a new low in topical enlightenment

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Issue #34 (February 24, 2010)

San Juan Bautista, California

Photo by Grace Krilanovich

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci...

Gerald Seib in the WSJ, “Lessons Emerge as U.S. Economy Outpaces Europe”:

“Current data show that American banks have written down bad assets and raised new capital faster than their European counterparts, and have reduced their leverage further. The banks' ability to move ahead of the regulators also shows one of the inherent advantages of the American system over the European: Because there is relatively less government intervention, the U.S. economy is less rigid, more nimble and more inclined to self-adjust to stimulate growth.”

The President could own this relatively good news but he’s not likely to tout it because he hopes as did Kerry, Clinton, Gore, Dukakis, et. al., to move this country to Europe, so to speak. The VAT (value added tax), so common in Europe is an highly evolved tax which hides along the supply chain and thus baked into the price of the finished good is virtually invisible even as it slows economic activity to a crawl. Its many fans in the Democratic Party keep trying to launch it here. Their faith in the gouge is touching almost. Here’s the WSJ on the new push and it looks like Republican Alan Simpson, soon to be formerly of Wyoming we have to assume, has volunteered to wear the beard for this.


Bret Stephens’ “Europe’s Crisis of Ideas” in Tuesday’s WSJ:

“Why do Europeans so often find themselves trapped in this sterile dialectic of populist obscurantism and technocratic irrelevancy? Largely because those are the options that remain when other modes of analysis and prescription have been ruled out of bounds. ‘All European economic policies are the cultural derivatives of one dominant, nearly totalitarian statist ideology: the state is good, the market is bad,’ says French economist Guy Sorman. The free market, he adds, is ‘perceived as fundamentally American, while statism is the ultimate form of patriotism.’"


Alan Beattie in the FT Monday, "Centre-left fails to make capital from economic train wreck."


Unsurprisingly, Paul Krugman’s acrobatics blend well with The New Yorker’s and so neither falls to earth as they don’t really approach the sun. Their twin focus on George W. Bush as the end of “reality-based Republicanism” (which they now apparently concede to Reagan) allows for maintenance of a canard they absolutely need to be true -- that the New Deal model abides even as its unsustainable burden breaks state after state. This all passes as New Yorker realism courtesy Larissa MacFarquhar, her editor and the mag’s legendary fact-checkers, even though the piece reveals that Reagan’s defeat of mere Jimmy Carter sent Mrs. Krugman-to-be, Robin Wells, his near-editor and also an economist, to leave this country, and for Margaret Thatcher’s UK no less! In Monday’s Krugman fun is made of two-faced Republicans and Grover Norquist’s “starve the beast” metaphor. Paul begins, “O.K., the beast is starving. Now what?” Only, Grover, who is a critic of those Republicans (his site refers to the “Bush-Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending”), might ask the beast to kindly trundle onto the scale to prove it’s shed a single gram. Plan is, I’m told, to feed the behemoth another sixth of the economy. The NYT also reports Monday: “California Lawmakers Consider Creating Online Registry for Animal Abusers” so who knows when Krugman’s Leviathan-of-public service might keel over and whether a single cockfighter might be prevented from buying a live turkey. From the NYer piece: “Krugman presented his theory to the world in the form of a paper at the National Bureau of Economic Research in July, 1979.… One implication of Krugman’s theory was that, contrary to economic orthodoxy, industrial policy might have its benefits.” This just after Thatcher becomes Prime Minister to undo Grey Britain’s postwar binge of industrial policy, and just as small computer hardware and software companies are about to leave the garage for an almost total penetration of home and office and factory and lastly, maybe someday government offices. The piece does explain some of the mysteries of Paul Krugman’s bifurcated discipline/indulgence, but what to make of the boomer hell of St. Croix, where this hero-narrative that Mark Danner could only dream of, takes place. I guess that’s where The New Yorker and The Mere New York Times depart company.


“Doomsday is here for the state of Illinois” reads the Sun-Times as it launches its “Maxed Out” series on Monday. Certainly so if their editorial “Only big tax increase can dig out Illinois” sways policy. Do they really believe that if pressure is relieved our pols will then focus like a laser on all the spending cuts and withdrawals and privatizing they might do? If the tax constituency calls this doomsday then it surely is not. This will all be kicked down the line in two year increments, with slight differences state by state, because the baby boomers are just getting to retirement and nearer to geriatric care. After squandering their parents and grandparents’ bequest they will begin in earnest to borrow up their kids and grandkids earnings. They’ve just been tuning up; this is just starting.


John Lloyd in Tuesday’s FT putting a gloss on the boomers’ to-be-or-not-to-be/to-devour-or-not-to-devour soliloquy, which the very intensity of the scenery-chewing will contain the true answer while the monologue’s text pretends otherwise.


John Lloyd in the weekend FT on three politics-in-media books:

“The lowly aide who once handed out press releases or phoned correspondents to tell them what the prime minister thought they should know has been replaced by hundreds, at times thousands, of professional communicators, advertising executives, public relations experts, image consultants, voice and deportment coaches and directors of communications. There’s a conventional view, beloved of journalists, as to why this happened: politicians became devious and shifty, at best controlled by ‘spin doctors’, at worst downright mendacious. But that is unlikely to be true. Governments everywhere in the democratic world… have put more and more information in the public arena….”


Jeffrey Collins in the WSJ on Perez Zagorin’s Hobbes and the Law of Nature:

“Out of this miserable slaughter our modern notions of the state were born, and Hobbes was their midwife. If regicide had ended the English Civil War, it had also mortally wounded the sanctity of European monarchy. Hobbes was a supporter of kings but not of their spurious claim to divine right.”


Charles Wheeler’s “The Pension Chasm” in Illinois Issues:

“The dollars can’t be argued. When the books are closed on the current fiscal year on June 30, legislative analysts project the five retirement systems for which state government is responsible will need roughly $131 billion to cover benefits already earned by public workers, with only $46 billion in expected assets to cover the costs, or about 35 cents on the dollar. The other $85 billion represents the unfunded liability, an obligation the state must meet but for which no funding source exists. Nor can the state walk away from the commitment, as a private sector employer can do through bankruptcy. The Illinois Constitution guarantees that once earned, pension benefits cannot be diminished or impaired. Even if the state were to abolish its public employee retirement systems today, every covered worker would be entitled to the benefits he or she has earned up to the moment the systems disappeared.”


Former Melrose Park Police Chief Vito Scavo gets Six. He’s quoted in the CS-T, “I truly feel in my heart I was only trying to better my life.” Uh maybe it’s just the German half of me talking, but I do not think that I would hire a guy named Vito Scavo to be Police Chief.


A place at the place on the corner. John W. Fountain’s Sun-Times column.


William McGurn in Tuesday’s WSJ on school vouchers rising from the dead again quotes Reverend James Meeks, also a state senator and exec-vp of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH:

“The voucher movement seems to have been born, or seems to have been started as a Republican idea. That's the way Democrats look at it. That's the way black lawmakers look at it. This is a Republican idea. This is what the Republicans want to push on us.... We don't seem to see public schools not working in your area."


Thomas Sowell is probably too smart a guy to be doing a newspaper column but it’s often a good one and here’s the latest in the IBD.


FT report: Halal fast-food chain threatens French republican secularism.


The FT’s Jude Webber on Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez gets close to explaining how Argentina can have a beef shortage. One hopes Cristina sleeps soundly, whether dreaming of Falklands oil or 30% inflation, because her real nightmare must be waking up and looking into that wall-eyed ex-President husband of hers.

[Cartoon by Hermenegildo Sabat]

Meanwhile the Latam energy power Venezuela browns-out, but Bolivarian pride requires rejecting purchases from non-oil-cursed power-rich Colombia.


WSJ in conversation with Mohsen Makhmalbaf:

“[S]ince the fraudulent election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June, he's set aside filmmaking to become spokesman for reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and, by extension, the democratic green movement. He's written op-eds, given countless interviews and lobbied behind the scenes. Most recently, he posted an article online that detailed the private life of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (who allegedly loves trout and caviar; owns five helicopters; is worth $30 billion) to shame him for his lavish lifestyle.”


Die Zeit interview with Werner Herzog on Los Angeles, Lotte Eisner, facts and truth, psychology and Klaus Kinski:

“I have absolutely no interest in psychology.

Why not?

Because I am convinced that self-analysis is one of the terrible mistakes of our current civilisation. Because it means shedding light onto every dark corner of our souls. But a house in which every last corner is illuminated is uninhabitable....

I was not suggesting that Klaus Kinski should have lain on the psychoanalysis couch.

Probably nothing that interesting would have come out of it any way. Much of him was very banal. And more than anything he had a healthy dose of natural stupidity. Strangely enough, for the last twenty years I have been receiving letters from women who have been involved with Kinski telling me terrible things about him. And for some strange reason they have increased lately. Without knowing about each other, they turn to me as a place to deposit their ghastly stories about him. Unspeakable things. Just wait for the day when his daughter decides to break her silence.”

…and in the WSJ Herzog at Berlin talking about having seen neither Metropolis nor Gone With The Wind.


The Criterion Collection has stumbled into the art-film motherlode: Hollywood in the high studio period with an aesthetic so rarified it's come to be described as invisible. Here’s Dave Kehr in the NYT on Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (1937).


Green on Green violence. It’s all good as long as The Edge’s manse ends up sliding into the Pacific Ocean with him, and all his state of the art recording gear, vintage guitars, and solar-powered juicers, in it.


Obituary of the Week:
Dale Hawkins, 73.


Dorothy Rabinowitz in the WSJ on Sarah Palin. There are very few high-brow, or merely sophisticated, politicultural analysts one can trust to stay on-point when faced with a working class hero. Most are looking for opportunities to indulge themselves in their American haute class dance. This explains why late-Elvis never quite leaves the building either.


The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks, by Marc David Baer, reviewed by Adam Kirsch for TNR’s The Book:

“And because the Dönme played an outsize role at key moments in modern Turkish history, the myth of their secret Jewish power has itself become powerful. As Baer writes in his introduction, there have recently been bestselling books in Turkey claiming that everyone from the current prime minister, the religious Muslim Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered founder of modern secular Turkey, are secretly Jewish. ‘Ghost Jews haunt the Turkish popular imagination,’ as Baer puts it.”


Jordan Mamone will read an adaptation from his piece which appeared in The New Vulgate No. 12.

•Friday, February 26, 7pm - Free
at Picasso Machinery
45 Broadway (at Wythe), Williamsburg, Brooklyn
also reading/exhibiting: Mike DeCapite, Ted Barron, Jim Mason, Kevin Thomson.


Svengoolie, or I believe his son, who at least carried on the Berwyn-bashing. This reminds me I should google Jerry G. Bishop one of these days -- now he was a Svengoolie.

To receive a weekly update notice for the NV, send an email to newvulgate[at]sbcglobal.net with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. To stop receiving notices, do the same with the word UNSUBSCRIBE.

• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Issue #33 (February 17, 2010)

Riverwalk Quarry Rock, Naperville, Illinois

Photo by Joe Carducci

Something About Serge
by Carolyn Heinze

There he was.

He was easy enough to pick out. Even in the grim grimy-greasy jaundiced not-so-flattering subterranean Métro light. Oh, it was him all right – no doubt about it. Or a fabulously finely-formed facsimile thereof. His profile, pitched in a precisely preconceived profile of a pose, the enormous ear, the prominent nose. His chin – smooth, not yet his signature unshaven chin— juts serenely, sagely, slightly upturned. The lips, sensual-soft, poised in mid-exhale. As if he were singing. Or smoking. No mistaking him, this finely-formed facsimile of one of France’s most famously infamous artists, one of the Fifth Republic’s most notorious agents provocateurs, the man who flipped la chanson française upside down and inside out and right side in and right side up all over again. He was Serge Gainsbourg. Or at least he was meant to be. Only, come to think of it, on closer inspection, he wasn’t singing. Only, on closer inspection, come to think of it, he was smoking. But where was the damn smoke? And the cigarette? What in hell had happened to Serge Gainsbourg’s cigarette?

Because the thing about this country, the thing about France, is that you can’t be here, really be Here – as in exist within and live with and operate amidst and integrate and mingle incognito among the natives – without learning about Serge, and sometimes this means you learn more, so much more, than you might care to know. And the first thing you learn is this: Serge sure liked his cigarettes. Or, more specifically, his Gitanes. And Serge without his cigarette, Serge sans Gitanes, well, it’s like the proverbial birthday sans proverbial cake. Like the proverbial cake without the icing. Like the proverbial ice cream sundae without the cherry on the proverbial top. Like Bastille Day without the proverbial parade along the Champs-Élysées, or worse, a proverbial parade featuring only Sarkozy and no runaway horses from the Republican Guard to make it all better. In a word, in three words, in a phrase: it’s just wrong. All of it.

In other words: What was the R.A.T.P. thinking?

That’s Régie autonome des transports parisiens, in case you didn’t know. The men who man the Métro. And the autobus. In all fairness, in all truth, to be honest, to be frank, the R.A.T.P. doesn’t typically think of much else than going on strike. Or raising their rates. Or raising their rates while on strike. But still. . .

They removed, they extracted, they air-brushed, they photoshopped, they snatched away Serge’s Gitane. They metaphorically crushed it into an art-director’s ashtray. Blasphemy! Heresy! Disorder and disarray and misconduct and disrespect! Serge sans cigarette? What a diss! And weirdly, up in the above-ground atmosphere, at the bus stops, his Gitane had been restored — Serge was allowed to smoke at the bus stop, apparently . . . but the Métro was interdit. Not that one should ever question the logic behind the costards-cravates — the Suits — that run the Parisian transport system, but still . . .

Given the cigarette so rudely snatched from Serge’s mouth in the Paris Métro portion of the movie’s ad campaign, one wonders how extensive the Gitanes budget was for Gainsbourg: vie héroïque. Le Bio-picque. Had the manufacturer acted as sponsor? Had the French film industry finally gotten hip to product placement? Either way, it would be accurate, in some form or shape, to declare that the movie was, in its own way, (a clearing of the throat) smoking.

In the early days, in his early shy and whispery way, Serge observed that, “At the cinema, people like to see films that are violent and terrible.” Gainsbourg: vie héroïque is neither. In point of fact, it’s pretty damn good. In point of fact, when you think about it, and when you think about biopics in general, and when you think of the state of cinema in general, and when you think of the state of French cinema in general, in point of fact with Gainsbourg: vie héroïque, they did a generally classy job.

Because here’s the thing, cinéphiles: there are some fabulous shoes in this movie. Damn sexy. On the boys and on the girls. The pianos? Pure porn. And Juliette Gréco’s dress? (Well, it wasn’t the actual real Juliette Gréco, it was an actress, Anna Mouglalis, but still . . .) The backless one? Held together with a string of diamonds? Hot. (The real actual dress was black, but I think it’s safe to say that it was red-hot.) As was Anna, or Juliette, or . . . And then there were a few filmic devices, clever and aesthetic and generally pretty surprisingly great, that got the directors and writers and producers and crew people and best boys and extras and actors and the audience in and out and around some un-classy, un-clever, un-conscionable classic biopic characteristics. Especially the violins.

Because: There’s a certain unappetizing reality, a certain Ugly Truth about a certain segment of the French film industry today. A certain set of French directors of a certain set of mind almost certainly always try to copy a certain style of cinema. A certain style of foreign — and thus non-French — cinema. From abroad, that is. Abroad as in Hollywood-abroad. As in America. Which means American-style formulas (in French) and American-style scripts (in French) and American-style starlets (in French) and, worst of all, American-style violins (almost certainly imported directly from France). You know the ones. The soaring, sailing, swooping, sweeping kind that almost certainly always swoop and sweep and soar and sail in the background, right at the climax of the film — immediately after the crisis but before the dénouement — and here’s Bruce Willis, his broad balding brush-cutted head baldly braving a barrage of bullets, and in the background there they are, the American violins, and there’s probably almost certainly an American flag, too, and there’s definitely Bruce, brave, bold, bald, buzz-cutted et al, and the bad guys are coming and his M16 or AK-47 or whatever the hell it is is jammed and . . . and . . . cue more American violins! And the American flag!! Land of the free, home of the bald!

Well, thankfully, in Gainsbourg: vie héroïque there’s none of that. No Bruce, no brush cuts, no American violins, thank you, Dieu. And thank you, Director Joann Sfar. Oh sure, there’s violins, but they’re Serge’s own. At least in some shape or form. Only arranged and performed by somebody else.

Here’s the formula:

Feed a Frenchman two glasses of cheap Bordeaux and it’s near-impossible for him to resist slipping into a little Serge. At parties, they huddle in little Frenchmen herds, not really Rugby-scrum-like, but more fashionista Frenchman-like, bunching up around the iPod or the laptop or the CD player or, if they’re super-ultra-hipster-chic, the record player, as Gainsbourg Big Bad Wolf’s his way through “Je t’aime moi non plus,” with Jane Birkin or Brigitte Bardot, one or the other, depending on how many versions of the song are on hand, uncontrollably gasping, panting, crying out, coming, climaxing, wheezing in the background. With Serge on the sono, these Frenchmen begin lighting their cigarettes differently, with a flourish, a figure-eight, a Fosse-esque flick. Those Frenchman lucky enough to have landed an English girlfriend — or hell, any girl from the U.K., or any girl from any of the former U.K. colonies, or any girl who can at any time at all accurately imitate an English accent, or, hell, any girl at all, at any time, no matter what language she speaks, that wears micro-nano-mini mod dresses over lustrous-lush-long-lisse legs — at some point, sometime, in some way, somehow imagines himself, considers himself, to be Serge. You know, in the context of Jane.

And then, through a screen of smoke that’s twisting, twirling, curling, whirling like a dancer performing a sexy-sad swan song, they start telling you, in detail, over and over again, at length, repeatedly, raptly, about Serge. They even adopt his ticks – the little wave of the chin, the jerky-quick nods of the head, the sneery-snarly-smarmy-cynique style of speech.

Like did you hear about the time that he was on Michel Drucker’s show and he told Whitney Houston that he wanted to fuck her? Live – en direct ? You shoulda seen her face! Or that tune,“Les sucettes,” that he wrote for and performed with blonde, innocent, teenage, practically France’s own version of the All-American-girl-next-door France Gall, and she had no idea, none whatsoever, that the song strongly hinted at not only how much Annie liked lollipops but Something Else Too, that there was a double entendre, that it wasn’t just lollipops that Annie loved sucking? Then there was that TV show where he burned three-quarters of a five-hundred franc note for all the country to see, to signify what percentage of his profits were going toward taxes, and of course it’s completely illegal to burn money in public or otherwise because, well, money’s for the State to burn. And did you hear about the time he re-recorded France’s national anthem, the magnificent Marseillaise, a tribute to blood and war and violence and arms and the eradication of all who are not of pure blood, of those who are of sang impur, reggae-style, with Bob Marley’s Sly & Robbie performing and Bob Marley’s back-up singers singing back-up, summing up all that war and blood and violence and arms and impure blood as “et caetera ?” It’s a catchy little chorus – here, let’s play it for you. Pierre — merde! — throw it on . . . I want to show her why it really pissed people off! Oh, and then there was that video clip, the one for “Lemon Incest,” the one Serge filmed with his pre-pubescent daughter, Charlotte, that features the two of them rolling around an enormous satin-sheeted bed — Serge all bear-y and bare-chested, Charlotte clad in a skimpy blouse and white cotton panties — and in breathy bed-tones they’re discussing the unique, sacred, unrealised love, a love that can never be consummated, that’s shared between father and daughter? That — that — well, what would they make of THAT back in YOUR country, Caro-leen?

“It’s not fair to reduce Serge’s notoriety to his long list of scandales,” they’ll conclude, lighting another Lucky or Marlboro or Winston or Camel while wishing, secretly, silently, that, if just for that soirée, beforehand, at the Tabac, they had substituted their usual brands for the famed, if foul-smelling, Gitanes. “He was respected for his amazing body of work. He was loved for advocating and protecting freedom of thought, freedom of spirit, the libre-esprit.

(Really what they’re saying is that they admire and laud and love and envy Serge for getting to go to bed with Bardot, Birkin and Bambou.) (Especially when you took into consideration his un-Aryan, un-Adonis-like, unappreciated ears and nose.) (It’s fair to say, in all fairness, that it’s too easy to call Bambou “Bimbo,” but we will anyway, in all unfairness.)

“The first time I met him I thought he was horrible,” confessed a wide-eyed British Jane Birkin in wide-eyed British French in a television interview, back in the day, back when Serge was still alive, back when she was his wife, the love of his life. “But what I had originally taken for aggression was actually enormous shyness.”

If you didn’t know much about Serge, if you just took him at face value, if you just examined him, as they say, au premier degré, you might write him off as an elegant misogynist. A charming one, not much of a looker, perhaps, at least in the classical sense, and — if you’re into cool suits and Cartier watches and Dupont cigarette lighters — an elegant one, sure, but a misogynist all the same. Or maybe, if you don’t know Serge as well as some of us do, you might write him off as a rip-roaring, smoke-breathing sexist male chauvinist pig. And if you only knew Serge superficially, if you hadn’t really taken the time to get to know him, really get to know him, you know, in that deep-down-profound-getting-to-know-him-way, if you really only took him at face value, and if you really get quite squeamish any time anyone’s just a wee bit nasty, a tad bit dirty, a weeny-teeny-little bit vulgaire, well . . . Well. To each her own. No, no really — every girl deserves to have her own opinion, after all. No matter how uninformed it may be. When it comes to opinions, ladies, don’t worry your pretty little heads — no one’s saying that you’re not entitled. Au contraire !

It’s just that you’d be wrong. If you were of the Serge-was-a-misogynist opinion, you’d be completely off the mark. But that’s O.K. — not all of us ladies can grasp and get and understand and comprehend the double entendres, the plays-on-words, the puns. Even when they’re translated into our own native tongues. You know how we women are with jokes — some of us even date them. And then there’s the fact that Serge almost certainly exclusively wrote for women, women like Gréco and Deneuve and Birkin and Bardot, and Hardy and Paradis, too, women whose careers and creativity and artistry and craft he launched and nourished and cultivated and helped to blossom and grow and bud and bloom. Some of them couldn’t even really sing, at least not if we’re going to get all tight-assed and analytical and annoying about classical chops, but he knew what to do with them anyway. How to direct Jane’s shaky baby-girl voice that was never sure of hitting the right note in the right direction; or how to make la Deneuve’s uptight, pickle-up-the-butt comportement, well, kinda cute. Hell, Serge even made it seem O.K. that Bardot sang like a dying cow, as if he understood in advance the animal activism to come. And the fact that she couldn’t act? No matter — she didn’t look like a dying cow, after all. He merely had her stand still, in a tableau, for the clip for “Bonnie and Clyde,” stunned . . . as if he’d clubbed her like a baby seal.

Why? a journalist once asked him. Why do you mainly only write for women? “Because it’s more agreeable. . .” And the puns, the plays-on-words, the harsh, gimlet-eyed reversals and inversions and sous and double entendres ? Well, listen louder, ladies, because most times? In that breathy-bedroomy-surly-snarly-cynique voice that made it sound like he was dirty-talking directly to you? Serge, I swear to you, was making fun of himself.

“We take women for what they are not,” Serge said, with, no doubt, a matter-of-fact swirly swoosh of his cigarette, “and we leave them for what they are.” Take that for what it is, but take it with a lot of thought and even some consideration, because it’s arguably one of the most feminist statements and accurate observations a dirty old alleged misogynist has ever made.

Jane left.

Jane left Serge, after a long spell, not for what he was, but for what he had become. “He’s very difficult to live with . . . but who wants easy?” she’d challenged an interviewer back in her wide-eyed micro-skirted British-French days. But after a while, “easy” was probably pretty seriously attractive, because Serge had now become his real-life alter-ego, Gainsbarre. The bloated, belligerent, boozed-up Gainsbarre, the Gainsbourg/Gainsbarre who, in the tradition of lost, aging, lost mid-life men who know they’ve screwed up a good thing and lost it for good, tried to replace Jane with the simulated Jane-simulation who was Bambou. He might have done better with a red Corvette, but he just wasn’t American. It’s all so sad to watch, especially the clip for “Charlotte for Ever,” as, on a grey, windy beach, he clings to his daughter, apologizing to her, but not only her, but obviously, inadvertently, profusely, abjectly to Jane, Charlotte’s mother, his estranged wife, so much the love of his life. But it’s real-life, and real love, and alter-egos and all their warts and all, and the thing about Serge is that he wasn’t afraid of being human. And all honour to him. Because being human, really human, not a man, not a woman, but merely human, is pretty damn courageous. And complex.

Gainsbourg: vie héroïque begins at the beginning but doesn’t end exactly at The End. And to the movie’s credit, it doesn’t try to cover everything in between, exactly. Which, despite the probable protests from all of those cigarette-wielding Frenchmen fashionistas, is probably for the better. Because in France, or in French cinemas, at least, or at least in Parisian cinemas, people normally stay to The End. As in The End — the very post-credit End, when the final credits have rolled, finally, bitterly. But at the Gainsbourg film? Which lasted two-and-a-half hours? People couldn’t wait. They just couldn’t wait to leave. They were desperate. Because after vicariously living through and vicariously living with and vicariously witnessing and vicariously, voyeuristically watching all of those graceful and generous and gratuitously-glowing Gainsbourgian Gitanes, it was time. It was time to go out for a smoke.

The Former Las Palmas Theatre, Hollywood

Contact Prints by Chris Collins

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the greater Chicagoland desk of Joe Carducci…

Kurt Andersen’s major think-piece in New York mag sums up, after lengthy pop-history lessons, with his concern about “the elites going native”. By which he means he fears the Republicans are going to adopt Tea Party populism and unlike Presidents of the past (FDR, Reagan, “even Nixon”) the next one won’t pay lip service to populist winds, he will actually govern like pick-your-favorite fly-over lesser-humanoid: Joe the Plumber, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul… Andersen doesn’t understand/cannot conceive even, that its FDR’s populist surrender on domestic policy that is now in its death throes. The state can’t claim a greater share of economic activity without suppressing the economic vitality necessary to yield even the revenue it currently takes and considers inadequate. Roosevelt’s surrender was done in the thirties and it deepened and lengthened the recession as is commonly understood and willfully forgotten. And he wanted worse and FDR therefore had one more self-interested need to go to war to turn-over the chessboard of domestic politics and disguise the failure of his policies. A parallel trick was done in the eighties when Tip O’Neill and Jim Wright gunned domestic spending commitments under cover of Reagan’s military build-up but actually so as to obscure the effectiveness -- the revenue-increasing effectiveness -- of his tax cuts. The populists currently out there vote-buying are already in power, Kurt, and they count on math-phobic journalism majors failing to understand how lower percentages can yield greater revenue totals in a growing economy. These obfuscations always pass muster with the sharpies in the newsmedia and that is what allows sophisticated concerned commentators of today to be frightened by people they see on television who might they worry get into power. They are truly horrified, they often remind their readers, as if they aren’t sure they are believed.

Take a look at this New Yorker cartoon for a distillation of what we’ll be hearing from the pols not smart enough to step down this year.

On Presidents’ Day Terry Savage in the Sun-Times revisits Illinois’ five pension plan scams. This isn’t just an Illinois problem. These hidden deals and their fixes are what Andersen could be writing about. The era of kicking the can down the road is ending. Savage predicts what happens when all the bad borrowing comes due: “On that day, the war between the taxpayers and the public pensions will officially begin.” She uses the Governor’s own Pension Modernization Task Force figure for this state’s unfunded pension liability: “$61 BILLION! And that number is growing exponentially.” The public pensioners and those shirking their way toward theirs, pay their own taxes out of these very public monies and they don’t just occupy the people’s state, they are the state, and they come to expect this current sweet deal will get sweeter still for their public sector Morloch children who will be feeding on our Eloi descendents.

Over in the Trib Greg Burns takes a look at FDR’s gift that keeps taking, Social Security, whose own national day of reckoning is suddenly nearer as the recession drives people to give up and leave the workforce early. Because American lives are so different, and much longer than they were when Roosevelt made this deal to help families, save capitalism and whatnot, this can never be fixed. He set the age of retirement a good seven years after the average life expectancy! (He only got to 63 himself, thank God.) And people of that day were a different breed. Generations since have been bred to scam; in fact, multiversities and community colleges now disgorge thousands upon thousands of social science counselors determined to advise the advisorless on how to scam said system for everything that is their due as victims of late capitalism. And in the present hubbub over Healthcare, that such actuarial factors are elided rather than faced means that any fix will actually be some inside group’s short-term money-grab/culpability-evasion. That American medicine itself is intrinsically a success in terms of advances in its science, technology, and therapeutic application, makes this whole exercise in “reform” exactly the kind of elite populism Andersen pretends to fear for us in our future.

I think NYT columnist Bob Herbert belongs on television where his distaste for the medium really transmits. His tiredest liberal complaints look so much better than they read. Tuesday’s column, "What’s Wrong With Us?" is a plea for infrastructure spending without the least acknowledgement that the money has a million other places to go thanks to sentiments expressed in the rest of his columns. The state will never do well what it has to do until it stops trying to do what it shouldn’t be involved in.

Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal on The Galbraith Revival is good on the disguised self-interest of a Roosevelt or Galbraith, and its cold lack of concern for what today is called sustainability. He quotes from Galbraith’s 1981 autobiography about the early FDR period, “‘Word had… reached the university that a nearly unlimited number of jobs were open for economists at unbelievably high pay in the federal government… All the new agencies needed this talent… so a new gold rush began.’ One might think that this would have opened his eyes to the vested interests of bureaucracy -- to the possibility that large government programs might operate more for the interest of the apparatchiks than for that of the alleged beneficiaries. But it never did.” Dalrymple goes on to reference another of Galbraith’s books, “In The Good Society… he writes that ‘the comfortably affluent resist public action for the poor because of the threat of increased taxes.’ It is true, of course, that the well-to-do resist tax increases in large part because they do not want to give up what they have; practically no one likes to be deprived of what he has. But in light of the ‘gold rush’ described above by Galbraith, is it not at least equally likely that those who propose tax increases do so in order to increase their own power and emoluments?”

This politico-economic dynamic is easier to see over in Europe where the social bargains are even corrupter and claim greater percentages of national economic activity, whilst regulatory and tax burdens tamp down the productivity needed, if just to pay for the socialism. There’s a lot of eye-opening reporting on Greece’s problem and its ramifications for the Euro, the EU, and Europe this week: Jacqueline Doherty, Simon Johnson & Peter Boone, George Papamarkakis, and even Paul Krugman. But for Greece herself? I recall that Robert Conquest, the Anglo-American historian of the Soviet Union, in his arguing that Britain should not ditch the pound for the euro, said something to the effect that the British being British would abide by the monetary agreements they’d sign, while the French being French would not. He didn’t even get to the Greeks… (Here is a transcript of an episode of “Uncommon Knowledge” from 2000 where Conquest mentions “elitist populists” in reference to those pushing the UK toward the EU.) And then returning here, we are presently counting on the Democrats to resist their impulse to construct a European-style welfare state where subsidized jobs are protected by a regime of fair-trade don’t-call-them-tariffs. A sure way to turn a trade war with China into a real one later in the century.


Lula da Silva in Brasil, on his way out the door is adding 46,000 new posts to the government. This can only be done once. Or twice… maybe. “‘The goal of the government is to give the State a new strategic role… (and this) would be incompatible with a reduction in staff’, points out a release from the Planning Ministry.”

I give ’em less than fifty years.


New York Times & women

Janet Maslin on Ken Gormley’s book, The Death of American Virtue, which apparently goes back through the Bill Clinton scandals with every living principal except Hillary talking it over, demonstrates how female journalists can never really intone the actual issues at stake for women as women in such stories -- even if that is somewhat unofficially their beat. They will deal on a superficial pride level with Does the wife stand next to her scandalized pol-husband when he crawls out before the television lights? Each of the women in the story except maybe Janet Reno felt compelled to remake their wardrobe, their hair and their faces to the point of plastic surgery. And each time they did so the jackals in the media, male or female, interested and invested all, crowed to celebrate the then visual confirmation that these women did not belong on our television sets at all. The fact that they were on our televisions and yet didn’t look like network, cable or at least major market news-honeys overwhelmed the particulars of whether Monica, or Paula, or Linda, or Juanita, or even Hilary herself -- the wronged wife/demon bitch of the various stories -- in any day’s news had been proved correct or wrong on this or that point of disorder. Neurologists are parsing the perverse motives women have in coupling with scoundrels and alpha-males of various types. But female writers are still pretending to know nothing about any of it. The same book is reviewed in Tuesday’s WSJ by ABC’s Jonathan Karl and he’s sharper on the politics and you don’t expect him to parse the female angles and he doesn’t pretend to. He likes the book as well and this sticks out of his summary: “Perhaps nobody opposed expanding the investigation (to Lewinsky) more than Mr. Starr’s deputy Hickman Ewing, who was running the independent counsel’s Little Rock office and felt that Hillary Clinton had a lot to answer for…. As Mr. Ewing put it: ‘Monica saved Hillary.’”

Manohla Dargis reviews the film Videocracy, a documentary about Silvio Berlusconi, in the NYT. Looks like something to see, though it fails to bring the time-honored adjective Fellini-esque to Manohla’s mind. That might’ve validated Silvio on terms embarrassing to the profession of film criticism.

Eye-Opening to Jaw-Dropping, by Shaila Dewan, and Katie Zezima in NYT. Women in Manhattan and in university faculties nationwide can now zone-out over the new, not-so-sugary buzz of the Professor-Killer. The first thing I noticed is that she is coiffed like Eve Ensler and she blasts away on V-Day practically. There’s paydirt to bury here.

Charlotte Allen has the cover story in last week’s Weekly Standard, and it’s cumulatively quite powerful and sad as she combs through “the new dating game”, the collegiate sex imbalance, the latest findings in the study of the brain, and the How-to Player’s handbooks that claim to isolate the weak spot in the female psyche thus solving women for their readers on the level these lined-up losers require. Never fear, alcohol should make up the differences all around quite nicely. Small chance NYT female staffers will find this in the increasingly hard-to-find Weekly Standard.


The sham math test for teachers in Illinois may be ending according to the Sun-Times. Still, “The U.S. teaching profession still draws from the ‘bottom half of the college population,’ while countries that outperform the United States tend to pull their teachers from the top third….”


"Paris declares war of words" by FT reporters at the UN and EU:

“Gerard Araud, France’s multilingual ambassador to the UN, declined to outline the programme for his country’s presidency of the UN Security Council in English, even as aides scurried to set up translation facilities. ‘I don’t speak English. Point… It’s unacceptable,’ he said…. Mr Raffarin last month delivered a similar message to Brussels, where in the past decade the European Union has evolved from being a bastion of French-speaking diplomacy to adopting English as its de facto working language.”

Gallic pride gives way to la dépression française, by Dominique Mosi in the FT:

“Whether in high technology or culture, there is a nagging sense in France that yesterday was better than today, let alone tomorrow. What will be France’s standing in a globalised world no longer dominated by the west? It was one thing to defer to the US, but what about China?”


"Young and wasted" by Francis Beckett in the New Statesman charts the British postwar baby boom generation and what it did with its special prerogative:

“We trashed it because we did not value it. We trashed it because we knew no history, so we thought our new freedoms were the natural order of things. It was as though we decided that the freedom and lack of worry that we had inherited was too good for our children, and we pulled up the ladder we had climbed.”


"Saint and Sinner", Michael Scammell on Ignazio Silone, in TNR. Scammell wrote the recent biography of Arthur Koestler so this is more essay than book review but Silone’s life and work, like those of Koestler, Camus, Orwell and others, remain instructive even in moments we might assume now to be proven mistaken because they lived through a period when the war of ideas became literal and forced the more honest writers that survived to look over the horrors which came of their own idealism and theory and begin to think about a climbdown-politic that would try for less but might accomplish more modest good for peoples high and low. Silone, whatever sins, was well-grounded: “Everything I have written up to now and probably everything I will write in the future, even though I have traveled and lived abroad for many years, refers only to that part of the country which can be seen from the house where I was born -- no more than twenty or thirty miles in any direction.”


"Helter Skelter, German Style". Peter E. Gordon in TNR on Hans Kundnani’s book, Utopia or Auschwitz: Germany’s 1968 Generation and the Holocaust. According to Gordon, Kundnani fixes on the “continuity thesis” of fascism with which Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer inadvertently set the sixties German student radicals “to see Nazism everywhere.” And then, if the adults elsewhere failed to defend their achievements, their universities, and their political cultures, in Germany in the sixties the adults who had largely come of age during the Third Reich, had no standing at all with which to stop the young radicals from recapitulating every miserable political error of the previous half-century in a fraction of the time.


Christopher Hitchens on Amnesty International’s decadent phase. It’s as if a society’s common sense culture leaves a moral wilderness to open up in the marketplace of ideas that beckons settlers with delusions of grandeur, none more than those ideologically opposed to the free motion of any real marketplace.


Wendy Smith reviews Steven Solomon’s book, Water - The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization:

“Seafaring culture, he argues, fostered ‘representative, liberal market democracy.’ Foreign trade across the open seas empowered private enterprise and loosened the government’s grip on the economy; societies driven by the profit motive responded more imaginatively to change. A hydraulic state like Imperial China excelled in the construction of water infrastructure, such as the 1,100-mile Grand Canal that linked the Yangtze and Yellow rivers in the 7th century but was inherently inward-looking and conservative: In 1433, for example, an emperor fearful of destabilizing foreign contacts terminated three decades of long-distance sea voyages, squandering China’s ‘clear naval superiority’ at the dawn of the Age of Exploration.”


The NBA’s locker-room nerds in WSJ. Don’t get your hopes up; they’re all the foreigners.


"Moonshine Gumshoe", Eddie Dean’s review of Max Watman’s book, Chasing the White Dog, in the WSJ


Bill Wyman getting his act together in WSJ, advising newspapers to learn how to serve their readers by checking Craigslist. Wyman used to think he was doing a bang-up job serving his readers at the Chicago Reader as he wrote his weekly review of the platinum-selling zeitgeist granfalloons-of-the-week ("Thriller", "Use Your Illusion", "Tunnel of Love"…) which the Theater crowd who ran the paper would put in the first section, leaving the Music section with just listings, and a few photos. The listings were fine, but the Film section had a paragraph about each film in town, most written by Dave Kehr no less. The Reader approach to Music was as geriatric as the daily newspapers were offering and it made the Reader a joke compared to free weeklies elsewhere -- even the wholly-owned L.A. Reader where R. Meltzer, ex-Chicagoan Chris Morris, Matt Groening and others did a good job covering that city and what passed through it. The old Chicago Reader leather-couch WXRT crowd were allergic to their city’s music. Eventually Billboard’s interest in what was happening in Chicago forced the Reader’s hand. Wyman tried to be interested; here’s an artifact from that era: Steve Albini vs. Wyman, Kot and DeRogatis. Wyman soon left town. For NPR apparently. Rock on.


Lately, however, owned by outsiders-or-not, the Reader has been running some nice local music history pieces by Jake Austen (of Roctober and here occasionally) and these may be longer-form than anything appearing in the Voice or Weekly these days. This week is Jake’s portrait of Southside music impresaria Helen Wooten.


Hermosa Beach Punk Flyer Exhibit.
Sat. February 20, 6pm, Hermosa Beach Historical Society


Rowland S. Howard film trailer.


Decibel Magazine online: Chandler, Weinrich, Adams on the Naomi Petersen shoot of the cover of the Saint Vitus “Thirsty and Miserable” EP at Tom’s Thirsty Club, Redondo Beach, Calif.


SST Records finally a Hot Topic A #1 with a bullet!


The Watt from Pedro Show for February 13, 2010: Craig Ibarra, Kid Kevin Carle + Vinnie Vegas debuting The Reactionaries - "1979"

Reactionaries record release party
Saturday, Feb. 20, 9pm, Free!
Harold’s Place
1908 S. Pacific Ave.
San Pedro, Calif.

(This issue thanks to Cassius Cassius, Don Waller, Steve Beeho, J. Bennett, Dave Diebler, Bart Bull)

To receive a weekly update notice for the NV, send an email to newvulgate[at]sbcglobal.net with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. To stop receiving notices, do the same with the word UNSUBSCRIBE.

• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Issue #32 (February 10, 2010)

San Pedro, California

Photo by Mike Watt

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci…

Decibel Magazine interviewed David Chandler, Scott Weinrich, Mark Adams, Armando Acosta, and myself on the making of Saint Vitus - “Born Too Late” (SST 082), which was recorded soon after Wino joined the band in 1985. The seven-page feature includes two photographs by Naomi Petersen that haven’t been seen before; it’s not on-line but it's something to look for at the newsstand.

L.A. Record has an interview up with Dave Chandler.


Henry Rollins on BBC.


CST's profile of Ric Addy, proprietor of Shake, Rattle and Read, one of the more interesting shops in Chicago, and where I found a record-less cover of the United States of America album to go with my cover-less record of same.


Kicksville cache, Lester Bangs' letters to Miriam Linna:

“I mean, I love the Ramones and Clash and Richard Hell and Talking Heads and all of ’em too, but it’s not exactly the most expansive, effusive, warm-blooded music ever made. Suit’s the time ‘n’ all that, I know, I know, but jeez it feels cold and bleak out here (or in here) sometimes… I mean, I ask you, WHERE ARE THE PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS OF 1977-8? (I’m totally serious about that.)”



This piece has a lot of detail about ONO that is news to me. Of course we at Thermidor didn’t know much about them when we put out their two albums, “Machines That Kill People” (1984), and “Ennui” (1986); we just liked the noise. The piece also has Travis’ mid-70s Cleveland stories with interesting Peter Laughner recollections.

Listen to the recent ONO session at Coach House Sounds studio.

ONO upcoming perfs this month in Chicago:

•16 - The Whistler "Sycamore Trees"
•19 - First Pres. Church/Woodlawn Collaborative/OpenMIC
•27 - Mortville "In Every Dream Home a Heartache"

[Photo: ONO, Coach House Sounds, Chicago, Ill., by Joe Carducci]


Binky Philips of the Planets, eyewitness to the founding of Kiss… and a few months later on Isis trying to follow Kiss.


Trip Henderson sits in on harmonica around NYC during February:

•15 - Parkside Lounge 3rd Monday Old Time Jam, hosted by Whistlin’ Wolves (9pm)
•16 - WKCR (89.9 fm) w/ Honky Tonkin Radio Band (9:30 - 11pm)
•19 - Jalopy w/ Frank Shaap (8pm), Redbird Round, Whistlin’ Wolves (10:30pm)
•20 - Banjo Jim’s w/ Whistlin’ Wolves (10pm)
•23 - The Rodeo Bar w/ The Second Fiddles (9pm)


WSJ on the Film Forum’s forty years.


James Parker on I Am Ozzy:

John Osbourne: “I remember this bloke getting me in a headlock and trying to punch my teeth out, and all I can hear on the jukebox is this kumbaya bullshit being tapped out on a fucking glockenspiel while some knob-end with a voice like his marbles are in a vice warbles on about 'strange vibrations.’”


Screw the Rules -- Your Channel.

I’m worried about Judy McGrath. She’s always out front whenever MTV makes some big announcement that alters the direction of our very pop culture foundation! You know, like this big Snookie thing going on. But she’s nowhere to be seen. I hope she isn’t out on the ledge over this end of Music Television thingy. Who knows, Judy, Sumner might have one more wife left in him.


Inner Mongolia’s last steam trains.


Christopher Hitchens' review of The Cleanest Race, by B.R. Myers.

He credits Myers with revealing the rightist-racist regime the former communist state has become. “The whole idea of communism is dead in North Korea, and its most recent ‘Constitution’ has dropped all mention of it. The analogies to Confucianism are glib.” Well perhaps… depending… but the polar opposite of America with its convulsive succession of youth-cults, is not so much communism as more fundamentally gerontocracy -- what the technically modern state becomes when it’s left to pre-modern social devices. Any tyranny that doesn’t consume itself quickly as in the French First Republic or Germany’s Third Reich, goes static and as the Party ages it must first find something to do with its young males. Some enemy to throw them at. Lenin oversaw Russia’s cultural revolution, though Mao’s is the one we remember by that term. We see this now again and most diabolically in Arabia when the patriarchs collect third and fourth wives -- removing young women from their cohort and then encouraging the young men to embrace their futurelessness via jihad and death. With North Korea, it has seemed to me likely that we -- the US, Japan, South Korea, and the west -- will be lucky if we find that the Kim family regime might have been tipped over with the slightest of bluff-calling and only the past masses of starved and crushed North Koreans will pay. If we are not so lucky, many people may die by bio, chemo or nuclear attacks in Northeast Asia, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, or Madrid or London or Los Angeles or New York, for who knows where they will ship what they have manufactured.

Regarding America, it is the far-enemy of all such gerontocracies, and the attraction its popular culture has for the youth in them makes it a near-enemy, even an internal-enemy as well. As I’ve written before, they don’t fear America as a threat to control them so much as they fear that our example will unleash their own pent-up energies which any patriarch -- those in Pyongyang, those in Qom -- understands as the threat of chaos and their fall.


It takes Jane Mayer close to ten thousand precious New Yorker words to argue that President Obama and Attorney General Holder have not actually deviated from the Bush administration’s Justice Department’s handling of terrorists, though that treatment nevertheless caused damage to the country worse than any terrorist has inflicted. Or maybe it takes that many words to disguise a mash-note to two hunks of her dreams. The WSJ says something similar in a tenth the time but then it isn’t toting around such unwieldy pretenses while uh… distracted.


Three Irish Kings of County Cook

The case of the booby-trapped Lieutenant Governor is a pretty interesting window into the white male urban demimonde. Not the tattooed-up PBR drinkers of America, but the slightly overweight, Bud Lite drinkers of the lower middle class. These have often had a false start or two in their work-lives and their love-lives and the rapidly moving modern world must seem to them a mysterious party that they aren’t invited to but can’t help dream of slipping into. The Illinois Democratic Party primary ballot is always full of these guys. The winners tend to be connected to existing powers in the city, county or state government, or sometimes they are dry, reform obsessives like the young Pat Quinn, an aide to Gov. Dan Walker who made his name via the media and the founding of the Citizen Utility Board to keep an eye on Commonwealth Edison. His best claim to fame in my book is his successful drive to shrink the Illinois legislature from 177 to 118, but he was really stung by Dan Hynes’ recent television ad featuring the late Harold Washington on video explaining of his hiring of Quinn as city revenue director. It was a shocking split on the reformist side back then.

Well, Scott Lee Cohen must be some kind of a lumpen-genius because he won touting his job-fairs in ads when no-one knew who he was. He is a self-made millionaire pawnbroker. He candidly underlined his early failings (some of them anyway) when he earnestly threw his name and money into the race, but the newsmedia had more important things to bore us with. Cohen appeared with his ex-wife on television last week in effort to fight for the place on the ballot he had won. Then three days later at the half-time of Superbowl XLIV their two boys plus his fiance and her boy were beside him weeping as he resigned his ballot position. He stepped down to keep from hurting the Democrats but I think Governor Quinn (himself elevated to Gov from the Lt. Gov position when ex-Gov Blagojevich embarrassed his party or committed crimes, I forget which) has not saved himself.

While this went on last week, Speaker Madigan was silent and Mayor Daley pointedly refused to pile on: “So anybody who’s allegedly -- who’s arrested and the case is thrown out, should not run for public office. Is that right? You want that done? I’m just saying, it’s a very complicated issue.” At first I figured this was just more evidence that the city Dems are ambivalent about having another Democratic King downstate with his own corn-belt constituency. The Cook Country Dems have often given indication they were more comfortable leaving the Governorship to a Republican. But Daley and Madigan also know who Cohen is, and how many others like him fill the neighborhoods. Daley is even less well spoken than Cohen and it famously took him three tries at the bar to become a lawyer. He is one of those guys -- as gifted as he actually is. Madigan did the deed with Cohen, and yet Cohen thanked him and Daley too in his press conference, “I want to thank Mayor Daley for coming out, being a gentleman. I want to thank Speaker Madigan, who met with me on a personal level to give me advice, give me some reasons why it would be best for me not to be on the ballot.” Reformer Quinn on the other hand let the professional pols do his dirty work, while he never even spoke to Cohen. Quinn called a press conference for Monday morning to try to get back into his own story and oddly, to get a little of that Cohen magic, just in case: “I think anyone who’s human would be sympathetic to a man who spoke from his heart…. I met him on the campaign trail and I always found him to be a person who had a real heart for the working people…. It's never easy making those decisions, and I commend him for doing that, for making a decision that puts our state and our party and our country ahead of personal interests."

Quinn is at the top of the ballot, not Daley or Madigan, so the Democrats will lose the votes of these neighborhood guys, at least the white ones, to the Republicans in Illinois. The Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell stepped on the last of Cohen’s fingers clinging to his rationale by noting that Illinois has denied 13,000 hunting licenses and fishing permits over unpaid child-support payments. Very true, and those are 13,000 natural Democratic votes thereafter up for grabs to the Tea Partyers and/or the Republicans. Its true that divorce law doesn’t weigh so pitilessly on these guys as it did back when Perot was in the game. Politicians responded to them, recognizing that while a professional might raise two families, a working stiff cannot. Union jobs aren’t there anymore and the service economy offers greater options to working class women.

Election day addendum

Interesting recent articles from the dailies, but overall I’m struck by the poor quality of the coverage, especially the television coverage on election night. Usedtobe, Chicago’s six or seven stations sent dozens of reporters and anchors out across the city and county and state to run live coverage of the count. Many of those reporters are now national fixtures: Ray Suarez, Sheryl Atkisson, Lester Holt and others. And each station had its own specialist; some of these are still around but they are not central to the coverage anymore.

John Kass flashes back to the Democratic Convention Illinois unity breakfast which turned into an Oprah show. What you need to know about the vid is that Jesse Jackson Jr. one year later was trying to buy what Blagojevich was selling, but the john always gets off.

Lynn Sweet’s rundown on Speaker Madigan.

Kass takes his eye off the ball, onto William Cellini, Republican.

Green urinals, copper pipes, city hall is a union shop, just say ‘no’ to PVC and open the windows.


Christopher Caldwell in the FT on One Step back for mankind.

“The debate over Nasa bears some resemblance to the debate over Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent: whether it is efficient or not, if you do not maintain such a programme, you will lose the skills that enable you to have one at all.” The story also fits with the feminization narrative one sees as women have taken over education by norming the girls, pathologizing the boys who more and more leave school before college. The feminists of the Democratic Party would zero out Nasa as well as the military for social welfare spending if they weren’t of use to the party as jobs programs.


Ishmael Reed on the film Precious in the NYT.

There’s a whiff of the Scott Lee Cohen/Child-support blues in the brothers’ ’hood too, only here/there it’s the black woman who has the greater options which lays additional pressure on the man who won’t be going to college, or working in an office, or writing mystery novels.


Alice Kaplan, The Nation, “Ghostly Demarcations: On Ramon Fernandez”, a review of a son’s memoir of his father, “an esteemed literary critic who became, from 1936 to 1943, the self-appointed ‘minister of culture’ for a fascist populist movement led by Jacques Doriot, the former communist mayor of Saint Denis.”


Obituaries of the Week

Phillip Martin, Moses of the Choctaw, in the WSJ.

Andaman Bo tongue extinct.

"It is generally believed that all Andamanese languages might be the last representatives of those languages which go back to pre-Neolithic times," Professor Abbi said.

Felice Quinto, Paparazzo Zero.


New York Times vivisection

There must a big position opening up on the editorial page because film critic A.O. Scott had two think-pieces in the Sunday NYT. Frank Rich must think he has the stuff. Think again, I’m afraid. Scott’s “Apolitics and the War Film” is premised on what the NYT seems to understand as the likely appetite of its readership across the university faculties of this great land for films which “show” positive political awareness. Reluctantly and gently Scott and by extension the Times in its cultural mode, delivers filmmakers from this agit-prop charge. The least they could do on the Arts page, but this was Week in Review. Scott’s piece doesn’t really number the films that did paint the nightmare Vietnam scenario for Iraq and failed, as drama of course, but as teachable moments as well since nobody saw them. It’s that the better films begin with an un-ideological acceptance of war that Scott wastes our time fathoming. Even worse is his “Turncoats who become Heroes”, especially considering he probably reads his own paper and saw David Brooks’ “Messiah Complex”, a far smarter and more succinct treatment of the common new-left fantasy of being down with the brothers against the Man, only in outer space or back in the olden times.

Elisabeth Bumiller in NYT, “A Well-written War, Told in the First Person” is yet more spoon-feeding harsh realities to the sensitive NYT subscriber list (portrayed in those TV ads as Whole Foods hipsters looking for a mirror on weekends). Here it's war literature actually written by soldiers who were there. Imagine, not a NYT subscriber among ’em by the sound of it.

The unsigned “Abstinence Education Done Right” editorial would have been written by Gail Collins a few years back but now is likely written by the remaining editorial masthead female, Carla Anne Robbins, the deputy editorial page editor. I’m just guessing the nervous, too-subtle-by-half word-exercise must have been written by a woman well drilled in the evasion of all that went wrong with the sexual revolution for women. Now there’s a hurt locker.

“The New Math on Campus” by Alex Williams was in the Sunday Styles section so it shies from deep sociology other than the numbers themselves. Apparently the Ivy League schools tend to tilt male still, but elsewhere when schools made to use an affirmative-action for males “the US Commission on Civil Rights moved to subpoena admissions data from 19 public and private colleges to look at whether they were discriminating against qualified female applicants.” Very funny. But I love this construction: “In this way, some colleges mirror retirement communities, where women often find that the reward for outliving their husbands is competing with other widows for the attentions of the few surviving bachelors.”


Brasilian “sub-imperialism” feared on the Left by the Left as it seeks a successor to Lula da Silva.


FT preview on Canada’s choice to host the G7 at Iqaluit, capitol of Nunavut, where “Canada’s east coast seal hunt is the world’s largest… ‘Putting seal meat on the G7 menu can only be seen as a deliberate provocation to EU representatives,’ said Arlene McCarthey, a UK member of the European parliament and one of the main proponents of the EU ban.” How un-Canada-like, maybe they’ll win these Winter Olympics.


The Hockey News has a nice issue on the stands valorizing the hockey jersey through history.


The Tribune’s K.C. Johnson on the Bulls’ Tyrus Thomas.

Johnson is finally telling what he knows here as he seeks to call the trade of Thomas before it happens. Yet he is at pains to salvage his yet-to-deliver narrative of Coach del Negro should’ve been fired. Not Orwellian enough for the sports page, K.C.

(thanks to Steve Beeho, Jay Babcock, Andy Schwartz)

The DuPage River, Naperville, Illinois

Photo by Joe Carducci

To receive a weekly update notice for the NV, send an email to newvulgate[at]sbcglobal.net with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. To stop receiving notices, do the same with the word UNSUBSCRIBE.

• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Issue #31 (February 3, 2010)

DuPage River, Naperville, Illinois

Photo by Joe Carducci

From Steve Beeho at the London desk…

Peter Ivers was a restlessly creative figure with a flair for self-sabotage. Until the recent spate of CD reissues he was probably best remembered for anti-hosting New Wave Theatre, the early 80s cable show which provided rare national exposure for punk and new wave bands (via USA cable network’s “Nightflight” program). Josh Frank’s and Charles Buckholz’s biog, In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre, charts the diverse cultural strata Ivers straddled (e.g., Jello Biafra was a fan of Ivers' early LPs well before their paths crossed on New Wave Theatre) and in particular how LA punk intersected awkwardly with Hollywood.

Before New Wave Theatre, Ivers recorded three off-beat LPs for Epic and Warner Bros, and the likes of Van Dyke Parks, David Lynch, Harold Ramis, Francis Ford Coppola and National Lampoon founder Douglas Kenney all figured in his life at various times. The account of Ivers torpedoing his opening slot for “Rumors”-era Fleetwood Mac shows how his self-destructive streak was ripe for the looming punk upheavals.

At times though it feels as if the authors are too keen to validate Ivers in terms of the Hollywood company he kept and other potentially fertile angles are left unexplored. There’s a passing reference to him “often sitting in on harmonica with John Cale” – but that’s all we get. And the capsule Ivers biog in the afterword casually mentions that he produced Circus Mort but the actual text has nothing to say about his involvement with Michael Gira's first record, even though it sounds as if it wasn’t the smoothest recording session in the world. On the "plus" side, there’s plenty about the making of Caddyshack.

Josh Frank’s pseudo-novelistic style, where he presumes to know what thoughts are going through his subjects’ heads (on a given day, yet!) also gets a bit grating after a while. I'm not sure when this approach to biographies started (possibly round about the same time that documentaries stopped bothering to slap on "RECONSTRUCTION" whenever they dramatised something) but it really is irritating.

Although the mystery of Ivers’ death isn't solved as such his NWT partner David Jove is fingered as far and away the most likely suspect for his murder. The most startling aspect of this is the revelation that the ”megalomaniac bully” David Jove was also apparently David Schneiderman aka "The Acid King", a character who features prominently in British 60s counter-culture chronicles as the shadowy figure who infamously supplied the drugs at the Redlands bust and then conveniently disappeared when Jagger and Richards were arrested, amid dark suggestions later on that the whole thing was a set-up engineered by Schneiderman/Jove.

It’s not made terribly clear by Frank the extent to which Jove’s previous life was common knowledge to his LA circle. Some idle googling revealed though that a novel was also written about Jove by Maggie Abbott who was familiar with his murky past. In The Acid King: A Rock’n’Roll Novella the David Jove character claims that after being busted himself he was forced into acting as a pawn of the FBI/CIA to infiltrate the rock establishment to ensure it was undermined before it got (political) ideas above its station. Abbott’s plot also suggests that Peter Ivers may have been mistakenly murdered by people who were actually after David Jove.

Jove died in 2004 and the full truth of his life and any alleged involvement in Ivers’s murder will probably never be known. Michael Dare’s sympathetic tribute to him dismisses the idea of Jove murdering Ivers but even Dare describes him as "the closest thing to Charles Manson I've ever met loose in the street" (!)

I wouldn’t hold your breath for a New Wave Theatre DVD box set but pirate copies can be found on the internet easily enough. Meanwhile Ivers’ back catalogue is finally getting the reissue treatment - Jim O'Rourke picked “Take It Out On Me” as his pick of the year in the Christmas edition of The Wire so a tribute album is probably only a matter of time.

Excerpt in the L.A. Weekly on Ivers, Eraserhead, NuArt, Devo…

More on NWT/Jove from Michael Dare.

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Kroehler Midwest desk of Joe Carducci…

Minutemen were Reactionaries
(liner notes for new archival release by The Reactionaries)

by Joe Carducci

For most of the music world – or rather the much smaller rock world – of the early 1980s, the Minutemen seemed to arrive fully formed, as if from some other planet. Questions must have immediately crossed minds: Where are these guys from? What drugs are they on? Are they carbon-based life forms? Those reactions were understandable, as it was the 45-song, double 33 rpm “Double Nickels On The Dime” (SST 028) that introduced the band to most folks outside of Los Angeles.

If I remember right, the initial sales jumped from the five thousand range for “Buzz Or Howl Under The Influence Of Heat” (SST 016), to fifteen thousand for “Double Nickels”. (Of course all those releases sold far more after the day.) D. Boon, Mike Watt and George Hurley were always deflecting the effusiveness of fans in clubs, or in interviews – it was part of their charm. But think about it, the Minutemen were telling kids that they could pick up instruments and do the same! Nobody who saw them live believed that for a second.

I was at Systematic Record Distribution and got their first record, “Paranoid Time” (SST 002), from the label and ordered it for distribution to shops around the country. It was hard enough for me to discern how great they were from that and their early follow-up records and compilation tracks. To my ear, I don’t think I really heard what they were capable of until they were playing the Anti-Club regularly in 1983-84. There was just so much music packed into their short, fast tunes. And at each gig a few older, simpler tunes were replaced by new, even more masterful tunes.

At their first San Francisco gig at the Mabuhay, Dirk Dirksen (who ran and MC’ed the club), strolled out on stage to introduce them and the first thing he saw was a four-foot long set-list taped to D.’s mic-stand and Dirk said, “What is this, the history of music?!” It was! When we recorded the long tail of the song “More Spiel” for “Project: Mersh” (SST 034) I joked to D. that he had just laid down a six-minute history of the guitar solo. At SST, hearing guitarists Greg Ginn, Joe Baiza and Curt Kirkwood all the time, it was easy to underestimate how great a guitar player D. was. That radical reformation the Reactionaries performed on themselves to become the Minutemen encouraged that, because it elevated Mike and George to co-lead players.

But their world-historical, musical summation had a history as well. And that was their late-seventies band, the Reactionaries. Mike and D. had known each other since junior high. They met Martin Tamburovich and George Hurley at San Pedro high, although they wouldn’t claim they knew George because in Watt’s words, “he was a happening cat,” whereas D., Mike, and Martin were on the not-so-happening end of the high school social spectrum. As George tells it: “For a long time Mike would ask me to play music with him. He wanted to jam out, but I really wasn’t into it ‘cause I was a Surfer then and he was sort of a geek. I don’t know, we were kids. Finally, I agreed to it.” This kind of transgression of school social hierarchy is common when music brings young kids together in their first band. It’s an under-appreciated aspect of the power of music.

Thankfully the Reactionaries recorded a practice in their attempt to get gigs so we have these 10 songs to contemplate. What you can hear are the rudiments of the Minutemen’s sound, only unlike most bands, they only got rid of stuff as they improved. D. is already a good guitar player with his trebly sound in place. Mike and George play more standard-rock bass and drums parts, and Martin sounds like he belongs on the mic, though the quality of the lyrics varies widely.

Chuck Dukowski saw them and reports, “Martin was a cool singer and I liked his style.” They were just out of high school and though they already had their obsessive interests, the lyrics (by Mike, Martin, and friends outside the band) show an awkward adaptation to the punk style as they understood it. Like a lot of lyrics by seventies punk bands, television is of particular concern – punks who were determined to create a music scene thought watching TV was a fate co-equal to Death.

In February of 1979, Chuck and Greg Ginn were flyering a Clash, Bo Diddley, Dils show at the Santa Monica Civic when they met D. and Mike. The flyer was for what would be the second Black Flag gig and it was going to be in San Pedro. D. and Mike were amazed to learn of a gig in Pedro and Chuck hadn’t known there was a punk band there, so he put the Reactionaries on the bill. It was their first gig; they played with Black Flag, the Descendents (their debut too), the Alley Cats, the Plugz and an impromptu mini-set by the Last. A world-historical night, however many paid at the door.

The Reactionaries played only two more gigs, opening for the Suburban Lawns at their practice pad in Long Beach. They made a pass at getting a gig at the Other Masque up in Hollywood, but the band was falling apart. Mike’s description of D.’s loss of interest in the Reactionaries is interesting. Apparently D. didn’t offer his songs to the Reactionaries and then found them another guitarist (Todd Apperson) so he could quit. They broke up around mid-1979. George found a band in Hollywood called Hey Taxi! and is on their 45. Though soon enough, D. and Mike regroup and eventually pull George back into their new, improved mess after their new drummer (Frank Tonche) walked offstage and quit during their second gig.

At the Minutemen’s first gig (May 1980), Greg asked them to do a record for SST.

[cover art by Joe Baiza]

LP release party in San Pedro, Calif., February 20, 2010
more info: Water Under the Bridge Records

Here’s something I wrote about the Minutemen themselves for Mike’s Spiels of a Minuteman book in which I made my debut in French translation -- I’m told I make even less sense in French but that’s probably true of Thoreau too.

Chicago was late to the table but Walter Klein built the early venue alternatives to the Jam Productions monopoly (currently passing as an indie in their fight with LiveNation). Klein’s obit ran today and it’s interesting, though the detail that catches my eye is that the Minutemen reference is not linked to the great Tribune info mainframe whereas their pea-brain imitators the RHCPs are. Like anyone needs to know more than we’re forced to know about them.


Keith Morris tells Don Waller (Imperial Dogs, Back Door Man) a lot of cool things about seventies Hermosa Beach in this week’s Easy Reader. There’s also a mistake or two: It’s news to me if Raymond and Erica are twins but I suppose it’s conceivable that I don’t know. Spot had a few clarifications. He writes, “Greg never wrote for Easy Reader. so that would be me he was referring to in that regard…. I'm pretty sure that the photo Keith is referring to is the one I took that ran with the original article in ER. That was sometime in 1979... I have photos of all the bands that played that day. Perhaps the answer to these questions (re. Big Wow, Eddie & the Subtitles) lies in the film negatives. Interestingly, the guy who organized/mc'd the whole Polliwog Park show (who soon after became an ER staffer) said he was never upset about the events of the day. Instead, he was totally amused at the pandemonium it caused.”

Don Waller is this week’s guest on The Watt from Pedro Show.

Hey Mike: the half-time Who show by-the-numbers in the WSJ.


SST Records Hop in Cologne, Germany

Following up on their Dec./Jan. 2009 SST Records special issue #133 noting the 30th anniversary of the label’s founding, TRUST fanzine
 is throwing at least three DJs and two turntables at a complete (!?) pile of SST releases, (“even gonna spin Zoogz Rift!”). Videos and movies are promised too.

Saturday, March 13, 2010
Bar "Qlosterstüffje"
Venloer Str. 221, tube station Piusstr, Köln (Cologne)


WGRB AM Gospel 1390am, Chicago is a Clear Channel station and according to Lewis Lazare in the CS-T (second item), they are dropping from a 50-50 mix of Church choir songs and “new, hotter gospel artists” to one that leans to this hip-hop-style studio gospel by 80 or 90%. That isn’t all bad news judging by a track I heard in the car the other day. I would guess it was called “Back to God” but can’t track it down under that name so I’m hoping to catch it again. They stream.


Werner Herzog says interesting things in the DGA Quarterly that the Directors Guild members in good standing with terrible filmographies, more than most, would need to read:

“I always felt estranged from my peers. Having been self-reliant from age 15 on, my life had been very different from theirs. With the student revolt in 1968, everyone was talking about liberating the working class. I asked, “Have you ever worked in a factory one day? One night? One hour?” No, none of them had. [They talked of liberating prisoners and] I asked, “Who of you has been incarcerated?” None. But I had seen prisons in Africa from the inside. They were just talking about a figment of their collective fantasy and had no idea. It's not that I would postulate that to be a filmmaker you have to first be a proletariat or go to jail, but you have to experience life. You need very naked, stark, fundamental experiences.”


The Chicago papers are where the action is on a weekend like this one past, when both parties have competitive primaries for Governor, Senate, and in Chicago the one-party also has its sitting potentates challenged by this or that buppie, bourgie or street radical trying to stand up for voters who may care more about the Lotto numbers. We also got stories about Cicero’s ex-mayor Betty Loren-Maltese getting out of her half-way house after prison for her part in a municipal insurance scam, and stories about ex-alderman Ed Vrdolyak perhaps wending his way toward the slammer. Also both the Blackhawks and the Bulls returned from their long “Ice-Show” road trips successfully. However, the rockcrit pages have been ridiculous as DeRogatis and Kot use the Grammies as an excuse to plum the shallows of the world their pop crit elders cheered the creation of -- seems it's enough for ‘em. And the Tribune just announced it will get a full inch narrower, qualifying it for pamphlet mailing rates I think.

“Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak to Sneed: “Hey, not even fishing is on the square.”

Rich Samuels WTTW “Chicago Tonight” blog
(please visit his blog so he doesn’t force us to take this photo down!)

Caption: “Sunday, March 1st, 2009: The sentence Judge Milton Shadur handed down for Edward Vrdolyak last Thursday will certainly be remembered as one of the most controversial (and surprising) in many years. Let me share with you a photo "Fast Eddie" sent me not long after his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Mayor Harold Washington in 1987. The inscription reads: ‘Rich, why is your wallet in your front pocket?’ Vrdolyak from time to time cultivated his image.”

Laura Washington in her Sun-Times column, “Youth vs. experience in two hot races”, reviews two contests including Alderman William Beavers vs Elgie Sims: “fervent defender of patronage politics and tax increases… Beavers, 74, proudly touts that he’s ‘the hog with the big nuts.’ Over coffee last week, Sims told me it’s time African-American voters retired the pork. Sims, 39, speaks for a ‘new breed’ of black professionals who reject the ‘old guard, old mentality, not willing to change, not willing to come to the 21st century.’” The other one profiled is for alderman of a Southwest side ward that features Rudy Lozano, an activist son of an organizer murdered by assailants unknown against Dan Burke, the brother of long-time alderman Ed Burke. Washington writes: “Lozano, 34, is the first serious challenger to Burke, an Irish American who has held office for 19 years. When he was elected, the district was mostly white. Today, 75 percent of its registered voters are Latino. Burke argues he brings cash, influence and electoral know-how. As a non-Latino member of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus, he helped win a $98million state grant for local charter schools…. Burke, 58, admits he distributed thousands of pumpkin pies, hams and turkeys in the district over the holidays… [and] Burke is already grooming a Latino to succeed him, he assures. Some day.” Washington also notes that the use of the late Harold Washington’s torching of Governor Pat Quinn was legit and on target, without her vouching for Hynes the younger at all. Sidenote: The Harold once told Joel Weissman that he did not think Vrdolyak was racist, but that he did think Ed Burke was. Let’s hear it for Fast Edward R. Vrdolyak.

John Kass on the lay of Tuesday, while his ankle-biting commenters hope to instead shame him into focusing instead on you-guessed-it Eddie Vrdolyak.

Bring Me the Head of Walter Kozubowski.

The Sun-Times had the better election-day front page but the Tribune has this excellent rogues gallery. If you do not click through this Illinois Perp-walk Hall of Fame these public servants will have been incarcerated in vain.

The Sun-Times’ John Jackson’s Bulls-are-back piece. They finished 5-2 during their Ice-Show exile and he writes, “According to ESPN, it's the first time in NBA history a team has won five road games in a row against teams with winning records.” Sports pages are the most Orwellian corner of the world of the written word and in Chicago-now the future of Bulls coach Vinny del Negro was never in question now that ESPN has proclaimed thusly. Still the sports pages are full of columnists trying to make any coach’s job impossible as they demand Derrick Rose take over the game, the team, the city council…. They should stick to writing about the Bears where such keen insight harms no-one’s chances for anything. It’s actually been easy to see that the Bulls are coming together albeit in slow motion dictated by injury and illness, these primarily of Kirk Hinrich but also of Tyrus Thomas, John Salmons and others. This would have occurred even if Scott Skiles was still the coach. As second-year man Derrick Rose, and third-year man Joakim Noah mature the Bulls are getting heavy minutes from a 23-year old rookie, Taj Gibson, and back-up center Brad Miller regularly cracks up the Bulls broadcast team (Stacey King, Neil Funk) as he pounds his heavy pale carcass down the paint past sleek doberman forwards waving him by for a lay-up or free throws. James Johnson is another rookie that can do a thing or two. They may not make the finals as is but they have not reached their potential yet. I hated to see Chris Duhon go to the Knicks, but if they trade Kirk Hinrich to the Lakers, Bulls v.p. John Paxson should fire himself again and completely. Hinrich plays defense like Jerry Sloan did (and he’s got the face to prove it) but he shoots like Paxson. Give the Lakers Hinrich and Derek Fisher will retire while Kobe goes on to trump Jordan’s trophy shelf. In Tuesday’s paper it’s the Celtics who want Hinrich -- that’s pretty rich seeing as how Rondo, the Celtics and David Stern still owe Hinrich and the Bulls a game seven, either that or Kirk might try to add some character to Rajon’s smooth but twitchy face. I like watching Luol Deng and John Salmons play; they have that cool economical style that’s in short supply in these days of tattooed hot-heads playing the refs, but size-wise in the playoffs? The trade deadline is three weeks away.

[Blackhawks, photo by Joe Carducci]

The Tribune’s Chris Kuc’s Blackhawks road trip breakdown. The Blackhawks have already convinced the city they will bring the Stanley Cup one or many times over the next decade, and their “One Goal” pr campaign is just pouring on that pressure. So their 5-3 road trip was slightly disappointing. They seem to operate inefficiently as they often dominate puck-possession and the shots-on-goal count while allowing their opponent to stay in the game. This leaves questions about their goaltenders but the beat writers haven’t convinced me they need to trade for a readymade cup-winner. Here the sports columnists are busy making excuses for missing the construction of this team, not knowing who Joel Quenneville is, and claiming none of it matters because hockey is simple. Again, they should stick to their Bears because they will continue to miss the sport even now that they are forced to watch. That’s no shame in hockey because when coaches change lines and defensemen on the fly for the match-ups they want, there are probably only a couple dozen fans who really are able to keep up with any coach’s strategy, home or away. Plus they’d have to sit a few rows center immediately behind the benches just to see it all. I’m not one of the experts so I know what I’m talking about. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: “Hockey = Jazz”. I keep measuring the Hawks by the old gold-standard Edmonton Oilers of Gretzky, Kurri, Messier and Fuhr. The Blackhawks can be as fast but they do not yet know each other well enough to be that efficient a wrecking machine of other teams’ defenses. They are for flashes here and there though, and by May…?

Scotty Bowman named his son Stanley and he’s the Blackhawks GM, by the Trib’s David Haugh.


Steve James new doc, No Crossover - The Trial of Allen Iverson. It’s about Iverson’s hometown Hampton, Virginia which is still hot about some race rumble or other. Just in time for Iverson’s retirement from the NBA and his return as an all-star starter.

Loretta Chao on Stephon Marbury now starting for the Shanxi Zhongyu Professional Basketball Club, from the WSJ.

[Extra: Report of and video from Marbury's first game in China here]


The Washington Post’s vaunted editorial/beat firewall can shelter the cleverest of the home-ful and the cake-eaters as the CityPaper reconstructs a WP blog since removed.


New Russia’s New Kronstadt by Andrew Rettman.


Fr. Boris Moreno, economist, in Palabra Nueva, the Havana Diocese magazine warns that the Cuban economy is “close to free-fall.”


Qaddafi content to be King of Kings.


Michel Gurfinkiel reviews Frederick Brown’s For the Soul of France.

Peggy Hollinger in the FT on France’s plan to consolidate/urbanize the French countryside: “France accounts for 40 per cent of all municipalities in the European Union. More than half -- some 19,428 -- have fewer than 500 inhabitants and 33,000 have fewer than 3,000.”


Remembrance of Candy Bars Past, by Steve Almond in the WSJ:

“All of these companies are acutely aware of how tenuous their businesses are. The consolidation of retail outlets has destroyed the network of mom-and-pop grocery stoes that sold their products. And the giant chains, that dominated the retail landscape, such as Wal-Mart, charge so-called ‘slotting fees’ -- a fee paid by the supplier for desirable shelf space -- that are often prohibitive.”


Christopher Caldwell in the FT on Louis Menand’s new book, The Marketplace of Ideas:

“Menand draws his idea of what an American university education can be from the history of what it has been. This approach illuminates, as polemics cannot, two grave present-day problems: the loss of consensus on what to teach undergraduates and the lack of intellectual diversity among the US professoriate.”


David Barboza from Changsha, China in the NYT on the hacker subculture:

“Majia and his fellow hackers keep secret their knowledge of certain so-called zero-day vulnerabilities -- software flaws -- for future use, he says. ‘Microsoft and Adobe have a lot of zero days,’ he said, while scanning Web sites at home. ‘But we don’t publish them. We want to save them so that some day we can use them.’ When asked whether hackers work for the government, or the military, he says ‘yes.’ Does he? No comment, he says.”


China set for global lead in scientific research, by Clive Cookson in the FT looks over Thomson Reuters’ index of scientific papers from 10,500 journals, re. Brazil, Russia, India, and China over the last thirty years.


The Rise of the capitalist kibbutz, by Tobias Buck in the FT reviews the privatization of most aspects of kibbutzim since the 80s as they began to de-emphasize farming for industry and required standard business practices to operate profitably. “And though their number is dropping fast, of the 262 kibbutzim in Israel today, some 65 still operate in the traditional way, while 188 have been completely, and nine partially, privatised.” What shadows this development I think is the end of European intellectual investment in the health of the state of Israel; now that it isn’t a socialist project they’d as soon it loses the next war…

Except for the prankster P.M. Silvio Berlusconi wants Israel to join the EU so as to make that next war the efficient trigger for several simultaneous final solutions, I suppose.


The Swedes earnest social engineering in Malmo, according to David Harris.


There’s an interesting article called "The Illusion of Regulatory Competence", by Slavisa Tasic in Critical Review; it’s not posted but this abstract is:

“The illusion of explanatory depth, which has been identified by cognitive psychologists, may play a prominent role in encouraging regulatory action. This special type of overconfidence would logically lead regulators to believe that they are aware of the relevant causes and consequences of the activities they might regulate, and of the unintended side effects of the regulatory actions they are contemplating. So, as with other cognitive biases, the illusion of explanatory depth is likely to lead to mistakes. And unlike the biases that have been the focus of so much behavioral economics, the illusion of explanatory depth is uniquely resistant to correction by those who are aware of it as a general problem and rigorously attempt to keep it under control.”

And here’s John Judis in TNR to illustrate the acidtrip-like wonders said illusion swallowed whole provides. After 9-11 it seemed to me there might be a chance at reorienting the state away from jobs it does not do well so that it might do one or two important jobs better. But immediately Bush caved on Homeland Security, making it just another immoveable vote-rich civil service bureaucracy protected by union contracts and the Democrats in Congress and legislatures. It hasn’t failed yet but that delayed flinch from the White House over the Christmas attempt on the airliner signals what all might have to be disgorged upon any such dramatic failure. Still, now we see the state trying to open its distensible jaw so as to swallow another massive chunk of the private sector. I suspect it's enough to cross the line past which the beast chokes, but the appetite gets rolled back to something more sustainable.

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