a new low in topical enlightenment

Monday, September 27, 2010

Issue #65 (September 29, 2010)

Stough Canyon, Verdugo Mountains, Los Angeles

Print by Chris Collins

D.W. Griffith and the Biograph Shorts
by Joe Carducci

There is a lot more to film history than even most film obsessives understand. For its short existence -- movies were still just ten minutes long a hundred years ago -- the industry jumped into existence, though firstly just to provide novelty shorts -- arcade loops less than a minute in length. These “actualities” were wearing out their welcome, used last in vaudeville programs to clear the house, when true story-telling began to grow out of these. The flood of storytelling cinema began at the turn of the century. Terry Ramsaye’s techno-cultural history of film was begun in 1920 for Photoplay magazine and published in book form in 1926 and even that early he called it A Million And One Nights.

Ramsaye was able to interview most of the inventors and exhibitors from the days when it -- the art, the business, the scam -- crawled before it walked, ran, flew. It isn’t until page 453 that Ramsaye reaches Chapter 44, “Enter D. W. Griffith with Mss”, and that’s Griffith still an actor in 1907.

The American Mutoscope Co. made a paper-based variant of the Edison Kinetoscope and they had the capital to invest in both film production and technical research. They hired W.K.L. Dickson when he left Edison in frustration over the quashing of his screen projection experiments. Thomas Edison did not believe in projection. He actually hadn’t believed in the silent film either; his intent had always been to sync the image with his phonograph and have what were referred to as “living pictures” with sound. But the silent hand-cranked Kinetoscope “peep-shows” took off before he could perfect the synchronization. Ramsaye quotes an Edison memo, “[I]f we make this screen machine that you are asking for, it will spoil everything. We are making these peep show machines and selling a lot of them at a good profit. If we put out a screen machine there will be a use for maybe about ten of them in the whole United States.”

American Mutoscope believed in projection because they listened to frustrated exhibitors -- the single-viewer peep show was inefficient in their minds. They imagined projecting the living pictures before the audience at a vaudeville theater. The early studios that survived to become the major movie studios were creatures of these early exhibitors and their advantage was their truer sense of what their own audiences responded to. Dickson put the motion picture up on a screen with Mutoscope’s backing. They changed their name to The American Mutoscope & Biograph Company.

This company from the beginning brought more imagination to bear on their early filmed subjects; The Edison company’s films were literal documents of stage performers or boxers -- they were inventors and scientists rather than artists. (The earliest Edison films are available on DVD and some are worth seeing.) Ramsaye credits James White and Edwin S. Porter with creating the first “story picture” with their subject, Life of an American Fireman (1903), “Mark this: it was the grand staple situation of dire peril, with relief on the way, the formula that has made Griffith famous, or that Griffith has made famous, as you choose to view it. It was and is yet the greatest screen situation, of unfailing power.”

Griffith came into New York from a stage tour. He made five dollars for appearing in the Edwin S. Porter film, Rescued from an Eagles’ Nest (1908), but Porter was not interested in his subject ideas. The Biograph Studio was interested in Griffith’s writing and he acted there as well at first. Mack Sennett showed up in this period too and the imaginative edge Mutoscope had over Edison soon widened.

D.W. Griffith began to make 1-to-2 reelers in 1908 and these films are well worth seeing. There are at least two different DVD collections of these mostly two reelers (14 to 20 minutes running time usually), and they are rentable from Netflix and available from Amazon and elsewhere. The Kino collection includes film historians with useful commentary. Its worth seeing the earliest and the best of these films again with the audio commentary up.

A program of Griffith shorts are playing Sunday at the University of Chicago DOC Films: D.W. Griffith at Biograph 1908-1913. The films: The Guerrilla (1908), The Country Doctor (1909), A Corner in Wheat (1909), As It Is in Life (1910), Man's Genesis (1912, 15m); The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912), The Mothering Heart (1913).

There are so many other great two- and three-reelers made at Biograph by Griffith that DOC should have programmed two or three weekends of these before moving on to his better known feature-length films. He made almost five hundred films at Biograph, first in New York and New Jersey and after 1910 increasingly in California; he left when he got resistance to his planned longer films. The second Sunday of this program features his first feature, Judith of Bethulia (1913) which was his last for Biograph, running about one hour. Subsequent Sundays run Griffith’s more famous feature films, but these though well worth seeing can be wearying and reveal Griffith’s weaknesses as a writer. Looking over his filmography it seems clear to me that his best work is to be found among his two-reelers -- Musketeers, and Mothering Heart in this program, and, not on this program but on the DVDs: The Painted Lady (1912), The Unchanging Sea (1910), The Girl and Her Trust (1912), The Female of the Species (1912).

These short story analogues really work in the then new medium and soon people were filling movie theaters to see all-movie programs. The industry was no longer poaching on vaudeville, or game rooms. I’ve always thought movies since the fifties are too long. What people once expected was a couple short programs and programmer that might be 60-70 minutes in length and then the main feature that might run 90 minutes. When I went to repertory cinemas in the seventies and eighties the program was two feature films, often 90 to 110 minutes each. Almost nobody sits through a double feature anymore. But aside from twenties overshoots by Griffith and Von Stroheim and others where two to five hour films were turned in, the feature length was fairly short until fifties A-films got bigger and longer and wider to compete with television. It really didn’t work as a strategy because it's always about the mean storytelling ability of the industry as a whole that makes people go to films or stay home. Granted there is so much more at home to do that theatrical film exhibition will not boom again.

I’ve been watching half-hour TV dramas from around 1960: "Lawman" (1958-62, ABC), "Have Gun - Will Travel" (1957-63, CBS), "The Rifleman" (1958-63, ABC) and "Wanted: Dead or Alive" (1958-1961, CBS). The Encore Western channel is commercial-free so they run 22 minutes long. Two-reelers with sound, and though most episodes are clumsy threadbare presentations, there are also routinely quite well done episodes that start from the pen of Clair Huffaker, Sam Peckinpah, Dean Reisner, and other writers who found they could do something in that amount of time. The half-hour drama disappeared from television in the sixties but this time it was no Griffith-like genius who needed more minutes; not quite. As with feature films, most television dramas are a good fifteen minutes too long even without commercials.

(Adapted from the forthcoming book, Stone Male - Requiem for a Film Style; photo: The Musketeers of Pig Alley)

Medicine Bow National Forest, Wyoming

Photos by Joe Carducci

Motacilla Flava, by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Brooks Barnes in the NYT reports on the proposal to sell encrypted video-on-demand movie premiers as the are released to theaters, "In This War, Movie Studios Are Siding With Your Couch". This was the rabbit Carolco tried to pull out of the hat back when the maker of big action pictures was fighting to survive. Then cable-top boxes would’ve been insecure at best. The remaining movie distribution outlets for theatrical and DVD sales and rentals are fighting it but they hardly look fit to survive. Blockbuster just filed for bankruptcy protection last week. Theaters are important but this kind of premium V.O.D. delivery to the home can be an adjunct to the advertising event a movie opening provides. It won’t likely harm theaters because they are already surviving on teenage business and they specifically want to get out of the house.

The major record labels tried to keep the Tower Records chain in business with charity terms ten years ago. If this had been France or Japan Tower would still be rolling out mega-stores in smaller and smaller towns like Wal-Mart is (they just announced they are moving into Africa!), and there’d be no web commerce breathing down their neck thanks to Ma Bell. I probably believe that Paramount Pictures should have beaten the anti-trust rap in 1948 and kept their theaters and vertical integration as they called it. The studios sold their theaters and the chains got bigger, but not big enough to digitize projection or maintain large theaters. These issues just keep accelerating and get harder and harder to trace any principle through action and time, especially since 1948 when they decided as they did. Coming Soon to your living room wall, Facebook II - Money Never Sleeps.


Joe Nocera in the NYT, "When Did Gekko Get So Toothless?"

“One of the film’s many advisers is Olaf Rogge, a big-time London money manager, who presides over Rogge Global Partners, a firm with $45 billion in assets. Although he had not yet seen the movie when I called him recently, he had read the script in most of its iterations… Like Mr. Roubini, he has a bit part in the movie.

He had high expectations for the film, he said, and was disappointed by the script Mr. Stone ultimately used to make it. At one point during their eight hours of conversations, Mr. Rogge told Mr. Stone, ‘Leverage is the mother of all evils.’ Mr. Stone changed that line to ‘Speculation is the mother of all evils.’ When Mr. Rogge complained, Mr. Stone would tell him that ‘we are here to make a film, not to make history,’ Mr. Rogge said with a sigh.”


Michel Houellebecq interviewed by Susannah Hunnewell in The Paris Review, illustrated with a nice photograph of him with Iggy Pop who wrote several songs under the influence of Houellebecq’s latest novel.

“Several years later, his mother, who felt she had been unfairly presented in certain autobiographical passages of the novel [The Elementary Particles], published a four-hundred-page memoir. For the first and last time in his public life, Houellebecq received widespread sympathy from the French press, who were forced to concede that even the harsh portrait of the hippie mother in The Elementary Particles didn’t do justice to the self-involved character that emerged from her autobiography. During her book tour, she famously asked, ‘Who hasn’t called their son a sorry little prick?’”


Ilaria Sala in the WSJ, "In China, Musicians For the Modern Era".

“‘There is nothing Chinese in my music,’ says iLoop, 28, sitting in a Starbucks coffee shop here [Beijing], his hands kept busy by a lock of hair constantly falling on his forehead. ‘In any case, it would be difficult otherwise: Electronic music is urban, international; we all communicate online, across countries. And Chinese culture has been cut. Interrupted,’ he says. ‘There was the Cultural Revolution, right? So much has been destroyed that for my generation it is impossible to know what it was all about before. We do not have Chinese traditions anymore, all has been interrupted. In Japan it is different. Traditions are part of daily life. It shows in their sound too.…’

‘No, what I do is not political at all,’ he says, shaking his head, while admitting that maybe, just maybe, the lifestyle of an electronic musician could appear ‘political’—read ‘nonconformist.’ …But ask him who his favorite musicians are, and without hesitation he says: ‘ATR! Atari Teenage Riot. German band. Great stuff. The biggest influence on my sound.’ Log onto ATR's MySpace page, and your ears will be assaulted by a raw, angry sound, and lyrics that scream that ‘Deutschland Must Die’ and inveigh against ‘too much government control’—in Germany.”



Press release of the week:

The Bopst Show

With special guests Capoeira Resistencia & Khalima Dance

•Thursday September 30th 10PM Free

203 N. Lombardy St.
Richmond, VA

“Spend a lackluster Thursday evening with a balding, middle-aged has been that never was spinning tunes on partially borrowed equipment in a sad & pathetic attempt of marginal entertainment value. The washed up AM music disc jockey, failed musician & abysmal show promoter plays music of limited commercial appeal and only got the gig because he himself books entertainment for the room. It will be like witnessing a slow moving train wreck as Bopst, the undeniable talentless hack that he is, feebly tries to con what little friends he has into coming out to hear him play other people’s music. The only redeeming factors of this evening will be special appearances by Capoeira Resistencia and Khalima Dance, but they only agreed to show up because Bopst begged and pleaded with them to do it telling them that he wouldn’t book any future appearances for the wondrous dance troupes if they didn’t strut their respective stuffs during his DJ night. As contemptible as that is, Bopst has spent an inordinate amount of time putting together an amateurish video of found clips he found on the internet interspersed with his laughable, um, “art” so that he can not only bore you with his musical selections, but with his sophomoric visual presentations as well. 

Here's why you should come out:

And this is why we understand if you don't:

Prepare to be disappointed.”


Blackout comp, from Arthur.


Tom Chatfield in Prospect, "The Meaning of Mario".

“Twenty-five years ago to the day, the videogame ‘Super Mario Bros’ appeared. This epochal fact has been celebrated in some style already—the Guardian offers one fact for every year—happily ignoring the emergence of Mario himself as a character back in 1981. Why exactly is it, though, that the most influential and renowned fictional character of the last quarter century—arguably in any medium—is a plump Italian plumber known not for his wrench skills but for his inexhaustible, effort-free athleticism, and his unquenchable fondness for consuming fungi?”


Patrick Cooke in the WSJ on Steve Lehto’s book, Chrysler’s Turbine Car.

“And, boy, did people love the car. Ghia's prototype design perfectly evoked the rocket vehicle of the future and the hopes of a nation headed to the moon. Just starting the engine must have made drivers feel a bit like astronauts going through a pre-launch sequence—turning on the ignition required eight separate steps. But once the turbine engine was running, it was capable of reaching an astounding 60,000 rpm, as opposed to a piston engine's 8,000 or 9,000. The turbine's normal operating temperature ran at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, 10 times the temperature of a piston-engine car of the time. In an interesting aside, Mr. Lehto says that the familiar whine of a turbine jet engine comes not from its fiery core but from gears driving accessories using the engine's power, a sound known as ‘gear singing.’”


Andre Glucksmann at signandsight.com, "Fear of Ourselves".

“The lifting of borders, the Europeanisation of nations, the globalisation of the continent, all this has propelled every one of us into a universe with no clear orientation and with no infallible norms. Remember Charles de Gaulle's diagnosis of 1965: ‘The general progress, has left a cloud hanging over the individual. The old serenity of nations of peasants certain of a mediocre but secure existence on the land, has been replaced in the children of the century with a stifling fear of the uprooted.’

The smiling face of rootlessness are the 300,000 French expats who line their pockets in the City of London when the stock market booms. And the tragic face are the travelling people who are chased from one wild campsite to the next, deprived de facto of their rights to travel and beg, as only Communism had tried to do using force. The Roma inspire fear. To hide the Roma is to hide our brothers in rootlessness, and they are an unavoidable and frightening part of our destiny. The fear of the Roma is an unacknowledged fear of ourselves.”


Rupert Wilkinson in The Chronicle Review on David Riesman’s book The Lonely Crowd.

The Lonely Crowd was part of a stream of writing on tendencies in American ‘social character’ that flourished between the 1940s and 1980s, peaking in the 50s and early 60s. It described a shift in the way Americans followed society's prescriptions, from a 19th-century ‘inner-direction’—behavior internalized at an early age from parents and other elders—to a mid-20th-century ‘other-direction,’ flexibly responsive to ‘peer groups’ and the media. Key metaphors were the ‘gyroscope’ of inner-direction versus the ‘radar’ of other-direction. (During World War II, Riesman had been a lawyer for Sperry Gyroscope, makers of gyroscopic bombsights.) Inner-direction provided moral stability in a rapidly developing society. Unlike ‘tradition-directed’ people, dependent on external rules in older, more static societies, inner-directed people could carry their precepts anywhere. But other-direction was more suited to a bureaucratic age of sales, services, and ‘human relations.’”


Paul Berman at slate.com Kwame Anthony Appiah’s book, The Honor Code.

“Tradesmen and workers in England began to invoke ‘the honor of workingmen’ as an argument against tolerating slave labor. He notices that still another kind of honor—the ‘national honor’ of China, as seen in the eyes of other countries—played a role in the rhetoric of the anti-foot-binding campaign. Appiah figures that he is on to something. And in his enthusiasm over his discovery, he points to still another such revolution, or potential revolution, that is going on right now.

This is the campaign to condemn and reject the custom, prevalent among the Pashtun population of Pakistan and other groups, too, known as ‘honor killing’—the murdering of women by members of their own family in order to punish sexual or marital transgressions. Appiah observes that like the anti-dueling, anti-slavery, and anti-foot-binding reformers of the past, some of the campaigners against ‘honor killing’ in our own time have invoked new and improved notions of honor in opposition to the dreadful old practice—the notion, for instance, that violence against defenseless women cannot be regarded as honorable.”

The Honor Code book excerpt in the WSJ.


Greg Grandin in The Nation revisits the Rigoberta Menchú case at length in
"It Was Heaven That They Burned". At length but not thoroughly. It’s the Age of Leverage so he’s leveraging the remaining Nation readership’s need for Alternative History to leave out of the bloody narrative of Guatemalan history the guerrillas contribution -- for all we know they were in the mountains camping and fishing breathing fresh air doing squats together and treating peasant women with respect, all those good things unnecessary to mention. And with the end of Communism the left prefers to forget all those theories of The-How-of Revolution by Lenin, Mao, Ho, Fanon etc. Those all seem too cold-blooded to survive the TV lights of postmodern humanism. Nobody baits a regime to crack down and radicalize the bystander peasantry and workers anymore. They claim to not even remember the theory.


Dinesh D’Souza in Forbes, How Obama Thinks.

“According to Obama, his dream is his father's dream. Notice that his title is not Dreams of My Father but rather Dreams from My Father. Obama isn't writing about his father's dreams; he is writing about the dreams he received from his father.

So who was Barack Obama Sr.? He was a Luo tribesman who grew up in Kenya and studied at Harvard. He was a polygamist who had, over the course of his lifetime, four wives and eight children. One of his sons, Mark Obama, has accused him of abuse and wife-beating. He was also a regular drunk driver who got into numerous accidents, killing a man in one and causing his own legs to be amputated due to injury in another. In 1982 he got drunk at a bar in Nairobi and drove into a tree, killing himself.

An odd choice, certainly, as an inspirational hero. But to his son, the elder Obama represented a great and noble cause, the cause of anticolonialism. Obama Sr. grew up during Africa's struggle to be free of European rule, and he was one of the early generation of Africans chosen to study in America and then to shape his country's future.

I know a great deal about anticolonialism, because I am a native of Mumbai, India.”

Tim Arango in the NYT assures us this article triggered media soul searching. They won’t find one, certainly not at the NYT where columnists have popularized this sort of “reading” of motivations whether there’s a book to “read” or not.


Edward Kosner in the WSJ on Mark Feldstein’s book, Poisoning the Press - Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture.


Mallary Tenore at poynter.org in her piece, "How Slate’s Jack Shafer Calls Out Bogus Trend Stories", runs interference for the Times on such stories by suggesting Shafer picks on them before quoting him, "I'm not sure if that's because The New York Times runs more of them or because we scrutinize them more. Why it seems to be heavily represented in my column may be because I read the Times closely and so do other readers, or it could mean that there are screws loose at the paper."

My sense of this sort of writing that Shafer is right to call “bogus trend stories” is that smallish offenses of the newsmedia generally are made worse by the pretension at the NYT and their sense of themselves as a politicultural player. This leads them to lose the disinterested approach that is required to represent accurately what’s going on. Instead they relish the networks, newsweeklies, cable-news channels, and other newspapers taking their cues from the NYT. They seek to bell the cat on every new development -- naming it, shaping the subject or person as it or they first appear in the news. This person gets a White hat to wear, this one a Black hat; Manhattan really is not very sophisticated. This game is ending as so many are these years. Today if the NYT successfully bells the cat it’s more likely to register via NPR, “Saturday Night Live”, or The Comedy Channel.


James Grant in the WSJ on John Galbraith’s book The Affluent Society.

“Half a century ago, the ‘conventional wisdom,’ in Galbraith's familiar phrase, was statism. In ‘American Capitalism,’ the professor heaped scorn on the CEOs and Chamber of Commerce presidents and Republican statesmen who protested against federal regimentation. ‘In the United States at this time,’ noted the critic Lionel Trilling in 1950, ‘liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.’ William F. Buckley's upstart conservative magazine, National Review, made its debut in 1955 with the now-famous opening line that it ‘stands athwart history, yelling Stop.’ Galbraith seemed not to have noticed that history and he were arm in arm. His was the conventional wisdom.”


Nick Cohen reviews Tony Blair’s book.

“The Stop the War Coalition had promised a demonstration. For good measure members of the neo-Nazi British National Party had promised to come along for a protest of their own. If a previous Stop the War fracas at a Blair book signing in Dublin was a guide, it would have turned nasty. The alliance of white far-leftists and Islamist clerical fascists, who had come together in an echo of the Hitler-Stalin pact, was delighted. Blair was becoming ‘a pariah the world over’, it crowed. He ‘cannot go anywhere near the general public without there being protests and attempts to make a citizen’s arrest’.

To have believers in the one-party Marxist state, the one-religion Islamist caliphate and the one-race ethnically cleansed nation as your enemies is a badge of honour any politician should be proud to wear. Unfortunately for Blair, his enemies are not confined to the thuggish fringe. The mainstream repeats the conspiracy theories of the fascists and the Trotskyists so faithfully it is hard to tell who is following whom; whether the extremists’ ideas have taken over the mainstream or whether the extreme is an exaggerated image of the furies of the liberal centre, like a disfigured reflection in a fairground mirror. With the left and right-wing newspapers, as with the far-left and far-right parties, differences between supposed political opposites have broken down.”


Mats Persson at euobserver.com in "A lunch as bitter as bile", translates and summarizes a recent EU shouting match, this between Sarkozy and Barroso over the Roma/Gypsies policy.


Rufus Phillips in the WSJ probably didn’t not write his own headline, "Curb Corruption or Lose the War", but he makes a good point as he one-ups the CIA for its dependence on paid agents. “There is an alternative to relying on political information from mercenaries,” Phillips insists as he recounts Vietnam-era intelligence issues. “My earlier mentor, the legendary intelligence officer and political adviser Col. Edward G. Lansdale, had stressed influencing locals to work for their own country's best interests, not for us. This flew in the face of standard CIA intelligence tradecraft, then and now, which tends to focus on recruiting as many paid agents as possible.” While Phillips mentions then-President of South Vietnam Ngo Dinh Diem in his example, fudges his point until the meaning is not clear. He found out from friends who was attacking the Buddhists just how many minutes before the CIA found out from its paid assets? The truth may be that Karzai is, as Diem was, one of those rough-and-ready patriots. Diem and his natural national successors might well have reached the same goal South Korea’s imperfect leaders did -- a modern democratic state. Karzai and his successors might too given a chance. Phillips is right to insist American actions not work at cross purposes, but that isn’t quite the reason Diem’s name comes up so seldom, while with every anti-Karzai leak I think immediately of Diem and Kennedy’s big blink.


Ross Douthat in the NYT, "The Seduction of the Tea Partiers".

“But to the extent that the movement boasts a single animating idea, it’s the conviction that the Republicans as much as the Democrats have been an accessory to the growth of spending and deficits, and that the Republican establishment needs to be punished for straying from fiscal rectitude.

The Tea Partiers have a point. Officially, the Republican Party stands for low taxes and limited government. But save during the gridlocked 1990s, Republican majorities and Republican presidents have tended to pass tax cuts while putting off spending cuts till a tomorrow that never comes.

Conservatives have justified this failure with two incompatible theories. One is the ‘starve the beast’ conceit, which holds that cutting taxes will force government spending downward. The other is the happy idea that tax cuts actually increase government revenue, making deficit anxieties irrelevant. The real world hasn’t been kind to either notion.”


Part of China’s game of chicken with Japan over the fate of their fisherman was the aggressive purchase of Japanese Yen-bonds which strengthened Japan’s currency enough to threaten their exports. This on top of China’s refusal to let its own currency float to a market level, something the U.S. and Europe have been pushing. A truer valuation of the Chinese Yuan would also relieve pressure on third world economies so this issue is much bigger than the rote decade-long complaint from Washington. Japan responded by weakening its currency and releasing the ship’s captain.

Richard Barley writes in his Heard on the Street column in the WSJ,

“Beggar-thy-neighbor currency devaluations proved ruinous for the global economy in the 1930s. Is the world setting off down the same slippery slope again? Japan's decision to intervene in the currency market to drive down the value of the yen blew a hole in the developed world's united effort to persuade China and other Asian countries to stop artificially holding down their currencies.”

Jonathan Wheatley in the FT reports on Brazil’s finance minister Guido Mantega’s warning, “We’re in the midst of an international currency war, a general weakening of currency…” Wheatley notes, “The US dollar has fallen by about 25 per cent against the [Brazilian] real since the beginning of last year, making the real the strongest performing currency in the world...”

But according to Martin Wolf in the FT [Premier] Wen is right to worry about China’s growth:

“The characteristic of Chinese growth is that it is ‘unbalanced’, as Mr Wen notes: it is highly dependent on investment as a source of demand and driver of supply. It is, in a sense, the most ‘capitalist’ economy ever. Thus, between 1997 and 2009, gross investment rose from 32 per cent to 46 per cent of GDP, while household consumption fell from 45 per cent of GDP to a mere 36 per cent. This must be the lowest share of consumption in any significant economy ever. In a country with hundreds of millions of poor people, it is even shocking.”

So perhaps China is worried rather than cocky in its recent push at Japan. Any less Chinese exports might tell in domestic unrest in an economy designed to do not much besides export. The Senkaku dispute underlying the fishing boat drama might then be designed to steer street demonstrations against Japan for ever-ready and innumerable historical reasons.

In other currency news, Mercopress.com reports on Der Spiegel’s report on the Deutsche-mark deal for reunification. Sounds like Mitterrand was angling to lay a secure groundwork for World War IV.

Their handiwork, the Euro almost disappeared overnight recently after which what might have happened? Deutsche-mark Uber Alles? Marcus Walker, Charles Forelle, and Brian Blackstone in the WSJ pieced together that story, "On the Secret Committee to Save The Euro, a Dangerous Divide" :

“When Mr. Sarkozy barreled into one meeting with camera crews and photographers in tow, Ms. Merkel icily ordered the cameras out: ‘I won't let you do this to me,’ she said, warning she wouldn't play the part of ‘the stubborn old bag.’ …A gap quickly opened up between Germany, attached to euro-zone rules it viewed as banning bailouts for profligate countries, and France, which wanted greater freedom for national governments to support each other as they saw fit.

A fault line also developed over whether EU institutions should run any bailout operation. The European Commission, the union's executive branch, pushed for a central role in raising and lending funds—and found an ally in France. Germany, wary of a power grab, was deeply reluctant to put its cash in Brussels' hands.”

The backstop of all this is that gold is getting expensive because the paper one must use to purchase it is not backed by said precious metal, no, it’s backed by nothing less than the full faith and credit of the United States government. Oh...

Given the U.S. government’s proclivities the expectation is that it will take the easy way out of the debt crisis and inflate its way out, paying an old-dollar’s worth of debt with a new-dollar’s dime’s worth. This is the plan unless the Tea Party can tame a victorious Republican Party looking to get back into the old game. The free market/hard currency advocates are an analogue to both Parties but have hardly even been humored by past regimes in Republican congresses or White Houses. They believe a further transcendent hazard is introduced when the government intervenes to evade pain after earlier interventions (interest rates, Fannie Mae, borrowing for Iraq) inflate a bubble.

There was concern in Washington that China would stop buying US Treasury bonds, but the pain freaks on the right (and left) fear they’ll keep buying them, thus further empowering our game players at the Fed and Treasury and in the various parties that wish to party on. Paul Volcker was once a pain freak the last time things were really out of whack and his tough-love worked. Bloomberg reports that the Fed is “‘prepared to provide additional accommodation if needed to support the economic recovery and to return inflation, over time, to levels consistent with its mandate.’ Volcker didn’t comment on the appropriateness of the Fed’s stance. When asked whether the central bank should purchase longer-term Treasuries, Volcker said, ‘ordinarily we wouldn’t want to rely on that too heavily but under existing conditions I think it’s understandable… Given present conditions I have no feeling this violates some Federal Reserve doctrine or ethic or whatever,’ he said.”

That’s right, “Whatever!” That part I understood.


Aristos Doxiadis at opendemocracy.net, "The real Greek economy: owners, rentiers and opportunists".

“Before our own debt crisis erupted, public discourse was not very different from that in western countries. We would discuss the merits of public vs private, of boosting demand vs cutting expenditure, of liberalism vs social democracy. A few observers did insist on Greek specificities. For example, on how the public sector is not public when it has been captured by private and by ‘syntechnic' interests [there is no English equivalent for the Greek word ‘syntechnia’ in its current usage; it means ‘trade union’, but in the particular sense of defending the common privileges of a certain narrow occupational group, rather than class interests – like guilds used to do in medieval cities]. Or, how the private sector is not private when it lives off the public purse. But these voices were not present in the discourse of political parties and of talking heads, nor did they influence government policy.”


John Gray in The New Statesman on Frank Dikotter’s book,
Mao’s Great Famine.

“Limiting himself to describing and analysing the famine, he devotes only a few lines to what may be one of its eeriest aspects: that it provoked so little reaction in the west. It is not that the fact of the famine was unknown. Reports surfaced repeatedly, only to be discounted by a host of prominent visitors. As Jasper Becker recounts in Hungry Ghosts: China's Secret Famine (1996), a pioneering study cited by Dikötter, Mitterrand was by no means the only western dignitary who heaped praise on Mao's China as a society where chronic hunger no longer existed. There were also the Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara, the Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, the art critic and self-styled anarchist Sir Herbert Read, the distinguished Cambridge Sinologist Joseph Needham, the American liberal economist J K Galbraith and Graham Greene's cousin Felix, a some-time New Age guru who was a shameless apologist for the regime, along with many others.

Not everyone joined in the chorus of denial. Testimony from refugees was accepted by a number of western opinion-formers, including Bertrand Russell, while the Guardian and the New Statesman urged the US to send food aid. The Red Cross offered help, which Beijing refused because the organisation had had the temerity to inquire about conditions in Tibet.”


Dan Alexe at euobserver.com, "National Amnesia".

“Only half of the Romanian population consider Nicolae Ceausescu's Communist regime to have been repressive, according to a new national survey. The other half thinks that life was better in Communist times or has no opinion.”


Thanks to Steve Beeho.

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Issue #64 (September 22, 2010)

Medicine Bow Aspen, Along Hwy 130, Above 9000 Feet

Photo by Joe Carducci

Attention ! La fourchette !
(Or, Watch Out For That Fork!!)

By Carolyn Heinze

The last time I saw Claude Chabrol he was on Taddeï. As in Frédéric Taddeï  – the super-cute, loosened tie-wearing, boyish-grinning super-cute French TV host that I happen to have a super-huge crush on. (Not only because he’s super-cute in that boyish tie-wearing loose-grinning French kind of way but also because he happens to be super-smart – he’s soooo super-cute when he’s being that! – and super-knowledgeable, too. You know, about what his guests are talking about.) (And as we all know, that’s super-rare for a TV talk show journalist.) (Which is so super-sexy-cute.) (His show is called Ce soir ou jamais !) (Means “Tonight Or Never!”) (!!!) (!!!)

Anyway. Chabrol. So the last time I saw him he was on Taddeï and they were talking about les maisons closes. (“Closed houses” for you amateurs; “bordellos” for you connaisseurs.) Before Sarko got his Pétain on and started racially profiling and racially organizing and racially categorizing and categorically, systematically, racistly deporting racially rendered Romas, the news was much more fun. Hence the discussion about les maisons closes. (They’re thinking about legalizing them.) (I’m all for it.) (As long as my boyfriend promises to stay the hell away.) Putain.

(A side note?) (Just to kind of break the fourth wall?) (“Pétain” kinda sounds like “putain” and in French “putain” means “whore.”) (HA!)

Anyway, yes, Chabrol. He was on Taddeï (well, not literally on him, but you know…) telling a story. It was about les maisons closes. He was the only guy on the set who had ever been to one, back in the day. Back in the day his dad had taken him there and bought him a Coke. Claude was nervous, but he drank it anyway. And that, comme on dit, was that. Back in the day. According to how he told the story.

I know that you know that I know that you know that aside from alive-and-well French talk show hosts, I already have my fair share of crushes on a fair share of dead guys, but it’s hard not to have a crush on Claude Chabrol. Just ask France – or anybody from here. If Victor Hugo was France’s son, then Claude Chabrol was kinda like France’s uncle, only not in the creepy-sugar daddy-drinking-a-Coke-in-a-bordello kind of way. There’s a saying, or at least the newspaper Libération recently, rightly, righteously, just right the other day, the day right after his death, at the right time, kinda compiled and created one: Chabrol, c’est la France. (Chabrol is France.) When you think of the joyous, jolly, jovial, jubilant bon vivant-cum-cinéaste movie director – and you live in Paris – it’s hard to make the connection between the fun-“here kid, have a dollar”- type of uncle and, well, la France. But if you think about it a moment longer, you kinda get the drift. “La France perd son miroir,” Libé went on to say, in big, bold, black, bold emboldened letters: “France Loses Its Mirror.” And this is where it starts to get interesting.

The thing about Claude Chabrol’s films is that someone always ends up with a fork in the eye. Or a knife in the back. Or a bullet in the head. That kind of thing. I don’t know if the French stick more knives in each other’s backs or more forks in each other’s eyes or more bullets in each other’s heads than anybody else from any other country, but when you’re watching Chabrol, that’s pretty much how things turn out. Complete with crazy, classically-inspired, it’s-three-o’clock-in-the-morning at the campus radio station-and-the pianist-and-horn-section-just-went-apeshit type of music. Often composed by Chabrol’s son, Mathieu. You know, just to create un peu d’ambiance. The kind of ambiance that makes the rich look, well, bitch.

“I’ve always taken pleasure from proving that the bourgeoisie was stupid,” Chabrol once said, conveniently – or not – forgetting that his first film, Le Beau Serge, a classic, was financed by his first wife, a bourgeoise. The French love to hate the bourgeoisie, but they love to love them more, which explains why Karl Lagerfeld – who isn’t even French – is such a star here, Louis XVI-powdered pony-tailed mullet et al. The French Revolution may have stuck the proverbial fork in the monarchy’s proverbial eye, but that doesn’t mean that for proverbial pomp and circumstance, the French don’t feel a bit of nostalgie. Chabrol got this about his countrymen, and then he promptly stabbed them in the eye, and for that, he was, and will continue to be, adored. Hey, it’s the birthplace of Sade, as in le sado-masochisme . . . Live here for five minutes, fork protuding from eye socket, and you’ll see what I mean.

Someone’s eye always ended up with a fork in it; and chances are they were rich or richly-associated, and chances are the reasoning was richly dumb. In between? They ate, richly, with forks and knives and otherwise, something Uncle Claude with his savoir-vivre knew all too well how to do. “We’re not really going to call this film Chicken With Vinegar?!” he is said to have said about one of his seventy-odd movies, which in the end, was called Poulet au vinaigre. It was a play on words: poulet is slang for “cop,” and vinaigre . . . well, that could mean “bad wine.” But what else could he have titled it, really, when you think about it? It would have been too obvious – and slightly gauche –  to call it Let Them Eat Cake. Dessert forks are smaller, but just as pointed.

Delichon Urbicum, by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Mario Rizzo’s blog at csmonitor.com.

“We are now witnessing many important developments that will affect economics and public perceptions for a long time to come. It is perhaps too late in their careers for most established economists to be much affected. They will go the epicycle route: rationalize, complicate, and immunize against criticism. Fine, this is in part what the ‘old guard’ is supposed to do. And those with different ideas must struggle against them.

But look around. We are witnessing the clear unraveling of the New Deal legacy. The relative modest beginnings of the New Deal turn out to have been relatively unimportant. What was important were the tendencies that were set in motion.”


Ronald Pestritto in the WSJ, "Glenn Beck, Progressives and Me".

“Mr. Beck and others -- such as Jonah Goldberg in his 2008 book, "Liberal Fascism" -- tie today's progressives to the progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century. They contend that the original progressives -- including leaders such as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt -- rejected America's founding principles. Mr. Beck also claims that today's leftist policies are the culmination of a journey begun by progressives over a century ago.

I think it's fair to say that I'm one of those indirectly responsible for the fuss. Messrs. Beck and Goldberg have drawn from my academic work on Woodrow Wilson, and I've been interviewed about this work by Mr. Beck as an occasional guest on his program. Whatever I or anyone else thinks about Mr. Beck's programming or political views, on one central historical issue he is correct: The progressive movement did indeed repudiate the principles of individual liberty and limited government that were the basis of the American republic. America's original progressives were convinced that the country faced a set of social and economic problems demanding a sharp increase in federal power. They also said that there was too much emphasis placed on protecting the liberty of individuals at the expense of broader social justice.”


Gail Collins in the NYT, writes up her seventh or eighth trip to Alaska post-Palin nomination in "A State of Two Minds".

She seems unable to resist baiting candidates that promise to cut federal spending as if their governing philosophies are or ought been pre-sold as they’ve developed inside of this old New Deal-straining-for-full-public-sector-transcendence of the constraints of what remains of the constitutional Republic. As if they are or ought already be wholly-owned souls the beltway collects like scalplocks on the spear of state. She might be more relaxed if she actually believed that. If Sarah Palin doesn’t disappear soon I predict Gail will marry her bush pilot.


The New Yorker pointed a finger and The New York Times has its pincushion for oh, the next two years at least, "The Brothers Koch and AB 32".

The point seems to be that economics and science are social constructs to be written from the mind of paper-pushers enforced on all the mere doers. Then they wonder why people question their numbers and their science. This self-interested superstition of theirs is baked into this careful sentence misconstruction:

“The Kochs and their allies are disastrously wrong about the science, which shows that man-made emissions are largely responsible for global warming, and wrong about the economics.”

Science doesn’t “show” anything as convenient for the new class or the word “largely” wouldn’t clutter this sentence. Marxist culture-killers used to claim for all their favorite agit-prop plays that they “showed” this or “showed” that about this or that class of men. Wrong again.

Here the NYT edit-board, in its throat-clearing preface to calling for a veto on technological innovation, gently reminds its readership across the grant-based campus outposts of Amerika that we do need natural gas to continue to be extracted. Otherwise, I suspect they worry that good times will unnecessarily roll again for BP, the Kochs, the Gulf Coast, the Calif Coast, and Alaska. Fifteen years ago talking to my dad, I guessed that given the bourgeossification of elite American (and European) sentiment, any company called Shanghai Petrochemical was bound to be worth investing in as the Western minerals industries are slowly crushed by the sustainability vetoes of the new know-nothings. The skills learned and experience gained at Deepwater Horizon are likely to benefit Russian, Chinese, Indian, and Nigerian oil industries as they move into the offshore drilling Western companies pioneered.

And I don’t think the NYT in its autopilot mode is quite up to Donald Rumsfeld’s speed. They have “unknown knowns” on or near their uni-mind for its own reasons. I wonder who they have slated to attempt a review of Rumsfeld’s memoir?


Scott Kilman in the WSJ, "Corn Sweetener Desires a More Palatable Name".

“The Corn Refiners Association, which includes commodity processing giants such as Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. and Cargill Inc., said it filed a petition Tuesday with the Food and Drug Administration for permission to switch the name of high fructose corn syrup to ‘corn sugar.’… ‘We hope to erase consumer confusion,’ said Audrae Erickson, president of the Washington, D.C., trade group, which has been waging a two-year campaign to dispel the growing perception among some consumers that the corn industry's sweetener isn't as natural as sugar….

The FDA requires that the names of food products be truthful and not misleading. While it's rare for the FDA to consider requests to change the name of a food, it has signed off on allowing prune marketers to call their product a dried plum, and for makers of rapeseed oil to market it as canola oil.”


Charles Rule in the WSJ, "‘Trust Us’ Isn’t an Answer".

“There are a growing number of complaints in the U.S. and Europe that Google has used its search monopoly to exclude actual and potential rivals, big and small. How exactly? Rigging clicks by lowering competitors' rankings in Google searches is one way. Another is locking up critical content, like video and books, so that rival search engines are frustrated in trying to provide their users with access to that content. The result has been Google's overwhelming dominance.

Ironically, many of the most ardent defenders of Google are the same individuals-- such as Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO who was an executive at Sun and later Novell--who devoted so much time, money and effort to pushing the frontiers of the law and government regulation against Microsoft a decade ago.”


Matthew Kaminski in TNR, on Leïla Marouane’s book, The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris:

“Scholars of French Islam sometimes say that the underlying tension in the banlieues is not so much us vs. them -- the Muslim immigrant against the Christian native -- as sister vs. brother: the woman who wishes to escape to a life of Western clothes and men, and her brother, feeling threatened by the unbridled liberation of their new land, who beats her back, shrouding her in a veil or marrying her off to a first cousin in the bled or the banlieue.”


MEMRI’s "Reactions in the Islamic World to the Plan to Build Islamic Center Near Ground Zero".

Khalil ‘Ali Haidar, Kuwait:

"It is rare to find even one American or European Muslim who engages in self-criticism or defends freedom of religion and thought in the Muslim and Arab world, who supports a persecuted author or intellectual facing trial in some Muslim country, or who defends a new and modern perception of Islam. The Arab preachers, writers and academics who [address the Western Muslims] in their writings, or visit the Western countries, [only] intensify the extremism of the Western and American Muslims, and speak of nothing but the 'Zionist lobby,' 'the Palestinian problem,' 'Neo-Christians,' and 'the American failure in Iraq and Afghanistan'!

It's no wonder then that some Americans, Britons, and Germans [who convert to Islam] go straight from Christianity to takfiri jihad, and from oblivious libertinism to aggressive extremism, so that even the hills and mountains of Tora Bora are hardly enough for them!”


Mark Ames in The NY Observer, "Untangling the Bizarre CIA Links to the Ground Zero Mosque".

“But add to this array of unexpected connections the work of Imam Rauf on behalf of the U.S. government -- which includes serving as an FBI ‘consultant’ and being recruited as a spokesperson by longtime George W. Bush confidante Karen Hughes, who headed up the administration's propaganda efforts in the Muslim world -- and a compelling picture begins to emerge. Bush's favorite Imam, with backing from a funder with connections to the CIA, the Pentagon and the currency trading company that now sponsors rightwing firebrand Glenn Beck, proposes to build a mosque around the corner from the site of the most devastating terrorist attack ever visited on America. In the name of ‘[cultivating] understanding among all religions and cultures,’ he puts forth a project that offends a majority of Americans and deals a significant setback to the broader acceptance of Muslim-Americans. It's a little like Billy ‘White Shoes’ Johnson claiming the only reason he moonwalks after scoring a touchdown is to lower tensions on the football field and raise the other team's spirits.”


From signandsight.com, a summary in translation from Frankfurter Rundschau.

“For Peter Schneider, it is the media which has come out worse in the Sarrazin debate. ‘A second parallel society has shown its face, the parallel society of politicians and opinion leaders who certainly do not send their children to the problems schools where 90 percent of the children are Muslim. They failed to realise until it was too late that their hysterical reaction was turning Sarrazin into a popular hero, thus further deepening the divide between themselves and a majority which is refusing to keep quiet any longer.’”


Rob Brown in The Jerusalem Post, "Why Isn’t India a Pariah State?"

“The once heavenly Kashmir Valley has become hell on earth for many of its inhabitants, but Indians are unlikely to have to endure the same hellish condemnation as Israelis. The sole Jewish state on the planet is proving a wonderful lightning rod for Islamic militants – and their misguided liberal-leftist allies – in a way that the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir could never be. Raw economic factors reinforce such inconsistencies.

People may be killed like poultry in Kashmir, as in Tibet, but even ‘progressive’ Western politicians are too chicken to jeopardize their countries’ rapidly expanding commercial connections with either India or China. Of course, little Israel isn’t anywhere near as lucrative a marketplace. Consequently, a Kashmiri (or a Tibetan) life will continue to count for far less than that of a Palestinian.”


Christopher Caldwell in the FT, "Born-again anti-Catholicism".

“Most of the Pope’s detractors will admit that there is an old, embarrassing kind of ‘bad’ anti-Catholicism, based on prejudice, ignorance and nationalism. They claim to represent instead a ‘good’ kind of protest, based on ethics and evidence. The distinction is not always obvious. On Thursday, Lord Bannside, the former Northern Ireland first minister, led a protest in Edinburgh against priestly abuse. But of course, he was just as infuriated in 1982, when, as Ian Paisley, he led a similar group to chant: ‘One faith, one crown, no pope in our town.’

The protesters’ problem is not just with the alleged illiberality of this particular Pope, but with organised Catholicism more generally. The church is a unique organisation. The Pope speaks for all Catholics, a fifth of humanity. Back when military powerhouses – Spain, France, Poland – upheld the Catholic faith, it was prudent for a non-Catholic country to fear, monitor and even exclude it. Britain has always been the anti-Catholic country par excellence, but the US inherited its preoccupations. John F. Kennedy would never have become president had he not explicitly promised voters to take no orders from Rome.

That is not the world we live in today, to put it mildly. The Church is a moral force, not a military one. It is a voluntary organisation. There are no penalties for apostasy. No Catholic is above the laws of the country he lives in. In this light, the new anti-Catholicism seems considerably less reasonable than the old.”


Leigh Phillips at euobserver.com, "The Great Devouring".

“Weighing into the bitter European Union debate over the Roma, the bloc’s social affairs chief, Laszlo Andor, uniquely among his commission colleagues, has come to the defence of vice-president Viviane Redings’s comparison of France’s expulsions to the horrors that befell the continent during World War II….

Hungary’s representative in the commission, and by some degree its most left-wing member, has said her comparison is historically accurate and he ‘totally’ supports all her words. He is frustrated that much of the discourse over the past few days both by politicians and in the media has assumed that Ms Reding had likened French treatment of Roma with that of Jews, forgetting that for many gypsies, the Holocaust is also known as ‘O Baro Porrajmos,’ or the Great Devouring.”


Jeff McMahan at opinionator, "The Meat Eaters".

“Suppose that we could arrange the gradual extinction of carnivorous species, replacing them with new herbivorous ones. Or suppose that we could intervene genetically, so that currently carnivorous species would gradually evolve into herbivorous ones, thereby fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy.”


Sam Geall at newhumanist.org.uk, "Lies, damn lies and Chinese science".

“In his speech to Peking University graduates professor Wang bravely ventured that ‘International rankings, such as which country is number one, are not important.’ But it’s a message that hasn’t reached China’s bureaucrats leading the push for achievement in science. This publish-or-perish culture has led to unrealistic targets at Chinese universities – and as a predictable consequence, rampant plagiarism. In January, the peer-reviewed international journal Acta Crystallographica Section E announced the retraction of more than 70 papers by Chinese scientists who had falsified data. Three months later, the same publication announced the removal of another 39 articles ‘as a result of problems with the data sets or incorrect atom assignments’, 37 of which were entirely produced in Chinese universities. The New Jersey-based Centenary College closed its affiliated Chinese business school programme in July after a review ‘revealed evidence of widespread plagiarism, among other issues, at a level that ordinarily would have resulted in students’ immediate dismissal from the college.’ A government study, cited by Nature, found that about one-third of over 6,000 scientists surveyed at six top Chinese institutions had practiced ‘plagiarism, falsification or fabrication’.”


Rob Fitzpatrick in The Guardian, pretends to try to fathom American healthcare as it pertains to American musicians, primarily those who have had some success on major labels. I know musicians who might have deserved an easier ride but who get healthcare coverage in real jobs that afford them as well the means to continue to produce music much too good to warrant a career in that music business. In any case any article like this one ("When the music fades: US musicians’ healthcare crisis") which wrings its hands so earnestly and misuses a “very conservative” musician’s concern as well as a photo of Vic Chestnutt, but neglects to mention tort and class action lawyering costs is just dishonest in its coy no-hands push to collectivism. These unproductive legal costs have changed the behavior of doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and employers -- everyone actually -- for four decades without begging the question, "Can we afford it?" The New Class in action.


World Premiere Saturday.

David Travis’s “A History Lesson, Pt. 1” featuring The Minutemen, The Meat Puppets, Redd Kross, Twisted Roots live circa 1984, with contemporary interviews.

•Saturday, Sept. 25
Blue Star Café in Downtown Los Angeles
Thereafter Tuesdays in October at the Redwood Bar, Downtown Los Angeles.

Dave was around most SST bands’ gigs in Los Angeles with his video camera. For posterity at gigs we had Naomi’s camera, my Aiwa portable, and Dave’s vidcam. Check out his footage of D. Boon in the trailer link -- we’re very lucky to see and hear that action today. Sure it should have been a professional three-man crew from MTV with 1” tape and synchronized 24-track mix. But it wasn’t. It was a kid named Dave:

“In 2008 I started digitizing my old video footage. I cut a 3-hour / 30-band compilation. Since I was previously teaching history and I wanted to teach people about what music was like in the past; I called this “A History Lesson”. Because I wanted to make this a series, I called it Part 1. I found a lawyer to advise me on how to put this out, and he told me that it would be impossible to clear and that I should reduce the number of bands and then try to clear it. I re-cut it to a 2-hour 12-band version, adding interviews. I took this to a lawyer and she said that I would have to get signed releases from all the musicians that appeared and clearances from the music publishers for each song. I tracked down as many musicians as I could and contacted the publishers or had the musicians publish the songs. The process of doing all these clearances and releases took from December 2008 to September 2009. In the end, I was only able to use four bands. Those four bands are the Meat Puppets, the Minutemen, Twisted Roots, and Redd Kross.

I cut the movie for a third time. The latest version is 57-minutes long. I did a cast and friends preview screening at Café 322 in February 2010. I submitted the film to a dozen festivals and got rejected by all of them. I am now starting to show the video at clubs and other venues around L.A. I am premiering the movie at the Blue Star Café in Downtown Los Angeles, on September 25th, 2010. I will then show it every Tuesday in October at the Redwood Bar in Downtown Los Angeles. I will then try to radiate out and screen in places other than downtown L.A. I had 1000 DVDs manufactured. I am talking with a distributor, so I will see how that goes. If not I will sell the DVDs at screenings, try to get it into Amoeba and other local stores, and try to sell it on Amazon and iTunes.

Thank You,
Dave Travis”

No, thank you.


Saccharine Trust plays two shows this week including “The History Lesson” premiere Saturday. Jack writes they have some studio time he earned building a fence twelve years ago -- he figures they better use the time before the fence falls down. Here’s Saccharine Trust playing “The Great One Is Dead” twelve years ago in San Pedro; it’s the title track from their last album, recorded and released in Germany. Here’s an LAist blog by Elise Thompson from 2007 where Saccharine performed their first album at a SY-RK afterparty.

•Thurs. Sept. 23, 10pm
The Prospector
2400 E. 7th st.
Long Beach, Cal.
w/ Dos, Neo, Tribraco.

•Sat. Sept. 25, 6pm
The Blue Star Cafe
2200 E. 15th st.
Los Angeles, Cal.
w/ "A History Lesson" premiere, and Lawndale, The Crowd, The Controllers.


The Wire's new issue includes a feature on the L.A.F.M.S. -- a group of groups and artists who tend to be ignored for all their ambition and their too-early recording and releasing of records for the usual wrongo history-of temporal narratives. If they’d been in NYC it would’ve been as if some kind of Beefheartian no-wave predated punk; and if they’d been in London it would’ve been as if Pub rock had been made up instead of bands like The Desperate Bicycles or Etron fou Le Loublan. This article and the show at Beaconsfield won’t dent history’s chrome-dome though.

“The Lowest Form of Music”
-The L.A. Free Music Society in London-

•Fri. Oct. 22 to Sun. Oct. 24

22 Newport St, London, SE11 6AY


“Vinyl” album cover art show, Warhol, Pettibon, etc.

•Oct. 9 to Jan. 10
Garage Center for Contemporary Culture
19A Ulitsa Obraztsova, Moscow


Obituary of the Week: John Goeken (1930-2010)

“Goeken started Microwave Communications Inc. -- the original name of MCI -- in 1963 with a simple plan to increase sales at his two-way radio business in Joliet. He thought he could sell more two-way radios to truckers traveling between Chicago and St. Louis if he could build microwave towers to serve the route. But AT&T and four other communications companies regarded his plan as competition and filed petitions with the Federal Communications Commission to stop him. Goeken and his four partners put up a total of $3,000 to cover legal fees, but the money was quickly exhausted. One by one, his partners dropped out, leaving Goeken to fill the David role in the battle against the telecom Goliaths. As the legal fight dragged on through the 1960s, Goeken was so broke that he used tape to keep the soles of his shoes from flapping loose. Despite the long odds, MCI grew into a national network and rival AT&T lost its monopoly.”


Thanks to Mike Watt, Steve Beeho, Jack Endino, Patrick Baldwin.

To receive a weekly update notice for the NV, send an email to newvulgate[at]sbcglobal.net with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. To stop receiving notices, do the same with the word UNSUBSCRIBE.

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Issue #63 (September 15, 2010)

Wind River Canyon, Central Wyoming

Photo by Mike Safran

From the Wyoming Desk of Joe Carducci…

Disturbed’s new release, “Asylum”, is apparently their fourth Billboard number 1 in a row which puts them up there with Metallica and Dave Matthews Band according to the NYT. Not that anyone’s really selling albums but the news item treats it humorously since they’ve never heard of Disturbed. Actually they’re a hair or two better than Metallica (in the studio anyway) but nowhere near as good as Megadeth (live or studio). I’ve heard their radio songs on KAZY in Cheyenne and KXTE in Las Vegas over the years and eventually they do distinguish themselves from the mix of l.c.d. commercially programmed hard rock. Disturbed have a sound that’s clenched and turned-in on itself tightly, but they are audibly responsive to it. And each album has a couple of tunes that hang on a real song-idea. They’re from Chicago and that’s probably a bad sign. The last interesting “metal” from there was Trouble, and Tools of Ignorance back in the 80s. Haven’t heard anything yet from the new #1 but here’s my favorite song of theirs from the previous one, “Indestructible”. The song’s called “Divide” and it’s posted here with a lyrics scroll. Aside from the gangsta-like braggadocio they actually are quite provocative in a world where everyone totes some “unity” rap around like worry-beads to paraphrase an old Lester Bangs construction (“James Taylor Marked for Death”, 1971). This song’s ballsy contrarian call to divide brings to mind the central insight of Deena Weinstein’s 1991 book, Heavy Metal - A Cultural Sociology:

“The structural position in which heavy metal functions as a cultural expression makes any vigorous defense of it counterproductive for its own interests.”

Meaning that heavy metal embraces its pariah status and doesn’t reach for middle class validation beyond it. Although the music is so detached from the blues and psychedelia now that it is reaching into goth and country and ambient if only to loot a concept. It also has been fully captured by the recording studio technocracy, which is quite middle class in aspiration at least. The rightly forgotten Kory Clarke of one-time Geffen-foist, Warrior Soul, threw in the towel in the pages of Rip in 1993:

“I was envisioning arena audiences with their fists up going, ‘We are the government!’ and just thinking how incredible that would be. If I was Guns n’ Roses, that‘s the kind of stuff I would do.”

He didn’t understand that metal isn’t legit. It isn’t the government. (see “Divide”). I just wish metal was better than it is, or better yet, half as good as it was. Disturbed is touring, headlining over Avenged Sevenfold who are precisely what happens when audience IQ hits bottom and keeps digging. As bad as Disturbed is they will wipe the floor with AS.


Russell Adams in the WSJ, on Billboard’s new cyber chart to launch next month, “a new ranking for undiscovered artists and a subscription service to help them get noticed by managers, promoters and labels in search of up-and-coming talent.” The “metrics” will go into a new chart called “Dreamseekers.”

It could be that both Billboard and its partner MySpace Music are chasing this dream to avoid the nightmare of the next wave where everyone is wired but listening only to themselves.

I have to say that though Billboard did treat SST fairly well in terms of reviewing Black Flag, or at least Minutemen releases, before they had to, the evolution of their charts did us no favors. There was nothing but the Top 200 album chart with a short tail of “bubbling under”, the Top 100 singles chart, the C&W and R&B charts; don’t remember but I guess they had Classical and Jazz charts too.

In the late seventies I used to look up the album and singles charts to see how the first punk releases on Sire or Elektra were doing. Often you’d see that the first Television album or the second Ramones album were stalling in the second hundred. Successes like Patti Smith or Talking Heads were stalling in the nineties. (We were told in late 1981 that BF’s “Damaged” was under the “bubbling unders”, meaning something like #240.) When Billboard began their Dance chart sometime circa 1980 it was the one end-run around radio’s airplay blockade and Rolling Stone’s rear-guard defense of its platinum gods against the barbarians at the gate (see once again both Lee Abrams, and Jan Wenner). The Dance chart was in part assembled by sales, but it also took play list reports from hip gay clubs in major cities who were playing stuff like The Contortions, Magazine, PiL, Liquid Liquid, etc. Because these kinds of records showed up on that chart the buying policy of mainstream shops and chains would kick in. Depending on their customers they might buy just the top ten from the chart, or the whole list.

Before you knew it all kinds of British bands as well as big city bands were moving their music toward that Dance chart! It was the only break in the dam of the American music Industry, but still it was odd to have former noise bands like Throbbing Gristle, D.A.F., and SPK looking for booty action. I remember being surprised when Chicagoans I knew (Jim Nash, Al Jourgensen, and the Sport of Kings guys) talked about cutting test lacquers of their stuff to play over the best club DJ systems to gauge response. It seemed like some kind of revenge of the audiophile via the gay underground.

Anyway that Dance chart did some damage. We couldn’t get The Minutemen with their grubby ear-surgery funk onto that chart, and though SST triggered the need for new rock charts, these weren’t added until it was too late to help us. The CMJ charts which collated college radio and other non-commercial station airplay were becoming real enough that eventually Billboard added a dozen new Modern Rock-type charts so as to provide information on airplay and sales at the level of independent distribution and non-commercial radio. Actually these charts too were quickly filled up with wannabes and actual major label “indie” styled hopefuls. But again lazy, poorly run record stores and chains used these charts to buy, so instead of collecting information they created it. Don’t worry, Timothy White might have said, the Heisenberg Principle rocks!

One thing we know about the web and 3G networks is that they change everything in a content-version of Moore’s Law which together yields faster and faster delivery of smellier and smellier garbage to you, the former listener of music, now consumer of media. Maybe the new Billboard service instead of playing both sides (established stars and unknowns) against the middle will finally dissolve the stars in an acid bath of amateurs, leaving no money at all to collect for anyone who tries to locate the middle and stand there with an open basket, whether it's an old trade mag founded in 1894 to track billboard advertising in Cincinnati, New York, and Chicago, or last year’s flavor of social network.


Camille Paglia in the Sunday Times takes on Lady Gaga and accuses her of representing “The Death of Sex”. Paglia rather than having second thoughts about her celebration of Madonna -- which Madonna, the weight-lifting can’t-dance Madonna? The Bowie-damaged British-accent Madonna? -- prefers to attack the next pretender to the musical throne. What’s of note here musically is that it hardly matters in this pop world whose song is how good in terms of writing or arranging or engineering. “Poker Face” is better than many a Madonna song, and if you want a persona sufficient to ride these machine-tooled songs you’re probably talking about Britney Spears or Pink. In any case all this girl-pop is superbly engineered by some dude or other.


Simon Reynolds at Book Soup in West Hollywood, Thurs. Sept 16, 7pm.


Jimi Hendrix’s SciFi aspect is the subject of the book, Becoming Jimi Hendrix; authors Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber are at Skylight Books in LA, Fri. Sept 17.


I heard a 1969 Freddy Weller b-side called “Home” the other morning in the car on KCGY. Once in a while on the local morning shift they pull out something pre-Garth Brooks and this was a great choice before the ubiquitous Adrienne Brooks (no relation) takes over mid-days everywhere on country radio. The station was founded in Laramie by UW alum Curt Gowdy. The Weller original essentially recapitulates Freddy’s career in music which included joining Paul Revere and the Raiders on guitar in 1967; he stayed until 1972 but commenced a country music career almost immediately with his new bandmates’ blessings -- L.A.’s rock culture was then C&W-hip and Mark Lindsay produced Weller’s album and Keith Allison plays bass on it. I remember seeing a sweet little send-off that the Raiders gave Weller on their TV show, “Happening 68”; he’d joined to replace Drake Levin (check out clips of the band’s 2009 memorial to Drake here). The Raiders interrupted their daily vaudeville mix of tunes and comedy to explain that Freddy was returning to his first love, C&W, and they quieted down and he played or lip-synced a song from that first solo record. It’s strange because he wasn’t really leaving The Raiders for another three years.

“Home” was the b-side to his cover of “Games People Play” which hit #2 on C&W, so mostly folks who bought the single heard it then. Jim Wilson of the band Mother Superior writes up more about Weller at The Daily Pipe.


Johnny Myers, Hack Reviewer Guy, gives a Mog rundown on Fusion and then a punks-that-could-play list that kind of peters out but has good detail on who could get in the booth with Johnny and do radio. Johnny still has Yohannon-on-the-brain in this blog, but I tell you once Tim peeks down on that Fusion blog he won’t have any trouble with the other one.


Ben Ratliff on ZZ Top in the NYT does a lot with not enough column inches given the band’s longevity and length of discography.


“Ear to the Page”, about book format music releases I believe, was put together by Alan Licht and James Hoff, opens at Center for Book Arts on September 22.


Barry Newman in the WSJ, "In Short Supply: Pinball Wizards Who Can Fix Old Machines".


Tom McCarthy in The Guardian, on Gabriel Josipovici’s book, What Ever Happened to Modernism?

“In cultural terms, we live in a deeply conservative times. Editors at several major publishing houses have to run novels’ synopses past reader focus groups before being allowed to publish them; ‘literary’ festivals feature newsreaders and other media personalities. We shouldn‘t imagine, though, that things were that different in the golden age of modernism. Ulysses was printed, in 1922, on a small, private press in Paris, in a run of 1,000; Kafka’s Metamorphosis, on its small-press publication in 1915, sold 11 copies -- of which 10 were bought by Kafka. Yet can anyone, now, name the successful middlebrow writers of 1922 or 1915? Of course not.”


The list of lost films of the silent era found at the New Zealand Film Archive at oscars.org.


The Sept issue of The New Criterion is an exceptionally good one worth buying for its columns and articles: Conrad Black’s self-interested but still sharp take on the delusional content at the heart of the news media’s existential crisis. James Franklin on The postmodern calculus. Andrew McCarthy on Nicholas von Hoffman’s biography of Saul Alinsky. James Bowman on Christopher Hitchens’ memoir. James Piereson on Columbia and Harvard curriculums. And the editors, Hilton Kramer and Roger Kimball on the Mosque and state.


Michael Skapinker in the FT, "Hawking has not cracked the human mystery."

“Prof Hawking says, we have developed theories that provide adequate explanations of how people behave, such as psychology – or economics. How well does economics describe our behaviour? Not very well. In its classical form, it assumes a level of rational calculation that we often fail to exhibit. The same applies to business, or public policy. People are maddeningly inconsistent. Some trade off current pleasure for future security or health; others do not.

By Prof Hawking’s account, understanding human behaviour is merely a computational problem. If we could make those trillions of calculations, people would cease to be a puzzle. But would they? Could physics and chemistry alone explain why one person invests in risky mining ventures while another squirrels money away in low-interest accounts; why one person is terrified of flying while another races motorbikes? Why one person supports Arsenal, another Tottenham, and a third loathes football altogether? Why I chose to write this article and you to read this far? Whatever else we come to understand, I suspect we humans will remain one of the universe’s true mysteries.”


David Brooks’ column in the NYT last week, "The Genteel Nation", on Americans’ choice of jobs in service and finance vs. the dirty jobs of wealth creation that got us to this point hit a nerve, and these letters are the polite ones from the self-interested altruists of the progressive elite -- a.k.a., the clean fingernail crowd.


Michael Barone in the WSJ, "The End of Chicago’s Daley Dynasty".

“CBS's Bill Plante, when he was a local reporter in Chicago, once asked Daley an unwelcome question. The response, to the bewilderment of national reporters, was, ‘Even in the best of families sometimes you have a bad apple.’ It turned out that Mr. Plante's brother and father were precinct committeemen in the 49th ward.

This was typical of the late mayor, who seemed to have in his head the genealogy of a large percentage of the three million residents of Chicago. Although court decisions have reduced the number of patronage jobs, the current Mayor Daley possesses a similar skill. When he named Michelle Robinson (now Obama) to his staff, he undoubtedly knew her father was a precinct committeeman on the South Side.

For all their detailed knowledge of the city, the Daleys have always thought big. Their great family project has been O'Hare International Airport, named for an Irish-American Medal of Honor recipient whose father provided key testimony against Al Capone and was later gunned down—a paradigmatic Chicago story.”


Rachel Donadio in the NYT, "Chinese Remake the ‘Made in Italy’ Fashion Label ".

“It is a ‘Made in Italy’ problem: Enabled by Italy’s weak institutions and high tolerance for rule-bending, the Chinese have blurred the line between ‘Made in China’ and ‘Made in Italy,’ undermining Italy’s cachet and ability to market its goods exclusively as high end.”


David Pilling in the FT, "Diversity in China is something to celebrate".

“That affront to Cantonese, an earthy language spoken by up to 70m people, was accompanied by a proposal to take Cantonese programming off the air during prime time. Main channels would switch to Putonghua, literally ‘standard speech’, more commonly referred to in English as Mandarin….

Western linguists say that, in fact, there are at least eight Sinitic languages, as different from one another as English is from Portuguese or French.”


Stephen Fidler in the WSJ, "A Weakened Russia Looks to Europe".

“Unless Russia and the EU join forces and develop a strategy for co-development, the report said, ‘their international political influence will most likely be doomed to degradation.’ Without that alliance, the report said, Europe would turn into a ‘monument to its old grandeur,’ while Russia would risk becoming a raw-materials backyard for a rising Asia.”


Jeffrey Goldberg at theatlantic.com, "Fidel to Ahmadinejad: Stop Slandering the Jews".


James Hawes in Prospect has a clever take on burqas and hats but while on the one hand he is valuably reminding us of our recent haberdasher-past as here:

“Only just beyond living memory (say, in the works of Henry James), a posh lass who raises her veil within cigar-smoke range of a man is clearly hinting that she is absolutely bally gagging to slip away and get rural. Arthur Schnitzler, the Viennese playwright of the fin-de-siecle, was aiming for belly-laughs when, in La Ronde, he had a married woman enter her lover’s flat and declare passionately ‘I cannot stay’—while removing her veil. That comic moment from 1900 would play perfectly in Tehran today, though the work itself would be banned, as it was in Germany until 1920. And it was only performed uncut in Britain in 1981. You see, with just a gentle nudge of the timeline, our allegedly profound cultural differences are revealed simply as the disjuncture of a few piffling decades of social change.”

... he doesn’t take his own point serious enough to go further because after all between that 1920 and our modern 1981 perhaps fifty million Europeans were killed, and that doesn’t count the Asiatic contribution which perhaps tripled that count via their use of our modernist project in its Marxist flavor.

The backhanded glory of life along the storyline of Western Civilization is that all those religio-politico killings earned a humanist equilibrium that includes one-part democracy, one-part religion, and one-part constitutional liberty. But now as we trend decadent in our success so short a time past veils and scarves on our females and monstrous body counts, we find ourselves challenged by a pre-modern Islamic civilization. The fact that their own historic body count (feel free to reckon much of slavery’s holocaust in Islam’s tote) hasn’t seemed to earn them civilizational progress argues for the West to treat their religion as it once treated it own when it refused to back out of statecraft after the construction of the Holy Roman Empire. The modern project was at base an attack by new classes of merchants and literati against the royal prerogatives of Pope-sanctioned Kings. And an attack it was and still is. It is strangely worrisome to hear continuing founts of animus for the Vatican or Christian fundamentalists arguing for the coddling of Islam.

Scott Baldauf in the CSM asks "How Koran burning in Florida could play in the Muslim World", when he ought ask how the Mosque’s location will play there, and further how his and others’ first impulse to yield to these unreasonable demands will play there. They have been proven unreasonable by our own progress emerging from our own theocracies. This was achieved nowhere by yielding to the Church’s sensitivities.

Tawfik Hamid, former member of Jamma Islamiya, in the WSJ ("A Muslim Response to Quran Burning") challenges Islamic clerics to issue a fatwa to “clearly state that those who react by carrying out violent acts against non-Muslims are apostates. It should also say that those who attack non-Muslims to seek revenge will not be buried with Muslims and will go to hell forever.” Interesting the emphasis he places. He is talking of course of the likely murder of Christians in Pakistan, say, in retaliation for some act in, say, Florida. Good luck! The New Criterion “Notes & Comments” mentioned above summarizes, “The bottom line is this: Islam is a proselytizing, intolerant religion. Its aim is to institute Sharia as the ‘sole reference point for… ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community… and state.’ That is the end. The means are multifarious.”

I’m thinking that what has put a fire under the world of Islam their loss of the illusion that they were at the center of the universe. Communications, jet travel, Israel, Lebanon, Persian Gulf oil, Communism, sixties terrorism, and emigration and immigration have all contributed to smashing that illustion. Now they sense that they are rather a backwater of the world. Without this terror and the threat of it for this thought or that action, or even just the expected unbelief of the unbelievers, there would be massive conversions to Christianity or simple unbelief.

This is why as Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi writes in Foreign Policy ("The Problems of Honor Killings"), “Islamic authorities have often been reluctant at best to condemn the custom of honor killings.” And perhaps why Manya Brachear’s piece in the CT (Muslim teens grow up in shadow of terrorist attacks) misses the point that if 9-11 has alienated Muslim-American kids from what they thought their American lives would be, then it has succeeded and even relieved a tension in those kids parents as in time-honored fashion the immigrant generation seems to lose its children to America. Only here they might be chased back to their religion where they will find a bitter succor and that mechanism of expansion of early Islam will survive and take root even here. And American liberals, who did so much to unveil our own women, tell Muslims when they show up here, Never change.


David Goldman, the former Spengler, at atimes.com notes how easily one Florida pastor might throw the Islamic world into chaos. Troublemaker that he is he suspects that intel agencies might consider such a pastor an asymmetrical warrior:

“Instead of trying to stabilize the Islamic world, suppose - just for the sake of argument - that one or two world powers set out to throw it into chaos. I am not advocating such a strategy, only evaluating its effectiveness….

Russia has more urgent reasons to sow discord in Muslim countries, and centuries of experience in doing so. Simply because America has committed its reputation and resources to stability in the Muslim world, Russia has an interest in promoting the opposite. Russia views the world as a chessboard, in which pressure on the flanks increases its control of the center of the board. Moscow's on-again, off-again deal to supply Iran with an advanced anti-missile system, for example, represents a bargaining chip that it can use with Washington for a variety of purposes.

There is a deeper Russian interest in fostering Muslim weakness, though. Before mid-century the Russian Federation likely will have a Muslim majority. Russia already depends on 12 million guest workers, overwhelmingly from Turkey or from the Turkic republics of the former Soviet Union. Some analysts, for example Stratfor's George Friedman, predict that Turkey will challenge Russia for control of the Caucusus….

Turkey is a hotbed of prospective heresies, often rooted in ethnic substrata that resisted the mainstream Arabic model of Islam. Between 15% and 30% of Turks adhere to the Alevi sect, a nominally Shi'ite sect whose character is hard to define; different scholars attribute influences from Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, and even Byzantine Christianity.”


Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post on the film, The Great Liberation to be released in Gaza next month. The sequel will practically write itself.


Things are getting a little confusing around all this Mosque business so I thought a Frank Rich re-mix might help. Even when he hasn’t directly addressed the topic, his Sunday NYT columns may be relevant:

“The ‘ground zero mosque,’ as you may well know by now, is not at ground zero. Now that explicit anti-gay animus is an albatross, those who oppose gay civil rights are driven to invent ever loopier rationales for denying those rights, whether in the military or in marriage. The Park51 board is chock-full of Christians and Jews. It’s not a mosque but an Islamic cultural center containing a prayer room. Those opposing same-sex marriage are just as eager to mask their bigotry. This month’s incessant and indiscriminate orgy of Muslim-bashing is a national security disaster….”

Well… maybe not. If the NYT editorial board isn’t careful it might occur to some Florida pastor that were that meteor in Mecca to be blown sky high by Christian fundamentalists he might be rewarded with a pulpit and church right there in Mecca.

Libby Lake, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

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