Photo by Joe Carducci
The Mercenary Spirit in the NBA and NHL
by Joe Carducci
Football is about specialization, and with specialization tactics evolve toward abusive. With the speed and size of today’s football players what was thrilling decades ago is a gurney parade to the hospital. Nobody’s played two-way since my uncle at Iowa, and you know, I think he played special teams too. Erwin Prasse and the rest of the 1939 “Ironmen” did that for love of the game and school. After graduating Uncle Erv played pro basketball in the pre-NBA National Basketball League winning the championship for Oshkosh in 1941. He talked about his college nine-letter sports career often, but only mentioned playing professional basketball once when I was talking about the teardown of Chicago Stadium in 1995; he’d played there during three NBL seasons for either playoffs or special exhibition games. Annual contests between College All-Star teams and professional champs were once major sports attractions and made the pro vs college argument real in football and basketball. College teams dominated the pros in the thirties, were competitive in the forties, but lost traction as the professional leagues developed.
The big money that came into sports from television in the 1960s triggered league expansions and players’ demands for money and free agency. This broke open the leagues’ competitiveness from the years of dynastic dominance by Yankees, Bears, Celtics, Canadiens, and also cleaned up the old chaw-stained, sour-smelling, gym-rat image of pro sports. Baseball lost less of its character but still the American League’s DH allows pitchers to escape the batter’s box (specialization again) and the teams now just draft for size figuring they can teach top-heavy giants to play the game later as long as they don’t suffer career-ending ankle injuries by tipping over running the bases. At least the strike-zone isn’t the size of a grapefruit anymore.
The NBA and NHL don’t really take over until after the Superbowl. These games aren’t what they were either. The NBA used to be full of lean players with great touch; now its one team of muscle-bound fullbacks leaning on each other til someone’s knee buckles and a foul is called. The NHL should have done anything they could with rules or penalties to avoid mandatory helmets; you used to know who was on the ice at a glance. Now Derek Sanderson could skate down the slot and you wouldn’t know who it was unless you could see his number and had them all memorized. But basketball’s and hockey’s advantages as sports are in the quickness and flow of shifting from defense to offense. Everyone must be a two-way complete player. The winter team sports are better tests of athletes and team-play achievement. And as these games’ competitive cultures have unaccountably intensified the playoffs really are something to see.
When the money came in the sports integrities were weakened at first. There were racial problems, drug problems, and a general insurrectional uncoachability on the players’ parts, especially in the weaker franchises. Since jocks were generally behind the cultural curve in schools, the sixties styles hit the pros in the mid and late seventies. However the battle for black standing within the pro games had been going on in earnest since the War, and took its modern turn with Jim Brown, who left the Cleveland Browns of the NFL at the age of thirty in 1966. Brown refused to play scape-goat bait for the entire league and be pushed around by his own team. He pulled a fast one, escaping to Hollywood, announcing his retirement from sports from the set of The Dirty Dozen. That racial-cultural battle was longer and stranger in the NBA because once the formal changes had taken place there was still the old school college-style coaching tradition that was going to have to evolve to be able to communicate with suddenly rich players. The NBA roster is small and there’s no hiding dysfunctional coach-player relationships. You could probably chart this progress by the league’s coaching culture’s surrendering inherited proscriptions against one “hot dog” Harlem Globetrotter move after another: the dunk, the reverse lay-up, the hook shot, the behind-the-back pass, between-the-legs dribbling, the finger-roll, the alley-oop, the runner, the wrong-foot lay-up, etc.
This evolution has incorporated the influences from expansion, the ABA, streetball, and the European game, and finally somehow elevated the game to a high parity. This season the sports media convinced itself in the run-up to the finals that the favorite was in sequence: The Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma Thunder, Boston Celtics, The Thunder again, and then finally, The Heat. There were a few serious mentions of The Mavericks, Nuggets, Lakers, Pacers, Sixers, and Knicks too. What’s hidden underneath the ESPN/NBA marketing drivel about taking over games (a.k.a., the Carmelo Anthony Strategem, formerly known as the Allen Iverson Strategem) is that a true Championship culture that has taken root in the players, even in the one-year-college-and-out superstar lottery picks. Its not about Doctor J., Magic, Bird, Michael… it’s about the Sixers, the Lakers, the Celtics, the Pistons, the Bulls, the Rockets, the Spurs… Somehow what the nicer, game-smart generous stars initiated has been confirmed for all time by a-holes like Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant and Isaiah Thomas whose knowing, nihilistic pursuits of Championship reach the same team-play conclusion.
One watches the playoffs and roots for the sport to withstand the media and the league’s marketing which threatens to work its will through the officiating. Repeatedly ESPN, TNT, and the beat reporters tried to get coaches fired. By their lights Miami’s Erik Spoelstra must either win the championship or be unemployed. Scott Brooks of the Thunder wasn’t even discussed by the TNT brain-trust in the first round as the Thunder swept defending champs Dallas or in their second round 4-1 trouncing of the Lakers. Brooks was about to be talked about as dead-meat on his way to the CBA when the Spurs with a two-game lead were threatening in game 3 at Oklahoma City when Coach Nobody switched the Thunder to zone defense and instantly stopped the Spurs pick-and-roll scoring machine. Thereafter the Spurs were on a lifeline of Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili “Hail Mary” old guy acrobatics which netted four straight losses. The TNT panel then, suddenly, had to talk about Thunder Coach Scott Brooks, the most colorless man then still ambulatory in the 2012 NBA playoff picture, and Kenny Smith, who’s on TNT because he won championships with the Rockets and stays out of Barkeley’s way, had to confess that Brooks had actually been a teammate of his there and though Brooks was left off the playoff roster Kenny sheepishly claimed to remember that he’d been quite a help in practice scrimmages. TNT carried the Western Conference games and with OKC winning the west we bade farewell to Charles Barkeley and his stooges and left the finals in the mostly fumbling hands of ESPN-ABC-Disney. Oh for Chris Schenkel! Or Jim Durham, he’s still alive…
Unfortunately the inexperience of the Thunder hurt them come the Finals. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook worked mightily to find their footing and almost pulled it off but their young teammates James Harden, Thabo Sefalosha and Serge Ibaka weren’t ready to make shots and the veterans Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins couldn’t make up the difference, especially when the Small Three of Miami, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, and Mike Miller shot lights-out at home. The Big Three played great, but that was not going to be enough. Spoelstra showed strategic confidence all season as he let Wade, James, and Bosh sit out games (Bosh even sat entire series in the playoffs), refraining from needless straining for regular season first seed. It seemed the Bulls had rested Derrick Rose enough as well but injury aside, Coach Tom Thibodeau failed to keep John Lucas III in the mix after Rose returned in the run-up to the playoffs and it’s just not enough to stress defense come playoffs when a mere twenty fourth-quarter point will win the game. C.J. Watson could co-lead the Bulls to top-seed in the regular season and still fail to get past even Philadelphia in this new NBA; great to hear Kirk Hinrich will be back.
Today’s NHL, like the NBA at thirty teams, finally stopped expanding long enough to have its feeder leagues (the minors, university programs, and European leagues) fill the rosters with worthy talent. Hockey is past one-dimensional dominance by either physical teams or finesse teams. Resisting expansion at first, the league was challenged by the WHA which put teams all over the country and triggered the forming of a two conference NHL which eventually took in the four healthiest WHA teams when that league folded in 1979. After expansion though, the league’s Original Six (Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Detroit Redwings, Chicago Blackhawks) stuck to the game’s traditional Canadian sources, which left European talent to the expansion teams. Expansion teams didn’t just sneak a Cup at the expense of the Six, in the case of the New York Islanders and the Edmonton Oilers, they were unheard-of instant dynasties, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and Colorado Avalanche (née Quebec Nordiques) regularly showed up good old Canadian know-how too.
Of the Original Six, Montreal and Boston did best at first. After the Soviet collapse the Redwings signed the best Russians and traded Cups with Colorado. When the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks got their names on the Stanley Cup you knew the NHL had turned a corner. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs continue on as if nothing has changed, their rosters never to be etched on the Cup, the names lost in the mists of time from draft day on. One wonders what Toronto fans made of the Carolina Hurricanes hoisting the Cup! Although there are black players on most of the NHL teams today, roster tension has tended to be rearguard Canadianism, seeking to defend the place of small town Canadian kids in what is now a fully international league. Don Cherry leads the cheers for good ol’ road-apple pond hockey from his CBC perch, “Hockey Night in Canada.” Montreal has its own sub-sectarian ties to a French-Canadian hockey heritage, but in reality Quebecois today are as likely to play in Los Angeles or Florida as for Les Habs.
Parity for the NHL meant the regular season stood for less than ever. Same was true for the NBA but this year’s hockey season was also a nightmare for the Las Vegas sports book. One expected last year’s Cup Finals loser, the Vancouver Canucks, were ready and able this year as they finished the season top seed overall. Instead they were the first team blindsided by the Los Angeles Kings, the 8th seed in the West. The new parity was also expressed in a number of oddities:
1. The first round Blackhawks-Phoenix matchup was only the second series in NHL history where the first five games each went to overtime.
2. The Quarterfinals matchups featured a record 16 overtime games.
3. The Kings were the first 8th seed to beat both the 1st and 2nd seeds.
4. The Finals combined seed, 14 (NJ – 6th; LA – 8th) was the highest ever.
There was classic rough play, with much sub-atomic hair-splitting on the parts of Hockey analysts as to which were good old-fashioned hockey and which were wreckless mayhem, i.e., even older fashioned hockey. Over all the games hung the cloud of the new concern over concussions. One wonders how boxing and football can survive what’s coming from our brand new National Healthcare. In Canada they can shelter from their National Health Board behind hockey, but here? Let’s hope Michael Bloomberg is not a future President, or NFL Commissioner.
Speaking of New York, The Rangers blew it. They were first seed in the East and were gifted with a subway semi-final matchup with the New Jersey Devils which really got the city going, but New Jersey’s fading muscle memory of its recent Cup win (2003) seemed to be all the edge they required. Maybe you just can’t shot-block your way to the Cup; it didn’t even go seven. But think of what a New York Rangers – Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup Final would’ve meant to the cities, the sport, NBC, Don Cherry…. The Kings were going to get the Cup regardless though. Captain Dustin Brown put me in mind of Dustin Byfuglien who was key to the Blackhawks winning the Cup and key to their subsequent failure when the new NHL salary cap led the team to let him go so as to keep their marquee scorers. The Kings play like a team of Dustins.
The defensive game has improved league-wise so the difference is which team can switch to offense quicker when their defense triggers an opening. The L.A. Kings always had a second and third in to capitalize on any success by the lead fore-checker. As in the NBA this new winning style favors a short window of youthful endurance and energy, but 23, 24, is too young. It also requires experience gained under playoff pressure but the intensity of the games now is telling us that 30 is too old. Parity is putting pressure on GMs. Are the Thunder a cinch to take the next step? Are the Clippers for real? Are the Bulls still contenders? Are the Spurs? The Celtics? The Lakers? Is Dallas history? Could Indiana or Philly challenge in the east? Will the Rangers and Canucks contend next year? Will St Louis or San Jose? Where were the NHL superstars: Malkin, Ovechkin, Crosby, Kane? Are the Kings a dynasty? Is one possible? Will the Nashville Predators get to the Finals before Coach Trotz’s head explodes?
Now that Winter has ended with palm tree-lined victory parades in Los Angeles and Miami what warrants recognition this year, despite interference run by the media, the Commissioners and their officials, the players unions, modern medicine, Budweiser and stadium condiments racketeers, is the determination of the players themselves to play as a team, to play smart and hard. Considering how wealthy these mercenary professional Hessians are, and how ready they must be to be traded to another team overnight someday, that is some achievement I’m not sure my Uncle would have believed possible.
Ronald Maly on my uncle, "Erwin T. Prasse and the Iowa “Ironmen” 1939".
“The Ironmen, coached by Dr. Eddie Anderson, had a 6-1-1 record that included back-to-back victories over Notre Dame and Minnesota. Prasse was an all-American end his senior year  in football after having been named all-Big Ten as a junior and senior. He was also a prominent starter at second base for two Iowa Big Ten title baseball teams. He was taken in the ninth round of the 1940 National Football League draft by the Detroit Lions, and was drafted by major league baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals. He even played professional basketball for a few years. He was a veteran of World War II, and was wounded in action.”
K.C. Johnson in CT, "Krause reflects on a life of scouting".
“Krause is keeping score and scribbling notes. ‘Slow swing.’ ‘Four-seamer with very little life.’ Other than to exchange hellos with scouts from other teams, he talks little. And when he does, it's to no one in particular. ‘Oh, I know this guy,’ he says. ‘I saw him at college in Arkansas.’ Another time, he offers that he would try to convert the light-hitting catcher with the rocket arm into a pitcher. He uses a stopwatch to time hitters running from home plate to first base. But he doesn't break out his radar gun until the second or third inning. ‘I would rather watch a guy pitch first,’ he says. ‘Plus, I want to see how fast he's throwing when he's loose and then, later, tired.’ Contrary to his dour reputation, Krause likes to sprinkle humor in the reports he writes on each player back in his hotel room. He once summed up a nonprospect by writing, ‘He reminds me of me: Can't hit. Can't run. Can't throw.’ Another of his reports from the 1970s drew an unexpected overnight call from colorful Oakland Athletics owner Charles Finley when Krause worked for that club. ‘I wrote, 'Fat, friendly Irishman who I'd like to have as a neighbor but not as a catcher,'’ Krause says. ‘He called to say he liked that.’”
K.C. Johnson in CT, "Krause weighs in on a number of sports personalities".
Jerry Sloan: “First draft choice ever. Been looking for another Sloan for 50 years and haven't found him.”
Dave Hoekstra in CST, "Bill Veeck on Deck".
“Dickson digs deep. He discovered Veeck’s newspaper debut as a child when his father, Bill Sr., was a columnist for the Chicago Evening American. Veeck Sr. was griping about the 1918 Cubs, writing, ‘My new son can throw his bottle farther than the team can hit!’ Dickson also gives Veeck his props as baseball’s social pioneer, which gets overlooked in the Branch Rickey-Jackie Robinson great experiment. In 1947, Veeck signed Larry Doby to his Cleveland Indians, which integrated the American League several months after Robinson integrated the National League. Veeck’s confidante in the Doby deal was Wendell Smith, editor of the black weekly Pittsburgh Courier who went on to become a rather stoic sports anchor at WGN-TV. But unlike Rickey, Veeck paid the Newark Eagles $15,000 to purchase Doby’s contract. Dickson reports that Rickey considered the Negro Leagues to be ‘a racket.’”
Rich Cohen in WSJ, "Why Wrigley Field Must Be Destroyed".
“A few years ago, when I was traveling with the Cubs for a story, I had a long talk with Andy MacPhail, then the team's president. MacPhail had just come from Minnesota, where he won two World Series. In Chicago, he told me, the big challenge was building a team that could win in Wrigley, a stadium that suffers multiple-personality disorder. In Minnesota, he'd been able to fashion a roster designed to win in the Metrodome, where the Twins played; as the Yankees were long able to design a team for their stadium, where left-handed power hitters take advantage of right field's so-called ‘short porch.’ But Wrigley has no such peculiarity. It looks like a home-run hitter's park, and when the wind blows out, it is. But when the wind screams off the lake, the park turns nasty. Even balls headed for the seats are reduced to routine flies. For the Cubs, MacPhail said, every game might as well be away. Which means the front office has to build a kind of All-Star team, perfectly rounded for every kind of park. Which is impossible.”
Fred Mitchell in CT, "Original Bull Bob Boozer dies at 75".
“Boozer's Bulls stint marked just one chapter in a distinguished career. A two-time All-American at Kansas State, Boozer was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals with the first overall pick of the 1959 NBA draft. Boozer delayed entering the league, playing for the powerhouse AAU Peoria Caterpillars, so he could keep his amateur status for the 1960 Summer Olympics. That legendary team, coached by Pete Newell, included Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas. It won its eight games by an average of 42.4 points. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward averaged 14.8 points and 8.1 rebounds for six teams over 874 games in an 11-year career. He won an NBA championship with Robertson and Lew Alcindor in his final season for the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks.”
[Bob Boozer was, as far as I can tell, the only NBA player who took his free throws from the side of the free-throw line, rather than from the center. I could find no video of this. When he passed I took one from the side as I remember him doing in the sixties; it could help a number of the league’s finest bricklayers.]
Tim Marchman in WSJ on John Klima’s book, Bushville Wins!.
“Heading into 1957, the year they ended New York City's eight-year monopoly on the world championship, the Braves had everything. Warren Spahn, already one of the dozen best pitchers in modern history, was in his late prime. Eddie Mathews, who would retire as the best third baseman the game had ever seen, was just 25. They had terrific complementary players like outfielder Wes Covington and pitcher Lew Burdette, and a well-salted manager, Fred Haney. Most important, they had the 23-year-old outfielder Henry Aaron, who was just beginning to realize how good he could be. They also had the most devoted fans in the sport…. They tailgated and sat sousing on High Life and Schlitz in the old County Stadium, and they loved their Braves, who loved them back. ‘The Braves wanted to win for the Milwaukee people,’ Mr. Klima writes. ‘Spahn had learned something about the people of Milwaukee and Wisconsin—never believe that the working class wouldn't stand up and fight when it felt oppressed by big money, big bullies, and big power.’ That spirit would reshape baseball. Owners had been talking about moving west since before World War II, but it was the Braves, who left Boston in 1953, who actually did it, laying the ground for New York's Dodgers and Giants to move to California in 1958. The majors would of course have landed in Los Angeles and San Francisco anyway, but that those towns ended up with Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays, rather than scrub-laden expansion franchises, can largely be credited to Braves owner Lou Perini and the people of Milwaukee's enthusiasm.”
Gordon Marino in WSJ on W.K. Stratton’s book, Floyd Patterson.
“It is a puzzle how this boxer ever managed to climb to the top of a brutal game. W.K. Stratton's first-rate Patterson biography attempts to solve the riddle of the most ambivalent of modern gladiators—one who would rush to lift his knockout victims off the canvas and who once even stopped in mid-round to help an opponent find his mouthpiece. Patterson, one of 11 children, was born in 1935 in Waco, N.C. His family moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., soon after his birth. Growing up in the rough Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Patterson was a chronically truant student who soon became a petty thief, Mr. Stratton says. After repeated appearances in juvenile court, Patterson, at age 10, was sent upstate to the Wiltwyck School, a state-supported facility for troubled boys. There he attended small classes offered by patient and dedicated teachers who succeeded in drawing him out of his shell. The school's director organized boxing matches for the boys in which Patterson demonstrated a talent for pummeling opponents. ‘It was the first time he had ever heard a crowd cheer for him,’ Mr. Stratton notes. After a two-year stint at Wiltwyck, Patterson returned to New York a more confident young man.”
Naomi Petersen remembered by David Buelow
I don't believe we've ever met but we have/had a mutual friend. Miss Petersen. I was very good friends with her in the mid 80's-90's and was recently trying to find her when I learned of her passing...... I was really shaken and to be honest, a sadness has hung over me since learning she is gone..... I simply can't believe I didn't know.... I didn't know her through her music world as you did -- I was, as your book says, one of the ‘straights’ I guess. I worked with her at the Black Angus restaurant, where she was loved as much as the SST family loved her. I heard her speak of you many times and SST records, and the clubs, and the shoots -- We took German class together.... made snarky comments about phony people behind their backs..... acted like stupid kids I suppose..... your book brought back so many good memories -- I just feel utterly crushed by her not being here anymore.....
The last time I saw her, another old restaurant friend and I drove up to see her in Pismo at her parents. She was heavily, heavily medicated and though we stayed all day and went to dinner... I only caught flashes of the Old Miss Petersen.... and that mischievous smile of hers..... I was really concerned about her but felt that being with her parents was a wise move..... in hindsight she probably went back to DC shortly after the visit........
I met John and have met her brother Chris a few times and her niece Chelsea, as I have a couple kids slightly younger than her..... he may remember me, I'm not sure..... I really have nothing intelligent to say -- other than thank you. Thank you for writing the book....I have told many, many people about this incredibly unique woman. She deserves so much recognition.... for all the reasons you have written about but also for being one of the planet’s better human beings. Though I was not in the punk or music scene, I had a second job in Hollywood and you captured the essence of something that by its very nature I suppose was destined to be short lived.... Miss Petersen was a rare one..... and though I haven't seen her in over 10 years... I find myself missing her. Appreciate the book and all your hard work. You are a good friend to have done it. It would make her happy.
I have a few of her letters that I saved that I'll have to dig up... including some from her trip to Europe and her visit to the concentration camp in Poland.... I remember talking to her when she came home about it.... she said that on the train she was approached by a couple (Russian or Polish, can't remember) soldiers -- fascinated about what her country of origin was (apparently they had made some bet with some saying Japan and some saying the U.S.).... and that she traded for their textbook on U.S. which she said was filled with photos of lynching's and other negative aspects of the U.S.
Although your book didn't mention it, I seem to remember a few boyfriends she had that attempted or threatened suicide once she sort of moved on from them..... everyone was attracted to Miss Petersen.... even Frat types were intrigued with her..... she could be friends with literally anyone and really changed a lot of opinions about what a ‘punker’ was.... hell the restaurant had a number of middle aged, mother/waitress types who loved her more than you could know..... I remember that she often had cuts, abrasions, and the occasional burn on her delicate, porcelain wrists and forearms, which she tried to hide at the restaurant but I always uncovered them.... plus of course, she was changing the color of her hair, almost weekly back then.... purple, bright pink, red, blonde, and even a darker shade of black I think.....
I remember she said she'd have to come home from shoots sometimes and wash all the spit out her hair..... and of course Duff worked in the kitchen as a prep cook.... heck of a nice kid... I remember working the door on Saturday nights, he'd slip out around 11:00 on his way to Hollywood and would often invite us to come see him play in this little band called Guns n’ Roses which nobody had heard of..... and I remember her talking about Henry's roommate, who I think surprised a burglar and was shot and killed.... she was always trying to get me to accompany her to one of Henry's poetry readings.... and to this day I regret not going with her....
[Photographs courtesy Chris Petersen.]
From the library of Chris Collins...
Excerpts from The Decline of the West, Vol. 2: Perspectives of World-History (1922), by Oswald Spengler
Chapter I. Origin and Landscape. (A) The Cosmic and the Microcosm
Regard the flowers at eventide as, one after the other, they close in the setting sun. Strange is the feeling that then presses in upon you -- a feeling of enigmatic fear in the presence of this blind dreamlike earth-bound existence. The dumb forest, the silent meadows, this bush, that twig, do not stir themselves, it is the wind that plays with them. Only the little gnat is free --he dances still in the evening light, he moves whither he will.
A plant is nothing on its own account. It forms a part of the landscape in which a chance made it take root. ... The individual is not free to look out for itself, will for itself, or choose for itself.
An animal, on the contrary, can choose. It is emancipated from the servitude of all the rest of the world. This midget swarm that dances on and on, that solitary bird still flying through the evening, the fox approaching furtively the nest -- these are little worlds of their own within another great world. ...
Servitude and freedom -- this is in the last and deepest analysis the differentia by which we distinguish vegetable and animal existence. Yet only the plant is wholly and entirely what it is; in the being of the animal there is something dual.... A herd that huddles together trembling in the presence of danger, a child that clings weeping to its mother, a man desperately striving to force a way into his God -- all these are seeking to return out of the life of freedom into the vegetal servitude from which they were emancipated into individuality and loneliness. ...
The plant is something cosmic, and the animal is additionally a microcosm in relation to a macrocosm. ... Even the planets in their great cycles are in servitude... .
All that is cosmic bears the hall-mark of periodicity; it has "beat" (rhythm, tact). All that is microcosmic possesses polarity; it possesses "tension."
... all wakeful states are in their essence tensions. ... A human being asleep, discharged of all tensions, is leading only a plantlike existence. ...
If we have ever followed the flight of a bird in the high air -- how, always in the same way, it rises, turns, glides, loses itself in the distance -- we must have felt the plantlike certainty of the "it" and the "we" in this ensemble of motion, which needs no bridge of reason to unite your sense of it with mine. This is the meaning of war-dances and love-dances amongst men and beasts. In this wise a regiment mounting to the assault under fire is forged into a unity, in this wise does the crowd collect at some exciting occasion and become a body, capable of thinking and acting pitifully, blindly, and strangely for a moment ere it falls apart. In such cases the microcosmic wall is obliterated. It jostles and threatens, it pushes and pulls, it flees, swerves, and sways. Limbs intertwine, feet rush, one cry comes from every mouth, one destiny overlies all. Out of a sum of little single worlds comes suddenly a complete whole. (p. 5)
... although man is a thinking being, it is very far from the fact that his being consists in thinking. This is the difference that the born subtilizer fails grasp. The aim of thought is called "truth".... Truths are absolute and eternal -- i.e., they have nothing more to do with life.
But for an animal, not truths, but only facts exist... Facts and truths differ as time and space, destiny and causality... Actual life, history, knows only facts; life experience and knowledge of men deal only in facts. The active man who does and wills and fights ... looks down upon mere truths as unimportant. The real statesman knows only political facts, not political truths. Pilate's famous question ("Quod est veritas?" - What is truth?) is that of every man of fact. (p. 12)
... "Reason" in this sense is that which calls ideas into life, "understanding" that which finds truths. Truths are lifeless and can be imparted; ideas belong to the living self of the author and can only be sympathetically evoked. Understanding is essentially critical, "reason" essentially creative. ...
For quite early, before he has begun to think abstractly, primitive man forms for himself a religious world-picture, and this is the object upon which the understanding begins to operate critically. Always science has grown up on a religion and under all the spiritual prepossessions of that religion, and always it signifies nothing more or less than an abstract melioration of these doctrines, considered as false because less abstract. Always it carries along the kernel of a religion in its ensemble of principles, problem-enunciations, and methods. Every new truth that the understanding finds is nothing but a critical judgment upon some other that was already there. ...
... The waking consciousness seeks to understand not only itself, but in addition something that is akin to itself. Though an inner voice may tell one that here all the possibilities of knowledge are left behind, yet, in spite of itself, fear overpersuades -- everything -- and one goes on with the search, preferring even the pretence of a solution to the alternative of looking into nothingness. (p. 13-14)
There are born destiny-men and causality-men. A whole world separates the purely living man -- peasant and warrior, statesman and general, man of the world and man of business, everyone who wills to prosper, to rule, to fight, and to dare... from the man who is destined either by the power of his mind or the defect of his blood to be an "intellectual" -- the saint, priest, savant, idealist, or ideologue... All that motives and urges, the eye for men and situations, the belief in his star which every born man of action possesses and which is something wholly different from belief in the correctness of a standpoint, ... the immovably quiet conviction that justifies any aim and any means -- all these are denied to the critical, meditative man...
... only the active man, the man of destiny, lives in the actual world, the world of political, military, and economic decisions, in which concepts and systems do not figure or count. Here a shrewd blow is more than a shrewd conclusion, and there is a sense in the contempt with which statesmen and soldiers of all times have regarded the "ink-slinger" and the "bookworm" who think that world-history exists for the sake of the intellect or science or even art. Let us say it frankly and without ambiguity: the understanding divorced from sensation is only one, and not the decisive, side of life.
Men of theory commit a huge mistake in believing that their place is at the head and not in the train of great events... Real history passes judgment on him not by controverting the theorist, but by leaving him all his thoughts to himself. A Plato or a Rousseau... could build up abstract political structures, but for Alexander, Scipio, Caesar, and Napoleon, with their schemes and battles and settlements, they were entirely without importance. The thinker could discuss destiny if he liked; it was enough for these men to be destiny...
A single soul is the mark of every genuine order or class, be it the chivalry and military orders of the Crusades, the Roman Senate or the Jacobin club, polite society under Louis XIV or the Prussian country "Adel," peasantry or guilds, the masses of the big city or the folk of the secluded valley, the peoples and tribes of the migrations or the adherents of Mohammed and generally, of any new-founded religion or sect, the French of the Revolution or the Germans of the Wars of Liberation...
All grand events of history are carried by beings of the cosmic order, by peoples, parties, armies, and classes, while the history of the intellect runs its course in loose associations and circles, schools, levels of education, "tendencies" and "isms." And here again it is a question of destiny whether such aggregates at the decisive moments of highest effectiveness find a leader or are driven blindly on, whether the chance headmen are men of the first order or men of no real significance tossed up, like Robespierre or Pompey, by the surge of events. It is the hall-mark of the statesman that he has a sure and penetrating eye for these mass-souls that form and dissolve on the tides of the times, their strength and their duration, their direction and purpose. And even so, it is a question of Incident, whether he is one who can master them or one who is swept away by them. (p. 19)
Drawing by James Fotopoulos
From the Wyoming Desk of Joe Carducci…
Chris Kraus at LAreviewofbooks.org on Sheila Heti’s book, How Should a Person Be?.
How Should a Person Be?’s deft, picaresque construction, which lightly-but-devastatingly parodies the mores of Toronto’s art scene, has more in common with Don Quixote than with Lena Dunham’s HBO series "Girls" or the fatuous blogs and social media it will, due to its use of constructed reality, inevitably be compared with. What is an epic quest for a girl? Exiled from the epic’s universal narration, Heti is aware of pitfalls. She lays out her cards in the Prologue:
‘One good thing about being a woman is we haven’t too many examples yet of what a genius looks like. It could be me. There is no ideal model for how my mind should be. For the men, it’s pretty clear. That’s the reason you see them trying to talk themselves up all the time … I’m thinking of you, Mark Z., and you, Christian B. You just keep peddling your phony-baloney genius crap, while I’m up giving blowjobs in heaven.’”
James Taranto at wsj.com, "Shotguns Without Weddings".
“Motro proposes the establishment of something called ‘preglimony,’ which amounts to a legal obligation to support a woman financially as soon as it can be established via DNA test that the unborn child is his: They might be asked to chip in for medical bills, birthing classes and maternity clothes, to help to cover the loss of income that often comes with pregnancy, or to contribute to the cost of an abortion. Motro is vague about the details--in particular, the question of how a DNA sample would be extracted from an unwilling man. It does seem clear, however, that she means ‘asked’ as a euphemism for ‘forced,’ as when President Obama ‘asks’ the ‘rich’ to ‘contribute’ by paying higher taxes. Motro's proposal is best understood as an attempt to remedy the breakdown of the ‘shotgun wedding,’ the social contract that governed premarital sex before the sexual revolution.”
Katie Roiphe in FT, "Stop deluding yourself – there’s no such thing as having it all".
“Think of the inane language we slip into when this whole topic comes up. ‘Work-life balance’? Why is balance necessarily good? Isn’t part of the skill or joy of life in the imbalance, in the craziness, in the bizarre or implausible intensity, in the funny conversation you have at six in the morning, when you are hungover, exhausted and trying to get a little work done, and your almost-three-year-old suddenly wakes up and decides to keep you company? (My version of the conversation goes like this. Me: ‘How is Batman doing?’ The almost-three-year-old: ‘I think he’s feeling a little trapped.’) I am actually a huge believer in parenting in non-ideal conditions. I am a single mother, with essentially three jobs. My life is pretty chaotic but I have come to see that there is a kind of exhilaration or happiness in the chaos itself, in the impending crisis that is my average afternoon. Rather than expending lots of energy focusing on the various iterations of ‘it all’ I could be having, I prefer to appreciate the bursts and flashes of greatness in the midst of what Winifred Holtby, a journalist in the 1920s, called ‘the rich unrest of family life’. I prefer to revel in the non-ideal conditions, to embrace the unconventional and to enjoy the freedom of it.”
Katherine Sharpe in WSJ, "The Medication Generation".
“Looking back, it seems remarkable that I had to work so hard to absorb an elementary lesson: Some things make me feel happy, other things make me feel sad. But for a long time antidepressants were giving me the opposite lesson. If I was suffering because of a glitch in my brain, it didn't make much difference what I did. For me, antidepressants had promoted a kind of emotional illiteracy. They had prevented me from noticing the reasons that I felt bad when I did and from appreciating the effects of my own choices. As medications saturate our culture, we may be growing less able to connect our most basic feelings with the stressful factors in our lives. ‘There's been a kind of pathologization of life itself,’ said David Ramirez, a clinical psychologist and the head of counseling and psychological services at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.”
Mencius Moldbug at Unqualifiedreservations, "The BDH-OV conflict".
“Yesterday I posted a taxonomy of the conflicting social castes in the US. I outlined five groups (Brahmin, Dalit, Helot, Optimate, Vaisya) in language that was neutral to slightly negative, using a bit of anthro-speak to focus on personal, rather than political, values. However, it's pretty obvious where the political divisions lie. The Democrats are the party of the Brahmins, Dalits and Helots. The Republicans are the party of the Optimates and Vaisyas. Thus, instead of the red-state / blue-state conflict, which uses meaningless colors and averages geographically in a way that blurs information, we can speak of the ‘BDH-OV conflict.’ The exceptions to the definition of ‘blue-state’ as BDH, and ‘red-state’ as OV, are in many ways the best illustrations of this principle. For example, not all African-Americans and Hispanics are BDH - many are Vaisyas, with careers and value systems very similar to those of the stereotypical ‘Middle American’ (the German Mittelstand, in the 1930s sense of the word, is an even better match). But these voters of course vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats - in other words, they vote by race rather than caste. As Steve Sailer points out, Republican attempts to capture them have been futile and are probably a waste of time.”
Thomas Fleming in WSJ, "What Life Was Like in 1776".
“By 1776, the 13 American colonies had been in existence for over 150 years—more than enough time for the talented and ambitious to acquire money and land. At the top of the South's earners were large planters such as George Washington. In the North their incomes were more than matched by merchants such as John Hancock and Robert Morris. Next came lawyers such as John Adams, followed by tavern keepers, who often cleared 1,000 pounds a year, or about $100,000 in modern money. Doctors were paid comparatively little. Ditto for dentists, who were almost nonexistent. In the northern colonies, according to historical research, the top 10% of the population owned about 45% of the wealth. In some parts of the South, 10% owned 75% of the wealth. But unlike most other countries, America in 1776 had a thriving middle class. Well-to-do farmers shipped tons of corn and wheat and rice to the West Indies and Europe, using the profits to send their children to private schools and buy their wives expensive gowns and carriages. Artisans—tailors, carpenters and other skilled workmen—also prospered, as did shop owners who dealt in a variety of goods. Benjamin Franklin credited his shrewd wife, Deborah, with laying the foundation of their wealth with her tradeswoman's skills. Several hundred miles inland was the "back country," and at the time of the Revolution, not many people went there by choice. Most were poor and landless—younger sons, for example, whose older brothers had inherited the family's property. Life on the outskirts of civilization was hard and often violent. Morals on the Western frontier were often much more relaxed than they were in the civilized East.”
John Wilwol in Weekly Standard on Gary Krist’s book, City of Scoundrels – The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago.
“The man at the center of this civic maelstrom was Mayor William Hale ‘Big Bill’ Thompson, Chicago’s ‘blustering, flamboyant, unscrupulous, but always entertaining political phenomenon.’ Big Bill, who had wanted to be a cowboy as a child, stood over six feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds. ‘These Chicagoans recognized Big Bill as one of their own,’ Krist writes. ‘He spoke their language – ‘slangy, vulgar, and alive’ – and seemed to understand their concerns better than an institute full of good-government reformers.’ Although he won his first mayoral election in 1915 by the largest margin in Chicago history, it wasn’t long before Thompson created enemies among what he called the ‘lying, crooked, thieving, rotten newspaper editors,’ particularly the Chicago Daily News’s Victor F. Lawson and Col. Robert R. McCormick of the Tribune. He also despised Gov. Frank Lowden, who eliminated many of the ‘no-show jobs’ with which Thompson and other Illinois politicians repaid their supporters: ‘In machine politics, after all, ingratitude and disloyalty were the greatest sins a man could commit,’ Krist writes.”
Richard Thaler in NYT, "Watching Behavior Before Writing the Rules".
“As a general rule, the United States government is run by lawyers who occasionally take advice from economists. Others interested in helping the lawyers out need not apply. Of course, there are some exceptions. The government employs scientists of many varieties in technical capacities, from estimating the environmental toxicity of a chemical to the structural soundness of a bridge. But when it comes to forming policies, these scientists and, especially, behavioral scientists are rarely at the table with the lawyers and the economists. Economists teach us that monopolies are harmful, and this is no exception. Are they really the only social scientists with anything useful to contribute to the efficient running of a government?”
Stephen Wolfram interview at Theeuropean-magazine.com.
“The European: This equation of nature and technology raises a few very hard questions about the definition of life, about free will, and about intelligence. What are the mathematician’s answers to those questions?
Wolfram: Let’s talk about free will first. The problem with human free will is that deterministic stuff is going on underneath, like the chemical processes in our brain, but that we don’t seem to act in a deterministic way. People used to think that deterministic processes must result in deterministic behavior, and that belief has underpinned much of the debate about free will. It’s the reason why the science fiction robots of the 1950s often speak very logically and behave very stupidly. The main scientific discovery is that it must not be like that. We can have simple deterministic underpinnings that result in very complex and seemingly random behavior.”
Julian Baggini in New Humanist, "Hope against hope".
“These secularised forms of transcendent hope sound plausible, but John Gray is just one in a long line of thinkers who have argued that such hope rests on an excessively optimistic Enlightenment belief in the capacity of human reason and goodwill to create a fair and just world. We preach hard-nosed rationalism but then end up with a soft-hearted humanism. The philosopher Alex Rosenberg seems to bite this bullet. ‘Hope is 90 per cent emotion and 10 per cent illusion,’ he told me. ‘It shapes our lives, and even gives them subjective value. Illusions, like placebos, can be good for you. That’s enough for atheism to work with.’ I suspect, however, that most atheists would want to reject outright the charge that secular hope is a kind of placebo.”
John Kay in FT, "Lessons on rent-seeking from Hosni Mubarak to Louis XIV".
“The real damage imposed by men such as Mr Mubarak is not the money they might have stolen. The tragedy is that the system that enables them to steal it destroys opportunities for others to generate wealth – not only for themselves but for the whole population. The price of requiring a potential Mark Zuckerberg or Mr Gates to pay a $100 bribe to each of 10 officials before he can establish his new business is not the $1,000 creamed off by corrupt bureaucrats. It is the far greater one of lost businesses that never came into being because the licensing process that makes such corruption possible was not navigated. In the meantime, people who might be successful entrepreneurs choose instead to seek political power. If business is endlessly frustrating and politics endlessly rewarding, the career choice for able and enterprising people is obvious.”
Nicole Bullock & Hal Weitzman in FT, "Accounting changes will deepen hole in public pensions".
“Cash-strapped US states will see the reported shortfalls in their public pension funds grow sharply under new accounting standards likely to be approved on Monday that could add up to $600bn to official estimates of the holes in states’ pension funds. Public pensions have become a highly contentious issue in the US in recent years. Stock market losses during the financial crisis exacerbated years of underfunding of retirement promises made to state and local government workers, resulting in fears of ballooning gaps at a time when state budgets are still tight from the recession. That has prompted many states to push for cuts to benefits, prompting an intense backlash from unions.”
Paul Moreno in WSJ, "A Short History of Congress’s Power to Tax".
“In 1935, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins was fretting about finding a constitutional basis for the Social Security Act. Supreme Court Justice Harlan Fiske Stone advised her, ‘The taxing power, my dear, the taxing power. You can do anything under the taxing power.’ Last week, in his ObamaCare opinion, NFIB v. Sebelius, Chief Justice John Roberts gave Congress the same advice—just enact regulatory legislation and tack on a financial penalty, as in failure to comply with the individual insurance mandate. So how did the power to tax under the Constitution become unbounded? The first enumerated power that the Constitution grants to Congress is the ‘power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.’ The text indicates that the taxing power is not plenary, but can be used only for defined ends and objects—since a comma, not a semicolon, separated the clauses on means (taxes) and ends (debts, defense, welfare). This punctuation was no small matter. In 1798, Pennsylvania Rep. Albert Gallatin said that fellow Pennsylvania Rep. Gouverneur Morris, chairman of the Committee on Style at the Constitutional Convention, had smuggled in the semicolon in order to make Congress's taxing power limitless, but that the alert Roger Sherman had the comma restored. The altered punctuation, Gallatin said, would have turned ‘words [that] had originally been inserted in the Constitution as a limitation to the power of levying taxes’ into ‘a distinct power.’”
Daniel Henninger in WSJ, "ObamaCare’s Lost Tribe: Doctors".
“A Wall Street Journal story the day after the Supreme Court ruling examined in detail its impact across the ‘health sector.’ The words ‘doctor,’ ‘physician’ and ‘nurse’ appeared nowhere in this report. The piece, however, did cite the view of one CEO who runs a chain of hospitals, explaining how they'd deal with the law's expected $155 billion in compensation cuts. ‘We will make it up in volume,’ he said. Volume? Would that be another word for human beings? It is now. At Obama Memorial, docs won't be treating patients. They'll be processing ‘volume.’”
Andrew Coulson in WSJ, "America Has Too Many Teachers".
“Since 1970, the public school workforce has roughly doubled—to 6.4 million from 3.3 million—and two-thirds of those new hires are teachers or teachers' aides. Over the same period, enrollment rose by a tepid 8.5%. Employment has thus grown 11 times faster than enrollment. If we returned to the student-to-staff ratio of 1970, American taxpayers would save about $210 billion annually in personnel costs. Or would they? Stanford economist Eric Hanushek has shown that better-educated students contribute substantially to economic growth. If U.S. students could catch up to the mathematics performance of their Canadian counterparts, he has found, it would add roughly $70 trillion to the U.S. economy over the next 80 years. So if the additional three million public-school employees we've hired have helped students learn, the nation may be better off economically. To find out if that's true, we can look at the ‘long-term trends’ of 17-year-olds on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress. These tests, first administered four decades ago, show stagnation in reading and math and a decline in science. Scores for black and Hispanic students have improved somewhat, but the scores of white students (still the majority) are flat overall, and large demographic gaps persist. Graduation rates have also stagnated or fallen. So a doubling in staff size and more than a doubling in cost have done little to improve academic outcomes.”
Angel Gonzalez in WSJ, "Expanded Oil Drilling Helps U.S. Wean Itself from Mideast".
“The prospect that new sources of supply in the Americas could lead to years of flat or even falling oil prices is a source of great concern in the Kremlin. Surging oil revenues over his 12 years in power have helped President Vladimir Putin pay for an eightfold increase in government spending, going to everything from pension and wage hikes to costly projects like the Sochi Olympics to a major military buildup. Now, his government is scrambling to find ways to tighten its belt as oil prices—and thus tax revenues—slide. Finding a new driver for Russia's economy is ‘a colossal challenge,’ said economy minister Andrei Belousov. The domestic oil picture has become part of the presidential campaign this year. President Barack Obama likes to point out that output has surged during his first term. ‘We've added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some,’ he said in a speech earlier this year.”
Andrew Grossman in WSJ, "Yogurt Boom Leaves Dairy Farmers Behind".
“‘You'd think that a growing business can go to their supplier, whether you're talking about rolled steel or paper products or chip makers, and the supplier would say 'Great, I'd be glad to help you,'’ said Andrew Novakovic, a Cornell University professor who wrote a paper titled ‘The Chobani Paradox’ about how New York's dairy farmers have struggled to capitalize on the Greek yogurt industry. ‘In this case it's not so straightforward.’ That is because there are important differences between milk and rolled steel. A complex structure has grown up around milk in order to protect farmers from price swings and ensure that milk ends up somewhere. Once a cow starts milking, she can't be idled like a steel plant. The federal government sets minimum prices for milk in much of the country, including upstate New York. Farmers rarely sell directly to factories. Instead, they form cooperatives which then sell their milk through dairy marketing firms—something experts and some farmers say reduces incentives for individual farmers to produce more.”
John Taylor in WSJ, "Monetary Policy and the Next Crisis".
“The BIS emphasizes the view that international capital flows stirred up by monetary policy were a primary factor leading to the preceding crisis and that these flows would lead to the next one. This is in stark contrast to the "global saving glut" hypothesis—which says that the funds pouring into the U.S. in the previous decade originated largely from the surplus of exports over imports in emerging market economies. The BIS should be taken seriously. It warned long in advance about the monetary excesses that led to the financial crisis of 2008. The capital-flow story starts during extended periods of low interest rates, as in the U.S. Federal Reserve's low rates from 2003 to 2005 and its current near-zero interest rate policy, which began in 2008 and is expected to last to 2014. These low interest rates cause investors to search elsewhere for yield, and they buy foreign securities—corporate as well as sovereign—for that reason. Global bond funds in the U.S. thus shift their portfolios to these higher-yielding foreign securities and investors move to funds that specialize in such securities. Low U.S. interest rates also encourage foreign firms to borrow in dollars rather than in local currency.”
John Rathbone in FT, "Why Mexico’s criminals never gave rise to a Sherlock Holmes".
“Under the PRI, a true sense of the rule of law never existed. That is why the heroic figures of Anglo-Saxon crime fiction never emerged properly in Mexican literature. The structures of justice and policing that make the dramas of Sherlock Holmes and Hercules Poirot seem plausible were absent. Instead there was corruption and impunity – and a concomitantly rich tradition that celebrated picaresque vagabonds and vigilante heroes. It is telling that the Queen of the South, a 63-episode narco soap opera, remains one of Mexico’s most-watched television programmes. By contrast, The Team, an action series about an elite Mexican police squad released last year, sank without trace after 15 episodes.”
Harry Sender in FT, "Dug in too deep".
“Its companies are straining to prove they have the knowhow and managerial skills to work in environments very different from their homeland. Chinese enterprises are often unprepared for the rigours of foreign competition after spending so long operating cosily under government protection at home. Cultural problems over labour laws and the nature of contracts cause particular angst. Sino Iron is not the only Chinese project in trouble in Western Australia. There are 14 important iron ore projects in the region. Eight of them have Chinese money and bankers say several are plagued by similar delays and cost overruns.”
Kate Linebaugh in WSJ, "UTC Helped Build China’s First Military Attack Copter".
“‘Where are the other ten seats?’ one asked the Chinese official in charge of the program, according to U.S. law enforcement authorities who interviewed the engineers. Instead of a helicopter for ferrying around groups of civilians, the engineers saw a two-seater in military configuration equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines and mock weapons. The Chinese official just laughed, according to the Justice Department. What the engineers didn't know, and what the Justice Department has spent the past six years investigating, was that Pratt & Whitney Canada had agreed to help China build its first military attack helicopter as the price for the chance to win millions of dollars in civilian business. On Thursday, the UTC unit pleaded guilty to illegally supplying China with military technology and agreed to pay more than $75 million in penalties, in a major violation of U.S. arms control laws.”
Tony Perrottet in WSJ Mag, "The Shock of the Old".
“Many in the West are unaware that China's ancient artistic heritage, long battered by the excesses of the Communist Revolution, is facing an even more dramatic threat today from frenzied modernization. Since the country embraced capitalism in the 1980s, development has scorched the landscape at a furious pace, sweeping away untold architectural treasures, and with them the last vestiges of art, crafts and beliefs that form a kind of collective memory. ‘Twenty rural villages are destroyed by developers every day,’ says Professor Ruan Yisan, the patriarch of Chinese preservationists, who directs the National Research Center of Historic Cities in Shanghai, quoting figures provided to him by the government's Ministry of Construction. ‘We don't know what is being lost with them.’ Johnson Chang feels that China's cultural identity is vanishing beneath an avalanche of modernity, wherein many Western styles and habits are regarded as superior to the Chinese. His project is an attempt to forge a link with the past before it disintegrates entirely. ‘The new generation isn't even sure what Chinese tradition is,’ he said. ‘It's something to be imagined. So it's absolutely crucial to keep the lineage intact.’ Chang's art project is in a suburb called Jinze, but as I discovered after checking in at the Fairmont Peace Hotel—an icon of Shanghai's 1930s decadence, where Charlie Chaplin kept a suite and Noël Coward wrote Private Lives—the name isn't listed in any guidebook, and Google Maps was blocked (along with Twitter, Facebook and, in fact, my own website).”
Dan Levin in NYT, "In Mongolia, a New, Penned-In Wealth".
“In 2002, China shut its borders with Mongolia during an official visit by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader; last year, Beijing pressed the government to cut short another visit. Such tactics make Mongolians fear that China might swallow up not just their economy but also their sovereignty. ‘Mongolians see what’s happening in Tibet and Xinjiang,’ said a local banking executive, who asked not to be identified because he does business with China. ‘They know the Chinese don’t have their best interest at heart.’ That anxiety turned to panic in April, when news broke that Ivanhoe planned to sell its majority share of a coal mine to a Chinese state-owned aluminum manufacturer. Parliament finally passed long-languishing legislation that prohibits foreign state-owned enterprises from buying up a majority of Mongolia’s ‘strategic’ industries unless granted prior government approval. That law marks the latest step in the complicated political choreography aimed at appeasing a rising nationalist fervor while encouraging foreign investment. To offset its reliance on China, Mongolia has sought to expand cooperation with the United States, in what the government calls the ‘third neighbor’ policy.”
Yuka Hayashi in WSJ, "Japan to Boost Defense In Pacific, Minister Says".
“‘Japan has 6,800 islands, and territory that stretches over 3,300 kilometers [2,000 miles]; it's necessary to have troops at its southwestern end to beef up our warning and surveillance capability,’ Satoshi Morimoto told The Wall Street Journal on Monday in his first interview with a non-Japanese news organization since he took office this month. ‘We must defend without fail our sovereign rights and our land that includes the Senkaku islands,’ he added, referring to a chain of islands also claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu. ‘We must strengthen our overall defense capability in the southwest.’ Mr. Morimoto also said one of his priorities as defense minister is to push for policies that will strengthen the bilateral alliance with the U.S. ‘The most important task for people who think about Japan's national security and build its policy is making the alliance even more reliable,’ he said.”
Gardiner Harris in NYT, "Stillness and Justice Fill the Wake of 2002 Riots".
“But even if Mr. Modi is never charged, the political calculus behind stoking sectarian clashes — long a staple for winning elections here — has fundamentally changed, political analysts say. ‘We reached a tipping point,’ said M. J. Akbar, author of ‘Riot After Riot’ and editorial director of India Today, one of India’s leading news organizations. ‘This is the first time that India’s judicial system has actually worked to hold people accountable for rioting. In the past, the guilty never got punished.’ India was once the world’s wellspring of religiously inspired massacres. As such violence rages across the Middle East, the bougainvillea sprouting from Gujarat’s charred buildings offers hope that even societies steeped in blood can curb the self-perpetuating logic behind such clashes.”
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi at meforum.org, "Assessing the Maldives".
“Although there is perhaps some blame to be placed on an influx of Wahhabism, the revival of FGM is said to be particularly strong on the outlying islands, where, as the SMH notes, ‘local imams hold significant influence.’ The Maldives, like parts of East Africa and Lower Egypt, mainly follow by tradition the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence, which rules that female circumcision is obligatory. It is therefore to this tradition, and not Wahhabi ideology, that local Maldivian imams appeal. As protests gained momentum throughout January, the foreign ministry affirmed that it was ‘extremely concerned’ by the growth of Islamist rhetoric. A leading member of the opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party, Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, was arrested on charges of hate-speech. Jameel was said to have accused Nasheed of acting under the influence of Jews and ‘Christian priests’ to undermine Islam in the Maldives; the first charge a reference to Nasheed's policy of trying to normalize relations with Israel.”
Reuters: "Militants Seek to Destroy Mali Shrines".
“The militants from the group Ansar Dine, which controls much of northern Mali, adhere to a strict version of Islamic law and consider the shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam idolatrous. Just days ago, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco, put Timbuktu on its list of endangered world heritage sites, fearing damage to landmarks and cultural treasures in the wake of a coup that ousted Mali’s government in March. A local Malian journalist, Yeya Tandina, said Saturday that the Ansar Dine fighters had already destroyed the mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud, one of the 16 shrines in Timbuktu, and had declared that they would demolish all the others. Later, residents said at least two other mausoleums and seven tombs had been destroyed. ‘They are armed and have surrounded the sites with pickup trucks,’ Mr. Tandina said by telephone. ‘The population is just looking on helplessly.’”
Daniel Dombey in FT, "Tinderbox summer in store as Cyprus takes EU presidency".
“The island has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974. Ankara has no relations with the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government, cultivating ties instead with the so-called Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. For the duration of the six-month EU presidency that begins on July 1, Turkey says it will attend no meetings for which Cyprus is in the chair. EU officials have expressed concern that tensions between the two countries could further damage Turkey’s EU membership application. If the six months pass peaceably enough, the EU may open several negotiating “chapters” that had been blocked by the government of Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president. But it could be a combustible half year. Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, has already warned the EU there could be military confrontation if Cyprus drills in offshore gas fields disputed by Turkey or if an Israeli jet flies over North Cyprus, as one did recently.”
Pankaj Mishra in London Review of Books on Christopher de Bellaigue’s book, Patriot of Persia – Mossadegh and a Very British Coup.
“The feckless shah had already compromised Iran’s relative immunity to Europe’s informal imperialists. In 1872, with the country starved of capital and suffering from a massive budget deficit, he had granted a monopoly in the construction of railways, roads, factories, dams and mines to another British citizen, Baron Reuter (founder of the news agency). Even Lord Curzon was appalled twenty years later when he was told the terms, describing it as ‘the most complete surrender of the entire resources of a kingdom into foreign hands that has ever been dreamed of much less accomplished in history’. Protests by Russia, Iran’s neighbour and Britain’s great rival in the region, sank this particular arrangement; Reuter anyway had other irons in the fire. Coming only eight years after the British occupation of Egypt, the award of the tobacco concession struck al-Afghani as ominous. Expelled from Iran by the shah, he kept up a barrage of letters to leading Shiite clerics in the shrine cities of Mesopotamia, asking them to rouse themselves out of their apathy and move against the shah. A few months later, Shirazi wrote his first ever letter to the shah on a political subject, denouncing foreign banks and their growing power over the Muslim population as well as the commercial concessions given to Europeans. The shah, desperate to keep the ulema on his side, sent intermediaries to plead with Shirazi. Far from relenting, the cleric issued a fatwa effectively making it un-Islamic to smoke until the monopoly was withdrawn. He was astonishingly successful – even the shah’s palace became a smoke-free zone. Finally, the shah capitulated to an alliance between intellectuals, clergy and native merchants and, in January 1892, cancelled the tobacco concession.”
Ellen Barry in NYT, "Russians and Syrians, Allied by History and Related by Marriage".
“They are all women from the former Soviet Union who married Syrian men. Pan out to the greater expanse of Syria and the number of Russian wives grows to 20,000, the human legacy of a cold war alliance that, starting in the 1960s, mingled its young elites in Soviet dormitories and classrooms. This unusual diaspora offers some insight into the many-stranded relationship between the two countries, one that makes the Kremlin reluctant to cast off Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Russia has strategic interests in Syria, including arms contracts that amount to $700 million a year, and a tiny port on the Mediterranean Sea that is its last military base outside the former Soviet Union. But there is also a human factor, set in motion 50 years ago when social ties were forged among young people who met in college. Walk into any government ministry or corporate headquarters in Syria and you will almost certainly find men who spent their 20s in Russia; many brought home wives and raised children in Russian-speaking households.”
Edward Lucas in WSJ on Leon Aron’s book, Roads to the Temple.
“Mr. Aron notes: ‘All great revolutions begin with the search for streets, or roads, to the 'temple'—a kingdom of dignity, justice, goodness, fairness, equality, freedom, brotherhood.’ Russians began that search as the Soviet Union crumbled. Reporters fanned out across the nation, bringing back stories that exploded myths long promoted by Moscow—like the ‘golden childhood’ supposedly enjoyed by every Soviet youth. The media told of children as young as 10 forced to work in fields for 12 hours a day; in 1986, there were ‘35,000 labor accidents involving children under fourteen.’ News stories showed harrowing conditions in orphanages. Soviet medicine was revealed as a disaster. A doctor ‘cried out’ to a Pravda interviewer in 1987 about the lack of ultrasound equipment, shortages that led to the deaths of countless babies: ‘Not a single Soviet-made [ultrasound] machine in thirty years! In the era of space exploration!’
Jan Cienski in FT, "Poland’s growth defies eurozone crisis as hard work pays off".
“As EU leaders scramble to save the eurozone and cobble together policies to restore growth, Poland is solidifying its position as the union’s fastest-growing economy. In its latest forecast, the European Commission predicted Poland would grow by 2.7 per cent this year. If that comes true it will build on what has been a startling economic performance in recent years. Poland’s economy recorded a 15.8 per cent cumulative expansion from 2008 to 2011, a period during which the EU as a whole saw its GDP shrink by 0.5 per cent. Poland is now the most resilient of the ex-communist states that joined the EU between 2004 and 2007: the Czech Republic has slumped into recession while Hungary is negotiating a bailout with the International Monetary Fund.”
Sarah Lyall in NYT, "A Bruised Iceland Heals Amid Europe’s Malaise".
“Analysts attribute the surprising turn of events to a combination of fortuitous decisions and good luck, and caution that the lessons of Iceland’s turnaround are not readily applicable to the larger and more complex economies of Europe. But during the crisis, the country did many things different from its European counterparts. It let its three largest banks fail, instead of bailing them out. It ensured that domestic depositors got their money back and gave debt relief to struggling homeowners and to businesses facing bankruptcy.”
WSJ Weekend Interview: "Gerhard Schröder".
“Germans gave Mr. Schröder a second chance, and his government immediately set about making good on its mandate. The result was a radical reshaping of the German welfare state. To reduce labor costs, Agenda 2010 merged social-welfare benefits with benefits for the long-term unemployed, paring down the total amount and availability of assistance. Employers' health-insurance costs were trimmed back. Planned income and corporate tax cuts were accelerated: The top personal income tax rate was lowered to 42% from 48.5% and the bottom rate went down to 15% from 19.9%. The corporate tax rate dropped to 19% from 25%. In the labor market, Mr. Schröder made firing easier with the expectation that hiring would consequently become easier, too. Rules protecting employees against dismissals ‘for economic reasons’ were loosened. Measures were introduced to help employers avoid lawsuits from laid-off workers seeking re-employment. To spur job-seeking among the unemployed, Agenda 2010 cut jobless benefits and strengthened financial sanctions against those who were able but unwilling to accept work. ‘And now the results speak for themselves,’ Mr. Schröder says. ‘For a long time we were the sick man of Europe. Now we are the healthy Frau of Europe.’”
Richard Evans in London Review of Books on Harold James’ book, Krupp – A History of the Legendary German Firm.
“Alfred Krupp was well aware that skilled and reliable workers were often hard to come by in the conditions of rapid industrial growth that characterized the Ruhr in his time. They frequently changed jobs in order to get better wages or conditions. They needed to be disciplined and organized if they were to carry out the dangerous process of casting steel with the precision it required. Yet Krupp wanted ‘loyal workers… who are grateful in heart and deed for the fact that we offer them bread’. In order to induce them to work for him and to stay once they arrived, he set up a health and pension fund for his employees, built housing blocks in which more than 25,000 people were living by the end of the century, opened 55 company stores and canteens, set up schools and eventually provided a hospital, a convalescent home and a library. There was a flipside to this paternalism, however. Alfred declared that ‘nobody shall dare to rise up against a benevolent rule; I’d rather it was all blown up.’ To enforce discipline, he declared in 1871: ‘I wish to introduce for ever the practice of photographing workers, and a much stricter control of the workforce, of their past, their impulses, their life.’”
Richard Evans in New Republic on R.M. Douglas’ book, Orderly and Humane – The Expulsion of the Germans After the Second World War.
“Germans in the occupied Czech lands, conquered by the Americans only at the very end of the war, did not have time to flee, and most of them in any case did not see the necessity. As Douglas notes, they entirely failed to understand that their occupation of confiscated property and their privileged status under Nazi occupation where non-Germans were discriminated against, expropriated, starved, and terrorized ‘had traumatized and radicalized the societies of which they were a part.’ The chaos and violence that had accompanied previous twentieth-century forced population transfers, notably between Greece and Turkey in the early 1920s, should have sent a warning signal to the Allied politicians who now set about organizing the removal of ethnic Germans from East-Central Europe. But it did not. Douglas describes in detail how policy was made on the hoof and constantly revised as negotiations about Europe’s postwar boundaries evolved. Warnings of the suffering that the transfers would entail were brushed aside by politicians anxious not to seem soft on the Germans, or alternatively dismissed by them as unduly pessimistic. Only a few commentators, such as George Orwell, warned that an ‘enormous crime’ was about to be committed, ‘equivalent to transplanting the entire population of Australia.’ Nobody listened.”
Istvan Deak in NYT, "Where’s Charlemagne When We Need Him? ".
“Historic empires provided ideals — whether universal Christian unity or the Marxist-Leninist dogmas of the Soviet Union — in which people were able to believe, no matter how flawed the ruler and how corrupt the imperial institutions. So long as people believe in the principles, the system is likely to endure. Today’s Europe possesses idealistic institutions like the Erasmus program, which allows student exchange; the European University Institute in Florence; the Jean Monnet program for distinguished scholars; and the Leonardo da Vinci program for vocational education. But these are clearly not enough to overcome regional tensions, bitter north-south divisions and a general indifference to the European project. When Rome collapsed in the fifth century and Europe sank into a civil war, hopes centered on those who promised to recreate the Pax Romana. One was the Roman Catholic Church with its Latin ritual; the other was the Frankish prince Charlemagne, who had himself crowned emperor in 800. His realm embraced most of what is today the European Union. Charlemagne didn’t have a nationality; only under his grandsons did the first official distinction between German speakers, French speakers and Latin speakers occur.”
Frederic Raphael in WSJ on Jonathan Fenby’s book, The General, and Sudhir Hazareesingh’s book, In the Shadow of the General".
“If the general had a majestic, occasionally prescient, view of world history, his Olympian vision was narrowed by spite. He could not forgive the English for victory at Agincourt in 1415 or at Waterloo in 1815 (he often compared himself, favorably, with Napoleon). The only American for whom he had unmitigated respect was another general: In 1944, he told Eisenhower, in English, after the latter had apologized for underestimating him: ‘You are a man.’ Later, when the two generals were presidents of their countries, de Gaulle reminisced to Ike: ‘Roosevelt thought that I took myself for Joan of Arc. He was wrong, I simply took myself for General de Gaulle.’ A few years later, the general was gracious to the Kennedys but less charmed by Jackie than she liked to imagine. He observed, some time before Aristotle Onassis came into her reckoning, ‘She will end up on a yacht with an oil tycoon.’”
Christopher Emsden in WSJ, "Italy Official Seeks Culture Shift in New Law".
“One of the key tenets of the new law is employers will be able to lay off individual workers for economic reasons. Until now, companies have had to jump through long and expensive hoops to lay off employees in order to downsize during slumps – a practice many economists say is the key reason for Italy’s low level of foreign direct investment and stagnant productivity.”
Jan-Werner Muller in London Review of Books, "Longing for Greater Hungary".
“According to some estimates, every twentieth car in Hungary sports a sticker in the shape of Greater Hungary – Hungary before Trianon. Liberal Hungarians point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean the driver wants to annex Croatia, but such symbols have proliferated in recent years, and the outline of Greater Hungary has appeared on T-shirts, trinkets and jewellery. Jobbik is peculiar even by the standards of Europe’s extreme right-wing parties: one of its politicians recently gave a speech in parliament requesting that a 19th-century anti-semitic blood libel be reinvestigated as the case hadn’t been resolved; many of its members believe that Hungary took a wrong turn in the year 1000, when King Stephen established Christianity in the country; many of them subscribe to the ideology of Turanism, which celebrates the Hungarians’ ethnic origins in the steppes of Central Asia. The party invited Iran to send Revolutionary Guards to Hungary in 2010 as election observers.”
Kieran Williams in Times Literary Supplement on Jonathan Bolton’s book, Worlds of Dissent – Charter 77, the Plastic People of the Universe, and Czech Culture under Communism.
“Here, too, Bolton exposes several common misrepresentations, which stem from highbrow dissidents’ depiction of these poets and musicians as primitive naifs. In fact very well read and professionally trained, they purposefully undertook a ‘self-mythologization’ that the intellectuals of Charter 77 would emulate. So good is the section on the musical underground that one wishes Bolton had devoted more space to it, drawing further on memoirs and other sources so far untapped by non-Czech scholars.”
Robert Kaplan in WSJ on Artur Domoslawski’s book, Ryszard Kapuscinski – A Life.
“Kapuscinski's signal realization about his times—and about his own career—was that in the 1960s and 1970s the political ice was frozen in Eastern Europe; to find history and fame one had to lose all traces of Eurocentrism and travel in the tumultuous Third World. When Kapuscinski burst upon the international scene with the English translations of ‘The Emperor’ (1983) and ‘Shah of Shahs’ (1985), Western literati were instantly attracted by his hard-to-define, almost exotic sensibility, so different from their own and yet congenial to them because of his systematic distrust of American-supported tyrants. Kapuscinski had the perfect recipe for journalistic achievement back then: In spirit, if not in fact, he was a communist-era dissident, yet he also harbored the illusions and prejudices of Cold War leftists (who never imagined that what followed Haile Selassie in Ethiopia and the shah in Iran would be worse). But he had another advantage as well: Even as his upbringing gave him insights into power that Westerners could never hope to have, his Polish passport gave him access to places and situations that were hard for Western reporters to penetrate. The combination was invaluable.”
Jason McQuinn in Modern Slavery on Monsieur Dupont’s book, Nihilist Communism – A Critique of Optimism in the Far Left.
“Here are two self-identified Marxists (who make up the Monsieur Dupont ‘group’) basically arguing – at length – for doing nothing as a strategy for communist revolution! In the process they verbally take on the rest of their ideological brethren for misunderstanding the nature of historical development, anti-capitalist revolution, and, thus, the place of would-be revolutionary minorities in these social processes. The argument is that radical consciousness as such doesn’t really exist. In fact, for Monsieur Dupont any relatively autonomous human consciousness has no power at all simply because it has no intrinsic relation to the production process. Instead, in classical Marxist fashion, the forces and relations of production are conceived as the real motor of history. And human consciousness is just one more product of this process, not in any way – even potentially – its master…. However logical this may seem given the premises of Marxism, it will never be seen as an acceptable ideological move by most Marxists simply because it defeats their actual, opportunistic purposes.”
Liza Birnbaum at Openlettersmonthly, "Why James Agee Still Matters".
“There is something oddly conversational about this method – the circling round, the speed and urgency of the attempts to make clear, and also the vulnerability and camaraderie that, in his best moments, Agee’s boldness and honesty elicit from his reader. Despite all my doubts about Updike’s article, it does point to an intriguing theme in Agee’s work: talk. Over and over, in letters and finished pieces alike, we find him referring to his writing as speaking. His first film review for The Nation explicitly (and intriguingly) links amateurism to an interest in an ongoing dialogue with the reader: ‘It is my business to conduct one end of a conversation, as an amateur critic among amateur critics. And I will be of use and of interest only in so far as my amateur judgment is sound, stimulating, or illuminating.’ And in only one of scores of statements framed in such terms, he writes in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: And I keep talking so much about it simply because I am respectful of experience in general and of any experience whatever, and because it turns out that going through, remembering, and trying to tell of anything is of itself (not because the Experience was either hot or cold, but of itself, and as a part of the experience) interesting and important to me: and because, as I have said before, I am interested in the actual and in telling of it. ‘Talking,’ ‘telling,’ ‘as I have said’ – all of this points to an investment in the process of narration, not merely in the static narrative itself.”
J. Hoberman in NYT on Robert Siodmak.
“Along with the other mainly Jewish, Central European émigrés who found refuge in Hollywood, Siodmak infused American crime thrillers with a mix of Expressionist brio and existential fatalism. The critic Andrew Sarris once joked that Siodmak’s ‘American films were more Germanic than his German ones.’ It could also be said that the director’s low-budget debut, the insouciant plein-aire comedy People on Sunday (1930), made in Berlin’s public parks with a youthful group of future exiles (including Siodmak’s then flat-mate Billy Wilder and younger brother Curt) was more French than his French productions.”
Rebecca Cleman at Movingimagesource.us, "Ghosts in the Machine".
"James Fotopoulos anticipated the current nostalgia for analog video in a series of video features shot and edited on 8mm and VHS, beginning with Jerusalem (2003). Having already worked prodigiously in film, Fotopoulos approached this series with a keen awareness of medium specificity. As he describes it:
'Late one evening I entered a convenience store and saw a blank regular 8mm tape on the bottom of a shelf. Immediately the idea hit of this tape lying there like a stone, like an artifact found in a tomb. In my mind a series of images (which would become Jerusalem) unfolded in succession = with this was the idea that all of these images would be shot unfolding before me, as if I was preserving the already dead medium—creating something found. It would be like I went into the past to create what I found in the future and brought it back to the present.'"
Jerusalem (James Fotopoulos, 2003)
• Fri. July 13, 7pm at Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, NYC
• Sept 6 - Oct 14 at Franklin Street Works, 41 Franklin St, Stamford, CT
Giampaolo Bianconi at Rhizome.org, "VHS @ MAD".
“In the late 70s, the film medium's intellectual monolith Hollis Frampton announced that the video frame was ‘a degenerate ameoboid shape passing for a rectangle to accommodate cheap programming of late night movies.’ Never has this fact been more gloriously indulged than at the Museum of Art and Design's ongoing three-month celebration of everyone's magnetic tape: VHS. The series traces VHS' impact on every facet of the movie process from production to distribution, including workout tapes. VHS assumed the throne of consumer videotape formats after defeating competeing Betamax and VX technologies.”
Nate Chinen in NYT, "Dark Chords and Celestial Grooves".
“Mr. Rypdal, 64, has made a career out of such maneuvers — ‘Per Ulv’ is the name of a theme he introduced in the 1970s ] — but he has also worked in orchestral and other sweeping settings, making music that scans as darkly cinematic. Next month the German label ECM is due to release ‘Odyssey: In Studio & In Concert,’ a three-CD box set that expands on his chamberlike 1975 album ‘Odyssey,’ adding a previously unissued live recording made with the Swedish Radio Jazz Group the following year. That concert recording, of a suite Mr. Rypdal titled ‘Unfinished Highballs,’ highlights how early he was in using large-canvas arrangement to express his ideas. But the clincher of the new reissue is ‘Rolling Stone,’ a long, immersive cut that was left off the LP version of ‘Odyssey’ only to become a cult object for bootleg-hoarding fans. Sprawled out over a spacey bass ostinato, groovy but unhurried, it’s a lost classic of cool-tempered jazz-funk, a Nordic adaptation of the attitude struck by Miles Davis and Joe Zawinul on ‘In a Silent Way.’”
Keith Morris interviewed by Brad Cohan in Village Voice:
"Were the bad vibes mainly coming from Ginn, or from the other Black Flag members, as well?
Well, in the psyche department, in the headtrip department, we have to say anybody that looks at the situation and you look at the list of credits and you look at the mastermind, Black Flag is Greg Ginn's band. Now, I've talked to a few other people, and Keith Morris says, 'That's right. Greg Ginn was the mastermind. Greg Ginn wrote some pretty brilliant songs.' But all of us stumbled into something—we didn't know what we were creating. But the fact of the matter is, you can't have a band unless you have other people playing in the band; you can't go up on stage with just a guy and his guitar and play those songs. It just doesn't work. There has to be some other people. There has to be a Ron Reyes or a Dez Cadena. There has to be a Billy Stevenson or a Kira Roessler. There has to be Chuck 'The Duke' and there has to be Johnny 'Bob' Goldstein. It doesn't work any other way. I'm an administrator on the Black Flag Facebook page and I'm one of the guys that has to deflect some of the bullshit. A lot of people get on there and want to immediately grind on Henry Rollins. Henry Rollins in Black Flag: I saw him perform with Black Flag twice and they were pretty fucking amazing. At one of their performances, I was in tears, I couldn't move, I was paralyzed. When I walked away, while I was crying, I was thinking to myself, 'Why did I quit this band?' One of the greatest bands I'd ever been a part of, but also one of the greatest bands I'd ever seen perform. So, I get to let everybody know that you don't get to badmouth any of the people in this band, because everybody put in their time, had stuff thrown at them, had their lives threatened."
Richard Meltzer on Oregon Art Beat public tv, 2004
John Strausbaugh at Chisler.org, "Ned Harrigan, A Dude in the World".
“By the early 1880s they were packing them in at their own Harrigan & Hart’s Theatre Comique at Broadway and Waverly Place, a block west of where the Public Theater is today, with their own orchestra, led by Braham, and their own troupe of performers. Harrigan wrote, produced, directed and performed. One explanation for their enormous success is that Harrigan was writing from life. Superficially his characters were not unlike the broad racial and ethnic stereotypes that were the meat and potatoes of American popular theater and fiction at the time. Although blackface is the best known and most controversial, many other stereotypes strode and capered across the stages and pages of the time: drunken, brawling Irishmen, thickheaded Germans — called ‘Dutch’ characters, from the same Americanized approximation of Deutsch that yielded the misleading Pennsylvania Dutch — and wily, incomprehensibly jabbering Chinamen (aka Celestials). Mostly they were rough caricatures endlessly repeated by writers and performers with no personal knowledge of the people they were lampooning. Some of the best and most popular minstrel songs, for example, were written by men like Stephen Foster, who was born near Pittsburgh and died on the Bowery apparently without ever setting foot on one of the Old Plantations he evoked so tearfully in his songs. Harrigan knew his characters. He’d grown up with them on the Lower East Side. He was one of them.”
Anne Karpf in Times Literary Supplement on Christina Baade’s book, Victory Through Harmony – The BBC and popular music in World War II.
“Dance music, for instance, became increasingly popular just when the imperatives of wartime seemed to demand an unambiguous masculinity built on notions of heroism and virility – frivolity was seen as threatening the whole enterprise. ‘Music While You Work’, launched in June 1940, three weeks after Dunkirk, aimed to galvanize an apathetic conscripted young female factory workforce with light music, although here too the output was vetted for its robustness, lest it weaken the resolve of older male factory workers at the same time. Radio Rhythm Club, also launched in June 1940, appealed mainly to men and in many ways represented MWYW’s masculine counterpart. It brought swing and jazz to British listeners, educating a whole generation and giving them access to black musicians, though the presenters were still white…. But it was the crooning of Vera Lynn and Anne Shelton that appeared to pose the most direct threat to the moral fibre of the nation and signal a wholesale capitulation to American values.”
Louis Menand in New Yorker on Douglas Brinkley’s book, Cronkite.
“Brinkley notes that there has been some ‘scholarly controversy’ about these events, and he even cites Campbell’s book. But he is determined to preserve the Cronkite moment by inserting the retrospective legend back into its slot in the postwar time line. When Johnson announced his decision not to run, Brinkley writes, Cronkite’s ‘Report from Vietnam’ was ‘immediately seen as a catalyst by pundits in the Monday newspapers…. Cronkite turned dove, and the hawk Johnson lost his talons.’ Searches of the print media on Nexis and ProQuest yield not a single mention of Cronkite in the reaction to Johnson’s speech. Few journalists thought that Cronkite’s skepticism about the war was a big deal. In 1968, you did not need an anchorman to know which way the wind blew.”
Thanks to Mike Watt, ALDaily.com, Chris Collins.
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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne (1942 - 2010)
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