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Saturday Evening Post

T. Duke, Man with feline, 2.12.08

Bookchat: an editor tells me I might like the work of Annie Arneaux (The Possessions); I am determined to give it a try. Also, a close friend tells me to read or at least watch is Ishiguro's Remains of the Day for insight into what a butler might be thinking in remorse; I'm also going to follow up on that recommendation. And off of some bookchat two Sundays ago, I heard from Professor Alexandra Lord, who tells me she researched Condom Nation right here in LA while at USC (from her home base in Eagle Rock, in fact). Lord promises finagling a review copy.

Speaking of butlers: the book I'll likely be spending the most time with over the next lunar cycle is Judith Butler's Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, which has been a constant source of inspiration for my own scribbling on gender and identity---a category of thought that both fascinates and troubles me. This book is almost two decades old now and nobody has refuted much of it, though some, like Martha Nussbaum, have tried. Butler was one of the happy academics identified as a "rock star" by Francois de Cusset in last years' outstanding University of Minnesota offering, French Theory, and whether or not they are inclined to agree or disagree, her ideas on gender and identity make for excellent reading among people looking for answers to questions they have difficulty posing even to themselves. Also worth noting is the unbelievably lucid Judith Butler / Live Theory of Vicki Kirby, an Australian sociology prof; her parses of Butler's books

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Twitter has bookchat too: here's one from Colson Whitehead (author, most recently of Sag Harbor, Doubleday; Village Voice Review here).

RT @jamespothmer My first agent died. My second was fired. But when third quit to go, I kid you not, to clown school I had a crises of faith.

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You might have guessed: I've been away. I haven't been away in a while and I liked being away far better than I recall liking being away.

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But around our own burg, to which I return tonight even as Mercury turns direct (6:22 p.m. Pacific), news is that LA can no longer afford to support its 311 system. Some are outraged by this, but it's fine with me, as it never worked for me anyway.

Once about two years ago I called for graffiti removal, and if I had let the clowns who showed up touch my garage door they would have made a bigger mess than that graffito itself (which was actually quite handsome) presented. And once I called to get a streets-sign that was leaning like the flag at Iwo Jima arighted. Had no luck. Called again. Had no luck. Called again...finally I had a persistent seputagenarian call on my beahlf. That worked.

But mostly, I have called 311 about five hundred times, to get numbers in the Mayor's office, to talk to the Mayor's media relations people. Never once have they returned a call with anything resembling an honest answer, and lately--say the past three months, or starting when I began criticizing the Mayor for conducting a reelection campaign that effectively denied democracy to the City--they haven't returned calls at all.

So I'm not joining any bandwagon asking to "save 311" because as far as I know it is only there to connect citizens to agencies that don't work for you anyway. Begone, I say.