a new low in topical enlightenment

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Issue #98 (May 18, 2011)

Above 130 closure facing southeast, Wyoming

Photo by Joe Carducci

2012: A French Odyssey

Voilà … c’est fini
(Or, Smells Like Sarko’s Spirit)
(Or, Now What For The Man With The Maid?)

By Carolyn Heinze

By now you’ve heard the one about the famous French politician/International Monetary Fund boss/supposed Socialist candidate and the New York chambermaid. And the charges of sexual assault and sexual misconduct and sexual sequestration and attempted rape? Room 2806, the Sofitel Hotel. Smack-dab in the middle of Times Square.

(Funny, isn’t it? How the French elections ended long before they ever really began, on non-French, ferociously foreign soil? How they just – right there, over there, in there – how they just ended . . . Or were sort of suddenly stopped?)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn – that’s DSK – is France’s sexiest socialiste. Some of us have thought so, and some of us have declared so…and some of us have even written so, maintes fois. He’s sexy because he’s sexy, and he’s sexy because he reeks of sex…and the smell and the stench and the stink of le scandale. Of sex scandals, DSK has seen a few, or plus précisément, he’s seen the center of some. Apparently, the guy has a super-sex-charged sexy-sex libido. Like a sexy rock star. Or a sexy porn star. Or a sexy head of the IMF.

It would be disgusting and degrading and degenerate and dirty – and a little more than dégoûtant – to speculate that Mademoiselle la Chambermaid is lying. Or worse – that she asked for it, even if maid’s outfits and maid fantasies and men with maids are the basis of so much porn. Was she put up to it, then? Well…that’s just speculation. But let’s speculate, for speculation’s sake, for a sec:

DSK – that’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn – is the Parti socialiste’s only hope. He’s the only guy (or gal) who stands a chance of beating Sarko. Would another sex scandal screw up his shot? In France? In the French elections? Pas du tout. (This is the country that saw nothing wrong with Mitterrand’s decades-long extra-marital affair.) (And his extra-marital family.) (And his extra-marital offspring.) (It was the fact that he funded said extra family/affair/offspring with government funds that finally pissed everyone off.) But when it comes to DSK? Even the French haven’t figured out a way to beat the clock.

As head of the IMF, DSK is not allowed to talk French politics, or plus précisément, of his intentions for the French candidature. The not-so-secret proposed plan? Well, proposedly, he was supposed to quit. The IMF, that is. Proposedly. On the same day he proposed that he was in the running as proposed presidential candidate for the Parti socialiste. The deadline for announcing one’s candidacy? The primaries officially kick off on June 28th (the French press has already helpfully drawn the parallel between this date and the room number where the alleged crime allegedly took place). The drop-dead deadline? July 13th, the day before Bastille Day, the day when some of us will be shimmy-ing our stuff at the annual French Firemens’ Ball. Helluva tight deadline, if you ask me. For the French firemen and for the French politicians. Especially if you’re stuck in America and all bound up in the thick of star-spangled, American, red-white-and-blue legal tape. And not in that fun-kinky-fetishy-man-with-a-maid kind of way.

As of recently, like not so long ago, like just the other day, DSK – you know the one – was ahead in the polls. France was damn near 60 percent close to electing him President if you believe such things, and as for Sarko’s street gang, I believe that they believed. In the face of threat, Sarko’s street gang has never shown any class…in the face of anything, Sarko’s street gang shows an astonishing lack of raffinement. In the face of everything, they scurry around…like cockroaches…or rats . . . And you can expect them to play dirty…and disgustingly…and low.

La boniche ? The maid? Either way, she’s a victim. In a way I hope she’s not lying but in a way, I hope she is. No humane human being wants anyone to suffer a sexual assault. No humane human being wants a man to face false charges thereof. It’s all so very dégoûtant, and frankly? It smells a little false. As in faux and fake and phony and falsified…and not quite up to snuff. Because Sarko’s street gang? Croyez-moi : For power, for play, for a tiny bit of the upper hand, they will do anything. Think I’m nuts? Go ahead. I don’t care – I’m not the boss of you. But indulge-moi for once and écoutez-moi bien : When it comes to Sarko and his street gang, underestimate them at your own risk.

Or don’t. But you could make an effort to remember. The last elections? In 2007? When Sarko was promising to clear out punk-ass punk asses from the punk-ass suburban banlieue ? How he bellowed – in front of the French cameras, in front of the French election voters – how he bellowed that he’d do it with a fire hose? In front of the voters and punk asses and the cameras and the hoses? Or the time he told an enemy – it was another ‘Dominique,’ only this time it was former Prime Minister de Villepin – how he told him he’d hang him from a butcher’s hook before all was said and done? (It was during the whole Clearstream thing, which was so boring I won’t bother you with the details, but let’s just say that the other ‘Dominique’ got the short end of the stick…or hook...) And then there was that French farmer a few years back, back at Le salon de l’Agriculture. He was complaining, as French farmers do, about la globalisation and Sarko’s politics. The President’s response? In front of the cameras? “Casse-toi, pauvre con !” Means: “Fuck off, you sorry cunt!” In front of the cameras.

I know that you know that I know that you know that like some French farmers, I hate – no, despise – Sarko’s politics. In front of the cameras…and behind and above and below. But worse than his politics is his despised dismissal of la classe, up and down and through-and-through. We may find out that DSK doesn’t have any class, either, but for now – if that’s true – at least he’s not President. (And right now, chances are he’ll never even get to run.) Sarko? As leader of a world-class country? One would expect him to be world-class. Or at least try to pretend he is. But this latest scandale stinks of him. To high proverbial heaven. And his street gang. Stinks. Like trash. Euro, white, political and otherwise.

Hwy 130: No Turnaround Beyond This Point
by Joe Carducci

When I lived in Northern Wisconsin for a couple years in the mid-nineties I was 8 miles from the town of Minocqua and, though I was trying to stay in and stick to work, revising my rock book and getting started on the film book, it was tempting to drive in on Hwy 70 during the summer tourist season when you could get the Chicago papers, the NYT and WSJ, plus the Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Madison papers at the bookshop. That drive was tree-lined except for glimpses of a lake or two. I now live thirty miles from Laramie and Grand Newsstand, but in Wyoming you can see where you’re going and so it isn’t as tedious a drive and seems shorter. I can even see Laramie from my house in Centennial before I drive down to Hwy 130.

This time of year at dawn there might be new snow on the ground but it’ll melt off in the sun of the day. There’s always wild horses, cattle and pronghorn along the highway, but in spring the yearling elk hang along the road in gangs like juvenile delinquents. Their negligent parents stay in the woods, though I’ve seen them cross the highway and it's something to see; they don’t need to jump over the fences and they cross one at a time with some waiting to cross and the rest waiting on the other side. And they don’t pay you much attention at all. Often the drive into Laramie at sunrise yields something of interest worth pulling over to take a photo. Usually it’s weather but sometimes I don’t have a camera; since my Canon broke a year ago I’ve been using disposables. I’m not excited about going digital and WalMart will continue developing film until their machine is no longer repairable, I’m told. The best shot I missed for no camera was one overcast morning with light snow falling and one of the striking spotted grays standing along the highway on new snow, making a natural black and white image better than any Ansel Adams exposure. I once saw a white horse on the peaked porch of a small white chapel-looking structure at the Forks on my way back up from Colorado -- it looked like a living happenstance perfume ad, notable in its way.

When I don’t go into town I try to go up into the mountains for a morning hike. I usually skip January and February and this year especially. The heavy snow stopped sometime in late March here and continued for another month up higher totaling over 170% of normal. That meant losing the battle with snow on my porch when I took three weeks in Illinois over the holidays and it has collapsed. The snow was up to the eaves and my brothers kids were able to sled off the roof into the yard and they dug a number of forts out of the large drift. With all this snow there is naturally extra interest around here for the opening of the highway over the Snowy Range. The crews work from both the east and west sides and normally have it open for Memorial Day weekend. It’s both good and bad news that they don’t expect to make that date. Aaron LeClair in the Sunday Laramie Boomerang writes: .

“The Laramie crew will work until it meets another WYDOT crew coming from Saratoga near Lake Marie, which sits at the Albany County-Carbon County line. In years when the snow is dry and light, WYDOT can clear about one mile of road per day, Mayfield said. This year, however, progress is expected to be much slower. Wet snow requires more bulldozer work before it can be removed with rotary snow blowers, Mayfield said. ‘We started with our blowers Wednesday, and we’re probably closing in on the one-mile mark right now,’ he said. ‘It’s not looking promising.’ In addition to requiring more work to move, wet snow causes more damage to the rotary snow blowers. ‘When it’s wetter, the snow is a lot heavier and it puts a lot more stress on the blowers. They break down more often,’ Mayfield said. ‘(The rotary snow blowers) are set up so the shear bolts will break before it creates a bigger problem with the engine. We’re breaking a lot of shear bolts because of (the wet snow).’ The road-clearing project began Monday at the road-closure gate near the Snowy Range Lodge. WYDOT employed bulldozers and snowcats to reduce the height of the snowdrifts to 5-6 feet, which best accommodates the rotary snow blowers. Mayfield said WYDOT has estimated that some of the snowdrifts covering WYO 130 are 40 feet high…. The Laramie crew’s engineers, mechanics and heavy-equipment operators will work 12-hour shifts Monday through Friday until WYO 130 is open…. The crew includes workers from Laramie, Casper, Arlington, Cheyenne and Wheatland operating two snowcats, a steel-track bulldozer, three rotary snow blowers and a dump truck.”

I was up near that closure starting-point last Thursday and I could hear the blowers roaring about a half mile up from the turnaround for snowmobilers. The snow was still deep and frozen enough to hold your weight. Down at Centennial Ridge the snow is receding and not likely to hold you up which makes for a jolting, wearying hike. Saturday morning the crews were off and I got up there before the snowmobilers showed up so things were quiet for awhile. This Monday the crews were starting again though by the mellower sound of things not using the blowers yet. Once open the highway moves up another thousand feet and the snow there will likely hang around into August this year. The cold nights and slow melts usually keep one from falling through. By August its pretty dry down here at 8000 feet, and getting that way up there. It’s harder to take interesting photos then. There are so many beetle-kill trees at all elevations now that we’ll be lucky to avoid a huge fire, especially on the Saratoga side. Last winter was a good average snow pack and we had a rainy spring which kept the range green for a month longer than normal (at least in the ten year drought prior). Today was pretty warm so they’re filling sand bags for the river properties around here and especially down in Laramie (at 7000 feet). It won’t be Memphis or New Orleans but it was significant last year and may be worse if it starts hitting seventy or it rains. Here’s hoping for a long, slow melt.

Laramie Boomerang video-clip of the Hwy 130 crew at work

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The Shirking Class
by Joe Carducci

David Brooks in a recent column made a half-hearted stab at understanding why “one-fifth of all men in their prime working ages are not getting up and going to work.” He goes on about “emotional and professional skills” and “machines and foreign workers” and German apprentice programs, and then gets a pile of letters from women defending feminism, G-7 social welfare states, house-husbands, plus one guy defending Keynes and the New Deal. Of course all this is in the New York Times, essentially the house organ of the clean fingernail crowd. They-all in their wisdom, gained largely in the University they never really left, are resolute in their support for any lawsuit that seeks to prevent or shut down any dirty business such as mining, manufacturing, refineries, construction, etc., and that isn’t all. They also support an open border and an amnesty so that any male without a college degree who somehow manages to hang onto a job will not get comfortable as they try to raise a family. They aren't exactly into the military either, though they haven’t been able to whittle it down much. Signing up is how a lot of rural (and urban) America gets a college education.

Clive Crook in the Financial Times writes of America’s immigration mess:

“If you sat down to design an immigration policy to erode US prosperity, you would struggle to come up with anything better than the current rules. What impresses is the system’s coherence -- the steady direction of so many moving parts to the single goal, so it seems, of reducing US living standards. In effect, the immigration of skilled workers is especially discouraged…. Unskilled workers, meanwhile, arrive through the country‘s permeable borders. Unlike highly educated workers, who consent to be turned away, many unskilled immigrants take their chances in the illicit economy.”

As you might expect of a business paper Crook is primarily exercised over the skilled sector; despite his come-on he is actually reluctant to admit that the illegals have any effect on American wages at all. He seems to believe that simply legalizing their presence will take care of any market forces. That’s a European business paper for you, I guess.

There’s a blindness to all this of course, because even our class warriors don’t actually see class. They feel sure that they support the working class because they vote Democrat. But a pause to consider how that party has changed would clip that faerie tale’s wings. The party still lives off its glory decades of unionized heavy industry war-time production despite its current bourgeois-like allergy to industry of any size or type. Here’s the other British organ of business, The Economist, barely noting the reason for the existence of the small SoCal city for industry, Vernon, before swallowing Los Angeles county’s and the state of California’s blind directive to do anything they can to drive off these dirty, dirty jobs as they ask a purely rhetorical question, “Business paradise or den of thieves?”:

“The city happens to be in the district of assemblyman John Pérez, a Democrat who is also the assembly’s speaker and an up-and-coming sort. Mr Pérez, citing an ‘unprecedented pattern of corruption’, has now shepherded a bill through his lower house that would disincorporate any city with fewer than 150 residents and have it be absorbed by its county. That happens to affect only one Californian city, Vernon. Mr Pérez has some good reasons. Two of Vernon’s former city officials are facing criminal corruption charges and a former mayor has already been convicted. Their alleged shenanigans included rigged salaries, outlandish expenses and perks. Vernon has usually appointed its officials, rather than electing them, since positions were not even contested. The few residents, since they live in city housing, have been politically tractable. But for Vernon’s businesses disincorporation is a step too far. After all, Vernon is really meant to be run for their benefit, not for that of the 96 residents. To a large extent, Vernon represents all that is left of manufacturing industry in Los Angeles County. Who else in Los Angeles these days would welcome belching trucks and slaughterhouses?”

Pérez is openly gay, an ex-union organizer, graduate of UC-Berkeley, cousin of L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa, in other words bulletproof in the Democratic Party. He seems to be repeatedly granted the honor of running unopposed. I think I know what that means in Chicago, but maybe its all real different in California. In any case Speaker Pérez, surely to be talked about for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016, hardly needs care about any actual workers legal or illegal.

The party doesn’t really care about the black working class male either, except that the thicket of welfare, affirmative action, and social programs were supposed to eliminate whatever his problems were. But the cascade of middle class jobs it takes to shuffle all that paperwork at federal, state, county, municipal and precinct levels just to deliver checks or training to those in need happens to use up all funds available, damn! In truth multiculturalism and feminism long ago began channeling welfare spending up to the middle class if not higher. The economy has been maturing away from heavy industry anyway, but the new welfare for the grad school elite isn’t all engineering and basic scientific research. No, the new elite is not actually all that smart, or maybe they simply aren’t dumb enough to volunteer for hard work even on the taxpayer’s dime. Rather they prefer the social sciences and the arts. I think you can apply for a scholarship to study how to apply for grants so you can start your own non-profit film production company where you can make documentaries exposing U.S. government malfeasance.

Most days my fingernails are clean. But as I found there was little interest on the part of producers or publishers in anything I’ve written over the last thirty-five years, I’ve had to use real estate to keep myself free to write and able to publish or produce a bit myself. This has required that, on buying a new building, I spend usually ten months working daily to renovate the death-traps that are usually in my price range. During these three ten-month periods my fingernails never come clean. I find that these periods re-calibrate my male mind in ways I have found useful. It seems to me now that the male nature wants to sun itself on the savannah as the King of Beasts does, while the Queen of beasts does most of the day-to-day labor. But unless the human male can get his ass over this hump and be physically engaged in work enough to earn his status, he will turn sour (think, uh… Gore Vidal maybe). Sam Peckinpah credited his father with saying, “All I want is to enter my house justified,” meaning after a good day’s labor. It’s a gospel variant and Peckinpah put it into Joel McCrea’s mouth in his film, Ride the High Country (1962). Physical work mellows machismo, and the absence of it turns it testy and defensive. Peckinpah himself drank so as to suggest he did not believe he was engaged in honest work.

Lately people have been asking me about SST Records again. It’s always difficult to impart to people the scale of just what is owed to Greg; its much easier for them to grasp what monies he may owe various bands. But when someone as brilliant as Pettibon calls his brother a genius you know you’re talking about levels somewhere out there beyond the things you see everyday. But I think of a funny little thing I witnessed when I’d been at SST for just half a year or so. It was spring 1982 and we’d moved SST from West Hollywood to Redondo Beach and were all living in the one-room office. Some mass mailing came up for the latter stages of Black Flag’s “Damaged” tours and as they’d split from Unicorn it was again our job to get the pr materials out. So everyone came together in the office to stuff and package up a thousand envelopes. And as Greg, Chuck, Henry, Dez, Mugger, Davo, myself, perhaps others, settled in, Mugger whispered to me to watch Greg. He knew that Greg simply could not do that kind of mindless, repetitive work and though he was pretending he was about to join in, he would find something to do on the phone. So sure enough Greg had suddenly made important phone call after important phone call; they were productive calls, not just chatting with Roseanne, but I think of that now as perhaps some clue to Greg’s ultimate loss of grounding and his souring on so much of the world and so many of his friends.

If writers didn’t still have a Hemingway complex, or an obsession with Melville’s Moby Dick, they’d all write faculty novels about professors of literature banging co-eds. I enjoyed this piece by Gary Wolf in last week’s Sunday New York Times Magazine called "Gold Getter". Its a great portrait of a longshot-playing rural working class couple up in Yukon who triggered a gold rush. It’s got some Jack London in it but wouldn’t you know it Wolf met them first on a more Timesian 2005 assignment on the couple’s earlier business of filling the foodie morel mushroom rush. Here’s the best male-female moment of the feature; Ryan is he, Wood is she and they have two kids:

“By this time, Ryan and Wood no longer lived in their tin shack. Wood had had enough: all four of them sleeping in the same bed, only one table to sit at. A Dawson old-timer sold her two 20-by-24-foot cabins on credit, and one day he came by and helped her winch them together while Ryan was out in the woods. With the kids hanging around, banging hammers and pretending to help, Wood and some friends moved the possessions, and she scheduled a utility hook up. When Ryan came back, he was angry. Now they were on the grid. Now they would have bills. He threatened to quit prospecting. He promised to become a baker and get fat. ‘He was grumpy for a long time,’ Wood says, ‘but that move was the key.’ Ryan plugged a computer into one of the outlets, downloaded government maps and began exploring the territory the way real geologists did it: using data, from above…. Ryan, who is a fast learner, identified a promising spot about 30 miles from Dawson. He staked a few claims and told Wood he wanted to do a large soil-sampling project to see what they really had. After nine years of mushroom picking, their savings totaled 3,000 Canadian dollars. This was just about what the project would cost. ‘Go ahead,’ Wood said. This made Ryan pause. His wife had always played the role of the reasonable partner, the anchor, the person holding the rope. But when he reflected on what they had done together — running mushrooms down the rivers in a boat, living in a shack, crashing a helicopter, all the way back to jumping up and down on the roof at Gerties — he started to wonder. ‘You realize I’m going to spend all the money we have, right now,’ he said. ‘Yes, I do.’ Holy crow, Ryan thought, maybe she’s no better than me.” (NYT)

The New York Times editorial board, most of their staff and their readers “labor” to make every such autonomous personal gamble illegal. Their best idea to aid the working class is to have the state fund their re-education and retraining so they might fit into the environmental legal establishment at some level, and apply their energies to preventing just this kind of freelance greed. The oversupply of lawyers led the profession to sell off that professionalism when they secured the right to advertise, and now the enticements for the working class to quit and file suit against former employers never end. It’s a class war disguised as cross-class solidarity. Its never called greed, but it threatens to turn the country into an unsustainable service economy, top-heavy with managers, eating its seed grain.

From the Desk of Joe Carducci…

Robert Landers in WSJ on Peter Hartshorn’s book, I Have Seen the Future: A Life of Lincoln Steffens.

“In seeking to make the muckraking Steffens out a hero, Mr. Hartshorn runs up against the rest of his life. When Steffens left muckraking behind, he soon displayed what Ray Stannard Baker was to call ‘a kind of messianic complex.’ As Justin Kaplan noted in his incisive 1974 biography, ‘Lincoln Steffens,’ Steffens began to involve himself in what ‘proved to be, in many respects, an accelerating series of disasters.’ Hoping as a Christian socialist to get labor and capital to lie down together in peace, Steffens in 1911 stepped into a fierce clash over two unionist brothers charged with murder in connection with a Los Angeles dynamite explosion that left 21 dead; he wound up being denounced by both labor and capital. Steffens was later drawn to the ‘beautiful’ Mexican Revolution and soon boasted: ‘I'm putting ideas into the heads of Mexican leaders and they like them, and me. In fact, I'm pretty well in on the inside of the Mexican revolution.’ He became an apologist for that chaotic upheaval, which had turned into a civil war and in the end claimed nearly a million lives. For Steffens himself, however, it was a ‘rich experience’ — and a prelude to his encounter with the Russian Revolution.”


Juan Williams at FoxNews.com, "The Surprising Rise of Rep. Ron Paul".

“At last week’s debate, hosted by my primary employer, Fox News Channel, I was struck by the libertarian flair the iconoclast injected into the evening. First, his presence along with another libertarian Republican — former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson — allowed for Republicans nationwide to witness a debate in which strong arguments for immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan came from the right. But that was just the start. There are instances where Paul’s views make the Republican establishment want to scream. For example, I asked him about his stated concern that Israel will launch a unilateral military strike against Iran. He replied that Israel had become too dependent on U.S. military and foreign aid and that it should be responsible for its own security and sovereignty. In the past he has blasted the ‘neoconservatives’ and their influence on U.S. foreign policy. He has been adamantly opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning and has called for an immediate pullout of all U.S. troops. He rails against the American ‘empire’ and argues that U.S. spending on a global military presence should be cut. Paul’s thinking is also having an impact on conservative views about domestic policy. Even when he called for legalization of marijuana, cocaine and heroin at the debate it did not elicit hooting but cheers from South Carolina’s famously right-wing Republicans.”


Christopher Hitchens in NYTBR on Adam Hochschild’s book, To End All Wars.

“For men like the Earl of Lansdowne, who tried to propose a negotiated peace, the terrifying thought was the slaughter of the class of well-bred young officers. (Of the 10 grandsons of the Marquess of Salisbury, five were killed in action.) For others, like Fenner Brockway, Alice Wheeldon and John S. Clarke, the war represented the human sacrifice of those miners, railwaymen and engineers whose skills should have been used instead to depose the aristocracy and build a new society. For them, it was a matter of common cause among British, German and Russian workers, and for this principle they risked harsh imprisonment, punitive conscription and even death. Ironically, perhaps, the most renowned of these resisters was Bertrand Russell, a dedicated leftist who was harder to silence precisely because he was the grandson of an earl. Hochschild has done his level best to build a memorial to these dissenters, and is hugely to be congratulated on his hard work: as a buff on this subject, I thought I was the only one who knew about Clarke, an obdurate Marxist who earned his living as a circus impresario and lion tamer. However, once the howitzers had started their bellowing, proletarian internationalism had a marked tendency to evaporate. Only Lenin and a handful of other irreducible revolutionaries bided their time, waiting for the war to devour those monarchs who had been foolish enough to start it.”


Ian Thomson in FT on Paul Strathern’s book, Death in Florence: The Medici, Savonarola and the Battle for the Soul of the Renaissance City.

“Banking was, to a large extent, an Italian invention (the English term derives from the Italian banco, meaning ‘counter’). In his sermons, Savonarola called the wrath of God down on his merchant patrons. His absolutist Christianity, with its blood-and-brimstone vision of man’s redemption, sought to transform Florence into a new Jerusalem, purified of financial and sexual sin. His intransigence riled not just members of the Medici clan, but Renaissance humanist thinkers such as Marsilio Ficino, a Platonist, who condemned the ‘antichrist’ and ‘false prophet’ Savonarola. An attempt was made to blow him up during one of his sermons; it failed. Many thought him invincible. His sermons continued to radiate a fierce, pre-Reformation Catholicism: blessed are the poor, for they are exempt from the unholy Trinity of materialism, rationalism and property. In spite of his spiritual ferocity, Savonarola was in some ways a curiously modern personality. A republican at heart, he sought to ride the Medicis of their monarchical pretensions and bring democracy to Florence.”


Tim Black at Spiked-online.com on Peter Atkins’ book, On Being: A Scientist’ Exploration of the Great Questions of Existence.

“It’s an unabashed attempt to show why the scientific method will come closer to answering the big ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions than – to sling Atkins’ mud – all the theological fantasists, political storytellers and philosophical shysters put together. And to be fair to the scientistic Atkins, he certainly knows his onions, albeit from the sub-atomic level upwards. Starting with the beginning of it all, he looks at and speculates about the beginning of the universe, that instant of creation that thus far lies just beyond the comprehension of contemporary physicists. Having answered, at least as far he’s concerned, why there is something and not nothing – there is in fact still nothing, it’s just been rendered internally antagonistic – he quickly takes us on a red-in-tooth-and-claw tour through Darwin’s ‘dangerous idea’. Natural selection done and dusted, Atkins then offers up a sneaky peep at our individual beginnings in the human reproductive process, before indulging us with a gruesome portrait of our post-death decomposition. Atkins then ends with The End – not just of our universe, but of all universes - as the something reverts once more to nothing: ‘All life, including all the achievements, myths, and fantasies of mankind, if any survive for such a vast length of time, will be gone.’

And that, as they say, is that. This is what science can tell us about being, from beginning to end.”


Roberto Foa at EUobserver.com, "On Strauss-Khan’s Arrest".

“What are the implications for Europe and the world? First, this may be the end of western control over the IMF. By convention, the head of the Fund is a European, while his deputy is American. Until recently, it was assumed that Dominique Strauss-Kahn would be succeeded by Gordon Brown, but the latter’s candidacy was torpedoed last month by his successor David Cameron. A number of qualified replacements are at hand, including Kemal Dervis, the former Turkish finance minister, and Mohammed El-Erian, the chief executive of Pimco. In order to retain their own influence, the Americans may still support a European successor. If it goes to Brown this would be very ironic, given accusations that he violently mistreats his staff. If it goes to Dervis, his Turkish nationality will add an interesting flavour to Greece-IMF negotiations.”


Pat Buchanan at Humanevents.com, "The Dirty Old Man and the IMF".

“As is not infrequently the case, Rep. Ron Paul nails it: ‘These are the kind of people running the IMF, and we want to turn the world's finances and the control of the money supply (over) to them?’ Indeed, there are issues here far beyond the corruption of character that drives aging compulsive lechers to criminality when their prey resist. One of those issues is: Why is the IMF still being funded by the United States? With the World Bank, the IMF was birthed at Bretton Woods, N.H., in 1944. In the monetary order established there, the U.S. dollar would be tied to gold, and the free world's currencies would be tied to the dollar, all at fixed rates of exchange. All would contribute funds in their own currency to the IMF. America would make the largest contribution. As its birthday gift, Uncle Sam gave the IMF 103 million ounces of gold. When member nations faced balance-of-payments problems and had to devalue, the IMF would tide them over with bridge loans. The loans would be repaid as the troubled nations' reduced exchange rate led to rising exports and reduced imports. The system worked until 1971, when through a series of guns-and-butter budgets during Vietnam, the world acquired an immense pile of excess dollars. The British decided to cash in several billion for U.S. gold. No way, said President Nixon. He slammed the gold window shut, cut the dollar loose and let it float against the world's currencies. The Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates was dead. And the IMF, established to maintain it, should have died with it.”


Gideon Rachman in FT, "Latin America’s new shining path".

“Peru’s technocrats fear a Keiko Fujimori presidency would repeat the sins of the father -- undermining the country’s democratic institutions and fostering rampant corruption. Most of the Peruvian middle-class, however, seem to fear Keiko’s opponent even more. Mr Humala is a former army officer who literally shot to prominence when he led an attempted coup in 2000. His brother, Antauro, is in prison for leading yet another attempted coup in 2005. He was once close to Hugo Chavez, a ranting populist , whose ‘21st-century socialism’ has subverted nearby Venezuela’s democracy and gravely weakened its economy. These days Mr Humala, who is just ahead in the polls, plays down his Chavez links -- but many Peruvians are still wary.”


MercoPress: "Brazil, India current account deficits leads to ‘inevitable’ crisis warns China".

“Li Daokui told a forum that emerging economies such as Brazil and India face fiscal and current account deficits and a crisis was ‘inevitable,’ Caijing Magazine reported on its website. ‘China will play a very important role during the financial consolidation’. But there will be no such crisis in China because it is quite different from most other developing and developed countries,’ he said. In February, the Indian government raised ‘serious concern’ about a trade deficit that could more than double to 278.5 billion USD in three years and may cause an unquestionable current account deficit. Brazil's current account deficit ballooned to a record for the month of March as foreign companies in Brazil sent more profits home and Brazilians spent more on travel and goods overseas.”


Mark Whitehouse in WSJ, "Politics Plays Part in Achieving Rich-Nation Status".

“Uprisings throughout the Middle East, and China's recent moves to suppress its own ‘Jasmine Revolution’ — with steps such as jailing government critics — underscore a question facing the developing world: Can authoritarian or oligarchic states join the ranks of the world's wealthy, and even gain global economic primacy? Or is political change a prerequisite? The answer isn't encouraging for the world's despots, according to economists who have studied the subject. Evidence suggests countries without good institutions such as universal property rights, impartial courts and equitably enforced laws tend not to rise above a per-capita annual income level of about $15,000. Those institutions coincide with political freedom, which seldom comes about without upheaval. ‘Without reform, growth is not sustainable,’ says Antonio Fatas, an economist at INSEAD business school in Fontainebleau, France. ‘This has clear implications for China and other countries.’”


Henry Kissinger in WSJ, "The China Challenge".

“For China's classical sages, the world could never be conquered; wise rulers could hope only to harmonize with its trends. There was no New World to populate, no redemption awaiting mankind on distant shores. The promised land was China, and the Chinese were already there. The blessings of the Middle Kingdom's culture might theoretically be extended, by China's superior example, to the foreigners on the empire's periphery. But there was no glory to be found in venturing across the seas to convert "heathens" to Chinese ways; the customs of the Celestial Dynasty were plainly beyond the attainment of the far barbarians.”


Bret Stephens in WSJ on Henry Kissinger’s book, On China.

“Above all, Mr. Kissinger notes, the Chinese pursued a form of Realpolitik fundamentally distinct from Western concepts of strategy. It's a point he illustrates by comparing chess with the Oriental game of Go (which he calls by its Chinese name of wei qi). Chess, he observes, ‘teaches the Clausewitzian concepts of 'center of gravity' and the 'decisive point'. . . . Wei qi teaches the art of strategic encirclement.’ Mao Zedong stood to gain from these concepts when he set out to build a new China by destroying the old. But he had his own methods, and Mr. Kissinger can't quite seem to decide whether they were brilliant or incompetent. Certainly they were daring: Within little more than a decade of coming to power in 1949, he had gone to war with the U.S. in Korea, cemented Washington's military alliance with Taipei by bombarding the Taiwanese islands of Quemoy and Matsu, waged a brief war with India over some Himalayan outposts, and turned the Soviet Union into an avowed enemy. All this succeeded in demonstrating that China was a country that would not be patronized or trifled with. It also meant that by the mid-1960s China was almost completely encircled by hostile powers, a failure of Go strategy if ever there was one. It was only then, and amid the wreckage of the cataclysmic Cultural Revolution, that Mao reached out to the U.S.”


John Gapper & Barney Jopson in FT, "Coach to cut output in China".

“Coach, the US accessories brand, is planning to shift up to half of its manufacturing out of China to escape rising labour costs at the same time as it moves aggressively to expand sales in the country. Lew Frankfort, Coach’s chief executive, said that over the next five years the company would cut its China production to 40-50 per cent of its total from 85 per cent at present by opening factories in lower-wage economies including India, Vietnam and the Philippines.”


Economist: "China - Bamboo innovation".

“So far, however, China has little to show for all this investment in mould-breaking. The most successful Chinese companies, such as Lenovo and Baidu, produce low-cost versions of Western products or adapt Western innovations to the Chinese market. Chinese venture capitalists invest in established industries, such as hotels and agriculture, or in copycat technologies. Multinational managers grumble privately that China’s ‘research and development’ projects involve far more development than research. And the government’s vast investment in innovation is more than offset by its failures. Squabbles over standards discourage companies from placing long-term bets. Lax intellectual-property rights penalise cutting-edge research. The power of the state prompts firms to spend more time groveling to politicians than grappling with original thoughts.”


Mary Lane in WSJ, "China Blunts Germany’s Edge".

“German companies — mostly small, family-owned enterprises — continue to hold the largest share in the Chinese market for high-end machinery, which is estimated at between €75 billion and €85 billion, or roughly $110 billion to $120 billion, says Axel Berke, a researcher with German consulting group Struktur Management Partner. He and Mr. Reitmeier co-wrote a recent Struktur report on the challenge in China for German sales of high-end machinery in such sectors as automotive, energy, construction and aviation. Domestic revenue for Chinese producers of such machinery increased 76% from 2006 to 123.7 billion yuan ($19.1 billion) in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, according to the Chinese government. German exports to China of high-end machinery reached €15.13 billion ($21.79 billion) last year, up 34% from 2009, according to German government statistics. Though the Chinese and German figures aren't strictly comparable, it appears China's companies are catching up. Analysts say the increased competition is unlikely to affect big German companies, such as #Siemens AG, and will instead hit hardest at machinery makers in the mittelstand, the thousands of small and midsize businesses at the backbone of Germany's export economy.”


George Magnus in FT, "China’s central bank is new key performer on financial stage".

“Good suspense drama is when an unlikely character emerges slowly as the principal hero or villain. There is a compelling analogy in financial markets. Everyone is focused on the capital market and real resource implications of the great economic convergence between the East and the West, but the markets tend to pay attention largely to the actions and intentions of the Federal Reserve and, periodically, the European Central Bank. Meanwhile, the People’s Bank of China is emerging as an increasingly important operator. It matters more than is widely recognized.”


Economist: "China - The most surprising demographic crisis".

“The latest numbers, released on April 28th and based on the nationwide census conducted last year, show a total population for mainland China of 1.34 billion. They also reveal a steep decline in the average annual population growth rate, down to 0.57% in 2000-10, half the rate of 1.07% in the previous decade. The data imply that the total fertility rate, which is the number of children a woman of child-bearing age can expect to have, on average, during her lifetime, may now be just 1.4, far below the ‘replacement rate’ of 2.1, which eventually leads to the population stabilising. Slower growth is matched by a dramatic ageing of the population. People above the age of 60 now represent 13.3% of the total, up from 10.3% in 2000 (see chart). In the same period, those under the age of 14 declined from 23% to 17%. A continuation of these trends will place ever greater burdens on the working young who must support their elderly kin, as well as on government-run pension and health-care systems. China’s great ‘demographic dividend’ (a rising share of working-age adults) is almost over. In addition to skewing the country’s age distribution, the one-child policy has probably exacerbated its dire gender imbalance. Many more baby boys are born in China than baby girls.”


Thomas Fuller in NYT, "The Fallout for Chiding the Royals in Thailand".

“Mr. Somsak, a professor at Thammasat University, one of the country’s most prestigious, last year wrote something akin to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses challenging Thailand’s current form of constitutional monarchy. Mr. Somsak’s supporters say they are outraged that it was the military that brought the charges against him, and they say that the accusations are a form of political intimidation just as campaigning begins for national elections on July 3. The military casts a long shadow in Thailand, where disgruntled generals have instigated 18 coups, including a takeover five years ago. Now, senior generals are flexing their muscle again. In addition to lodging the charges against Mr. Somsak, the army has staged exercises with heavy weaponry outside its barracks three times in the past month in what the Thai news media described as a ‘show of force.’ And it is leading a $8 million campaign, provided for in the most recent Thai government budget, to ‘protect the monarchy.’ The political consensus cultivated by the king during his more than six decades on the throne is fraying in the twilight of his reign.”


Amol Sharma in WSJ, "In India, the Supreme Court Takes a More Activist Role".

“India has an elected prime minister and Parliament and a large bureaucracy. But amid public outrage over corruption and the widespread perception that the nation is poorly governed, the Supreme Court's 29 justices increasingly are calling the shots. The court has turned hyperactivist in the past year, injecting itself into policy making and governance in unprecedented ways. Justices are micromanaging government-corruption and money-laundering investigations, issuing orders to agencies on issues from malnutrition to caste violence to education, and venting a frustration held by many Indians but rarely articulated from such a lofty perch. ‘What the hell is going on in this country?’ railed Supreme Court Justice B. Sudershan Reddy on March 3 as he heard arguments in a public-interest case brought against the government for not pursuing tax evaders who are allegedly stashing billions of dollars in overseas tax havens.”


Jonathan Mirsky in New York Review of Books on Tim Johnson’s book, Tragedy in Crimson: How the Dalai Lama Conquered the World but Lost the Battle with China.

“On the final page he concludes:

As the Dalai Lama’s life enters its final stretch…more and more Han [ethnic Chinese] migrants will arrive on the Tibetan plateau, and almost inevitably Tibet will head the way of Inner Mongolia and other regions of the mainland subsumed by the vast Han majority. The race is nearly over.

The Mongolian comparison is especially grim: in 1949, Mongols in their region outnumbered Hans by five to one. By the year 2000 there had been so much Han migration that there were 4.6 Hans for every Mongol in Inner Mongolia, and now only 17 percent of its population are Mongols, ‘confined largely to nomadic settlements and ethnic oases in a larger sea of Han.’”


Rafia Zakaria in Dawn, "The fictions we create".

“Again and again, the ordinary folk of Abbottabad and Haripur have scratched their heads before television cameras. As one villager in Haripur put it: ‘We know each other, we go visit one another’s homes … no one can live here and not go unnoticed.’ Such anecdotes, variously worded, are reproduced in a sad cycle, each one poking holes in a disliked reality — that Osama really was there among them or that he was actually killed. This collective mantra of denial upholds another myth nourished over the decades; that Pakistan is a deeply connected society, that everyone knows their neighbours, that the bonds of community eliminate the possibility of anonymity. But just as the fable of the vanguard all-defeating fighting force has been shaken, so too must the idealised image of a closely bonded community sustained by neighbourly bonds. The Pakistan that exists, whether it is the village in Haripur, the house in Abbottabad or any old neighbourhood in Karachi or Lahore, has few such idyllic communities. Neighbours are increasingly strangers, everyone has some stash of secrets they would like to preserve, and most just don’t want the burden of neighbourly evaluations. In the Pakistan of today, the desire to be left alone trumps any straggling wish to know or be known.”


Economist: "Pakistan - The insanity clause".

“It seems inconceivable that parts of the Pakistani establishment were unaware that Osama bin Laden was living in their midst. You might think it also seems unbelievable that Pakistan could be so breathtakingly duplicitous and take such a risk of antagonising America, its most important ally. In fact, you would be wrong: high-risk duplicity has long been the hallmark of Pakistani foreign policy. You never know when the world’s most-wanted man might come in handy. Some members of the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, probably thought it a good idea to hang on to Mr bin Laden. The reasons lie in Pakistan’s tortured relations with America, with Islamist extremism and with India.”


Gerard Baker in WSJ, "An Arab Spring in Their Step".

“It's not exactly unusual to see Arab demonstrators waving banners that opine heatedly on the tactics employed by the Israeli military. But there was something unique about the one held by a crowd of antigovernment protestors in the Syrian city of Homs last week. As thousands braved the brutal crackdown by members of President Bashar Assad's military that has killed hundreds of unarmed protestors, a small group boldly held up a sign that read, in Arabic: ‘We urge our heroic armed forces to use rubber bullets, just as the Israelis do.’ The people of Homs are renowned for a mordant sense of humor in adversity, and this plea for a hint of self-restraint from their oppressors had more than a touch of irony about it.”


Raymond Ibrahim at MEforum.org, "Muslim ‘Inferiority Complex’ Kills Christians".

“This supposedly ‘chivalrous’ behavior — ‘rescuing’ damsel converts to Islam even when they insist on never converting — highlights the Islamic world's obsession with the issue of conversion: while it is known that those who convert out, the apostates, should be put to death, few people are aware that those who convert in — against their will or not, based on false rumors or not — are a great source of validation for Islam, and thus must be secured. Even the West has been dragged into this obsession — such as the persistent rumor that the late Jacque Cousteau embraced Islam, prompting the Cousteau foundation to issue a letter verifying its founder never converted, and lived and died as a Catholic Christian. Indeed, a new Arabic book, Al-Quran Yaqum Wahdu — which consists of 33 anecdotes of Western intellectuals converting to Islam after supposedly being bowled over by the truths of the Koran — lists Cousteau and Islam critic Henryk Broder as its very first two examples, despite the fact that, back in the real world, everyone knows they never converted. One is left wondering how many, if any, of the other 31 anecdotes are true.”


Tim Callahan in Skeptic, "The Mythic Origins of the Qur’an".

“The Coptic Christians of Egypt and Ethiopia held some doctrines declared heretical by various church councils, which reached Muhammad through a number of channels. First, Abraha, king of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) occupied Yemen between 525 and 571. Also, Arabia was a haven for Copts and other persecuted Christians whose views had been declared heretical after the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Abyssinia, in its turn, gave sanctuary to followers of Muhammad, who had fled persecution in Mecca in 614. Finally, one of Muhammad‘s many wives, Mariya, was a Copt.”


David Kirkpatrick in NYT, "Muslims and Coptic Christians Clash Again in Egypt".

“The battle on the night of May 7 in the neighborhood of Imbaba began with a dispute over a woman. Neighborhood Muslims were convinced that Christians were holding her in a church against her will to talk her out of converting to Islam and leaving her Christian husband for a Muslim man — a recurring theme in sectarian disputes here, where a combination of custom and law make it easier for Muslims than Christians to divorce. With memories of last month’s church fire still fresh, about 500 Copts rallied to defend their church — some with firearms — even before more than two dozen Muslims had approached it. Casualties were roughly even on both sides. The anger among the Copts had run so high that many continued to protest at their sit-in on Friday, even as thousands of other Egyptians held a rally for Muslim and Christian unity in Tahrir Square.”


Brendan O’Neill at Spiked-online.com, "This pity for bin Laden is just pacifist-nihilism".

“Well, I don’t buy this script. And not because I’m a fratboy or a supporter of the ‘war on terror’ or of Western intervention in Pakistan and Afghanistan; I’m none of those things. No, I reject the new consensus which says bin Laden’s killing was illegal because it is fuelled by two profoundly problematic political trends. First, by what we might call pacifist-nihilism, a now utterly mainstream aversion to military force based not in political principle but on a moral cowardice which says there is nothing worth taking risks or fighting for. And second by the increasing transformation of war into a crime, by the now widespread notion that warfare can be judged by the rules of civil justice, which is not only wrong - it is also backward.”


Michael Schmidt & Yasir Ghazi in NYT, "As Baghdad Erupts in Riot of Color, Calls to Tone It Down".

“Baghdad has weathered invasion, occupation, sectarian warfare and suicide bombers. But now it faces a new scourge: tastelessness. Iraqi artists and architecture critics who shudder at each new pastel building blame a range of factors for Baghdad’s slide into tackiness: including corruption and government ineptitude, as well as everyday Iraqis who are trying to banish their grim past and are unaccustomed to having the freedom to choose any color they want. ‘It’s happening because Iraqis want to get rid of the recent past,’ said Caecilia Pieri, the author of Baghdad Arts Deco: Architectural Brickwork 1920-1950. ‘They see the colors as a way of expressing something new, but they don’t know which colors to use. The Arab mentality is that you have to be the owner of your building, and you do what you want with it. But there are no government regulations like in Paris or Rome. It’s anarchy of taste.’”


David Carr in NYT, "How Drudge Has Stayed on Top".

“A big part of the reason he is such an effective aggregator for both audiences and news sites is that he actually acts like one. Behemoth aggregators like Yahoo News and The Huffington Post have become more like fun houses that are easy to get into and tough to get out of. Most of the time, the summary of an article is all people want, and surfers don’t bother to click on the link. But on The Drudge Report, there is just a delicious but bare-bones headline, there for the clicking. It’s the opposite of sticky, which means his links actually kick up significant traffic for other sites.”


WSJ: "The Coming Postal Bailout".

“It now appears that the $15 billion line of credit the feds have offered USPS will be used up by the end of this year, with low odds on ever being paid back. If that isn't ugly enough, the Postal Service expects $42 billion in additional losses over the next four years. Mail volume and revenues have suffered what Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe concedes are ‘unprecedented declines’ since 2006, with projections of another drop of 20 billion letters mailed by the end of the decade, down from 171 million this year, thanks to competition from electronic mail. If this were a private business, the obvious response to these losses would be urgent cost-cutting to avoid insolvency. Instead, Postal Service management recently concluded negotiations offering the 205,000-member American Postal Workers Union a new four-and-a-half-year contract that will provide a 3.5% pay raise over three years, dole out automatic cost of living wage hikes after 2012, and expand no-layoff protections. Postal officials say this is the best deal they could get and that, had they not agreed to it, an arbitrator would have been even more generous to the union. But given that 80% of postal costs are for wages and benefits, this contract is unhinged from all fiscal reality.”


Pico Iyer in New York Review of Books on Douglas Coupland’s book, Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!

“In 1944, just as the Journal of the History of Ideas was asking him to rewrite a paper on ‘Francis Bacon’s Patristic Inheritance,’ the much-read Catholic magazine Columbia was accepting his piece on Dagwood Bumstead, an emasculated figure, in McLuhan’s view, who needed to reclaim ‘the detached use of autonomous reason for the critical appraisal of life.’ McLuhan quickly realized, as Coupland sees it, that the same textual skills that might turn him into just another literary professor in the provinces could, if applied to all the trivial, proliferating stuff of the postwar world, make him something original. ‘I find most pop culture monstrous and sickening,’ he would say in later years, even as he was helping to father the field of media studies and setting off generations of unfettered deconstructionists.”


Stefano Esposito in CST, "Highwood Bocce club flies in Italian experts to replace courts".

“And this month, there’s a palpable giddiness at the Highwood Bocce Club — one of the United States’ best-known venues for the traditional Italian bowling game — because Aurelio Colleoni and his team are here from Gorgonzola, Italy, to replace the club’s old (and somewhat lumpy) courts. ‘There are only two or three companies in the world that do this,’ said club member Paul Giannetti, who came to America in 1967 as a teenager but still has a home in Florence. The key is making the courts smooth — almost like a billiards table — so that the bocce balls don’t drift when they’re tossed down the lanes, which are about 90 feet long and 10 feet wide. The work doesn’t come cheap. It’s about $85,000, Giannetti said. Part of the reason is that Colleoni has its special resin shipped over in big metal buckets from Italy. To build a bocce court, workers lay down concrete, top it with blacktop and then lay down the resin to create the smooth surface.”


Hannah Karp in WSJ, "The Great Hipster Soccer Showdown".

“Sounders fans can no longer claim to be the league's most rugged supporters, as 18,627 Portlanders turned out in a torrential, freezing rainstorm last month for the Timbers' opening home game against the Chicago Fire. In Portland, stadium vendors hawk barbecued-tofu sandwiches, spinach salads and chocolate-covered bacon, putting Seattle's relatively mundane offerings, like veggie dogs, gourmet donuts and cappuccinos, to shame. Sure, the Sounders boast a ‘democracy’ that gives fans voting rights on decisions like the team name, but the Timbers management consults regularly with its supporters group, the Timbers Army, and trumpets the team's commitment to community service. (The team plants a tree, for example, for every goal scored.) ‘The Timbers are all about helping out their fellow man,’ said Kaegan Dews, a 22-year-old dishwasher, pausing briefly between songs at the home opener. While Seattle's scarf-wielding supporters may look edgy compared to the baseball fans across the street at Safeco Field, Portland fans boast at least as many piercings, tattoos and mohawks. In the merchandise line at a Timbers game, Bryan Dean, a 40-year-old industrial designer with a tall blond mohawk was sporting a kilt. He said kilts are ‘considered quite masculine’ in Scotland and Ireland and evoke Portland's identity: ‘underdogs and kinda blue collar, but also fringe, artistic.’”


Susan Delacourt at Thestar.com, "Don Cherry’s the face of Canada’s new rock ’em, sock ’em politics: study."

“The Canadian forces’ best weapon may be Don Cherry and the particular brand of combat patriotism that he pushes on Hockey Night in Canada, according to a new study.
Cherry is the common link among hockey, soldiers and a bolder, more aggressive strain of Canadian identity — an identity that may leave some women and multicultural communities cold, according to the study by University of Western Ontario academics John Nater and Robert Maciel. Cherry speaks of soldiers almost as much as he talks about hockey in his Coach’s Corner segments, according to Nater and Maciel’s analysis.
‘For Cherry, Canadian nationalism rests on an unquestioning support for the military, support of traditional institutions and (a) view of hockey that highlights the physical nature of the game,’ they write in their study…. After meticulously transcribing Cherry’s remarks on Coach’s Corner for the entirety of the 2009-10 regular season, Nater and Maciel found a remarkable number of references to the military. ‘Cherry uses the word ‘troops’ a total of 12 times during the season. This is in addition to his use of the word ‘soldiers’ six times and ‘battle’ four times. Cherry also mentions ‘war’ four times during this season,’ says the study. Cherry also praises hockey players and soldiers alike as ‘good boys’ and even uses the word ‘player’ interchangeably when it comes to team members and Canadian Forces personnel, according to the study.”


Jeff Klein in NYT, "To Some In Canada, Vancouver Is Foreign".

“If you are American, you might think that the Vancouver Canucks are now Canada’s team because they are the last Canada-based club standing among the final four in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Well, think again. ‘Dear rest of Canada — please get your own hockey team’ was the headline to an opinion article last week in The Vancouver Sun, encapsulating the leave-us-alone attitude many Canucks fans are taking in the face of a roiling swelling of both affection and, more often, revulsion for their team across the country. The columnist, Pete McMartin, cited the mounting evidence of recent days that Canadians had turned on the Canucks for having several top players who are American or Swedish, and playing in Vancouver, traditionally derided as a mild-weather Lotus Land by those from east of British Columbia.”


Brink Lindsey in CSM, "Why the era of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll is about to go global."

“In China, the land of mind-boggling statistics, the number of higher-ed students roughly quadruped from 2003 to 2009. Occupational structures are changing rapidly, too, as development boosts the need for elite workers. In Taiwan, white-collar workers made up 46 percent of the workforce in 1990, but 61 percent in 2005. In Turkey, the number of professional and technical workers doubled over the same period. The explosive growth of choices and capabilities is ushering in a fundamental reorientation of culture: away from subservience to age-old tradition and established authority, and toward a new ethos of autonomy and self-realization. People who experience the freedom of making choices about economic matters start demanding more of a say in the decisions affecting the rest of their lives. For a sneak peek at what's in store, we can look to American history. In the postwar boom of the 1950s, mass prosperity became the norm. For the first time in history, a generation of kids – the baby boomers – was raised with their material needs taken for granted. And the economy had reached new heights of complexity: By 1960, as author Todd Gitlin notes, the US became the first society with more college students than farmers…. While the details differ from country to country, the American drama is now playing out on a global scale. For evidence, there's no better source than the World Values Survey, a worldwide effort to track changing cultural attitudes. The director of the survey, Ronald Inglehart, has found a clear pattern: As development widens the circle of people who enjoy material security and amass human capital, "survival" values wane and ‘self-expression’ values strengthen. People start caring more about personal growth and less about mere acquisition, and they grow more tolerant and less deferential to authority.
Economists talk about capitalism's ‘creative destruction’ as old firms and industries topple to make room for new ones. But creative destruction isn't confined to the economic sphere; it's occurring in the cultural realm as well.”


Wesley Yang in New York, "Paper Tigers".

“‘The general gist of most high-school movies is that the pretty cheerleader gets with the big dumb jock, and the nerd is left to bide his time in loneliness. But at some point in the future,’ he says, ‘the nerd is going to rule the world, and the dumb jock is going to work in a carwash. At Stuy, it’s completely different: If you looked at the pinnacle, the girls and the guys are not only good-looking and socially affable, they also get the best grades and star in the school plays and win election to student government. It all converges at the top. It’s like training for high society. It was jarring for us Chinese kids. You got the sense that you had to study hard, but it wasn’t enough.’ Mao was becoming clued in to the fact that there was another hierarchy behind the official one that explained why others were getting what he never had — ‘a high-school sweetheart’ figured prominently on this list — and that this mysterious hierarchy was going to determine what happened to him in life. ‘You realize there are things you really don’t understand about courtship or just acting in a certain way. Things that somehow come naturally to people who go to school in the suburbs and have parents who are culturally assimilated.’ I pressed him for specifics, and he mentioned that he had visited his white girlfriend’s parents’ house the past Christmas, where the family had “sat around cooking together and playing Scrabble.’ This ordinary vision of suburban-American domesticity lingered with Mao: Here, at last, was the setting in which all that implicit knowledge ‘about social norms and propriety’ had been transmitted. There was no cram school that taught these lessons.”


Nathaniel Rich in New York Review of Books on The BBS Story DVD box.

“Throughout the film the motorcycles are always driving 25 mph, a speed chosen, as Peter Fonda explains in the commentary, ‘so that we could see the background.’ Twenty-five mph is also the average speed of a galloping horse. At its core the film asks what it means to be an American in 1969. The answer is ambivalent, almost equal parts celebration and disillusionment. We don‘t know what to make, for instance, of Wyatt’s patriotic wardrobe. At first it seems an ironic gesture, a hippie draped in the stars and stripes. But his sense of wonder when confronted with the majesty of the heartland dispels this. For all the bikers‘ criticisms of small-town mores and conventional ways of life, an obstinate strain of patriotism runs through the film -- in the way the landscapes are shot, the glorification of the fast metal machines, and the celebration of the idea that such an adventure could only be possible in America. Near the end of the film, at the bikers‘ final campfire, the duality is made explicit. ‘We’re rich!’ says Billy. ‘We did it! We‘re retired in Florida now, mister. That‘s what it‘s all about. You go for the big money, and then you‘re free.’ Wyatt, impassive, stares into the fire. ‘We blew it,’ he says. It‘s telling that this line was a subject of fierce debate for contemporary audiences and critics. Today the meaning is clear….”


Seth Schiesel in NYT on Rockstar’s game, “L.A. Noire” swears that’s its an emotionally fulfilling story-centered experience no matter what narrative cul-de-sac your stumble-thumb leads you into. I consider the TV ads for this game to be the current most obnoxious ads, the synthespians look terrible and overact their throwaway lines. If it was just another noir-locked detective film I’d be open to being proved wrong, but since I don’t play videogames I am not.


Reality 86’d is a documentary made on Black Flag’s final tour by Dave Markey. It’s the 1986 “In My Head” tour with Gone, and Painted Willie. Dave shot a lot of super8 footage I imagine, and he told me he edited around the bad vibes as best he could; he hoped Greg would like it. But it was a long tour and just a couple weeks got the bands and crew, even Greg Ginn into a tour-coma sufficient to have fun with even one’s mortal enemy on the right day in the right city. I didn’t go on any Black Flag tours longer than west coasters, but if I hadn’t joined SST to run the office while they were on tour, I would have tried to jump in the van with a super8 camera too. It’s a shame the early troupe of band, Spot and Mugger wasn’t documented, but its great that this film exists. See Black Flag, See Davo, See Dave Rat, See Joe Cole, See Gone jam on the sidewalk, See Painted Willie, See Roseanne Bojorquez…


Matt Smith-Lahrman’s blog with interviews of Derrick and Cris of the Meat Puppets, Steve Albini, and more.


Mike Watt and the Missingmen perform the "Hyphenated-man" album in its entirety.

• Thurs., May 19, 10 pm Pacific


Minutemen - Saccharine Trust split 7” 45 back in print on Water Under the Bridge.


Michael Hurley - Snockgrass LP reissue.


Too Much Joy Giant-Warners royalty proctology.

“The business affairs guy (who I am calling ‘the business affairs guy’ rather than naming because he did me a favor by finally getting the digital royalties added to my statement, and I am grateful for that and don’t want this to sound like I’m attacking him personally, even though it’s about to seem like I am) said that it was complicated connecting Warner’s digital royalty payments to their existing accounting mechanisms, and that since my band was unrecouped they had ‘to take care of R.E.M. and the Red Hot Chili Peppers first.’ That kind of pissed me off. On the one hand, yeah, my band’s unrecouped and is unlikely ever to reach the point where Warner actually has to cut us a royalty check. On the other hand, though, they are contractually obligated to report what revenue they receive in our name, and, having helped build a database that tracks how much Rhapsody owes whom for what music gets played, I’m well aware of what is and isn’t complicated about doing so. It’s not something you have to build over and over again for each artist. It’s something you build once. It takes a while, and it can be expensive, and sometimes you make honest mistakes, but it’s not rocket science. Hell, it’s not even algebra! It’s just simple math. I knew that each online service was reporting every download, and every play, for every track, to thousands of labels (more labels, I’m guessing, than Warner has artists to report to). And I also knew that IODA was able to tell me exactly how much money my band earned the previous month from Amazon ($11.05), Verizon (74 cents), Nokia (11 cents), MySpace (4 sad cents) and many more.”


Sean Jensen in CST, "Derrick Rose stays connected to tough Englewood neighborhood".

“For at least a year, the two white backboards didn’t have baskets. ‘We were kind of salty,’ said Sherman Ransom, who grew up near the park. ‘I asked around [about fixing the rims], and they said, Talk to your alderman. Yeah, right.’ About nine miles south of Willis Tower, Englewood is the most challenged of Chicago’s neighborhoods in terms of crime, education and employment…. And from January through March of this year, based on statistics from the Chicago Police Department, the 3.1-square-mile neighborhood experienced more robberies (208), aggravated assaults (92) and aggravated batteries (123) than anywhere in the city. Derrick Rose, 22, keeps Englewood on the local map and has put it on the national one. His recent selection as the youngest most valuable player in NBA history compelled local pastors and leaders to celebrate his accomplishment at Murray Park, where — lo and behold — the rims were replaced. And Powerade, one of the national companies Rose endorses, pledged at least $15,000 to renovate his original home court…. A member of the Gangster Disciples, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said local gangs earmarked Murray Park a safe zone because of Rose. ‘He paved the way,’ the Gangster Disciple said. ‘It used to be called ‘Murder Park.’ But when Derrick made it to the NBA, we made it better out of respect…’ Except for a quick lunch break at Rainbow Carry Out on 71st and Ashland, they would play at Murray Park from sunup past sundown, even though the court didn’t have any lights. ‘Our parents would have to drag us off the court,’ [Arsenio] Williams said. The boys, then about 11 years old, embraced the style of play that ruled the court, most notably that ‘foul’ was a foreign word. ‘If we called a foul, they kept the ball because our calls weren’t respected,’ Williams said. ‘You just had to get tougher.’ Rose said that’s why he so aggressive in taking the ball to the basket. ‘It was hard, but that’s the reason why I don’t flop when I go to the hole now,’ he said. ‘My whole life, I’ve been taught to play through fouls and make the shot. Flopping isn’t in my game.’ The games sometimes were interrupted by gunshots. ‘When there’s a shooting, people usually run,’ Rose said. ‘But in our neighborhood, it was kind of regular, so you’d keep on hooping. I know that sounds crazy.’”


David Haugh in CT, "Barkley defends calling Bulls best defensive team he has seen".

“The reason for such high praise of coach Tom Thibodeau's scheme dawned on Barkley as he broke down how the Bulls defended isolation plays of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It was more than just Luol Deng bothering James with good body position or Ronnie Brewer staying within arm's length of Wade. It was the way five Bulls defenders choreographed their reactions to work as one. ‘Every time they went to the basket, they had to go through three guys,’ Barkley said. ‘Their defensive guys are on a string. They're beautiful to watch. Getting the ball to LeBron or Dwyane one-on-one isn't going to work. They work their behinds off.’ Nobody on the Bulls works harder than Joakim Noah, Barkley's favorite. In a matchup of marquee names, Barkley called Noah the most important player in the series. He couldn't decide which thrilled him more Sunday: Noah hustling for eight offensive rebounds or using his 6-foot-11 frame to stop Wade on the perimeter. ‘He's the only guy in the league who can guard anybody on the court,’ Barkley said. "When I said the Mavs would beat the Lakers it was because L.A. had nobody to guard Dirk Nowitzki. I wouldn't have said that about Noah. Noah guarded Dwyane Wade one-on-one (Sunday) night and blocked his shot. It was awesome.’”


Forties color photos, Library of Congress, Daily Mail.


Obituary of the Week

Harmon Killebrew (1936 - 2011).

"Harmon Clayton Killebrew was born on June 29, 1936, in the farming community of Payette, Idaho, where his father, a former college football player, tutored him in sports. With the powerful chest and broad shoulders he had developed working on dairy farms, he gained a reputation for hitting long balls in high school and was also a star quarterback. That prowess caught the attention of Herman Welker, a United States senator from Idaho and a baseball fan. Welker recommended him to Clark Griffith, the Senators’ owner, and Griffith sent Ossie Bluege, a former Senators manager, to scout him. 'I was set to go to Oregon to play college baseball and football,' Killebrew once said. 'It rained the night Mr. Bluege was there. They burned gasoline to dry the infield, and then I hit a ball over the left-field fence — first one to do it, 435 feet into a beet field.' Killebrew dropped his college plans and signed a three-year contract with the Senators’ organization that included a $12,000 bonus. As a so-called bonus baby, he was required to remain with the team for at least two years. He played sparingly, but a tip he received from the future Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner served him well. Kiner suggested that he stand closer to the plate and concentrate on pulling the ball."


Thanks to Tim Broun.

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

  1. Who cares what Joe Carducci says about LA Noire when NPR has a Professor of Video Games Studies raving about it on Morning Edition (5.19.11)? WTF.