a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Issue #71 (November 10, 2010)

Behind Centennial Ridge, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

Hipsterama Heterodox
by Joe Carducci

Mark Greif’s piece from N+1 is adapted, presumably abridged somewhat, in New York magazine. It’s still called, "What Was the Hipster?", and it attempts to answer that question via its “sociological investigation.” Perhaps the original version which is credited to the editors of N+1 rather than Greif, answers the questions this version begs, I haven’t seen it. But here there’s only one study referenced, an ethnography of Wicker Park by a sociologist Richard Lloyd claiming he:

“documented how what he called ‘neo-bohemia’ unwittingly turned into something else: the seedbed for post-1999 hipsterism. Lloyd showed how a culture of aspiring artists who worked day jobs in bars and coffee shops could unintentionally provide a milieu for new, late capitalist commerce in design, marketing, and web development. The neo-bohemian neighborhoods, near to the explosion of new wealth in city financial centers, became amusement districts for a new class of rich young people. The indie bohemians (denigrated as slackers) encountered the flannel-clad proto-businessmen and dot-com paper millionaires (denigrated as yuppies), and something unanticipated came of this friction.”

I think Classicals called this the Spontaneous Generation theory back when its adherents were sure that if you just threw a bunch of seeds, hay, refuse, and wood scraps into a large sealed container mice would be sure to pop into being. Good to know some old superstitions survive all that critical theory crossfire on campus.

Again, maybe the editors or Dr. Lloyd himself don’t throw around nonsense terminology so freely but since the entirety of this version in New York magazine -- a preeminent organ of late capitalist consumer-choice via its regular rankings of all the city offers -- has not a single mention of Liberal Arts colleges or Art Schools which well might be reactants in today’s cultural hellsbroth it is hard to take seriously. The editors and the scientist of soshe might be loathe to implicate any factor that might snare themselves, but if they won’t include themselves in their study then it’s a pointless exercise, and all the proof I require to assume their own fine adaptive skill in higher edumucation since I dropped out in my second year at Univ. of Denver. (They needn’t mention Film Schools -- the culpability of those we all well know to assume.)

After I’d spent ten years on the west coast involved with a bunch of like-minded drop-outs who made music or tried to sell it or write about it, I moved to an area of Chicago that seemed to have no name. I had very little money to show for those ten years in the music business so I couldn’t afford anything in any part of the city I looked at for five months until I guessed it might be interesting to be just west of the Kennedy Expressway and my patient realtor found an area south of Bucktown and north of Ukrainian Village that was less than half the going price of those neighborhoods. On some neighborhood maps I saw later it was called East Wicker Park -- I was on Pierce Ave near North & Ashland from 1987 until 1995.

In the year I worked on my building I’d eat breakfast at the Huddle House and then for dinner get a burrito at Tacos Mexico or a hot dog at Duk’s. Once done rehabbing the building and resuming work on R&TPN I began to explore the area west to the Milwaukee-Damen-North six-corner. I found I could pick up the WSJ and NYT at the L station so I’d often break my fast at Sophie’s Busy Bee or Friar’s which was in the low wide triangular Flat Iron building and opened onto both North and Milwaukee. This intersection was the center of the area, rather than the Park itself. The mansions around Wicker Park had been rehabbed in the seventies and the Flat Iron building started filling with painters and artists beginning in the late seventies if I remember right. According to Mark Greif this all rather begins in the nineties -- Nirvana must be the reigning postpostmod backstop. He seeks to rescue the nineties from “post-1999 hipsterism” and explore any inadvertent culpability.

Now lets take our eye off the ball, as I often recommend, and think instead about all the homosexuals in or around the arts on the west coast back before golden age of Greif’s Grunge, way back in the seventies and early eighties. I don’t recall a single one-of-’em ever expressing an interest in getting married. Unless I miss my guess today’s marriage-minded homosexuals -- descendents (?!) of risk-addicted sexual outlaws -- could be a profitable analogue to this discussion. What kind of subculture is this marriage-mania from? Again, are these descendents of that first subculture bohemia in the Romany ghetto of Paris of the early 1800s?! And also, did they attend college?

It seemed to me that the bands that formed after the 1970s were more often formed in college and these, though inspired by music of the drop-out music ghettos of the sixties and seventies, did not intend to live unheard in exile from the music industry as they largely had. If their music wasn’t as fun and free-thinking as sixties frat-rock was, it was because of changes in the schools. Everything became pretentious and arty rather than musical and rooted. Culture studies were mostly new programs and perhaps it’s a coincidence that once kids are studying rock and roll and film and pulp and cartoons in college all of these once-vital popular media began to fail.

There seems to be a cut-out blind that keeps the impact of mass default college education from factoring into any studies other than of income. I’m sure all God’s graduates perform their jobs much better than do the degreed rockers so why the averted eyes?

As Greif has it,

“The hipster is that person, overlapping with the intentional dropout or the unintentionally declassed individual—the neo-bohemian, the vegan or bicyclist or skatepunk, the would-be blue-collar or postracial twentysomething, the starving artist or graduate student—who in fact aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two.”

It like an overblown version of that long 1992 think-piece by Samuel Nathan Schiffman that appears quickly after Nirvana’s platinum breakthrough in Maximum RocknRoll:

“If MTV wants to attempt to legitimize former hard-core forms of rebellion such as slamming, moshing, hair-dyeing, leather jackets, Doc Martens, Converse sneakers, flannel shirts, ponytails, skinheads, flight jackets, dreadlocks, Misfits shirts, swearing, let society have our cultural trappings. If they mosh, we’ll all pogo. If they wear leather, we’ll all wear cotton. They can take our styles, but they can’t take our souls.”

From my position at SST it didn’t seem that MRnR ever chose soul over style, not that they were great music’s real problem. Back in NV68 I observed radio programmer Lee Abrams’ indirect but massive contribution to the destruction of rock and roll as it was coming out of the sixties, and I wrote fairly efficiently about postwar music-cultural techtonics:

“If you ask me anyone starting a band after 1980 was handicapped by the lack of an immersive exposure to great music by good radio stations. Mediated America no longer allowed provincial folk cultures to develop deeply on the highly refined level they once achieved in Appalachia, Louisiana, the Mississippi Delta, the Piedmont, the border…, so this new airborne folk media was what we had to make do with after WWII. It was quite productive for awhile and great folk media synthesizers like Eddie Cochran, Dick Dale, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, James Blood Ulmer…, made contributions as brilliant and nearly as organic as earlier, more rooted, less mediated folk synthesizers like Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry…. But it was less sturdy and thereafter, if young kids got turned on to music in junior high and form a band by the end of high school, then the end of great music radio in the early seventies resulted in the end of great bands in the early eighties.”

When you’re talking art, sociology goes to the back of the bus. In fact, unless it gets its act together it really ought be thrown from the bus as it gets up to speed.

David Brooks in a column this week about other aspects of live cultures vs. dead ones he notes about creative types:

“Howard Gardner of Harvard once put together a composite picture of the extraordinarily creative person: She comes from a little place somewhat removed from the center of power and influence. As an adolescent, she feels herself outgrowing her own small circle. She moves to a metropolis and finds a group of people who share her passions and interests. She gets involved with a team to create something amazing.”

Another Goddamned academic -- two of ’em. Thirty, even twenty years ago, I’d’ve said her choice of pronoun was an ideological imposition on the truth of most of the arts. But as Art has moved away from Nature it finds itself in a weightless cultural cul-de-sac which is safer and safer as it withdraws from gazing upon cruel cold nature, and instead goes myopic with allegedly sophisticated games of one-upsmanship in an artificial marketplace whose rewards are bestowed on those who best disguise the absurdity and inflate her audience’s self-regard. Women like safety so they do well in schools now that they must prepare to support themselves. Unfortunately by the time they filled universities Humanities missions had been broken. But nature will catch up to them. It’s the men that are the real concern here.

The arts in America today often put me in mind of Edward Abbey’s construction from his book, Desert Solitaire; I’ve quoted it here before so I’ll just note that it posits Civilization as the river, and Culture as the dam. People, even all those Abbey-ite EarthFirsters, don’t realize the extent they prefer the dam, but they are sure other people do. Greif’s use of the past tense is unwarranted of course -- it sure ain’t as simple as a passing fad. But there are Americans living outside of the great pasteurization process. They are immigrants, or rural, or overseas or in the military. And maybe there’s a self-starter or two in Silverlake or Wicker Park or Brooklyn, etc., but enough to form a band?

Micronisus Gabar by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Randall Bloomquist in the WSJ on Adrian Johns’ book, Death of a Pirate.

“At the center of the tale stands Oliver Smedley, a conservative political activist and entrepreneur determined to stop what he saw as Britain's slide toward socialism. After dabbling in politics and journalism in the 1950s, he launched a network of think tanks and political organizations that pressed his call to cut taxes, slash public spending, eliminate tariffs and reduce government's role in economic life. When in 1964 two like-minded acquaintances pitched him on the idea of launching a pirate-radio ship, Smedley seized on the project as a chance to trade talk for action by taking on statism's pride and joy, the BBC. The BBC is a nonprofit ‘state corporation’ funded primarily by an annual license fee (currently about $200) charged to every television owner. At its founding in 1922, the BBC was designated as the sole provider of radio programming in the United Kingdom. Unofficially, the Beeb was expected to reinforce a traditional view of British culture and life. The programming was a highbrow blend of mostly classical music and lectures. Commercials were forbidden for their alleged coarsening effect….

Contrary to myth, not all British pirates were full-time rockers, even if plenty of British kids were dying to hear rock music on that must-have new gadget, the transistor radio. The legendary Radio Caroline, for example, featured a music mix that ranged from the Beatles and Searchers to the Mantovani Orchestra and West End show tunes. Radio Atlanta's offerings were so staid, says Mr. Johns, that ‘at times they could even sound distinctly similar to BBC fare.’”


Richard Woodward in the WSJ on the films Carlos, Buongiorno, Notte, The Badder-Meinhof Complex, Che, Patty Hearst, and Munich, in "Terrorism Back on the Big Screen".

“‘Carlos’ is one of several films to come out after Sept. 11 to look back with new skepticism and some disgust at the left-wing revolutionaries of the '60s and '70s. Filmmakers who grew up when Che Guevara, Ulrike Meinhof, the Red Brigades and Carlos were regarded as liberators or outlaws now seem to be re-examining a critical stage of their youth. Their films convey a sense of wonder at the levels of violence taken for granted during that period, but do so with a measure of penitence. It's as if the directors were atoning for their own earlier naiveté. Deluded killers can't simply be exonerated (or celebrated) anymore as antiauthoritarian heroes.”


The late Tony Judt in the NYT, "My Endless New York."

“But just what is a ‘world city’? …I have lived in four such cities. London was the commercial and financial center of the world from the defeat of Napoleon until the rise of Hitler; Paris, its perennial competitor, was an international cultural magnet from the building of Versailles through the death of Albert Camus. Vienna’s apogee was perhaps the shortest: its rise and fall coincided with the last years of the Hapsburg Empire, though in intensity it outshone them all. And then came New York.

It has been my mixed fortune to experience these cities at twilight. In their prime they were arrogant and self-assured. In decline, their minor virtues come into focus: people spend less time telling you how fortunate you are to be there. Even at the height of ‘Swinging London’ there was something brittle about the city’s self-promotion, as though it knew this was but an Indian summer.”


Michael Wines in the NYT, "China Police Confine Prominent Artist."

“As he tells it, he was approached more than two years ago in Beijing by the mayor of one of Shanghai’s districts — a government unit not unlike an American city ward — and beseeched to build a studio on an abandoned plot of farmland. Initially suspicious — ‘I told my assistant we’re not going to deal with government anymore,’ he said; ‘there’s no honesty there’ — he relented when the mayor flew to Beijing for a personal appeal.

Mr. Ai said he worked closely with the district to rehabilitate an abandoned warehouse on the site, spending about $1 million to create a vast working space fronting on a lake with a sawtoothed roof and sides laced with a concrete grid. Other artists began building their own adjacent studios. Then last July, as work was wrapping up, there came a city order to tear down the warehouse.

‘They said only we received the notice,’ he said. ‘The other artists did not. We said, ‘Why?’ and they said, ‘Well, you should know, because of Ai Weiwei’s activities.’’

Which activities offended someone is, of course, not known. But Mr. Ai said he suspected he rankled officials in 2008, when his blogging on the case of Yang Jia, who murdered six Shanghai policemen after being arrested and beaten for riding an unlicensed bicycle, created a national sensation. Mr. Yang was later executed.”


Sebastian Mallaby in the WSJ, "China’s New Guru of Productivity."

“China is advancing so rapidly in terms of productivity that a compromise on currency might serve only to slow its rise as an export juggernaut. The story of China's productivity revolution starts with the improbable tale of Gavriel Salvendy, a Hungarian-Israeli-American high-school drop-out. Growing up in a Jewish family during the Nazi occupation, Mr. Salvendy hid in haystacks to escape deportation. Later, after his family abandoned Europe, he became the Israeli weight-lifting champion. Now 72, at well over 6 feet tall and 265 pounds, he still has the presence of a strongman.

For the past nine years, Mr. Salvendy has run the department of industrial engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China's equivalent of MIT. He is an incongruous presence there—a booming maverick in a hierarchical and generally conformist culture—but he and his team of professors have helped to boost productivity at some Chinese factories by as much as 20% a year.”


John Miller in the WSJ, "Protectionism Hurts Effort to Pressure China."

“Ahead of the G-20's meeting in Seoul on Thursday and Friday, a World Bank-backed study released Monday shows the U.S., European Union and G-20 allies have recently outpaced other countries in measures that have defended domestic producers, from France's $2.3 billion payout to its farmers in October to a South Korean program that is giving export subsidies to 100 hand-picked companies. China has been the biggest target of these measures, the study said. The report doesn't have the force of a ruling by the World Trade Organization, but it underscores tariffs and other trade measures against China that Beijing will cite to defend its trade policies, including its export taxes and quotas on rare earths, say diplomats.”


Jason Zweig in the WSJ, "The Man Who Called the Financial Crisis - 70 Years Early."

“The seeds of today's problem were planted long ago, and its forgotten history holds important lessons. In 1936, as part of reforms under the new Banking Act, the U.S. government mandated that federally regulated banks could no longer hold securities that weren't rated investment-grade by at least two ratings firms. To determine how to implement the new policy, the government launched a massive project—with experts from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Works Progress Administration—to study how credit ratings should be used.

[Melchior] Palyi, then teaching at the University of Chicago, was a vocal skeptic from the outset. Looking back into the 1920s, he found that investment-grade bonds went bust with alarming frequency, often in the same year they were rated. On average, he showed, a bank that followed the new rules would end up with a third of its bond portfolio going into default.”


Anna Mathews in the WSJ, "Fewer Practices Are Doctor-Owned."

“The traditional model of doctors hanging up their own shingles is fading fast, as more go to work directly for hospitals that are building themselves into consolidated health-care providers. The latest sign of the continued shift comes from a large Medical Group Management Association survey, which found that the share of responding practices that were hospital-owned last year hit 55%, up from 50% in 2008 and around 30% five years earlier.”


Milk Politik at Mercopress.com, "World Dairy summit in NZ."

“The summit is held under the banner of the International Dairy Federation, a 107-year-old Brussels-based alliance of global dairy industry stakeholders, which today represent 86 per cent of the world's milk production….

‘There is a limit to the complete liberalisation of the market worldwide,’ Mueller said. While the EU was ready to renounce subsidies to its farmers - viewed by New Zealand as barriers to fair trade - there would first have to be fair market conditions, he said. ‘Dairy products deserve a fair price. The downward price spiral must be stopped’”

Michael Moss in the NYT, "While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales."

“But as healthy as this pizza has been for Domino’s, one slice contains as much as two-thirds of a day’s maximum recommended amount of saturated fat, which has been linked to heart disease and is high in calories. And Dairy Management, which has made cheese its cause, is not a private business consultant. It is a marketing creation of the United States Department of Agriculture — the same agency at the center of a federal anti-obesity drive that discourages over-consumption of some of the very foods Dairy Management is vigorously promoting.”


Mark Lilla at nybooks.com, "The Nation We Have, Not the Nation We Wish For."

“Whatever political instinct it is that tells a politician he’s got an opening, that a potent political symbol is lying there waiting to be picked up, our president lacks it. As for progressive pundits and Democratic Party leaders, they need to get out of their limousines and talk to some of those people with the misspelled signs. They’ll discover some potential allies among them.”


Joshua Hawley in National Affairs, "America’s Epicurean Liberalism."

“The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus taught that individual happiness was the aim of living and that pleasure was the sum of happiness. He would have loved 21st-century America. Ours is a distinctly epicurean culture, from our arts and literature right down to our sports and popular entertainment. Self-fulfillment is our great national ambition. The quest for individual self-discovery defines our ethics and our notions of justice; it motivates our work, our play, and our relationships….

A nation's public life always reflects its political regime, and the American regime has been dominated for nearly a century by a set of ideas shot through with epicurean influences. This creed celebrates individual liberty, which makes it a form of liberalism. But it defines that liberty in relation to an exceptionally radical ideal of individual self-fulfillment, which makes it epicurean. In fact, it treats the two things — liberty and unobstructed self-fulfillment — as virtually synonymous. Call it epicurean liberalism.”


Daniel DiSalvo in National Affairs, "The Trouble with Public Sector Unions."

“In today's public sector, good pay, generous benefits, and job security make possible a stable middle-class existence for nearly everyone from janitors to jailors. In the private economy, meanwhile, cutthroat competition, increased income inequality, and layoffs squeeze the middle class. This discrepancy indicates how poorly the middle class has fared in recent decades in the private economy, which is home to 80% of American jobs. But it also highlights the increased benefits of government work, and shines a spotlight on the gains public-sector unions have secured for their members….

The emergence of powerful public-sector unions was by no means inevitable. Prior to the 1950s, as labor lawyer Ida Klaus remarked in 1965, ‘the subject of labor relations in public employment could not have meant less to more people, both in and out of government.’ To the extent that people thought about it, most politicians, labor leaders, economists, and judges opposed collective bargaining in the public sector. Even President Franklin Roosevelt, a friend of private-sector unionism, drew a line when it came to government workers: ‘Meticulous attention,’ the president insisted in 1937, ‘should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government.…’”


IBD editorial, "Wrong Message to Send to India."

“But something was oddly retro in the 1960s-like message the president had for India's youth in Mumbai on Saturday. ‘I would just suggest that I hope some of you decide to go ahead and get involved in public service — which can be frustrating,’ he said. ‘But India is going to need you not just as businessmen but also as leaders who are helping to reduce bureaucracy and make government more responsive and deliver services more efficiently.’

…Aside from the contradictory nonsense about reducing bureaucracy by adding bureaucrats, or politicians, the thrust of the message couldn't have been more at odds with India's growth as a nation. Probably no nation has been so choked by its bureaucrats as India. Words like ‘satrap’ and ‘panjandrum,’ commonly used to describe bureaucrats, are from, well, India….

In ‘The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy,’ authors Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw outlined in 2002 how post-colonial ‘public service’ kept India in dire poverty. India's bureaucrats, for one, formed a ‘Permit Raj’ — ‘a complex, irrational, almost incomprehensible system of controls and licenses that held sway over every step in production, investment and foreign trade,’ they wrote. What began as an all-knowing state allocator of resources, ended as ‘an endlessly arbitrary bureaucracy.’”


Mary O’Grady in the WSJ, "Argentina After Kirchner."

“The CGT, founded in the 1940s under the dictator Juan Pern, has a long track record of paralyzing the economy to enforce its demands and strangling any administration that dares to go against it. Its strong bond with the Peronist Party is the reason many Argentines have become convinced that only Peronists can govern the country….

Just days before Néstor's death, Mr. Moyano publicly called for official CGT representation in the three powers of government, i.e., reserved seats in the courts, the congress and the cabinet. It is unlikely Kirchner wanted to give up his power to dole out privileges. So when Mr. Moyano called for a meeting of Peronist leaders in Buenos Aires province, Kirchner undermined the meeting by lobbying party loyalists to boycott it. The angry phone call that ensued from a presumably unhappy Mr. Moyano may have been too much for the 60-year-old workaholic with a heart condition.”


Richard Betts in Foreign Affairs, "Conflict or Cooperation?"

“In times of change, people wonder more consciously about how the world works. The hiatus between the Cold War and 9/11 was such a time; conventional wisdom begged to be reinvented…. Among the theorists who jumped into the market for models of the future, three stood out: Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington, and John Mearsheimer. Each made a splash with a controversial article, then refined the argument in a book -- Fukuyama in The End of History and the Last Man, Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, and Mearsheimer in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics….

Writing before 9/11, Fukuyama saw the Islamic exception as a minor distraction. Mearsheimer had nothing at all to say about it, since no Islamic state is a great power, the only political unit he considers important. As for terrorism, the word does not even appear in the index to either of their books. Huntington, in contrast, forthrightly saw Islam as a significant challenge, believing that it is more vibrant than Fukuyama thought. For example, he explained that Islamic fundamentalists are disproportionately intellectuals and technocrats from ‘the more 'modern' sectors of the middle class.’
Of the three, only Huntington anticipated how big a loose end in the end of history Islam would be.…

Fukuyama has little to say about…. Both Huntington and Mearsheimer assume that China will seek hegemony in Asia. Huntington also presents data showing China as the only major power that has been more violent than Muslim states; in crises, it has used force at a rate more than four times as high as that of the United States…. As for Mearsheimer, China is the issue on which his tragic diagnosis is, sadly, most convincing (although his prescription may not be).”


At Signandsite.com, no English translation, just this intro to an article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

“Konrad Schuller sends chilling reportage from Ukraine, where following the sorry demise of the Orange revolution, the powers of darkness are reclaiming territory. He was also followed in the course of his investigations, Schuller reports, and introduces the man responsible: oligarch, media tycoon and now head of the Secret Service, Valeriy Khoroshkovsky is locking up high-ranking civil servants from the Timoshenko administration. Anatoliy Makarenko, the former Head of Customs, for example, who ‘is now sitting in Isolator No.1, a prison that dates back to the days of the Czar. His lawyer Juriy Suchov describes the cell: 14 square metres for four men, water tap, toilet with no privacy. The showers still have gaping bullet holes from executions carried out under Stalin, and when the guards put the food on the floor in the hallway, out come the rats. Families are allowed to visit once a month – which, due to the tuberculosis in the prison, is not without risk. Prison is once again a political category.’”


Peter Hitchens at Mail on Sunday, "The dictator with a Royal warrant."

“The best place to start on a journey to the real Kazakhstan is its astonishing new capital, Astana, a work of megalomania that brings to mind Nicolae Ceausescu’s gigantic folly in Bucharest and the silent, deserted streets and squares of Pyongyang. It also reminded me of the spooky Burmese forbidden city of Naypidaw, built, like Astana, in the midst of nowhere so the rulers can be as far as possible from the ruled. People Power will never be able to find its way here. It would starve to death on the way.”


The WSJ Monday had a special South Korea report for this week’s G-20 meeting in Seoul which features Evan Ramstad’s piece, "North Korea: A Burden for the Future?"

“The two Koreas' situation is often compared to that of West and East Germany in the 1980s, but it's more extreme in several ways. South Korea's population is only twice as large as North Korea's, while West Germany's population was more than three times as big as East Germany's—meaning the financial burden of Korean unification would fall on a smaller proportion of the population. The gap between the Koreas' economic output is far greater than it was for the two German countries. And because information is controlled so much in North Korea, its people know far less about life in the South (and the world beyond it) than East Germans knew about West Germany. As a result, there's enormous anxiety in South Korea about the costs of unification, despite its strategic and economic benefits.”


Farnaz Fassihi in the WSJ, "Tehran Ramps Up Arrests To Stall Subsidy-Cut Fight".

“The government, in a five-year phaseout plan, seeks to eliminate up to $100 billion a year in food and energy subsidies that keep costs down for consumers. About 65 million Iranians, out of a population of 75 million, are to receive about $40 a month to ease the economic pain of lost subsidies. Cash payments in some provinces have already begun.
The plan, taking effect as Iran feels the bite from tough new international sanctions against its nuclear program, appears to be stoking concern in the government that it will fuel another political uprising. Opposition protests shook the country after disputed elections in June 2009, leading to an intensified crackdown on dissent.”


James Badcock in The Daily Star, "Deserting Logic for Want of Glory".

“Despite the growing attention of international media, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remains a lesser member of the global jihadist family. Chief among the reasons for this is that AQIM has no significant body of foreign troops to aim at, nor is the Sahel region where the organization operates especially rich in Western economic interests. However, after a few years of mainly carrying out what could be described as traditional tributary control of the gateways to the Sahara with no apparent overriding strategy (kidnappings and a few killings of tourists besides control of smuggling routes), AQIM now seems to have found an enemy that serves its purposes in both economic and propaganda terms. Fighting against France, the former colonial power in the region, will give greater projection to AQIM’s campaign and may lead to a surge in local support.”


The UN’s World War IV project seems to be moving along nicely:

Nadav Shragai in the Jerusalem Post, Until 1996, nobody called Rachel’s Tomb a mosque.

“On October 21, UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared that Rachel’s Tomb near Jerusalem is the Bilal ibn Rabah mosque – endorsing a Palestinian claim that first surfaced only in 1996 and which ignores centuries of Muslim tradition.”

Rachel Donadio in NYT, "Debate Over a Monument’s Name Echoes a Historic Clash of Faiths".

"Today, signs throughout this whitewashed Andalusian city refer to the monument, a Unesco World Heritage site, as the ‘mosque-cathedral’ of Crdoba….

Bishop Demetrio Fernández published an opinion article in ABC, a Spanish center-right daily newspaper…. ‘In the same way, it would be inappropriate to call the current mosque of Damascus the Basilica of St. John or to expect that it could be both a place of Muslim and Christian worship,’ Bishop Fernández added, referring to the Syrian site where an Umayyad mosque was built in the eighth century above a fourth-century church said to contain the remains of John the Baptist…. ‘Every time some Islamic fundamentalist, in a video on Al Jazeera or other channels, calls for the re-conquest of Al Andalus, the old Muslim dominion, people show up here calling for the use of the cathedral as a place of Islamic worship,’ said the Rev. Manuel Montilla Caballero, who oversees the diocese’s nighttime tours of the monument, which use dramatic lighting to showcase the splendid architecture.”


Rainer Hermann at Qantara.de, "Arabs Look to Instanbul".

“Last July, Khalil Shikaki's Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research discovered that 43 percent of all Palestinians consider Turkey to be their most important foreign policy ally, ahead of Egypt at 13 percent and Iran at only 6 percent. Support for Turkey in the West Bank and in Gaza is virtually the same. In Lebanon, Ahmadinejad did not succeed in reversing this trend. Shortly before his arrival in Beirut, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was back in Damascus for another meeting with President Bashar al-Assad. In the race for the post of prime minister in Iraq, both these men support the secular Shiite Iyad Allawi, while the powers that be in Iran prefer Nouri Maliki.”


Christopher Rhoads in the WSJ, "This Yanqui Is Welcome in Cuba’s Locker Room".

“The bespectacled Mr. Bjarkman, who lives in Lafayette, Ind., with his second wife and two cats, says he's interested in Cuban baseball, not politics. ‘It's a wonderful, alternative baseball universe,’ he says, citing the lack of commercialism, free agency and high ticket prices that mark the modern U.S. game. He says its pastoral nature recalls American baseball of the 1950s, when he was growing up following the Brooklyn Dodgers. What is not in dispute is his access to the Cuban baseball scene and his position within it—perhaps unparalleled for an American in any field, given that the U.S. trade embargo, in place since 1962, restricts U.S. business and travel in Cuba. He mingles freely with top Cuban players on the field before games, sometimes visiting them in their homes.”


Marc Myers in the WSJ, "A Cultural Conversation with Fats Domino".

“‘I didn't know anything about integration from the stage,’ said Mr. Domino in a rare interview. ‘I was just playing and singing about life.’ Mr. Domino moves a little slower these days and isn't often seen in public. After Hurricane Katrina sent flood waters 20 feet up his house in the city's Lower Ninth Ward in 2005, he was unreachable by phone for days. Initially feared lost, Mr. Domino was plucked from a third-floor deck by an emergency boat. Today, the pianist lives with two of his adult children in the city's West Bank section while his home is being restored…. ‘Playing all over the country back then was a thrill,’ Mr. Domino said, ‘The beat was new and everyone was excited about it.’

Many of Mr. Domino's hits were written or co-written by Mr. Bartholomew, who also played trumpet and arranged many of the recordings. ‘Fats and I didn't have a formal way of working on those songs,’ he said over lunch earlier that same day. Mr. Bartholomew, 89, has written or co-written more than 400 rock songs, including Elvis Presley's “One Night.” ‘Fats and I would just jam,’ Mr. Bartholomew continued, ‘and we'd jot down words and music. Then I'd hum what I wanted the horns to play. Fats and drummer Earl Palmer knew exactly what to do from there.’”


Jamie Thomson interviews Jon Savage at thequietus.com.

"Well, I went to LA in 1978 and it was completely fascinating. It was my first visit to the States anyway, but with LA, you couldn't get further from Europe, and so it's really fucking weird - you feel like you're on a completely different planet. I landed there and the first thing I saw was a replicant punk looking exactly like something you'd see on the Kings Road, except she had a suntan. So that was pretty weird. And so I hung out with a few of these groups. I was like a visiting dignitary because I came from England. But I hung out with the Screamers, the Weirdos, the Dils and the Avengers, and saw some of them play and I thought they were great."


The late Bob Probert’s memoir, Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge, an excerpt in the CS-T:

“In Detroit, hockey is on the front page. In Chicago, it's way down on the fifth. So if you screw up, it's not always going to make the paper. I'd go to the games and practices and come home -- the typical family man. The pressure was off. I was kind of private, so I didn't like how my life had always been spread out in the Detroit papers....

During the season, the Hawks went out to L.A. My old connection was waiting for me after the game, at the bar in the rink. I had been straight for about a year. He handed me an 8-ball of coke and I said, ‘Oh, thanks buddy.’ I put it in my racquetball case, and it stayed there for, like, six years. And then, in my last year, I had a couple of guys over and said, ‘Hey, I've got this stuff and I've been waiting for a special occasion.’ Cocaine does not go bad.”

Bob Probert’s last ride.

Probert in action and I don’t mean scoring goals.


Obituary of the Week

Quintin Dailey (1961-2010)


Thanks to Jay Babcock, Steve Beeho.

Cahuenga Peak, Hollywood, California

Photo by Chris Collins

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