a new low in topical enlightenment

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Issue #87 (March 2, 2011)

Centennial, Wyoming at Dawn

Photo by Joe Carducci

Rock Against Concrete
by Joe Carducci

When fifties greasers stuck with their rockabilly thru the sixties, and sixties mods stuck with their music into the seventies it wasn’t as reactionary and destructive as it was when the hippie-boomers of the late sixties/early seventies dropped out and took over. This was because the music business was suddenly an album-based economy and as such, much bigger business and more pretentious. The 78 rpm and 45 rpm singles economy worked efficiently in terms of culture and economics for decades; more chances were taken on more talent more quickly at less cost. Things started to slow down when albums were no longer cheap collections of a couple hits and a bunch of filler and covers designed to profit publishing companies, but instead became ersatz novels, major statements from the artist-gurus themselves. Recording an album at a single shot instead of one or two A-side possibilities with an equal number of B-side filler, was beyond the capabilities of most bands. This left the door open to a kind of conceptual musique concrète hi-fi demonstration record like “Dark Side of the Moon”, and even lead a traditionally skilled band of singer-songwriters like the Eagles into a poisonous pretension that really offered far less song-for-song than their average Nashville contemporaries at a fraction of the psychic cost.

David Bowie is best seen as a late British Invasion success in America who just squeezed by on style in the last years of arena rock-AOR. The albums themselves are virtually unlistenable, both the “rock” albums which do rotate in and out of some classic rock playlists, and the “art” albums which don’t. Each was the embalming of a style once full of life -- the Stooges wise-guy lumpen rock, and the German psychedelic romanticism of Neu!. In his review of a new Bowie bio called Starman Nick Crowe writes that author Paul Trynka notes Bowie’s early musical failures in the mid-sixties but calls them “crucial”, true-believer that he is. Somehow the earliest Brit rockers managed to get into a conversation with American forms, and the later generation used Bowie to avoid that. Even all those punk bands triggered by the Heartbreakers, the Ramones or the Runaways never consulted them again. Trynka, breathlessly I’m sure recounts Bowie’s down time with real Art. Crowe writes:

“Struggling in anonymity made him absorb the concepts being explored on the fringes of the art world. He also acquired a habit of interacting with cultural figures—often on a whim—which he never lost. In 1967 Bowie met avant-garde mime artist Lindsay Kemp and took him on as mentor, touring and performing with his decadent troupe. With Kemp he discovered a theatre of identity, which would prove indispensable to his later approach; it is this relationship between Bowie’s experience and his music that drives Trynka’s narrative.”

No doubt.

Meanwhile, in this new album era the singles world tied to hit radio as it was, lost the center of its audience leaving it with young teens and housewives and the music got sweet and unheavy and oblivious to the world outside. Further meanwhile, at that very moment the Ramones were recapitulating a classic singles idea, only fully contemporary, but couldn’t get airplay on AM or FM. Its easy to forget that for their first two or three albums punk didn’t mean anything in the way of a sartorial challenge beyond a de-greased urban juvenile delinquent look updated with long hair! The stripped-down songs and presentation, though, ran full up against reigning liberal pretension which was still on a roll. The Ramones were such fertile songwriters that they tried all kinds of things with production and movie tie-ins over those months and none of it worked. Lee Abrams, Jan Wenner and the other young hip powers-that-were took the Ramones personally in a way that the old singles-era world simply could not have. Just in New York terms, as Legs McNeil tells Juice magazine, “I mean, c’mon. The Ramones never played Madison Square Garden. The Ramones were never invited to play on ‘Saturday Night Live’. To me, that’s a slap in the face.” It may prove that they belonged on both bands of radio in 1977 that they are now on radio and over the PA at MLB, NHL, NBA, and NFL games, but it’s like a little Hendrix on the classic rock FM or AM oldies stations, it doesn’t really boost the musical IQ of the audience. It’s too late for that.

What got programmed in the late seventies had an increasingly post-sixties British feel. Only the George Martin aspect of the Beatles records but none of the music’s rock and roll ambition, plus middle period Pink Floyd and David Bowie strategies and soon post-punk displayed Bowie-damage rather than Ramones influence and Pink Floyd wash with David Gilmour’s expressiveness eliminated. The only Sex Pistols influences were their manager’s: that rock and roll was dead, and sell-out was the measure of your contempt for music and capitalism. This came out audibly as new sounds emphasized texture rather than playing. For the listener it's simpler to respond to texture, say those single note patterns with heavy sustain etc, on a U2 record -- turning the guitar into a processed wash that cannot be musically nimble -- than it is to respond to musical expressiveness. My brother recently picked up a copy of Jimi Hendrix’s “War Heroes” album and let me burn it. I had played his copy a lot when we were in high school in the early seventies and Mark had a band named after the album’s best track, “Midnight”. Listening to the tune now reminds me of a lot of what we came to expect in that great period of rock and roll. “Midnight” is the instrumental Experience trio recording for themselves as they often did on tour (the record was posthumously released in 1973). Hendrix is really at a peak in this 1969 instrumental track where he seems able to command the subtlest inflections musically on the guitar itself but also technologically by playing his amplification and foot pedals at that same unimaginably high level -- the second round of the solo towards the end contains my favorite bar he ever played. I remember in the early seventies wanting to hear sound detach itself from the limits of its instrumentation, and this is that. (It must be said that U2 is a uniquely shameless proposition, their film doc explaining the blues to America (hey Paddy, steal some blues please!), suing Negativland and then stealing their schtick as ZooTV, and The Edge(!) in that doc trio-ed with Jimmy Page and Jack White! Bono couldn’t just go home and save Ireland, could he, ya think?)

Power and pretense to defend, the new powers chose to risk boredom rather than excitement and the best post-Ramones bands expired at even smaller sales levels. Synthetic percussion even in a hard rock sound invites the lower brain to zone-out rather than engage. And that’s what folks preferred within ten years of Jimi’s death.

But let’s pull back before I start repeating myself. It is not well understood that American popular culture was highly refined back when our schools still did their job. It was a high culture and the great pretenders here and abroad came to hate that. The American forms were vulnerable to our own elite culture which was Europe-oriented, only less than classical in its orientation. That elite, angry that the American crud around them here had to save their heroes there, England and the continent including the U.S.S.R., got even angrier as Americans celebrated that victory in music and movies through the fifties, and began to champion or make perverse work, art against art. American popular culture’s success overseas eventually brought the arts low -- not quite as low as the popular arts are overseas where the balances between high and low are reversed but certainly lower by design. The Economist just reported:

“The success of a film outside America is not purely a marketing matter. As foreign box-office sales have become more important, the people who manage international distribution have become more influential, weighing in on ‘green-light’ decisions about which films are made. The studios are careful to seed films with actors, locations and, occasionally, languages that are well-known in target countries. Sony cites the foreign success of ‘The Green Hornet’ (Taiwanese hero, Austrian-German villain) and ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife’ (Japanese location) as evidence of that strategy. Big noisy spectacle travels best. Jason Statham, the close-cropped star of many a mindlessly violent film, is a particular Russian favourite. Films based on well-known literature (including cartoon books) and myths may also fare well. Films that trade on contemporary American cultural references are about as popular abroad as an oil slick on a NASCAR track. (Note to our non-American readers: NASCAR is an American sport involving fast cars.)”

Do you remember how good The Last American Hero was? Not important. But just about true.

The countercultures over there going back to the Surrealists had once used American arts against their own high culture hierarchy but the wars ended the pattern. That Brit love of fifties rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and country and western that was so productive from 1962 to 1974 was finally rejected by the glitter, goth and punk revolts against, actually, their own gray socialism. Had nothing to do with us really.

Stough Canyon, Burbank. First snowfall in 62 years

Photo by Chris Collins

The Knicks Aren’t Back Yet So Sit Down and Shut Up.
by Joe Carducci

Harvey Araton in the New York Times notes the evolution towards a new generosity on the part of elite NBA stars when it comes to sharing the spotlight with full co-stars instead of a mere “supporting cast” so as to play team-ball which is after all and despite the best come-ons of the NBA promotions department the only way to get to the finals. My theory has been that there were only two or three true teams in the league -- one hoped for three which made for a good year. But there are about to be four, maybe more next year. I need a whole new theory even though David Stern is still in power having outlasted Hosni Mubarak.

Araton knows that Michael Jordan’s “supporting cast” wasn’t a proper designation for his teammates, but he doesn’t cop to the sports media’s alignment with the leagues superstar mentality. (Jordan used the phrase but he was by then speaking to the media in language they had imposed on the sport; for himself Jordan fumed when Jerry Krause refused to bring Mark Aguirre to the team -- not exactly a supernova maybe but no brown dwarf -- and I’m not sure Jordan ever really calmed down when it turned out Krause was correct not once but nearly twice as the team was significantly rebuilt when Jordan returned from baseball.)

The role call of team-play teams has on occasion this year included Miami and Orlando although both have been assembled or reassembled on the fly this season, but it certainly includes Boston, San Antonio, and Chicago. It’s assumed the Lakers are just being lazy and will play as a team once it means something to them, but they have lost a lot of games and even the new gleam off the Clippers franchise hasn’t stoked their regular season fire. I haven’t seen the Atlanta Hawks recently but Kirk Hinrich can only help a team considered second-tier. It’ll be next year before Denver and Utah, who were second tier team-play teams that time ran out on, get back into their games. Smart opinion is they both got better out of the big trades long-run.

Then there’s the Knicks which are the real subject of Araton’s article. I’ve enjoyed thinking that David Stern deserved James Dolan and Dolan deserved Isaiah Thomas and Isaiah deserved Spike Lee and Spike deserved the Knicks -- perfect justice on earth. Now we’re going to have to watch the Knicks not only newly competitive with Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony but with all the refereeing and time-keeping help the David Stern can order up.

Howard Beck is right though, if the Knicks are really dangerous is because of acquiring Chauncey Billups, reluctant to leave Denver towards the end of his career but essentially forced to by Carmelo’s demands to be traded. Lightbourne knew more about the league than I ever will and he became a real believer in the Nuggets when they got Billups, after having joked about the franchise for the whole time he was in Laramie watching them on the Denver affiliate. So we’ll all be watching Spike Lee every damn week now on the networks with their A-team Manhattan announcers as if the Knicks are one of the team-play teams with a real chance to get to the finals. Worst of all Spike Lee seems to have taken up the challenge to dress worse than Russell Simmons; you half expect to see a shopping cart next to him on the Madison Square Garden floor.

With the Celtics surprising trade of Kendrick Perkins to OKC, the Thunder have a shot at being a true team-play threat next year if not this year, and it sure gives Chicago an opening. The Bulls were already playing the best team-ball when Joakim Noah returned from injury a week ago. For a presumed also-ran/dark horse they look to me unstoppable inside a seven game series.

Certhilauda Benguelensisby James Fotopoulos

From the Rocky Mountain Desk of Joe Carducci…

WSJ Interview: "Saad Eddin Ibrahim".

“For the 72-year-old sociologist, the revolution against Hosni Mubarak has been many years in the making. His struggle began 10 years ago with a word: jumlukiya. A combination of the Arabic words for republic (jumhuriya) and monarchy (malikiya), the term was coined by Mr. Ibrahim to characterize the family dynasties of the Mubaraks of Egypt and the Assads of Syria. He first described jumlukiya on television during the June 2000 funeral of Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad. Then he wrote about it in a magazine article that ‘challenged all the autocrats of the region to open up and have a competitive election.’ The magazine appeared on the morning of June 30, 2000. But it vanished from Egyptian newsstands by midday. By midnight, Mr. Ibrahim was arrested at his home. ‘Then began my confrontation with the Mubarak regime—the trials, and three year imprisonment, and the defamation, all of that. That was the beginning.’ Not a month before, he had written a speech about women's rights for Mr. Mubarak's wife Suzanne—Mr. Ibrahim had been her thesis adviser in the 1970s at the American University in Cairo, when her husband was vice president to Anwar Sadat.”


Nicu Popescu at EUobserver.com, "Post-revolutionary Tunisia".

“There is a lot of optimism, but even more short term confusion. There is no clear understanding, nor agreement on what to do the following weeks and months. There are no institutions, no leaders and no united platform of dissidents, NGOs or oppositionists (like Solidarnosc in Poland or Saakshvili in Georgia) to stir the country through the next months. The interim president is unelected with little legitimacy, there is no parliament, the interim government is very weak politically, and under constant assault from protesters who want jobs, salary raises etc. So far the government had to accede to most of the demands of the protesters, since it has little power to say no. With such tempo the country can easily go bankrupt (add the outflow of tourists, uncertainties of the investors etc). The starting point of post-revolutionary transitions in Serbia, Georgia or Ukraine were much better, and even there many of the results are mixed. These countries’ protest movements had leaders who could assume the responsibility for governing in a matter of weeks, not (6-7) months. They also had some history of competitive elections, established political parties, NGOs, more independent media, and economic power was more diffused. They also had decent laws (electoral codes, media laws, and constitutions), which even if not fully respected, were at least in place and did not need to be drafted all almost from scratch in a matter of weeks after the revolution.”


Andrew Rettman at EUobserver.com, "Bad weekend for EU-Turkey relations".

“Speaking to a group of ethnic Turks in Dusseldorf on Sunday (27 February) ahead of his meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hannover on Monday, Mr Erdogan said: ‘We are observing the xenophobia in certain European countries, notably Germany, with great unease ... Islamophobia is a crime against humanity, just as anti-Semitism is.’ He urged German politicians not to feed the fear of foreigners, but also called on the 2.5 million ethnic Turks in Germany to try to fit in. ‘I want everybody to learn German and to get the best level of education they can ... I want Turkish people to be present at all levels in Germany, in the administration, in politics, in civil society,’ he added, the German press agency, DPA, reports. A day on earlier on Saturday, in an interview with the regional daily, the Rheinische Post, the Turkish premier came close to accusing Ms Merkel's political party of racism…. Mr Erdogan's comments also come after an awkward visit by French leader Nicolas Sarkozy to Ankara on Friday. Mr Sarkozy annoyed his hosts even before he spoke by opting to come in his role as G20 chairman instead of as the French head of state, by cutting the trip to just six hours and by chewing gum when he exited the plane to greet VIPs.”


Ajai Sahni at SAIR, "Dampened Tinderbox".

“On many counts, South Asia is a tinderbox. As in the Arab world, demography is a rising concern. With some of the highest population densities in the world, the regional giants India, Pakistan and Bangladesh alone will add at least 226 million people to their combined 2010 population of about 1.52 billion in just a decade (on a medium variant projection), bringing unsustainable pressure on already stressed resources and the environment. Between 35 and 45 per cent of the populations in these countries subsist below fairly modestly defined poverty lines. Administrations in these countries have failed to accommodate a burgeoning youth bulge, with over 20 per cent of their populations in the volatile 15-24 years age group. Corruption, collusion, ineptitude and crippling deficits in capacities for governance have kept alive, and often compounded, violent movements of political dissent, even as the state demonstrates significant evidence of withering away across vast territories. Against this troubling backdrop, there is a surprising mix of news relating to the major movements of political violence in South Asia. After a trend of continuous escalation since 2005, total annual fatalities relating to terrorism and multiple insurgencies in the region have dropped from their peak of 29,638 in 2009, to 9,431 in 2010 [all data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal].”


Memri.org: "Ayman Zawahiri’s Message of Hope and Glad Tidings to Our People in Egypt".

“On February 24, 2011, Al-Qaeda's media wing Al-Sahab released the second installment of an audio recording from the organization's second-in-command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, titled ‘Message of Hope and Glad Tidings to Our People in Egypt.’ In his message, which is 35 minutes and 48 seconds in duration, Al-Zawahiri reiterates some of the points he made in his first installment, but the majority of his message is focused on the Coptic-Muslim sectarian tension in Egypt. Referring to the New Year's Day bombing of Saints Church in Alexandria, Al-Zawahiri denies any Al-Qaeda involvement in the attack, instead pointing an accusing finger at Coptic leaders in Egypt, as well as at the Egyptian regime and its security apparatuses. It is these, he said, with the U.S. behind them, that are behind the continuous provocation of Muslims in Egypt – which is, he said, is what led to the church bombing.”


John Bradley in Spectator, "Arabian nightmare".

“A few weeks before the Islamist-led violence, a small and peaceful demonstration was held by secular women against any move towards a more Islamist way of life. They gathered when news broke of the imminent return from exile in London of Rachid Ghannouchi, the ‘moderate’ leader of Tunisia’s (previously banned) Ennahdha Islamist movement. He has been careful to distance himself from the subsequent violence, but in retrospect the women clearly had genuine cause for concern, both at Ghannouchi’s return and the simultaneous mass release of Islamists from Tunisia’s prisons, and all in the name of the country’s new pluralism. The West, it seems to me, should be equally troubled. If these notoriously ‘moderate’ Islamists, while still a minority and in the infancy of their campaign, can hijack such a modern, sophisticated and secular Arab country in a matter of days, what could await the wider region where secularism is already anathema and Wahhabi-inspired Islam has in many instances a firm foothold? The Islamists have set the social agenda in Tunisia through hate campaigns even before elections have been proposed. Without a similarly assertive counterpart, there is every chance that they will also fill the power vacuum being created from Cairo to Tripoli.”


Daniel Pipes at Nationalreview.com, "My Optimism on the New Arab Revolt".

“Pessimism serves as a career enhancer in Middle East studies and I am known for doom-and-gloom. But, with due hesitation, I see changes that could augur a new era, one in which infantilized Arabic speakers mature into adults. One rubs one’s eyes at this transformation, awaiting its reversal. So far, however, it has held. Perhaps the most genial symbol of this maturation is the pattern of street demonstrators cleaning up after themselves. No longer are they wards of the state dependent on it for services; of a sudden, they are citizens with a sense of civic responsibility.”


Martin Peretz in New Republic, "The New Middle East".

“[T]here is a basic difference between Obama and his predecessors. They wanted to enlist Arab countries in the world of democracies. Obama’s conceit was the other way around. He had little interest in changing Arab governments. Rather, he would get them to admit us into their world.”


News24.com: "Libya - South Africa will not take sides".

“When asked if South Africa would consider granting exile to the Libyan leader if it brought an end to the violence in the country, Fransman said that the South African government could not deal with hypothetical questions. He said South Africa would not take sides in the dispute.”


Peter Ford in CSM, "Why local Chinese officials ordered town’s residents to use more water".

“Sometimes you wonder how China has transformed itself into a global economic miracle when you hear what local planners here do. The latest piece of puzzling authoritarian economics comes from the town of Chibi in the southern province of Hunan. Residents there are being forced to consume five tons of water per household per month in the middle of one of the worst droughts to hit China for decades. The local water company (owned by the government) has complained that it costs 1.67 renminbi (about 25 US cents) to produce a ton of water, but that it is allowed to sell it for only 16 cents a ton. The answer to this conundrum? Decree that every household must drink, bathe, and wash up more wastefully so as to consume (and pay for) more water.”


David Pilling in FT, "What could bring down China’s rulers?"

“No one knows when, or how, the Communist party will lose power. China’s burgeoning wealth and growing international clout contain little obvious portent of imminent crisis. By the standards of its tumultuous and tragic history, China is having its best run in hundreds of years. But the Communist party itself – forever jumping at shadows – remains ultra-vigilant to the slightest hint of opposition. Its jitteriness was on full display this week in its heavy-handed crackdown on human rights lawyers and on last Saturday’s sub-Tahrir ‘Jasmine revolution’. In a previous column, I argued that the events in Egypt – and now Libya – did not resonate much in China. That was partially borne out by the scant response to an online call for a protest in cities across China. My colleague said the gathering outside a McDonald’s in Beijing – of all the places to start a Mickey Mouse revolution – was more like a meeting of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, so heavily did journalists outnumber protesters. But the state’s reaction – thuggish and out-of-proportion – makes me wonder. If there is really no appetite for rebellion in China, what is there to be so afraid of?”


James Cuno at YaleGlobal, "When Millennia-Old Mummies Threaten National Identity".

“During the nine days between the Chinese government’s refusal to allow the museum to display the mummies and accompanying artifacts and Penn Museum’s announcement that the mummies and artifacts would indeed be included in the exhibition beginning February 18, high-level discussions took place between US and Chinese officials. In an official statement, the museum’s director gratefully acknowledged contributions of US and Chinese ambassadors, and other senior Chinese officials ‘who have so generously assisted us in making all these artifacts available.’ Clearly the decision to prohibit the exhibition of materials was taken at a high governmental level because apparently much more hangs on the mummies than regulations about exhibition abroad. The New York Times speculated: ‘Chinese authorities have faced an intermittent separatist movement of nationalist Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who number nine million in the region, and Uighur nationalists have used evidence from the mummies – whose corpses span thousands of years – to support historical claims to the region.’ Chinese rule over the area is contested by Uighurs, a Turkic people who sporadically engage in demonstrations against Beijing.”


Atsuko Fukase in WSJ, "China’s Stealth Entry to Japan".

“China's government-wealth investors last year more than doubled their investments in major Japanese blue-chip companies, with combined stakes totaling more than 1.6 trillion yen ($19.4 billion), according to investment-advisory firms and people familiar with the matter. The stakes—purchased mostly through obscurely named, Australian-registered investment vehicles—appear to be passive, with investors silent on matters of corporate strategy and management. But they highlight China's growing financial clout as well as the growing economic ties between China and Japan. The moves also come at a time when China's economy has just eclipsed Japan's as the world's second-biggest after the U.S.”


Martin Fackler in NYT, "With an Eye on China, Japan Builds Up Military".

“‘China has misplayed its hand in the last year, and that has forced the Democratic Party to get more realistic about regional security issues,’ said Akihisa Nagashima, a Democratic lawmaker who until recently held the No. 3 spot at the Ministry of Defense. ‘We don’t want overdependence on the United States, but we also need the United States.’ Analysts say one goal of Japan’s new strategy is to make its military a more visible presence, to discourage China from trying to extend its reach into waters now controlled by Japan. While Japan has one of most sophisticated militaries in Asia, and the region’s most respected navy, it has long been careful to keep its euphemistically named Self-Defense Forces largely out of sight to avoid threatening neighbors victimized by Japan’s early 20th century empire-building. For now, at least some of its neighbors appear willing to accept a larger Japanese military presence. The new Japanese strategy received very little opposition in South Korea, which analysts say now sees China, and also North Korea, as bigger threats than Japan. In fact, South Korea and Japan are now negotiating their first military cooperation agreements since Japan’s colonial rule ended in 1945.”


Anna Babinets at Opendemocracy.net, "Ukraine’s mysterious exit from the arms trade".

“Ukraine did well to land the deal. After all, there were other contenders, such as South Korea and Canada. The reasons it did were two-fold; the first and key reason being political. Ukraine's peace mission during the Iraq war was one of the largest. A total of 19 Ukrainian peacekeepers lost their lives in Iraq, and according to some reports, the US helped Ukraine to obtain the 500 million dollar deal out of gratitude. The second reason was Ukraine's comparative advantage - the relatively low cost of Ukraine's military equipment, as well as the country's experience with exports of this kind. Iraq and USA pinned their hopes on Viktor Yushchenko. But just a few months later Ukraine had a new government. Soon after becoming President, Viktor Yanukovych replaced the head of Ukrspetsexport, the company in charge of selling arms and military equipment abroad. The chief executive of Ukrspetsexport, Dmitri Salamatin, deserves special comment here. Until recently Salamatin was an MP representing the Party of Regions (President Viktor Yanukovych's party). He has no past connection to the arms trade. What he did have was political connections. Until 1999 he lived in Russia and married the daughter of Oleg Soskovets, who served as deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin, and in this capacity was responsible for the Russian arms industry.The two men had probably met many years earlier, since both Salamatin and Soskovets had lived in Kazakhstan before 1991. Mr. Salamatin made his mark in the Ukrainian parliament as a regular participant in the scuffles that are quite common in this country.”


Suzanne Daley in NYT, "Swedes Begin to Question Liberal Migration Tenets".

“In Malmo, a rapidly gentrifying port city in Sweden’s south, support for the far-right Sweden Democrats was particularly strong, about 10 percent of the vote. It is a place where tensions over immigration are on full display. The city’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, a Social Democrat, ran his hands over a city map in his office, pointing out working-class neighborhoods like Mr. Nilsson’s that voted heavily for the Sweden Democrats, as might be expected, he said. But he could point to wealthier neighborhoods, too, that produced support for the far right as never before. ‘We must dig deeper to understand that,’ he said quietly. Some experts say you do not have to dig that far. Sweden’s liberal policies have become costly. In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, Sweden, which had more manufacturing jobs than citizens to fill them, invited immigrants in. Most came from other European countries. They worked and paid taxes. Those were good years for Malmo, which had shipyards and a textile industry. When those jobs disappeared, Sweden stopped the flow of immigrant labor, but not the flow of refugees, many of whom clustered in Malmo and other former industrial centers. Jobs were still scarce, but housing was available, apartments built long ago for laborers.”


Andrei Konchalovsky at Opendemocracy.net, "Awkward histories: the Holocaust".

“The eminent English philosopher John Gray once expressed an idea that might make many today uncomfortable. His assertion was that progress, as a concept, exists only in science. Science is a gathering, an accumulation of facts, but there is no such thing as progress in the field of the ethics of human relationships, because ethics is not accumulative. Just think how many of the great works — from the Tora, Koran, Bhagavad-gita and the Bible, not to mention the marvelous works of art — were written to assert simple truths common for all, one of which is that human life is priceless.”


MercoPress: "Brazil’s racial make-up".

“A scientific study coordinated by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and which made a genetic scanning of 934 self-categorized White, Brown or Black Brazilians from the four most populous regions of the country, shows that the European ancestry on average is 60%, and can reach 80%, while the Indian input is not higher than 10% and black a few percentage points more. In spite of the enormous regional differences in Brazil, almost a continent, ‘Brazilian ancestry is quite uniform among European, black and brown’, said Professor Sergio Danilo Pena. ‘The surprise and the message from the report is that genetically Brazil is far more homogeneous than expected’, he added.”


Eric Nelson in New Republic on Anthony Grafton & Joanna Weinberg’s book, "I Have Always Loved the Holy Tongue”: Isaac Casaubon, The Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship.

“Indeed, the rise of Hebraism and the study of rabbinics came to distinguish the intellectual life of the Protestant world very sharply from that of Catholic Europe. Even as Protestants were becoming increasingly convinced that one could not hope to interpret the Scriptures correctly without having engaged in extensive Hebrew study, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) decreed in contrast that the Vulgate Latin was the authoritative Bible, and that no biblical scholarship based on the original Hebrew and Greek text was relevant from the point of view of church dogma or practice. And while Protestants were frantically imbibing the minutiae of the rabbinic corpus, the Roman Inquisition ordered the Talmud to be publicly burnt in 1553, and the Sisto-Clementine Index of 1596 banned even those editions of the Talmud that had been purged of ‘calumnies against Christianity’ by the censors. (Beginning in 1557, the Inquisition forbade even Jews from owning any Hebrew books other than the Bible itself.) As the great religious crisis of the sixteenth century unfolded, the alliance between Hebraism and Reformation became unmistakable.”


Joseph Miranda in Strategy & Tactics.

“One reason for that Red victory was the Bolsheviks held several geopolitical advantages, including that of the central position. That is, the Reds were based in the Russian heartland, controlling several of its larges cities, notably Petrograd, Moscow and other critical industrial areas. Those regions also contained many of the old Czarist Army‘s arsenals and depots, thereby giving the Reds a sold base from which to expand. Along with the heartland came control of the railroads, vital for movement and logistics across the vast steppes and forests of Russia. Thus, while seemingly ‘surrounded’ by foes on every side, the Bolsheviks could use their central position to shift forces among fronts. Their opponents, meanwhile, were divided geographically. Consequently, the Red Army could deal with each threat as it developed, then turn to meet the next one.”


William Shawcross in WSJ on Ben Shephard’s book, The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War.

“Today the civilian suffering of World War II is often characterized by the German assault upon the Jews. Mr. Shephard reminds us that in the 1940s the concept of ‘the Holocaust’ did not exist. There were no ‘Holocaust survivors’; there were instead millions of Displaced Persons (DPs), and it was UNRRA's job to succor them. Even when all those who wanted to return home had been helped to do so, there were still in Germany and Austria more than a million Poles, Ukrainians, Latvians, Jews, Yugoslavs and others who did not wish to go back. Mr. Shephard observes that what was done with the mass of people whose lives had been overturned by the German war machine (many of whom were now threatened by the brutal Soviet hegemon) had lasting implications: Israel was created; American immigration policy was transformed; the Anglo-Saxon societies of Britain, Canada and Australia became much less homogeneous; and a new framework of international law emerged that gave rights to individuals as well as states.”


Christopher Caldwell in FT, "Why America’s unions are not working anymore".

“Critics claim Republicans are using the excuse of deficits to advance a programme that has more to do with power politics than with economics. The critics are right, in a sense. But the existing system is as much a construction of power as the one Republicans want to replace it with. Public sector unions are either the ‘backbone’ (as the historian Nelson Lichtenstein puts it) or the ‘taxpayer-subsidised armies’ (as the columnist Patrick Buchanan puts it) of the Democratic party. Every election cycle, their leadership contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to (almost exclusively Democratic) candidates. As the author William Voegeli has shown, this activism often takes the form of pouring vast sums into low-turnout elections – $287,000 to one candidate for the Los Angeles school board, for example – where the victor helps to set public salaries and benefits. Union favourites then wind up judging the merits of union demands.

The arrangement is tawdry. It resembles a fee-for-service contract between government and a political party. Public-sector unions have long posed a problem of what the economist Mancur Olson called the ‘logic of collective action’. Democracy tends to offer benefits to small, well-organised groups (who defend them vigilantly) while spreading the costs among the broader public (in doses that are too small to rally resistance around). The result is a hardening of privilege. What is new in Wisconsin is that those who do not belong to public-employee unions see this logic as clearly as those who do.”


Monica Davey in NYT, "Life on the Run For Democrats In Union Fights".

“As battles over limits to public-sector unions and collective-bargaining rights erupted in capitals in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, Illinois suddenly found itself as the refuge of choice for outnumbered Democrats fleeing their states to block the passage of such bills. By Wednesday evening, most of Indiana’s 40 Democratic state representatives were living in rooms (‘plain but all we need,’ in the words of one) at the Comfort Suites in Urbana, Ill., about 100 miles west of the state Capitol in Indianapolis. Wisconsin’s Senate Democrats were preparing to mark their first full week, on Thursday, somewhere in northern Illinois. Republican leaders left behind in the various Capitols fumed, but Gov. Patrick J. Quinn of Illinois seemed to delight in the new arrivals, some of whom said Mr. Quinn, a Democrat, had telephoned them to offer his personal welcome. ‘We believe in hospitality and tourism and being friendly,’ Mr. Quinn said on Wednesday, quickly adding, ‘I also believe in unions.’ The main reason Illinois was suddenly a magnet for vanishing lawmakers was a matter of geography. From both Wisconsin and Indiana, getting over the Illinois line before state law enforcement authorities might be able to find them and haul them back to their stately chambers was a matter of a few hours by car. Still, the state seemed a fitting getaway.”


Steve Chapman in CT, "The scamming of unions and public employees".

“Government workers have long accepted a tradeoff. They get lower pay than they might get in the private sector, but better retirement benefits. They give up some current luxuries for more security later on. The great majority of them have pension plans with guaranteed payouts — an option that has largely disappeared from the private sector. Most businesses long ago abandoned defined-benefit plans because they were unaffordable. The public sector has stayed with them, though — apparently to prove those private companies right. State and local governments, according to pension expert Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University, have promised $3 trillion more in benefits than they have set aside to pay for them. Why? Because there are powerful incentives for both legislators and union leaders to do that. Politicians (particularly, though not exclusively, Democratic ones) want to ingratiate themselves with unions, whose members can be a huge help on Election Day. Union leaders want to keep their members happy and return their favored elected officials to office. The problem, of course, is that such generosity costs a lot of money, which taxpayers may resist paying. That's where the backloading of compensation comes in.”


Holman Jenkins in WSJ, "Let’s Begin Obama’s ‘Conversation’ on Entitlements".

“News reporters may be naïve, and some of the protesters may pretend to be. But this fight was penciled in long ago, when politicians and union leaders made the strategic decision to negotiate benefits without negotiating for the funding to make good on them. The mock shock and horror is all the more laughable given that events in Wisconsin are a perfect microcosm of the battle that every sentient American knows, and has known for a generation, awaits Medicare and Social Security. In keeping with the theatrics of naïveté, President Obama now calls for ‘beginning a conversation on entitlements.’ One wonders what it was, then, that G.W. Bush began at the 2004 Republican convention, or what thinkers and activist groups that have been pushing visions of entitlement reform for decades have been doing. Has the president not heard of the private sector's pioneering work on ‘defined contributions’? Or Bill Clinton's landmark Medicare commission in 1999?”


Gerald Seib in WSJ, "The Political Math: D.C. -Dollars = Plus for States".

“The federal government isn't simply bleeding money. Because of its addiction to red ink, it's bleeding power, which is starting to flow away from the nation's capital and out to the states. This is the little-recognized reality behind the remarkable political upheaval being seen in state capitals. Republican governors such as Wisconsin's Scott Walker, New Jersey's Chris Christie and Indiana's Mitch Daniels are pursuing their own controversial fiscal policies out of what they consider financial necessity; they have budgets to balance, and little time and few options to do the job. But governors of both parties also have less reason to wait and hope for help from a federal government that, with overwhelming budget deficits, is losing its ability to offer financial goodies to the states. For decades, the implicit deal between Washington and state capitals has been that the feds would offer chunks of cash, and in return would get commensurate influence over the states' social policies. Now that flow of federal goodies has begun what figures to be a long-term decline, as the money Washington has available to pass around to the states is squeezed.”


Steven Greenhouse in NYT, "Wisconsin Union Leader Minces No Words".

“Mr. Walker has made no secret that he believes Mr. Beil and his parent union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has 68,000 members in Wisconsin, are obstacles to necessary change. Back in December, before taking office, Mr. Walker lobbied hard to persuade the Legislature to vote down a tentative contract that Mr. Beil had negotiated, saying it did not save enough money despite its two-year wage freeze. Mr. Beil hung tough at the time, likening Mr. Walker to ‘the plantation owner talking to the slaves.’ Speaking of Mr. Beil’s stance then, William Powell Jones, a labor historian at the University of Wisconsin, said: ‘My sense is his position was, ‘We’re in a position of power. We don’t negotiate.’ It’s certainly not the kind of thing to make an anti-union public sympathetic to the union movement.’ With the nation watching, Mr. Beil reversed course last week and accepted Mr. Walker’s demand that public employees pay 5.8 percent of their salaries toward their pensions and double their contributions toward health coverage. Union leaders said that since they had now met the governor halfway, he should compromise by dropping his plan to curb bargaining rights. But Mr. Walker has held firm. For his part, Mr. Beil said his union would never agree to the bargaining limits.”


Charles Koch in WSJ, "Why Koch Industries Is Speaking Out".

“Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want. The purpose of business is to efficiently convert resources into products and services that make people's lives better. Businesses that fail to do so should be allowed to go bankrupt rather than be bailed out. But what about jobs that are lost when businesses go under? It's important to remember that not all jobs are the same. In business, real jobs profitably produce goods and services that people value more highly than their alternatives. Subsidizing inefficient jobs is costly, wastes resources, and weakens our economy. Because every other company in a given industry is accepting market-distorting programs, Koch companies have had little option but to do so as well, simply to remain competitive and help sustain our 50,000 U.S.-based jobs. However, even when such policies benefit us, we only support the policies that enhance true economic freedom. For example, because of government mandates, our refining business is essentially obligated to be in the ethanol business. We believe that ethanol—and every other product in the marketplace—should be required to compete on its own merits, without mandates, subsidies or protective tariffs. Such policies only increase the prices of those products, taxes and the cost of many other goods and services.”


Mark Perry in WSJ, "The Truth About U.S. Manufacturing".

“International data compiled by the United Nations on global output from 1970-2009 show this success story. Excluding recession-related decreases in 2001 and 2008-09, America's manufacturing output has continued to increase since 1970. In every year since 2004, manufacturing output has exceeded $2 trillion (in constant 2005 dollars), twice the output produced in America's factories in the early 1970s. Taken on its own, U.S. manufacturing would rank today as the sixth largest economy in the world, just behind France and ahead of the United Kingdom, Italy and Brazil. In 2009, the most recent full year for which international data are available, our manufacturing output was $2.155 trillion (including mining and utilities). That's more than 45% higher than China's, the country we're supposedly losing ground to. Despite recent gains in China and elsewhere, the U.S. still produced more than 20% of global manufacturing output in 2009. The truth is that America still makes a lot of stuff, and we're making more of it than ever before. We're merely able to do it with a fraction of the workers needed in the past. Consider the incredible, increasing productivity of America's manufacturing workers: The average U.S. factory worker is responsible today for more than $180,000 of annual manufacturing output, triple the $60,000 in 1972.”


Walter Russell Mead in Foreign Affairs tries in "The Tea Party and American Foreign Policy" (not posted) to defend all the world strategic expenditures he feels are necessary and likely to have to be halved if the Tea Party has its way. It isn’t a telling argument and he can barely muster respect here for the reformist drive even though separately he might very well parallel their arguments regarding bases in Germany, or the war on terror or the military-industrial complex generally. Mead tries to convince that this isn’t a class-based special interest pleading but it is certainly. Elsewhere in the issue he really tears properly into Jill Lepore’s book, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History:

“But Lepore‘s point -- that liberals really love and understand their country, while Tea Party conservatives just make noise -- is undermined by her failure to engage more deeply with the convictions and perceptions of the Tea Party members she uses as foils for her views. She seems less interested in figuring out what these people really mean than in deriding the simplistic and ahistorical ideas they express. A historian who took this attitude toward her sources would produce superficial and unsatisfactory work; Lepore enjoys herself perhaps a little too much as she contrasts the richness and humanity of her own views with the tawdry errors of the common herd.”

But further, Mead’s own earlier book, Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World, makes the preliminary case for American exceptionalism to come home now that the world is changed, largely back on its feet to such an extent that we are going to have to compete harder for less easy wages to recharge that American advantage.


Foreign Policy: "Rumsfeld’s former stenographer Bob Woodward royally po’d".


Judith Warner in NYT Magazine in her piece, "Fact-Free Science" somehow is not only printing the legend, she’s believing it as truth. This all gets very confusing. And John Ford wasn’t very clear when he and his screenwriter cooked up “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” in his film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The legend there in that western town is that pencil-neck Jimmy Stewart the lawyer shot Lee Marvin (think Al Qaeda), not pre-civilized rancher own-law John Wayne. But Ford shows us John Wayne done it so we see the truth and the false legend that helps the town get a law based on whatever legendary truth might do. Quite Straussian of the old man in 1962.

Judith makes a fool of herself at the top of the news food chain no less:

“It would be easier to believe in this great moment of scientific reawakening, of course, if more than half of the Republicans in the House and three-quarters of Republican senators did not now say that the threat of global warming, as a man-made and highly threatening phenomenon, is at best an exaggeration and at worst an utter ‘hoax,’ as James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, once put it. These grim numbers, compiled by the Center for American Progress, describe a troubling new reality: the rise of the Tea Party and its anti-intellectual, anti-establishment, anti-elite worldview has brought both a mainstreaming and a radicalization of antiscientific thought. The politicization of science isn’t particularly new; the Bush administration was famous for pressuring government agencies to bring their vision of reality in line with White House imperatives. In response to this, and with a renewed culture war over the very nature of scientific reality clearly brewing, the Obama administration tried to initiate a pre-emptive strike earlier this winter, issuing a set of ‘scientific integrity’ guidelines aimed at keeping the work of government scientists free from ideological pollution.”

“Government scientists”, well there may be your problem right there. “Isn’t particularly new” no shit Sherlock, remember the Lysenko Affair?! She writes of numbers, and you know, Mathematics is a science too. I think its even to first science, or the pure science, something like that -- I dropped out of college. Real science though understands that the planet comes with no guarantee of temperate clime. In fact its swings like a pendulum and my own personal theory? Warming causes cooling which in turn causes warming. Let’s pollute as little as we can manage without destroying real enterprise that non-paper pushers need to feed themselves. But Science! Separating out any man-made global warming has not been done, and neither has it been established that we can do or stop doing something and turn the climate’s temperature down as if we have the themostat at hand. The blood that would flow in the developing world at least from the economic cost of ending the burning of coal and oil (a matter of faith with these zealots, and they’re working as well to stop mining for the cleaner natural gas, and are expected to turn on wind energy as they have on hydro and nuclear energy), that amount of blood shed would lets presume be bad for the soil, very bad, and the soil is like the planet’s skin I heard in Berkeley.

But Math… Warner’s own publication’s editorial page might be said to be waging a WAR ON MATH! Shocking I know, but they have nothing to say about how to reset the budgets at any level, national, state, or their own New York City, except raise taxes, end loopholes, cut defense, and then ride the entitlement benefit gravy train to heaven on this het-up earth of ours.


James Seaton in Weekly Standard on the book, Literature and the Economics of Liberty: Spontaneous Order in Culture, edited by Paul Cantor & Stephen Cox.

“If there are any current theoretical perspectives that are both relevant to the study of works of literature and not hostile to either bourgeois (or middle-class) values and attitudes or the free market, you would not know it from the Norton anthology. Fortunately, there is another anthology, Literature and the Economics of Liberty…. Friedrich Hayek famously argued that the free market is an example of an institution that, like language or the common law, develops its own rules and structure as a result of the interaction of countless individuals over time, achieving results far beyond what could be accomplished through any plan, no matter how wise or well-intentioned. Free markets, like languages, thus exemplify not anarchy but ‘spontaneous order.’ Well-written poems, plays, and novels, on the other hand, are typically the result of a single individual who sees to it that each part of the work contributes to the overall design. It is not surprising, then, that those who derive their notion of excellence from works of literature would find it hard to appreciate the workings of the market, where everybody tries to satisfy his own needs, and nobody seems to be concerned about the whole. A socialist economy, where planners organize all economic activity in the interests of the whole, seems much more intellectually and aesthetically satisfying than the market, even if the latter generates wealth and the former poverty.”


John Horgan in WSJ on James Gleick’s book, .The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

“James Gleick's The Information gives Shannon his due and much more. As promised in its subtitle, The Information describes Shannon's achievement (‘a theory‘) and helps us appreciate it by tracking information's myriad manifestations (‘a history‘) from 5,000-year-old cuneiform records of barley sales all the way up to today's digital super-abundance (‘the flood’). In the course of informing us about information, Mr. Gleick illuminates the histories of mathematics, artificial intelligence, quantum mechanics, genetics and other fields that we have come to understand better thanks to Shannon's theory. What, exactly, is information? Prior to Shannon, Mr. Gleick notes, the term seemed as hopelessly subjective as ‘beauty’ or ‘truth.’ But in 1948 Shannon, then working for Bell Laboratories, gave information an almost magically precise, quantitative definition: The information in a message is inversely proportional to its probability. Random ‘noise’ is quite uniform; the more surprising a message, the more information it contains. Shannon reduced information to a basic unit called a ‘bit,’ short for binary digit. A bit is a message that represents one of two choices: yes or no, heads or tails, one or zero.”


Kay Hymowitz in WSJ on Grace Hale’s book, A Nation of Outsiders.

“One of Ms. Hale's most provocative insights is that this youthful romanticism tarnished the struggle for black equality. Despite their privilege, white college students pronounced themselves powerless outsiders, comrades in the fight against an evil establishment. Their romanticism allowed them ‘to imagine commonalities across race, class, and later gender divisions’ that turned out to be nonexistent. Black-power activists who broke away from the civil-rights establishment were in part reacting to their intuition that ‘whites' romanticism was another form of oppression.’ As the Vietnam War intensified, some students embraced the violent tendencies of Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael while extending their furious identification with the outsider to the Vietnamese and other Third World people. Equally provocative—though less convincing—is Ms. Hale's claim that conservatives and evangelicals were also outsider rebels. Yes, William F. Buckley deplored the spiritual emptiness of mass culture, and young Christians did re-cast Jesus as a long-haired hippie. But the rhetorical similarities between right and left confuse more than they illuminate. Neither Buckley nor Christian evangelicals were driven by romantic longing. Conservative ambivalence about modernity is inherent in the creed, and Christian alienation from the secular state is as old as the religion itself.”


Laramie Boomerang: "Wyoming leads nation in smokeless tobacco use".

“The 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System showed 9.1 percent of Wyoming adults use smokeless tobacco. Use among adult males is higher at about 17 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these rates put Wyoming at the top among all states for smokeless tobacco use. Wyoming also ranks first for the percentage of men who both smoke and use smokeless tobacco at 23 percent. The statewide average of female and male smokers who also use smokeless tobacco is 14 percent.”


Kevin Clark in WSJ, "Where the NHL Stashes Its Mistakes".

“The root of the problem is the NHL's salary cap, which was introduced in hockey for the first time in 2005 and limits the amount teams can spend on players to $59 million. Many of the league's general managers had very little idea how dangerous a cap system can be, and as such, signed a lot of players to long, bloated contracts that are now coming back to haunt them. But during the 2005 negotiations, the players union asked for an unusual provision that allows teams to limit their cap count to the salaries of players who are actually in the locker room. If a team can find a place to stash a player they no longer want, his salary doesn't count. Some teams have taken novel approaches. The Chicago Blackhawks shed goaltender Cristobal Huet's $5.6 million salary by loaning him to a team in Switzerland. But the majority of the league's overpaid and unwanted have been sent to discover the charms of life in the AHL. As you might expect, the disparities in income on these teams now creates some unusual situations. In minor league hockey, there's a tradition known as ‘The Board,’ where players place small sums of money for the scorer of the game's game-winning goal to collect. Most nights, the board can be $100 or so. No longer. Redden has placed iPads on the board and Commodore has put up as much as $1,000.”


Jeff Klein in NYT, "Fighting to Stay in the Game".

“Brashear, 39, the captain of 3L de Rivière-du-Loup, had indeed been playing it straight: he had 31 points in 27 games and a fairly reasonable 56 penalty minutes going into last Friday’s game here against Caron & Guay de Trois-Rivières. Sometimes, he said, things ‘get out of hand,’ but that he had been in only one fight the entire season. ‘The guy just hung on to me for his life,’ he said. Three hours later, Brashear was not playing it straight at all. He was on the ice, slugging away, much as he did as one of the more feared players in the game for five N.H.L. teams, including the Rangers last season…. ‘This is a good league for Quebec kids,’ said Steve Larouche, a former N.H.L. player who now skates for Trois-Rivières. A number of players cited the ease of being able to conduct their hockey lives almost exclusively in French. But the rule was passed more to cut down on expenses than to promote Quebec’s heritage. In the past, clubs would employ tough guys from the United States and elsewhere in Canada — players like the Syosset, N.Y., native Neil Posillico or the former N.H.L. enforcer Link Gaetz. (Gaetz was once suspended from the L.N.A.H. for leaving the bench to go to a concession stand for a hamburger.) With enforcers no longer being flown in, the violence has abated to a certain degree, but it has not quite changed the L.N.A.H.’s reputation as a garage league, a term Quebecers use disparagingly to refer to a league full of hacks and fighters.”


Dave Duerson oral history excerpts at Suntimes.com.

“Author Rob Trucks interviewed former Bears safety Dave Duerson on Nov. 27 as part of an ongoing oral history project with Americans turning 50. He posted excerpts from that interview Wednesday on Deadspin….

On playing for Buddy Ryan: ‘In the NFL, I was ostracized from day one — not by my teammates, but by my defensive coordinator. I was drafted by the Bears in 1983. My first day walking into Halas Hall, I met Buddy Ryan. He knew I’d gone to Notre Dame and asked me if I was one of those doctors or lawyers. I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ He said, ‘Well, you won’t be here too long because I don’t like smart [N-word].’ ‘I worked for Buddy for three years, and there was not a day that he did not remind me that I was not his draft pick, that he did not want me there. It was not motivational at all. The guy simply hated my guts, without question. He came as close to apologizing to me as he could a couple years ago when we saw each other at one of these card-signing events in Chicago. Of course, I would always go right up to him and extend my hand and say, ‘Hello,’ and I did, and this time he said, ‘Dave.’ He never called me Dave. He would call me 22, or he would belt out my nickname. My nickname is ‘Double D,’ so he would call me ‘WD’ or something like that. The closest he would come to calling me by my name was when he’d say, ‘WD.’ And then, two years ago, he said, ‘Dave.’ And he said, ‘This time can I have a hug?’ And that was his way of saying, ‘I’m sorry.’’”


Neil Hayes in CST, "Duerson’s suicide rattles ex-Bear Plank."

“Flying into the frame and straight at Bell’s exposed back was Doug Plank, head down and helmet first, like a heat-seeking missile. ‘Counting high school and college, I played for 15 years,’ the former Bears safety said. ‘Conservatively, I had at least two concussions a year. Twice I was knocked cold, once in high school and once in college. The rest were collisions where I either didn’t know who I was or where I was.’ That’s 30 concussions, many of which were accompanied by classic symptoms. ‘I remember one game I got hit, and it was like one of the movies where a grenade goes off and the soldier hears ringing in his ears and everything slows down,’ Plank said. ‘I’ve had amnesia, tunnel vision, shooting stars. The shooting stars were better than fireworks. It looks like you’re in the most brilliant meteor shower of your life.’”


Francis Fukuyama in WSJ, "Rage Against the (Digital) Machine."

“Visual and audio reproduction have undergone massive changes as their underlying technologies shifted from analog to digital over the past two decades. It's clear that it is far more convenient to snap photos with a digital point-and-shoot or listen to music on an iPod. But whether the quality of images or music has improved is, however, a highly debatable proposition, one that is contested by legions of enthusiasts who have continued to cling to older technologies not out of Luddite resistance to change, but because they believe the shift to 1's and 0's is actually making things worse. Photography and music have been hobbies of mine ever since I was a child when I built Dynakits and had my own darkroom. I was introduced to high-end audio by the political theorist Allan Bloom, who back in the early 1980s had what seemed to me a crazily expensive Linn Sondek turntable and a collection of over 2,000 records…. Let's begin with how photography has changed. Ansel Adams's iconic images of the Sierras were taken with an 8-inch-by-10-inch view camera, a wooden contraption with bellows in which the photographer saw his subject upside-down and reversed under a black cloth. Joel Meyerowitz's stunning photographs of Cape Cod were taken with a similar mahogany Deardorff view camera manufactured in the 1930s. These cameras produce negatives that contain up to 100 times the amount of information produced by a contemporary top-of-the-line digital SLR like a Canon EOS 5D or a Nikon D3.”


Ben Ratliff in NYT on Mike Watt’s new opera, “Hyphenated-Man”.

“Growing up in Navy housing about three miles north of where he lives now, Mr. Watt read the World Book encyclopedia in alphabetical order. He stumbled on the Netherlandish artist Bosch (around 1450 to 1516) in the second volume. The artist’s grotesque dream world in large works like ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony’ and ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ fascinated him, partly because of the curio-cabinet aspect of the paintings, partly because of their religious references, making Catholicism seem surreal and juicy, unlike his Sunday morning church experiences. Much later, while touring in 2005 as the bassist for the re-formed Stooges, he visited the Prado in Madrid and saw some of the paintings up close. He said they reminded him of his childhood and his current state.”


Juice #68 has lengthy interviews with Chuck Dukowski, Legs McNeil and others.

“Steve Olson: Were you into music as a kid?

Legs McNeil: My brother and sister listened to a pretty diverse selection of music, from Black Sabbath to Joni Mitchell. It was a very exciting time. It was the progression of rock n’ roll from the ‘50s. Listening to Hendrix and all of that was just fantastic. It just seemed like there was great rock n’ roll and there always would be great rock n’ roll. I wasn’t that into the music, other than as a soundtrack to my life. John Holmstrom was more into the music. He’s the one that turned us onto the Dictators, the Stooges and the Dolls.

SO: What were you into then, if it wasn’t the music? Was it the lifestyle or the excitement?

LMc: Well, once I saw the Ramones, I was into the music. One of the first concerts I ever went to was Deep Purple, a few years before. I think I passed out before they even came on the stage. They were so tiny on the stage, and they were playing “Smoke on the Water.” I really couldn’t afford to go to concerts. I didn’t have any money.

SO: Was this in the early ‘70s?

LMc: Yeah. John had a comic strip in Scholastic magazine called ‘Bananas’. I think it was for junior high school kids. If I wrote a comic strip, he’d pay me $75. That bought a lot of beer, so I would do that.”


The Whistling Wolves

• Thursday, March 3, 8pm
Inaugural show, free
w/ Citigrass, The Newton Gang
Freddy's Bar
627 5th Ave, Brooklyn

• Sunday, March 13, 8pm
w/ Harry Bolick
The Fabulous Jalopy Theatre
315 Columbia Street, Brooklyn


M. Henry Jones and the Downtown Scene.

• Thursday March 3, 7:30pm
Anthology Film Archives, NYC
Introduced by DJ Spooky, Jones and Amy Taubin in discussion.


Steven Ozment in Weekly Standard on Wayne Andersen’s book, Marcel Duchamp: The Failed Messiah.

“Despite his lack of artistic production between the 1930s and ‘60s, impressionable curators, academics, and media mavens raised Duchamp to legendary status. Art magazines and university art galleries ‘figured importantly‘ in his ascent. Even might Yale, whose experts should have known better, exhibited one of his store-bought readymades: the one and only Duchamp snow shovel! In an undefined era where today is always the first day of one‘s life, Duchamp studies compared the new Messiah favorably to Michelangelo…. An art historian who has been criticized for letting Freud overhaul his subjects, Andersen treats Duchamp‘s struggle with gender identity in a manner that turns out to be persuasive and fair. He presents remarkable photographs of Duchamp‘s long blond wigs and cross-dressing as he assumed the fictitious figure of ‘Rose Slevy.’ Nor does Andersen cross any forbidden lines in his analysis of Duchamp‘s attraction to unattractive women ‘in an effort to ward off an [unwanted] aspect of himself.’”


Frank Rich Joins New York Magazine.

“‘Frank Rich is a giant — a powerhouse critic of politics and culture, a rigorous thinker, a glorious stylist, a skeptic and optimist at the same time. There is just no one like him in American journalism,’ said New York editor-in-chief Adam Moss. ‘He is also a friend. I have had the privilege to work with him for almost 25 years. Since the day I came to New York, I have hoped I could persuade him to join us here. I'm ecstatic that he will now be bringing his wisdom to our growing audience. This is a very big day for New York.’

Rich joins the magazine from the New York Times, where he has been an op-ed columnist since 1994. He was previously the paper’s chief drama critic, from 1980 to 1993. He has also been the front-page columnist for the Sunday ‘Arts & Leisure’ section and senior writer for The New York Times Magazine. Rich will continue in his role as a creative consultant to HBO, where he is the executive producer of “Veep”, a pilot currently in production for a comedy series written and directed by Armando Iannucci and starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus.”


Ira Stoll’s new site, Futureofcapitalism.com, has him inspecting a NYT poll.

“If you actually read the poll, it says that 22% of those surveyed in the poll are either public sector workers or their household members. Back them out of the poll, and one could hang a different headline over it. That's not the only way the poll is skewed. One question reads in part, ‘Some states are trying to take away some of the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. Do you favor or oppose taking away some of the collective bargaining rights of these unions.’ This question measures how people feel about ‘taking away’ ‘rights’ — words repeated for emphasis — as much as or more than how they feel about collective bargaining for public employees. You'd expect people to be reflexively opposed to taking away rights.”


Clyde Haberman in NYT, "Where Freedom of Expression Runs Headlong Into the Impulse to Censor".

“In New York, one may articulate any idea whatsoever — as long as that idea parallels popular opinion. Stray too far from generally accepted wisdom, though, and you are asking for trouble. The latest to discover this reality is a Texas group called Life Always, which bought billboard space in SoHo to deliver an anti-abortion message rooted in recent statistics from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. They showed that in 2009, 41 percent of all pregnancies here ended in abortion. The abortion rate for black women was even higher, almost 60 percent. Up went the billboard on a building at the corner of Avenue of the Americas and Watts Street. It showed a black girl with these words above her head: ‘The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.’”


Ken Johnson in NYT, "A Burgeoning Film Career Built on Random Encounters".

“One of Ms. Nakadate’s greatest strengths is her uncanny ability to connect intimately with other people and get them to do what she wants. She could be a serial seducer, a con artist or what she has become, a movie director. Working behind the camera with amateur actors in Good Morning Sunshine (2009), she makes seduction itself a disquieting subject. In each of three five-minute vignettes, the camera’s point of view takes us into a bedroom and to a teenage girl asleep in her bed. As the subject awakes and emerges from her covers, we hear Ms. Nakadate’s wheedling voice: ‘Good morning, Sunshine. Time to get up. You’re so pretty, you’re such a pretty girl, you know you’re the prettiest girl? Show me your feet. What’s under your shirt?’ and so on. By the end of each segment, she has the young woman down to her underwear, looking self-consciously flattered, putty in an emotional predator’s hands. It is all staged, of course, but the seduction — in multiple senses — of both us viewers and the girl has a wonderfully, creepily real feeling. What is it like to be a pretty girl? To possess an almost magical power of attraction and yet know so little about how the world really works? In Ms. Nakadate’s first two feature-length movies (each about 90 minutes), it feels as if we were getting as close to the elusive, naked truth as a film can get.”


Obituary of the Week

Nobutoshi Kihara (1926 - 2011)

“Mr. Kihara, whose innovations helped win more than 700 patents, led in developing products like the company’s first success, a magnetic tape recorder and the magnetic tape to go with it. Other products included the transistor radio and television, one of the world’s first videotape recorders, the Betamax, eight-millimeter video movies, the digital still camera known as Mavica and a catalog of smaller and lighter variations of these products. Though Mr. Kihara was widely known as ‘Mr. Walkman,’ another engineer actually created the world’s first commercial personal stereo system. But Mr. Kihara’s earlier innovations provided the backbone for the Walkman. Akio Morita, one of Sony’s two founders, had asked Mr. Kihara, then a top engineering executive, to find a way for him to listen to operas on long-haul business flights. It was Mr. Kihara’s relationship with Sony’s other founder, Masaru Ibuka, that rained magic. Projects usually began with a rambling, almost telepathic conversation in which Mr. Ibuka was careful not to offend Mr. Kihara by issuing a direct order. Often as soon as the next day Mr. Kihara would delightedly show Mr. Ibuka a prototype of the concept they had discussed, John Nathan wrote in Sony: The Private Life (1999). ‘I loved making him happy,’ Mr. Kihara said. In turn, Mr. Ibuka referred to Mr. Kihara as ‘a godlike person’ in one of his books.”


Thanks to Steve Beeho.

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