSS is for.) Or do like patience says and form a group blog with others who feel like cutting back. But, if not, thanks for sticking around this long.

Posted by: RobW at July 20, 2007 02:15 AM

I like to get roaring drunk and then comment on blurves. But as it is only 730am when I saw this, I am not drunk yet. Note to self: check ATR blurve sometime Saturday night for a super good time.

Posted by: wkmaier at July 20, 2007 07:32 AM

Second Lame Man. One of the reasons I don't write on politics is your blog makes other blogs look bad in comparison. Make of that what you will.

Posted by: StO at July 20, 2007 10:28 AM

Susan Sontag said what she learned from the holocaust was that 10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and that 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and that the remaining 80 percent could be moved in either direction. (yeah, I might have read that here.) You sir, are uncommon and not, I think, cruel. But you're funny, which makes your blurving even more of a gift. I think it's an antidote to the problems you mentioned and I would miss it.

And I agree with Bernard Chazelle, your work is better for hating politics and for not being infatuated with teh awesomeness of the technology.

Posted by: klatydob at July 20, 2007 10:48 AM

Dammit! Are you going to do a Billmon on us?

Posted by: rebecca at July 20, 2007 10:56 AM

I often find your writing funny and informative. Also, you can apparently convince people you aren't "PC" without acting like a dick.

Posted by: hf at July 20, 2007 12:42 PM

While one may learn from the past and plan for the future, the only reality extant is the now now now.

Socrates loathed writing because he felt it preserved a sort of silence: one might ask questions of writing yet would receive no answer. He preferred dialogue. Greater Blurvistan allows both writing and dialogue. Socrates would approve.

Plus, ATR is better than a sharp stick in the eye.

Posted by: cavjam at July 20, 2007 12:45 PM

Jon, I used to think it was necessary to read 40 or 50 or more blogs a week to keep up with everything that was worth keeping up with. Then, very gradually, I realized that many of the bigshot blogs are pap, albeit with a dollop of sophistication that allows you to be befuddled into believing they're penetrating and meaningful.

Conversely(I think that's the right word here), as per the stopped clock, there are individual posts, occasionally, by otherwise undistinguished blogs that prove to be trenchant and valuable.

So-- what? I think it's useful, in terms of keeping our egos both healthy and in check-- to remember that most people's writings are impermanent, whether you aim for the ages or not.

Go rummage in a university library sometime, in the dewey decimal section--i.e., the older books. You'll find novelists and historians nobody's heard of before(at least, not recently), and publishers that are long gone. Aren't there writers from 50-100 plus years ago, who nobody reads and nobody alive remembers, writers whose whole oeuvres have become lost? I imagine so.

Does that mean give up? For my part I hope not-- you are far more valuable than any 20 random bloggers. Breaks are good sometimes,and hating politics is probably an asset, even if it doesn't feel like it. Likewise, I think most of your commenters are more useful than the aggregate of blog commenters out there.

I seriously doubt political blogging "makes a difference", either in a rightward or leftward sense. I think the only thing people actually accomplish is they buck one anothers' spirits up, allow people to find this dark time we live in seem a little more bearable.

My doubts notwithstanding, I think bloggers, generally speaking, should try to make a difference-- but we're better off with a stance of hopeful skepticism-- not so readily buying into assertions of our specialness and cleverness.

Incidentally Jon, I noticed Zeynep's blog seems to have gone dark-- do you have any news of her doings?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at July 20, 2007 01:19 PM

Dear Jon,

at least you'll always have Watership Down :)

by the comments above, you should realize that you have done quite a lot for a lot of people, and my only regret is that i didnt catch on much sooner. enjoy the time off, but do come back every now and then!

we'll miss you if you leave :)

- A Fan(who is surreptitiously reading this site without reading Your Kampf, sorry!!)

Posted by: almostinfamous at July 20, 2007 01:36 PM

oh, and BTW i let my own site DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH and have moved to a free place. apparently MovableType's comments didn't register the change automatically.

COME ON, people it's the 21st century. these things should be tying my shoelaces by now!

(or at the very least, reading aloud my copy of Our Kampf)

(and no, i am not an amazon salesman. although that would be a great theme for a party)

Posted by: almostinfamous at July 20, 2007 01:40 PM


Though any given post you write may indeed have the lifespan of a mayfly, bear in mind that the influence it has on your readers is significantly longer-lived. And as for an untoward focus on the "now now now", well, that's where all of us live, isn't it?

Bottom line: If you keep writing, we'll keep reading.

Best wishes,

Posted by: Ian Mason at July 20, 2007 02:00 PM

Think like GWB...History is why we do what we do. And you happen to be one of the best.

The greatest painter of all time, Van Gogh, died unappreciated and penniless. I hope for more than that (for you and I), but sometimes we get myopic in the present.

One day, school kids will study the great bloggers as we studied the pamphlet writers of the Revolutionary War. Seems silly, I know, but I'd put money on it.

Hang in there, man!

Posted by: t4toby at July 20, 2007 02:58 PM

I'm also curious about Zeynep's blog.

As to the greater purpose of blogging, meh. For me, this is all wanking. I would miss your writing, obviously. I read you every day. But I'm not going to suggest you keep writing. I don't think blogging opens minds or doors. It provides me with comfort to know that there are people like you, intelligent and thoughtful, whose views recapitulate my own. But I don't really need that comfort, nor do we all. I need the strength to get up and do things. Comfort might even be a bar to doing that. (I just noticed that Jonathan V. wrote this same thing.)

Scruggs suggests a common problem is that we don't know what to do. I'm not so sure of that. I think, more often, we lack the courage or commitment to do the difficult things we know we could do, the kinds of things that Arthur Silber has been pining for us to do.

I don't think blogs will ever be an antidote to anything. One of the tags for my blog is "a shot of brandy in the desert". This is a bit silly, like most of the nonsense on my blog, but it's also a bit serious. We're dying of thirst and starving, and dizzy with sun-stroke. That bit of brandy is a moment of pleasure, but it doesn't change the fact that we're in the middle of a desert, and soon the sun will be bleaching our bones white. We have to get out of the desert, and even if all of us were taking swigs of brandy, still none of us would be moving anywhere.

Posted by: saurabh at July 20, 2007 04:25 PM

Ennui? Take a long walk in someplace w/o cars. Come back and think about supporting Kucinch.

Posted by: john in california at July 20, 2007 04:27 PM

Wow, exactly how I feel.

But, you are one of the few that I still read and find informative. Why? Because you frequently tie several things together or reach back for historical context. That is worthwhile, or at least that is my opinion.

Posted by: Justin at July 20, 2007 05:01 PM

I'd really like to think you have more than 30 readers because I've seen you blurbed by heavyweights all over the internets.

So I'm going to assume the rest are hiding in their bunkers, waiting for the Imperial Presidency of Dick Cheney to pass.

How dangerous will the putsch be? I can't really do much in three hrs, but give me the government organs for three hrs, and I bet I could make a presidential size mess. 30 minute inauguration speech, a two hour bombing campaign, preferably Iran, but really anywhere would be ok (it's the exercise of power that counts), followed by a 20 minute victory celebration, rose petal throwing, etc. A ten minute slow walk into the sunset, taking time to pose for a franklin mint commemorative.

What if that man doesn't wake up from his anesthesia? Well, my plasma screen is sure to get a graphics workout. And I don't even care if that b*tch blows up from too much red, white and blue; I wisely(?) got the two year extended warranty.

Posted by: Ted at July 21, 2007 12:01 AM

ok, I will buy your book!

Posted by: Susan at July 21, 2007 12:37 AM

I hope this isn't too long, but i wanted to get two apparently contradictory things: that this is an important blog and -at the same time- that you should just be happy and not feel guilty if you don't blog.

For years I have visited a popular football webboard. The posters there are a somewhat significant subset, eastern seaboard mid-level management types, many SUV drivers, plus many sports-regalia wearers. Mostly right of center, with closed minds.

At that board -dedicated to a sport where faceless men hit each other in attempt to gain territory- previously off-limits topics there are now occasionally getting a hearing. For instance a few weeks ago these folks discussed whether the US media is propaganda (most did not think so, but they let the discussion happen.)

My point is, there is a crack in the wall and it's cuz of the blogosphere. I know it is. I know those people. Without any contrary forces, they would continue to absorb mainstream media nonsense forever (even as it tells them pigs fly). I wouldn't say they are waking up. But I can report that the ripples of a liberated blogovian attitude to info have spread.

For the first time ever, these folks dimly envision that there is this alternative information -uh- thing. They wouldn't click themselves on a hippy link (God forbid). But without knowing it they have read someone who read someone who read someone who read one of your terrific posts.

Even me, sometimes I have posted there with all the skill I can muster on the issues of the day, sometimes with courage I have found here. Thank you for that. You, sir, are not the tiniest of revolutionaries. You have made a difference. Indirectly or directly.

Please rest if you want. Be happy. If you take a hiatus or give up writing we will not fade.

Posted by: the guy who .. at July 21, 2007 07:05 PM

Keep Bloggin!

Posted by: Hari Seldon at July 27, 2007 08:05 AM