February 26th, 2005

This Just In

I'm sure Steven thinks I'm crazy for never turning against Jeff Kent, but I enjoyed him too much as a Giant to give up on him completely. If nothing else, his surly media presence and silly tall-tales took some of the pressure of Barry during their time together in San Francisco. Believe it or not, Bonds was actually getting a good deal of love back in 2002 because Kent had ascended to be the organization's primero bad boy. Anyway, I'm writing this now because Jeff, the former Cal Bear, has just gone on record "defending" his former teammate. Whether his comments constitute a true defense is open to question. But they at least underscore the extent to which the media have mistreated Bonds, both earlier in his career and now, as the steroid controversy rages:
"Barry tries to do his best, as we all do, to shed light on issues that he has and we all have in our lives," Kent said from the Los Angeles Dodgers' spring training camp.

"I understand he has a lot he can't talk about; I understand he has a lot of anger at the media," Kent added. "I have a lot of respect for Barry. He is one of the best players ever to play the game. I know in time things will work themselves out. Barry tries. Because of what he's done and who he is, he's a lot different than most of us."
Yes, whatever else you want to say about him, Barry tries. More importantly, he succeeds more than most. I continue to find it laughable that players like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, bulging with as many muscles as Barry ever was and never the baseball player he still is, have been cut slack that Bonds was even denied as a Pittsburgh Pirate.
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Minimal Maxims

After watching the latest debacle featuring the Cal men's basketball team -- "Oregon State?" -- I naturally returned home in a mood to read some Adorno. There's nothing like disappointment in one register des Alltagslebens to inspire a desire to be disappointed in another. I opened the English translation of Minima Moralia by E. F. N. Jephcott to the perfect entry too, a little number called "Damper and Drum" in Part II. The first sentence, which I did not recall from previous readings, is the sort that the theorist of taste in me will surely return to again and again: "Taste is the most accurate seismograph of historical experience." You go, Teddy Wiesengrund!

As anyone familiar with Adorno might expect, however, this is easily the most hopeful sentence of the whole piece. By the penultimate Satz his aphoristic mind is once again seeing the glass, not only as half full, but hopelessly cracked and filled with a toxic liquid to boot: "The aporia of responsible work benefits the irresponsible." The final sentence seals the deal, imagining a time when, "no herbicide will prevail against the renascent springtime of song, and the national front extending all the way from barbaric Futurism to the ideology of the cinema, will go entirely unopposed." Maybe Walter took that fatal dose, not only out of fear of being captured, but because he knew that another takedown from Gretel's hubby was bound to come his way sooner or later. That sounds uncharitable, I suppose, but charity was never one of Adorno's strengths either.

Further enhancing the brood in my mood after reading reflections like these is my realization that the translation seems to be flawed in that special way that translations from Adorno invariably seem to be. Take that final comma in the final sentence. I can't imagine a scenario in which it corresponds to the sense of the original German. It seems clear to me that we're dealing with two separate subjects and predicates, coupled with a coordinating conjunction. But I can't be certain because I'm unable to locate my German edition.

In addition, I have a slithering suspicion that the bit about herbicide is a play on the idea of Ausrottung, the Nazi term that conceives of genocide as a "rooting out" of weeds im Garten des deutschen Volkes. But I can't tell how overtly Adorno is troping on the concept without seeing which term he uses. Incidentally, any doubt about the horror implicit in this weeding metaphor will be immediately laid to rest by a visit to a German "wilderness" area, in which the trees are all pruned to the same height and the leaves are vacuumed up by a diligent forester. Needless to say, gardens are subject to even more stringent Reinigung in the Heimat.

Hmmm. Have you ever seen one of those "gunslinger" commercials for that product called Roundup? I wonder why they gave the herbicide that name. I swear, if you think too hard about anything in Adorno you start seeing the world through his thick-rimmed Brille, no matter how hard you try to peer through Buddy Holly's instead. I can see him watching the next Monsanto ad campaign, nodding in bitter recognition: "Roundup: the final solution for all your gardening problems."
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