a new low in topical enlightenment

Monday, August 2, 2010

Issue #57 (August 4, 2010)

Libby Flats, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci…

John Thornhill at the FT, Outside Edge: "Damned if we dip, damned if we don’t".

“The medieval theological civil war originated when some Christian thinkers confronted the question: how could an all-beneficent God have created sin? Our own economic disputation has revolved around the question: how could the omnipotent God of our times, the Market, have created financial evil? While today’s secular priests might resist the comparison, they should not underestimate their ecclesiastical forebears. As the historian Steven Runciman wrote, the vast intellectual superstructure built by theologians over the Christian revelation ‘was not the baroque expression of the whims of a few pedants and eccentrics, but the attempt of the best brains of a great intellectual era to display all the implications of that revelation’.”


The newsmedia sometimes acts as if they believe that opponents of a policy when faced with implementing such a policy once adopted should rather make like John Brown. They don’t really believe that but operating without a true philosophical foundation they can only really tell if their side is winning when they’ve driven the lane and dunked in the opposition’s face. Kevin Sack in the NYT inspects the how Texas is implementing the National Health Care Program, while Mary Williams Walsh in the NYT revisits the states which have never opted into Social Security for state employees as they now look to unload pension liabilities on that federal program. It may be that its slipped the NYT’s editor’s mind that these programs are designed to seduce compliance and foster dependence. Perhaps that in-your-face joy doesn’t have much of a half-life and needs restoking. Perhaps their concern has a hostile motivation as well. Here’s Alec MacGillis in the Washington Post endorsing breaking up Washington so as to spread the bureaucratic budgetary munificence around like so much military contracting or basing. They’re still trying to close useless bases founded to fight Indians.


The Grand Caliph of Eurabia or his Vizier, Tariq Ramadan, runs into static from the Egyptian reporter Mona Eltahawy on “Newsnight” on BBC2.


Andreas Eckert at qantara.de, "More than Just Slavery".

“Muslims certainly played a central role in the slave trade in Africa. But it would be false to reduce them only to this function. In any case it is problematic to draw a general picture of the attitude of Muslims to the issue of denial of freedom and to the trade in human beings. All interpretations of the Sharia quite clearly forbid the enslavement of fellow-Muslims. At the same time, it was permitted to imprison and to own ‘unbelievers.’ As the slave trade increased, it made conversion to Islam increasingly attractive as a defence against enslavement, especially in areas where Muslim traders were selling slaves to Europeans or to middlemen. Occasionally, Muslim slave traders themselves were victims of the violence which was escalating in many parts of the continent, and found themselves sold to Europeans and shipped across the Atlantic.”


Marc Champion in the WSJ, "Turkey to Pick Military Head as Sides Jockey for Power".

“The twice-yearly meetings of the Supreme Military Council, or YAS, are always closely watched in Turkey. But this conclave is unusually important, say retired generals, politicians and analysts, because it comes as Turkey's Islamist-leaning government is trying to break the back of the military and judicial establishment that effectively ruled Turkey for decades and carried out four coups since 1960. The key issue is whether the military will be able to secure its old-school secularist candidate, land-forces commander Gen. Isik Kosaner, as the next chief of the General Staff. Equally important is whether the military will get to choose the top aides he wants, including from dozens of officers and generals awaiting trial for an alleged 2003 plot to topple the government.”


Brendan Simms in the WSJ on John Hall’s biography of Ernest Gellner.

“Many of the problems that Gellner addressed during his long intellectual career—such as the roots of nationalism and the role of contemporary Islam—are obviously of direct relevance today. But the most pertinent part of his legacy lies in his fearless endorsement of Western modernity at a time when it was becoming increasingly embattled in the academy and elsewhere. As Mr. Hall demonstrates, Gellner believed that there really was a clash between ‘liberty and pluralism,’ on the one hand, and ‘authoritarianism and oppressiveness’ on the other. In a passionate riposte to Noam Chomsky, who had accused him of ignoring Western crimes, Gellner charged that his critic had ‘obscured’ the fact that ‘the survival of freedom and accountable, limited government is an enormously important value even when some of its defenders are occasionally tarnished.’


Chavez to FARC in mercopress.com, “Boys, we’re not in the sixties.”


Edward Wong in the NYT, "Move to Limit Cantonese on Chinese TV Is Assailed".


Valentina Pop at euobserver.com, EU washes hands of French plans for Roma expulsions as tensions grow.

“In Romania, home of the largest Roma population, non-governmental organisations said that France's move violates basic human rights. ‘Saying that Roma who committed crimes will be expelled is a severe violation of the freedom of movement. The word 'crime' can be [widely] interpreted and can lead to abuses,’ Gelu Duminica, head of the association Impreuna (Together), told AFP. Meanwhile, Romanian foreign affairs minister Teodor Baconschi stressed that the nine million Roma living in the European Union were ‘European citizens’ and their freedom of movement could not be impeded.”


David Segal’s article in the NYT, "Is Italy Too Italian?" is a great business feature on the predicament Italy does and doesn’t face, vis-à-vis Greece or Spain, with a close look at one of its truly high-end designers as he tries to ignore distractions yet is sucked into the politics of international trade. In this case clothier Luciano Barbera now beginning to sell to the Chinese rich but still battling Versace’s “Made in Italy” shell-gambit.


Geraldine Fagan at opendemocracy.net, Soviet anti-religion has returned, claim Europe’s last surviving pagans.


Graeme Wearden in The Guardian, "What has happened to Conrad Blacks’ media empire?"


John Kass in the CT, Blago a lone hyena, not a political lion.

“[I]n the political predator department, Blagojevich is no lion. We've got a few of those. They have entire prides protecting them. Blagojevich was more like some lone hyena, chattering, nervously unsure with the lions out there….

House Speaker Michael Madigan has real power. He runs the legislature, and the Illinois Democrats. He dictates tax policy. He has a law practice that helps reduce taxes for the big-money real estate interests in Chicago who lean Republican, and he's said to be a wealthy man….

Mayor Richard Daley is another pride lion. Think of the guys around him who've gorged on city-related deals in the multi-multi-millions of dollars, like Bridgeport trucking bosses Fred Bruno Barbara and Mike Tadin. And what of his political brains, Tim Degnan and Jeremiah Joyce, who've made fortunes in development, construction supplies, consulting? It's obscene….

Yet we poke sticks through the cage at Dead Meat, and revel in his fall. I figure that much of this media antipathy is a function of how close Blagojevich was to President Barack Obama's real estate fairy, the convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko.

Obama is the media's saint. Any one or thing that threatens his halo is suspect. And so, Blagojevich had to become our crazed Rumpelstiltskin. Though we tease and ridicule Blagojevich — and I've done more than my share — I find it odd, even grotesque, that Daley and Madigan are spoken of in hushed, almost respectful tones. They can bite. And Blago never had the teeth for it.”


Lauren Schuker in the WSJ, "Plot Change: Foreign Forces Transform Hollywood Films."

She’s covered the business and how certain films don’t get made at top dollar due to lack of foreign interest in comedies and romances, but its not well understood that the foreign popular audience is quite a dumber audience than the American one, whatever its limitations. And to the extent they influence what Americans have seen since sometime in the eighties, they dumb us down. We seen British comedy, and Japanese gameshows, and Hong Kong action and all they do is make Quinn Martin and Danny Thomas look like geniuses.

European high cinema is often just literature sensibility operating for whatever reason thru film-art. Not that this always fails, but Kieslowski, Tarkovsky, et. al. whatever their talents are cinematic dead ends that do not feed back profitably into film-art the way the more obscure Paradjanov or the pop-junk of Hong Kong do. But the assumption by American cinephiles has been that popular culture overseas is superior to ours, and so while they’ll gladly consider that Rambo has some atavistic pull on the greasers of the third world, they don’t recognize that its when American films are no longer made for the American market that they are no longer any good. This is decades in the making. The sixties studios were stodgy and the seventies geniuses were merely pretentious, but as they failed they created today’s much smaller and dumber audience. People outside the theatrical audience will go if a good story hangs around long enough for them to identify it, but that happens more in the dvd-cable TV phase and too late to dramatize any successful might-have-been-a-hit.

According to Schuker, Wedding Banned (201-never), to star Robin Williams and Diane Keaton was green-lighted and then halted due to this foreign disinterest. I didn’t say they had zero brains.


Frank Rich in his Sunday NYT column (a twentieth part of his next book) recapitulates several series of events, The Pentagon Papers, his first paid essay, the end of the Vietnam War. He gets most of these wrong except probably the one about his article, a profile for Esquire of Daniel Ellsberg who everyone who was anyone at Harvard (and who wasn’t?) knew was the leaker. All of this tail-chasing is by way of warning the President to “Kiss This War Goodbye” without being mean about it. He apparently isn’t a liar or particularly bloodthirsty as presidents go. Rich doesn’t get Vietnam right but who does? Pulitzers were won; the war lost. He doesn’t have a point on Afghanistan so who knows, he may very well still prove correct. Either that or he may think we can do without the Sears Tower as well.

Rich writes: “Many Americans at home have lost faith and checked out. The war places way down the list of pressing issues in every poll.” Frank doesn’t realize that in this age of cellular telecommunications Americans don’t have to be “at home” to be polled, and if the war is not a pressing issue then its nothing at all like Vietnam, unless those who understand the prosecution of it will proceed as any government enterprise will -- wholesale yet wastefully -- still believe it worthy or necessary. In this way most Americans polled and unpolled are against War generally. He mentions CBS polling and ABC polling, Tricia Nixon’s wedding and Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, the NYT’s Pulitzer and Jack Anderson’s Pulitzer (he mentions Pulitzers a lot -- the Nexis count is oh my computer crashed…). I suspect Pulitzers and most shiny objects are a bar to further comprehension.

In an interview last year with Dan Savage in The Stranger, Rich talks of the possibility of a gay columnist in the NYT as delayed because “they don’t create columnists often,” to which Savage responds, “It’s hard to uncreate them, so I can understand why.” Gooood point. Savage hates rock and makes Rich laugh at his hope that Green Day going Broadway might mean rock is finally proven the fad that Rich earlier notes all of Broadway once thought, back when Bye, Bye Birdie was considered radical a radical critique of Elvis-mania. Rich pins an “Is Rock Dead?” essay in a February 1969 Harvard Crimson supplement on whether the openings of Hair, Your Own Thing, and Promises, Promises, all rock musicals built on hideous, staggering misconceptions, might mean a revival of Bye, Bye Birdie! I like this nut: “Perhaps Clive Barnes, the New York Times critic, states the ambivalence of Hair’s score the best….” No generation gap at The Grey Lady when it comes to Great White Way.


Nel Taylor’s BBC4 Rough Trade Records documentary is now an expanded oral history.


Martha Schwendener in the NYT on Brion Gysin, "With Failure as an Ingredient".


Christopher Rhoads in the WSJ on Skishing.

“‘There used to be a whole bunch of people against this concept,’ says Mr. Melnyk, whose right shoulder is covered with a tattoo of a skeleton, holding up a massive skeleton of a fish. ‘But there's a new generation of fishermen out there.’ Practitioners interviewed agree he coined the sport's name: ‘skishing.’ It's a mix of skiing and fishing. The idea is to hook a fish big enough to tow the angler through the water. Stripers can reach more than 50 pounds; the record caught with rod-and-reel weighed 78-1/2 pounds. Without the benefit of a boat or land, the fight is considered to be, by the fisherman anyway, on more equal terms.”


David Lightbourne and I put together the first Upland Breakdown back in 2000 when Upland Records was going great guns with album releases by David's Stop & Listen Boys, Spot, Drag the River, and Grandpa's Ghost. Those bands plus Michael Hurwitz’s played the first Upland Breakdown at what was then called the Old Centennial Cafe, run by Tony and Phil. That year's Upland Breakdown was recorded and released on the Upland label too.

The cafe became the Beartree Tavern after Jill bought it and expanded it. It was fun putting the lineups together with Dave but with him gone, and the record label long gone I think I'll retire the Upland Breakdown undefeated after this one. Stay tuned to the Beartree's regular music schedule which won't end.

Thanks to Jill and her crew, the old regime of Tony and Phil, and the players over the years, from that first lineup to this one, plus the Breakdown attractions in between: Michael Hurley, Amy Annelle, Ralphe White, Josephine Foster, Souled American, Gary Sisco, Mumbletypeg, Maggie Simpson, Leghorn, Birgit Burke & Black Crow-White Crow, Al Rivers, Trip Henderson and The Alltunators. Also thanks to Justin Cooper, Ben Slater, and other crew over the last decade.

Here's a clip of David and the Stop & Listen Boys (Shaun Kelley, John Martz, Charlie Neff) at the 2008 Upland Breakdown.


Greg Ginn on stage with the Ron Reyes Band for Ron’s 50th birthday party in Vancouver. Greg isn’t one for nostalgia so he wrote a new song with Ron that does get somewhere if you’re patient. If you’re not here’s “Jealous Again”, and “Revenge”, though Ron’s unequaled claim to fame is his take on “No Values”.


1965 Teen program “A Whole Scene Going” pilot with great interview with Pete Townsend.


Glen Friedman interview feature.


New issue of PerfectSoundForever with a good piece on AC/DC, "The Devil and the End of History" by Calliope Kurtz.


Obituary of the Week

Luis Corvalan (1916 - 2010)

“Mr. Corvalán emerged from a peasant background to become one of South America’s most prominent Communists, leading the Chilean party for three decades. He rigorously followed the party line set in Moscow, down to supporting the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. But when the same party line increasingly called for more cooperation with non-Communists than Mr. Allende’s Socialists advocated, Mr. Corvalán responded with ideological agility…. He criticized Mr. Allende’s economic management and distanced himself from many Socialists’ infatuation with Cuban-style armed revolution. Sounding like a conservative economist, he said Mr. Allende’s decision to increase workers’ wages without requiring improvements in productivity was the cause of soaring inflation.

Mr. Corvalán felt secure enough even to criticize Mr. Allende personally, saying he slipped into clichés and repeated himself. Mr. Allende ‘showed signs of stagnation,’ he wrote in 1997, adding, ‘The people’s movement had developed further than he had.’


Thanks to Jay Babcock, Steve Beeho, Glen Friedman

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

1 comment:

  1. New HOR CD has great new playing from Ginn, too! And a real drummer!