Achewood smell jokes

RUNNING FROM 2001 TO 2016, more or less, Chris Onstad’s webcomic Achewood was one of the more remarkable cultural artefacts of the 2000s web. While a lot of it hasn’t aged well, there are other elements to it that remain incredibly powerful (the Michael Jackson strip from 2009 manages to sit in both columns). Roast Beef’s depression and anxiety, which are played on as subjects for jokes, are also treated far more seriously and humanely than in far ‘better’ works of literature. It’s completely internally inconsistent, surreal, some of it’s over-written, and ought to sit with the greats of Americana.

At a fundamental level I am an immature person and have always appreciated an under-recognised part of Achewood’s running humour—jokes based on the sense of smell.

'Smells like someone sauteéd a racoon'

'What's that smell? Did you ride the bus today?'

'It's like I'm being stung by Marlboro Lights'

'You smell like six asses. What happened to you?'

'His lavatory mists evoke tripe boiled in bourbon...

'It smells like someone's working on ac car'

The fart joke is one of the standards of comic writing, and should be treated as fundamental to literature as a 12-bar blues riff is to music.


What I'm Reading (late August)

THE AMERICAN AFFAIRS JOURNAL was at least until quite recently a safe haven for political ideas of the American conservative-establishment Right and was ambivalent, at best, about the election of Donald Trump. It smells of cigars, well-heated offices, and careers full of sinecures.

A pair of articles in its most recent edition, though, show the kind of sharp swing to the left normally associated with a football winger, stepping inside a defender to pass. The italics are mine:

The Financialisation Of The American Elite:

Many structural reforms are necessary to change this. With regard to education, it is time to reform the top MBA programs. These schools shape our business culture, and, in so doing, exert an outsized influence on the business practices and the career pursuits of some of our most talented young people.
The schools should begin with an explicit renunciation of share­holder capitalism. This will be the easy part.

The New Gilded Age Or Old Normal:

The longer-term trend toward more inequality in capitalist economies, which prevailed before this period, has re­sumed after it. That leads us to conclude that there may well be no technocratic or tax policy fix for capitalism’s tendency to generate ever more inequality. This conclusion is obviously less optimistic than the one reached by Thomas Piketty in his seminal 2014 study of income inequality, which argues for ameliorating income share out­comes by raising taxes on the rich.

Irving Kristol, the neoconservative, famously described the turn of his intellectual life as that of a ‘liberal mugged by reality’. Read closely and there’s a lot more mugging going on.


What I'm reading (August)

HERE IS A PAIR of articles by Will Davies, both on Brexit, but both also on a broader sense in which negotiation and politics are now strangers to each other.

England’s new rentier alliance

This suggests that Johnson/Farage is a symptom of prolonged financialisation, in which capital pulls increasingly towards unproductive investments, relying on balance sheet manipulation, negative interest rates and liquidity for its returns (aided substantially by quantitative easing over the past decade). To put that more starkly, these are seriously morbid symptoms, in which all productive opportunities have already been seized, no new ideas or technologies are likely, and no new spheres of social or environmental life are left to exploit and commodify.

Leave, and Leave Again

For the time being, Britain appears to be heading towards one of two negatives: ‘no deal’ or ‘no Brexit’. The inability to convert Brexit into an agreed set of tolerable policies tells us something crucial about what sort of thing Brexit is: an ideal of withdrawal that is at odds with basic realities of government and politics.


Chicken Marengo

THE YEAR IS 1800. The French Revolution has proceeded through enthusiasm, terror, slaughter, reaction, and finally to dictatorship. The house of Habsburg, rulers of Austria, Hungary, bits of Italy, the rump of the Holy Roman Empire and an 'it's complicated' list of other chunks of Europe, lead the rest of Europe's crowned heads in a coalition campaign against the French in a war over territories, colonial trade. Napoleon's armies, marching on their stomachs, rout the Prussians, the Russians, the Spanish and the Central European cousin-fanciers, occupy more and more of the land bordering France, and set out on an early version of the European Union project with a will.


Camera Repair

Brief reflection demonstrates that the vast majority of human labour, from laundry and trash removal to janitorial work and food preparation, is of this type: upkeep…

WE LIVE IN A society that elevates innovation and the creation of new commodities far beyond their maintenance or any thought of their service life. This is true of big objects like mobile phones, which have a specific obsolescence built into their design, and cannot be replaced once their glued-in batteries cease to retain a charge, as it is for big objects like the blocks of apartments made by our construction industry, for which a successful project is one that sells enough dwellings in a boom to cover the borrowed money to pay the builders, and lasts intact just long enough to pass the home warranty period.


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