Photo by Joe Carducci
My Last Day at SST
Sometime in 1990.
It's insane when I think about all the music I have been exposed to in my life, and yet here I sit listening to Journey's "Faithfully" and feeling that song so deep as if it were written for me. For anyone who's ever been on the road, or in love with a road dog, the lyrics are point on.
I miss the business, I miss the insanity, I miss the excitement, I miss... I miss the whole fucking package, the good, the bad, the ugly. When I was sent to Cali in 78 to live with my real pops, who would have thought my life would go in all the directions that it has? From surfing the cliffs at Huntington Beach, smoking Thai stick dipped in honey (my personal favorite), listening to Journey, Zeppelin, BOC, Skynyrd, Hendrix, Joplin... hell, all those bands, to working at one of the greatest record labels of all time is just mind blowing.
I had no idea at the time and still don't know just what exactly I was part of. People tell me all the time, but it's just so hard for me to wrap my mind around. It was just my life, nothing special. I had a job to do, it started out quite small, mail order, but Mugger saw something in me I didn't even see in myself. He made me start going by my real name Kara and then he put me in charge of distribution sales. I took it from 8 national distributors to 22 within 3 months, not because I was that good but because Mugger knew I was that good. He just let me run with it.
Let's go international! Fuck the middleman let's go direct to retail! What a gamble that was because we very well could have been blacklisted/shutout by all our distributors but I can remember telling them (the distributors) if you were doing your fucking jobs I wouldn't have to do it for you, buy more records and we'll back off.
I started out with a couple of mom-and-pops then I got the Tower account, Cats, Turtles, oh and Third Street Jazz and Rock, Wax Trax.... Before the end of the year I was dealing with over 800 direct-to-retail accounts and still the sales to distributors had not fallen off. Then I got the call that I needed to go home to Tennessee for a bit. Needed to tie up some loose ends. I was gone from SST for about a year and when I came back the whole fucking game had changed. The asshole college fuck I had trained to take my place and the jack-off pussy that had taken Mugger's place, those two idiots combined had allowed Jem East, West, and Jem Texas to go out of business owing hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's right, I couldn't believe it, these fucking distributors had ceilings. The Jems if memory serves me right were allowed to owe about ten to twenty grand per site. How the fuck had these two idiots allowed this shit to happen is still beyond me.
One thing I can say about Mugger and I is that we were a team, he would come into my office and say "Kara call the Greek, tell him he owes us X-amount of dollars and if he wants the new Meat Puppets record he'll have a check on my desk by tomorrow, and if that doesn't work tell him no more blowjobs! It worked, we got paid and fast. Quite strange looking back on it, a lot of my contacts, "my guys," I sold like it was one step away from phone sex, and I loved every minute of it. There weren't many women in the business then. I can remember Sue at Important was one of the few women in the business and I loved talking with her. Even though we were women we were not afraid to play with the boys. Guess we had to be that way. No sexual harassment suits back then; what fucking fun would that be?
Hell that's what's wrong with the work place today. Everybody all uptight, sometimes you just wanna look at someone and say "Suck my dick!" Thanks Anita Hill and what's his fucking name. SST could never have existed under strict guidelines and it didn't. It was the beginning of the end. Bringing in all those useless college grads that couldn't find their ass with both hands. What a fucking joke!
Hey, but it was all about control, who he could and who he could not control. I was one of the last originals to be fired and that was only because I was needed, I was the collector, but even he had to finally admit I was not one he could control so out I went. And all I could say was "SUCK MY DICK you fucking idiot."
I then loaded up all my personal belongings as he had Chuck Dukowski stand over me to make sure I only took what belonged to me. My God, were they kidding?! I loaded everything into two boxes, the whole time I was crying but at the same time I truly wanted to beat the shit out of Greg Ginn for destroying what we had all worked so hard to build, but hey, after all it was his dream, his label to do with as he wished, and best I could tell he just wanted to destroy it.
Perhaps that's why he had locked himself in his office, after all I was known for my fits of rage. Once I got everything packed up I can remember looking at Dukowski and the look on his face spoke, "I'm sorry." I had been through so much with and for these guys I couldn't believe how easy it was for Ginn to just throw me away.
I walked across the street to wait for the bus with my two boxes. I looked up and saw a fucking LAPD car sitting there next to SST. I couldn't believe it, the mighty Greg Ginn had called the cops to make sure I didn't cause any trouble.
The bus arrived about twenty minutes later and once I was on it the police car pulled out from the corner and followed us for a few blocks. I can remember a brother, a crip, saying to me, "Damn baby, what did you do?" This I must say made me laugh, and suddenly it was as if my second skin was back. My answer was, "I almost killed a mother-fucker." With this he passed me his quart of beer, the Cobra, and said looks like you could use a drink. My answer, "I love to be bit by the Cobra."
By the time I made it back to my apartment in Pedro I had already stopped and picked up my own bottle, so when Melinda asked me what I was doing home, all I could say was "Got fired." She then started in on this whole job, rent, pulling my own, etc. I stopped dead in my tracks, sat my boxes down and said, "I haven't kicked anyone's ass over this yet so don't let it be yours."
I went into my room where I pulled my stash of meth out of the wall socket and begin to lose myself in absolute insanity that would take me years to recover from.
(illustrations: Kara Nicks pre-SST and post-SST)
by Nunzio Carducci
Music, Culture & Context from Prague to Portland
Recently, someone on the [Up-tight] music newsgroup commented that he loved the 1st Eurock book, European Rock & the Second Culture, but he found one of its articles to be a bit strange, perhaps written as a political attack on dissent (rock in opposition) in general, and in particular the legendary Czech band, Plastic People of the Universe. The writer of the article in question had written several in-depth pieces surveying the experimental music scene in Czechoslovakia generally and at the time supplied me with abundant albums of most all the artists he speaks of (except of course the PPU) who were officially banned and jailed at that time. Theres a long article in the book I did about all of that, and another I did on how it influenced the evolution of "Eurock". The following is a thought piece I did for that newsgroup related to the persons comment, the article in question and the PPU. It deals with the role Music plays an in Culture, and how it can best be understood when viewed in terms of its historical Context, the time and place in which it was created. ?A.P.
The author Milan was an early contact of mine in Czechoslovakia and sent me tons of albums and information + several articles. He was incredibly helpful!
I had never met him personally, and never knew what his day job was, so he could have been in the Czech government, or more likely someone who simply did not relate to socio-cultural deviancy or unorthodox ideas. My guess now was that he simply was a mega-music fan. I was often surprised back then, by who liked this type of music when I found out their real jobs, or got to know them personally in some way. In regards to that PPU article, some things truly are an artifact of the time and place in which they were created and written. Therefore when seen thru' the lens of life many years or decades later, may seem odd or misinterpreted as one thing or another, and not really what they were at that former time and place at all.
I have no idea how old you are, or anyone else on this list is, but I'm on the old end of the spectrum (66 y/o). I can tell you that before there was an internet life was not so filled with information as it is now, and not controlled as completely as it is now. In fact, back then there was a definitive us or them mentality that only a VERY few felt akin to or identified with.
Back in the 1970s and 80s when I published Eurock Magazine, I literally had people from all around the world simply write to me and offer to send music, write articles and help in some way, as they loved that some American was doing such a far-out magazine, promoting such weird and esoteric music.
The information I came by arrived purely by chance when someone overseas heard about Eurock from someone else. Word was passed along via a sort of underground grapevine that existed as a fragment of people's imaginations, which became linked due to hearing about the magazine and perhaps some band it had covered, or album it had reviewed. It was a miraculous sort of magical connection all done via snail mail.
That's part of the reason Eurock lasted so long, it simply took years to get all the letters written, posted, and replies coming back in. So like a rolling stone a lot of moss was gathered along the way.
As Eurock became more well known, somehow the covers of several issues of the magazine were featured prominently on the magazine rack right next to the cash register on music store set of "Mork & Mindy" (may Robin Williams RIP, bless his soul). So the flow of information became a small avalanche, it was literally incredible. I have 3 file cabinets still full of old letters, photos and notes from all over the world, from people who were musicians and fans. Some are well known or famous now; many are so esoteric that probably no one knows of them, some I had friendly correspondence with, others I hardly remember.
One strange realization I've had recently is that all of this is truly priceless, yet literally worth nothing to almost everyone. It's has become worthless due to the jump forward that technology has made that now totally devalues books, magazines and relationships as well as real flesh and blood relationships. The Internet fosters information overload while disseminating loads of bad, conflicting/ incorrect information. All of us on this list in some way "know" each other, but in fact, we don't know each other at all in real terms.
Hardly anyone back then saw Rock as being in Opposition to the mainstream culture. It was in fact however viewed as social deviancy in the USA in the 50s and 60s by the government as well as vast majority, until it became a commercial product sold by major corporations. The Jefferson Airplane was the first band signed to a major label (RCA for around $20,000)! From then on, it became mainstreamed. Now decades later drugs and any kind of marginal social behavior have become mainstreamed.
To provide a current context to all this, there is a very popular bumper sticker in Portland today that says "Keep Portland Weird". It sells for $2 I think. That idea was "borrowed" from an Austin record store, by a Portland record store. You see that bumper sticker on cars a lot (even a Prius or Outback). A huge part of the population here actually thinks they are weird really? As someone who has a perspective of what constitutes weird that stretches over several decades. I often say to someone in real life discussions - "when everyone thinks they are weird, no one is weird".
Now also due to "Portlandia", thousands of "artists" and "musicians" have been drawn to the city. Therefore rents have become astronomical for crummy houses, or tiny Micro apts., yet everyone is living the artists lifestyle. In addition, the city council literally passed a new "Arts Tax" and everyone over 18 in the entire city has to pay $35 a year, in perpetuity, if they make more than $1,000 a year. If you dont they send out a collection agency notice tacking on another $50. So, I also often say when talking about music and art to people something similar - "when everyone is an artist, no one is an artist". In Portland however, everyone over 18, even the artists, do have to be able to pay their rent and the Arts Tax.
If you know the history of music, rock and art, you will know that it was never done to make money, and many of the great original artists died poor while someone else became rich off their works later. The same goes for many of the early black and white singer, rockers, etc. A few managers and promoters made the money, the artists often died penniless.
For some reason I was one of the few who saw music as perhaps one of the most powerful manifestations of culture - back then and still now. I think that's why you liked the book. Maybe this makes that article and the context of Eurock clearer.
(illustrations: Archie Patterson books - Eurock: European Rock & the Second Culture, and Eurock: Music & Second Culture Post Millennium)
by Joe Carducci
The Album Concept and 70s Rock Radio
A short-notice trip to catch some films at MoMA for my next book allowed me another opportunity to play records on John Allen's "WFMU" program (Dec. 31, 2014). We taped it in November and its archived longer than it streamed, 4-plus hours.
We didn't have the time to prepare something like our two-part "The History of L.A. Punk" (2008), or "The Sleepers / San Francisco Story" (2012), and this time I didn't drive so couldn't bring much with me. So we came up with a simpler idea, or at least it seemed simple: play music from the early 1970s and talk about what kind of radio play it may have gotten back in those years before FM rock stations were formatted. But it's difficult to summarize such a rich period of music and so a lot of bands and styles weren't gotten to. I mailed ahead about a dozen albums that I thought we might not find on the station's shelves. I actually wasn't sure at all that that era's music hadn't long been purged from the station's shelves just as it's been purged from the "Classic Rock" format. Not that WFMU is like any other station around. (Still, where'd their copies of the first two Trower albs go?) John led me through the main stacks and then through at least three other un-filed caches of LPs on other floors and in raw-space corners of that warren of Jersey real estate. We found most albums we were looking for.
The term "album" comes from the pre-rock era multi-disc sets of 78rpms used to release long classical works or Broadway musicals; these looked like photo albums, hence the phono album. The single disc 33rpm was introduced by Columbia in 1948. This new format migrated from early sound systems for talkies and radio transcription discs; it was introduced for music when plastics, mastering, and pressing technologies improved after the war. Bachelors with big hi-fis stacked their Jackie Gleason and Martin Denny albums for their parties or Sinatra and west coast jazz albums for their dates, while by late 1950s college kids graduated from 45s and found that folk music on 10" and 12" albums allowed them to study album cover liner notes before the side finished and they had to cross the dorm-room to flip the record over.
These folkies, had they ever deigned to listen to Memphis rock and roll or the instrumental dance and surf combos it inspired, now considered they'd well outgrown such greasy kid stuff. Until the British Invasion, anyway. American college students of the great suburban postwar baby boom thus came to prefer their regional and working class American culture diverted through a European filter that removed organic stuff that smelled of the other side of town and added a posh accent. The London industry's use of the album as a novel-substitute for this first generation through mass higher education cinched the deal.
That decade (1963-73) of Brit band explorations of American forms was incredibly productive. Even though these earnest students of the music couldn't become black or American no matter how fervently they attempted to disappear into blues or rock and roll traditions, they possessed despite themselves something directly informed of old English balladry and London music hall traditions. This something is what allowed a linking back up with American forms long detoured from same and rolling along under African, Latin, and other influences.
Still, as with any invasion, things got destroyed. Today one hears mostly echoes of that derailment of the American music train in the sundry denatured pop forms of today. That engine had a good four hundred years head of steam up from the moment the first African slaves were unloaded, their drums taken from them and they were made to play the hymns, ballads and waltzes of somebody else's old country. Quite quickly as folk things go the whitest Southerners talked with a drawl and liked their own music blued. That was a world-historical cultural process whether new wavers and eclectic snobs like it or not. But that doesn't mean they can't stop it.
All these postwar years later, I think of the album as a mistake in that it allowed bands, labels, and radio to relax their focus on the song at hand. It led to five-minute arrangements of the simplest tunes, seven-minute musique concrete audiophilia, and album-side riff-reverence with solos all around climaxing in live-style three-minute fanfare finales. By 1969, with the album eclipsing the single even the best American bands were slow to think in album terms, and American record labels and artist management were also slow to understand the album-as-novel come-on; this gave the Brit bands and London labels a language advantage in America. And their transatlantic melodic and rhythmic eccentricities stood out as useful hooks in the novelty-hungry pop market where rock and roll found itself during the course of its own two-decade boom. It was damn hard to keep the American bands of our early 1970s WFMU schema from being overwhelmed by all the British bands we wanted to play. (Not to mention the bands from even foreigner places.)
The Beatles wood-shedded rock and roll in West Germany for American G.I.s who'd grown up on Elvis and Chuck Berry. Lennon-McCartney originals gradually replaced those covers in their live set. I suspect that although the band recognized Ringo Starr was the drummer they wanted, they also understood that he was even so not like the drummers on the American records they studied. It was audience response, in Germany and Britain, that allayed the doubts they had about their own singing, song-writing and playing when they compared the sound they produced with what they had intended. As it happened, they landed back in England like a buzzbomb and sent a charge of pop ambition through all the little purist networks of skiffle, trad-jazz, blues, r&b and rockabilly musicians, fans, and collectors across the UK. And together they made London once again a prime exporter of music.
London bands, whatever micro-style they considered themselves to be the pre-eminent British version of, were often purists of such provincial narrowness that they had no idea they were barely in the ballpark with their cock-eyed interpretations of American folk forms. Only by watching their music collide with America itself could they appraise their musical product for what it was, a rhythmic novelty with varied melodic, harmonic and fashion aspects. British musical vitality was a serial pageant not unlike tin pan alley's rhythmic novelty dance procession (Charleston, jitterbug, foxtrot, calypso, bossa nova?.) which was itself a burlesque of black music-dance trends. The British version de-emphasized the dance aspect for a head trip. (Bop and free jazz did something like this in black music.) Pretension and pop success in America quickly overwhelmed the humility with which they had first approached American music styles and so the British Invasion resolved into candidly un-American, arch, twee and progressive styles.
But for WFMU and John Allen this time we played early seventies rock from the album's golden age before being Album-oriented hurt individual songs and performances. And we talked about where and how old FM radio managed to contend with that rock boom too large and wide a music-media phenomenon to refer to simply as underground rock, or underground radio. It was over quickly and got the punk rock reaction that sell-out decadence called for. By the time I got into the air it was on public or college airwaves, neither of which was as hospitable as commercial FM had been just five years earlier. On the program John asked me about SST and its radio promotion to commercial stations; we did what we could but most station music directors were still prioritizing the latest London exports only they had no longer studied much of anything but David Bowie albums. And today it's to some opaque algorithm-driven service or goddamn NPR that the neo-folkies turn for their eclectic world music pseudo-roots post-rock needs.
My post-AM radio listening then was in Naperville outside of Chicago. I listened to Saul Smaizys on Triad Radio-WXFM, Wayne Juhlin's overnight show on WDAI, WXRT especially its new release-Wednesdays, North Central College's WONC, Aurora's WMRO-AM and a few other spots on the dial, before I moved to Denver in September 1973 for a year and half of college where I listened to the old FM freeform begin to die on KLZ and KBPI and back in Chicago too after January 1975. Naperville never quite supported the small record shops that tried their luck during the album boom of the late sixties / early seventies so they weren't the medium for me then that they would become later after radio had failed. John and I couldn't cover what-all was happening in those years in this one show, of course. That would require 24-hrs a day for years just as it was, as it were.
(illustrations: WFMU, Triad Magazine, Saul Smaizys WXFM)
Triad Radio Chicago "photobook".
Triad Radio 3rd anniversary, "aircheck" March 31, 1972.
“The Wayne Juhlin Show” "theme-song".
by Mike Safran
From Steve Beeho at the London Desk…
"Phast Freddie's Hollywood (Circa 1973-1983) ", written in 1996 but unpublished at the time.
"During the late Seventies and early Eighties there were several places in and around Hollywood that catered to what may only be described as the Underground Rock Elite of Los Angeles. This Underground Rock Elite consisted of both Punk Rock and New Wave musicians alike, as well as neo-Rockabillies, white blues singers, Mods, Doo Wop enthusiasts, poets, photographers, artists, writers, record collectors, drug dealers, a handful of music industry insiders, groupies, leaches, and various other hangers-on."
"After the show was finished, the band started to slowly pack their gear on the stage and invited us to hang out with them. While Robo was loading up his drums outside, I remember asking Greg how Robo got his name… and he, probably sensing my young and gullible nature, told me that it was because they were so poor that Robo would drink Robitussin cough syrup to get drunk. The guys were really friendly and once we were done chatting, we helped them take their instruments out to their van. And then, just before we left (without saying who), a couple of the guys in our group, trying to live up to all the punk rock media hype, had scribbled “Big Bear Punks” all over the bathroom and broke a couple of fixtures. We learned later that as a result, the club took it out of Black Flag's pay and they only made $50 for the night… I don’t think they were too happy about that. And then to add insult to injury, someone stole Greg's guitar that night."^^^
Falling James on the " Dangerhouse reunion" at the Echoplex.
Three suitably visceral excerpts from Tony Rettman's: "New York Hardcore 1980-1990", (Did the Voice actually cover this stuff at the time?!)
Mike Rubin hails the "X_X" resurgence in the New York Times (!).
""A Box Full of Rocks"", Raul Sandelin's great documentary on the El Cajon years of Lester Bangs.
Simon Reynolds at "Pitchfork" on the vanished heyday of the British music press:
"Free from top-down interference, financially buoyant, loyally supported by a huge readership looking to be guided and enlightened, and covering a beat that was the indisputable center of contemporary culture, but also a prism through which one could examine politics or other art forms like film and fiction, the British rock press understandably developed a healthy collective ego—to put it mildly. This self-belief, which applied to each paper on the institutional level but also endowed certain individual writers with a messianic streak, was a self-fulfilling confidence trick. Act like you have the power to steer music in a righteous direction and you can make others believe; soon enough you are steering it."^^^
Andrew Mueller, interviewed by David Stubbs at the Quietus, recalls his time at the "Melody Maker":
"I loved that the paper was so full of forceful and diffuse personalities – this argument taking place across a magazine. That reflects confidence and that has deserted old school journalism of all kinds. It’s a failing in art, too – when you abandon any confidence in yourself and anxiously start chasing audiences, asking them, ‘What do you think? What do you think?’"^^^
"The Big Midweek", Steve Hanley's Fall memoir:
"The Fall that Steve Hanley came into was the lineup that Smith – with his bulldog of a girlfriend/manager, Kay Carroll – pieced together after purging the original quintet. A control freak whose gift for subverting everyday language in surreal cut-up lyrics made him a genuinely radical post-punk voice, Smith was a man who'd rebelled against – but also internalised – the berserk discipline of a bullying father. He was fortunate, therefore, to find such a loyal and unquestioning aide de camp in Hanley, whose book overflows with tales of Smith addressing his band like a drill sergeant."^^^
Jon Dale dissects 131 UK DIY experimental classics from 1977-82 in "Fact Magazine":
"Writing this article alphabetically has meant that, in many ways, everything’s been a long lead up to The Petticoats’ “Normal” 7”. A justly legendary record in a list that’s not exactly short of ‘em, ‘Normal’ was the only record released by The Petticoats, the concept of one Stef Petticoat [...] Stef has one of the greatest punk voices, totally natural and exploding with joy, along the same lines as Lora Logic or Poly Styrene. There’s something insanely seductive about this record, a compulsive blurt that you can’t help but listen to over and over again; hard to really pinpoint, but maybe it’s all in the forced laugh and then the deadpan “probably not” at the end of the third chorus. Or the spine-chilling scream Stef lets rip, from somewhere close to nowhere, near the end. Perfect."^^^
"The Heads" enlighten Tristan Bath at the Quietus on the gestation of their ultimate monolithic statement:
"Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere is one hell of a title: ripping off Neil Young, overstating that wry fuzzy stoner outlook, pessimistically broadcasting a dim future for The Heads, and somewhat summarising how those heavy acid jams work. These guys would just stand in dingy rehearsal rooms and play for hours and hours, recording endlessly on Simon Price's Walkman while the group careened through the cosmos, getting nowhere in the process. But as Maskell makes clear, "That's the point isn't it?"^^^
Grayson Haver Currin on the murky history of "Les Rallizes Denudes":
"Asking someone to verify a story about Les Rallizes Dénudés feels like hoping someone shared the dream you had last night. For all I have been told about Les Rallizes Dénudés, and it’s a lot, I feel like I have learned almost nothing. “There’s always someone who wants proof,” says [John] Whitson. “If there’s nothing, people are really good at filling in bad information. If you just go, ‘Well, the bass player hijacked a plane to North Korea and these guys really rock,’ your mind can fill in the blanks in really interesting ways. That’s what everyone has done.”^^^
"Harry Sword" recalls at Vice:
"The New English Library was the maniacal king of pulp publishing in 1970s Britain. Thrashing out books relentlessly, they excelled in the more brutal end of youth-oriented fiction: rampant gang violence, skinheads marauding around in bovver boots, Satanic cult worship... basically anything that was causing a moral fuss in the decade of disco. [...] While the NEL books formed an indelible mark on the British urban landscape, very few emerge on the second hand market, a sign of how highly regarded they remain today. These books sold in the hundreds of thousands 40 years ago, but are incredibly – legendarily – rare. People held onto them at the time and still do now. For many readers in the 70s, NEL first editions remain as impossible to part with as a lovingly collected box of reggae 7-inches – and the lasting legacy is surely one of the most idiosyncratic stories in cult fiction".
by Nunzio Carducci
From Joe Carducci’s Wyoming desk...
Does the inception of Pedro punk go back to the apartment Joe Baiza and D. Boon lived in?
Pretty close. The Reactionaries (precursor to the Minutemen) were the first Pedro punk band. They were around from 1978 to 1979. Not long after, in early 1980, the 19th Street duplex was the birthplace of the Minutemen and Saccharine Trust too, to some extent. Gary Jacobelly and Joe Baiza lived on the bottom floor and D. Boon lived above them — a chance meeting. There’s a good chapter on the 19th Street scenario in the book.
Spot in "Vice".
Do you hate LA? Did you hate LA? Is that an oversimplification? I get very sad when I look at these pictures. Everything looks so grimy, lonely, and hopeless.
LA has one of the most amazing and interesting histories of all US cities, and they excelled at erasing their own legacy just to prove they were not like any other place. It's really not up to me to weigh in on this anymore; I got the hell out almost 30 years ago. It's a whole different perspective but the webseries OnlyinHelLA.com sums up a part of the experience nicely. LA is the best and worst place in the world.
Spot in "L.A. Weekly".
So have you paid any attention to what’s happening now with what’s left of punk and hardcore in L.A.?
What is happening now in L.A.? [Laughs] I think there is still stuff happening in L.A. I think in L.A. there’s a big geezer-rocker element that’s refusing to die. There are people from bands back then that still have bands and they’re still playing. Some of them are pretty good and some of them are pretty burnt out. I went to this what they called “The Punk Rock Barbecue.” I was playing it, so... Look, before anything else I’m a musician. That’s what I've been doing for the last 20 years and just driving around and playing. Nobody cares, but I just do it anyways.
James Fotopoulos "interview" at Screenslate.com.
FC: How did you begin as a filmmaker?
JF: My grandfather had a video camera that he used for shooting family events and my parents eventually got one because I was using his so much. It was always something I did in childhood. I had a pixel vision camera when they were on the market for kids. FC: When did it transition into scripted material? JF: I was so young when I began, so the first things I did were mainly exploring the medium. It wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 that I started shaping the filming into stories but they still weren’t quiet 'scripts'.
Ben Sandmel in WSJ on Barry Mazor’s book, "Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music".
Traditional songs with archaic roots and no definitive author presented minimal risk of copyright-infringement litigation. That risk could be further reduced if songs were changed slightly and then presented as original compositions. Such prescient acumen made Peer a very wealthy man. But he and the record labels he worked for were not the only parties to benefit from this business model. It also enabled many musicians whom Peer recorded to earn additional and recurring income from the songwriting royalties that Peer let them retain—if they agreed to sign over ownership of the music publishing rights and also to write for him exclusively. To Peer’s everlasting credit, he never falsely claimed authorship of the songs that he published. This commonplace practice cheated many tunesmiths and their descendants out of generations of royalties.
Luke Mullins in WASHINGTONIAN, "How David Gregory Lost His Job".
What Comcast did have was a super-connected political fixer named David L. Cohen. Cohen, whose legendary stint as chief of staff to Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell in the 1990s was chronicled in Buzz Bissinger’s book A Prayer for the City, is plugged in all over DC…. After taking over Comcast’s government-affairs office in 2002, he had steadily beefed up the company’s presence in the capital. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Cohen expanded its lobbying team from 31 bodies in 2002 to 103 in 2009, when the merger was announced, and increased its lobbying spending more than five-fold over the same period. To rally political support for the merger, Comcast’s political-action committee handed out campaign cash, and Cohen worked to head off the concerns over diversity. Between 2008 and 2010, Comcast’s corporate foundation donated more than $3 million to 39 minority groups that wrote letters to federal regulators in support of the NBC deal. Comcast and NBC Universal also worked out an agreement with advocacy groups guaranteeing increased “minority participation in news and public affairs programming”—so long as the deal went through. And in 2009 and 2010, Comcast gave $155,000 to an organization founded by the Reverend Al Sharpton, who ended up endorsing the merger. The campaign paid off. In January 2011, Washington approved the deal. One week later, NBC signed Cohen’s old boss, Ed Rendell, to an on-air contract. At MSNBC, which Comcast also owns, Sharpton landed a talk show.
Elbert Ventura in TNR on Peter Conrad’s book, "How the World Was Won – The Americanization of Everything".
But as a fellow outsider who fell in love with America long before I set foot in it, I can hardly blame Conrad for his sentimentality. Unironic expressions of love for American culture have long been unfashionable on the left, with Americanization seen as little more than the imperial spread of a stultifying commercialism. But while it has had its malign effects, Americanization has been on the whole a force for good: a dynamic, irresistible phenomenon that gave those of us on the outside a glimpse of unknown pleasures and possibilities. Moreover—and this is what many critics miss—Americanization was hardly forced upon the world. “We were captivated rather than conquered—consensually Americanized,” writes Conrad. Perhaps that accounts for the grumpiness of the Godards and the von Triers—they know they invited the colonizer in.
Genevieve Yue in TLS on Johannes von Moltke and Kristy Rawson’s book, "Siegfried Kracauer’s American Writings".
The realist strain of Kracauer’s writing takes shape in view of his suspicion of ideology, including “Talk with Teddie”, a lively account of his disagreement with Theodor Adorno’s obstinate dialecticism. Kracauer’s formulation of reality was attacked as “naïve” by the likes of Dudley Andrew and Pauline Kael, perhaps because he long wrestled with the term’s meaning; in Theory of Film, for example, it is often invoked negatively, as something lost, an experience of the world to which we have become numb, or, in the wake of war, suffered effects akin to shell shock. As the editors of this anthology, and Martin Jay, the author of its afterword, are careful to explain, reality was an elusive but essential concept for Kracauer, being both something that bears a trace of the material world and a stylized form of representation. Cinema, of course, is rife with such contradictions, and Kracauer was well aware that it could be deceptive, even dangerous; in an article from 1950, presaging Guy Debord, he notes the deleterious effects of the “pictorial deluge” of mass culture. Ultimately, however, cinema offered the extraterritorial critic a way back into the world, to the terra firma of life as it is really lived: fleeting, unadorned and ordinary.
Jed Perl in NYRB on three Picasso books, "Picasso’s Masterpiece".
Whatever Picasso made provoked questions and revelations that pushed him to make something else, to go in a different direction. This artist, who almost invariably embraced the real rather than the ideal, had no interest in the Hegelian dialectic, with its strenuous search for spiritual essences. He had an essentially Mediterranean sensibility, his creative processes closer to the Socratic dialectic, with its open-ended attitude of questioning and questing—and its refusal to draw some fast distinction, or indeed any distinction at all, between the allure of the love object and the pursuit of the life of the mind.
David Gress in WSJ on Larry Siedentop’s book, "Inventing the Individual".
In the ancient world, he says, the individual did not exist as such. Everyone had his place within a hierarchy, which in turn determined all aspects of existence. The core unit was the family, ruled by the “paterfamilias.” Similarly, the fundamental maxim of Roman law was to “give each his due,” which meant assigning to each a particular status within the all-encompassing web of social and legal norms: the father as ruler of the family, the emperor as ruler of the state and its people, and the slave as a “human tool” subject to the will of his owner. Roman law presumed indelible distinctions: slave-free, citizen-alien, master-follower. Christianity, as preached by St. Paul in the first century and by St. Augustine in the fourth, promised something quite different, and revolutionary. “In Paul’s writings,” Mr. Siedentop writes, “we see the emergence of a new sense of justice, founded on the assumption of moral equality rather than on natural inequality.” A Christian idea of individual dignity, Mr. Siedentop says, led to what we call the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This notion incorporated a new principle of justice and fatally undermined the idea of “giving each his due.” Only a century after Paul, a church father could write that “one mighty deed alone,” meaning the incarnation, “was sufficient for our God to bring freedom to the human person.”
Michael Rosen in TLS on Nicholas Boyle and Liz Disley’s book, "The Impact of Idealism – The Legacy of Post-Kantian German Thought".
Take the conventional contrast between determinism and libertarianism. If some radical version of determinism were true, our every action would be the inevitable consequence of a set of laws and initial conditions almost inconceivably distant from ourselves – circumstances which, if they had only been the tiniest bit different, would have led to different outcomes. If, on the other hand, each action is an isolated, undetermined event, our choices become unintelligible. The surprising German idealist insight is that there is something very similar about these two otherwise opposed possibilities. Whether by placing the origin of determination in the remote past or by removing it altogether, each case evokes a sense of arbitrariness which conflicts with the idea that we have – or would like to have – of ourselves as agents who are, at the same time, properly responsible for our actions. It is this, the idealists believed, that is incompatible with freedom.
Roger Cohen in NYT, "The Virtue of Redeeming Vice".
I’ve resisted writing about Berlin’s Hotel Savoy because I don’t want to ruin it, but I figure that if it’s resisted modernizing conformity this long it can probably withstand anything. Let me just say how wonderful it is to walk into the fug of cigar smoke in the hotel lobby. Proust’s madeleine has nothing on that time-canceling waft of tobacco. Out of the mists of time, emerging through the inhaled smoke, looms another age of laissez-faire before anyone ever dreamed of saying “Stay safe” — most awful of salutations — and anyone discovered special dietary requirements; a time when kids roamed free and did not even know what a helmet was.
James Ceaser in WSJ on Arthur Melzer’s book, "Philosophy Between the Lines".
It comes as a mild surprise to learn that a number of Enlightenment thinkers, including such stalwarts of public reason as Diderot and Condorcet, either practiced or condoned a form of esoteric writing. After all, the premise of Enlightenment thought, in direct contrast to the classic position, is that there is no ultimate tension between reason and society. Political life can rest on a foundation of truth or science without need of myth or prejudice. What utility then is there in esotericism? The “political esotericism” of the Enlightenment, Mr. Melzer shows, is a creature of a very different species than the older variants. It is a temporary tactic in the fight against the closed society envisioned by the ancients. People can shed their old prejudices only in stages, and esoteric writing may be required to help keep the project of Enlightenment from undermining itself before it has accomplished its goal. The ultimate end of this use of esoteric writing is to rid the world of esotericism and make it safe for openness. Extreme attacks on esotericism by most Enlightenment thinkers, those who had already swallowed the party line, is what created the hostility and repugnance to esoteric writing that by the 19th century led to the outright denial of its very existence.
Sophie Pinkham in NYTBR on Alexandra Popoff’s book, "Tolstoy’s False Disciple – The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov".
The wealthy, spoiled Chertkov met Tolstoy, 26 years his senior, because of their shared interest in a Christianity that rejected the Orthodox Church. Chertkov, who didn’t care for literature, convinced Tolstoy that they were soul mates by simply parroting his philosophy. By then, Tolstoy was lost in the thicket of his own ideals, torn between what he believed and what he desired. He seems to have felt there was something holy in submission to Chertkov’s will, but the bond wasn’t strictly spiritual. Chertkov liked to keep plenty of handsome peasant youths ¬nearby; as a young man, Tolstoy had written that he’d loved only men, and never women. He worried, pathetically, about Chertkov not loving him enough, even as friends and family wondered how such a great man could love such a cad. Soon Chertkov was reading Tolstoy’s diary — a privilege reserved, until then, for Sophia. He was allowed to edit Tolstoy’s work and his papers, sometimes making large cuts and even rewriting sections, including sections of his diaries. He urged Tolstoy to focus on religious writing, and to revise his fiction to make it more didactic. Where major works were concerned, Tolstoy’s literary instincts rebelled, and he rejected Chertkov’s meddling. But most of the time, he submitted meekly.
Eric Metaxas in WSJ, "Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God".
As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting. Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.” As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here. Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart.
Dennis Overbye in NYT, "New Images Refine View of Infant Universe".
The new data largely confirms and refines the picture from a temperature map of the microwaves that Planck scientists, a multinational collaboration led by Jan Tauber of the European Space Agency, produced in 2013, showing the faint irregularities from which gargantuan features like galaxies would grow. Its microwave portrait reveals a universe 13.8 billion years old that is precisely mysterious, composed of 4.9 percent atomic matter, 26.6 percent mysterious dark matter that is not atomic, and 68.5 percent of even more mysterious dark energy, the glib name for whatever it is that seems to be blowing the universe apart.
Claudia Dreifus in NYT, "Much-Discussed Views That Go Way Back".
LAST YEAR YOU PUBLISHED AN ASTONISHING PAPER SUGGESTING THAT SOME TYPE OF LIFE MIGHT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE IN THE EARLY UNIVERSE, BILLIONS OF YEARS BEFORE IT APPEARED ON EARTH. WHERE DID THIS COME FROM? On Thanksgiving morning, I had this realization: that at the time the first stars and galaxies were formed, the cosmic microwave background — the radiation left over from the earliest time — was roughly at room temperature. So the universe, at roughly 15 million years after the Big Bang, was at a comfortable enough temperature for the chemistry of life to have incubated. I realized this while in the shower — as often happens. We had guests coming in the afternoon. So I asked my wife if instead of helping her with the meal, I could take care of the dishes after dinner. That gave me a few free hours to think this out.
Joshua Krisch in NYT, "New Study Offers Clues to Swift Arctic Extinction".
To learn more about the Paleo-Eskimos and their sudden disappearance from the historical record, researchers collected DNA fragments from ancient human remains across Greenland, Canada and Siberia. Their results suggest that the Paleo-Eskimos remained genetically isolated for thousands of years, and that the Dorset culture did not vanish through assimilation. Modern Inuits, then, are descendants of the Thule and not directly related to the Paleo-Eskimos. “This is surprising, because every time people meet each other we find evidence of sex between the people,” said Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary biologist at the Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen and an author of the study. “But here we have a unique situation, where even though we know they must have been in touch with their neighbors, they chose to live in isolation.”
Eve Newman in LB on the book, "Kennewick Man", edited by Douglas Owsley and Richard Jantz.
Kennewick Man was a hunter and a traveler. Isotope values from his bones suggest he hunted seals and lived most of his adult life on the Pacific Coast, but much farther north than Washington. “You’ve got to get up into at least coastal or mid-coastal Alaska before you start getting the type of oxygen isotope values that you’ll find in this man,” Owsley said. He lived 8,900-9,000 years ago, based on radiocarbon analysis, and was about 5 feet, 7 inches tall. He was stocky, weighing about 160 pounds, and died when he was about 40. According to their analysis, he often held an object above his head with his arm bent, such as a spear. He also raised and lowered an object repeatedly while holding it in front of him, such as a dip net. Based on the condition of his leg bones, he often waded in shallow water and sprinted short distances. At one time, he broke six ribs, five of which never healed properly. The stone point in his hip was probably thrown at him with force, causing an injury that took some time to heal. He had no cavities, but his teeth were extremely worn. “He was very banged up, and a very tough guy,” Owsley said. Scientists think he was deliberately buried by the river on his back, palms down, legs straight.
chronicle.com: What Book Changed Your Mind?, Justin Smith on James Scott’s book, "The Art of Not Being Governed".
Impoverished migrants flocking to urban centers are desperate for the advantages the state can provide. But not everyone is. Some people, often found hidden away in hard-to-reach mountainous zones, practicing subsistence agriculture, are largely indifferent to what the state has to offer. They do not understand why they should be bothered with keeping identity papers or that other sort of paper that can be exchanged, in accordance with strange magical beliefs, for commercial goods. Pushing your way into the system, via politics, is not the only way for groups of human beings to thrive. One can also stay off the radar, slip through the cracks, and still realize something like the human good. This is not to excuse the status quo: another accusation commonly leveled by statists, who seem to believe that it is a violation of human dignity to accept life in the cracks, that the only acceptable form of thriving is the one that gets official recognition. Scott shows why such a view is misguided, as it portrays the plight of peoples like the Zomians as if in a zero-sum competition with the political claims of oppressed groups in the face of state power.
Michael Shear in NYT, "In Immigration Actions, The Government Grows".
Only 10 days after President Obama announced in a prime-time address that millions of undocumented people would soon “be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation,” an electronic bulletin reached inboxes across Washington. In a crucial detail that Mr. Obama left out, the Citizenship and Immigration Services agency said it was immediately seeking 1,000 new employees to work in an office building to process “cases filed as a result of the executive actions on immigration.” The likely cost: nearly $8 million a year in lease payments and more than $40 million for annual salaries. The announcement of the new “operational center” among the chain restaurants and high-rises of Crystal City, a Northern Virginia neighborhood used for overflow from the federal agencies in Washington, offers a glimpse into how swiftly a president’s words can produce bigger government. It also demonstrates the bureaucracy’s ability to swing into action, even during an extended power struggle between the president and Congress.
James Buckley in WSJ, "How Congress Bribes States to Give Up Power".
Those programs, which provide funding for Medicaid as well as everything from road and bridge construction to rural housing, job training and fighting childhood obesity—now touch virtually every activity in which state and local governments are engaged. Their direct cost has grown, according to the federal budget, to an estimated $640.8 billion in 2015 from $24.1 billion in 1970. Their indirect costs, however, go far beyond those numbers both in terms of dollars wasted and the profound distortions they have brought about in how we govern ourselves. Because the grants come with detailed federal directives, they deprive state and local officials of the flexibility to meet their own responsibilities in the most effective ways, and undermine their citizens’ ability to ensure that their taxes will be used to meet their priorities rather than those of distant federal regulators. The irony is that the money the states and local governments receive from Washington is derived either from federal taxes paid by residents of the states or from the sale of bonds that their children will have to redeem.
John McDermott in FT on Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban’s book, "The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind – How Self-Interest Shapes Our Opinions and Why We Won’t Admit It".
The University of Pennsylvania evolutionary psychology researchers argue that politics, like life, involves “social animals competing over advantages”. It is one of the means through which humans battle it out in zero-sum games for status, money and even sex. This is not Marx and Engels. This is Hobbes lying on Freud’s couch. Weeden and Kurzban acknowledge that theirs is a “deeply cynical” view of politics. But they have a case. Studies show that humans tend to think of their own views as enlightened but others’ as motivated by mere self-interest.
William Hay in WSJ on Brian Vick’s book, "The Congress of Vienna – Power and Politics After Napoleon".
Prudent monarchs, with the French Revolution in mind, had grasped the need to accommodate the demands of their subjects, even if their countries had not adopted the representative system that set Britain apart. Mr. Vick presents Vienna as a stage set for dramatizing this new bond between rulers and the ruled. A “people’s festival” with an open-air circus culminated in a feast for injured veterans during which various monarchs toasted the soldiers. The so-called Praterfest, held in the Prater neighborhood in the heart of Vienna, combined a military review with a public feast. Another event culminated in a banquet to celebrate the anniversary of the allied victory at Leipzig in 1813. Government officials hosted some of these events; private entrepreneurs presented others, catering to a paying audience that was also eager to buy commemorative cups and battlefield prints. A whirl of balls and parties heightened the atmosphere of gaiety. Press accounts extended the reach of the events in Vienna and broadened their implicit message. The message, according to Mr. Vick, was that the people of Europe had vanquished the Corsican ogre and liberated a continent: Victory was a shared achievement and did not belong solely to rulers or armies. In that spirit, diplomacy in Vienna did not operate apart from wider society.
Nguyen Cong Khe in INYT, "A Free Press for Vietnam".
The public, including the intelligentsia, has grown so distrustful of state media and the state itself that it is too quick to accept accounts criticizing the government as true, even when they are not well substantiated. A slew of books has been published in recent years claiming to reveal state secrets on virtually every major national issue: from the origins of the Communist Party to the epic battle against the French at Dien Bien Phu, from China’s real designs on Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh’s private life. The recent “Den Cu,” by Tran Dinh, questions Uncle Ho’s nationalist credentials. It also claims he was directly involved in the forced land redistribution program of 1953-56, which killed more than 170,000 people, and may have attended the show trial of some wealthy landowners. The party and the government tend not to refute such allegations. Instead, they insist on maintaining outdated forms of control and micromanaging trivial issues, like the depth of the decolletage on singers’ dresses.
Michael Totten in WORLD AFFAIRS, "Dispatch from Vietnam".
The Vietnamese treat these former enemy soldiers and prisoners of war like rock stars, even heroes. They may be more loved in Vietnam than they are at home, especially Peterson. Most Americans aren’t familiar with him, but his is a household name in Hanoi. We know what the Vietnamese think of Peterson now, but what about when he first arrived as ambassador in 1997? I asked him when I telephoned him in Melbourne, Australia, where he lives with his Vietnamese-born wife. “They were gracious and open and made no attempt to make me feel unwelcome,” he says, “but it took them a while to realize my desire for reconciliation was sincere....” He wouldn’t quite describe Vietnam as an American ally, but he said that it certainly wants to become one. “They want to be under an American security umbrella,” Peterson says, “and to be defended from China with an American trip wire, like South Korea.”
Edward Wong in NYT, "To Quell Unrest Beijing Moves to Scatter Uighurs Across China".
The policy comes from the top. At a two-day work forum on Xinjiang in May, President Xi Jinping expressed support for sending more Uighurs to work and be educated in Han areas “to enhance mutual understanding among different ethnic groups and boost ties between them,” according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency. That was preceded by a conference in September 2013 in which other top party leaders called for local governments across China to help find work for members of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. (Uighurs in Xinjiang complain about losing jobs to Han migrants, whose relocations to the region are supported by the state.)
June Teufel Dreyer at yaleglobal.yale.edu, "China’s Tianxia: Do All Under Heaven Need One Arbiter? ".
Well before the arrival of the westerners, there had been a gradual shift away from tribute to trade. During the Ming dynasty, commercial transactions existed between the Ryukyus and parts of Southeast Asia. Private trade existed between China and Japan, even during the so-called sakoku period of the 17th century when Japan was theoretically closed to foreign commerce. Chinese court records from the late 1400s indicate concern about trade growth. Despite serious consequences, including decapitation, by the 15th century, a trading system had evolved that encompassed Southeast and North Asia. Since the earliest western power, the Portuguese, did not arrive until 1524, this undermines the contention that trade was imposed from the Occident.
Andrew Jacobs in NYT, "In China Myths of Social Cohesion".
They come for the camel rides, the chance to dress up like a conquering Qing dynasty soldier or to take selfies in front of one of the most historic Islamic shrines in Xinjiang, the sprawling region in China’s far northwest. But the busloads of Chinese tourists who converge on the Afaq Khoja Mausoleum each day are mostly interested in a single raised crypt amid the dozens of tombs ensconced under the shrine’s soaring 17th-century dome. It is the one said to belong to Iparhan, a Uighur imperial consort, who, according to legend, was so sweetly fragrant that she caught the attention of a Chinese emperor 2,700 miles away in Beijing — and was either invited to live with him or dragooned into the palace as a trophy of war. But with the group out of earshot, a local resident offered up a starkly different version, describing Iparhan as a tragic figure, little more than a sex slave who was murdered by the emperor’s mother after she repeatedly rejected Qianlong’s advances. “The story that most Chinese know is completely made up,” said the man, an ethnic Uighur, who asked that his name be withheld for fear of angering the authorities. “The truth is she isn’t even buried here.”
Nury Vittachi in NYT, "China’s Crime-Free Crime Films".
A few years back I got a call from a film director based in China who had read one of my detective novels. “Can you help me write a screenplay for a crime story?” he asked. “The tricky thing is that it’s set in Beijing, so no crime can be involved.” Welcome to the world of screenwriting for China, where crime stories are crime free, ghost tales have no ghosts and crooked politicians can’t be crooked. China has a large film industry and the second-biggest box office in the world, but few people outside the country have ever watched a Chinese movie released there: Once you’ve seen one acrobatic hero single-handedly dispatch an enemy platoon, you’ve seen a lifetime’s worth.
Ian Johnson in NYRB, "China’s Brave Underground Journal" : prchistory.org/remembrance.
In 1968, when he was seventeen, he was exiled to Inner Mongolia along with millions of youths sent to remote areas to get them out of China’s cities, a move that allowed Mao to restore control after the anarchy of the early phase of the Cultural Revolution. Wu lived among the herders and horsemen of the great steppes north of Beijing. One day, several youths were accused of beating a man who had robbed them. Wu spoke out in favor of them and was immediately arrested. He was thrown into a jail cell about twenty feet long filled with twenty men. They were accused of having organized a plot for Mongolian independence centered around the ethnic Mongolian Communist leader Ulanhu…. When he eventually returned to Beijing, he took a university degree, became a teacher, and explored the outside world through foreign films, which became his specialty. He published widely on the topic, including an amusing book on foreign and Chinese cinema that could be translated as East–West: Apples and Oranges. Yet the memories of his youth stayed with him. He knew he had witnessed history and spent the 1980s carefully writing down what he’d heard, corroborating information with eyewitnesses. A fresh finding was the degree of ethnic hatred that underlay the violence.
Gordon Fairclough in WSJ, "At India Edge Herdsmen Find Chinese Troops".
Earlier this year, Mr. Tsering and other local leaders said, several herdsmen from Chumar were attacked by mounted Chinese soldiers who beat them with whips. China’s Defense Ministry declined to comment. Then in September, Indian security forces discovered Chinese soldiers using earth-moving equipment to build a dirt road into territory India considers its own. Chinese soldiers also took up positions at an area of high ground near Chumar known to India’s military as 30R. “Everybody was worried and asking if we should stay or go,” said Mr. Tsering. Convoys of olive-drab troop trucks rushed in Indian reinforcements and China sent in more troops. Chinese officers showed maps indicating that the 30R hill and Buddhist stupas closer to Chumar were in Chinese territory, said an Indo-Tibetan Border Police officer, who declined to be named. “That is a new claim. Next year they’ll be back with a map that moves the border even farther,” said the Indian officer.
Sonia Faleiro in NYT, "An Attack on Love".
Pamphlets warning against love jihad have been found in college campuses and even at wedding venues. This cynical ploy, love jihad, could have been constructed around money, or land, and in a country with a recent history of communal unrest, even self-defense, but it invoked women because the idea that women “belong” — as opposed to simply being — is one that is embraced by men of all classes and religions in India. Even a poor man with few possessions feels he has something if he has a wife or a daughter whose destiny is his to control. Thus did a provocateur from the right-wing Vishva Hindu Parishad organization say, recently, that Muslim men “should leave our women and cows alone or be prepared for a massive retaliation.”
Ceylan Yeginsu in NYT, "Turkey’s President Accuses Advocates of Birth Control of Being Traitors".
As a witness to the newlyweds, the president urged them to have at least three children, and blamed contraception advocates for hindering the country’s growth. “For years they committed a treason of birth control in this country, seeking to dry up our bloodline,” he said in a speech during the wedding ceremony. “Lineage is very important, both economically and spiritually.” Mr. Erdogan, an Islamist leader, has made comments on the subject of reproduction that others view as divisive and chauvinist. Over the course of his 11 years as the dominant leader of Turkey, he has expressed strong opposition toward abortion and contraception, and has called on women to have at least three children, but preferably four or five. But until now he had not equated birth control with an act of treason. Last month, he drew the ire of women when he declared that they were not equal to men. Speaking at a women’s conference, he said Islam had “defined a position for women: motherhood.” Explaining his position, Mr. Erdogan said: “Some people can understand this, while others can’t. You cannot explain this to feminists because they don’t accept the concept of motherhood.”
futureofcapitalism.com, "Harvard Law School and Title IX".
As government press releases go, the one of December 30 from the federal department of education is really something. It begins, "The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Harvard University and its Law School after finding the Law School in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for its response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault." This is a law school whose dean from 2003 to 2009 was Elena Kagan, and whose dean from 2009 to now has been Martha Minow (a former law clerk to Thurgood Marshall). Since 2007 the president of Harvard has been Drew Faust. If an institution led by these eminent and almost certainly well-intentioned women can't follow the law, what does it say about the law?
Naftali Bendavid in WSJ, "Europe’s Empty Churches Go on Sale".
The Church of England closes about 20 churches a year. Roughly 200 Danish churches have been deemed nonviable or underused. The Roman Catholic Church in Germany has shut about 515 churches in the past decade. But it is in the Netherlands where the trend appears to be most advanced. The country’s Roman Catholic leaders estimate that two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be out of commission in a decade, and 700 of Holland’s Protestant churches are expected to close within four years. “The numbers are so huge that the whole society will be confronted with it,” says Ms. Grootswagers, an activist with Future for Religious Heritage, which works to preserve churches.
Y. Carmon at memri.org, "From Carnage to Culture".
Looking at the history of Europe across the centuries, renowned Arab intellectual Hashem Saleh questioned in Asharq Al-Awsat on August 10, 2013 whether there might be any shortcuts that would spare the Arab and Muslim world its present devastation. He answers, painfully, in the negative, and expresses a hypothetical desire to fall asleep and wake in years to come to see Syria like present-day Holland. In this way, the Arab and Muslim world would be spared all the suffering Europe endured as it developed to its present state. Alas, there are no shortcuts in history; the process will take just as long and be just as arduous for the Arab and Muslim world as it was for Europe. The situation in the region will get worse – perhaps much worse – before it gets better. One can understand the need of Western policy-makers to impact this process in a meaningful and urgent way. However, very little can be done to change the course of history. It was not possible in Europe's history, and it is not possible today.
David Kirkpatrick and Merna Thomas in NYT, "Egyptian Leader Visits Coptic Christmas Eve Service".
In the last two weeks, Pope Tawadros has further raised eyebrows by urging Christians not to dwell on the killings of 28 primarily Coptic demonstrators by troops in October 2011, during a period of military rule. He suggested implausibly that the mass killing had in fact been a plot perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. At the service Tuesday night, the pope beamed at Mr. Sisi’s unannounced visit. In footage broadcast on Egyptian television, Mr. Sisi seemed to appear by surprise, wearing a red tie and dark suit and surrounded by burly bodyguards. Standing by the pope’s side, the president spoke without notes, blinking several times as though his eyes were moist. The crowd chanted in adulation. “I don’t want His Holiness the pope to get upset this way!” Mr. Sisi joked at one point, eliciting chuckles from Tawadros and a friendly shoulder pat from a bishop nearby. “We will love each other for real, so that people may see,” Mr. Sisi declared. “A happy year for you and all Egyptians!”
Wednesday’s attack also demonstrates again that violent Islam isn’t a reaction to poverty or Western policies in the Middle East. It is an ideological challenge to Western civilization and principles, including a free press and religious pluralism…. Muslim leaders in the West will no doubt react by denouncing the attack and insisting that the attackers were perverting the meaning of Islam. This is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t no nearly far enough. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi struck the right note earlier this month when he called for a “religious revolution” within Islam. “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world,” he told an audience at Cairo’s 1,000-year-old Al Azhar university. “The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move.”
Sylvain Bourmeau in PARIS REVIEW, "Michel Houellebecq" on his novel, Soumission
It’s not necessarily racial, it can be religious. In this case, your book describes the replacement of the Catholic religion by Islam.
No. My book describes the destruction of the philosophy handed down by the Enlightenment, which no longer makes sense to anyone, or to very few people. Catholicism, by contrast, is doing rather well. I would maintain that an alliance between Catholics and Muslims is possible. We’ve seen it happen before, it could happen again.
You who have become an agnostic, you can look on cheerfully and watch the destruction of Enlightenment philosophy?
Yes. It has to happen sometime and it might as well be now. In this sense, too, I am a Comtean. We are in what he calls the metaphysical stage, which began in the Middle Ages and whose whole point was to destroy the phase that preceded it. In itself, it can produce nothing, just emptiness and unhappiness. So yes, I am hostile to Enlightenment philosophy, I need to make that perfectly clear.
Katrin Bennhold in NYT, "In Torrent of Rapes in Britain an Uncomfortable Focus on Race and Ethnicity".
The police and other agencies were alerted more than 100 times over six years to the possibility that something very wrong was happening before Mr. Ahmed, now 61, was arrested and charged as the leader of a sexual exploitation ring that involved eight men of Pakistani descent and one Afghan. In May 2012, he was given a 19-year prison sentence for raping and abetting rape in a case involving at least 47 girls, all of them white. Mr. Ahmed showed no remorse. He called the judge a “racist bastard,” the girls “prostitutes” and blamed white Britons for “training” their daughters in drinking and sexual activity at a young age. The recent revelations that at least 1,400 teenage and preteenage girls had been sexually exploited over 16 years by so-called grooming gangs in another northern English city, Rotherham, stunned the nation because of the sheer scale of the abuse. And it put an uncomfortable spotlight on issues of race, religion and ethnicity in an increasingly multicultural nation: Nearly all of the rape suspects are Pakistani men, and nearly all of the victims are white.
Callie Rennison in NYT, "Privilege Among Rape Victims".
Lynn A. Addington at American University and I recently published a study based on the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey data from 1995 to 2011. We found that the estimated rate of sexual assault and rape of female college students, ages 18 to 24, was 6.1 per 1,000 students. This is nothing to be proud of, but it is significantly lower than the rate experienced by women that age who don’t attend college — eight per 1,000. In other words, these women are victims of sexual violence at a rate around 30 percent greater than their more educated counterparts. The focus on sexual violence against some of our most privileged young people has distracted us from the victimization of those enjoying less social and economic advantage. Surprisingly, we don’t know much about the latter group. After an exhaustive search, colleagues and I could find no major study that focuses on the relationship between social and economic disadvantage and rape and sexual assault risk in the United States.
Meredith Tax at opendemocracy.net, "The Antis: Anti-Imperialist or Anti-Feminist?".
A leftwing analysis that blames the suffering of women in Muslim-majority countries on the feminist movement - variously identified as "white feminists", "liberal feminists", or "colonial feminists" and their "native informants" or "comprador intellectuals in the South" – has become influential in US academic feminist circles. While its proponents call themselves "anti-imperialist feminists", in the interests of brevity I will call them simply the Antis, in tribute to the anti-suffrage leftists who considered women's rights a bourgeois distraction from socialist revolution.
The current scandal dates back to last year’s federal election, when a German researcher revealed that one of the party’s leaders, Juergen Trittin, had signed off on a 1981 local party platform arguing that sex between adults and children, in some cases, be legal. Trittin quickly acknowledged that he had made a mistake, blaming it on an oversight—but conservative political opponents were quick to describe the Greens’ actions as “repulsive.” This came on the heels of other revelations—which had prompted the report in the first place—that another senior Green Party figure had once written about his “flirtations” with children while working in a kindergarten. Largely as a result, the party only received a disappointing 8.4 percent of the popular vote. Although it is little remembered these days, the move to legalize pedophilia in the 1980s went far beyond Germany. In the United States, the Childhood Sensuality Circle and, more notoriously, North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) advocated (with little success) for legalized pedophilia, and other countries, including the Netherlands, Canada and the UK, had similar movements. But the movement fared exceedingly well in the unique political climate of West Germany, where the Nazi past made the left especially sensitive (and, in some cases, susceptible) to arguments about individual freedom. “It was a widely-held belief in West Germany that sexual freedom was a way to prevent authoritarianism,” says Stephan Klecha, one of the researchers who worked on the report.
Brendan Simms in WSJ on Roger Moorhouse’s book, "The Devil’s Alliance – Hitler’s Pact with Stalin 1939-1941".
What is striking throughout is the extent to which Nazis and Communists felt at ease in one another’s presence, at all levels. Mr. Moorhouse’s chilling description of the handover ceremony at Brest (in Poland) in mid-September 1939, when the Germans ceded the city to the Russians, describes fraternization between the two sides and a joint military march. He cites Nazi and Soviet statements about the ways in which their alliance would “scupper the pious plans of the Western Democracies” and quotes Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Nazi foreign minister, who negotiated the pact, saying that he felt in Moscow as if he were “amongst old comrades.”
Donald Rayfield in LITERARY REVIEW on Stephen Kotkin’s book, "Stalin, Vol. 1 – Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928".
Books that Stalin annotated reveal that we are dealing with the ultimate proofreader, a man who never missed an author's or an editor's mistake. No wonder Soviet literature's greatest achievement was eliminating misprints, which were considered 'raids by the class enemy' (an attitude one wishes Penguin Press might adopt). Kotkin's study becomes masterful when he follows Stalin's activities in October 1917. Less than a decision-maker but more than a gofer, Stalin, in his capacity as general secretary of the Bolshevik Central Committee, effectively became the party's chief whip before transforming this role into that of absolute dictator. Kotkin emphasises the stupidity of such articulate intellectuals as Trotsky and Kamenev, who considered themselves Stalin's cultural superiors. Trotsky ignored Stalin in London in 1907 and disdained him in Vienna in 1913. Stalin took an immediate dislike to such eloquent Bolsheviks and sought support not from the alphas, but from the omegas, such as Voroshilov and Kaganovich, who would remain in his debt. Unlike more liberal Bolsheviks, Stalin realised that the secret police sought a leader who would employ them, not retire them. His courting of Feliks Dzierzynski was a masterstroke.
Venkat at ribbonfarm.com on James Scott’s book, "Seeing Like a State – How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed".
Scott calls the thinking style behind the failure mode “authoritarian high modernism,” but as we’ll see, the failure mode is not limited to the brief intellectual reign of high modernism (roughly, the first half of the twentieth century). Here is the recipe: • Look at a complex and confusing reality, such as the social dynamics of an old city • Fail to understand all the subtleties of how the complex reality works • Attribute that failure to the irrationality of what you are looking at, rather than your own limitations • Come up with an idealized blank-slate vision of what that reality ought to look like • Argue that the relative simplicity and platonic orderliness of the vision represents rationality • Use authoritarian power to impose that vision, by demolishing the old reality if necessary • Watch your rational Utopia fail horribly The big mistake in this pattern of failure is projecting your subjective lack of comprehension onto the object you are looking at, as “irrationality.” We make this mistake because we are tempted by a desire for legibility.
Erica Vasquez at opendemocracy.net, "Resistance in Occupied Western Sahara: Women Defining a Society".
At the start of the military occupation in 1976, many Sahrawi men joined the liberation army and fought against the Moroccan state for several years. In their absence, Sahrawi women were primarily responsible for their household, children, and finances. At the same time, many women reported to the Frente Polisario about the internal dynamics of the occupation. Those who worked as informants for the opposition were arrested and unlawfully imprisoned by the Moroccan state. Many women, forcefully, were unexpectedly separated from their families and children and locked away for up to 11 years. They were tortured, interrogated, and abused all throughout their prison term in secret prisons located throughout the occupied territories and Morocco-proper.
MercoPress: "“Chinese invaders” out".
The peasants, many of whom showed signs calling President Danuiel Ortega “a traitor”, are unhappy with a provision of the canal's expropriation law that effectively compels residents along the route to sell their land at whatever price HKND offers. The $50 billion project officially got under way on Monday despite widespread opposition spurred by the government’s failure even to conduct studies of the canal’s potential impact on the environment and on the affected communities.
Steve Sailer at takimag.com, "A New Caste Society".
What I hadn’t guessed in 1988 was that the powers that be in Chicago would simply unload their unwanted public housing project residents on the rest of the Midwest via Section 8 vouchers, with the federal government ready to persecute for discrimination any two-bit burgh that tried to resist. That seemed a little too cynical for even me to imagine in 1988. Pushing poor blacks out of elite cities has become a noteworthy trend in the years since. For example, San Francisco has fallen from 13.4% black in 1970 to only 6.1% black in 2010. Just as predicted in the African-American conspiracy theory known as “the Plan,” Washington D.C. is no longer majority black. Brooklyn has become strikingly shinier in just the seven years Google Street View has been in operation. If you wonder why the New York and Washington-based news media periodically erupt into hysterias over purported racism in obscure fly-overvilles such as Sanford, Florida and Ferguson, Missouri, one reason is because the very idea that nobody-Americans might resist the expulsion of poor blacks from rich cities makes media elites angry. How can they fully cash in on their condos in gentrifying neighborhoods if blacks won’t go away?
Kevin Helliker in WSJ, "Fitzgerald and the Football Revolution".
In 1956, a Michigan graduate student in romance languages did something that apparently no other Fitzgerald scholar had done before. The student, Donald A. Yates, asked Crisler if during his Princeton years he’d had any contact with Fitzgerald. Mr. Yates got an earful, and in 1956 he published an article about it in the Michigan Daily, the university’s student newspaper. During his Princeton years, Crisler told Mr. Yates, his phone would ring late at night before games…. “Sometimes he had a play or a new strategy he wanted me to use,” said Crisler. “Some of the ideas Scott used to suggest to me over the phone were reasonable—and some were fantastic.” In the fantastic department, Crisler cited an example: Fitzgerald, he said, “came up with a scheme for a whole new offense. Something that involved a two-platoon system.” At the time of the interview, the coach was already known as the father of two-platoon football. But Mr. Yates didn’t know that. “I didn’t pay a lot of attention to sports,” says Mr. Yates, now 84 and a professor emeritus of Latin American literature at Michigan State University. So Mr. Yates didn’t ask Crisler the million-dollar question: Did he get the idea for a two-platoon system from Fitzgerald? Looking back at the statements Crisler made to him, Mr. Yates says, “That seems to be what he is saying.”
Wailin Wong in CT, "Chicago’s Last Tannery".
Football is a major part of both Horween family history and the story of the business. Arnold Horween Sr. and his brother, Ralph, played on the Harvard team that won the 1920 Rose Bowl. Then they went pro, playing for the Chicago Cardinals—but using the fake surname “McMahon” to hide their activity from their mother, fearing her disapproval. Arnold Horween Sr. later coached the team at his alma mater and Arnold Horween Jr. was also a Harvard football player. (Skip grew up playing ice hockey.) The elder Horweens’ football careers put them in contact with George Halas, the founder and owner of the Chicago Bears. That connection in turn helped make Horween a near-exclusive provider of leather for Chicago-based Wilson. The tannery makes football leather from cowhide (not pigskin) for Wilson, as well as big manufacturers like Nike, Adidas and Spalding. A 1,000-ton press outfitted with German-made embossing plates gives the leather its distinctive pebbling, while a proprietary finishing process called “tanned in tack” imbues the leather with a stickiness that allows players to more easily grip the ball. “We really try and make those guys know we don’t take (the Wilson relationship) for granted,” Skip said. “That’s a piece of business that lots of people would like to do.”
Andrew Browne in WSJ, "Golf Hits the Rough as Xi Takes a Swing".
The just-completed Yanqi Lake course, with views of the Great Wall, was closed. Like almost all of China’s 600-odd golf courses, it’s technically illegal. Allowing delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to tee off would have sent all the wrong signals. President Xi Jinping has had the same effect on golf in China as a weekend thunderstorm: The entire game is on hold. In China, golf has long been considered a bourgeois pastime. After the 1949 revolution, Mao had all the courses dug up and forbade government officials from playing—a ban never officially lifted. A tiny handful of golf courses were allowed in the early 1980s when China opened its doors to foreign investment. Then, unlicensed courses started popping up as golf’s popularity took off among the middle classes. That led to a 2004 blanket ban on construction of new courses to preserve arable land. Ironically, most of China’s golf courses have been built since then. But under Mr. Xi, the country is starting to take the rules seriously.
Obituaries of the Issue
"Sy Berger" (1923-2014)
Mr. Berger introduced Topps cards in 1951. They came with taffy, rather than chewing gum, because a competitor seemed to have exclusive rights to market baseball cards with gum. But the taffy wound up picking up the flavor of the varnish on the cards. “You wouldn’t dare put that taffy near your mouth,” Mr. Berger said, adding, “that ’51 series was really a disaster.” A year later, after switching to gum, he conceived the prototype for the modern baseball card, supplanting the unimaginative, smallish and often black-and-white offerings of the existing card companies.
"Clarence McClain" (1941-2014)
He said his father was a butcher at the Union Stock Yards. Washington's father worked on the killing floor. McClain had little schooling, he hustled around in what he called the music industry and while he was climbing the political ranks with Washington, McClain was arrested at a party. "There were ladies there, dancers and entertainers you know, but they weren't whores," he said. "The police busted the door and arrested me for keeping a house of prostitution. But there weren't any johns there. Never, ever, any johns. How do you run a whorehouse without johns?" I said I didn't know. "It was ridiculous," he said. Washington's people despised McClain, but they couldn't remove his influence, even when he was out of City Hall. It was awkward. How could Washington be lionized as a reformer with Clarence always around? It caught up to McClain. He was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for accepting a $35,000 bribe in a city parking ticket collection scheme. He hit some tough patches afterward. But he did get help, eventually, from an old foe. "Mr. Vrdolyak helped my dad in later years," said his daughter. "My dad had a company, McClain and Associates, that was hired by Mr. Vrdolyak and got some work from him," she said. "It helped." Vrdolyak didn't return my call, but I didn't expect one. Phonies hold news conferences to brag about offering charity. Old-school guys don't talk about the help they give.
"Yoshiko Yamaguchi" (1920-2014)
Born in Manchuria on February 12 1920 to Sinophile members of the Japanese colonial elite, she had grown up, she said, “loving one country as my homeland and another as my ancestral land”. It was a dual identity that grew hard to reconcile as Japan and China slid into war in the 1930s and as she rose to fame – an ethnic imposter deployed in Tokyo’s propaganda films. Ian Buruma reimagined her time as a mysterious, politicised sex symbol in his 2008 novel The China Lover. Yet Yamaguchi, who has died aged 94, lived a life that would count as extraordinary even without the years she spent masquerading as Li Xianglan, a “Chinese” actress whose roles in cinematic melodramas often had her succumbing to the charms of Japanese heroes. There was more to her story after the imperial forces’ defeat: acting in Japan and in Hollywood, where she took another name, Shirley Yamaguchi, after Shirley Temple; a marriage to the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi; a stint as a television presenter; and 18 years in Japan’s parliament. But it was her youth in China that defined her.
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