a new low in topical enlightenment

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Issue #52 (June 30, 2010)

Lake Erie, Bay Village, Ohio; Spring 2000

Photo by Chris Collins

From the London desk of Steve Beeho...

Academic male slags alert!
Although they might see it differently, Mark E. Smith’s and Billy Childish’s resolute commitment to the punk ethos that raw music and art aren’t incompatible left their contemporaries from the class of 77 (UK division) in the dust a long time ago. And it’s striking how both men’s work is rooted in a deliberate form of localism, (each still lives close to where they grew up) while their wilful anti-professionalism is combined with an industriousness that puts their peers to shame (Childish’s productivity verges on the industrial!).

With such rich and ever-expanding bodies of work it was inevitable that the academic world would catch up. What’s far more surprising is that the results aren't too shoddy at all.
In 2008 the one-day ‘Messing Up the Paintwork’ conference devoted to Mark E. Smith/The Fall took place at the University of Salford. The majority of the papers have now been published in the collection 'Mark E. Smith and The Fall: Art Music and Politics'
As a taster the introductory chapter is online [pdf file], as is Mark Fisher's dazzling piece on the early 'classic' era, 'Memorex for the Krakens: The Fall's Pulp Modernism', originally published in three parts here, here, and here.
Not every essay hits the mark – sometimes the un-Fall-like earnestness gets a bit much and an attempt to draw parallels with the Situationists is particularly strained - but overall the collection makes a refreshing antidote to the cliched one-dimensional coverage that The Fall are so often lumbered with nowadays.
Neal Brown’s rather more compact 'Billy Childish: A Short Study', (which used to be online as a much snazzier pdf), rightly treats Childish’s music, poetry and painting as inextricably linked expressions of the same distinctive aesthetic vision, rather than compartmentalising them. Brown says in his afterword that what began as an essay blossomed into an “inadequately short book” and looks forward to the day a more comprehensive book on Childish’s work appears. It can’t be long.

Meanwhile Stuart Schrader deconstructs in four parts the contemporary flyer attacking the 1978 San Francisco punk benefit for striking Kentucky miners, and unravels the clash between punk’s pragmatic er, “autogestion” [self-management] and the self-righteous more-radical-than-thou one-upmanship of the far left. And who knew that Nico Ordway, the lyricist of the Dils’ 'Class War' thunderbolt, is now better known as neocon pundit Stephen Schwartz?!
Writing in Standpoint, Nick Cohen looks at how the British Revolutionary Communist Party has reinvented itself as rent-a-quote controversialists for media consumption.

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Steven Greenhouse in the NYT, "Labor’s New Critics: Old Allies in Elected Office".

“At a time when many private sector workers have been badly squeezed by stagnant wages, soaring health care premiums and shrinking 401(k)’s, resentment has grown even among private sector union members toward the public employee unions. ‘It’s almost as if the private sector is blaming the public sector as the spoiled child in the house of labor,’ Professor Chaison said.”


David Grant in the CSM on Megan Stack’s book, Every Man in this Village Is a Liar.

“Perhaps the book’s most elegant passage is one where Stack – without condescension or simplification – brings the reader eye to eye with the Arab world’s profound sense of shame and dispossession. As Stack discusses the torture and rampant, vicious (and often deadly) backbiting of the Saddam Hussein regime with an Iraqi from the Shiite holy city of Najaf, the man’s hands tremble and his silence deepens before he allows, ‘Really, it is a shame upon us that we have such things.’ Stack writes: ‘A shame upon us. I shivered in the heat. Yes, that was it, somebody had finally said it out loud. These people were embarrassed about what they had endured, about the parts they had been forced to play – victims or tormentors, it was all unendurably shameful.’ And so, Stack observes: ‘They had sunk deeper and deeper into collective guilt until the moment of their final humiliation: they had been invaded by the Americans.’”


Francesco Sisci at atimes.com on Yu Shicun’s book Zhongguo Nan.

“Yu shuns the main winning characters, the heroes of the history books. He prefers the ones who stood on the side, who were defeated, and who represent the deep undercurrents of Chinese society but who were beaten and mauled by the main stream of history. So, Yu ignores Empress Ci Xi, who embodied the stubborn resistance to modernization and change, and chooses to tell us about Guang Xu, the emperor who tried to reform the empire but was toppled, imprisoned, and at last poisoned by Ci Xi. Yu equally ignores the epic founder of the Chinese Communist Party, the stern Li Dazhao, and gives us instead the portrait of his tortured alter-ego Qu Qiubai, the tragic communist intellectual who ended up facing a Nationalist firing squad while his comrades were roaming the country in what later was called the Long March.”


Guy Dinmore in the FT on Chinese crime families in Italy.

“With Italy’s own Mafia entrenched in Sicily and the south, investigators say it is natural that Chinese criminal gangs move in to exploit niche markets in the central and northern cities hosting rapidly growing Chinese populations. ‘We need voices from within the community to tackle these criminal gangs. We need a protection plan for collaborators,’ Mr Grasso says.

Piero Tony, Prato state prosecutor, estimates there are some 45,000 Chinese in the city, of whom only 10,000 are there legally. In a recent speech Mr Tony said Chinese criminal gangs were the strongest in the area, vying for power with the Russian, Albanian, Nigerian and Romanian criminal groups. ‘The Chinese have enclaves of closed communities where there is not a strong Italian Mafia,’ says Mr Grasso, noting that in Sicily Chinese businesses were forced to pay the pizzo – extortion money – to the Cosa Nostra rather than Chinese organised crime.”


Pacific Islands Report editorial, "Pacific’s New Arab Friendship Comes at a Price".

“Samoa’s undecided on whales. We’re really not sure. They come around here from time to time and we don’t want them wiped out or anything but possibly killing them sustainably is acceptable. However, on the issue of Iran’s occupation of some obscure islands claimed by the United Arab Emirates, Samoa’s policy is crystal clear. We want Iran out.

Your newspaper is indebted to the The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, for this important and possibly surprising information since no explanation or announcement has been forthcoming from closer to home - for example government buildings.”


Edward Glaeser in the New Republic on Joel Mokyr’s book, The Enlightened Economy.

“The Industrial Revolution is the inflection point of economic history. During all the millennia before that revolution, incomes were static and humans were poor -- often hungry, inadequately clothed, ill-housed. But somehow, in the two-and-a-half centuries since humanity learned to mass produce, a large number of ordinary people have acquired more material comfort than even the wealthiest magnates of the pre-industrial era. A modern Wal-Mart would have been a place of incalculable riches to Charlemagne.”


Andrew Willis at euobserver.com, Allegations of secret Colombian plan to undermine EU.

Nothing infuriates the arbiters of world justice than that their defendants be caught defending themselves.


No doubt straight-arrow Jan Wenner thinks he’s helping out the President by slipping the off-the-record conventions from his reporter so as to, what? Stop the war? Bring the war home? Impress Bono? I suspect the military will continue to advertise in Rolling Stone because they don’t understand rapidly changing media demographics, but there probably won’t be another sit-down that yields anything but the kind of briefing palaver the old New Journalists of the Johnson era called the Follies. The mag’s website doesn’t post anything as weighty as a story so when the story broke from early promotional distribution before the mag was out, even in NY and LA, both Time and Politico posted pdf’s of the story. This was duly noted as “new-media theft” only by old-media types, which thereby shoots to shit their own case to stay viable by charging for copyrighted product as of some future date agreed upon secretly in collusion with competitors in clear restraint-of-trade violation of whatever’s left of the Constitution. It is interesting that magazines can still make news, but the web forced Rolling Stone to post this story. Or rather, Time and Politico forced them by threatening to steal profit in terms of site-traffic. When RS relented and posted it the others took down their pirated copies and linked to the RS site. Still, it’s ongoing because the news media is obsessive mostly about itself. Here’s Tuesday’s update at Yahoo.com , and Matt Taibbi who gets to posture as the standard of righteous cool because he keeps it clean at Rolling Stone magazine. Say Matt, what’s Lady Gaga really like? [In case RS must soon change the headline under pressure from cool sisters, it was originally titled, Lara Logan You Suck.]

He didn’t approve of David Brooks’ column in the NYT, "The Culture of Exposure", either but some higher-up got nervous apparently over a David Brooks You Suck header. But Brooks hardly had to use a single synapse to conclude his analysis of the RS’s mess, “Government officials will erect even higher walls between themselves and the outside world. The honest and freewheeling will continue to flee public life, and the cautious and calculating will remain.”

Daniel Heninger in the WSJ takes a wider veiw as well in his "Perils of the Media Presidency":

“Only two presidents have held office in an always-on information milieu this vast -- George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Both, in different ways, have not recognized the scale of the new reality and suffered for it, as Mr. Obama is now. George Bush didn't care. He got hammered, ending his presidency with an approval rating driven so low by bad media… that it sucked his party down the drain.

Barack Obama cared. He used the Web to win the White House. Once in the White House, Obama allowed -- no, he encouraged -- the electronic vapors to raise him up to the status of an iconic presidency. His White House whiz kids deployed all the elements of electronica to ensure that Barack remained larger than life.

No person, no president, can bear this much media weight. Presidents need to find a way to redistribute the load. They need to find a way to re-normalize expectations.”


This explains why I used to get Trader Monthly in the mail despite 1) never subscribing to it, and 2) not being a trader of anything. Edward Kosner in the WSJ on Randall Lane’s book, The Zeroes.

“Soon the pair comes under the spell of a business-mag vet named Jim Dunning, who pumps his own millions into the enterprise and spins a vision of tiny Doubledown quadrupling down in a bid to become an international marketing machine stalking the new ‘working wealthy.’ The hunt for money to grow on puts Lane & Co. on a treadmill to oblivion. Mr. Lane meets with a grotesque assortment of bankers, venture capitalists, merger partners, potential acquirers and other scalawags. Black books and deal sheets are exchanged. Credit lines are dangled and jerked away. At one point his venture is valued at $25 million; at another, $17 million.

Such healthy valuations were strange because as ‘The Zeroes’ goes along it becomes obvious that, while Mr. Lane's company is churning out a half-million free copies a month, it is really in the business of staging parties. Advertisers and potential advertisers pay Doubledown for the privilege of pouring the latest designer vodka down the gullets of Wall Street's new aristocracy, peddling $10,000 watches on the wrists of arm-candy models and enticing rich marks into $300,000 Maybach luxury sedans and time-share condos in Las Vegas.”


Campbell Robertson and John Collins Rudolf in the NYT playing "Who’s the Tarbaby?" for their editorial board’s nervous bet for the 2012 matchup: Jindal vs. Obama.


Emily Colette Wilkinson at Incharacter.org on Frank McLynn’s book, Marcus Aurelius - A Life.

“Between the hyper-intellectual abstractions of university philosophers and the calculating, materialistic schemes of self-help gurus, lies another philosophy. This is the philosophy of the ancients, of Marcus Aurelius….

Marcus Aurelius' contribution to this philosophy has come to be known simply as the Meditations, though the title Marcus gave the work -- more a private collection of self-examinations and moral exercises than a systematic philosophy or spiritual autobiography intended for publication -- was ‘The matters addressed to himself.’ And it is as much a model of moral self-examination as a demonstration of Stoic principles. The work's subtitles suggest that Marcus wrote some portion of the text during Rome's Marcommanic wars, a long, brutal series of military campaigns prompted by the invasions of barbarian German tribes on the northern boarders of the Roman Empire during the 160's.

These wars occupied most of the last two decades of Marcus' reign as emperor (160's and 170's), but to read the Meditations, you would not imagine them to be the writings of a man encamped in barbarian lands in the midst of war, nor of a man commanding the largest army ever assembled on the frontier of the Roman empire, nor of a man whose empire and army were in the grip of the Antonine plague (believed now to have been smallpox or measles, possibly both), that lasted from 165-180 and killed, by some estimates as many as 18 million people, including, in 180, Marcus himself (notwithstanding Ridley Scott's fanciful version of Marcus Aurelius' death in Gladiator-smothered by his son, the psychotic future emperor Commodus). The Meditations' lack of political or worldly anguish and anxiety is a mark of the philosophy they profess: Stoicism.”


Noah Feldman in the NYT on "The Triumphant Decline of the WASP".

“Why did the Protestant elite open its institutions to all comers? The answer can be traced in large part to the anti-aristocratic ideals of the Constitution, which banned titles of nobility and thus encouraged success based on merit. For many years, the Protestant elite was itself open to rising white Protestants not from old-family backgrounds.

Money certainly granted entrée into governing circles, but education was probably more important to the way the Protestant elite defined itself, which is why the opening of the great American universities has had such an epochal effect in changing the demographics of American elites. Another key source was the ideal of fair play, imported from the ideology of the English public schools, but practiced far more widely in the United States than in the class-ridden mother country.

Together, these social beliefs in equality undercut the impulse toward exclusive privilege that every successful group indulges on occasion…. This was not just a case of an elite looking outside itself for rejuvenation: the inclusiveness of the last 50 years has been the product of sincerely held ideals put into action.

Interestingly, this era of inclusion was accompanied by a corresponding diffusion of the distinctive fashion (or rather anti-fashion) of the Protestant elite class. The style now generically called ‘prep,’ originally known as ‘Ivy League,’ was long purveyed by Jewish and immigrant haberdashers (the ‘J.’ in the New Haven store J. Press stands for Jacobi) and then taken global by Ralph Lauren, né Lifshitz. But until the Protestant-dominated Ivy League began to open up, the wearers of the style were restricted to that elite subculture. The spread of Ivy League style is therefore not a frivolous matter.”


Ahmed Zewail in the CSM on American science as soft power-strong force.

“I felt the full force of this soft power when I came to the US in 1969 to begin graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. I discovered how science is truly a universal language, one that forges new connections among individuals and opens the mind to ideas that go far beyond the classroom. My education in America instilled in me greater appreciation for the value of scholarly discourse and the use of the scientific method in dealing with complex issues. It sowed, then nurtured, new seeds of political and cultural tolerance.

But perhaps most significant was that I came to appreciate the extent to which science embodies the core values of what the American Founders called ‘the rights of man’ as set forth in the US Constitution: freedom of thought and speech, which are essential to creative advancement in the sciences; and the commitment to equality of opportunity, because scientific achievement is blind to ethnicity, race, or cultural background.”


Here’s an Artbook w/CD worth buying, if it’s out or when it’s out, and it’s yet more evidence of the richness of the Los Angeles music scene in the punk era:

End of the World! World Imitation & Monitor 1977 - 1982 by Antonio Beecroft.

“Somehow, over the years I had developed an image of Monitor as a kind of hippie fascist survival cult, living solely on bee pollen and LSD in a rural Southern California canyon, re-entering civilization only to hastily buy the rare candy bar at convenience stores. I was only partially wrong.”


Jay Babcock re-posted his Black Flag How-they-done-it at arthurmag.com.

And here’s Jay’s re-post of my old email feature, The History of Black Flag Line-up by Line-up.


Neil Genzlinger in the NYT on “Leave It to Beaver”.

“‘Jokes get in the way,’ Tony Dow, who played Wally, said in a telephone interview, talking about the ‘Beaver’ writers’ reliance on more placid, observational humor. ‘They get in the way of your concentration when you’re trying to get at a story. We would throw jokes out at the table reading.’

That is what hits you first when you sit down with a box of ‘Beaver’: television comedy was a much slower animal back then. You have to detox mentally to watch these shows, to lay aside your caffeine and BlackBerry addictions and be prepared to wait for your rewards. That bathtub scene takes almost three and a half minutes to unspool. In that time Hannah Montana could have traded six insults with her father, tripped over a couch, lost her wig, dumped two boyfriends and had a crisis involving shoes.”


Anthony Lane in the NYer on the Eurovision song contest [no link] is funny enough but since they sent him there it’s too long considering that it is without musicological insight, though on the language of the lyrics he explains much. He notes that only Abba and Celine Dion of the winners or losers ever graduated from the contest to any sort of international (read: American) career. Lane is a Brit so he uses Brit rock signposts to illustrate even the distance between actual Brit-pop and the unaccountably only slightly more risible Brit entries. Lane is right to say the songs are not out of line with the rest of Europe’s actual pop. He notes P.J. O’Rourke’s beholding a 1986 Warsaw dance floor and bemoaning ‘the tragic lack of black people behind the Iron Curtain.’ But as Lane remarks there’s been American jazz ex-pats in Paris for going on a hundred years and there’s enough Africans playing music in their parks that they don’t even have to turn the radio on to get exposure to rhythm.

But Europe is not America. And again, all those five centuries of racism in America? That was peoples getting to know one another in the inadequate but true human way they do in a free republic (or before that, in a distant, tenuously governed colonial wilderness). Humans today in Europes east and west are not free in the same American-style way, and smiling at the ex-natives in the park drum away is no substitution for the world-historical meeting and centuries-long steeping of British (and French and Spanish) folk songs and church music with the African culture of playing music. One of Rough Trade Records’ p.r. slogans one found on their postcards in the early 1980s, was “Free Up Your Foundation.” That was lifted from some Jamaican, knowing them, but though they understood that was what Britain needed, they were barely capable of allowing such. The British come closest over there I suppose, but as I listen to some of Lightbourne’s foundational records from his highschool and college years in the late fifties to the mid-sixties (New Lost City Ramblers, Koerner Ray & Glover, Holy Modal Rounders, Michael Hurley, John Fahey…) I’m struck again by the high quality of people involved making American music and the resultant high folk/high pop/rock and roll that they produced. And imagining what these American geniuses were up against to be heard come 1963, one might concur with Dave’s seemingly rash summary point made to Elliott Johnston and his tape recorder: “Fuck the Beatles.”


Obituaries of the Week

Dwight Armstrong by Margalit Fox in the NYT.

Algirdas Brazauskas in the Telegraph.

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Issue #51 (June 23, 2010)

The Stooges Wax Museum, Ann Arbor, 2000

Photo by Chris Collins

Breathless Baloney
(Or, Finally! A Frenchman That Makes Le Socialisme Seem Dirty!!)

By Carolyn Heinze

O.K. Anglophones: I know it’s (quite supposedly) summer, but I’m also fairly quite sure that more than a few of you are quite fairly familiar with Summer School. So bring on the pencils and books and Teacher’s dirty looks, because you’re in for quite a lesson. A French lesson. What? Parlez-vous français déjà ? Well, good for you. No really . . .  félicitations ! (But I bet you don’t know as much slang and argot and verlan and gros mots as Mlle Heinze.) (And if you do, well hell – don’t be greedy – please share! Mlle Heinze is always looking for more words to add to her personal vocabulaire . . . )

Allez, les enfants. . . Here goes (and I’m only kinda sorta ripping off from my Larousse Compact, dictionnaire de français, printed in Italia, in 2005):

•escroc (n.m;, as in masculine noun, as in un escroc, pronounced ESS-CROW): Rip-off artist.

•arnaqueur (n.m.; pronounced ARNACK-ER, but with the French-y-esque accent on the ER that’s always really hard to do at first. . . there’s also a feminine version of this noun but for the purpose of this lesson, we don’t need to bother with it. Which is kinda like a metaphor for society itself in a kinda wink-wink knudge-knudge-ironic kind of way. But that’s another lesson for another kind of class for another kind of day . . .): Rip-off artist.

•margoulin (n.m.; that’s MAR-GOO-LIN, with that IN sound transforming into a kind of UNHNH sound . . . you’ll get the hang of it eventually . . .): Rip-off artist.

Then there’s branleur (masturbator) and glandeur (slack-ass masturbator) and prétentieux (haughty-assed jerk-off) and the more simple-concise con (jerk). O.K., Class, now let’s take a moment to think. Réfléchissez-bien, les enfants ! Can anyone name a synonym – that’s synonyme – for all these words? What’s that, Bobby, in the back? Any ideas? Anyone…? Anyone…? Personne ? Non ? Well, grab those pencils and those books and be sure to write this down: The synonyme du jour is: Jean-Luc Godard.

The best thing about Jean-Luc Godard is that when you’re in the mood to be pissed off, he’ll deliver. With whistles and flying colors and beating drums and bells. And feedback loops and off-off-off voices and more feedback loops and white noise and a J-L.G-directed audio guy in some audio recording studio somewhere where they do audio, rubbing their hands together in front of the Peavey or Midas or Mackie or SSL or whatever the hell, immensely pleased – non, thrilled; non, delighted; non, totally blown away! – at how arty and abstract and avant-garde they are. The best thing about Jean-Luc Godard is that he never changes, he never develops, he never evolves. He’s always consistent. And after watching one of his “films,” you’ll be pissed off. So pissed off that you’ll consider – seriously consider – sending him an invoice. You know, for wasting your time.

(I’ve often wondered, really wondered – whenever it is that I’m wondering about such things – I’ve often wondered about who’s more jealous of whom: Jean-Luc Godard or Guy Debord. Because between the two of them there’s got to be a little old-fashioned rivalry, a kind of love-to-hate vibe, some bitchiness, some bicker-y-ness, some envy. But who, I wonder…who envies who more? You know, for making so many films about nothing?) (Not to be racist or anything, but I think that when it comes to making films and books and music and art and television shows about nothing, they should really leave that to the Americans. When it comes to stuff about nothing, Americans are really much more fun. Like, remember that guy who had that sitcom about nothing and it lasted for years and years and years? Fun-ny!)

Sure, O.K. all right, fine: Godard did make Breathless (that’s Au bout de souffle, les élèves) and then of course, I haven’t forgotten, just to be fair…and then there was Le Mépris. But everyone loves a little Bébel, no matter the director, especially in black-and-white, especially opposite Jean Seberg. (Wasn’t she the cutest? And didn’t she have fabulous taste in men? I mean…Romain Gary? Romain-fucking-Gary? Out of all the sexy-brainy dead guys I have a crush on, he’s definitely near the top of the list…) And even though she spent most of Le Mépris passive/aggressively pacing around while whining passive/aggressive French-girl insults, passive/aggressively, in the direction of a passive Michel Piccoli, no one can deny the aesthetics of la Bardot’s ass in that very first scene. But (or, ‘butt’) still. . .

Film socialisme, Godard’s latest foray into nothingness, is one of those flicks that you can say you’ve seen once you’ve seen the trailer. Kind of like The A-Team. You know sometimes when you’re at an expo or a vernissage and there’s art on the walls and sculptures on the floor or suspended in the air and then there’s this bad video installation shoved off into a corner somewhere and it’s emitting endless loops of what sounds like it could be a human being, but it also sounds like moo-ing and moaning and meowing? And then after your third glass of free Veuve Cliquot you finally go over to check it out and discover that it actually is a human being and they are actually moo-ing…and moaning…and meowing…and they’re also rolling and romping and writhing around on the floor in-the-buff and they have a pimply bum? Well, Godard’s Film socialisme is kinda like that.

One could argue that some journalists should just let the guy off the hook, pick on somebody their own (youthful-young-just-about-to-blossom-into-blossominess) age; Godard is nearly 80, after all. A ripe old age for senility. But a wise Frenchman recently remarked that Jean-Luc Godard burned his last brain cell in May 1968. So if senility’s an excuse for all that bad video art – excusez-moi…cinéma – then ol’ J-L.G. has been riding that one for a while. I’m not telling you not to go see Film socialisme; I’m just saying that if you have an extra ten euros (right now that’s a bargain-basement 12 bucks, mes amis !) you’re better off taking your girlfriend out for a drink. A bursty-bubbly-champagne-y one.

But if you do go to see it, be sure to drop me a line afterwards. So I can give you Godard’s address. You know, for when you decide to send him an invoice. You know, for that lost hour-and-a-half or your time.

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Ben Austen in Harper’s, on Chicago, D.C. There’s no link but it’s a good piece that despite its pat acceptance of the old false narrative captures the faint echoes of past contradictions and suppressed truths, all-the-fainter perhaps because only Richard M. would dare defend his father or himself and like his father he’s not the best at stating his case; he is however good at the doing of things on the ground.

“Prior to his congressional run, Rahm Emanuel worked at the Chicago office of a large investment bank, earning $18 million in just two and a half years, a windfall due largely to the network of clients he tapped from his days in the Clinton White House and the Daley City Hall. Few Chicagoans would think of a job at City Hall as an opportunity to ‘give back.’ Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Sun-Times, told me with a laugh, ‘You might think, That person has a good pension, or Maybe they know someone, or They don’t have to work very hard. But you’d never say, It’s public service. It’s not the Peace Corps’….

“Indeed, many of the Chicago set I met in Washington firmly believed their political destiny lay back home. With ‘change’ on the national level repeatedly undermined by partisanship and advanced only through a near-endless series of painful compromises, progressive politics now seemed to them more plausible -- even desirable -- on the local level. In Chicago, they already knew all the street names, all the players…. Chicago was just 228 square miles; anything should be possible there.”


Daley on Wal-Mart via chicagonewscoop.org.

“‘If suburban areas have it, why can’t we have it in the black and Hispanic communities?’ the mayor told reporters during a news conference in his office. ‘You never question it in the suburban areas? Why don’t you question it? Ask the same questions as hard as you ask me. You don’t. You accept it there because most of you live in the suburbs, right? Most of you live in the suburbs, so you don’t question that. But you will question it here in the city of Chicago. ‘Never question it where I live.’ Can I ask you a question? Why? Why is that?’

With labors unions calling on Wal-Mart to guarantee better wages, the company and its allies at City Hall have been unable to muster the votes for the new South Side store.”


Alex Quigley at chicagonow.com on breaking into Wrigley Field late one night.

“Standing in the bleachers at night in complete darkness is indescribable. It's also unphotographable with a phone camera, because the high grandstands and lack of any internal lights make it once of the darkest places possible within Chicago's city limits. As we walked down a bleacher row to the left-field foul line, the echoing footfalls on the metal benches sounded as loud as muffled gunshots. We didn't care by that point.”

Nora comments:

“I have lots of stories of working the midnight shift at the park when people like u would climb over the gate by the firehouse and try and run the bases among other things. I would get on the microphone in the office and tell the intruders that after I counted to ten I was going to release the dogs....it worked every time.”


Ron Artest’s remarks after Los Angeles Lakers’ Game 7 win; best post-game remarks session of all time. Unlike Kobe’s use of his daughters which commenced you-know-when with the help of the NBA and ABC-ESPN and TNT, Ron’s family are not props in some advertisement dollar-determined image-rehab project. He is apologetic to his former contending team, and thrilled to be a champ today, and funny often, especially when he asks where his younger son is and is told he’s with Kobe.

Every year when NBA Commissioner David Stern awards the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy to the winner you can tell he so wishes he could say, “Congratulations to this year’s NBA Champion New York Knicks!” But David don’t have enough years left in his life for that to happen. This creepy article by Laura Holson in the NYT on Cablevision-Knicks-Rangers-MSG owner’s James Dolan’s soul-baring misuse of songform must be a peace offering to a fellow media titan after the NYT’s sports journalist Selena Roberts reported with passion the rot that underpins the Knicks’ ongoing tribulations. Nominally it was a sexual harassment case against Isaiah Thomas but it spun out in all directions until it all got explained when Dolan got on the witness stand. We guess he was a friendly witness for the defense. As Elliott Spitzer says of Dolan’s heartfelt celebration of his downfall, “I always admired the multiple layers of Jim’s personality. I applaud his creativity.” The Knicks hope to sign LeBron James or another of the top-line NBA free agents who may wish for reasons of their own to destroy their career.


David Harris on his father in the International Herald Tribune.

“Raised in Berlin as an only child, he was sent to an aunt in Vienna for ‘safekeeping’ when Hitler came to power in 1933. He wouldn't see his parents again until after the war. Meanwhile, his aunt wasn’t all that keen to have him. Nor, as it turned out were the Austrians. After the 1938 Anschluss, my father fled to Paris. Within a short while, he was in the French Foreign Legion, and then, after France fell, sent to a Vichy labor camp in western Algeria. Later, after a miraculous escape and trek across the Sahara Desert, he worked behind enemy lines for O.S.S….

Learning even the rough outline of my father's biography required relentless questioning of his few friends and even fewer relatives. Fast forward to San Francisco. My wife's sister and brother-in-law, residents there, had come into possession of some of my father's belongings after he passed away in 1998. The boxes stayed in a garage until one day my in-laws went through them. The result was a folder they gave me during my visit. It contained a diploma, written in German. My father had been awarded an honorary doctorate, in 1975, by the Institute of Chemistry in Vienna. The degree was presented for his work at the institute from 1936 to 1938 on ‘synthesis of the heavy hydrogen atom.’ As he was born in 1920, he was cited for cutting-edge research pursued between the ages of 16 and 18!”


Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic, "The End of Men" follows their earlier cover story, "The End of White America". Whereas Camille Paglia is unafraid to give men, capitalism, Catholicism, patriarchy, et. al., their due, most women-on-women writing is really lazy and pat. In addition this piece is longer than its writer can sustain (no doubt its to be expanded for a forthcoming book!) and it’s not as funny as its illustrations imply it is meant to be. Yoko Ono’s liner notes for her 1971 gate-fold double album, Approximately Infinite Universe, covered all this back then. They were titled “The Feminization of Society” and were published in abridged form in the New York Times as well. Those were the days! Even the drivel had style back then, and who knew where the world was heading? Maybe Yoko was one of our leading intellectuals. The back cover even has Yoko and John talking about astral identity. That could be another essay idea for Rosin, but that one may not get the cover.


Carlene Bauer at Slate on Belinda Carlisle’s memoir, Lips Unsealed, is surprised she had much to say, but given the Go-Go’s beginnings in the early Hollywood punk scene at least that period would have to be interesting. In fact its so good according to Bauer it brings to mind my book about Naomi Petersen and SST.


Steven Rosen in Cincinnati CityBeat at rocksbackpagesblogs.com on The Stooges at Cincinnati Summer Pop Festival telecast, 1970.


Mats Persson at euobserver.com on EU’s boredom strategy for stealth evolution.

“This afternoon Commission President Barroso, speaking at the European University Institute in Florence, also reminded the UK’s Coalition Government why the game over the EU’s economic government is far from over:

‘The European Council’s conclusions have envisaged small steps, which sometimes are the most important. It is like a silent revolution – stronger economic governance made through small steps’

he said according to Italian media.

Talk like this scares the bejesus out of British politicians – particularly those on the right – as the EU’s entire history is seen as a long silent revolution, whose final outcome is clear: a fully-fledged federal Europe. And the actual proposals for the first step towards en EU economic government won’t be tabled until October – and much can happen before then. As Cameron said, ‘You’ve always got to be on your guard’ in the EU.”


Peter Baldwin at opendemocracy.net, "Is the EU Too Big to be Democratic?"

“The seldom-noticed secret of comparisons across the Atlantic is that they set a continent-sized behemoth in relation to a series of small nations, some of which are downright dollhouse in magnitude. Naturally each of the smaller ones will seem more homogeneous, equal and unstratified than the large one. But if we perform the same exercise using instead US federal states and EU nations, the comparisons become much more what you would expect. Thus, for example, it is true that the US is as a whole more unequal than most European nations, measured as the ratio of richest quintile to the poorest. But if that comparison is broken into is component parts, it turns out that Wisconsin, say, is less stratified than France, Vermont less so that Greece, Ohio less than Italy, Alabama less than the UK and California less than Portugal.”


Lee Harris at Hoover.org, "The Tea Party vs. the Intellectuals".

It takes Harris a little while to kick in this time but he’s always worth reading.

“When referring to marginalized outsiders, Gramsci had in mind the kind of people who inhabited his native island of Sardinia. Tough and hardy, ferociously independent, stubborn in their ways, and pugnaciously proud of their own cultural identity, Sardinians embodied the “Don’t tread on me!” attitude and were prepared to back it up with action, often quite violent action. Italians born on the mainland looked down on the islanders, regarding them as crude and uncouth, which by sophisticated standards they certainly were…. Yet Gramsci, far from feeling shame about his native Sardinia, remained intensely proud of it all his life. Indeed, it was thanks to his native Sardinia that Gramsci came to recognize that snobbery is a powerful form of oppression. Those who establish a monopoly of prestige are no more willing to share their cosa nostra with others than those who have created commercial monopolies.

The only defense that the marginalized outsider has against this onslaught is to not give a damn. And the fact that the Tea Party movement does not give a damn about the current standards of intellectual respectability makes it problematic for the intellectual, who cannot take the same attitude. But it is also the characteristic that justifies the Tea Party’s claim to be revolutionary. To be sure, this is not the revolution envisioned by Marx, in which the working class overthrows the capitalist class. It is rather the revolt of common sense against privileged opinion makers, and, by its very nature, it can only be carried out by men and women who are not constrained by the standards of intellectual respectability current in polite company. Again, it is precisely their status as marginalized outsiders that allows them to defy the monopoly of prestige possessed by the cultural insiders. This fact may put them beyond the pale as far as the conservative intellectuals are concerned, but it is precisely what makes them a force capable of resisting the liberal elite’s efforts to achieve cultural hegemony — a resistance that conservative intellectuals had hoped to mount but which they have not mounted, which explains why the Tea Party movement has so little use for them as a whole. As the Tea Partiers see it, what is most needed right now are not new ideas — we have already had far too many of those. What is needed is the revitalization of a very old attitude — the attitude shared by all people who have been able to maintain their liberty and independence against those who would take it away from them: ‘We do not need an elite to govern us. We can govern ourselves.’”


Daniel Pipes on Ernest Sternberg in Orbis.

Sternberg’s "Purifying the World: What the New Radical Ideology Stands For" [pdf file].

“We are in the midst of the worldwide rise of a non-religious chiliastic movement, which preaches global human renewal and predicts apocalypse as its alternative. Like its twentieth-century predecessors, the new ideology provides an intellectual formula through which to identify the present world’s depredations, imagines a pure new world that eliminates them, and mobilizes the disaffected and alienated for the sake of radical change. Like the followers of totalitarianisms past, the new ideologues also see themselves as the vanguard for the highest humanitarian ideals. If many of us have failed to recognize the rise of this new movement, the reason may be that we are still trapped in defunct ideological categories.”


The May 17 issue of National Review takes a look at this Constitution everyone is talking about:

•Bradley Watson -- "Darwin’s Constitution"

“Dewey‘s elucidation of the new modes of social inquiry drew upon the thought of a number of Social Darwinist and pragmatist thinkers, including William Graham Sumner, Lester Frank Ward, William James, and W.E.B. Du Bois. These thinkers provided the intellectual categories of their age, and today those categories continue to exert a powerful influence over political -- and jurisprudential -- discourse. Collectively, they point to a view of society as an organism that is constantly in the throes of change and must adapt or die. Like the Social Darwinists, the pragmatists used naturalistic concepts and emphasized change, while rejecting what James called the ‘rationalist temper’ that ossifies rather than adapts. For the Social Darwinists and pragmatists, looking backward -- as Lincoln had done -- to founding principles, or to any other fixed standard of political practice, inevitably hinders the process of adaptation.”

•Michael Greve -- "Our Defunct Commercial Constitution":

“There is, or there once was, such a thing as the ‘commercial Constitution.’ Most of the powers and prohibitions specified in the Constitution concern commercial matters: commerce itself, obviously, but also patents and copyrights, bankruptcy, taxation, tariffs and duties, the coinage of money, contracts, and property rights. Enough of those provisions have fallen into desuetude to suggest that we no longer have a commercial Constitution….

Contrary to the misunderstanding that is especially widespread among conservatives, the New Deal did not simply unleash the federal government’s power on the states and the private economy. Rather, it expanded government power at all levels, state as well as federal. And to that end, it effectively repealed the commercial Constitution that had governed the United States for roughly 150 years.”


Jonathan Chait at TNR on Ezra Klein in the Washington Post on the Federal stimulus vs. the States’ anti-stimuli.

Chait and Klein are at pains to declare that factoring the states cuts, the fed spending is a wash, and further, taxation isn’t all that progressive either. They’re either trying to calm the Tea Partiers of their imagination, or they are truly struck by how much resistance there is to just a hint of the direction they are cheering on. George Skelton in the LAT defends state employees’ contracts re the busted budget in Calif. He prefers to remind his readers that union contracts didn’t bust that budget and he helpfully reminds us, “Sometimes when government cuts spending, it actually costs money.” Well we call that “Penny-wise Pound-foolish” but not usually in connection with a state that cannot restrain its activities and prerogatives to governmental ones. Because in that case one would be failing to see the trees for the forest.


WSJ editorial, "Captains of Subsidy" takes some CEO-types to task for their earnest call for tripling federal spending on energy research. Its Bill Gates’ name that stands out. Back in the days when he was working on his first billion he confidently expressed the opinion that he, his company, and his entire sector had no need for nor interest in the federal government. Turns out that was the wrong opinion to express if not have. The government was not up on all that computer jazz so they’d neglected to shake down this new cash-tree. The FTC and the Justice Department have been on his case ever since and now he dutifully forks over the requisite piles of cash to elect the right politicians and communicate with them through the right lobbyists. He even gives some away to poor foreigners. Anyway the WSJ recounts all the research spending going back to the Carter Administration, and concludes,

“As it happens, some of the captains of industry have sunk billions of dollars into blue-sky energy investments that can’t succeed without the crutch of subsidies, mandates and carbon taxes. So now they‘re asking Congress to make taxpayers pay twice -- in higher energy costs under cap and tax, and to finance their investments via a $160 billion-plus program over 10 years at a time when the federal deficit as a share of GDP is already at Greek levels. No wonder votes have come to distrust big business nearly as much as they do big government.”


Frank Rich in the NYT, "Clean the Gulf, Clean House, Clean Their Clock".

Rich is certain he knows what the President must do, act like the oil leak is 9-11. Unless I’ve misread his columns over the years none of the response to 9-11 was done correctly either. Rich has been writing since the seventies so you have to assume he’s been reading for that long as well. Maybe it’s just the state of Broadway back when he was a drama critic, but I found that learning to write characters in a plot against a setting was helpful in understanding human beings and the world around me.

Matt Bai in the NYT scratching his head on the new populism being of the right not the left. He figures President Obama is “too cool and contemplative to be terribly convincing” as a would-be scourge of “corporate behemoths”, but he summarizes that “voters perceive both business and government as part of an interdependent system, and it is hard for them to separate out the culpability of either.” Sounds like a job for the Constitution.


Scott Rosenberg at pbs.org on journalists’ thin skin.

He mentions journalists trained to refer to themselves as “this reporter” but that’s only broadcast journalists on-mic or on-camera, in print journalism it is more often “a reporter.” More to his point.


Shelby Steele in the WSJ often draws from the many destructive temptations for despair and hatred that black Americans were subject to for centuries as he looks around the world:

“If the Palestinians got everything they want—a sovereign nation and even, let's say, a nuclear weapon—they would wake the next morning still hounded by a sense of inferiority. For better or for worse, modernity is now the measure of man. And the quickest cover for inferiority is hatred. The problem is not me; it is them…. In other words, my hatred is my self-esteem. This must have much to do with why Yasser Arafat rejected Ehud Barak's famous Camp David offer of 2000 in which Israel offered more than 90% of what the Palestinians had demanded. To have accepted that offer would have been to forgo hatred as consolation and meaning. Thus it would have plunged the Palestinians—and by implication the broader Muslim world—into a confrontation with their inferiority relative to modernity.”


Mira Sethi in the WSJ on Pakistan’s Medieval Constitution.

“In 1974, Pakistan amended its constitution to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims. Ten years later, among a slew of anti-blasphemy laws—one of them famously known as ‘Ordinance XX’—the military dictator Zia ul-Haq made it a crime for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslims. They were forbidden from declaring their faith publicly, using the traditional Islamic greeting, and referring to their places of worship as mosques. In short, virtually any public act of worship or devotion by an Ahmadi can be treated as a criminal offense punishable by death.”


Daniel Byman and Christine Fair in The Atlantic, "The Case for Calling Them Nitwits".

Mostly a litany of bungled terrorist plots, but the authors should have considered the efficacy of ridicule itself, which when it has been tried to date has had its potential effect largely erased when all the good ecumenical un-believers in the west chastise the offenders at "South Park", or the various cartoonists who will live in infamy under the glories that will be New Andalus. After all, it is not that they are so often blunderers that is absurd, it is what they are intending for all humanity that is so worthy of ridicule.


Maryana Torocheshnikova at opendemocracy.net on Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev on showtrial in the FSU.

“Khodorkovsky concluded that any discussion about the disappearance of part of the profit from the sale of oil -- which is exactly what the prosecution were attempting to prove throughout the past year -- could only begin if prosecutors drop charges of stealing the oil itself. As Khodorkovsky argued, profit cannot arise ina companyu in which everything has been previously stolen.”


George Packer in the NYer on Peter Beinart’s book, The Icarus Syndrome.

One can see the NYT’s Thomas Friedman’s apologia for his cheerleading the Iraq war on a weekly basis; he seems to think he can Green his way back into the good graces of polite Manhattan society. Another odd bedfellow which helped President Bush launch the war was Peter Beinart. There were a lot of them on the left actually, and the phenomenon stemmed as much from the Clinton Administration’s experience going into Kosovo and not going into Rwanda, and the sense that 9-11 was a watershed that would require more than another peace-process restart. Forgotten as well, was that sense that this Iraq War was really a second battle of the same Iraq War which is the unstated standard used to impune how the second Bush Administration went about it.

Beinart is part of what makes The New Republic better than The Nation, and George Packer is probably wrong in assuming The New Yorker’s perspective was any better whatever he saw for himself on the ground. It took twenty-five years for a respectable liberal Democrat like Michael Lind to revisit, explain and justify the Vietnam War. You’d think the coast would be clearer on Iraq. The supporters of the war ran so far from it that any good that comes out of this new Iraq will redound to the reputations of only two persons in the west.

As Packer recounts and critiques Beinart’s journey through American involvements overseas and in Latin America through the 20th century, I thought of how certain conventional wisdom is that our actions always backfire, as in our authorship of modern jihad in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, or our authoring Khomeini’s Iranian Republic by bringing down Mossadegh, and yet as efficiently we are supposed to have achieved these ends we are counseled only despair at any unmaking or further remaking of them. In truth none of this is our business but as I wrote in "Brave New Class" there are venal leftwing reasons as well for these wars. And though it doesn’t seem likely we would have sat them all out, I do like Pat Buchanan’s construction in his book, A Republic, Not an Empire, whereby our late entry into WWI extends the war until the Tsar falls to the Bolsheviks, and saves France so it can grind Germany at Versailles, resulting in WWII, and the Cold War and all its hot spots.


Geoff Dyer in The Guardian on war non-fiction’s shortcut to formerly novelists’ truths.


Thanks to Phil Freeman.

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• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Issue #50 (June 16, 2010)

Highway 130, Wyoming, Cleared

Photo by Joe Carducci

Chicago Blackhawks, Stanley Cup 2010
by Joe Carducci

Even when Chicago was by convention referred to as the Second City it was the largest coherent city that was not cobbled together like New York from its five constituent boroughs for pride of first-place against the Chicago growing from nothing in the second half of the 19th Century, or Los Angeles which annexed south for a port and north for tax base. Each “city” rumbles with secession efforts from time to time, but Chicago abides, though not without changes and despite being topographically as inadequate as it is geographically ideal -- the city was basically raised up out of the swamp onto a concrete substructure to allow for non-disease-ridden living and the construction of skyscrapers. It lost a million citizens from its early seventies three-plus million peak. As I’ve noted before, Houston has been the true Second City to Chicago in recent years if one is talking about cultural places that hang together as cities.

Hockey is to Chicago sports as Chicago is to its coastal betters. That is, under-appreciated, often forgotten and then it finds itself back in its old default status as bracketed with wrestling and roller derby. But people forget as well that basketball and football, especially in their professional leagues, were also cheap, gym-rat diversions. My dad told me that conventional sentiment among sports fans in the forties and fifties was that no-one would ever really take professional sports seriously, other than baseball. As late as the seventies professional basketball was a rather tawdry affair, especially the majority of the games between non-contending teams. Television and its money and the players’ unions fight for more of it, and the owners’ fight to find more money forged a desperate glamour from decades of tawdry locker room crud collected doing duty for b-ball, hockey, wrestling, boxing….

In the beginning the Chicago Blackhawks were founded by Major Frederic McLaughlin, a coffee magnate in the twenties known for his Manor House Coffee brand. McLaughlin bought the Portland Rosebuds of a regional league and moved them from Oregon to Chicago and named them the Blackhawks, after Chief Blackhawk who’d been the last free Indian Chief in Illinois. The current ownership, the Wirtz family came in from Detroit in the mid-thirties as they collected indoor arenas in the Midwest at Depression-era prices.

The players’ services were owned outright and they were paid little and most worked off-season jobs. Still that allowed tickets to be cheap enough that these teams survived the thirties on gate receipts. The NHL was an ongoing concern from the mid-twenties as it came together out of regional leagues in the northeast, the upper midwest, and the northwest, plus of course Canada. While the Wirtz family collected real estate and sold liquor they didn’t control their principal tenant, the Blackhawks, until 1954. They ran the team and the Stadium as if it was still the thirties. The NHL channel was running year by year Stanley Cup summaries and replaying old game telecasts and I caught Toronto vs. Chicago April 15, 1967, a semi-final Game 5 at the Stadium. For all its tawdry grubbiness it was quite refined in its presentation compared to today’s high-test melodrama borrowed mostly from professional wrestling and action movies, who got it from comic books. The Stadium ice circa 1967 had nothing on it but the red-line, the blue-lines, the face-off circles, the goal lines and two moderate-sized Blackhawk logos. The boards are white, there are no sponsors’ logos anywhere. The old scoreboard is an unreadable deco mess of clock faces. And the television production itself is likewise minimal. The announcer, probably Dan Kelly, is fine. There are rudimentary replays of goals and great saves, and even a slow motion replay that the kinescope can’t quite reproduce. The Stadium crowd doesn’t sound so different but it sounds older and more male. And the occasional flashes of the audience behind the benches reveal no logo clothing or jerseys, but suits still, and fedoras. It's no small credit to Arthur Wirtz and his son William who took over in 1983 that this austere thirties flavor was only slowly modernized and was still extant until the Stadium itself was dismantled in 1995.

My dad took my brothers and I to a game some time in this period, probably sometime before 1965. We sat back in a corner of the mezzanine well under the first balcony. We didn’t go often as my dad followed Pittsburgh teams rather than Chicago teams, but we got into the Stadium as kids to see the Blackhawks and the Bulls who were launched in 1966 as an expansion team. For basketball you could walk right down and take one of the good seats, there were so few people attending games in the years before the Dick Motta teams of the early seventies.

We also went to see the White Sox once, and more often the Cubs, who were always playing during the day and whose announcer, Jack Brickhouse, seemed pitched to kids. The Cubs audience sound was high pitched -- younger and more female; the Sox’s crowd was a low-pitched noise and they played at night in not-so-friendly old Comiskey Park. Brickhouse’s second was Lloyd Pettit. He wasn’t a distinctive baseball announcer but he came to be the standard for hockey. And because the Wirtzes did not televise the home games, one listened to Pettit a lot during their competitive stretch of 1969 thru 1974 when they made the finals twice, losing both times. Pettit married into the Bradley family and moved to Milwaukee where he built the Bradley Center and tried to bring an NHL franchise to town -- the Wirtzes stopped him. By the time Pettit was gone so was Bobby Hull as the WHA lured several high profile but underpaid NHL stars away to cities hungry for hockey. Free agency and expansion ended that world.

Chicago was pronounced “America’s Greatest City” in a 1985 issue of The New Republic and it seems even that late it was the traces of thirties Chicago that the author was touting. Those plus the pall of pessimism that the Slavs lent the city. There is something to that; the city is, or was, very Catholic but underneath the Irish and Italian sensibilities lies the Eastern Catholicism of Poles, Lithuanians and Croats that tilts toward the Orthodox in Ukrainian, Serbian, and Greek neighborhoods. Chicago filled up with the foreign-born and with blacks and also whites from the south. It’s amazing anyone could understand each other. The Machine was organized by Anton Cermak but the Irish came to be the political interlocutors among the other groups. Not to say the Daleys have been particularly fluent speakers of English but they are quite eloquent in speaking politics with and for these populations.

But that Slavic sensibility works its way through the Blackhawks story more-so than even the star-crossed-when-not-fully-cursed White Sox or Cubs stories. And that’s because hockey itself barely has its chin above the grown-ups’ table where the MLB, NFL, and NBA sup. The daily papers and local news and ESPN all display this lack of respect the sport gets, even though the expansion teams are now established and often Cup-winners and there’s been a parade of astonishing talent from Gretzky to Lemieux to Lindros that no-one questions. But the hammerheads on ESPN know nothing about ice hockey per se and somehow they profit by belaboring arcane football and basketball knowledge. With baseball it’s understandable I suppose, but I suspect the NFL is perfect for the sports-media rabble because the game is just once a week and that gives the local reporters six days of useless verbiage to excuse the last game and savor the prospect of the next.

Still, unless I missed something I don’t believe that even that professional Chicagoan on Saturday’s NPR program even mentioned the Stanley Cup story. Went straight to the World Cup, i.e. Soccer, you know, futbol, comprende? Professional Murdoch critics have been sniping over stray Brit turns of phrase in his Wall Street Journal, but given NPR’s Beeb-fallout I wasn’t buying it until last Friday’s and the Weekend Journal’s two day flood of articles and graphics about the World Cup, with no mention of the only trophy anyone really cares about. There is only one Stanley Cup and the winners do not keep it; they get their name etched on it and passed on to next season's winner. So what explains this? It must be some unfathomable Limey-Cheesehead issue from back in the Commonwealth days. But that doesn’t explain the Drudge Report’s soccer obsession. Is this the metric system constituency revealing itself?

But this year it’s working for Hockey. A strike-lock out ended the season only five years ago and in Chicago where the team was doing well it seemed Cubs-like in its serendipity, though Bill Wirtz was in his cranky pre-death phase and angry fans dropped their season tickets by the thousands. The minor league Chicago Wolves set up shop in 1994 the last year of the Stadium and played decent human-scale hockey in Rosemont in the northwest suburbs and built its base on disaffected fans, often featuring former Blackhawks like Al Secord, Troy Murray and Chris Chelios. But Game 6 last Wednesday in Philadelphia was the highest rated network hockey game since 1974 and the days of NBC’s Peter the Puck; still the share was barely to the level of the worst the NBA finals or Superbowl have ever done. The game I attended wasn’t dominant outside of the two cities and Canada due to the NBA and NHL both insisting on prime-time, so the Chicago show at the United Center wasn’t seen as widely. The United Center show isn’t what the old Stadium show was (see the Gulf War-era NHL All-Star Game anthem for a taste of that) but it was loud in there. They lined the top with reflectors when the original structure didn’t sound anywhere near as loud as the much smaller, solid brick Stadium had been. The ice is standard size now too. If you ask me only the food is better.

Ben Bentley, once the PA announcer at the Stadium and former boxing promoter and all around thirties-type gym rat, said once in the decades-long dog days of Chicago sports, “If you could only win in this town.” Bentley knew that all those Chicagoans walking around their bungalows in an east european fog would near jump out of their skin if their identification-investment in the local teams actually paid off in a championship. A big part of the Blackhawks diehards are from the first ring of working class suburbs within Cook County. The last year of the Stadium’s existence, 1994-5, was the year Lightbourne moved back to Chicago. My brothers and I had season tickets but I bought two in the second balcony so Dave could get a last look at the place. Up there it was all young adults from Berwyn, Cicero, Maywood and the like. Couples in groups sneaking a smoke reveling in the glory of their tawdry low-rung sport -- their secret: the Blackhawks at the Chicago Stadium. You can see today’s version of these Bohunk girls running after the busses at the Victory Parade last Friday in the Trib’s Alex Garcia’s video. Patrick Kane could lose a limb to one of these girls if he’s not careful.

The city is quite changed from Bentley’s day. That lost million make for large chunks of Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas and other places. I used to go to see the L.A. Kings in the early eighties and most of the original six visiting teams had their cheering sections but the Blackhawks fans turning out in Los Angeles could be quite present, almost like what you hear in St. Louis or Milwaukee baseball stadiums when the Cubs visit. I saw those games on Rick Van Santen’s or Kelley Thornton’s tickets. They’d have Richard Meltzer or Raymond Pettibon or Mike Watt or others to the Lakers or Kings games. We weren’t on the floor by Jack Nicholson or Dyan Cannon but there’s no doubt we were the coolest bunch in the Forum. The camera never settled on Mike Watt, no but it’s on Flea all the time. Rick’s uncle was Ralph Backstrom, a Cup-winner for Montreal and an ex-Blackhawk and then current University of Denver hockey coach. The Blackhawks could barely stay with the Edmondon Oilers in those years, but who could? They managed to get into the finals in 1991 but were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins. When my dad would be relishing another Steelers championship or Pirates World Series, I’d remind him of how good the Penguins were and he’d smile and say “That’s right, the mighty Penguins!” We were in Sarnano, Italy visiting the town where he was born during the finals so just one brother got to use our tickets and witness the nightmare.

My brother Mark lives near Las Vegas and he found us tickets that somehow came from a stash Tony Esposito had (that made it less painful to pay $800 apiece). Mark then flew back home Saturday and writes, “I went to the Hard Rock Sunday with my Hawks jersey on and couldn't get far without unending high-fives, fists, and lots of yelling ‘Hawks’...sent chills up my spine, and I still can't believe all the years watching culminating in the Cup win and over 2 million at the parade after expecting 350,000 per the press. My sports life aspirations are fulfilled!” One of Mark’s quirks is his conviction that one shouldn’t shout when everyone else is shouting, but should pick a moment when the arena is quiet, and then yell! In the old days he might wait a whole period for a quiet spot to yell out “Koharski you suck!" and it worked, he’d get a good chunk of the crowd laughing in assent and you knew that referee Koharski heard it too. This time Mark’s son heard his dad’s voice in the background on television when he shouted from one aisle over at the announcers doing a pre-game report. We thought at first that couldn’t be until we remembered that poor TV crew.

If the Blackhawks' youthful core can be kept together under the pressure of the salary cap, we’ll see if any of them actually needs to win the way Michael Jordan needed to win. Even if not quite so they have a good chance to win a couple more in the forseeable future. Certainly Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita can caution them how they’d expected their 1961 Cup win to be repeated given how good the team was and how young they’d been. Jeremy Roenick was emotional on NBC’s post-game wrap because he’d been a Blackhawk and a fan favorite and never got his name on the Cup; Bobby Hull was emotional because he never got back on it and in the end regretted leaving the city. Wirtz retired Hull’s jersey in 1983 and that seemed an watershed moment that you can watch here in two parts, but Hull was not invited back until William, “Dollar” Bill Wirtz had passed from the scene. Rocky Wirtz now has the place crawling with ex-Blackhawks and the good feelings are everywhere in Chicago and chunks of Vegas, Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles. The thirties were hard-core.

[Illustrations: Hockey Metaphysics Jerseys; Blackhawks logo (1955-64); William Wirtz; Chicago Stadium, 1928; Chicago Stadium, scoreboard; Chicago Stadium Last Flush, 1995 (photo Matt Carducci); Chicago Stadium coming down, 1995 (photo Joe Carducci)]


John Kass in the Tribune on former Blackhawks team doctors.

“Now 80 and retired, [Dr. Randall] McNally remembers Magnuson literally fighting to get back on the ice. Magnuson‘s jaw had been broken in two places. The trainer, Skip Thayer, had Magnuson flat on his back on one of the training tables. ‘His (jaw) bone was exposed through the skin, and he had a bad laceration,’ said McNally. ‘I looked to Magnuson and said, ‘You‘re done, Keith.’ Magnuson hated how that sounded. He wanted to play. ‘Magnuson got up and started trading punches with Skip because he wanted to return immediately,’ McNally said. ‘They were really going at it. To his credit, Skip did not punch him in the face, just the body.’”


It seems quite common for teams that reach the finals to be made up of pieces put together by some GM or coach who has recently been fired. Professional sports are a pitiless business but somehow players must be able to lead themselves on as if they fully identify with their new team and new city as if they meant everything to them. They must call up more energy than human nature normally can allow. And then they must play generously and intelligently as a team; something easier to do in college or high school where the bonds and loyalties are more personal. In an NBA final feature on Phil Jackson and what he learned as a Knick they played a clip of Red Holzman saying, “You can’t replace team-play with ability or anything else.”

For the Blackhawks it was Dale Tallon who was fired earlier this season. A player with the club, then the color man paired with play-by-play announcer Pat Foley, then GM, after a thirty year affiliation he had to watch his signees win the Cup from his current job as GM of the Florida Panthers. Dale tells Adam Jahns in the CST that he took many calls from the team throughout the night of the victory. Rocky Wirtz replaced the insider Tallon for the hockey know-nothing John McDonough simply to try to steal some marketing magic from the Chicago Cubs where McDonough had been team president. But the Cubs don’t really contend, and the marketing magic has been Wrigley Field which perhaps the new owner can be trusted to protect, but the old owner, the Tribune Company, wanted to replace. If the Cubs ever do that then they will really require marketing genius to fill whatever might replace it. I like this Dale Tallon grace-note from October 7, 2007 as he memorializes the just-passed William Wirtz on the United Center scoreboard over the boos of the fans. I thought Rocky might give some indication of his conflicted emotions over seemingly showing up his dad so quickly but he didn’t let on. Rocky’s grandfather Arthur had run things and won the earlier championships, Bill ran the club only from 1983 until his death in 2007.


Driving into greater Chicagoland Saturday morning, the day before Game 5, I was listening to Herb Kent, the Cool Gent, on Chicago’s WVAZ, and he was playing great tunes I’d never heard before but rather than back-announce them he took a call from I’d guess a middle-aged black woman and in the small talk that preceded whatever she was calling about Herb asked her what she’d be doing on the weekend and she answered, “Oh you know, just getting ready for the big game.” And Herb Kent, the King of the Dusties, audibly double-takes asking, “You doin’ the Blackhawks?!” She sure was and I bet Pronger and Hartnell were hated with style at her place. CST columnist Richard Roeper wrote a rather routine provocation-of-a-column noting the pallor of the Blackhawks audience. He got what he wanted, a second column filled with Blackhawk testimonials-of-color. He quotes Kendra Dinkins: “There may be few of us, but not as few as you think… I think there are far more minorities cheering at home, in the bars, decorating their office spaces, and talking trash to their Philly friends than you think! GO HAWKS!!!”

Throughout the NHL playoffs the statue of Michael Jordan in front of the United Center was wearing a Blackhawks jersey. There was probably something on the Picasso and the Lions out front of the Art Institute. So it wasn’t a big surprise when to the sound of Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” over the PA Jordan himself in a Hawks jersey stepped out to the front of his center ice first balcony skybox and waved to the crowd during Game 5. His image was up on the scoreboard suddenly and one had to scan around to find exactly where he was in the building. The audience first cheered at the video image but once they located his actuality in the building waving to the full house the cheers became fuller and warmer. I thought all those Berwyn-Maywood diehards were really grateful to share their secret and have it consecrated by the biggest winner this loser city ever got handed. According to the papers Jordan dined at Gibson’s after the game with Charles Barkley and Chris Chelios.

Possibly in a related development, here’s a photo of the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson hoisting the Stanley Cup.

[Image: Game 5 Program with Jeremy Roenick Autograph]


The Daily Herald reports on the Cup tour continuing at Wrigley at the Crosstown Classic Sunday night, featuring a nice photo of all three teams together around the Stanley Cup on the pitcher’s mound. I assume that Jay Leno did his best to end Cup fever on Monday night when the Blackhawks showed up with it. But still to come, the hoisting of the Cup by President Barack Obama.


Quote of the Finals.

Chris Pronger: “I’m day to day with hurt feelings.”

Sunset and Normandie, Hollywood

5x7" print on Ilford MGIV RC paper through #4 contrast filter, from Pentax Spotmatic II camera using Sears 28mm f/2.8 lens with Kodak Tri-X (400TX) 35mm film assiduously developed in Agfa Rodinal 1:50 mixture (13 min @ 20°C) by Chris Collins

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci...

Benjamin Markovits, author of the book, Playing Days, in the FT on being an American with a semi-pro basketball jones in Europe.


Rob Morrison at WCBStv.com on Rabbi David Nesenoff’s inbox after his ecumenical Helen Thomas jiu-jitsu takedown.


William Dalrymple in the National Interest on Rush Hour for the Gods of India.

“The country is already on the verge of overtaking Japan to become the third-largest economy in the world, and, according to CIA estimates, the Indian economy is expected to overtake that of the United States by roughly 2050. Much has now been written about the way that India is moving forward to return the subcontinent to its traditional place at the heart of global trade, but so far little has been said about the way these huge earthquakes have affected the diverse religious traditions of South Asia. For they, much like India, are rapidly changing as the region reinvents itself. While the West often likes to imagine the religions of the East as deep wells of ancient, unchanging wisdom, in reality, much of India’s religious identity is closely tied to specific social groups, caste practices and father-to-son lineages, all of which are coming under threat as Indian society transforms beyond recognition.”


Jefferson Gray in Military History Quarterly on the Assassins.

“Today, 750 years after the Mongols crushed them, the Assassins’ pioneering use of suicide terrorism, of murdering systematically though at times indiscriminately to achieve political ends, finds chilling echoes in the tactics of terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda. But for Hasan-I Sabbah, acts of terror were a legitimate means of self-defense precisely because they focused on high-ranking enemy military, political, and religious leaders who had taken hostile actions against the Ismaili community. There is little doubt he would have viewed the tactics employed by modern Middle Eastern terrorist groups -- particularly their targeting of unarmed civilians -- with incomprehension and disdain.”


Asutosha Acharya at the South Asian Terrorism Portal on the Tamil diaspora’s drive to revive the war.


Stephanie Doetzer at Qantara.de on the media Freedom-from Flotilla’s disconnects.

“The more pro-Palestinian a channel, the more it tends to report on the world-wide protests against the Israeli blockade of Gaza. But even in Western media, there seems to be an unusually high level of interest in the demonstrations in Paris, Vienna or London.”


Jonathan Chait on Andrew Sullivan on Jonathan Chait on the Israelis on the Palestinians on the Israelis in the New Republic.

Off the top of my head I’d say the problem here is that such characters see themselves as players who, rather than waking up each day ready to resume reading, learning and thinking, must instead wake up and read to find ammunition to defend positions they have taken in the past. Rather than thinking, they merely adopt ideas. These are discrete if not inert but that makes them easier to throw at people, which is what the politically engaged end up seeking. It may be true as well that in the economy of publishing every writer understands that it serves the professional aspect of the job to become a first-person caricature.


Lewis Gropp at Qantara.de on Leopold Weiss’ memoir, The Road to Mecca. Weiss was a Murnau screenwriter, son of a Rabbi, Sunni convert, Middle East correspondent, suppressed Islamic intellectual, and finally a re-ex-pat-back-to-Europe.


Magda Luthay interviews Egyptian novelist Gamal al-Ghitany, again at Qantara.de.

“There is no censorship, on the contrary: reports that criticise political and social structures are part of Egypt's journalistic culture, in fact they are even welcome. But nevertheless, I would warn against only airing criticism, that fails to convince after a while. If the discussion is to be moved on, you must always offer constructive ideas for a solution. Meanwhile the Internet also plays a significant role, particularly with the young generation. No, the government does not hamper the work of artists, the problems come from society itself.”


Indigenous Sharia in Bolivia at mercopress.com.

“Meanwhile it was reported in La Paz press that a Bolivian Indian community once again applied the principle of ‘native justice’ by killing an accused murderer in the southwestern province of Potosi, where two weeks ago four policemen met the same fate…. The Indians of Uncia say lynching is part of the indigenous justice system that was recognized in the constitution enacted last year at the urging of President Evo Morales, but the government rejects that argument. Officials say the recognition of traditional justice is not a license for vigilantism. The government also points to Bolivia’s constitutional ban on capital punishment.”


Jonathan Kirshner in the Boston Review on Keynes.

“‘Keynes is back.’ It is a familiar cliché, but also an enigma. Enigmatic, first, because Keynes, the most influential economist of the twentieth century, never really left. Like it or not, we live in a macroeconomic world elucidated by Keynes and those who followed in his footsteps. Even Robert Lucas, who won a Nobel Prize for his criticisms of conventional Keynesianism, said in response to the financial crisis: ‘I guess everyone is a Keynesian in a foxhole.’ But enigmatic also because Keynes himself was never with us. From his vast writings, a few ideas were quickly distilled into analytical tools and policy prescriptions that became known as ‘Keynesianism.’ This produced some stark differences between Keynes’s ideas and those that bore his name. Once, after a wartime meeting with American economists, Keynes observed, ‘I was the only non-Keynesian in the room.’ Following his death in 1946, the divergence only grew.”


This was the week that strange intellectual dead zone, Manhattan feminism, decided to balk at what they have wrought, and see if they might blame Christian patriarchy for it. In the NYTmag it’s Peggy Orenstein objecting to this pre-pube mother-love dance-culture outrage, only she objects on a contortionist’s terms that these little girls once grown won’t be able to connect the dots between booty-shaking and eros. Yes that might be tragic, or maybe farcical. What is this world these feminists never made coming to? Maureen Dowd last week in her NYT column cannot believe, imagine, or tolerate what young men might just make of Do-me Feminism in an era of universal birth-control. Her summary demand, after confirming that the elite school does impart as much modern day cant as any newsroom personnel sensitivity-training specialist, is:

“Young men everywhere must be taught, beyond platitudes, that young women are not prey.”

Yes definitely, beyond platitudes, righteo! And every one-night-stand a nurturing fulfilling one! This from another of those faux-Darwinian anti-prudes full of ridicule for the various religious child-raising cultures of America as they battle with uncensored pop culture only to be told parents are the greatest influence on children even as the social engineers dominate the educational mission of these schools. What do they think they’re engineering? In the NBA its called “No harm. No foul.”

In the May-June Miller-McCune there is somewhat less intellectual rot as two academics make a strained case for Birth-control/Peace vs. Testosterone/Bloodshed. They are quite direct in their biological summary of the roots of war, but that’s the easy part because even their list of neo-Rousseauians (Franz Boas, Margaret Mead, Ashley Montagu) didn’t really believe in anything but displaying politi-cultural superiority -- that is, they were running their war-monger cold-war anti-communist enemies out of the human race as they re-defined it. The hard part is their freighting birth-control as a solution for the third world and various Islamic societies. As they recount it, Arafat ended Black September terror which jeopardized his UN strategy by endowing their marriages which presumable yielded children, not childless professional power-couple alliances.


On the WSJ editorial page last Wednesday.

“The liberals' fury at the President is almost as astounding as their outrage over the discovery that oil companies and their regulators might have grown too cozy. In economic literature, this behavior is known as ‘regulatory capture,’ and the current political irony is that this is a long-time conservative critique of the regulatory state.

The Nobel economist George Stigler of the University of Chicago was one of the concept's main developers, and it is a seminal plank of the "public choice" school of economics for which James Buchanan won the economics Nobel in 1986. Ronald Reagan warned about this in different words in one of his farewell speeches.

In the better economic textbooks, regulatory capture is described as a ‘government failure,’ as opposed to a market failure. It refers to the fact that individuals or companies with the highest interest or stake in a policy outcome will be able to focus their energies on politicians and bureaucracies to get the outcome they prefer.”


Vaughan Bell at Slate.com on Milton Rokeach’s book, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.

“Frustrated by psychology's focus on what he considered to be peripheral beliefs, like political opinions and social attitudes, Rokeach wanted to probe the limits of identity. He had been intrigued by stories of Secret Service agents who felt they had lost contact with their original identities, and wondered if a man's sense of self might be challenged in a controlled setting. Unusually for a psychologist, he found his answer in the Bible. There is only one Son of God, says the good book, so anyone who believed himself to be Jesus would suffer a psychological affront by the very existence of another like him. This was the revelation that led Rokeach to orchestrate his meeting of the Messiahs and document their encounter in the extraordinary (and out-of-print) book from 1964, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti.”


John Walsh in the Independent on Rude Britannia.


John McWhorter on Sammy Davis Jr., in City Journal.

“Davis was born in Harlem in 1925 but grew up on the road during the waning days of black vaudeville. His mother, caught up in seeking her own fortune as a chorus girl, barely knew him. This left him available to shore up the hoofing routine of his father, Sammy Davis, Sr., and small-time producer Will Mastin. The Will Mastin Trio was one of hundreds of now-anonymous race acts in the thirties and forties….

Davis’s ill-fated television variety show in the mid-sixties was a case in point. A competent example of the genre of the period, the show had a hole in its middle, and it was Sammy himself. He had no individual essence to anchor the proceedings the way Dean Martin, with much less talent, could on his own variety show by just meandering out with a cigarette, a drink, and a grin.”


Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in the FT on Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre’s attempt to revive the seventies audiophile error. Apple-imitating fortune-hunters hiding behind aesthetics, like these clowns are seriously concerned about the deterioration of popular music. Maybe they can get Roger Waters involved; like Sean Combs, he might say he is honored to be involved -- you could practically take that alone to the bank, even in these days of late capitalism. Once the road is paved the car that drives it can be cheapened out -- that might be good. Those who paved over the music are, wouldn’t you know it, peddling musique concrète -- and that has been proven to be a real come-down.


Unbeknownst to me the Laramie Boomerang has recently add video clips to its website. One can scroll down a bit and find great footage of the clearing of the mountain pass on Hwy 130 from three weeks ago, then see the cleared drive as it looks last week, followed by recent snowing and the resultant flooding in West Laramie along the Laramie River, fed as it is and will be for months by the snowmelt.


The David Lightbourne Memorial Concert will take place in Portland, Oregon where he was involved in some of the town’s biggest club draws from the mid-seventies to the late eighties when he sat in with Steve Weber’s west coast Holy Modal Rounders, and later in his own bands, The Stumptown Slickers, and The Metropolitan Jug Band.

The lineup of performers is not fully set but confirmed are Al Rivers, Birgit Burke & Ben Slater, Trip Henderson, Michael Lightbourne, Arthur Krim, David Reisch & Roger North, and Baby Gramps. The musicians are likely to tell a few tales about David and play a few songs that meant something to him and them. More to be announced. There will also be some special programs on KBOO, which is streamed for those not in town then.

• David Lightbourne Memorial
Saturday, August 7
White Eagle Saloon

836 North Russell Street, Portland, Oregon


Phil Rosenthal in the CT on Tom Petty’s sell-out to the man who fired the Last DJ.


Thanks to Roger Trilling, Jan Leonhardt

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