a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Issue #85 (February 16, 2011)

Crescenta Valley from the Verdugos, San Gabriel Mountains distant

Photo by Chris Collins

Kihachi Okamoto’s Sword of Doom
By Joe Carducci

Sword of Doom (1966)
Japan Society, New York City
Kihachi Okamoto / Tatsuya Nakadai, Toshiro Mifune.

Friday, February 18, 7:30pm

My simple answer to What is my favorite film?, is this film, Sword of Doom. I’d rather have it be some American film since on the whole no national cinema compares to Hollywood, but there’s just no other film so controlled and rich and always slightly out of reach no matter how many times you see it. It’s based on a lengthy novel often adapted piecemeal for film and TV in Japan called Dai-bosatsu Tōge: Great Bodhisattva Pass, written by Kaizan Nakazato and published in 1929.

I first saw the film at the PicFair theater in L.A. in 1977, part of a samurai series shown in a theater run by Iranians in a Jewish neighborhood. The real buzz for the series was for Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958), which George Lucas had let on was in part the inspiration for his Star Wars, which was just then breaking records for some reason. I don’t remember thinking much of Hidden Fortress either, but Sword of Doom was so good that once I thought about it I got ticked off about the then-standard literature about Japanese film: How could they not include Kihachi Okamoto or this film in their books?! Of course the old public television art-film series that WNET put together would not program an action film, they stuck with Rashomon, and Seven Samurai, by Akira Kurosawa, and the even more classically styled films by Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi. We didn’t get to know about all that was happening in Japanese cinema until cinephilia passed.

Eventually you can identify the essential demi-middle-brow fear that animates the milquetoasts who gravitate to culture reviewage, especially if you go on to run SST Records and watch who can be convinced, forced, or pushed out of the way when your bands headman an heretofore unsuspected zeitgeist. In the seventies, reviewers were using Clint Eastwood after Dirty Harry (1971), as whipping boy to demonstrate how much they despised Nixon’s silent majority. Now Eastwood is considered the sage elder of American cinema, and by some of those same writers. But Sword of Doom is so well done technically, and so offhandedly masterful an action film that it must have come down to the specific fetishes of the Nihonophiles of the West. This film’s truth about the dark heart of Japan is the last black blossom they wished to contemplate.

I saw the film at every opportunity back in the repertory days before videotape; it tended to be shown in samurai film series, rather than included in more common art-film series as Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, or his excellent Yojimbo often were. I wrote a review of it for a punk mag in San Francisco called, Damage, and for my current project, a film book, I will focus on how skillfully Okamoto sets his actors, Tatsuya Nakadai as the increasingly bitter and paranoid evil swordsman, and Toshiro Mifune essentially playing the square-john archetype of the honorable samurai who tells his students to study the soul. And that these light and dark poles do not meet… Perhaps they would have in part two, but here they do not and we accept this as an unfilm-like contrivance-evasion and that our anti-hero’s dark unraveling explains all. Mifune is all barking rectitude, Nakadai is really doing something very un-Japanese I expect; he wrong-foots any action film mode for hero or anti-hero or villain.

This Sunday’s New York Times featured a staffer’s memory of how he and his friends saw Sword of Doom, and what it meant to them as rambunctious young action film connoisseurs. They may not have been reading Pauline Kael or Vincent Canby in any case, but with no reigning expertise filling you in on the original story, you couldn’t guess as you stumbled across the film that the dude doesn’t die at the end and Okamoto expected to get to work on the second installment of the novel’s plot as soon as its expected box-office success was certain. I had thought the freeze-frame end an indication of director Okamoto’s falling in love with his character to the point that he refused to show his certain, promised doom. After all, the tradesman-smuggler-protector of the young woman orphaned by this lead villain’s offhand cruelty years earlier, is waiting for him outside the burning, blood-stained brothel with a pistol -- the image of which is a genre-shock that tolls the funeral gong on this dead-end island code, just as the A-bomb did next century for that iteration of the Emperor’s code.

Okamoto explained to Chris D. in 1997:

“At the last minute they [Toei Studio] had a premonition it wasn’t going to do that well. Then it came out and did do mediocre business. So in a way they were right. But it was a very successful film overseas, especially the United States. When it first played New York, there were lines around the block.

(Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film, I.B. Tauris)

Okamoto looked slight and unassuming as he was introduced after the screening at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles. An interview was conducted through a translator, and Chris interviewed him for his book the next day. No real indication of genius per se, except for the film itself. The place was packed, but probably not with film directors unfortunately.

I’ve seen all of his samurai films which are occasionally programmed as genre exercises rather than on Okamoto’s reputation, but Chris details Okamoto’s early war films, plus there seem crime dramas and more mainstream productions which are also unseen and probably unseeable short of purchasing the DVDs from Japan. Donald Richie has a lot to answer for.

Photo: Kihachi Okamoto

"Have Gun Will Travel", New York

Photo by Joe Carducci

From the office of West Coast bureau correspondent Chris Collins...

An hour long lecture on Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison by biographer Arnold Rampersad.

Can Ralph Ellison still speak to us? Can the homeless apolitical intellect still speak to us?

Has romanticism conditioned us to go to art to worship artists and reject them when we don't find idealized reflections of ourselves?

From a possibly different perspective, the possibility that the man was unlikeable on a personal level serves somehow to elevate his accomplishment.

(And if you're like me you find some glory in an hour's disquisition into one topic / one person particularly in our wired-in world where all things sacred and secular have adopted the form of a two minute sales pitch.)


John, Paul, George and Rashied

I remember one gig the Beatles had at the Cavern. It was just after they got Brian Epstein as their manager. Everyone in Liverpool knew that Epstein was gay, and some kid in the audience screamed, "John Lennon's a fucking queer!" And John -- who never wore his glasses on stage -- put his guitar down and went into the crowd, shouting "Who said that?" So this kid says, "I fucking did." John went after him and BAM, gave him the Liverpool kiss, sticking the nut on him -- twice! And the kid went down in a mass of blood, snot and teeth. Then John got back on the stage. "Anybody else?" he asked.

(Lemmy Kilmister, White Line Fever, Citadel)

This trailer for the film of the Beatles' first concert in the U.S., recently given a one time screening in L.A., gives a taste of the band in rollicking stage form. Yet John Lennon once insisted:

... In Liverpool, Hamburg and other dance halls. What we generated was fantastic when we played straight rock, and there was nobody to touch us in Britain. As soon as we made it, we made it, but the edges were knocked off... But we sold out, you know. The music was dead before we even went on the theater tour of Britain. We were feeling shit already, because we had to reduce an hour or two hours' playing, which we were glad about in one way, to twenty minutes, and we would go on and repeat the same twenty minutes every night. The Beatles' music died then, as musicians.

(John Lennon, Jann Wenner interview in Rolling Stone, 1970)

... But were then reborn as professional studio wizards and pop craftsmen, prophets of the mass bohemia, spiritual seekers, political protesters... As trade offs go, it wasn't a terrible one for a group that arrived, Gaga-like, on waves of obnoxious promotional power.

Perhaps Lennon regarded part of "selling out" in a dark moment as writing those chirpy early major key hits. He did make an exception of "Love Me Do" as being the "pretty funky" sort of rock & roll he loved most.


On the merits of Shakespearean immersion

• Richard Burton's commanding monologue on the world of Welsh miners, "lords of the coal face," Dick Cavett show, 1980.

Smithornis Capensis by James Fotopoulos

From the Manhattan Desk of Joe Carducci…

Nikolai Grozni in International Herald Tribune, "Burying the mummy".

“In Bulgaria, as in Egypt, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were viewed as criminal activities instigated by foreign elements. In Bulgaria, as in Egypt, the revolution was carried out predominantly by the young. Many Egyptians scornfully call Mr. Mubarak ‘the Pharaoh.’ In Bulgaria, the central figure of the regime, the former Prime Minister Georgi Dimitrov, really was a mummy, his embalmed body displayed in a megalomaniac mausoleum across from the Communist Party headquarters. Many Bulgarians used to joke that they lived in an Egyptian dynasty set up in a parallel universe. I remember that for months after the uprising began I had no home. The fabric of society as it had existed for 45 years was torn apart. The thought of school, or practicing the piano, or even a family dinner, seemed absurd. People bonded spontaneously, hugging each other and vowing to keep protesting. An adrenaline-dizzy, spoiling-for-a-fight 16-year-old, I slept in the apartments of strangers, or on the street. Then things got really, really bad. Huge strikes paralyzed the country. Gas stations ran out of gas. Hospitals had no supplies, not even anesthetic. Supermarkets sold only bleach. The electricity worked for just a few hours a day.”


Daniel Ritter at Opendemocracy.net, "Obama, Mubarak, and the Iron Cage of Liberalism".

“In one of his earliest comments on the revolutionary situation, the American President declared that ‘The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association. The right to free speech.’ In short, the Egyptian people have the right to conduct a nonviolent revolution. As the world has witnessed the opposition’s mostly successful ability to remain peaceful in response to poorly camouflaged state violence, Mr. Obama has no choice but to turn his back on Mr. Mubarak. Similarly, as a supposedly democratic leader and ally of the West, Mr. Mubarak too is caught in the iron cage of liberalism and cannot use his police force or army to repress the people as long as the world is watching. Resorting to open repression would make American support impossible. Mr. Mubarak knows this, which is why plain clothed members of the secret police participate in ‘pro-Mubarak’ demonstrations. Violence must appear to be popular, as state-sponsored violence would be unacceptable to the West and thus accelerate Washington’s abandonment of its ally.”


Stefan Winkler at Qantara.de, The Genealogy of the “Egyptian Spring”.

“The ‘Egyptian Spring’ does have a genealogy; the protest has not materialised out of thin air. The malaise has been steadily increasing in recent years, with protesters expressing their dissatisfaction at rising prices for basic foodstuffs, widespread corruption, despotism and police violence, a lack of job prospects, a flawed education system, political repression and electoral fraud. Several major accidents involving trains and ships led to vehement discussions over those responsible and their failures. Khalil al-Anani, an expert on political Islam, described this loss of faith in state institutions and the increase in social tension in the newspaper al-Hayat as far back as July 2008.… Arabic is now a fully integrated Internet language, which means that those who are not familiar with a foreign language are not excluded. Users are a reflection of Egypt's demographic: More than 50 per cent of the country's population is under 25, a generation that worries about its professional prospects and is frustrated by the insufficient opportunities for political and economic participation. Subcultures have formed through the process of socio-cultural change. These subcultures – whether they be Islamists or secularists, rappers, break-dancers, homosexuals, emos or heavy metal fans – are networking. Anyone recalling the Egypt of the 1990s will realise just how disparate modern society has become there.”


Grigorii Golosov at Opendemocracy.net, "Sovereign Democracy, Egyptian style".

“Anwar Sadat introduced a concept of sovereign democracy in Egypt when he had fallen out with the Soviet Union and become the Arab world’s privileged US partner. Sadat’s predecessor, Nasser, had left political structures built on the Soviet model, but these were no longer right for a country that was meant to be a shop window of Middle Eastern democracy. The chief of these structures was Nasser’s Arab Socialist Union party. Initially Nasser divided this party into three ‘forums’: rightwing, leftwing and (mainly) centrist. These forums were permitted to compete in the experimental elections of 1976. An experiment that proved a success. In the next (1979) election there were three parties based on these ‘forums’. The centrists were there, but they had been renamed the National Democratic Party (NDP). This party won 347 seats; the other two won 32. The NDP success is not difficult to understand. It had inherited all the political, organisational and administrative resources from the Arab Socialist Union party. The right- and left-wingers were groups of urban intellectuals, and Egypt is a rural country. The peasants, fellaheen, knew nothing about the new opposition parties, and their candidates did not venture into the countryside or organise a campaign. So this was the successful beginning of Egypt’s ‘sovereign democracy’.”


Christopher Caldwell in FT, "Egypt shakes a distant dictator from his ‘big man’ dream".

“We like to think of political leadership as a matter of talent, temperament and attainments. Mr Mubarak’s exploits were impressive -- as the Soviet-trained (and Russian-speaking) head of the Egyptian Air Forces, as a top strategist in the 1973 war against Israel, as a rooter-out of conspiracies and a dodger of assassination plots. His completion of Anwar Sadat‘s project to move Egypt from the Soviet into the Nato camp required considerable competence and courage, given that Mr Mubarak rose to power after Sadat was murdered by officers in his own army.”


Roger Cohen in IHT, "Exit Mubarak".

“The U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates, has been in regular contact with the Egyptian defense minister, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, since the uprising began, urging restraint and the pursuit of a democratic transition. I understand that the Egyptian military, which receives about $1.3 billion a year in U.S. aid, has repeatedly conveyed the importance it attaches to the American relationship and its determination to do nothing that would jeopardize the bond. All that American money — tens of billions over Mubarak’s rule — does appear to buy at least a professional army. The supreme test of the investment now comes.”


Daniel Henninger in WSJ, "Is Egypt Hopeless?"

“Everyone cites a favorite datum—Egypt produced Nasser and Mubarak while Turkey got Ataturk and free-market economist Turgut Ozal as prime minister in the 1980s. But here's mine: In Egypt, the percentage of the working population employed by the state is 35%. In Turkey, it's 13%. One is tempted to ask: What more do you need to know? The economic literature is vast on the smothering effects of large, inefficient public sectors. If Egypt is now exhibit A for these studies in torpid economies, then exhibits B, C, D and E would be Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia and Algeria, the other nations that erupted the past several weeks. In Jordan nearly 50% of the employed population works for the state. This is an economy? …At Davos last month, British Prime Minister David Cameron eloquently sounded the pro-growth trumpet and chided pessimists who ‘say that slow-growth status for Europe is inevitable.’ But in a thought-provoking article last month for The Wall Street Journal Europe, ‘How Big Government Killed Britain's Regions,’ former U.K. economics official Warwick Lightfoot argued that years of high public-sector wage and benefit settlements had ‘de-marketized’ labor costs in the U.K.'s regions—Wales, Scotland, northern Ireland and the north of England. ‘The private sector,’ he said, ‘cannot flourish because price signals cannot operate properly in the labor market.’ Amid the current crisis, Mr. Mubarak decreed a 15% wage and pension increase for public workers. Decades of U.S. governors and mayors did the same thing, poisoning local markets. California isn't Egypt, yet. But politicians everywhere make the same mistakes, thinking the real economy is always out there somewhere, producing jobs and tax revenue. They think it's sort of like magic. But it isn't.”


FT: "The sabotaging of Iran".

“Established eight years ago in Allaan, a small farming area in central Jordan, the Sesame project centres on an old particle accelerator donated by the German government to study atomic structures. The enterprise aims to bring together scientists from Israel, the Arab states and Iran to run experiments. The German scientists who dreamed it up had in mind a Middle East version of Cern, the European institute created after the second world war to help unite a divided continent…. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA agent in the Middle East who now works for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says any Iranian involved in Sesame was ‘certainly considered for a ‘cold pitch’’ -- an approach by intelligence agencies. ‘Jordanian intelligence would have reviewed everyone and that information whoud have been shared with the Americans, if not the Israelies,’ Gerecht says -- adding that Tehran would have known that such approaches were likely. One western intelligence official adds, ‘Here you have two men who were players in the Iranian nuclear programme but were able to meet with outsiders in the Sesame project. My guess is that when things started to go wrong with the nuclear programme, the Iranians started to point the finger at them.’”


WSJ: "Asia’s New Arms Race".

“From the Arabian Sea to the Pacific Ocean, countries fearful of China's growing economic and military might—and worried that the U.S. will be less likely to intervene in the region—are hurtling into a new arms race. In December, Japan overhauled its defense guidelines, laying plans to purchase five submarines, three destroyers, 12 fighters jets, 10 patrol planes and 39 helicopters. South Korea and Vietnam are adding subs. Arms imports are on the rise in Malaysia. The tiny city-state of Singapore, which plans to add two subs, is now among the world's top 10 arms importers. Australia plans to spend as much as $279 billion over the next 20 years on new subs, destroyers and fighter planes.

Together, these efforts amount to a simultaneous buildup of advanced weaponry in the Asia-Pacific region on a scale and at a speed not seen since the Cold War arms race between America and the Soviet Union.”


Matthew Green in FT, "US hopes tribal highway will be path to stability".

“After spending billions of dollars supporting the country’s army offensives, the Obama administration has adopted a disarmingly simple plan to defuse the violence: building a road. Washington hopes that twin 100km highways running through South Waziristan to the edge of North Waziristan, a haven for al-Qaeda loyalists, will unlock economic development and sap support for militancy. The choice of contractor says much about the Taliban threat. Soldiers of the Frontier Works Organisation, part of an opaque commercial empire run by Pakistan’s army, are the only engineers who dare set foot there.”


Heather Timmons in NYT, "Inspiring Growth, and Doubts".

“The coastal state of Gujarat, famous as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, has become an investment magnet. The state’s gross domestic product is growing at an 11 percent annual rate — even faster than the overall growth rate for India, which despite its problems is zipping along at 9 percent clip. And Mr. Modi receives — some would say claims — much of the credit. The year before he took office in 2001, Gujarat’s economy shrank by 5 percent. But critics of Mr. Modi, a Hindu nationalist, point to another legacy of his early days in office — something that has made him one of the most polarizing figures in Indian politics. Months after he became chief minister, Gujarat erupted in brutal Hindu-Muslim riots that killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.”


Stephanie Pappas in CSM, "Scientists calculate Genghis Khan’s carbon footprint".

“Pongratz and her colleagues used a detailed reconstruction of historical agriculture to model the effect of four major wars and plagues in the 800 to 1850 time period: the Mongol takeover of Asia (from about 1200 to 1380), the Black Death in Europe (1347 to 1400), the conquest of the Americas (1519 to 1700) and the fall of the Ming Dynasty in China (1600 to 1650). All of these events led to death on a massive scale (the Black Death alone is thought to have killed 25 million people in Europe). But Mother Nature barely noticed, the researchers found. Only the Mongol invasion had a noticeable impact, decreasing global carbon dioxide by less than 0.1 part per million. This small amount required that the forests absorb about 700 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is the amount emitted annually by worldwide gasoline demand today. But it was still a very minor effect, Pongratz said. ‘Since the pre-industrial era, we have increased atmospheric CO2 [or carbon dioxide] concentration by about 100 parts per million, so this is really a different dimension,’ she said….”


WSJ: "The Range Fuels Fiasco".

“As taxpayer tragedies go, Broomfield, Colorado-based Range Fuels has all the plot elements—splashy headlines, subsidies and opportunistic venture capitalists. Range got its start in 2006 when George W. Bush used a State of the Union address to extol wood chips as a source for cellulosic ethanol that would break America's ‘addiction to oil.’ Mr. Bush pledged that with government funding cellulosic ethanol would be ‘practical and competitive within six years.’ Vinod Khosla stepped in with his hand out. The political venture capitalist founded Range Fuels and in March 2007 it received a $76 million grant from the Department of Energy—one of six cellulosic projects the Bush Administration selected for $385 million in grants. Range said it would build the nation's first commercial cellulosic plant, near Soperton, Georgia, using wood chips to produce 20 million gallons a year in 2008, with a goal of 100 million gallons. Estimated cost: $150 million…. By spring 2008, Range had also attracted $130 million of private funding, the largest venture investment in the nation in the first quarter of that year. Investors included such prominent VC firms as Blue Mountain and Khosla Ventures and California's state pension fund, Calpers. The state of Georgia kicked in a $6 million grant, and all told Range raised $158 million in VC funding in 2008. The result has not been another Google. By the end of 2008 with no operational plant in sight, Range installed a new CEO, David Aldous. In early 2009, the company said production was not expected until 2010. Undeterred, President Obama's Department of Agriculture provided an $80 million loan. In May 2009, Range's former CEO, Mitch Mandich, explained that the problem was that nobody had figured out how to produce cellulosic ethanol in commercial quantities. Whoops.”


Robert Samuelson in Washington Post, "Government gone wrong".

“Rail buffs argue that subsidies for passenger service simply offset the huge government support of highways and airways. The subsidies ‘level the playing field.’ Wrong. In 2004, the Transportation Department evaluated federal transportation subsidies from 1990 to 2002. It found passenger rail service had the highest subsidy ($186.35 per thousand passenger-miles) followed by mass transit ($118.26 per thousand miles). By contrast, drivers received no net subsidy; their fuel taxes more than covered federal spending. Subsidies for airline passengers were about $5 per thousand miles traveled. (All figures are in inflation-adjusted year 2000 dollars.) High-speed rail would transform Amtrak's small drain into a much larger drain. Once built, high-speed rail systems would face a dilemma. To recoup initial capital costs - construction and train purchases - ticket prices would have to be set so high that few people would choose rail. But lower prices, even with favorable passenger loads, might not cover costs. Government would be stuck with huge subsidies. Even without recovering capital costs, high-speed rail systems would probably run in the red. Most mass-transit systems, despite high ridership, routinely have deficits…. Against history and logic is the imagery of high-speed rail as ‘green’ and a cutting-edge technology. It's a triumph of fancy over fact. Even if ridership increased fifteenfold over Amtrak levels, the effects on congestion, national fuel consumption and emissions would still be trivial.”


Amy Merrick & Douglas Belkin in WSJ, "Illinois Union Ally Turns Critic."

“Illinois, one of the nation's remaining union strongholds, has funded less than 50% of the pension benefits it owes retirees—the worst ratio of all U.S. states, according to Moody's Investors Service—and faces a $15 billion budget deficit. Last month, lawmakers—in a move championed by Mr. Madigan—raised the state income tax to 5% from 3%, retroactive to Jan. 1, and Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is expected in his budget proposal this week to request to issue $8.7 billion in bonds to restructure its debt owed to schools, hospitals, social-service agencies and others…. Last week, Mr. Madigan floated, for the first time, the idea of cutting pension benefits for current state workers. The speaker said lawmakers were working on bills to reduce the pensions, but he declined to give details.

Since 1970, the Illinois constitution has barred reductions in public-employee pensions, and states have had little success in court when they attempt to lower benefits for current workers. But Mr. Madigan's latest comments are part of a national trend of state and city Democratic politicians recalibrating their relationships with unions as voters grow weary of service cuts and tax and fee increases to balance state budgets.”


Mark Barabak in LAT on Burton Folsom’s book, New Deal or Raw Deal?

“Most historians agree the New Deal did not solve the economic crisis that began in 1929 and lasted until the U.S. entry into World War II. Many believe, however, that Roosevelt's actions mitigated the suffering of many millions of Americans. Further, they say, the New Deal's foundation helped make the U.S. the world's richest, most powerful nation. ‘The record of the edifice built by Roosevelt is mind-boggling,’ said Andrew W. Cohen, a New Deal scholar at Syracuse University. Folsom, an avid free-marketeer, couldn't disagree more. He says Roosevelt's policies not only failed — undermining business, worsening unemployment, contributing to higher crime and increased suicide rates — but, handed down, choke our economy to this day. At 63, in square, rimless glasses and an argyle sweater, Folsom is professorial in both demeanor and dress: pleasant, unassuming and unfailingly polite. He is not one to press his point by raising his voice or lacing his arguments with invective. The problem with most histories, Folsom said, is their focus on relief efforts, without serious discussion of their financing. High tax rates, approaching 80% of income on the wealthy, stifled entrepreneurs, he said, and were — to use a modern phrase — ‘a job killer.’ ‘That argument might resonate in today's environment,’ countered Smith, but not so much in the 1930s, when only 3% of households paid income tax. What, he asks, of feats like Hoover Dam, the Triborough Bridge and the span between Oakland and San Francisco? Those sorts of public works not only created jobs, Smith said, but built a scaffolding that still buttresses our economy.

Those projects had merit, Folsom agreed, but all the government did was elbow out private industry, adding layers of inefficiency, corruption and cost. ‘The good things that are there would have happened and, I think, in greater abundance without the New Deal,’ he said.”


Gerard Lyons in FT, "China can navigate rate hikes and property risks".

“China has to tighten sharply. Last year, authorities held back, given growth concerns. The economy’s recent momentum seems to be strengthening their resolve. Expect further loan quotas, rising bank reserve ratios, sharply higher interest rates, targeted property taxes and likely steeper currency appreciation than expectations. Tuesday’s rate increase is a sign of things to come. If there were a setback, the market impact would be significant. There would be much comment about China’s growth being a bubble. That would be wrong. China’s growth is real.”


Alan Wheatley at Reuters, "Japan agonises whether to jump aboard free-trade train".

“Everyone who is willing Japan to find the elixir to revive its listless economy and put off its day of reckoning with the bond markets should pencil June in their calendars. That is when Prime Minister Naoto Kan, if he is still in office -- and it is a big if -- will decide whether Japan will enter talks about a U.S.-led Asia-Pacific free trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). If the unpopular Kan succeeds -- an even bigger if, given the opposition of the powerful farm lobby -- the way would be open for Japan to negotiate joining an embryonic free trade grouping that the Cabinet Office reckons could add 0.5 percent a year to growth by lowering barriers to goods and services. Proponents say an ambitious pact, by forcing Japan to open its own markets, would also galvanise a society that has watched impotently as China has overtaken it to become Asia's largest economy -- a fact Japan confirmed on Monday. Signing up for the TPP is vital to make sure big Japanese firms are not at a disadvantage to their South Korean and Chinese rivals, said Aurelia George Mulgan, a professor of Japanese politics with the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. "They've got to be part of the TPP, otherwise they're going to be on the sidelines of the Asian boom looking in," George Mulgan said.”


Tim Johnston in FT, "Suu Kyi told to change stance on sanctions".

“Ms Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy have called for European Union and US sanctions to remain in place. The move has enraged the ruling generals, who appear to have hoped that last year’s elections would open a new era in international engagement in spite of allegations of wholesale ballot rigging. ‘If Suu Kyi and the NLD keep going to the wrong way, ignoring the fact that today’s Myanmar [Burma] is marching to a new era, new system and new political platforms paving the way for democracy, they will meet their tragic ends,’ said an editorial in the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar.”


Mario Santucho at Opendemocracy.net, "A new social composition".

“The year 2001 marks a rupture in Argentina and a good part of the Southern Cone in Latin American. This is a rupture born of social struggles and demands that questioned the premises of neoliberalism. From 2003 onwards, new progressive governments tried to take over the challenge, though their vision was far-removed from the wishes of the ‘2001 movements’. With a positive global traction, those administrations succeeded in launching a neo-developmental economic cycle. However, there is something that doesn’t fit: even as production systems and market management are modernized/neoliberalized, the informal economy grows, precariousness consolidates, and illicit business spreads. Massive informal trade fairs, rapidly spreading underground workshops, together with transnational business-networks proliferate, without state authorities managing to regulate them. The experts call them ‘hidden circuits’, though they are invisible only to their measuring instruments. ‘Good and ethical businessmen’ complain about tax evasion though they themselves profit from the precariousness arising from everything from flexible working conditions to lower costs. Last but not least, journalists and officials regret this because ‘we will never be a serious country’, even though they are quite aware that illegality is part of the mind-set of all politicians.”


FT interview, "Realism tempers modernizing zeal of popular leader".

“Colombia’s successes under Mr Uribe’s administration in quelling narco-traffickers and leftwing insurgents has allowed the technocratic Mr Santos to unleash initiatives that aim to haul South America‘s third biggest country into the 21st century. ‘Too often in Latin America we spend 80 per cent of our time talking about the past, and only 20 per cent on the future. In Asia it‘s the inverse.’”


Scott Sayare in NYT, "With Sharp Tongue, French Provocateur Enters Battle".

“‘We believe that we have the best way of life in the world, the best culture, and that one must thus make an effort to acquire this culture,’ he said. By contrast, he said, the notion of a country made great by the diversity of its people and values ‘is an American logic.’

Asked why he believes in the superiority of the French model, he said only that ‘there is a singular art of living’ in France. ‘For me, France is civilization with a capital ‘C,’’ he added. The groups that have taken him to court have been urging an American social vision, he said. Yet, he added, they are not also willing to endorse American standards of free speech, and they oppose the taking of American-style ethnic statistics. ‘I’m taking — because they forced it on me — the American model, and I’m throwing the American model back in their face,’ Mr. Zemmour said. ‘But in the name of French tradition.’”


Gregory White in WSJ, "Russian Tycoon’s Trial Is Called a Sham".

“Natalya Vasilieva, an assistant to Judge Viktor Danilkin and press secretary of the Khamovnichesky Court, said in an interview broadcast Monday that the judge's original draft of the verdict was rejected and that he was ordered to read one written by senior officials at the Moscow City Court. Judge Danilkin denounced the claims as ‘slander’ in a statement to Russian news agencies confirmed by the Moscow City Court. Spokeswoman Anna Usacheva dismissed the allegations as ‘a provocation’ and a ‘publicity stunt’ ahead of the pending appeal of the December verdict. Ms. Vasilieva couldn't be reached for comment. Court officials said she was on vacation until next month. In the interview, Ms. Vasilieva said she expected ‘consequences,’ including losing her job, as a result of going public with her allegations. ‘We won't conduct any repressions against her,’ said Ms. Usacheva, the spokeswoman for the Moscow City Court, noting that any criminal investigation of Ms. Vasilieva for slander or surrounding her allegations would be a matter for prosecutors. In the interview, which was broadcast on an independent Russian television network and carried on the Gazeta.ru news website, Ms. Vasilieva said, ‘I know for absolutely sure that the verdict was brought from the Moscow City Court.’ She said she hadn't seen the original draft.”


Tess Lewis in WSJ, "The Revolutionary Novelist".

“Politically, Serge began as an anarchist in pre-World War I Paris but distanced himself from the movement when it started using ideology to justify robbery. He embraced Bolshevism until he was expelled from the Communist Party in 1928 for ‘left deviationism.’ He supported Trotsky, translating his books into French and defending the ‘Old Man’ in print until Trotsky himself publicly denounced Serge's excessive ‘moralism.’ Serge always threw his lot in with the underdog; he then abandoned, or was thrown out of, a faction once it began to wield power. Still, through all his transformations, he remained a dedicated libertarian, defending freedom of expression and the rights of the individual, often at great personal risk. Serge's seven surviving novels were written in prison or on the run from hostile regimes. Closely based on his own experiences of jails, on battlefields and in deadly political maneuverings, his novels have the urgency of the eyewitness account. He usually had to compose them a section at time and send each part abroad for safekeeping. As a result, they tend to move swiftly through a series of vivid snapshots—a character, a landscape, an event, a conversation, a philosophical meditation. The resulting mosaics, unified by Serge's elegant prose, are nuanced portraits of the complicated interactions between social systems and individuals. As a writer, Serge was as lucid and courageous in exposing the corruption of the Soviet system as George Orwell, Arthur Koestler and Alexander Solzhenitsyn—and he was, arguably, a finer novelist. Yet Serge is all but forgotten today. Some of his obscurity must be attributed to the fact that he had no definite nationality and lived nearly his entire life in exile. Culturally, he considered himself Russian, yet he wrote in French and was buried in Mexico in a cemetery for Spanish republicans.”


Gertrude Himmelfarb in Commentary, "Irving Kristol’s Neoconservative Persuasion".

“It was in Commentary that yet another neo-ism revealed itself. As Trilling, the ‘skeptical liberal,’ was the dominant influence on him in the 1940s, so Leo Strauss, the ‘skeptical conservative,’ was in the 1950s. And as Trilling’s essays had struck him as a ‘revelation,’ so Strauss’s ‘Persecution and the Art of Writing’, in 1952, produced ‘the kind of intellectual shock that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’ In both cases what impressed him was not so much their political views (which were more implicit than overt) but the mindset that informed their discourses upon culture, religion, society, philosophy, and politics alike. His review of ‘Persecution and the Art of Writing’ focuses on Maimonides as the exemplar of Strauss’s major themes: the relation of the esoteric and the exoteric, of reason and revelation, of philosophy and the polity. It concludes by commending Strauss for accomplishing ‘nothing less than a revolution in intellectual history’ by recalling us to the ‘wisdom of the past.’”


Andrew Roberts in WSJ on Douglas Waller’s book, Wild Bill Donovan.

“William J. ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, the head of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, has long been a controversial figure. If a man can be judged by the quality of his enemies, Donovan—who was cordially disliked or distrusted by Harry Truman, Douglas MacArthur, George Marshall and especially by J. Edgar Hoover—was a giant of his era. That President Franklin Roosevelt eventually came to like and admire Donovan, a Republican enemy of the New Deal, says much for both men. As Douglas Waller makes clear in his fast-moving and well-written biography, ‘Wild Bill Donovan,’ Roosevelt's approval was the foundation of Donovan's place at the center of American intelligence operations from July 1941 to September 1945.… Donovan, who had come to admire FDR proposed to the president the creation of a spy and sabotage service based on Britain's MI6, ‘with men calculatingly reckless with disciplined daring.’ With the support of the secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, but in the teeth of the opposition of practically everyone else, Donovan was appointed ‘Coordinator of Information’ in July 1941. Roosevelt loved the intelligence with which Donovan then deluged him—more than 200 memos in his first six months—calling him ‘my secret legs.’”


Andrew Bacevich in FT on Donald Rumsfeld’s book, Known and Unknown.

“Above all, after Saddam’s fall, Rumsfeld argued in vain for a prompt exit. He rejected comparisons of Iraq to Germany or Japan in 1945 -- midwifing Arab democracy was never going to be easy. His own preferred model was France in 1944: liberate and quickly transfer sovereignty to someone qualified to exercise it. Although never venturing who he had in mind for the role of Charles de Gaulle, Rumsfeld wants it known that Ahmed Chalabi, the shifty Iraqi exile leader, was never his candidate. Absolving himself of responsibility for the ensuing debacle finds Rumsfeld disowning the very people he chose to implement US policy in occupied Iraq. He describes as ‘inexplicable’ the appointment of Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, an officer of indifferent ability, to command all US forces in theatre. (In his own memoir, Sanchez writes that Rumsfeld personally interviewed him for the post.) L Paul Bremer, Rumsfeld’s choice for the position of US pro-consul in Baghdad, turned out to be arrogant, insubordinate and dishonest. In perhaps the book’s most audacious passage, Rumsfeld summarises his complaint with Bremer while simultaneously placing himself on the side of the angels: he found it difficult, he writes, to get Bremer to ‘accept the idea that Iraq belonged to Iraqis, and that Iraqis were entitled to their own culture and institutions.’”


David Hart in First Things, "A Philosopher in the Twilight".

“Plato was the first great philosopher in this second phase in being’s history; it was he who committed the vital apostasy that would lead Western thought down its path of fruitful error. He turned his eyes away from the ungovernable, essentially inconceivable flow of time, and so away from the very process by which being shows itself, and looked instead toward a fabulous eternity of changeless essences, the timeless ‘ideas’ or (more literally) ‘looks’ of things; and it was to this latter realm that he accorded the authority of ‘truth’ while consigning everything proper to time to the subphilosophical category of ‘unlikeness.’ This, for Heidegger, was the first obvious stirring of the will to power in Western thought, the moment when philosophy first tried to assert its power over the mystery of being by freezing that mystery in a collection of lifeless, invisible, immutable ‘principles’ perfectly obedient to the philosopher’s conceptual powers. Of its nature, such a way of thinking is supremely jealous: It resents the coyness of being in withholding itself from clear and precise ideas, and it resents any form of novelty that might upset its invariable order of essences, anything new -- any way of thinking or speaking of being -- that might try to come forth into the open.”


Jed Perl in New Republic on Alexandra Harris’ book, Romantic Moderns.

“Radicalism in the arts, with its search for root causes, can be more closely aligned with conservatism than many people imagine. Harris opens Romantic Moderns with a crisis within England’s visual arts avant-garde, when the painter John Piper rejected a nonobjective vision in favor of a growing enthusiasm for earlier strains in English art, ranging from Romanesque sculpture to the picturesque landscape. What is remarkable about Harris’s book is her refusal to simplify artistic debates, so that she has no trouble seeing that for John Piper ‘abstraction … always fed his other interests’ and ‘landscape was not the antithesis but the ally of abstraction.’ While Piper’s vision of ‘a machine-age but with tassels belonging to old-fashioned doorbells’ evinced what Harris calls an ‘unusually elastic idea of modernity,’ this was by no means exclusively an English idea. Let us not forget that Picasso and Braque had already, in their Analytic Cubist paintings, mingled hard-edged, angular structures and decorative flourishes—even tassels. Everywhere in Europe, even as artists embraced what Harris calls ‘an international language of form,’ there was a yearning for ‘the lure of eccentricity, locality, difference.’ Was not Brâncuşi, that giant of Parisian modernism, immersed in Romanian folk imagery? Harris’s approach will be of interest to anybody who cares about the classicizing and historicizing impulses that were integral to the arts of France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, and often reflected not a rejection of modernity but a fresh view of its possibilities.”


Jackie Wullschlager in FT on Alex Danchev’s book, 100 Artists’ Manifestos.

“The artist’s manifesto was born in the early 20th century for two reasons. First, art had radically rejected tradition and needed to explain itself: Apollinaire became apologist for cubism, Theo van Doesburg for geometric abstraction and Andr Breton for surrealism. This left Picasso, Mondrian and Mir free to paint. And although Alex Danchev’s book… makes a valiant attempt to persuade us that ‘art and thought are not incompatible after all’, few great painters have the sort of minds that codify and analyse. The second reason is that most early modernists --- especially those in unstable regimes such as Italy and Russia -- started out believing that painting could change the world.”


Lauren Weiner in Commentary, "Painting the Culture Red".

“The Popular Front was unique. Then as never before -- or since, for that matter -- radical leftism and flag-waving patriotism went hand in hand in America. Though the merger was the result of an edict issued from Moscow, it was one that American Reds (to used the terminology of the time) enthusiastically embraced. To be sure, such thinking -- and the curious promotion of Lincoln and the American Founders that went with it -- had a limited shelf life. It waned as our World War II ally, the USSR, became our Cold War adversary. And yet, strange to say, nearly two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, the cultural emanations of its admires live on…. As the historian David Herbert Donald once noted, all political groups in the United States, wherever situated on the ideological spectrum, must set about ‘getting right with Lincoln’ or resign themselves to marginalization. Few tried harder than the CPUSA to get right with Lincoln.”


Bart Bull in True West, "No Davy? No Dylan"

“As irony piled up like jukebox hotcakes, Bill Haley & His Comets’ revolutionary breakthrough hit wasn’t defeated by the dread sugar-saturated pop confections of the day, by ‘Mr. Sandman’ and ‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,’ nor even by Pat Boone’s notorious hollow-soul Little Richard covers. Instead Rock’n’Roll got shown to its seat by a song from an old-fashioned blackface minstrel show, by a super-cheerful version of ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas,’ by a jaunty lament for a light-skinned mulatto gal, as orchestrated by the beaming Mitch Miller. The goatee-sporting A&R director of Columbia Records, America’s biggest, grandest, most distinguished label, Miller was notable for his complete, unequivocal disdain for the philistine sounds of Rock’n’Roll. He personally made certain that Columbia would remain untainted and unstained by primitives such as Elvis and his ilk…. Instead, at that moment, Pop music’s new lightweight champion was Folk, Americana-style, as purely and authentically fake as Americana has always and ever been. This was Folk music from Frontierland, born on a mountaintop (even while the Matterhorn was not yet under construction) under the guidance of Walt Disney and the publishing hacks of Tin Pan Alley, as designed for the unveiling of a shiny new nation named ‘Disneyland’--theme park, television show and avid, active, adventurous, dial-adjusting assembler of history.”


Armond White in First Things on the Coen brothers’ True Grit

“The classicism of the Western permits the Coens to reiterate the strange longing that was almost inchoate in No Country for Old Men, when Tommy Lee Jones, after witnessing the abyss, recounted a dream about seeing his father in the hereafter -- a monologue that puzzled horror-movie habitués keyed up by the film’s cavalcade of senseless, unstoppable violence. They could not comprehend Jones’ belief in the hereafter but expected fashionable nihilism. Yet this longing -- recurring as it does in the heartfelt twang of True Grit’s score (’Leaning on the Everlasting Arms’ sung dulcetly by the great folk artist Iris Dement) and in the film’s blasted landscape, which describes America’s long fall from paradise -- is also what distinguished the Coens’ modern spiritual search in A Serious Man. The Coen’s most Jewish film holds hand with True Grit and its Christian fundamentalism. Both films reveal the brothers’ richest, most ecumenical meaning -- and without a single snaky moment. Who knew America‘s coolest filmmakers would turn out to be its most openly spiritual?”


Robert Wilken in First Things, "Culture and the Light of Faith".

“In some civilizations the relation between religion and culture is so intimate that it is impossible to disentangle the one from the other, or to trace the separate sources that gave rise to distinctive forms of social and spiritual life. Christianity, however, does not fit comfortably into this pattern. Even though many different streams flowed into the great river that is Christian history, some of the sources that gave rise to Christian culture were already mighty torrents before they became part of the new civilization. In his provocative book Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization (2009), Rmi Brague calls this dependency on an earlier culture secondarity. By this term he means not simply that an earlier culture is given as a historical fact, but that those who come later honor and cherish what went before. Secondarity was evident among the ancient Romans who received and admired the cultural accomplishments of the Greeks and made them their own. But secondarity was no less a characteristic of the early Christians. When they first began to adorn the walls of the catacombs with pictures, they drew freely on the artistic traditions of the ancient world.”


Michelle Goldberg in New Republic on Leigh Schmidt’s book, Heaven’s Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr and Madwoman.

“If conservatives, in their reverence for tradition, are often tempted by fundamentalism, liberals, with their love of innovation and multiculturalism, have had a historic vulnerability to spiritual quackery. It may not be visible in our national politics, where only one side routinely claims supernatural guidance and communion with heavenly voices. But on the ground, almost all lefty enclaves have congeries of gurus, faith healers, and metaphysical fad dieticians. Sometimes this stuff seems like remnants of the 1960s and ’70s, but it actually goes back a lot further—to a nineteenth-century progressive spiritual efflorescence that continues to have deep effects on American religious life.

In the late 1800s, during a time of widespread technological innovation and religious demystification, all sorts of religious innovators believed that science was on the verge of unlocking the secrets of the spirit world. Thomas Edison imagined creating machines to test physic powers and communicate with the dead. Clarence Darrow, the great scourge of fundamentalists, frequented séances and mediums, straining to believe. In England, the militant feminist and atheist Annie Besant stunned intellectual society by converting to theosophy, the Hindu-inflected grandparent of modern new age movements. And in Chicago in 1899 or 1900, Ida Craddock, feminist, secularist, and marriage reformer, declared herself pastor of the Church of Yoga. In his new book, Leigh Eric Schmidt, a historian of religion, uses Craddock’s life to illuminate this fascinating period in American religious history, when free thought, mysticism, Eastern religion, and sexual liberalism all rubbed up against each other, often provoking hysteria and repression from America’s designated moral guardians.”


“Fripp & Eno, May 28, 1975” recorded at The Olympia, Paris, digital release info at Arthurmag.com.

“Here is the lead up to this 5th of a 7-show European mini-tour. Fripp just recently disbanded King Crimson at a point which many would describe as their artistic pinnacle. Eno also recently parted ways with Roxy Music at a similar juncture and then aborted his first and only extensive solo tour after only a handful of shows, due to a collapsed lung. Fripp & Eno live in concert? What would they do? All the shows in Spain and France were, not surprisingly, accompanied with unrealistic fan expectations, hoping for a presentation of ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ combined with ‘Baby’s on Fire’ perhaps? What this audience got was something entirely different.”


Larry Getlen in New York Post on Hal Needham’s book, Stuntman! - My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life.

“While working on the 1974 John Wayne film ‘McQ,’ the stunt crew needed to figure out how to flip a car on a flat beach — a challenge, since cars were usually flipped off a ramp, which required a bush, another car, or something else to hide it on camera. Veteran stuntman Hal Needham came up with the solution: the placement of a small cannon, pointed downward, in the car’s back floorboard. As he writes in his thrill-a-minute new memoir, ‘Stuntman!’ the explosion blew the car — and Needham, its driver — 30 feet into the air. Hal Needham survived broken bones, crashes. ‘When I opened my eyes in mid-flight, I was upside down and going backward,’ Needham says. ‘I knew this wasn’t going as planned.’ Needham broke six ribs, punctured a lung, lost three teeth and cracked his vertebrae. But while he writes of pain that ‘not even morphine can kill,’ this is one of only several such bone-crushing adventures in the book, including falling off a 60-foot ledge with an already-broken collarbone, and jumping across an alley from one fire-escape balcony to another, knocking himself unconscious and waking to a crowd of spectators standing over him, applauding. Needham, a Depression-era sharecropper’s son, is an old-fashioned Hollywood badass who, throughout a career that included over 300 films and 4,500 episodes of television, broke 56 bones (among other things) while flirting with danger on a daily basis.”


Dave Anderson in NYT, "What’s Always Been So Great About Green Bay".

“I knew Lombardi when he was the Giants’ offensive coach in the 1950s, but I never really heard his voice that could melt snow until the Packers’ 1962 championship game against the Giants at Yankee Stadium. With my newspaper, The New York Journal-American, on strike, Jim Kensil of the N.F.L. office asked me to be his sideline spotter on the Packers’ bench…. Early in the game, Jim Taylor, the Packers’ fullback, wobbled to the bench. In a pileup, somehow his upper teeth had been driven into his tongue and now, sitting next to where I was standing, he was spitting blood as if he had opened an artery. Soon, with the Giants about to punt, Lombardi’s booming voice penetrated the brutal cold with a wind that was blowing Giant quarterback Y. A. Tittle’s passes this way and that. ‘Taylor!’ Lombardi roared. ‘Taylor!’ With another spit of blood, Taylor stood up, put on his green and gold helmet, turned and trotted onto the field with the offense. He went on to gain 85 yards on a record 31 carries for a championship game. The Packers won, 16-7.… When Lombardi went to Green Bay in 1959, the Packers were a disaster. They had not had a winning season since 1947, but they earlier had won 6 of their record 13 N.F.L. titles, including the 1944 championship game against the Giants, 14-7, at the Polo Grounds. I was there, freezing in the upper stands in left-center field and thinking I could always say, ‘I saw Don Hutson play.’ Hutson, the wispy end credited with having invented pass patterns, was mostly a decoy that day, but with the goal posts then on the goal line, he used one of his favorite tricks. Locking an arm around a goal post, he spun free as a Giants defender flew by.

Wherever you go in Green Bay, it’s all about the Packers. It’s a city of some 102,000 now, but compared with all the big-city franchises, Green Bay resembles a small town with a team — the only publicly owned franchise in the four major sports with by far the smallest market. And with the most devoted fans. Some 80,000 names are on the waiting list for season tickets; the most recently rewarded fans went on the list in the 1950s.”


K.C. Johnson in CT, "Sloan abruptly resigns from Jazz".

“For [Jerry] Sloan, the game-night ritual was no big deal, as ordinary as the John Deere hats he preferred to wear on most practice days. Yet in today's world of professional sports, in which egos and money can run amok, Sloan's no-frills, no-nonsense approach stuck out like, well, a farmboy from tiny Gobbler's Knob near McLeansboro, Ill., making the Basketball Hall of Fame. Sloan, whose No. 4 is retired and hanging from the United Center rafters honoring his Bulls playing days, reached that pinnacle in 2009. As the longest-tenured coach in all of pro sports, Sloan seemed poised and engaged enough during a long conversation before his team's loss to the Bulls on Wednesday to keep adding to his storied career…. Former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause scouted and helped draft Sloan for the Baltimore Bullets in 1965. In a phone interview Thursday, Krause recalled how difficult it was to congratulate Sloan, given their shared history, after the Bulls' 1997 and 1998 NBA titles over the Jazz. ‘Jerry is one of the greatest competitors I've ever seen in sports, on par with Michael (Jordan),’ Krause said. ‘He was consistent, fair, tough. He ran the same system and made you adjust to him. There will never be another like him.’ Indeed, Sloan detailed his humble beginnings in his one-of-a-kind Hall of Fame acceptance speech — head down, nervously mumbling his way through eloquence and achievement. In a casual conversation before a Bulls-Jazz exhibition in October 2009 in London, Sloan admitted that was the most nervous he ever had been. Sloan was one of 10 children and lost his father at 4. He would wake early to do chores around the family farm, then walk miles to a road where he would hitchhike to a one-room schoolhouse for basketball practice before classes.”


Obituaries of the Week

Jesse Valadez  (1946 - 2011)

“Of Mexican heritage, Mr. Valadez grew up in Los Angeles and worked as an automobile upholstery installer. He and his brother, Armando, began cruising on Whittier Boulevard in the early 1960s, sporting pompadours in their low-riding 1957 Chevrolet…. In California, it was illegal to remove a car's shock absorbers and springs as many lowriders did, replacing them with hydraulics that could be used to raise and lower the bodies and even to do a bouncing dance. Lowriding evolved into a competitive culture that produced face-offs at auto shows based on aesthetic accomplishment and outré customization. Mr. Valadez said he bought the car that became the first Gypsy Rose for $150 in 1970, from a GI heading to war in Vietnam. He initially used sandbags to lower the back end, and carefully painted it. But in 1972 it was damaged beyond repair on Whittier Boulevard by vandals armed with bricks—whether a rival car club or a gang was never established—and Mr. Valadez had to start again from scratch. Whittier Boulevard was eventually closed to lowriders.”

Chuck Tanner (1928 - 2011)

“Tanner, along with Richie Allen, was credited partly for helping to revive a White Sox franchise that had fallen on hard times. He took over as manager during the 1970 season, when the Sox eventually finished 42 games out of first place and drew less than 500,000 fans. Two years later, riding Allen's MVP season, Tanner's Sox finished only 5 1/2 games out of first and drew nearly 1.2 million. Tanner was credited with getting the most out of Allen, having a different set of rules for his star while maintaining team chemistry. In 1974, one year before he was fired, Tanner managed former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo. The two were at war from the beginning as Santo was switched to second base and blamed Tanner for his early exit from baseball. While with the White Sox, Tanner, a former major league outfielder, turned modestly successful, knuckleball-throwing reliever Wilbur Wood into a successful and tireless starter and future Hall-of-Famer Rich ‘Goose’ Gossage into one of the premier closers of his era. Let go when owner Bill Veeck reacquired the White Sox in 1975, Tanner quickly hooked on with the Athletics. Tanner was coveted by the Pirates, and the team sent All-Star catcher Manny Sanguillen and cash to the A's for Tanner.”


Thanks to Jay Babcock.

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