a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Issue #41 (April 14, 2010)

Chocolate Hills, Carmen, Bohol, Philippines

Photo by Dr. Rodilla Tumanda

Fuck A Duck: A Flocking of Canards

by Bart Bull

The way the story gets told, he was, at bare minimum, bisexual. And that's to be gracious about the waterfowl. His most notorious film, 1926's Le Canard, was supposedly titled “Fuck A Duck” in English. Although that may itself be yet another canard. This is the kind of story where we'd better question everything.

Bernard Natan wasn't his real name. He was a Romanian Jew, so it's likely that Natan Tannenzaft or Tannanzapf probably wasn't really his real name either, though it does suggest he made his way across Germany at some point. And before he was shuttled back across Germany, he ended up owning Pathé, France's biggest film company. The one whose proud symbol is a rooster.

That's an actual fact — though declaring facts in the life of Bernard Natan is to take a swan-dive into the murkiest of French duckponds, into the cluckingest of poulet coops, into the near- impenetrable bird-poop of the closed-shutter French business-banking-judicial-governmental hierarchy of the 1930s. And then, even worse, to paddle into the time of the Vichy Government, when the Nazi occupiers were pleased and bemused to discover that they'd at last invaded a country whose citizens were not only willing to rat out the Jews but to help provide the proper enforcement mechanism too. Worse yet, when you come up for air, all you can do is breathe in the successful silence that followed the grand national collaboration.

Bernard Natan, Jew, foreigner, financial wizard, technological visionary, marketing seer and distribution innovator, studio chief and new owner of that ultra-modern French institution, Pathé, had appeared, the French courts were told, in scandalous stag films, lewd movies with elaborate sets and scenarios, films he wrote and directed and produced and then performed in as well. (As it was still The Silent Era, translation was a simple matter of, shall we say, inserts.) He was a sodomite, a foreigner, a pornographer, a Jew, and, of course, surely, a swindler. En plus, he had allegedly fucked a duck. It was enough to make a judge's knife hesitate above his medallions de maigret.

He was accused of fraud, of financial mismanagement, and he was, let it be said over and over again, a foreign Jew who fucked ducks on film — native ducks, noble French ducks. Early in his career, an emigrant, he had established a film company that produced nearly three dozen movies, and then he created his own production lab, Rapid Films, on rue Francouer, with labs and studios, workshops and soundstages that have since been transformed into le Femis, the French national film school. He created a advertising-publicity firm that still exists (under a less-troubling name, of course), he created the first footage of the 1924 Olympics, he built studios and stages and distributors and labs and projectors, and he produced major commercial movies.

In 1928, Charles Pathé, announcing that film was no longer profitable, stripped Pathé Cinema down to a shell company and sold off its assets. Bernard Natan risked acquiring it, transforming it into the dynamic Pathé-Natan. He began purchasing theaters, sixty-two of them across France; in September of 1929, he produced France's first talkies, licensing RCA's sound system for his new theaters; he re-launched Pathé's newsreels and added sound to the pioneering international news source that would be both distributed and widely imitated worldwide and which would lead to television news; by November of 1929, he had created France's first television company; it developed a transmission of television using telephone lines. He funded the research that led to the anamorphic lens, which led to Cinemascope and the contemporary wide-screen film. He innovated what we would now call vertical integration, controlling not only the means of production but the production labs as well, and the distribution and the theaters themselves. By 1930, no longer so convinced it was impossible to make money with movies, Charles Pathé wanted his company back.

Articles began to appear in the press, so many that they could surely be considered a well-organized campaign. Despite the fact that he'd been married to the same woman since 1909, despite the fact that he had two children, despite the fact that he made at least 60 major movies during the first half of the 1930s, he was now under steady attack: a Jew, an étranger, a pornographer, a pederast, perhaps even a foul violator of feathered fowl, and yet with his grasping grip clutching such an important economic institution of la France. A swindler, an embezzler? Surely. How could he not be?

The anti-Semitism of France in the 1930s is only so little remembered because France's next-door-neighbor was so successfully raising the standard, and because... well, there are other reasons too. After years of steady slander and innuendo, of gossip, and rumors in the press, all meant to destroy Natan's hold on the nation's most famous film company, in 1936, at the height of the Depression, the Tribunal de Commerce succeeded in appointing a receiver who proceeded to declare Pathé-Natan bankrupt. Natan continued to produce films; the firm continued to operate at a profit. But by 1938, just after Kristallnacht in Germany, Natan was arrested, and indicted, accused of fraud, of bilking investors, of negligent management and of hiding his heritage by changing his name.

Natan was imprisoned in 1939, and indicted yet again in 1941. This time he was convicted. Released in September, 1941, the Vichy Government arranged to have him placed on what is said to have been the very first train from France to Auschwitz. He was never seen again. Pathé (sans Natan) carried on with properly French management into the 1980s, based on the armatures Natan had created, and the theater chain he established lives on today.

If you should visit le Femis on rue Francouer, where once Bernard Natan first established his film lab, you enter the gates under a striking antique arch that still says "Pathé Cinema" with the fabled rooster emblazoned. On a sunny day, you will see France's elite film students smoking underneath solemn marble plaques with the names of those who died defending La Belle France against the Nazis. They are the cream of their generation, these film students. As ever in France, to succeed, to advance, to prevail, you must absolutely attend the proper school; all politicians, left, right and center, attend the same school, and all up-ranking military officers uniformly attend another. And le Femis is where the future of film in France is being instructed. There is, of course, no mention of Bernard Natan on those memorial plaques. In fact, to the degree that he is remembered at all — and he isn't, not much — he is noted in French film history as a swindler, an embezzler, and as a dirty duck-fucking pornographer. There is reason to believe he never did any such things, and much proof that he didn't, but he never got a chance to tell his tale. Putain. Fuck. Fuck a duck.

(Note: in 1999, Gilles Willem published an article, "The Origins of Pathé-Natan" in Screening The Past, Issue 8, and it was translated by Annabelle de Croÿ. I'm indebted to this remarkable effort at re-examining the restructuring of Pathé, at Bernard Natan's innovations, and at the financial and judicial machinations of that time.)

[Photo: Natan in the dock, c. 1936]

Southeastern Wyoming, Along Highway 130

Photos by Joe Carducci

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Lapinator (patent pending) of Joe Carducci…

James Bowman at his site on the NYT’s approval of President Obama’s casual ironing out of ambiguity from forty or fifty years of American nuclear strategy. Apparently community activists don’t pay much attention to such things. Presidents Nixon and Reagan were never more effective in the world than when the NYT, WP, CBS, NPR, et. al. had convinced that world looking in that we had elected a madman as likely to push the button as scratch their butt. Sarah Palin is discussed as well.


God writes a hell of a plot and it can even salvage His somewhat weaker characterizations, even in a setting as grim as the Katyn Forest.


The Sunday NYT went sorry-happy. The paper’s status has gone to its head again. I suppose that’s the whole point of working there now in these last days of capitalism and newspapers. Or maybe they’ll apologize for it in the morning. Here’s the lead editorial, however I can’t in good conscience link to everything involved across the full six dollars of newsprint. But if it isn’t Maureen Dowd demanding an apology from her Pope for embarrassing her before the Saudi Regime, it's Frank Rich trying to tie it all together in his column-and-a-half; they ought to just put the names in bold-face because his column has turned into a Kup’s column, this week featuring Robert Rubin, Charles Prince, Alan Greenspan, Michael Steele, Charles Rangel, David Paterson -- all of yous apologize. Frank actually names those who needn’t apologize: David Letterman, Matt Taibbi, and Jon Stewart. Elsewhere Rachel Donadio is exercised about her Pope, “As the Roman Catholic Church continued to battle a sexual abuse crisis, Pope Benedict XVI spent Friday evening watching a movie. And not just any movie: a biopic about wartime Pope Pius XII, one of the most contentious figures to haunt his five-year-old papacy.” Didn’t the last NYT tantrum take care of Hitler’s Pope? I could’ve sworn there was a U.N. resolution, a hearty handclasp and Pulitzers all around over that one.

Still there is some fine reporting and foreign features which is where the real value in the paper lies. They tried to charge for their columnists several years ago and that was just a sad misunderstanding of which side of the foodchain is up. Here is what all that poundage of opinion and not-so-hot culture coverage counts on:

Lydia Polgreen in Bihar India.

Seth Mydans in Bangkok, with some great action photos by Agnes Dherbeys.

And now back to the commercial messages…

Alexei Barrionuevo reports from Volta Grande do Xingu that James Cameron got to live out his boyhood dream to be an Indian and on the front page of the NYT, albeit below the fold, “In the 15 years since he wrote the script for Avatar, his epic tale of greed versus nature, Mr. Cameron said, he had become an avid environmentalist.” I’m very happy for him; I just hope he doesn’t live in Los Angeles.

In the NYT Mag Paul Krugman explains Green Economics, which proves that one can invent economies out of whole cloth. Simply incentivize money-losing good things and tax profit-making bad things. Then when there’s nothing going on anymore but rioting in the streets -- voila! -- you return to Princeton a hero.

I feel certain that Rupert Murdoch really enjoyed his Sunday Times.


NYT Monday editorial -- “First, They Get Rid of the Law Clinics”. Does the unsigned editorialist really mean to invoke national socialism as in Pastor Martin Niemller’s poem of 1946? Or are they trying to take a swipe at Laura Ingraham’s recent construction which she applied to the coming tax regime (First they came for the rich…)? The cruder construction is likely more to do with Shakespeare’s line of dialogue in Henry VI which Manhattan service-economy elites surely never tire of explaining is placed in the mouth of coup-plotters and is thereby pro-lawyer. But lawyers were of more value back when they were scarcer, any economist can tell you that. But I’m wondering if all those loyal NYT readers at NPR and the Comedy Channel will understand that.

Best sentence in the NYT Monday, maybe all week, in a live review of High on Fire by Ben Ratliff: “The riffs keep revolving until you feel as if you’re playing them yourself.”

And here’s the story that really galvanized NYT staffers on Tuesday: Apple Polishers Delight: 4 Pulitzers for Washington Post; 3 for the Times, and 1 for Hank Williams!


The NYer takes it as its mission to provide just slightly more subtle and leisurely applied analysis as to why the Church ought be run from below, not that they really accept democracy per se. Hendrik Hertzberg lards it on: “Our largely democratic, secularist, liberal, pluralist modern world, against which the Church has so often set its face, turns out to be its best teacher -- and the savior, you might say, of its most vulnerable, most trusting communicants.” I guess he forgot that modernity is doomed to be drowned in rising, boiling seas. He’s also forgetting the rest of recent news about that modern world in his fever over how many criminals in the Church how many years ago? He prefers by ignoring the sexual brutalism in high schools and junior highs -- never mind colleges -- (see Christopher Caldwell ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ link below). Well no, one can’t expect New Yorker writers to be able to keep all that in mind when an opportunity to attack class enemies presents itself; the subscribers in Iowa demand it. Hertzberg means rather to applaud lawyers, judges and newsmen! I’ll be kind and just note the problem of scale -- the Church is a large enough multi-national on-going philosophy of living applied to varying degrees of competence and inspiration by hundreds of millions of people, mostly now African, Asian, and Latin, that all manner of crime must be occurring somewhere within it at every moment. That’s right, the Church even as we blog, is right now committing even plagiarism!

In Monday’s NYT Ross Douthat dashes off a note to his own editorial board regarding which Pope might actually be the less culpable in the matter of their current campaign.


Nathaniel Popper on Raul Hilberg in The Nation:

But it is hard not to see the youthful anger of both Hilberg and Arendt--the expression of an inchoate Zionist zeal--occasionally ruffling their more sober later writing. Scholem perceptively pointed to something very personal in Arendt's work. In his letter, he told her, ‘Your book speaks only of the weakness of the Jewish stance in the world. I am ready enough to admit that weakness; but you put such emphasis upon it that, in my view, your account ceases to be objective and acquires overtones of malice.’ With Hilberg, such overtones are evident when he describes innocent Jewish families going to their death: ‘During ghetto-clearing operations many Jewish families were unable to fight, unable to petition, unable to flee, and also unable to move to the concentration point to get it over with. They waited for the raiding parties in their homes, frozen and helpless.’ The writing in the works of both thinkers rings with an almost visceral desire to distance themselves from the weak Jews… Yehuda Bauer, the eminent Israeli Holocaust scholar, recalls a moment when he was giving a lecture with Hilberg before a college class in Boston during the '70s. Bauer spoke about Jewish resistance to the Nazis; Hilberg began his rejoinder on a characteristically dry note before suddenly losing his temper. ‘He yelled at those students and he said, 'How many of you have guns in your home?'’ Bauer remembers. ‘I said to him, 'You think there will be Nazis in Boston?' But he wasn't talking to the students--he was talking to the Jews in Europe. For a moment he forgot himself.’


Tim Johnston in the FT on the Thai class-war revealed when the wrong one kept winning elections until the bourgies got the coup they demanded from the King and the military.


Jonathan Kay in the National Post on Canada’s racism.


Dorothy Rabinowitz in the WSJ on Tom Hanks’ need to believe in America’s reflexive racism.

It had not, or course, been necessary to remind Americans of who they were and were not. No menacing hordes, then or later, ever threatened American Muslims -- and it has been an insult to the nation to have been lectured to the same way after every attempted terror attack, as though wild mobs of citizens might actually run through the streets attacking Muslims. Even as the ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon still smoldered, countless Americans had reached out to their Muslim neighbors to reassure them.


The NYT is in the car with Tariq Ramadan, the new Said manque who was cheated out of being “a tenured professor of religion, conflict and peace-building at the University of Notre Dame” (that may count as positive coverage of Catholicism). -- Either the bomb was in the other car or Bill Keller considers Kirk Semple expendable.


Two weeks back we saw Ron Rosenbaum’s coverage of Paul Berman’s dismantlement of Ian Buruma’s book; this week the NYTBR gives it to Peter Beinart who is deeply impressed. He does “quibble” with Buruma’s claim that “American Christians… sometimes feel more akin to conservative Muslims than to secular liberals.” This sounds like some mysteriously approved form of racist insult, but it should be remembered that there was something of an ecumenical backfire watershed moment in 1994 when the U.N.’s population conference in Cairo foundered when varied faithful of the Middle East, and darkest Africa balked at the gifts of contraception, sex-ed and abortion from the ice people of the great white north, who naturally took to blaming the Pope John Paul II, who must’ve stood there squinting his blue eyes against the sun uncomprehendingly. 9-11 headed all that off and global warming became the U.N.’s new chew-toy.


The U.N. and the last genocide. David Bosco in the WP tracks the Rwandan ambassador-to-the-U.N. during the massacres, Jean Damascene Bizimana, to a French-owned plastics company in Alabama:

Canadian Gen. Romeo Dallaire… told me that Bizimana and top officials in Rwanda used satellite phones to stay in touch even as the carnage was raging. Regime officials, Dallaire wrote in his memoir, ‘were always ahead of me in the field and could adjust to any initiative I tried. Through [Bizimana] they knew exactly what the council was going to do’ He is particularly bitter that Bizimana knew more about the Security Council’s decisions than he did. ‘There I was with my small team of intelligence officers who were risking their lives for crumbs of information,’ Dallaire wrote, ‘while the extremists had a direct pipeline to the kind of strategic intelligence that allowed them to shadow my every move.’

Many Rwandan expatriates have settled in Upstate New York, but to my surprise, Bizimana‘s name and number came up with an address in Opelika, a city of fewer than 30,000 people, beginning in the summer of 1994.


Daniel Ford on Robin Olds’ posthumous autobiography, A Man on a Mission:

When Robin Olds flew his first mission, in World War II, a fighter pilot needed to be young enough to withstand high levels of G-force. It is not unusual in combat for a pilot to be jammed into his seat by six G's—six times the force of gravity—so that he suddenly weighs half a ton. The blood rushes out of his skull and his vision may dim to gray, then black. By the time of the Vietnam War a G-suit, with its inflatable bladders, could substitute for the suppleness of young muscles, and electronics went far to make up for reflexes that were no longer youthful and fast.

So the modern U.S. Air Force is routinely able to put majors and colonels in the cockpit—but it is so dominant at the moment that in the 21st century no American pilot has shot down an enemy aircraft. Who in his right mind would challenge the U.S. in the air? This turn of events makes Robin Olds—107 combat missions as a youngster, 152 missions as a full colonel and 16 aerial victories—one of a kind. His career couldn't have happened in the old days, when middle-age men didn't fly combat missions, and it is unlikely to happen again. The whole fighter-pilot ethos, from the cigarette to the mustache, from the rule-breaking to the red stars on the fuselage (each denoting, in Vietnam, a MiG fighter shot down), is a relic of the past.


Mythili Bhusnurmath in The Economic Times, financial paper of the Times of India group:

Using airpower has been a big no-no since the one and only attempt in Mizoram backfired in the 1960s. But today it is possible, as US attacks against the Pak Taliban have shown, to zero in on specific targets with minimum collateral damage. Remember the troubles in Punjab did not end till the state decided to use brute force. But before it could do that it had to win the tacit approval of the public and that happened only when terrorism entered drawing room conversations in the capital. Today talk of the Maoists has replaced the Sensex in the capital’s drawing rooms. This is the tipping point for Mr Chidambaram to ‘do a Gill’.


Shadi Hamid in the CSM on Bush Nostalgia in the Middle East. What little discussion remains of democracy for Muslims still neglects to understand that it is a good thing if Islamists win an election for then they must leave heaven behind and administer water and sewers, port facilities and roads and bridges, or debase their political currency for the forseeable future. They might then keep power by fraud as in Iran but this also seals their fate. Unfortunately, there is a window closing on this and that is the arrival of nuclear weapons in the Persian and Arab worlds. Because when the sewage is backing up and the bridges collapse into rivers and the shelves are bare an Islamist will just contrive to hurry along to Heaven.


Christian Oliver in the FT on the footrace to North Korean souls between Protestantism and Buddhism:

'Buddhism is regarded as a patriotic institution in North Korea, associated with the nationalist movement and fighting Japanese colonial rule,' (Bop Ta) said, but added temples were often tourist sites. North Korean Buddhism is waning. Hwang Jang-yop, a former senior communist official and North Korea's most high profile defector, says the monks at temples there are 'fakes'. Bop Ta said North Korea's outlawing of Chinese script prevented proper study of ancient texts and that monks also defy tradition by marrying.


The IBD: Paul Volcker, Inflationist. More good plotting.


Hillsdale College power couple in the WSJ on the end of the depression.


Roger Pilon of Cato in the CSM, on the hearings to come to replace Justice White, I mean, Brennan, no Souter, or maybe Stevens:

The party’s base, already disappointed with Mr. Obama, will doubtless press the president for a liberal replacement. But with the growing ‘tea party’ movement raising long-ignored constitutional issues, even a moderate nominee will face questions congressional Democrats would rather leave buried. Chief among those is that most basic question, brought to the fore by ‘ObamaCare’: Are there any longer any constitutional limits on federal power?


Christopher Caldwell in the FT, “The kids are not alright”, on the suicide of Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, Mass.:

Getting rid of the old punitive morality that surrounded sexuality seemed like it would do no one any harm, and relieve a lot of unnecessary anguish and guilt. But young people have not reacted to it as theorised. They will gladly skip the ‘morality‘ part. But in a world as socially competitive as that of teen dating, the ‘punitive‘ part is simply too useful a tool to do without. So people proclaim themselves free of moral hang-ups, and yet throw around words like ‘slut‘ and ‘whore‘ with an abandon that no previous generation ever did. It is unlikely there was any moral disapproval in the taunts to which Prince was allegedly exposed. It might have been better if there had been.


Terry Teachout in Commentary on Brad Gooch’s biography, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor:

Because these stories are in the broadest sense comic -- and because they portray a culture of which most educated Americans of the 50‘s knew little or nothing -- it was inevitable that they would be misunderstood by many of their first readers, who wrongly pigeonholed their author as a purveyor of the same Southern gothicism and grotesquery that they had previously encountered…. O’Connor was unsurprised by such obtuseness. ‘I have found,’ she wrote with dry amusement, ‘that anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.’


Jill Lepore in the NYer on the Henry Luce - Harold Ross feud manifested in their magazines, Time and The New Yorker:

Ross was born in a prospector’s cabin, in 1892; Luce was born in 1898, in a missionary compound. Ross never finished high school; Luce went to Yale, like his father before him. A person could be forgiven for expecting Ross to have been the one to start the magazine edited for the old lady in Dubuque and Luce to have started the one that wasn’t. That just the reverse came to pass explains some of the waywardness between them.


Robert McCrum in The Guardian on “the worldwide dialect of the third millenium”.


Carolyn Cui in the WSJ on Chi-comedy.

One of the jokes he told at Beijing's Haidian Theater, Mr. Wong says, was about parking: ‘I'm not good at sports, but I love parallel parking. Because unlike sports, when I am parallel parking, the worse you are, the more people are rooting for you.’ …That didn't get as many laughs in China as it does in the U.S., probably because Chinese drivers park wherever they want to, he says. Last month, Mr. Wong performed before Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, earning a standing ovation at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner. To prepare, he read Mr. Biden's biography, he told the crowd, and, after meeting him, declared: ‘I think the book is much better.’


The Stooges’ remarks at their Hall of Fame induction.

The Stooges' “Search and Destroy” there.


Here’s Jon Savage’s summation of Malcolm McLaren in The Guardian, which touches gently on his limitations without measuring what those did to the one important thing he had anything to do with. Savage’s book, England’s Dreaming, goes deeper into it all but even that is a bit charitable to McLaren.

Contempt is something few can carry, primarily because it argues ultimately for either murder or suicide. Godard named it with his film which involved international film production itself, but in popular culture it was probably a New York thing even then, introduced and branded as we now say by Andy Warhol. That story as it pertains to music is told very well in the book, Please Kill Me, by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain; it begins in 1965 (before Hippie let us note) with the Velvet Underground as presented by Warhol. Of the figures riffing by in this oral history’s prologue, only Danny Fields has anything one could call a love for music and he explains being unable to convince Lou Reed and John Cale that they should get away from Warhol’s “corny” presentation and trust in their music.

Savage’s book covers McLaren’s experiences in early-seventies NYC with the New York Dolls. It's hilarious. Taking what he’d learned back to London he was allowed a do-over he may not have happened upon had he stayed in NYC and tried to get involved with the earliest punk bands there. The media and money were tightening up in the American music industry after 1972, but in the hot-house London-based economy of British newspapers and record labels the punk paradigm shift could happen on the front pages, on the BBC, and at the top of the charts.

England’s Dreaming was one of the few books I read before updating my own book, R&TPN, and what struck me most reading the impressive blow-by-blow was that all the hubbub in the media was caused by the simple, natural loutish behavior of Steve Jones and Paul Cook topped off with the reaction shots of Johnny Rotten grinning. All Malcolm had to do was blithely defend it, which according to Savage he decided to do only the day after the infamous Bill Grundy “Today” program appearance; Malcolm had originally been unnerved himself by the swearing. But that show was actually the perfect demonstration of what it was all about! Grundy, a middle-aged straight, was flirting with the punkettes with the band on live television and the Sex Pistols were disgusted at him! And one motor of cultural revolt is surely that young men attempt to keep the females of their cohort for themselves against the poaching of their elders who always have more to offer. So culture and fashion, where young males can with a little ingenuity and gall pull a cool-switch and make older males look suddenly hopelessly out of it is a perennial tendency. Again Britain was ripe coming off the hippie boom due to the careful and conscious tribalizing of youth factions and the Sex Pistols were suddenly hunted by the same Teddy Boy fifties-styled rockers that Malcolm had given up on just five years earlier.

It was McLaren’s perverse American tour-dates and his use of Sid Vicious thereafter in NYC that really turned off many; it was passive cruelty worthy of Warhol but McLaren didn’t get shot. And its major accomplishment was to plant a useless Sid-clone in every American punk rock scene thereafter -- those scenes necessarily made up of far less decadent go-getters for all the decadence of the American music and media industries. And this doesn’t even address the problems this Brit re-branding of punk rock with Situationist pretense and vomit made for the ongoing attempt to crack that American music blockade by The Ramones, Television, The Weirdos, Black Flag, etc.

In any case it wasn’t until after Nirvana’s galvanization of the industry for punk in 1991 that the deal was easy enough for the now older, wiser ex-Sex Pistols to reunite and tour. When John remarked that now they’d finally get to be a band, that was not an indictment of the London newspapers or ITV but of their manager who had thought them terrible. The Sex Pistols weren’t the only thing Malcolm had contempt for.


Billy Childish on authenticity and originality:

Then again it's only pseudo-cleverness, 'cause it's not actually clever at all, it's sort of that adolescent covering your tracks. Because it's neurotic, really, it's not genuinely clever, it's trying to be clever, trying to be an adult by being sarcastic. It doesn't have any affiliation with real cleverness, that is sort of the feeling you get, that they want to appear smart. But it's pseudo, a lot of these things are not what they appear to be. People don't call things by their proper names. They're always trying to outwit their critics. You know, like, by any sort of adolescent manoeuvre they can come up with. My claim to originality is [that] authenticity is far more important. Most people seem to think originality would have something to do with authenticity but not when it's... most originality is pseudo-originality. The only way to become authentic, in other words, to have any original ideas at all is to be an authentic first. Because if you're authentic you're true to your calling, to your heart. Follow your star, the thing that leads you and inspires you, and that means that something else might come through which comes close to the notion of originality. To strive for originality in itself is a pointless adolescent preoccupation.


Paul Beston in the WSJ reviews Andrew Potter's book, The Authenticity Hoax:

Mr. Potter notes that the search for authenticity often ends up as a status-seeking game... The local-food trend illustrates what Mr. Potter calls 'conspicuous authenticity,' by which the well-heeled embark on a 'perpetual coolhunt,' whether it is for authentic jeans, pristine vacation spots or mud flooring....


Stanley Crouch in the Daily News on the film Facing Ali.

Part of what makes Facing Ali such a good film is that it does not miss out on the truth of Ali's connection to the cult that Malcolm X bitterly attacked after he went to Mecca and claimed to have been misled and deceived by Elijah Muhammad. One of the reasons that nothing is said, especially by black writers, politicians and the media, is that Louis Farrakhan scared the pants off of them…

The film is made great by the men who fought Ali and suffered at his hands whenever he had the chance to belittle them as servants of the ‘enemies’ of black people, as opposed to himself, the shining race hero... What is most overwhelming about Facing Ali, however, is the human grandeur of those men who won or lost fights to him. They bled, they suffered, they were treated unfairly and they were disappointed - but they prevailed in deep human terms. The size of feeling and the depths of philosophical understanding heard from Joe Frazier, George Chuvalo, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton, Ron Lyle and George Foreman will startle those who think that his opponents were as intellectually limited as Ali was and probably still is.


Obituary of the Week: Arthur Mercante Sr., Boxing Referee


On the NYT sports page is George Vecsey’s reprise of the ancien Howell Raines regime‘s campaign, Billy Payne is the Pope, and women are little boys, or something like that.


Allen Barra in the WSJ on Jim Bouton’s Ball Four.


(Thanks to Steve Beeho)

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