a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Issue #80 (January 12, 2011)

Gouache by Grace Krilanovich

Misrepresentational Art
By Joe Carducci

Finance in its decadent phase became the tail that wagged the dog to the detriment of American industry and large patches of America itself -- as real estate. But extreme-finance which leveraged assets to the very edge of walking-the-plank also loosed up what industry survives and helped accelerate the creation and development of new industries like those associated with computers. It’s no small achievement that seventies’ garage tinkerers were able to find capital enough to assume wireless ubiquity today. The powers that were (IBM, ITT, Ma Bell…) didn’t see it coming. The Chinese attempt to order up some innovation top down will likely fall short, just as the Japanese attempt did. An American advantage remains.

As in business, Art was reconfigured by such decadent leveraging too. Here the loose capital was invested in mass higher education. With no strings attached students piled into film schools, comics studies, rock courses and the like, forgoing as kids will a complete meal and cutting directly to dessert. The skids for the current juvenilia were greased by the sour political cadres who long ago impuned Western Art right down to the oil in the paint and the pronouns in the texts. Nothing of any real politick remains of all that, but its remaining advocates don’t recognize its fallout as their sterile mule-child. I suspect there is some sort of American advantage remaining in Art as well, but it’s much harder to discern.

Camille Paglia is the best known contemporary critic of these conditions in the world of Art and her insistence on the necessity of tradition, especially the route the pagan imagination took through the Holy Roman period is heroic I’m sure. The New Republic maintains a good art critic named Jed Perl, which seems heroic as well in this age. He got the cover of the mag back in 2007 for his vivid critique, “How the Art World Lost Its Mind”. Inside the issue the title was rendered: “Laissez-Faire Aesthetics: What money is doing to art, or how the art world lost its mind”. In it he is riffing on exhibitions of art by Lisa Yuskavage, John Currin (got the cover), Fernando Botero, and Bob Dylan, plus Miami Beach’s Art Basel. Certainly money is a problem, where it is and where it refuses to go. What is rewarded and what punished. Perl’s beat includes the galleries and museums of New York and a few other cities and the art they anoint. That trashing of gravity-defying garbage was impressive so I bought Perl’s book of 2005, New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century. I’m no expert but it’s readable and well-illustrated (if all b&w), a fine narrative of how the energy of modern art moved from Paris where it barely survived WWII, to New York City. Exiles were important as he tells it, especially Marcel Duchamp.

Roger Shattuck’s earlier portrait of emerging Modernism in France from 1885 to WWI, The Banquet Years, focuses on Alfred Jarry, Henri Rousseau, Erik Satie, and Guillaume Apollinaire. He makes much of what he terms a “theatrical aspect of life”, a “light opera atmosphere” that characterized la Belle Époque but begged questions: “Was it a revolution? A liberation? A victory? A last fling? A first debauch?” Shattuck has it the first World War opened the artistic mainstream to brewing avant-garde currents. But then Modernism split right and left and was doubly compromised, except for what escaped to America.

Perl refers to art critic Clement Greenberg’s setting of New York against Paris at its post-war start:

“In 1948, just as a new generation of artists was streaming into New York, Greenberg argued that the life of the avant-garde in New York was a sort of hyperbolic version of the avant-garde life of Paris. He said that New York artists were living a life ‘as old as the Latin Quarter; but I do not think it was ever lived out with so little panache, so few compensations, and so much reality. The alienation of Bohemia was only an anticipation in nineteenth-century Paris; it is in New York that it has been completely fulfilled.”

Perl has it that the city’s call on artists’ time changed the formerly rural idyll of American painting until an on-the-street theatricality was “an aspect of everyday life”. He quotes painter Larry Rivers’ assessment that “Pollock was the first artist in America to be ‘on stage’.” That strikes me as generational blindness to all that occurred in terms of art, media, and celebrity in America before the WWII backstop, but for the world of New York artists it may be true and is probably significant. Perl has Duchamp’s “almost fossilized cynicism” inspiring, if that’s the word, the “cheerfully self-absorbed nihilists” Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg “who were quickly followed by a generation of whatever-the-market-will-bear nihilists, the generation of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.”

Perl notes that the city’s art critics, Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, Hilton Kramer, and others came to be more important, even overpowering, as the art began to fail at the end of abstract expressionism and into Pop. He writes of Greenberg and Rosenberg, “Both critics were so insistent on giving the excitement of the art of the present some kind of overarching, systematic relationship with the experience of the past that they threatened to rob the work of art of its independence….” He quotes Kramer’s observation that “‘the relation of the critic to his material has been significantly reversed’ by the coming of Pop.” He notes Pop’s suspect nostalgia and ultimately its mercenary endgame. He characterizes its career knowingness as “history sickness”, and syncing up with what Dwight Macdonald called “mid-cult” leads high culture to become “in many people’s minds, a dimension of popular culture.” That and the fact that the middle class’s work-allergic children were clambering into MFA programs that were now conceptual and critical rather than grounded in tradition or technique leaves us here now.

New Art City makes clear where Jed Perl’s New Republic pieces come from. The wonder is he continues. In “Laissez-Faire Aesthetics’ he noted the bankrupt characters profiled in New York magazine as “Warhol’s Children” and the re-bidding up of until now unappreciated and therefore un-fully exploited late Warhol, before writing, “Warhol is the evil prophet of the profit motive. His portraits of Chairman Mao can look positively visionary at a time when container ships full of neo-Pop Art are emerging from China.”

Perl’s current piece on Robert Duncan’s The H.D. Book, which was written by the poet in the years 1959 to 1964, a meditation that only begins on a poet known as H.D. Perl responds to it in part because it is a time piece, “Duncan’s modernism is at once lofty, optimistic, activist, and open-minded.” Duncan’s “great enemy” is T.S. Eliot “for being so quick to isolate tradition from the present.” All of this is of a piece I guess, and it fits with my sense of the long 20th century evolving of America’s small-p popular arts of music and film. Music, Literature, Art, all of it’s history seems a long collapse -- a collapse predicted by the Vatican no less when Western Art was separated from religious observance. All good work increasingly being done by those slumming from their true potential, yet elevating lower forms of increasingly folk, popular, and mass-media arts, at least for their moments. In this great collapse there have been centuries full of amazing, wondrous whorls, eddies and side-flumes. But still there is only an inevitable general sinking and settling to stasis. Los Angeles, in other words.

Illustrations: Sunning, by Nina Carlsen; King Duck, by Henry Carlsen; Dana, by Keeley Carducci; abstract by Maya Carducci.

Drawing by Lee Ranaldo

Caprimulgus Rufigena by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Modernism may have been most advanced around the turn of the last century in Vienna, seat of the Habsburg Austria-Hungarian empire, inheritor of pieces of Byzantium and on the Ottoman front line. Many things we take for granted were forged first in Vienna, including, apparently, postcard: Holland Cotter in the NYT, "Postcards of the Wiener Werksttte."

“Introduced in Austria in 1869, postcards were the Twitter of the 19th century: cheap, fast ways to send short messages. With the arrival of the full-color picture postcard in the 1890s, they also became a popular art form. And that form reached an apex of finesse in cards produced by the Wiener Werkstätte, or Vienna Workshop, under the leadership of Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann, in the first two decades of the 20th century.

These cards, with their vivid, innovative graphics, still look fabulous. The collector Leonard A. Lauder obviously thinks so. He spent decades tracking down pristine examples of the card designs issued by the workshop — about 1,000 in all — and gave his near-complete set as a promised gift to the Neue Galerie (which his brother Ronald S. Lauder helped found), where roughly half are on view. Some were the work of artists like Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele, now famous, and of Hoffmann himself.”


Monday’s New York Times was a classic. Ex-editor Howell Raines called it “flooding the zone”, but its more like “flooding their pants.” The NYT has bureaus and correspondents all over this country, it’s a national paper now you’d think, but these bureaus when covering politics operate like foreign bureaus even for those posted in them. They all hope to ascend up into the new headquarters in Manhattan and so they shovel up what might confirm Manhattan political fantasies about America. Then you get the reigning gods of the editorial page, weeping over the culture of hate. I guess they consider what they do love.

On Sunday the NYT itself quoted a classmate of the shooter, “As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal, & oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy.” And the rest of the evidence would qualify any political sense the guy had as blowing helplessly in the winds of his increasing schizophrenia. Another sad case, the sadder for him that he’s survived, though his pathological arrogance will probably make it biologically impossible for him to face what he’s done -- the mug shot seems to shout this. The Times is using this young man’s pathology against the Tea Party and Glenn Beck and the America that is, and which refuses to become what is often called the America that could be. And most of the media does the same -- move from the particulars to what they were already talking about before they were interrupted, certainly an insult to the victims. Monday the paper was in full flood-the-zone mythmaking mode with only Ross Douthat standing up to it. He wrote:

“When John F. Kennedy visited Dallas in November of 1963, Texas was awash in right-wing anger — over perceived cold-war betrayals, over desegregation, over the perfidies of liberalism in general. Adlai Stevenson, then ambassador to the U.N., had been spit on during his visit to the city earlier that fall. The week of Kennedy’s arrival, leaflets circulated in Dallas bearing the president’s photograph and the words “Wanted For Treason.” But Lee Harvey Oswald was not a right-winger, not a John Bircher, not a segregationist. Instead, he was a Marxist of sorts (albeit one disillusioned by his experiences in Soviet Russia), an activist on behalf of Castro’s Cuba, and a man whose previous plot had been aimed at a far-right ex-general named Edwin Walker.”

He further notes the crosscurrents of the attacker of George Wallace and might have mentioned those of Bobby Kennedy’s, John Lennon’s, and Ronald Reagan’s as well. Had he a longer column he’d surely have mentioned John Piereson’s 2007 book, Camelot and the Cultural Revolution, which so many decades late caught up to the mythmaking of the powers that were, when they dyed a false meaning into JFK’s assassination for their own political profit, and inadvertently triggered decades of conspiracy theorizing -- the kind of “thinking” we’re cautioned that can be taken too seriously by the unbalanced. In any case, those assassinations and attempts involved single targets; this massacre seems merely disguised by political motive.

The “greater truth” of the Kennedy assassination that our media was so sure of was neatly elaborated by Carl Oglesby in his 1971 book, The Yankee Cowboy War: Conspiracies from Dallas to Watergate. He read deeply into the cultural geography of old money in the east vs. oil money in Texas, but Oglesby’s theory couldn’t account for the fact that Oswald was a communist and the Kennedys were new money too. But back then a theory didn’t need to be grounded in anything as profane as evidence -- the point was more that Carl was a brilliant virtuoso of a youth culture’s vain paranoia.

By Tuesday David Brooks wrote a sober column as well in the NYT well titled, "The Political Mind", wherein he describes the problem and notes exceptions to it:

“We have a news media that is psychologically ill informed but politically inflamed, so it naturally leans toward political explanations. We have a news media with a strong distaste for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, and this seemed like a golden opportunity to tarnish them. We have a segmented news media, so there is nobody in most newsrooms to stand apart from the prevailing assumptions. We have a news media market in which the rewards go to anybody who can stroke the audience’s pleasure buttons. I have no love for Sarah Palin, and I like to think I’m committed to civil discourse. But the political opportunism occasioned by this tragedy has ranged from the completely irrelevant to the shamelessly irresponsible. The good news is that there were a few skeptics, even during the height of the mania: Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast, James Fallows of The Atlantic and Jonathan Chait of The New Republic.”

The psychosis of the killer has been demonstrated; elsewhere in Tuesday’s Times a forensic psychiatrist is quoted, “Certainly not all paranoids are mass murderers… but almost all mass murderers are paranoid.” But what is it exactly that ails the news media?

The effects of news misrepresentation in the sixties were quite damaging. This time around it's more farce, not that the Congresswoman hasn’t been a more worthy representative than any Kennedy, but the NYT and NPR cannot reprise the power to impose misinterpretation that elite dailies, Time-Life, the networks, publishing and Manhattan opinion once possessed. That old dominance wielded so venally did in fact create the WSJ, Fox, and Limbaugh of today. Plus there are today far more people living in places like Arizona. They know the truth of where they live, whereas only academics in Tucson might jump to defer to any “greater truth” the Times may be peddling. Sure enough the paper for my convenience has shuttled a living breathing cliché of such to their Op-Ed page.

Oddly, Monday’s Times also featured a rare defense of the NPR resignee Ellen Weiss over the firing of Juan Williams by media columnist David Carr. His emphasis is on the injustice of NPR’s losing her rather than Vivian Schiller, though he’s less than direct about it. Only Ira Glass’s defense of Weiss makes any sense, but NPR can hardly expect to not lose their own high-achieving most-valuable-lifers to sacrifice to the gods’ volcano when they are always lead cheerleaders for shit-canning any military officer for gender or racial faux pas no matter the testimonies made to their skill or the amount of national monies invested in that officer’s training.

Also in the Times on Friday and Sunday were reflexive pieces ridiculing of the idea that the Constitution is anything other than common law written down in a dead language. As I’ve written before, how the press expects the First Amendment to stand while they seek to dissolve all else is a measure of their unseriousness about politics and their own charge.

And in a vaguely related development in Sunday’s Times, and as well quite the best news in any paper in years, David Segal asks a question he knows the answer to: "Is Law School a Losing Game?"

“To judge from data that law schools collect, and which is published in the closely parsed U.S. News and World Report annual rankings, the prospects of young doctors of jurisprudence [that’s LAWYERS - JC] are downright rosy. In reality, and based on every other source of information, Mr. Wallerstein and a generation of J.D.’s face the grimmest job market in decades. Since 2008, some 15,000 attorney and legal-staff jobs at large firms have vanished, according to a Northwestern Law study. Associates have been laid off, partners nudged out the door and recruitment programs have been scaled back or eliminated. And with corporations scrutinizing their legal expenses as never before, more entry-level legal work is now outsourced to contract temporary employees, both in the United States and in countries like India. It’s common to hear lawyers fret about the sort of tectonic shift that crushed the domestic steel industry decades ago. But improbably enough, law schools have concluded that life for newly minted grads is getting sweeter….”

You mean lawyers would lie?! No shit, Sherlock. And these aren’t just lawyers he’s writing about, but professors of law and suspected Times subscribers to boot.


The New Yorker follows at its own lower-pitched weekly metabolism with similarly evasive insinuations but loads more related trivia, the kind known to history professors still stuck teaching undergraduates out of textbooks they must handle on a yearly basis even given rote exploitation of non-union grad students and adjuncts. This week its Jill Lepore, who thanks to the Tea Party manages to sneak four thousand words past the editors and fact-checkers of the mag, all about every claim and certain counter-claims made between progressives and originalists about the U.S. Constitution through the years. She makes a motion at evenhandedly treating the Progressives and the Know Nothings, but you get the idea….

Mostly she’s obsessed with how little people read it, though this seems old if not stale news. She sees the current debate as just another panic resulting in more printing of Constitutions but no additional reading of it. She and her Progs might be right about words written and re-written by several committees centuries ago, and yet we all know what the point of it was. Otherwise we’d just be a democracy making it up as go along, voting up one referendum, voting down another, you know, like California. The U.K. is currently fretting about the drift in their common law system as immigration lessens what the populace has in common. No comment on that from Prof. Lepore, but she can’t help but tangle with the 2nd Amendment! And just like the NYT did months ago and I commented then here, she neglects to mention the 1st, which she and her editors simply pocket.

But as the Sciences know and the Humanities loath, numbers do not lie. And elsewhere in this week’s NYer, James Surowiecki cries real upper east side tears for the fates of unions and even public sector ones. “Pension Envy” would be rectified by unionizing all employees and bringing private sector pensions up to the public level -- simple. Then simply rectify what a NYT editorial referred to on Sunday as “chronic tax shortfalls”, each and every one of them, and we’re home free. They are so smart in New York compared to the Know Nothings.


What will be of particular interest in Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir is what he writes and says about the Bush administration’s debate over what to do once Saddam was ousted from power. It was assumed that Rumsfeld argued against occupation and democratization, and lost. This third way has long been forgotten, but it ought to be of interest to those who care about the undue influence of the military-industrial complex and it’s interest in taking on larger and larger projects with their inevitable mega-slush funds of unaccountable expenditures. Both wars seemed to allow Rumsfeld to reshape the Pentagon’s inflexible war-fighting philosophy which is something he seemed to failing at before 9-11. But instead, according to the NYT, we’re getting this kind of useless interference run by the cleverdick culturati:

McSweeney’s will release the novel, written by Eric Martin and Stephen Elliott, on the same day that Mr. Rumsfeld’s memoir is scheduled for publication by Sentinel, an imprint of Penguin Group USA. Its cover features an illustration of Mr. Rumsfeld, leaning on a fence with mountains in the background, just as he does on the cover of his memoir. In the McSweeney’s version, he is wearing an orange prison jumpsuit of the Guantánamo variety. McSweeney’s called its book ‘a novel rooted in the harrowing stories of real people caught in America’s disastrous military campaigns.’ Now it is up to bookstores to decide whether to mischievously display the two side by side, as they frequently did in 2009 with Sarah Palin’s memoir, Going Rogue, and the OR Books version, ‘Going Rouge.’”


Ed Crooks in the FT, "Riveting Prospects."

“The most fundamental issue, however, is that large US companies generally want to manufacture in the markets where they sell. The US is the world‘s largest outward investor and American companies earn much more from their foreign operations than from exports. The revenues of US-owned foreign affiliates were about $5,000bn in 2008, according to the Chamber of Commerce -- almost three times the value of US exports of goods and services.”


Todd Shriber at Traderdaily.com, "Steve Jobs a Dollar a Day".


Joel Klein in the WSJ, "Why Teacher Pensions Don’t Work".

"Bernie Madoff pretended he was getting 8% returns on his clients' investments—and he's in jail for running a Ponzi scheme. But in the public sector that kind of make-believe is common. As former chancellor of the New York City public schools, I learned that one of the options the city pension plan offered teachers and administrators guaranteed an 8.25% return, regardless of what the investments actually earned in the market. In fact, throughout the country public-employee pension plans have been massively underfunded, often pretending, like Madoff, that they'd get 8% returns forever, even if they didn't get them in reality. Whether the investment returns are there or not, defined-benefit pensions require the government to pay retirees a predetermined amount for life. For example, today a teacher in New York City can retire with an annual pension of $60,000 (or more) that is exempt from state and municipal taxes. In short, lots of obligation; little set aside to meet it. While irresponsible, this kind of behavior makes good political sense. After all, people run for office in the short run, and money spent now—rather than put aside in a pension reserve—is more likely to garner votes.”


WSJ: Grading the Ivory Towers.

“There's a memorable scene in the movie Ghostbusters when Dan Akroyd says in horror to Bill Murray after they lose their jobs at a university: ‘I've worked in the private sector. They expect results.’ The same can't always be said of universities, where costs are rising faster even than health care. Now, a growing number of states are demanding that their taxpayer-funded universities show evidence of improvement in student performance. Perhaps the most aggressive school is Texas A&M, which is trying to measure professor productivity and performance. Given the reaction from some in the faculty lounges, you'd think Texas had banned football. Since 1978 college costs have risen by more than tenfold, about three times the rate of inflation, according to an American Enterprise Institute study. Four years of college now cost as much as $200,000 at some private institutions, making this perhaps the only industry in America that has recorded negative productivity gains.”


John Stauffer in the WSJ on two books on slavery: Cry Liberty, and American Uprising.

“Given the recent tendency to romanticize resistance, it may come as a surprise to learn that throughout history slave rebellions have been comparatively rare, especially in North America, where slaves constituted a minority of the total population. (In Central and South America they were often a majority.) One reason for such rarity was the skill with which masters controlled their workers and suppressed revolt. Peter Charles Hoffer and Daniel Rasmussen separately tell the story of two of the largest slave revolts in North America—the Stono Rebellion of 1739 in South Carolina and the Louisiana Slave Revolt of 1811. Neither event plays as large a role in the popular imagination as Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831, but each proved a major test for the power of slavery's supporters to enforce their regime and repel the threats to it.”


Steven Erlanger in the NYT, "French Wounds From Algeria Ache as if New".

“Mr. Beauvois’s movie, Des Hommes et Des Dieux (‘Of Gods and Men’) is a quiet, contemplative drama about faith, but it sold more than two million tickets here within five weeks of its opening. (It opens in New York on Feb. 25.) It features some of France’s best actors, including Michael Lonsdale and Lambert Wilson, in a largely true story of a group of nine Trappist monks who live among the Algerian poor in the monastery of Tibhirine, where they decide to remain even though they sense a growing danger. In March 1996, seven were kidnapped during the Algerian civil war, held for two months and found dead, beheaded, in May. The details of their kidnapping and deaths remain unclear, although the Armed Islamic Group (G.I.A.) claimed responsibility. The film touched something profound in France, a largely Roman Catholic country that is fiercely proud of its constitutional secularism, but also haunted by the loss of selflessness and faith. Le Monde said, ‘The monks of Tibhirine incarnate everything that the public, from the left to the right, no longer finds in society — nobility of spirit, a sense of sacrifice, freedom, sincerity, daily ecology, meditation, reflection on death.’ L’Express said the film ‘offers a magnificent response to terrorists, as to soldiers, while showing the torments of those who refuse the logic of war.’ Le Figaro said more acutely that the film touched on contemporary unease: ‘The Islamist surge and the situation of Christians in the Muslim world in general.’”


Simon Kuper in the FT, "Indignant?"

“One night in March 1944, a young member of the French Resistance, codenamed ‘Greco’, landed in occupied France from England…. He was betrayed to the Gestapo, who waterboarded him and sent him to Buchenwald. Just before he could be hanged, he swapped identities with a dead French prisoner. And now, aged 93, Stphane Hessel tops France’s bestseller lists. His 12-page left-wing pamphlet Indignez-vous! (‘Be Indignant!’) has sold 500,000 copies since October. His tiny publisher, with just two full-time employees, is overwhelmed. The most obvious lesson is that people should write 12-page books…. Having lived in France since 2002, I can testify that there’s always a lot of indignation about. People here always seem to loathe whomever they elected president. This indignation is of course grounded in France’s two proudest traditions: the revolution of 1789 and the Resistance.”


Peggy Hollinger in the FT, "French debate on future of 35-hour week misses the point".

“In the private sector at least, the 35-hour week has been so emptied of any real substance in a series of reforms over the past eight years that the average working week in France is now 39.4 hours. Admittedly, that is still below the European average of 40.4, but in terms of total hours worked per year France is comfortably ahead of Germany, for instance…. The problem is that since the 35-hour week was introduced in 2000 companies have won so many exemptions from social and labour charges that any abolition means these benefits too would have to disappear. For employees, the 35-hour week simply marks the threshold at which they can claim overtime.”


Valentina Pop at euobserver.com, "Greece blasts EU ‘hypocrisy’ for opposing Turkey wall plans".

“The European Commission last week said: ‘walls and barriers are short-term measures’ that cannot solve immigration problems in a long-term manner. The UN's refugee agency, which has constantly slammed Greece for its poor detention conditions for irregular migrants, also warned against the plans. Speaking in parliament on Friday, the minister defended his government's plans to build a US-style fence on its land border with Turkey.”


David Pilling in the FT, "Japan finds there is more to life than growth".

“It is easy to make the case for Japan’s decline. Nominal gross domestic product is roughly where it was in 1991, a sobering fact that appears to confirm the existence of not one, but two, lost decades. In 1994, Japan’s share of global GDP was 17.9 per cent, according to JPMorgan. Last year it had halved to 8.76 per cent. Over roughly the same period, Japan’s share of global trade fell even more steeply to 4 per cent. The stock market continues to thrash around at one-quarter of its 1990 level, deflation saps animal spirits – a common observation is that Japan has lost its ‘mojo’ – and private equity investors have given up on their fantasy that Japanese businesses will one day put shareholders first. Certainly, these facts tell a story. But it is only partial. Underlying much of the head-shaking about Japan are two assumptions. The first is that a successful economy is one in which foreign businesses find it easy to make money. By that yardstick Japan is a failure and post-war Iraq a glittering triumph. The second is that the purpose of a national economy is to outperform its peers.”


WSJ: "The Italy of Asia."

“Looks like it's almost time for another change of leader in Tokyo, which is becoming the Italy of Asia. Whoever it is, he will have to tackle Japan's problems before unpleasant outcomes are forced upon it. Without cuts to entitlements and tax cuts to promote growth, Tokyo will continue turning into Athens…. Japan is foundering on the promises made by past generations of politicians that are coming due in a rapidly aging society. These include unfunded pensions and medical care for the elderly. And it will only get worse—2012 is expected to be a watershed year when the biggest wave of baby boomers begins to retire.”


Martin Fackler in the NYT, "Tough Talk From South Korea".

“The Asian currency crisis is known popularly here as the I.M.F. crisis because the danger of economic collapse forced South Korea to swallow a tough bailout package from the International Monetary Fund that closed big banks and industrial companies, led legions of workers to be laid off and prompted citizens to donate their gold to the national treasury. It was a collective trauma that is remembered here on the scale of the Great Depression in the United States. But South Korea was able to bounce back and resume the soaring growth rates that have enabled its gross domestic product to double since 1998, catapulting South Korea into the ranks of the world’s wealthiest nations….

South Korea’s hard-landing approach can offer pointers to the United States, especially at a time when Republicans have taken over the House of Representatives with vows of ‘restoring fiscal sanity.’ One such lesson, they say, is to avoid relying too much on stimulus spending and to make painful structural changes so that the economy can find its natural bottom and resume its growth. Another is to make the changes quickly and decisively to restore the public’s faith.”


Tyler Brûlé in the FT, "The secrets of my brilliant Korea."


Thomas Fuller in the NYT, "Vietnam Confronts Economic Quagmire".

“The reach of the state-owned companies, even after several waves of privatizations, remains impressive…. But the seemingly intractable problems at Vinashin, the deeply indebted state company, have highlighted the shortcomings of relying so heavily on government-owned enterprises. From its core mission of building ships, Vinashin expanded into about 450 businesses that it failed to make profitable and was ill suited to manage, including spas, motorcycle assembly and real estate. On the brink of bankruptcy with $4.5 billion in debts, the company is now effectively being bailed out by the government: it has been exempted from paying taxes this year and will be given interest-free loans, according to Vietnamese press reports. As a measure of their inefficiency, Vietnam’s state-owned companies use 40 percent of the capital invested in the country but produce only 25 percent of the gross domestic product.”


Vice Premier Li Keqiang in the FT, "The world should not fear a growing China".

“China, as a major country, does not shirk its responsibilities. In recent years, it has arranged nearly $4bn of debt relief for 50 developing countries and it has contributed more than 15,000 peacekeepers. China has actively mediated in areas of regional tension, such as the Korean peninsula, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Darfur. It has acceded to nearly 100 multilateral international conventions, such as on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. It has made solid contribution to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the International Monetary Fund bail-out programme, the reconstruction of Afghanistan and disaster relief. It sticks to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and has taken concrete actions in tackling global climate change. China will remain conscientious in fulfilling international responsibilities consistent with its status as a major developing country. Reform and opening-up are the driving forces behind our development. China will be steadfast in promoting reform. It will stick to the market orientation of reform and give greater play to the fundamental role of the market in resource allocation. At the same time it remains devoted to greater opening-up, follows a strategy of mutual benefit with other countries and will open the country ever wider to the world.”


Tsering Namgyal at Opendemocracy.net, "Rise of Tibetan soft power."

“It is no secret these days how popular Tibetan religion and spirituality has become amongst the Chinese public, helping compensate for the loss of Tibetan culture caused by its government’s policies. Those who think that this is all some new age mumbo-jumbo might want to check out the back issues of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS), arguably the leading science journal in the country, which has published empirical findings of the experiments carried out with Tibetan monks at several top American universities. Books based on these studies have become national bestsellers.The deregulation of the spiritual markets in the past twenty years has indeed fuelled no resentment in the meditative markets of the West. That is because the world has outsourced to Tibetan masters the work of achieving mental peace and meditative technology for which there is no easy substitute. In the high-end market of practical neuroscience, Tibetan Buddhists have faced little competition. As the new media economy has led to the unlocking of the value chain across all industries, the Tibetan Buddhist communities have become a ‘gold standard’ against which all spiritual organizations are compared.”


Neil MacFarquhar in the NYT, "Ancient City in Mali Rankled by Rules for Life in Cultural Spotlight".

“Abba Maiga stood in his dirt courtyard, smoking and seething over the fact that his 150-year-old mud-brick house is so culturally precious he is not allowed to update it — no tile floors, no screen doors, no shower. Many residents of Djenné say they long for more modern homes, but Unesco preservation guidelines limit alterations to original structures. ‘Who wants to live in a house with a mud floor?’ groused Mr. Maiga, a retired riverboat captain. With its cone-shaped crenellations and palm wood drainage spouts, the grand facade seems outside time and helps illustrate why this ancient city in eastern Mali is an official World Heritage site. But the guidelines established by Unesco, the cultural arm of the United Nations, which compiles the heritage list, demand that any reconstruction not substantially alter the original. ‘When a town is put on the heritage list, it means nothing should change,’ Mr. Maiga said. ‘But we want development, more space, new appliances — things that are much more modern. We are angry about all that.’ It is a cultural clash echoed at World Heritage sites across Africa and around the world. While it may be good for tourism, residents complain of being frozen in time like pieces in a museum — their lives proscribed so visitors can gawk.”


Deniz Kandiyoti at Opendemocracy.net, "The politics of gender in Turkey".

“On 18 July 2010, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, held a consultation meeting with women’s non-governmental organisations in the context of the ‘Democratic Initiative and National Unity and Brotherhood Project’, also dubbed ‘the Kurdish Initiative’ in the popular press. This initiative aims to resolve the conflict that has plagued the South-east of the country, pitting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) against the Turkish military. The PM addressed the women in attendance as mothers ‘whose voices would drown out the sounds of bullets’ – thus enlisting them to the cause of peace. Among the 80-odd attendees were members of NGOs with established feminist credentials such as KADER and the Foundation for Women’s Solidarity, among others. This goes some way towards explaining why some participants took the PM to task during the question period for addressing them exclusively as mothers, overlooking the fact that they are fully fledged economic, political and juridical personae. It is at this point that the PM apparently interjected: ‘I do not believe in the equality of men and women. I believe in equal opportunities. Men and women are different and complementary’.

This intervention signalled that regardless of Turkey’s signatory status to CEDAW, the PM had chosen to nod in the direction of fitrat, a tenet of Islam that attributes distinct and divinely ordained natures to men and women. The reactions of the participants were widely reported in the local press as ‘utter shock’, ‘having the effect of a cold shower’, ‘total astonishment’ and ‘deep disappointment’.”


Mehdi Khalaji at Qantara.de, "Iran’s Supreme Power Struggle".

“Tension between the president and the supreme leader is built into the Islamic Republic's core. The supreme leader has absolute authority and can veto decisions made by the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. At the same time, the president emerges from an electoral process with an agenda and ambitions of his own. During a president's second term – which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now begun – the tensions inevitably emerge into public view. Khamenei has never been willing to tolerate a president with a large independent power base. In the past, he clipped the wings of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had strong ties to the merchant class, and of Mohammad Khatami, a reformer whose support came from westernized middle-class professionals. Although Ahmadinejad received the supreme leader's support in the face of large-scale protests against his re-election last year, Khamenei does not appear hesitant about limiting the president's power. A new political front for Ahmadinejad: Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, is considered one of the president's most severe critics | In fact, it appears that the massive demonstrations against Ahmadinejad delayed their confrontation, since both the supreme leader and the president rallied publicly to defend the legitimacy of the election.”


Charles McGrath in the NYT, "Man or Male?"

“The academic turf devoted to sex and gender these days is so crowded, in fact, that the prospect of a newcomer, a discipline called male studies, has generated a minor controversy. Male studies, largely the brainchild of Dr. Edward M. Stephens, a New York City psychiatrist, doesn’t actually exist anywhere yet. Last spring, there was a scholarly symposium at Wagner College on Staten Island, intended to raise the movement’s profile and attract funds for a department with a tenured chair on some campus. A number of prominent scholars attended, including Lionel Tiger, an emeritus anthropology professor at Rutgers, who invented the term ‘male bonding,’ and Paul Nathanson, a religious studies scholar at McGill University, who specializes in the study of misandry, the flip side of misogyny. Both are on the advisory board of the Foundation for Male Studies, which Dr. Stephens founded last year. There will be a second conference in April at the New York Academy of Medicine — right on the heels, as it happens, of the annual conference of the American Men’s Studies Association — and the two groups have already begun jousting…. One argument that male studies advocates make is that men’s studies has essentially been co-opted. According to Professor Tiger, the trouble with men’s studies is that it’s ‘a wholly owned branch of women’s studies.’”


Marc Lacey in the NYT, "Rift in Arizona as Latino Class Is Found Illegal".

“The state, which includes some Mexican-American studies in its official curriculum, sees the classes as less about educating students than creating future activists. In Mr. Acosta’s literature class, students were clearly concerned. They asked if their graduation was at risk. They asked if they were considered terrorists because Mr. Horne described them as wanting to topple the government. They asked how they could protest the decision. Then, one young woman asked Mr. Acosta how he was holding up.

‘They wrote a state law to snuff this program out, just us little Chicanitos,’ he said, wiping away tears. ‘The idea of losing this is emotional.’ At a recent news conference, Mr. Horne took pains to describe his attack on Tucson’s Mexican-American studies program as one rooted in good faith. He said he had been studying Spanish for several years and had learned enough to read Mexican history books in Spanish and to give interviews on Univision and Telemundo, two Spanish-language broadcasters. Asked whether he felt he was being likened to Bull Connor, the Alabama police commissioner who became a symbol of bigotry in the 1960s, Mr. Horne described how he had participated in the March on Washington in 1963 as a young high school graduate. He said of his critics: ‘They are the ‘Bull Connors.’ They are the ones resegregating.’

…Programs that promote the overthrow of the United States government are explicitly banned, and that includes the suggestion that portions of the Southwest that were once part of Mexico should be returned to that country.”


Michael Barone in the WSJ, "The Great Lone Star Migration".

“But it's also interesting to compare previous Census results to see how America has changed in the last 40 years, since 1970—and to compare it with how it changed in the 40 years before that. The comparison tells us much about the country's present—and the shape of the future. The years around 1970 were a flex point. We moved from the post-World War II industrial behemoth dominated by big government, big business and big labor to a nation reshaped by high tech and high finance. The decades-long farm-to-factory migration also drew to a close, while a period of unanticipated major immigration from Latin America and Asia began. The middle and late 1960s gave us the civil rights laws that successfully desegregated the South, and the lavish welfare spending and lax crime control that bedeviled the great cities of the North. Population growth over the two 40-year periods was roughly comparable, 80 million or a 65% increase in 1930-70, and 105 million or a 52% increase in 1970-2010. But the way the country grew was sharply different.”


Christopher Caldwell in the FT, "Let Huck Finn tell it as it was".

“There is no serious way to defend him against the charge. He is doing just what Thomas Bowdler did in 1807 when he produced a Family Shakespeare with the dirty parts left out. Let us not dismiss Bowdler as a mere life-hating obscurantist though. Elevating moral instruction above the imparting of knowledge is a defensible choice…. American discussions of race are as constrained by taboos as discussions of sex were in Bowdler’s day. In one respect, they have also broken free of logic. Racist books are not used in any American classrooms, so fury tends to be directed at books that merely mention race….

The Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy once wrote of Twain: ‘By putting nigger in white characters’ mouths, the author is not branding blacks, but rather branding the whites.’ It is an excellent point. Cutting the world ‘nigger’ out of Huckleberry Finn is generally urged as a means of protecting the self-esteem of black students. In some cases it may achieve that aim. But one thing it does even more reliably is to protect the moral hauteur of whites, shielding them from the evidence that their ancestors were ever that way and the suggestion that they themselves ever could be.”


Gajutra Bahadur in the NYTBR on Anand Giridharadas’s book, India Calling.

“In the middle of his accomplished book, India Calling, Anand Giridharadas tells of meeting a Maoist revolutionary in Hyderabad. The city, nicknamed Cyberabad, serves as a base for both the globalized Indian economy and an armed insurgency at war against the country’s inequalities, rooted and new. India’s Maoist — or Naxalite — movement began as a rural struggle against exploitative landlords in a caste-conscious, socialist nation but has now arrayed itself against the forces of global capitalism reshaping India. When Giridharadas pushes the Naxalite — What does one fight have to do with the other? — the man answers with a striking notion: globalization is reducing people to their specific economic task, stripping them of their humanity, just as caste had done. And software engineers in gated communities have become the new Brahmins. Giridharadas follows the curve of this argument, allowing it to seduce us. Then, he reveals that this rebel, although waging revolution by night, reports by day for a newspaper he himself describes as a shill for the multinational transformation of India. ‘I have to earn my lunch,’ the man explains. ‘I’m not a whole-timer for revolution.’”


Matthew Kaminski in the WSJ, "The Troubled Heart of Pakistan".

“A few days before Christmas, I visited Salman Taseer there. Though ensconced in a quiet office with limited powers, the governor of Pakistan's largest and richest province was deep in battle with religious extremists beyond the house's high walls. Wearing stylish glasses and hair slicked back, he looked a youthful 66. Taseer was a local tycoon with unabashedly liberal tastes. He was unusual, too, in his willingness to openly challenge Islamist dictates. ‘They want to hold the entire country hostage,’ he told me. Most Pakistanis agree with him, he added, since ‘they vote for secular parties.’ In recent tweets and public statements, Taseer had called for parliament to amend Pakistan's law on blasphemy—a ‘black law’ in his words—that mandates the death penalty for insulting Islam. In our conversation, he saw little room for compromise with fundamentalists who fare badly in elections and resort to violence. ‘These are not people you can mollycoddle,’ he said. ‘These are killers.’ So, evidently, they are. After lunch this Tuesday in the national capital, Islamabad, Salman Taseer was gunned down by one of his security guards. The assassin told witnesses that he was angry over the man's stance on blasphemy. No politician had as prominently defended secular values in Pakistan since Benazir Bhutto. The former premier, an ally of Taseer, was herself slain three years ago by terrorists allegedly sent from the Islamist hotbeds along the western border with Afghanistan. In a joint statement issued before his funeral at Governor's House yesterday, some 500 religious Pakistani leaders praised his killer and urged Muslims not to mourn Taseer's death.”


Datelines: Islamabad…

Zahid Hussain in the WSJ, "Islamists Rally in Pakistan".

“ISLAMABAD—Tens of thousands of Islamists rallied Sunday in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi in support of the nation's controversial blasphemy laws, and clerics threatened to kill anyone who challenged them.”

Carlotta Gall in the NYT, "Pakistan Faces a Divide of Age on Muslim Law".

“ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Cheering crowds have gathered in recent days to support the assassin who riddled the governor of Punjab with 26 bullets and to praise his attack — carried out in the name of the Prophet Muhammad — as an act of heroism. To the surprise of many, chief among them have been Pakistan’s young lawyers, once seen as a force for democracy. Their energetic campaign on behalf of the killer has caught the government flat-footed and dismayed friends and supporters of the slain politician, Salman Taseer, an outspoken proponent of liberalism who had challenged the nation’s strict blasphemy laws. It has also confused many in the broader public and observers abroad, who expected to see a firm state prosecution of the assassin. Instead, before his court appearances, the lawyers showered rose petals over the confessed killer, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, a member of an elite police group who had been assigned to guard the governor, but who instead turned his gun on him. They have now enthusiastically taken up his defense.”


Camille Pecastaing in the New Republic, "The Origins of Slaughter".

“Pakistan is not just any failed state. With a population just under 180 million, it has nationals well qualified in sciences and the professions; a large and relatively prosperous expatriate community; and it stands out as one of the few countries that completed independently a nuclear weapons program. But Pakistan is also fragmented, with multiple sects and ethnicities, stark regional differences, and ways of life that range from rural tribalism to urban and professional. Literacy is uneven and education inadequate; GDP per capita stands at $2500; inequality is vast. Pakistan is not so much a nation as it is a satellite, an out-of-India Muslim reservation carved out of a bloody decolonization process. It was patched up from distinct Muslim communities with little in common with each other. Pakistan’s early leaders forced the social fabric to form as scar tissue, encysted around a perpetual struggle with India over Kashmir. That project did not go well. Pakistan suffered devastating military setbacks in 1948, 1965, and 1971. The militarization and Islamization of regime and society ensued. To palliate a frail sense of identity and purpose, many people in Pakistan have in recent years turned to the crusade known as jihad. In her splendid and important book, Ayesha Jalal traces that history to its origins through the words and deeds of Indian Muslim scholars and intellectuals, many of global fame. With Partisans of Allah, she has contributed a rich intellectual and political history of Islam in South Asia, spanning several centuries. She is a talented historian of ideas, and at the outset of her extraordinary story she makes several distinctions that will inform her nuanced and thorough account.”


Mo Ibrahim in the FT, "Sudan is a warning to all of Africa".

“One evening, some 40 years ago, a progressive north Sudanese was giving a lecture in Khartoum. He was talking about the problems posed by the chronic underdevelopment of south Sudan, and the need to entrench brotherhood and unity among all Sudanese if we were to develop as a nation. A southern man stood up and brought the audience back to earth. ‘That is all fine, sir,’ he said to the speaker. ‘But will you allow me to marry your sister?’”


John Keilman in the CT, "Sudanese expatriates vote in Chicago".

“Luol Deng, a native of Sudan who became a star basketball player for the Chicago Bulls, dropped by the voting center early Sunday afternoon. His foundation had paid to bring two buses of voters from Grand Rapids, and he said he hoped to bring still more before the referendum ends Saturday. ‘My whole life my country has been at war,’ he said. ‘I want people to be able to go home. A lot of lives have been lost, and here is a chance to make a difference.’ Voters were asked to mark their ballots with a fingerprint for unity or separation. Those interviewed at the center expected that the result would not be close. ‘I can't find anyone looking for unity,’ said Baraka Kubaya, 49, of Chicago. ‘Everyone is looking for separation.’”


Evgeny Morozov in the WSJ, "A Walled Wide Web for Nervous Autocrats".

“At the end of 2010, the ‘open-source’ software movement, whose activists tend to be fringe academics and ponytailed computer geeks, found an unusual ally: the Russian government. Vladimir Putin signed a 20-page executive order requiring all public institutions in Russia to replace proprietary software, developed by companies like Microsoft and Adobe, with free open-source alternatives by 2015. The move will save billions of dollars in licensing fees, but Mr. Putin's motives are not strictly economic. In all likelihood, his real fear is that Russia's growing dependence on proprietary software, especially programs sold by foreign vendors, has immense implications for the country's national security. Free open-source software, by its nature, is unlikely to feature secret back doors that lead directly to Langley, Va.”


Sarah Ellison in Vanity Fair, "The Man Who Spilled the Secrets".

“In Rusbridger’s office, Assange’s position was rife with ironies. An unwavering advocate of full, unfettered disclosure of primary-source material, Assange was now seeking to keep highly sensitive information from reaching a broader audience. He had become the victim of his own methods: someone at WikiLeaks, where there was no shortage of disgruntled volunteers, had leaked the last big segment of the documents, and they ended up at The Guardian in such a way that the paper was released from its previous agreement with Assange—that The Guardian would publish its stories only when Assange gave his permission. Enraged that he had lost control, Assange unleashed his threat, arguing that he owned the information and had a financial interest in how and when it was released.”


Dwight Garner in the NYT, Annie Proulx’s book, Bird Cloud..

“The angel on my right shoulder suggests something like this: ‘Bird Cloud’ is a mildly animated and knotty book about displacement and loss, about a late-life longing to carve out a place that’s truly one’s own. Ms. Proulx, who is in her mid-70s, finds that longing frustrated at almost every turn. Admirers of her fiction will find much of this memoir to be not uninteresting. The devil on my left shoulder whispers this: ‘Bird Cloud’ is an especially off-putting book about a wealthy and imperious writer who annoys the local residents (she runs off their cows), overwrites about nature and believes people will sympathize with her about the bummers involved in getting her Japanese soaking tub, tatami-mat exercise area, Mexican talavera sink and Brazilian floor tiles installed just so. ‘Bird Cloud’ is shelter porn with a side of highbrow salsa. When Ms. Proulx’s house turns out to be a bit of a folly, its roads impassable in winter, you feel that a bell somewhere has been struck, and justice served. My sympathies are with the devil.”


Carl Hollyson in the WSJ on Karen Abbott’s book, American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare, The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee.

“Over the years, Lee's bio graphers have diligently undermined parts of this tale. Ms. Abbott notes that June Havoc once did an interview in which she scoffed at her sister's version of her first strip: ‘She was never an ingenue. . . . And she never just dropped a shoulder strap. Ever.’ Equally valuable is Ms. Abbott's interview with Gypsy's son, Eric, who told the biographer: ‘I'm sure it was not an easy year [1931]. . . . There were rough girls, gangsters, prostitution. They had to eat. And she was perhaps forced to do things against her will.’ The scholarly Ms. Frankel, in Stripping Gypsy, observes wryly in an endnote: ‘There is no record in Gypsy Rose Lee's scrapbook that her first strip was done in Toledo.’”


Susan King in the LAT, "Pain, pleasure on the set of 1st ‘Grit’".

“Most of the major players from the original — including Wayne, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey and director Henry Hathaway — have died. But a few in addition to Darby are still around, including Robert Duvall (who played the outlaw gang leader ‘Lucky’ Ned Pepper) and singing star Glen Campbell (who made his film debut as LaBoeuf).

For the 1969 ‘True Grit’… producer Hal Wallis originally wanted Mia Farrow to play Mattie. But she supposedly turned it down because her ‘Secret Ceremony’ costar Robert Mitchum warned her that Hathaway was a difficult director to work with. Wallis then saw Darby on an episode of the TV drama ‘Run for Your Life’ in which she played an unwed mother and thought she had the pluck and vulnerability for the Mattie character. Though Steinfeld was just 13 when she played the role of 14-year-old Mattie in the new version, Darby was 21 and the mother of a newborn daughter, Heather, with her first husband, actor James Stacy. During the filming of the movie, she began divorce proceedings against Stacy. ‘The first 10 days of the movie I would love to do over again,’ said Darby…. She fondly recalls working with Wayne. ‘He was there on the set before anyone else and knew every line perfectly,’ Darby said…. She did, though, have a bit of a problem with Hathaway, who was 71 when he directed the film. ‘He was an old prop man and he usually focused on the prop man and he would just yell at him no matter what he did,’ Darby said.”


The Chicago Reader is 40 years old and reposting articles from its archive. It was
Myron Meisel, 1971 on the then new Chicago International Film Festival.

“The Seventh Annual Chicago Film Festival… will exhibit some 25-30 films from eighteen countries, from the old reliable U.S., France, and Japan, as well as from such diverse corners of the world as Iran, Belgium, Bulgarian, Algeria, and Poland. In addition, there are several retrospectives and special events (an ironic comparison to New York, which has to drop all special events this year in an economy move)…. Perhaps even more exciting (for me) will be the two homages the Festival is offering to two of the best directors now working—Donald Siegel and Franklin Schaffner (Patton, The Stripper, Planet of the Apes, The Best Man—the latter two likely to be shown in connection with his visit). Siegel has been the object of much attention of late, as American critics are finally beginning to catch up with what the French have been on to for years. Siegel's action films, from Riot in Cell Block 11, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Baby Face Nelson in the fifties to the masterpieces of the sixties such as The Killers, Madigan, and Two Mules for Sister Sara, have formed an overall body of work that ranks with the most artistically achieved careers in American cinema. Kutza's attitude toward Siegel may be a little off the mark, but this is one more example of his superior sensitivity bringing a major coup off for Chicago. Siegel is going to be one director whom the history of film will be unable to ignore, and Chicago's invitation and homage to him is the first institutional recognition of his great talent here in America.”

… and then Dirty Harry was released.


John Kass in the CT, "Chief of staff pick just another cog in the Daley machine."

“As President Barack Obama knighted Chicago's William Daley as his new chief of staff — and kept the Daley machine in control of the executive branch of our federal government — I couldn't help thinking of the good old days. Back when I would fondly recount the legend of Obama of Chicago. Not the political spin that Obama was some kind of reformer promising a different, cleaner kind of politics. But the true mythic history, Obama as a thin, silky creature of the Daleys, eagerly trotting behind them along the Chicago Way:

‘And lo, the Daley women found the infant Barack floating in a reed basket along the banks of the Chicago River. And they lifted the crying babe from the river, and nurtured and wrapped him in swaddling clothes. They watched him grow to manhood, where he performed great miracles. Soon he was ready to transcend the broken politics of the past, just as long as it was in Washington, and not in Chicago, where the Daleys eat and play.’

…‘He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy,’ said Obama. ‘And, needless to say, Bill also has a smidgen of awareness of how our system of government and politics works. You might say it is a genetic trait.’

Genetic trait? Pardon me, Mr. President, but it's not a trait, exactly. It's more like a reason for being.”

Drawing: The Daley Plaza Picasso, by Joe Carducci, 1980


Gary Lucas on his Captain Beefheart Symposium

• Jan. 13 Echoplex, Los Angeles


Gary Panter in the comics issue of Maximum RocknRoll.

“One high point, though scary, was when the Huntington Beach jock punks joined the scene and suddenly there were thousands of punks climbing the lights and dragging themselves behind cars and other very foolish stuff.”


Bottle-top beer cans in the LAT.


Darren Everson & Ben Cohen in the WSJ, "Oregon Reflects on the ‘Toilet Bowl’".

“Decades before the University of Oregon's football team reached this year's national-championship showdown, the Ducks played in a much less auspicious game: the Toilet Bowl. The day was Nov. 19, 1983. The matchup was Oregon versus Oregon State, two of the era's most hapless and hopeless programs. And it was raining—a cold, sideways downpour. By the time the game ended there had been four missed field goals, including two rare failures from less than 30 yards. There were five interceptions and six fumbles, plus five other fumbles that were recovered by the team that fumbled the ball. Fans chanted "BOR-ING!" and sarcastically applauded nonevents, such as first downs. The final score, a perfectly futile 0-0, has maintained its dubious place in history. It was the last scoreless tie ever in major college football. Since 1996, with the introduction of overtime play, there are no tie games anymore. The game's nickname, which took hold immediately, was self-explanatory. ‘It felt like you were sitting in a toilet bowl,’ says former Oregon quarterback Mike Jorgensen.”


More of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s Detroit in ruins portraiture in the Guardian.


Obituaries of the week

Vang Pao (1929 - 2011), by Douglas Martin.

“Even before President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vow in 1960 that Laos must not fall to the Communists, the country was immersed in bloody conflict. Its importance grew immensely during the Vietnam War, when most of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the serpentine route that North Vietnam used to funnel supplies southward, ran through Laotian territory. The United States wanted to interdict the supply route, rescue American pilots shot down over Laos and aid anti-Communist forces in a continuing civil war, but was hampered in doing so publicly because Laos was officially neutral, so the C.I.A. recruited General Vang Pao for the job. At the time, he held the highest rank ever achieved by a Hmong in the Royal Laotian Army, major general. The Hmong are a tribe in the fog-shrouded mountains separating Laos from southern China, and they were natural allies for the C.I.A. because of their enmity toward Laotian lowlanders to the south, who dominated the Communist leadership.”

Barry Zorthian (1920 - 2011), also by Douglas Martin.

“Edward R. Murrow, the former CBS newsman who had become director of the United States Information Agency, appointed Mr. Zorthian to head the 500-person Joint Public Affairs Office in Saigon as one of his last acts before being succeeded by Carl T. Rowan in January 1964. (Mr. Rowan later became a prominent newspaper columnist.) Mr. Zorthian had been a journalist, the No. 2 official at the Voice of America and a diplomat in India. The public affairs job was considered so sensitive that it was subject to the approval of Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara. President Lyndon B. Johnson also endorsed the appointment. By the time Mr. Zorthian left Vietnam in 1968 after four and a half years, he had become the longest-serving senior American official in Vietnam and one of the most visible. His daily news briefings, held in the rooftop garden of the Rex Hotel, became for journalists a critical source of information about the war. But reporters often expressed frustration about what they called ‘the five o’clock follies,’ complaining about a dearth of real news and a drumbeat of dry statistics and body counts. Shouting matches, jokes and practiced cynicism were the order of the day.”


Thanks to Steve Beeho, Arthur Krim, Mike Safran, Jacqueline Carducci.

XRAY by Josh Mason

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

  1. I can't believe Darby was 21 in true grit; although in that crappy Rob Reiner/Henry Winkler movie from a few years later she does look it.