a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Issue #95 (April 27, 2011)

On Highway 130

Photo by Joe Carducci

Being Bacri

by Carolyn Heinze

When it comes to actors and actresses, I’m only interested in a few or five or four. They spend so much time adopting foreign babies and not enough time focusing on their lines! Pour moi, it’s all about the directors. I don’t know about you, but I tip my beret to anyone who can get anything as colossal as a movie – any movie – off the ground. And into the studio. And out of the studio. And onto the screen.

And then there’s Jean-Pierre Bacri.

Jean-Pierre Bacri is a comédien (that’s ‘actor’ en français). He’s also a scénariste (that’s ‘screenwriter’). The directing? (La réalisation ?) When they collaborate, he leaves that up to the long-time love of his life: Agnès Jaoui. (I’ll tell you about her some other time.) (Oh, but word has it that between all of her directing and acting and screenwriting and singing, she went and adopted a couple of kids, too.) (From Brazil.) (What’s up with that?) (I mean, not the ‘Brazil’ part, but . . .)

Jean-Pierre Bacri is always being Jean-Pierre Bacri even when he’s not being Jean-Pierre Bacri. You know how Jack Nicholson is always being Jack Nicholson even when he’s not? As in when he’s Jack Nicholson playing a ‘role?’ Kind of like that. Only with Jean-Pierre Bacri, it kind of isn’t like that at all. Because Jean-Pierre Bacri has what we call la classe.

There is a certain tendency in a certain type of French cinéma to be, for certain, réaliste. This means that sometimes the actresses could use a little more make-up and sometimes the actors could use a little more time at the gym. (I think it has something to do with budget: Can you believe the price of personal trainers these days? And have you ever tried to purchase mascara in France? Without taking out a second mortgage? Especially ever since that merde with L’Oreal? Where they hid some money and evaded paying out other money and then paid out even more money to some goony guy? Some goony guy who wasn’t even doing his ‘job?’ And then they got caught?) (Ever since all that, cosmetics prices en France have gone through the roof!) (I mean, somebody’s gotta pay for all the lawyers and legals and paralegals and assistant legals…and the judging and the judgments…and the judge…)

Ahem. Anyway. It also means that in a certain type of French cinéma, certain actors and certain actresses certainly play themselves. What it doesn’t mean is that certain actors and certain actresses play cartoons of themselves. What I mean: No matter the film, no matter the role, with Jack Nicholson you’re always expecting him to pop his head through a door and snarl, “Here’s Johnny!” and then wiggle his eyebrows and away he goes. With Jean-Pierre Bacri, you’re mainly-mostly expecting him to frown. But not because he’s hamming it up; it’s just the way he is.

“They often say that I frown…” Bacri recently admitted to Le Monde Magazine. “Of course I frown! And I will continue to do so! When I have nothing to say and no reason to smile, I frown. That is to say, it’s my normal expression. My face frowns.”

In Avant l’aube (“Before Sunrise” literally, but The Night Clerk is the English title) Jean-Pierre Bacri plays an uncartoonish version of himself as one hell of a manipulative bastard. (Who, uncartoonishly, frowns.) It’s not a terribly special film, but it’s not all that terribly un-special either, shot in the Chabrolian spirit of an old-fashioned French film noir. (I don’t know if director Raphaël Jacoulot is actually a fan of the late Uncle Claude, but I’d be willing to put my mascara money on it.) The French would dub it ‘cinéma du dimanche’ – a sort of cinematic comfort food to nurse the Sunday evening hangover you ambitiously acquired on Saturday night. There are no good guys, not really, in this version of la France there never are…but there’s French murder and French mountains and French mayhem à la française . . . and all the (tastefully understated) social issues and class divisions and struggling ex-convicts and bitchy bourgeoisie to go with. If you don’t really know much about France or – gasp! – you don’t really ever care to, you’ll miss some of the nuances but c’est pas grave. If you’re in the loop, you’ll catch Jacoulot’s playful winks about what’s recently been going on in the Fifth Republic, and all of its unsocial, anti-social, anti-socially-responsible actualité. And, bien sûr, there’s Jean-Pierre Bacri.

“It wouldn’t bother me if they eliminated the word ‘fraternité’ from the Republic’s motto,” Bacri (presumably with a frown) told his interviewer from Le Monde, in reference to France’s revolutionary slogan Liberté Égalité Fraternité. “It’s too hypocritical. We need justice, and equality, but we don’t need to like each other. Respect largely suffices.”

Well, J-P, I can’t deny your logique, but there’s no reason to fret about forcing a smile just yet. If fraternité is hypocritical, le respect is still a way’s off. Which is good news for film-nerd chicks who are into guys who brood.

North of Highway 130

Photo by Joe Carducci

The Times Divided by Truth
by Joe Carducci

There seems to be two ways to get to write for the New York Times. The first is to be really good, an expert at what it is you cover, or reporter enough to track the story idea down and politic enough to fend off the politicos climbing ever higher up the masthead as you toil. Dave Kehr with his Sunday DVD column is the perfect expert matched to the perfect beat (see his Gaumont link below) -- doubly rare. Kehr doesn’t have to review the current flow of film releases at all, whereas the Times’ best music writer, Ben Ratliff, is often compelled by marketing demands (both external and internal) to review contemporary tripe just blown into town, and who cares about phrase-turning per se? (Here’s Ratliff’s latest, a telling review of the psychedelic Neil Young, solo-electric live.) In the NV we link weekly to what seems most interesting in the reportage and commentaries in five or six newspapers, and the New York Times is probably ahead of the Wall Street Journal as top source even though we lean away from it since more of our list reads it than read the business papers. It’s due to those best writers and thinkers at the paper and the resources it affords them that this is true here.

But there’s an easier way to write for the Times and that involves becoming an expert panderer to the needs of its compromised editorial board, which is still stuck in the old world of Manhattan hierarchy even as it tries to fence off its cyberspace spread (episodes include the taking of the formerly joint operation with the Washington Post of The International Herald Tribune, and the sandbagging of WikiLeaks as the Times simultaneously constructs its own instant imitation). The paper would be even worse if they weren’t now a national paper; that is worth remembering. Still judging by the characters in their television ads for “The Weekender” subscription they have a very narrow idea of prospective readers (You don’t need a link to see that again, but here’s a foul-mouthed parody “NYPost” version.). And whereas the Times’ reach used to extend through the three networks’ newscasts, it now seems most efficiently spread through the NPR news division and its civic affairs programming. There is almost a complete mindmeld between these institutions, which is why there was so much buzz to that idea that the Times go non-profit. Sure, they could actually be an NGO staffed by vicarious ex-pats; they’d be a less neurotic BBC -- there now, the only announcers speaking the King’s English properly anymore are the wogs.

Its in national political coverage that the Times editorial higher-ups make disinterested reportage as rare as they possibly can. Coverage from the many foreign desks and assignments seems based on assumptions both cultural and economic that are diametrically opposed to what is presumed to pertain here. Decadence is easier to see in Europe but its here too, albeit with an dronish puritanical gloss that Euros must see as uniquely American to their great covert amusement.

Here are recent examples of what I take to be sad, obvious, indulgent, sleepwalking that screams to me social coloration for mating advantage, rather than authentic contributions to anything. If you know what I’m talking ’bout, then for God’s sake skip these:

• David Leonhardt, "Do-Nothing Congress as a Cure". After which he was presented with one of them shiny Pulitzers, so shiny he’s got it made in its shade.

• Gretchen Morgenson & Louise Story, "In Financial Crisis, No Prosecutions of Top Figures", which could be called boo-bait for bubbie since it neglects to first call for the imprisonment of regulators, politicians, bureaucrats, who claim to be watching other folks stores. Those won’t be fired, or fined, or charged, they will have their budgets and responsibilities increased.

• Jill Lepore, "Poor Jane’s Almanac", can’t quite come up with the goods on the nearby males, she’s not that good a historian, witness her perches at The New Yorker, Harvard, and Princeton (they published her Tea Party book; who assigned it?!). So there’s a tension in this piece no amount of editing can relieve. Are we to admire Jane? Or regret her? Or blame Ben Franklin? Perhaps we ought interrogate her. All we can be sure of is Vote Democratic.

• Paul Krugman, "Patients are not consumers", wherein the Princeton economist successfully unknows that medicine hasn’t been in a laissez faire state of Doctor-Patient bliss for decades thanks to at least two levels of government, plus the courts, and the envious fallen profession of Law generally, as it makes its needs known through the state after which hospitals, offices, insurance companies all must pile on. And further, lets reduce the profession to wage labor, let them unionize so they can be as effective as the former teaching profession. This will cut costs by ending all this unmanageable progress in the medical sciences. It can’t be a Death Panel if there’s no treatment available, not with their attorneys.

• Janny Scott’s book, Why She Went, excerpted, which launders the motives of the president’s mother, somewhat as if Scott herself were back there in 1960 full of unnamable terrors so common to studentka coming out of the horrors of that second golden age of the American twentieth century, with thankfully no models along the lines of Bernadine Dohrn or Squeaky Fromme yet visible as cautionaries.

by Joe Carducci

Marc Myers hyperventilates over a new collection of the Robert Johnson masters in his Wall Street Journal review, "Still Standing at the Crossroads", and since Lightbourne isn’t around to correct him authoritatively I thought the least I could do is a short, drive-by knee-capping. This new collection is quite redundant since this Johnson has always been in reissue and usually in that un-hip, ersatz-omnibus edition Columbia Records way. And sure enough given the label’s Manhattan-Mitch Millerin’ heritage this indicates not that Robert is the preeminent delta blues practitioner Myers assumes, but rather a second-tier one. There is no shame in this given the scale of that first tier’s achievement, but it is important, otherwise, as Myers does, that first-tier is belittled.

The late David Lightbourne (died a year ago Friday, Apr. 29) thought that Charley Patton was the master of acoustic guitar delta blues. His recordings made between 1929 and 1934 were the people’s choice and the party records of that day so they survive mostly in beat-up, noisy copies of the old 78s. Following Patton in no particular order, I think he ranked Tommy Johnson, Skip James, Son House, and Mississippi John Hurt. Then probably Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie, and Bukka White, before you get to the other, later Johnson, Robert. There’s more greats (Willie Brown, Frank Stokes, William Harris, Blind Willie Reynolds…) but they may have shorter discographies or were better writers than performers or were from other regions with less interesting stylistic variations. (David, for his own playing, liked to move the finger-picking style of the delta up to Memphis for jug band accompaniment; see his Stop & Listen Boys album, “Monkey Junk” for that.)

But it's like Robert Johnson had a better agent. He didn’t except that after his death, his label, the New York folk-commies, and the later British blues scene, none of which really knew much about American music, somehow took him and mistook his compelling story and dramatic death for somebody else’s earlier legend. Robert Palmer who did know a lot about American music contributed to this switching of the Johnsons too. The crossroads story ("see background here") was Tommy Johnson’s legend or joke to explain how it was he returned so much better on the guitar if he was feeling too proud to admit he’d gone up from Crystal Springs Miss. to the Dockery Plantation area where he learned from Patton and Willie Brown. Tommy was a better player and singer than Robert. Robert came along a few years later and like John Hurt his recordings survived in better shape, but Robert sounds to my inexpert ear, more folk in his static pace though very blue in inflection, and more vocally emotive in the Son House manner. Palmer in his great book, Deep Blues, has it that Robert was influenced by east coast blues he’d heard from another player or 78s. The primary weakness of Robert Johnson’s recordings are the arrangements, which when you are using primarily a single acoustic guitar to accompany your voice is a big drawback. I would guess many early recording sessions were slightly intimidating to country pickers and if they planned to use the opportunity commercially, they might easily undo what made them successful in a live setting before an audience. The finger-picking style of guitar was a soloist’s strategy to achieve an overall effect of a string band’s rhythm-melody-lead capability in a single player, though often they played with accompaniment.

What I do think is that Patton is a bridge too far to ever get his due -- music writers with mainstream readership will in any case see to it they are spared word of ol’ Charley, thank you very much. But even on such low accessibility terms John Hurt and Memphis Minnie, for two, ought to be an easier sell than Robert Johnson to even the least knowledgeable listener.

What sounds interesting here, though, is that to resell these same old Robert Johnson recordings Sony-Legacy has locked onto the recording studios and what all else was recorded on those days that Robert Johnson sat before the microphones. According to Myers, two discs cover his masters-plus-outtakes, and two more “hold earlier blues recordings as well as hillbilly, Texas swing and Mexican recordings made on the same days as Johnson's and in the same studios.” As curio collections these may offer a glimpse of how these different musicians might have met and heard each other, here in the studio, and elsewhere we trust in radio stations, bars, record shops, on streets, on trains and in hotels. The collections also includes a 1997 documentary, ‘Can You Hear the Wind Howl’, which is probably full of the irrelevant and wrongheaded Limey-commie-New York-Goth-Noir legend of Robert Johnson.

Dave told me something about the famous photograph of Robert Johnson that accompanies the WSJ review -- the shot the USPS airbrushed his cigarette from for the stamp -- but I forgot what it was.

There’s good Lightbourne picking-after-the-original-style in this two-part video tribute that Michael Hurley made after David’s death last year. The two minute section toward the end of part two is a good look and listen at his technique as he shows Michael, a fair picker himself, bits of two arrangements he was working out.

Neolestes Torquatus by James Fotopoulos

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

AP: "Fighting Kills 115 in Sudan’s South".

“Before this week's violence the United Nations said at least 800 people had been killed and 94,000 displaced because of violence in Southern Sudan this year. The fresh clashes between Gen. Tanginye's forces and the army erupted Saturday morning in Kaldak village, north of Jonglei state, where his forces have been assembled for reintegration into the Sudan People's Liberation Army, poised to become Southern Sudan's regular force in July. Gen. Tanginye said his base was attacked by the southern army because he refused to disarm his men ahead of the reintegration process, an allegation the army has dismissed as a ‘lie.’ Gen. Tanginye was a Khartoum-sponsored warlord who burned and looted southern villages along the Nile River during the decades-long north-south civil war. He continued serving for the north after a 2005 peace deal ended the war. Although he accepted an amnesty and reintegration package with the southern army late last year, it is now unclear which side Gen. Tanginye is fighting for.”


Scott Peterson in CSM, "Rare view from Libya’s western mountains".

“Few journalists have so far crossed into these western mountains, but the picture now emerging is that of a heavily outgunned militia – perhaps better organized than the rag-tag rebels in the east – that has leveraged local knowledge, international support, and deep-seated anger at Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi into unlikely victories. This rugged terrain has witnessed a hidden war in the fight against Colonel Qaddafi. Rebel forces here – many of them ethnic Berbers native to the tough terrain – recently took control of a border crossing with Tunisia, opening a critical new supply line for the embattled opposition, and have gained enough ground in recent days to mark an important waypoint in Libya’s revolution. Several NATO airstrikes Monday – the first after more than two months of fighting in this region – have boosted rebel confidence that this front will no longer be neglected. Rebels say that Arab and Berber tribes and towns along the 90-mile belt of the high sandstone Nafusah Mountain, which stretches from Tunisia to south of Tripoli, are now largely united in their opposition to Qaddafi, despite efforts by Tripoli to play one against the other.”


Dani Rodrik at Project-syndicate.org, "Saif Qaddafi and Me".

“There is a strong sentiment that academics and institutions that collaborated with such an odious regime – often with the encouragement of their governments, no doubt – suffered a grave lapse of judgment. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s murderous stance during the uprising has revealed his true colors, regardless of his more moderate posture in recent years. And Saif al-Islam’s recent support for his father suggests that he is not the liberal reformer many took him to be. But it is much easier to reach such judgments with hindsight. Were the moral overtones of dealing with the Qaddafis so obvious before the Arab revolutions spread to Libya? Or to pose the question more broadly, is it so clear that advisers should always steer clear of dictatorial regimes? Universities all over the world are falling over each other trying to deepen their engagement with China. Most academics would jump at the chance to have a meeting with China’s President Hu Jintao. I haven’t heard much criticism of such contacts, which tend to be viewed as normal and unproblematic. And yet few would deny that China’s is a repressive regime that deals with its opponents harshly. Memories of Tiananmen are still fresh. Who is to say how the Chinese leadership would respond to a future pro-democracy uprising that threatened to undermine the regime?”


Francis Fukuyama in The American Interest, "Political Order in Egypt".

“Huntington, observing the high levels of political instability plaguing countries in the developing world during the 1950s and 1960s, noted that increasing levels of economic and social development often led to coups, revolutions and military takeovers rather than a smooth transition to modern liberal democracy. The reason, he pointed out, was the gap that appeared between the hopes and expectations of newly mobilized, educated and economically empowered people on the one hand, and the existing political system, which did not offer them an institutionalized mechanism for political participation, on the other. He might have added that such poorly institutionalized regimes are also often subject to crony capitalism, which fails to provide jobs and incomes to the newly educated middle class. Attacks against the existing political order, he noted, are seldom driven by the poorest of the poor; they instead tend to be led by rising middle classes who are frustrated by the lack of political and economic opportunity — a phenomenon noted by Alexis de Tocqueville in his masterful analysis of the origins of the French Revolution and raised again in the early 1960s by James Davies’s well known ‘J-curve’ theory of revolution.”


Landon Thomas in NYT, "Turkey Spends Freely Again, And Some Analysts Worry".

“Stock brokers endure four-month waiting lists to pay as much as $150,000 for top-of-the-line Audis and BMWs — twice the manufacturers’ prices after taxes. A real estate developer recently laid out a record $33.3 million an acre for a 24-acre plot of land in Istanbul’s city center. But the most striking sign that the economy here may be overheating comes from a usual suspect: the country’s aggressive banks. They have found a creative way to finance consumer splurges by providing quick loan approval via text message or automated teller machine. Analysts and bankers say the explosive growth in consumer loans has fed a worrying expansion of the country’s current account deficit, estimated to be 8 percent of gross domestic product this year. Turkey’s trouble in financing gaps of that size has been at the root of its past two busts, and some worry that history may be repeating itself.”


Lina Saigol in FT, "Assad cousin accused of favoring the family".

“‘Makhlouf, you thief!’ dozens of protesters have chanted at recent demonstrations in the southern city of Deraa. The son of the former commander of the Syrian Republican Guard, Mr Makhlouf controls as much as 60 per cent of the country’s economy through a complex web of holding companies. His business empire spans industries ranging from telecommunications, oil, gas and construction, to banking, airlines and retail. He even owns several private schools. This concentration of power, says bankers and economists, has made it almost impossible for outsiders to conduct business in Syria without his consent. When the US Treasury levied sanctions against Mr Makhlouf in 2008, forbidding US citizens or entities from doing business with him… he told Reuters news agency: ‘I should thank George W. Bush because the sanctions have raised the level of my support in Syria. I am no hit-and-run businessman.’”


Fouad Ajami in WSJ, "The Freedom Movement Comes to Syria".

“Assad senior had come from crushing rural poverty, but the House of Assad became a huge financial and criminal enterprise. Around Bashar Assad were siblings, cruel and entitled. At the commanding heights of the economy were the Assad in-laws, choking off the life of commerce, reducing the trading families of yesteryear to marginality and dependence. And there was the great sectarian truth of this country: The Alawis, a mountainous community of Shiite schismatics, for centuries cut off from wealth and power, comprising somewhere between 10% and 12% of the population, had hoarded for themselves supreme political power. The intelligence barons were drawn from the Alawis, as were the elite brigades entrusted with the defense of the regime. For the rulers, this sectarian truth was a great taboo, for Damascus had historically been a great city of Sunni urban Islam. That chasm between state and society, between ruler and ruled, that we can see in practically all Arab lands under rebellion was most stark in Syria. It is unlikely that the Gadhafis and Mubaraks and the ruler of Yemen could have entertained thoughts of succession for their sons had they not seen the ease with which Syria became that odd creature — a republican monarchy. When the Arab revolutions hit Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, Bashar Assad claimed that his country would be bypassed because it was the quintessential ‘frontline’ state in the Arab confrontation with Israel. Let them eat anti-Zionism, the regime had long thought of its subjects.”


Nicholas Blanford in CSM, "Syria’s military shows signs of division amid crackdown".

“The Arabic Al-Jazeera news channel reported that some soldiers were objecting to firing on civilians and that clashes had broken out between separate Army units in Deraa. The minority Alawite sect – a Shiite offshoot – forms the backbone of the regime and controls the Army and intelligence apparatus in Syria, but the Army’s ranks are mainly composed of Sunnis. It has been widely speculated that if troops are ordered to use increasing force against civilian protesters, cracks may emerge – possibly along sectarian lines – within the military which could have far-reaching consequences for the durability of the regime.

In the early stages of the uprising in Deraa, a soldier from the Sunni city of Homs was allegedly shot dead for refusing to open fire on protesters. Since then, there have been numerous unverified reports of soldiers and even senior officers being shot for refusing to obey orders. Last week, Gen. Abdo Khodr Tellawi from Homs was killed with his two sons and a nephew. The Syrian state-run SANA news agency claimed that ‘armed criminal gangs … killed them in cold blood.’ But opposition activists say that the Syrian intelligence services executed them because they were showing signs of sympathy for the protesters. Other officers killed in the past two weeks include two Christian colonels, Samir Kashour and Whaib Issa, and Gen. Ayad Harfoush, who, like Tellawi, was an Alawite. Alawite military and intelligence officers are generally expected to stand with the regime, fearing a bloody backlash against them should Assad fall. But the Alawite community is not a homogenous entity and there are longstanding tensions between rival clans which could witness some powerful Alawite figures siding with the opposition against the Assads.”


Raymond Ibrahim at MEforum.org on Fadil Soliman’s book, Copts: Muslims Before Muhammad.

“His new Arabic book, Copts: Muslims Before Muhammad, which he has been promoting all over the media, including al-Jazeera, asserts that, at the time of the Muslim conquest of Egypt (c. 640), the vast majority of Egyptians were not, as history has long taught, Christians, but rather prototypical Muslims, or muwahidin, who were actually being oppressed by Christians: hence, the Muslim conquest of Egypt was really about ‘liberating’ fellow Muslims. Soliman's evidence is that the Arian sect, which rejected the claim that Jesus was coequal with God, was present in 4th century Egypt. Therefore, according to Soliman, the indigenous Egyptians were practicing ‘proto-Islam’ hundreds of years before it was founded in the 7th century. As with much of modern academia's approach to Islam, this thesis is based on pure fiction. While the Arians were pronounced heretics at the Council of Nicea (325) for their interpretation of the Trinity, they nonetheless accepted all of Christianity's core tenets — including original sin, crucifixion, resurrection, and salvation — all of which directly contradict Islam's teachings. What an imaginative stretch, then, for Soliman to portray the Arians as prototypical Muslims, simply because they did not believe Jesus was coequal with God (a standard that would make many people today ‘Muslims’). Needless to say, no historian has ever suggested that Muslims invaded Egypt to liberate ‘proto-Muslims.’ Rather, the Muslim historians who wrote our primary sources on Islam, candidly and refreshingly present the conquests as they were — conquests, for the glory and empowerment of Islam and its followers at the expense of unbelieving infidels.”


Daniel Pipes at Nationalreview.com has an illustrated chronology of the particulars of Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia.


Tony Barber in FT, "Frustrated True Finns feed Europe’s very own Tea Party".

“[T]he emergence of the True Finns should come as no surprise. They draw on a tradition of popular protest with deep roots in pre-industrial Finland, but their contemporary success stems from tapping into anxiety about Finland’s rapid modernisation after the end of the cold war in 1989-91. Until that frozen conflict melted, Finland had an ambiguous status as a democratic and free society, with self-expression restricted for fear of incurring Moscow’s wrath. It was taboo, for instance, for politicians, bureaucrats and the media to criticise Soviet policies. Books and films considered to be anti-Soviet were removed from circulation. In international affairs Finland was strictly neutral between east and west…. Everything changed after 1991. Within four years Finland entered the European Union. Then came the euro and, in 2001, membership of the EU’s Schengen border-free travel regime…. Jobs are disappearing abroad. Paper and pulp mills are shutting down. When a factory closes in a small Finnish provincial town, the impact is felt more keenly than in densely populated countries, because the plant is often the town‘s sole or main employer.”


Cas Mudde in Opendemocracy.net, "The new new radical right: spectre and reality".

“There is yet again a spectre haunting Europe: the ‘new radical right’. I heard it once more talked of at a recent workshop of European greens: the rise of a movement able to overcome its external and internal isolation by downplaying classic ethnic nationalism and focusing primarily on Islamophobia. The phenomenon is said to encompass two types of organisation: old radical-right parties that have transformed themselves, and entirely new formations. But there is a problem here. It wasn’t very long ago that parties like France's Front National (FN) and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which had been intermittently successful since the early 1980s, were themselves seen as a ‘new radical right’. They constituted a break with historical fascism, by embracing (procedural) democracy and exchanging racism for ethno-pluralism (the ideology of ‘different but equal’). Their experience over the past thirty years has inspired hundreds of articles and books which stress their ideological novelty as a key factor in their ability to break out of their political isolation. So what makes the parties of the year 2011 ‘newer’ than those of, say, the year 1991? The protagonists of the ‘new radical right’ thesis, who include strategists within these very groups, argue that this earlier new radical right grew old by remaining stuck in the channels of ethnic nationalism and European supremacy, leading it into petty border disputes (e.g. over Alto Adige/South Tyrol in Italy or South Flanders in France), and wasteful anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiments.”


Mary Anastasia O’Grady in WSJ, "Kirchner Copies Peron’s Model".

“One school of thought says that since the Kirchners (the Mrs. and her late husband, Néstor, who was president before her) have turned Argentina into an economic time bomb, she should be the one asked to hold it for the next four years. Her policies are generating an annual inflation rate that private-sector economists estimate at around 25%-30%. The government's antibusiness bias and judicial insecurity have damaged investment flows, and energy shortages are growing. When all this comes acropper, if there is any justice, the blame for the hardship ought to land in Mrs. Kirchner's lap.

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Argentina's Cristina Kirchner combine inflation, repression and heavy state control of the economy. Yet granting Mrs. Kirchner another term is also fraught with danger. Given her lust for power, she is likely to continue copying her Venezuelan mentor Hugo Chávez, who over 12 years has steadily demolished the economic, political and legal mechanisms that ordinarily act as checks on the executive. By 2015, she could have the country in lock down.”


Joe Leahy in FT, "Brazil seeks to triumph in new Great Game for Africa".

“‘Brazil-China trade is today worth more than $50bn, while Africa as a whole is more than $25bn -- so it’s significant in its own right,’ says Brad Koen, the Sao Paulo-based managing director and global head of business development at South Africa’s Standard Bank. Brazil’s courting of Africa is partly the result of tireless campaigning by the previous president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who made countless trips there. The former leader pointed to the fact that Brazil has the second largest black population of any country in the world after Nigeria. Brazil’s affinity with the continent also comes from its shared Portuguese colonial history with Lusophone Africa, particularly Angola and Mozambique, although the Latin American giant today does more business with Nigeria, Algeria and South Africa.”


Jude Webber in FT, "Subcontinent prepares to be next China".

“‘When China was liberalizing and Latin know-how in areas such as urbanisation, food processing, banking automation could have been relevant, Latin America was setting its macro-economic situation in order,’ Mr Jhala says. ‘In India, the opportunities are still there and Latin companies are more confident. So, we see know-how being exported from Latin America to India.’”


MercoPress: "Where’s the new blood? Cuba’s reforms to be implemented by the old guard".

“Fidel Castro, now 84, quit all his leadership posts when he fell ill in 2006. He attended the final day of the congress. But the appointment of First Vice President Jose Machado Ventura, 80, as second secretary signalled that Cuba's aging leadership was not yet ready for new blood at the top of one of the world's last communist states. He is viewed as a hard-line communist ideologue. Several other party leaders retained are in their 70s, veterans of the Cuban revolution and the one-party communist system it subsequently installed.”


Peter Lee at Atimes.com, "China yearns for peace on southern flank".

“China is obviously eager to repair some of the PR damage from the pummeling it took as the designated neighborhood bully on Diaoyutai Island, rare earths and South China Sea dust-ups. But it also looks like the People's Republic of China (PRC) yearns for stability on its borders - and in the Tibetan Autonomous Region - as it nervously eyes the wave of popular protests sweeping the Middle East. Particularly in Syria, there is distinct - though vociferously denied - evidence that Bashar al-Assad's external enemies, both exiles and foreigners - are taking advantage of the unrest and the regime's faltering and brutal response to stoke violence, spread disinformation, and put the boot in on a hated foe. If and when popular unrest comes to China, Beijing would appreciate New Delhi's forbearance in making sure that its domestic political problems are not exacerbated by snowballing unrest in Tibet, fed by emigre agitation and the temptation of geopolitical competitors to meddle at China's expense. The most significant Chinese concession at the Hainan forum was China's reported (in the Indian press) backpedalling on the arcane issue of stapled visas for residents of Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese practice of stapling a piece of paper with a visa in a passport (instead of stamping it directly in the book) for some residents of Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh seeking to visit China dates at least to 2007. It apparently was part of a Chinese campaign to formalize its position on the festering border conflicts between India and China by demonstrating in concrete form China's position that the status of these territories was disputed and not subject to the normal consular relations between the two countries.”


WSJ: "Caesar in Beijing".

“Over the past decade, the Communist Party has cautiously embraced mainstream Christianity, funding the construction of officially recognized churches and seminaries. Unregistered groups like Shouwang continue to face occasional harassment, but local officials usually welcome their good works and turn a blind eye to low-key proselytizing.

The reason for this detente is simple: Christianity poses little overt threat to the Party's monopoly on power and it helps to promote social stability. Much like South Koreans before them, millions of Chinese are flocking to churches to find a spiritual fulfillment that balances their material prosperity. Anyone who has tried to attend a service in a major Chinese city knows how powerful this call has become among the new urban middle class: Not only are the churches packed, but it can be hard to find a place outside to hear the liturgy over loudspeakers.”


Yukon Huang in FT, "Expand cities to stop an era of Chinese dissent".

“Legal barriers that inhibit changes in residency therefore need to be eliminated, allowing rural and urban areas to be better connected. More formal property rights are important. In order to move to cities, families need to be able to cash in their farm land. Since all land is owned by the state, markets to allow farmers to sell or rent are essential. In urban areas, meanwhile, redevelopment of plots formerly used for traditional housing is a major source of state revenue in the absence of property taxes. More must be done to lessen pressures to seize such holdings so as to curb rising housing prices. This seems challenging but South Korea has shown just how a country can move rapidly from low to high income and grow more equal. South Korea succeeded not just by moving away from manufacturing but also with rising internal migration and urbanisation. Without hukou-type restrictions, its urbanisation rate went from about 30 per cent by 1990. Korean inequality now also compares favorably with China’s.”


Clifford Levy in NYT, "An Evangelical Preacher’s Message Catches Fire in Ukraine".

“It is as if a Sunbelt megachurch had been transplanted to Kiev, birthplace of Slavic Orthodoxy, land of onion-domed cathedrals and incense-shrouded icons. But the preacher at the podium has little if any connection to the United States. Could there be a more unlikely success story in the former Soviet Union than the Rev. Sunday Adelaja, an immigrant from Nigeria who has developed an ardent — and enormous — following across Ukraine? From his start with a prayer group in a ramshackle apartment soon after the Soviet collapse two decades ago, Mr. Adelaja has built a vast religious organization under the banner of his church, Embassy of God. He has become one of Ukraine’s best known public figures, advocating a Christianity that pairs evangelical tenets with an up-from-the-bootstraps philosophy found in religiously oriented self-help books. (Several of which Mr. Adelaja has published.) He has throngs of admirers, but is also reviled by some in the Ukrainian establishment who resent a black man from Africa luring white Slavs away from their religious traditions.”


Andrew Kramer in NYT, "English-Language Press Flexing Its Muscles in Eastern Europe".

“Media rights groups say that all too often at newspapers in this region, a phone call is all it takes to kill an article, even if only to save face for a public official who misspoke.

But when that approach was applied to an English-language newspaper with Western ideals, the phone calls did not work as intended. Mr. Bonner refused to kill the article and was fired, and the newsroom went on strike to support him. The episode highlighted the spunky role English-language newspapers play in many Eastern European capitals, particularly in countries with repressive policies toward publications in the local language. Distributed free in racks at bars and hotels, the papers blend nightlife reporting for tourists with hard-hitting news aimed at a highbrow audience of businesspeople and diplomats. In Ukraine and Russia, these newspapers come under less scrutiny than their local counterparts, which made the move to muffle reporting at The Kyiv Post unusual. English-language newspapers like The Moscow Times, The Prague Post, The Budapest Times, The Slovak Spectator, The Baltic Times and The Krakow Post have been springboards for a generation of American journalists interested in working in the former East Bloc — though not in the servile role of many local publications. ‘Kyiv Post had a great tradition of editorial independence,’ Mr. Bonner said in an interview. ‘I don’t want the job if it’s not independent journalism. Who would want it?’”


Alexandra Odynova in Moscow Times, "The Day a Soviet Paradise Stood Still".

“‘We thought we were living in the best city,’ said Natalya Oleinichenko, 50, a former Pripyat resident. ‘I came here when I was 21, directed by the Komsomol after graduation,’ she said with a slight laugh of irony standing in the deserted center of Pripyat, two kilometers from the Chernobyl nuclear power station. A contractor by training, Oleinichenko ultimately ended up commanding two construction crews working in the area, including at Power Unit No. 4 where the ill-fated reactor was located. Her other crew raised buildings in the town, she said, pointing at nearby blocks of flats — now staring with black, square holes. Twenty-five years later, she can recall in detail how she was walking outside with a baby carriage on April 26, 1986, when the first anxiety started to waft through the air, already ionized with radioactive vapor estimated by scientists to have been 10 times greater than the Hiroshima explosion. ‘I remember helicopters buzzing back and forth in the sky,’ said Oleinichenko, who was 25 at the time. The reactor had blown up a day earlier, at 1:23 a.m. Friday, during a planned experiment as a result of what is still a subject of debate among scientists. But the unequivocal fact remains that the some 50,000 residents of Pripyat, whose average age was 26, continued living their weekend lives, awaiting the upcoming May holiday celebrations. ‘Only after lunch we were told to stay inside with the windows closed, while pills of potassium iodide were distributed around the flats,’ Oleinichenko said. ‘Late in the evening of April 26, Saturday, it was announced that a bus would stop by the apartment building on April 27 at 2 p.m. to move us away for three days.’”


David Beito in WSJ, "The Forgotten Tax Revolt of the 1930s".

“In 1932, New York Times journalist Anne O'Hare McCormick noted that ‘the nearest thing to a political revolution in the country is the tax revolt.... Taxpayers are wrought up to the point of willingness to give up public services. 'We'll do without county agents,' they say. 'We'll give up the public health service.'’ The head of the International City Managers Association bemoaned that, ‘There seems to be no game laws of any kind to protect public officers and the establishment we call government. Taxes have been assailed as economic waste and those who spend tax money have been pictured as wastrels.’ While most tax leaguers emphasized conventional legal approaches, a few pressed more radical measures. The best known was the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers in Chicago, which led one of the largest tax strikes in American history. At its height in 1933, it had 30,000 paid members, a budget of $600,000, and a weekly radio show. The strikers so angered Mayor Anton Cermak in 1932 that he threatened to cut off their city water. During a special visit to Washington, D.C., Cermak implored Congress to send ‘money now or militia later.’ It did neither.”


David Runciman in London Review of Books on Nicholas Shaxson’s book, Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World, and Jacob Hacker & Paul Pierson’s book, Winner-Take-All Politics.

“This is the web, but where is the spider? At the heart of Shaxson’s story lies the City of London, itself a kind of island within the British state. Again, the rise of the City as the favourite place for foreigners to park their money, no matter who they were or where it came from, is related to imperial decline. After the Second World War, sterling still financed much of global trade, but the British economy was no longer able to sustain the value of the pound against the dollar. In the aftermath of Suez, which caused a run on the pound, the government attempted to impose curbs on the overseas lending of London’s merchant banks. The response of the banks, with the connivance of the Bank of England, was to shift their international lending into dollars. The result was the creation of the so-called ‘Eurodollar market’ – which was effectively an offshore haven. Because the trade was happening in dollars, the British saw no need to tax or regulate it; because it was happening in London, the Americans had no means to tax or regulate it. Among the first people to spot the advantages of this new system were the Soviets, who wanted a secure place outside the US to hold their dollars so that the Americans could not seize them if relations between the countries deteriorated. They were soon followed by the Americans themselves – that is, American banks and wealthy individuals – who saw the London market as somewhere to do business free from the grasping hand of the US authorities. The money started to pile in.”


Ira Stoll at Futureofcapitalism.com, "Lewis Lehrman on Gold".

“Lewis Lehman has a piece in the Wall Street Journal saying that a key to federal deficit reduction is restoring the convertability of the dollar to gold at a fixed rate. The word ‘Nixon’ doesn't appear in the piece, but it strikes me that that one word, along with inflation rapid and painful enough to make the issue a priority, is the key to the politics of the issue: framing it to the public as undoing Nixon's mistake of August 15, 1971.”


Richard White in NYT, "Fast Train To Nowhere".

“It is not that either transcontinental railroads or high-speed railroads are always bad ideas. A compelling case can be made for high-speed rail between Boston and Washington, for example, but the administration proposes building high-speed lines in places where there is no demonstrated demand…. Proponents of the transcontinental railroads promised all kinds of benefits they did not deliver. They claimed that the railroads were needed to save the Union, but the Union was already saved before the first line was completed. The best Western farmlands would have been settled without the railroads; their impact on other lands was often environmentally disastrous. For three decades California commodities could move more cheaply, and virtually as quickly, by sea. The subsidies the railroads received enriched contractors and financiers, but nearly all the railroads went into receivership, some multiple times; the government rescued others. As more astute members of Congress came to recognize, the subsidies were a mistake. One described the major drawback of a proposal for the government to guarantee bonds: ‘If there be profit, the corporations may take it; if there be loss, the government must bear it.’ After 1872, the country turned against the subsidizing of large corporations. It was a little late. Fraud and failure left a legacy that would lead to four decades of government attempts to get back what had so carelessly been given away.”


Michael Cooper & Mary Walsh in NYT, "Public Pensions, Once Off Limits, Face Budgets Cuts".

“Michigan’s new Republican governor, Rick Snyder, has taken a carrot-and-stick approach to the state’s troubled cities. The carrot: He scrapped the old way of distributing state aid, and wants to make aid contingent on having cities adopt ‘best practices,’ which he says should include reducing the rate at which workers earn pension benefits. The stick: A new law allowing the state to appoint fiscal managers with broad powers over distressed local governments. Mayor Dave Bing of Detroit referred to both carrot and stick in his budget address this month, when he spoke of the need to reduce pensions for current workers, and to move away from traditional pension plans to those more like 401(k)’s for ‘at a minimum all new hires.’ ‘If we are unable or unwilling to make these changes, an emergency financial manager will be appointed by the state to make them for us,’ he said. ‘It’s that simple.’”


Simon Kuper in FT, "What counts now is capital".

“Yes, we’ve had a three-year crisis, but for most western families it was preceded by 60 years of accumulating houses, savings and stuff. The middle classes have built up capital. The young are hurting, the British economist David Blanchflower told me, but ‘most of the other guys have done fine. They have big values in their houses, they have probably got pensions.’ Even with zero interest rates and sagging house prices, it’s still easier to live off capital than off non-existent jobs. It’s the young who have become most reliant on capital. The author Richard Gordon once joked that if you measured the sophistication of a species by how long its young were dependent on their parents, medical students were the most highly evolved form of life. The upper classes, too, were always expected to leech off their ancestors’ capital…. Now, though, leeching is spreading through the class system: from the royal family to the Middletons and downwards. In Britain, most men aged 20 to 24 now live with their parents. In certain Mediterranean countries, anyone who leaves home before 30 is considered practically a teenage runaway.”


Chris Cook in FT, "Britain’s poor white pupils lag behind other ethnic groups".

“Among the poorest fifth of youngsters, identified by the deprivation of areas in which they live, white British children lag behind black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi neighbours as well as pupils for whom English is a second language. It highlights the challenge for the UK’s coalition government, which has identified social mobility as a top concern.”


Martin Amis in the Guardian on the Christopher Hitchens book, Quotable Hitchens.

“And most literary types, probably, would hope for inclusion somewhere or other on Nabokov's sliding scale: ‘I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child.’ Mr Hitchens isn't like that. Christopher and His Kind runs the title of one of Isherwood's famous memoirs. And yet this Christopher doesn't have a kind. Everyone is unique – but Christopher is preternatural. And it may even be that he exactly inverts the Nabokovian paradigm. He thinks like a child (that is to say, his judgments are far more instinctive and moral-visceral than they seem, and are animated by a child's eager apprehension of what feels just and true); he writes like a distinguished author; and he speaks like a genius. As a result, Christopher is one of the most terrifying rhetoricians that the world has yet seen. Lenin used to boast that his objective, in debate, was not rebuttal and then refutation: it was the ‘destruction’ of his interlocutor. This isn't Christopher's policy – but it is his practice.”


Jeffrey Trachtenberg in WSJ, "Cheapest E-Book Upend the Charts".

“Amazon.com Inc.'s top 50 digital best-seller list featured 15 books priced at $5 or less on Wednesday afternoon. Louisville businessman John Locke, for example, a part-time thriller writer whose signature series features a former CIA assassin, claimed seven of those titles, all priced at 99 cents. ‘They're training their customers away from brand name authors and are instead creating visibility for self-published titles,’ one senior publishing executive who asked not to be identified, says of Amazon. As digital sales surge, publishers are casting a worried eye towards the previously scorned self-published market. Unlike five years ago, when self-published writers rarely saw their works on the same shelf as the industry's biggest names, the low cost of digital publishing, coupled with Twitter and other social-networking tools, has enabled previously unknown writers to make a splash.”


Spengler at Atimes.com, "When America flew on one wing".

“‘We are a band of brothers / Native to the soil / Fighting for the property / We gained by honest toil,’ the South sang. Union soldiers intoned a messianic message that has more in common with Malachi than Montesquieu. Julia Ward Howe's Battle Hymn of the Republic remains the most characteristic American utterance. Even today the heart pounds and the blood surges to this clumsy imitation of the King James Bible with its inelegant prosody, rough as the tramp of boots.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,

They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;

I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps…

That this was a holy war, there can no doubt. Northern textile manufacturers did not have to conquer the South to buy its cotton. Free labor of the North did not need to fight the Southern slaveholders for land, for on the eve of war in 1861, the South offered to accept restrictions on the expansion of slavery within the United States if only Lincoln would annex Cuba. Lincoln refused, and three million northerners went to war. Nearly 400,000 of them died.”


WSJ: excerpt from Eric Felton’s book, Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue.

“It isn't hard to find empirical evidence that patriotic conviction can lead to biased beliefs. But critics of patriotism overstate the extent to which the sentiment itself is rooted in unjustifiable claims about one's country's superiority. Isn't it possible, rather, that love of country is like love of family? Being devoted to one's family doesn't require a belief that it is the best family in the world. I'm loyal to my family because it is my family. I don't love my mother because she is the best mother in the world (though, I should hasten to add, she is). It is because she is my mother, who together with my father made my life possible. Gratitude, affection and a good dose of sentimental attachment to those with whom my life has been shared — all these things go into the love and loyal commitment I have to my family. Why can't these same factors provide me, unobjectionably, with a love and loyal commitment to my country? G.K. Chesterton was onto something when he wrote that saying ‘my country, right or wrong’ was rather like saying ‘my mother, drunk or sober.’ C.S. Lewis thought that Chesterton's analogy captured the heart of the best sort of patriotism: Just as a man who loves his mother will persevere in his affections whatever becomes of her, ‘a man who truly loves his country will love her in her ruin and degeneration.’ Which doesn't mean a man should glibly cooperate in his loved one's self-destruction. If his mother is a drunk, he might well express his devotion to her by shuttling her off to the ministrations of the Betty Ford people.”


John Buntin in LATmag, "Shadow Caster".

“Their struggle shaped the history of L.A., the future of policing and the course of American politics. In time, two primary antagonists emerged: William H. Parker, L.A.’s greatest and most controversial police chief; and the city’s most colorful criminal — featherweight boxer turned gangster Mickey Cohen. In 1920, L.A. surpassed San Francisco as California’s largest city. It was a triumph for Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler. It was also the year that saw the emergence of a major threat from Prohibition. For years, Chandler and the so-called business barons had supplied local politicians with the advertising, publicity and money needed to reach the city’s new residents — in exchange for power over the city government. But with Prohibition, a new force appeared with the money and the desire to purchase L.A.’s politicians: the criminal underworld. To suppress it, the business community turned to the Los Angeles Police Department. The underworld also looked to the LAPD — for protection. Bill Parker and Mickey Cohen entered the drama as bit players. Two characters more different would be hard to imagine. Parker arrived in 1922 from Deadwood, South Dakota, an ambitious 17-year-old. He became a patrolman in the LAPD. Coldly cerebral (Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, a onetime LAPD officer and Parker speechwriter, reputedly based Mr. Spock on his former boss), intolerant of fools and famously incorruptible, Parker persevered — and rose. Born Meyer Harris Cohen in 1913, by age six Mickey Cohen was hustling newspapers in Boyle Heights. At nine, he began his career in armed robbery with an attempt to ‘heist’ a downtown movie theater using a baseball bat. His skill with a .38 took him into the rackets, first in Cleveland, then in Al Capone’s Chicago.”


Matthew Fleischer in LATmag, "Policing Revolution".

“One of the biggest shootouts in American history had just begun, pitting the vanguard of domestic American radicalism against a newly constituted paramilitary police force: Special Weapons and Tactics, aka SWAT. The year 1969 was a headline maker for the Southern California chapter of the Black Panthers, led by charismatic founder Bunchy Carter. The group emerged from the shadow of its more famous Oakland counterpart, into the forefront of the blackpower movement in Los Angeles — and arguably the nation. They organized community breakfast programs, trained locals in black history and self-defense and published the Black Panther Community News Service, which enjoyed a robust following. But the Panthers’ meteoric rise drew enemies — lots of them. On January 17, 1969, Carter and fellow Panther John Huggins were shot to death in UCLA’s Campbell Hall by members of the rival black radical group Us. Agents, operating under the FBI’s infamous COINTEL (counterintelligence) program and masquerading as Panthers and anonymous Us members, crafted insulting missives and death threats and began sending them between the two groups. ‘It is hoped this counterintelligence measure will result in an Us and BPP vendetta,’ one internal FBI memo explained. The plan worked. While the UCLA shootout was the most significant in a series of violent confrontations between the two groups, the danger of further violence was always present. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until the middle of 1969 that the Panthers caught the attention of the LAPD.”


Alan Wolfe in New Republic on Lawrence Scaff’s book, Max Weber in America.

“Weber cannot be understood without an appreciation of his experiences in this country, and America’s special path to modernity is difficult to grasp without a substantial dip into Weber’s extensive body of writing…. Weber and his wife Marianne arrived in the United States in August, 1904 for a three-month stay. The reason for their visit was the Congress of Arts and Sciences, an offshoot of the World’s Fair in St. Louis. Once capable of generating massive fascination, World’s Fairs have lost their appeal. (The 2012 Expo will take place in Yeosu, South Korea and will be devoted to issues of coastal management.) In Weber’s day, by contrast, not only did the events in St. Louis inspire a famous musical comedy, they brought together an all-star list of American and European intellectuals to debate whether there exists a methodological unity linking the natural and social sciences. John Dewey and William James did not show up in St. Louis, which was too bad, because not only Weber but also such extraordinary German scholars as Werner Sombart and Ernst Troeltsch did. Theodore Roosevelt invited the leading academics from St. Louis to the White House for a reception, much as the current president honors the annual March Madness champion. Weber did not attend because he preferred to go to Muskogee. Oklahoma’s and America’s Indian Territory piqued his curiosity for a number of reasons. The leading scholar of questions of power and authority in the twentieth century here found something like a state of nature (or so he thought) in which economic and political forms could not be taken as given.”


John Miller in WSJ, "How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football".

“One study sponsored by the NFL found that professional veterans over the age of 50 are five times as likely as the general population to suffer from dementia. Those numbers are bad, but consider the situation in 1905, when 18 people died on the gridiron. Back then, foes likened the game to gladiatorial combat in Roman amphitheaters and launched a crusade. Led by Harvard President Charles Eliot and joined by the Nation magazine and muckraking journalists, Progressive-era prohibitionists wanted to sack the increasingly popular sport. At one point, Harvard actually quit playing the game. So did Columbia, Northwestern, Stanford, the University of California and several smaller colleges. Following the 1897 death of Richard Von Gammon, a fullback at the University of Georgia, the Georgia state legislature voted to ban football. The governor vetoed the bill, but only after hearing from Gammon's mother, who urged him not to outlaw a sport that her son had loved. Harvard's Eliot was adamant. No honorable sport, he wrote in a 1905 report, embraces ‘the barbarous ethics of warfare.’ Roosevelt had little patience for such talk. ‘Harvard will be doing the baby act if she takes any such foolish course as President Eliot advises,’ he wrote. Elsewhere, he worried about producing ‘mollycoddles instead of vigorous men.’”


Francis Hodgson in FT, "Clarity amid the vapour".

“Two apparently contradictory elements of photography appear to have driven the Pre-Raphaelite painters. They consistently strove for the great clarity of the collodion process invented by Frederick Scott Archer almost exactly at the mid-point of the 19th century. But they also were moved by the effects achieved where photography made less realistic marks, either through the long exposure times of the period or through the peculiar chemical sensitivities of the mixes then known. The former led to splendid sweeps of blur; the latter to odd blending of tonalities in unexpected way.”


Dave Kehr in NYT, "At Gaumont in France When All Was Possible".

“The first volume covered the rise of cinema in France from the first public exhibitions to the position of global dominance that French producers had achieved on the eve of World War I (a period covered in glorious detail in Richard Abel’s classic history, The Ciné Goes to Town). The story of the second volume is less triumphal. With the emergence of D. W. Griffith in the United States and the development of long form, psychologically nuanced narrations that Griffith’s innovations helped make possible, the carnivalesque French cinema began to lose its luster, and eventually ceded its majority market share to the upstarts of Hollywood. The French-American rivalry is already apparent in the first disc in this new collection, devoted to the work of the pioneering animator Émile Cohl. He was already 50, with a successful career as a caricaturist and art world provocateur, when Léon Gaumont took him on as a writer in 1908. Tradition has it that Cohl was one of several Gaumont employees set to work to uncover the mysteries of ‘The Haunted Hotel,’ an American trick film from 1907 that was a current sensation. Cohl discovered that the director, J. Stuart Blackton, had made a dinner seem to prepare itself through the use of stop-motion animation: moving objects in tiny increments and photographing them one frame at a time.”


John Tierney in NYT, "A Generation’s Vanity, Heard Through Lyrics".

“Where 19th-century Shakers had sung ‘’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,’ Mr. Cuomo offered his own lyrics: ‘I’m the meanest in the place, step up, I’ll mess with your face.’ Instead of the Shaker message of love and humility, Mr. Cuomo sang over and over, ‘I’m the greatest man that ever lived.’ The refrain got Dr. DeWall wondering: ‘Who would actually sing that aloud?’ Mr. Cuomo may have been parodying the grandiosity of other singers — but then, why was there so much grandiosity to parody? Did the change from ‘Simple Gifts’ to ‘Greatest Man That Ever Lived’ exemplify a broader trend? Now, after a computer analysis of three decades of hit songs, Dr. DeWall and other psychologists report finding what they were looking for: a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music. As they hypothesized, the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ appear more frequently along with anger-related words, while there’s been a corresponding decline in ‘we’ and ‘us’ and the expression of positive emotions.”


Archie Patterson interview of Gerhard Augustin (“Beat Club”) at Rocksbackpages.com.

“Q: Was it just after doing The Beat Club that you became the head of A&R at Liberty/UA Records and were involved in production of the first Amon Duul 2 and Popol Vuh records (around 1969-1970)?

Well, not quite…it didn’t happen that soon… When I left The Beat Club, in 1968-1969 I went to America and lived in San Francisco. There I discovered bands like Santana and CCR for the German market. I also met Bill Graham and we became good friends. He introduced me to the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver, Sly & the Family Stone, Ike and Tina Turner, Tom Donahue (the original FM DJ playing underground music) and Ralph Gleason who was one of the first journalists to write about the new underground music in the Bay area. I was very fortunate to be in the right place, at the right time for all that was happening in SF then. While I lived in SF, I worked at KQED TV and was awarded a scholarship and got a diploma in Mass Communications at Stanford University. After graduation, I got a job in Los Angeles with United Artist Records and learned all about how the company worked. They then sent me to Germany to work for the company there. When I got over there they wanted to sign some domestic German bands to their roster. Sigi Loch, head of the famous Star Club record label, started a German flagship label for UA/Liberty Records, to aim both at the home market and abroad. I got them to sign AD 2, Popol Vuh and Can. The record company knew little about that type of music of course, so it was sometimes a rather strange situation as you might imagine.”


“The Arthur Archive-in-progress is now available online, for free. It includes almost all blog entries, all previously available magazine PDFs, all the Arthur Radio shows, and, as of this minute, about 60 percent of the content from the magazine's 31-issue run. You can browse the Archive by search, date, or category. The categories are organized mainly by author (writer, photographer, cartoonist, columnist, etc.), but other categories are present as well. Not all entries have been tagged or categorized yet, though, so browsing by category exclusively will probably limit your results. Ye've been warned.”


Obituary of the Week

Violet Cowden (1916 - 2011)

“Violet Clara Thurn was born on Oct. 1, 1916, in a sod house in Bowdle, S.D. In 1936, she earned a teaching certificate from what was then the Spearfish Normal School, in Spearfish, S.D., and stayed in Spearfish to teach first grade. There, she rode her bicycle six miles each way to a local airfield for her first flying lessons. (She had no driver’s license.) She knew immediately that she had found her calling. ‘The air is such a comfortable place for me,’ Mrs. Cowden said in a 2007 interview with the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. ‘I feel so in oneness with life and with the world and everything when I’m in the air.’ After Pearl Harbor was attacked, Mrs. Cowden, by then a licensed pilot, asked to join the Civil Air Patrol but got no reply. ‘Everybody was joining something,’ she said in the interview. ‘So I joined the Navy, because I liked their hats.’ She soon heard about the Women’s Flying Training Detachment, an early incarnation of the WASPs. Of the 25,000 women who applied, she was one of 1,830 accepted. She had lived for a week on a diet rich in bananas and malted milk to raise her weight from 92 pounds to 100, the required minimum.”


Thanks to Jay Babcock, Steve Beeho.

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