a new low in topical enlightenment

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Issue #20 (November 18, 2009)

Route 58 on Okinawa, Japan

Photo by Asakura Akira

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci...

A suicide in the city. It didn’t make the news but the Trib made an excellent non-follow-up follow-up feature of it.


Here’s another suicide executed more privately but a whole lot more coverage after the fact. School Board President, Daley man, Michael Scott, many threads yet to trace.


The Chicago Butter and Egg Board’s market capitalization “is nearly twice the combined market cap of the companies that run the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market.” Book reviewer Dave Kansas guesses that isn’t generally understood because all those guys in ill-fitting color-coded blazers shouting out bids for plywood or gold contracts don’t look or act as rich as the New York or London traders. My brother Mark was a runner on the floor and had shown it to me so in April 1989 I showed it to Kelley when she was in Chicago with her family. It was the week Richard M. Daley was first elected mayor. It was mild trading session when we looked at it from the visitors’ gallery but they got all exercised for the last ten minutes of trading. I told Kelley that those were the guys winning the war against communism, so I don’t want to hear anymore about how no-one predicted the fall of the Wall seven months later.


In the matter of Joakim Noah, 2nd-year center for the Chicago Bulls out of the University of Florida, son of tennis great Yannick Noah and Miss Sweden 1978: The press doesn’t often correct itself, although the most Orwellian pages of the newspaper, the Sports section, are also the most likely to offer correction and apologia.


Pittsburgh Pirates’ Dock Ellis animated doc


The God Gene

NYT science reporter Nicholas Wade doesn’t say, but what might follow his look at the evolutionary advantages religion may have provided, is the question Does a post-faith society need bio-engineering to supplant a loss of faith in Darwinism manifested in negative birth-rates?

Reverend Ike’s Gospel

Because the Western elite believes it has gotten all it can out of the coming of Christendom and the Enlightenment that followed, the maintenance of our twinned culture seems mostly a threat to deliver more hordes of just anybody to the gates of that elite. The tendency of those who have the resources and education to exercise a prerogative is to assume these are the fruit of personal merit; the projected mass id of that new class then seeks to pull up the class ladder. They’d rather organize the poor as a mass than maintain the ladder successful individuals will need. Christianity is growing in sub-Saharan Africa and in China because from there many see the practical social-political-economic value of the story of Christ.


Ancient Humors - an historical survey.

The Joke, 1985:

Ronald Reagan was re-elected president, but soon he found the excitement going out of his marriage to Nancy so he turned for advice to Bubba Smith, former football great and actor whom he’d met while Governor of California. The President explained his problem to his old friend and Bubba advised him to walk into the White House bedroom with confidence that night, and before climbing into bed grab his cock and hit it three times against the bedpost. So President Reagan entered the bedroom late that night and hit his cock three times against the bedpost. Nancy sat up in the dark and said, "Bubba, is that you?"

--Next week, another great joke unearthed from beneath the sands of time.


James Williamson in and on the Stooges on the Watt from Pedro Show.


[Photo by Chris Carlsen]

China Joint

There was a rash of early failed attempts at joint ventures when western corporations first rushed into China in the late eighties.  My sister Julie studied at Fudan University in Shanghai, 1986-7 and got her masters in International Relations from the University of Chicago with an emphasis on NE Asian Political Economy.  I knew she’d return to China so one of the ideas I let pass through my mind after I left SST Records and wrote my Rock book was to follow her to Beijing and license American rock and roll for the two billion virgin ears over there.  It would've tracked The Psychozoic Hymnal, essentially, so Chinese youth might be spared the likes of Bruce Springsteen or Asia.  Lucky for me I didn't try to do that because before you knew it the Chinese were pirating CDs like crazy.  My sister bought CDs on the street for a dollar and if they didn’t work just throw them away, for locals the price was the equivalent of a quarter.  These CDs were manufactured off the books by legit plants that were owned on the side by People's Liberation Army Generals, not unlike the Danone/Dannon m.o. above; the whole economy was bootleg-crazy -- even the legit players (Capitol Records did that here).  If I remember right sometime in the first Bush administration the President on a trip to Beijing shared top-secret satellite images of the offending CD manufacturing plants as a way of responding to music industry pressure to do something in China about their rampant abuse.  Was the implication that we would target the plants with ICBMs?  Luckily Jack Valenti retired before we all were vaporized in defense of Don Henley’s royalties.

Relaunch of the Chinese Armada - last seen 1430.

[Drawing by Henry Carlsen]


Belling the Cat, episode Noughty Aughts

I guess David Segal and his editor don’t read their own paper, in this “parlor game” as they have it they’ve tried to tag this decade-ending since 1992 according to their archives, with William Safire prognosticating about it even earlier. They have failed to name this decade in their daily brutalizing of their three or four hobby-horses, so it obsesses them still. This is how the NYT measures its cock, no? One thing is for sure about the last eight years, George W. Bush’s reputation can only rise and Barack Obama’s can only sink.


Here’s more like it - what you buy the NYT for, though it begs a question, does the U.S. still throw parades for its returning soldiers, or are we now Germanic peaceniki?

And here where the NYT reminds us that we’ll always have France, or at least Black Africa will, may God help them.


It's Spiro Agnew's world; we just live in it.

It takes the Bangor Daily News to note the fortieth anniversary of Spiro Agnew’s calling out the news media of that day, and that was the peak of the Manhattan provincialism which chasing the naivete of the youth culture led to real problems understanding ourselves. Michael Socolow provides a link to the speech itself and it’s a masterpiece co-written with Pat Buchanan and William Safire. The Nixon brain-trust was very advanced and it is still with us weekly (on PBS!) on The McLaughlin Group, where Buchanan and McLaughlin still radiate with Nixonian toxicity as those Manhattanites once were sure they’d nailed it. The last Nixon hand, Monica Crowley is on the Group now too. Lyndon Johnson had Doris Kearns Goodwin collating his memoirs and papers at the end of his life, and Richard Nixon had Crowley (b. 1968). Nuff sed.


I'm in the middle of work for a book about film actors, and inevitably I'm finding interesting work by some actresses alongside the men. The book is about film acting and how the new art of the motion picture shaped a school, or rather an orphanage of acting outside of the traditions of theater. So these actresses may not be the greatest of thespians, nor in most cases great stars either. But they have that thing the camera could find in their dialogue reading, their mark-hitting and also in their idle moments of being-in-performance. I'll assume knowledge on your part of Veronica Lake and Joan Bennett, but here's the shortlist of some overlooked interesting actresses-women-careers.

Gail Russell

Born in Chicago, her family moved to Santa Monica. Didn’t want to act but her mother wanted her to. She was good but didn’t believe so. She’s in a number of great westerns and good ghost stories: The Uninvited (1944), Salty O’Rourke (1945), The Unseen (1945), Angel and the Badman (1947), Moonrise (1948), Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), Wake of the Red Witch (1948), The Lawless (1950), 7 Men from Now (1956), The Tattered Dress (1957). John Wayne was a good friend to her but he was married and she needed more of him to have a chance. Apparently he told her over and over, “Gail you just got to say no to some of this shit.” She didn’t and died young; make a good movie.

Carole Matthews

Miss Chicago 1938, did a lot of low budget films and some television, the kind of productions made up of first-takes -- acting passages are often more interesting this way. Apparently still alive though she retired from the screens. I first noticed her playing opposite Charles Bronson in Showdown at Boot Hill (1958). Also, Massacre River (1949), Special Agent (1949), Cry Murder (1950), No Man of Her Own (1950), Red Snow (1952), Meet Me at the Fair (1953), City of Bad Men (1953), Shark River (1953), Port of Hell (1954), Swamp Women (1955), Betrayed Women (1955), Assignment Redhead (1956), Strange Awakening (1958), Look in Any Window (1961), Tender Is the Night (1962).

Jean Wallace

Another Chicagoan. She had a flat, evanescent delivery at best and her marriage to Cornel Wilde, who she met on The Big Combo got her some interesting roles in his later self-directed productions. Here she sings the theme for Beach Red over the opening credits. Her bios claim she survived two suicide attempts. Look for these: Jigsaw (1949), The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949), The Good Humor Man (1950), Native Son (1950), The Big Combo (1955), Storm Fear (1955), The Devil's Hairpin (1957), Maracaibo (1958), Lancelot and Guinevere (1963), Beach Red (1967) No Blade of Grass (1970).


Michael Hurley’s new album:


Manny Farber and Robert Palmer; Library of America and Scribners; Robert Polito and Anthony DeCurtis.

Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber, edited by Robert Polito (Library of America)

Some books you just order sight unseen because they represent an important writer in a way one can trust. Other books… Right on the cover of the new collection of Robert Palmer’s music writing are the names Anthony DeCurtis and Robbie Robertson crowding in so you know you got trouble. On the back are testimonials by Bono, Yoko, Mick, and God-knows-who-else, Bruce probably? I forget; I didn’t buy it. No doubt, despite this it must have much great writing between the covers, but sometime after Bill Stevenson was out of Black Flag for the last time but before Black Flag finished its final tour, they got two unusual “high-end” reviews. One was a live review in Downbeat, the other an unusually perceptive appreciation of their final album, “In My Head” and a reading of the band’s development toward it. Bill came over to SST for whatever reason and I handed him a copy of Robert Palmer’s review which had just run in the New York Times. As Bill would do he grabbed it and read it in place, then looked up and asked, “Who told him all this?” I laughed and told him “Nobody!“ It was my last week at SST and I took the quality of the review as in part a cosmic joke; Black Flag was expected by most of us to be finished later that year. A hard thing to imagine for most of us. There wasn’t much music-oriented coverage of the band. And in truth what we know of as music criticism is usually about far less interesting aspects of popular culture disguising rank press-relation duties. And as expected Anthony DeCurtis, Rolling Stone editor and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dead-weight does not include it in this collection. Here it is though. Rollins reprinted it in his book, Get In The Van, so I think we can assume Henry thought it exceptional as well. The difference in these two collections may just be how the two arts rank on the publishing world’s hierarchy, but that won’t change much if the Rolling Stone mast-head keeps its purchase.


Good to see more interest in the old East European rock scene.

There wasn’t much coverage back when Systematic and a few other companies were trying to distribute the Plastic People of the Universe album. It was a beautiful gatefold production with a large square booklet put together by a graphic company/record label in Paris called S.C.O.P.A.-Invisible. We distributed some of their other releases which I’d probably been turned onto by Archie Patterson of Eurock fanzine (he worked at Music Millennium back then), but this release was pretty expensive so we ordered small at first. I was traveling to London in November 1979 to check out Rough Trade as we were about to move our company from Portland to Berkeley to help them set up an American branch and combine our efforts to build distribution in the America. I thought I’d check out Jacques and Andree at S.C.O.P.A. in Paris and a distributor in Sweden as well (which allowed me to see Ebba Grön!). I worked out a better price and some free promotional copies to send around so we got 300 PPU albums shipped to us. We didn’t get much press at all; Only the New Republic did anything significant that I remember. And it took two years to sell them all. Tower was only a west coast chain at that point. Anyway, don’t tell me there’s a history of Plastic People of the Universe coming from Anthony DeCurtis with a blurb from New York Times columnist Bono.


Here’s good writing on Wino’s new band, Shrinebuilder by Ben Ratliff.


It is a side question worth asking based on the apparent fearlessness of Kremlin and Forbidden City as they run interference for their neighbors' nuclear programs.


The Christian Science Monitor reviews reports on the second terror attack on Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. This may mean the Islamizing of Pakistani intelligence has ended and it's really coming in from the cold.


Horse Nations

The NYT art review passes along a lot of great information about the Plains tribes. I knew that the horse got up to the tribes and triggered a revolution in tribal warfare and remade their cultures long before ranchers and farmers moved in on them, but I didn’t know that horses “originated here… but by 1492... had been extinct in the Western Hemisphere for 10,000 years.” The museum is in the old Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan which is also worth seeing.


The United States of Mexico’s legitimate government meets every fifteen days in a former garage. No wonder.


Argentina has Brazil-envy and the WSJ terms them Brazil-skeptics.

The piece quotes an op-ed by former Argentine Central Bank Governor Fraga blaming some part of the Argentina disease on the lost would-be governing class of 70s student protestors who were imprisoned, exiled, or killed, apparently he thinks on the level of say, Red China. One thing they will never run short of down there is pride. This book El Dueño seems to anticipate the likely criminal prosecution of former President Nestor Kirchner when his immunity courtesy the presidential term of his wife Cristina ends in 2011. The author then apparently guesses at what new crimes might be necessary to keep Nestor as well as his somewhat better half out of prison cells thenceforth.


Stability vs. Freedom in Ukraine elections

Olena Prystayko studies the post-Soviet states for the EU. She diagrams next year’s presidential election in Ukraine: “Unfortunately, we should admit that ‘candidates for stability’ outnumber ‘candidates for freedom.’ In fact, there is only one ‘candidate for freedom’ -- the current President, Viktor Yushchenko. In his disastrous rule, the absence of attempts of oppression of political and other freedoms may be his best achievement.”


Cuba running out of beans! Reportedly possesses a surplus of bean-counters.


(Thanks this week to Glen Friedman, Matt Carducci)

Underground Naval Headquarters on Okinawa, Japan

Photo by Asakura Akira

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
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