Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Pumpkin's Empty Rictus

"But, as you know, it is not a crime to say misleading things on "Meet the Press" or other interview programs. It is a crime to say misleading or false things under oath."

That's here for Tim Russert fans.

And, so, as listeners or viewers, we can take for granted that we are not only being lied to, but that there is no critical intelligence between us and the lie. Reporters or interlocutors are pure stovepipes for whatever lie is on their panel. Done deal - nobody home.

This is absurd, and the next thing to saying - a thing that should be said - that reporters report nothing, but are instead excuses for bullshit pipelines, sewers. I mean, why the fuck bother with them if they have no critical faculties? They don't seem to mind being whores to power, and they are paid splendidly for their access, and for not much else.

What am I, are we, getting from their circuit party? Not News We Can Use. As long as you are not under oath - as if that is a very special case of public discourse - you can lie your ass off and no one will really object. It's expected. And if you were fool enough to expect to make judgments based on that info, well, tuff shit on you. Little Russ might as well say that his combative manner (as opposed to his contrasting lickspittle manner) are one and same thing - cold platters to display even more fragrant and important shit, served up fresh and steaming hot every day. Everyone forgets yesterday's stale cold dish anyway - need a new dump. And who better placed than Russert and his amigos? They were deep in this slough, they don't care, and now they are saying we shouldn't, either.

I want to take away their next meal - trick, no treat, but it might be rough trade.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hooray! And about time...!
Posted by Picasa

Hey, Buddy, that's MY Banana! Posted by Picasa

Navy Day

My birthday, too - something my Dad, who had been a signalman, has always seemed to find meaningful (he grins when he brings it up). Though it wasn't commemorated until 1922, the U.S. Navy was formed on this day in 1775. While I didn't grow up to be that kind of sailor (see the pic above), I've always loved the water and boats; fate in all its varieties.

And I share this day with some really interesting people - these are the ones I would put candles on a cake for:
  • Erasmus (1469) - I have seen him born on the 26th, too, but I'm going to ignore that. Still, it's hard to resist a sage who said: "Whether a party can have much success without a woman present I must ask others to decide, but one thing is certain, no party is any fun unless seasoned with folly." And I love the Holbein portrait.
  • Capt. James Cook (1728) - a real sailor!
  • Nicolo Paganini (1782) - because I love the violin, because of the Caprices (a heavy vein of gold for many other musicians), because he was thought to have made a pact with the Devil to play as he did - Yay!
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1858) - the Bull Moose. When he was bad, he was pretty horrid, but he was more often very very good, and he overcompensated like hell. An American self-transformer if there ever was one.
  • Enid Bagnold (1889) - hey, National Velvet, The Chalk Garden, and more, all tough-minded.
  • Dylan Thomas (1914) - the lyre.
  • Roy Lichtenstein (1923) - "Pow!"
  • Sylvia Plath (1932) - lyric and savage.
  • John Cleese ((1939) - tall, dark and furious.
  • Maxine Hong Kingston (1940) - a big voice from (as she tells it) a small one.
  • Carrie Snodgress (1946) - whoa, I miss her!
  • Fran Lebowitz (1950) - I was thrilled to find out a few years ago that we shared a birthday, that she is a fan of James McCourt, and that she knows where to go for a steak in Portland. I'd be quaking, but I'd love to sit at table with her. As she said, ""Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine." And she prizes good manners.

So, a great day to all born today (I have left out many admirables, but even more wretches). And, hey, in 1871, Boss Tweed was arrested for Tammany Hall corruption - is that an apt historical echo, or what?

We'll find out!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Bunker Mentality

Two posts from Steve Clemons, following up on the post immediately below. The first nails Cheney as the - how to put this - distributive source (after Tenet), and the second reinforces Wilkerson's argument from last week contrasting true deliberation (messy as that can be) with zealous clarity (moral or not, we will discover as this unfolds). Maybe we need a - metaphorical - Bunker Buster to get to the bottom of this.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Rending the Veil of Maia.... Posted by Picasa

Thin Edge of the Wedge

I first ran across that phrase in Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love. It was a favorite of the deeply reactionary father of the fictionally comic (though, in reality, pretty tragic) family of eccentrics she described - her own. It described any incursion into the Radlett household that could threaten their insular, privileged, xenophobic and racist upper-class country life. And god knows I have been waiting for a crack to admit the entry of that thin edge in what Billmon has long been calling the Cheney Administration.

The Fitzgerald inquiry looks like it may do the trick, but it's also calling forth voices who have been itching to hammer the wedge home, too. In addition to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson USA (Ret) last Wednesday, Brent Scowcroft is due in the next issue of The New Yorker. These guys are not liberals, and maybe that's what it will take to wake up all of those who have sucked into the PNAC agenda since 2001. Unlike the fantasy Gay Agenda, PNAC's is a very real and pernicious one (and Dan Froomkin helpfully referenced it, regarding Cheney, this last week - read 'em all). I have hopped on their manifesto before, and I think for good reason.

As I wrote Lance the other day, I was engaged in a couple of NSF-funded research projects at my school in the dying years of the Soviet Empire. One was essentially academic, one was more policy-oriented. We went through mountains of published material, ran teams of translators (we had crack Slavic-language editors - that's where my "grisha" nick comes from...), and I don't think any of us could embrace the - by now notorious - Neocon/"Team B"/PNAC assessment of Soviet strength. They were dead wrong, and I think one had to be willfully self-deceived to adopt their analysis, one that inflated perceived strengths and minimized obvious weaknesses, no matter the facts on the ground. And, of course, they were eager to mark anyone who might disagree as "soft," an "apologist," an "appeaser," if not something worse. See Richard Perle and his progreny.

But this crowd missed the clear (certainly in retrospect) evidence that the Cold War hegemonies were fracturing - Solidarity in Poland, the Iranian revolution, the intransigence of religious and tribal factions in Afghanistan for the Sovs, and the cauldron that war became for the West. The Balkan collapse was telescoped for years - you lift up a rock, and there's a lot of teeming underneath. As Digby has said - banging his head against the wall - these guys have been always wrong.

I would really like to have lunch with Doug Feith, just to see how an honors grad of Harvard and Georgetown Law can be such an idiot. I mean, he wouldn't be the first I've met (or the most septic, necessarily), but - I just want to hear the bullshit flow for myself. Be like seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. At the same time, my least desirable lunch would be with the Cheneys - anyone who would send a commanding General a Ken Burns documentary collection as a key to battlefield strategy in the middle of a conflict has to have Arrogant Moron inked on his forehead, A wide berth.

Why, after this dismal record, did anyone listen to these turds? Really, it doesn't take that much homework to know more than they do; could it be intimidation and sucking up, or the urge to suck off? The Rude Pundit is acute on the psycho-sexual abuses of power and its mysterious and powerful wank-and-ass-fuck factor, the BDSM of it all. The Judy Miller debacle - 69, all around - should nail both Big Press and Big Government (hiding behind Grover Norquist's merkin, pretending to be small...).

I guess the most disgusting aspect of all of this has been the corruption, deception and abuse of the American people - stoking their fears and prejudices, building straw internal enemies, throwing them off-balance, fostering ignorance and distrust, degrading them in the eyes of the world. It's a New American Century, all right, and it's unforgivable.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Readout. It's been an exhausting week on the job here, or I would have jumped into the pool by now, but I got this from a patriotic friend in an email this evening:

And it was larger than that. More tomorrow. In the meantime, do check out Wilkerson, here.
I cannot raise the Washington Post this evening - I wonder why?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Wavelengths Posted by Picasa

Power & Pinter

Been feeling kind of gnawed since the post below on Harold Pinter. I am loving Roy's post on him - a nice assessment of his theatricality and skill, and the delight in the wingnuts' fury over the Prize. My own ambivalence comes from Pinter's concentration on the cut and thrust of gaining the upper (or lower, ball-squeezing) hand in every relationship. I don't dispute David E's analysis, it's just that I am drawn temperamentally to people like Henry James, or Pynchon, or Bellow, who are acute observers of the power games and know the score, but who renounce it, expose its ugliness, or stand aside, perhaps amused and not a little appalled, and still stay out of the game. Or make their own, in Bellow's case.

Maybe it takes something infantile (and not a little feral) to pursue grown-up goals in business or politics - or the bedroom - that will annihilate your opposition, put your partner into abject submission. I just wonder whether the thrill of the conquest is worth the taste for destruction, the pleasure of hearing the vertebrae crack and the fluids ooze. As we know from Buffy and Angel, soullessness has its drawbacks. How does Karl Rove sleep these nights, the prospect of his canines being removed hovering over him? Doesn't a Power World posit only winners and losers? Deify the Players? Seems to me there are alternatives - and not wussy ones - to being a sucker in a stacked game.

More to say on this - it's late here.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Fowlmastery Posted by Picasa

To Roost

I can hardly wait for Harold Pinter's Nobel address - he could rip Tony and George new ones, in their squalid bedsit, with barely the lift of his smallest finger. Dunnit already. All cunts.
David E. said this Thursday:

"Linguistic power games figure early on in his work. The Birthday Party begins as a sinister jape out of a Hitchcock thriller only to quickly evolve into something primal about power and its application. From the obscure trio of The Caretaker (where two brothers spar for the ownership of a tramp) to the seemingly familiar (at least at first) family dynamic of The Homecoming, Pinter rained cold showers on the alleged "brotherhood of man" — especially in its Renoir-pimped "Everyone has his reasons" form. For Pinter knows there is only one reason: Power. Yet this facing of the terrible truth hasn’t left him a cyncical [sic] man. Nor does he encourage cynicism in others. Quite the contrary. As recent years have shown he has taken advantage of every occasion imaginable to speak out against injustice. And his later plays (rarely performed in the U.S.) speak of injustice consistently. Particularly the injustice of torture."

Yes. I recognize the argument from power, especially in those chamber plays - Beckett is mentioned, but Strindberg could be, as well - in which any conviviality would be impossible without a map to prove its falsity. I just have a hard time believing in that much lust for control - even after having experienced it; if you're going to waste your energies putting your heel to everyones' throat, and really get there, you know, well, more power to you, but I'm outta here. I know much nicer people.

And fuck you.

As a kind of counterpoint today, I was reading John Leonard's piece in the NYRB about Joan Didion's account of her catastrophic year - her entire immediate family taken down - The Year of Magical Thinking. This stringent writer, conservative by upbringing and temperament, discovers in the 1980's, according to Leonard:

"Thus she'd seem the unlikeliest of writers to turn into a disenchanted legionnaire "on the far frontiers of the Monroe Doctrine," at the porous borders of the American imperium. Somehow, though, she went left and went south, to discover in the Latin latitudes more than her own unbearable whiteness of being. In El Salvador between "grimgrams," body dumps, and midnight screenings on videocassettes of Apocalypse Now and Bananas, Didion decided that Gabriel García Márquez was in fact "a social realist."

Which dawning wouldn't have been so difficult if she'd given Faulkner his due (as Garcia-Marquez already had, and so many other Sud-Ams) - but it's a beginning.

I am pretty sure Pinter gets this, too, but he doesn't have an English Faulkner to lean on - there is, to my knowledge, no such person - and so we are back to chambers and drawing rooms, and pubs and bedsits. Wherein the "brotherhood of man" can certainly look cheap. God knows there are enormous forces arrayed to cheapen the idea now, because it is hostile in its very being to the Power they hold most dear - Power that Pinter indeed does know, as an oncologist knows tumors, cancers - but I want to know what happens after he says his resounding, "NO." If he cannot provide it, we'd all better be thinking of a fucking alternative.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Wild Bunch

The Lovable Cobags at Three Bulls! have been Blogrolled - I am in deep shit for letting them in, but they are just so cool and sexy.....

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Talmudic Commentary Block - Soul of Dialogue Posted by Picasa


I just posted this at Lance's as a Comment - one that I need to post here, as well: Seems to me a lively subject - education in our various religious traditions (something I am grateful to have had in my public school, now many years ago, even if it wasn't technically in the curriculum) enriched my life spiritually and secularly. Makes me feel sorry for all those homeschooled kids who get the monochrome treatment. The issue is, just to start, how to read your literary tradition without having reference to sacred texts (whether you find them sacred or not)?

A delicious subject!
[I started this last weekend, but attentions went to hell and back, for good reasons. Sorry for the delay.]
My childhood household was divided, in my mind, in three parts - my literal-minded Mom, from a fundie family who knew scripture very thoroughly, and, perhaps osmotically, valued the cadences of the King James Version; my agnostic Dad, who loved the words but probably more the ethical and moral puzzles in the Text (he used to debate them, with my Grandad); and teachers and friends at public school whose perceptions and readings (from a variety of traditions) seeped into my reading of everything else.
Still, it was refreshing to read Daniel and a couple of the Synoptic Gospels absolutely straight my first year in college - maybe not absolutely straight, either (we were reading Nietzsche, Plato and Kierkegaard, too) - but we were being intent and careful about what was on the page. That's going to rankle someone, in the smallest group, and from whatever tradition, and it did.
When I started to read to and to tutor friends' kids, this subject came up in conversation with their parents. How can your kids understand the references in this story or book without knowledge of the religious sources? You don't have to be a believer to recognize how the sacred and profane interpenetrate (or, if you are a believer, how ignoring the legacies of pagan philosophy can put you at a disadvantage). If I were a parent - again, faith-and-tradition neutral, for the sake of argument - I would still want to have scanned the Bible for stories and passages that touched nerves over many centuries - for better and worse, depending on my view of the world. I would also want, perhaps a bit later, to compare translations - King James against, for example, the wonderful Fox or Alter translations of the Pentateuch.
One of the most delightful evenings I've ever spent spun out of a question I asked a yeshiva-educated friend about a footnote in Exodus to an opinion of the Sages. He leaned back in luxury and said, "This gives me as much pleasure as you talking about writers!" - and then we went into the exegesis - who was old, who was new in the commentaries, where the problem was, etc.. I don't think anyone who hasn't seen a page of commentary in Hebrew - the subject text in a center block, the commentary, with references to earlier commentaries, surroundng it - can understand the beauty of that conversation, but they should go take a look. It's my principal argument with my fundie forefathers and mothers - any tradition worth its salt is active and encourages inquiry. Nonbelievers, likewise, need to know what they don't believe in order to develop coherent arguments against it, and in that process they may, from my point of view, also absorb the 3rd, 4th, and 5th-hand references that inform things they read everyday. I suspect that a lot of athiests know a lot more Bible than their casual Christian counterparts.

[Addendum: I think kids brought up in Jewish tradition also know more - there are skills you have to master for a bar- or bat - mitzvah, and they include a minimal literacy in scripture that I would challenge most christian sunday school students to match.]

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Battleship Tomato WarFlag - thanks to NOVA and DE Posted by Picasa

Amis & Amants - The Genius of Donald Evans Posted by Picasa


The kind of thing that makes you believe in Music of the Spheres - or the benign sort of tinfoil hat.

Part of the service I give my patient is checking ahead for TV listings that might interest her (Yahoo is great for this), but I will also check out the odd thing that might interest me, hoping, futilely, that I'll have the chance to watch it. From time to time, I will even scan the moribund offerings on PBS....

So, SERENDIP (Search for Extraterrestrial Radio Emissions from Nearby Developed Intelligent Populations) led me (somehow - they weren't in the game at all, but I like the reference) this evening to a PBS Nova listing for one of their imitation-History Channel war weapons pieces - the enormous battleship Yamato. My resident imp translated that into the Battleship Tomato (see flag, above), and a keen desire to get back my copy of The World of Donald Evans. I'd been trying to do this for years, and amazon kept telling me that no copy was available. SERENDIP, indeed, they have re-appeared in the used market.

Donald Evans was an American with a stamp fetish. Growing up in New Jersey, he not only collected them, he began to make his own, with full cataloging and provenance, and as he grew up, he came back to the form and made it brilliant, beautiful and full of wit. Within the stamp trade (I did a stint there, without entering the brotherhood), these are known as Cinderellas; faux-postage, beautifully dressed.

Evans invented whole countries to issue his postage - there was an Italianate one that had a Zeppelin named after a cucumber, for example - and that's where the Yamato-Tomato came from. But there were mythical territories whose entire raison-d'être was love, friendship, or food, viz.:

EVANS, Donald: Amis et Amants. Timbres Poste du Monde de Donald Evans. 1974.
Artist stamps. Print.

A perforated block of four artist stamps printed in colored offsetlitho in the center of a sheet of white paper: 1: "Premières amours"; 2: "Ami des beaux jours"; 3: "Main dans la Main"; 4: "L'Amour Perdu". With an original black rubber stamp on the center of the four stamps: "Donald Evans Paris, 1974". Sheet of paper: 29.7x21 cm. Block of stamps: 5.3x7.8 cm. Edition of 500 copies numbered and signed in black pencil in the lower margin.
W. Eisenhart: "The world of Donald Evans", Abbeville Press, 1994: p. 50 and 52.

[That block is also reproduced, above] -

Poor guy died in an Amsterdam apartment fire, in the late 1970's, and I would have loved to have known him. His work is exquisite and funny and strong.

I am thrilled to get my hands on a copy again.

[O yeah - that Tomato Flag is my first real and true effort with Photoshop; my palms were sweating every second, I can assure you all....].

Days of Awe - Up from the Basement Posted by Picasa

L'shanah tovah

And, boy, do we need one! It's a pain that my job prevents me from getting away to observe it - that's why this post is a day late - but if ever there was a good day to enter a period of serious introspection and repentence, this is it. Lance mentions his Connecticut brother and his Joe Lieberman problem - think deep this week, Joe!
It wouldn't be a bad idea for Dems as a whole (if there is such a thing - but I'll take fragments) to take the hint from the High Holidays and look at the compromises they've made with the Bush/Cheney machine and ask what good its pursuit of raw power has done them, has done anyone. Digby was especially good on this yesterday. The Machine is showing great stress, and it is barely a year from the 2006 elections; think Reconstruction, friends. Going to be a long haul.