Saturday, April 30, 2005

that big purple flowering thing has a name, I can't remember what. I hope it grows tall. I planted a bunch of cosmos seeds along the wall here.Between the gardenia bush and the purple dr. seuss-looking thing, there will be huge lilies. They'll come in late summer from the bulbs the landlord put in last year. Posted by Hello

that pruned and stunted azalaela is free of disease and ready to bloom. Posted by Hello

tiny rose bush Posted by Hello

Since my last garden post, I've added some plants, including a miniature rose bush. Everything's happy in the rain. The big rose in the middle, and the two large bushes were planted last year, by the landlord. He knows what he's doing in the garden. Posted by Hello

There might eventually be some hollyhocks here. Posted by Hello

watch this space. Here's where the morning glory seeds went.  Posted by Hello

Seeds, Bugs, Grisly Movie Murders

So, another day, another movie. Soon the Tribeca film festival will be ending, and I will have festival withdrawal. Today I got in some mandatory outdoors time looking at my plants as they thrived in the rain. The other day, when it was sunny and windy, I planted some seeds: hollyhocks, morning glory and cosmos. This was a new frontier in gardening for me. I even nicked and soaked the morning glory seeds to help them germinate. Seed germination is fascinating, I think. When I was a kid I tried to growing things from seed and they pretty much failed, all except the corn I grew in our backyard, which matured and got silky and everything, but when I opened up the ears they were completely filled with bugs. I was so traumatized that I never gardened again. It's these childhood tragedies that one must work through.
So speaking of childhood tragedies....last night I went to the most devastating movie I'd seen in the film festival, one that was created initially because of the film-maker, Fanta Regina Nacro's tragedy. Her uncle was murdered by being slowly barbecued to death. As you can imagine, when I begin with this detail, "Night of Truth" (or Nuit de la Verite) was grisly. It was set in a fictional African country in the wake of an ethnic war between the fictional "Nayaks" and "Bonandes." The script was very tight and obviously influenced by Shakespeare. It raised an important issue in the motivation of genocide, the same thing that I saw in "Bastards of the Party," that idea that the killing in such wars becomes personal, about revenge, and is not motivated by any larger political, or even economic concerns. The Nayak president's wife sits at the graveside of her son, at the beginning of the film, haunted and enraged. Bonande children sit in circles in the other region, trading stories of their hands or legs being amputated, their parents being killed. They are all to meet that night to make peace with the enemies, but while the leaders think it best, the armies, the children, the followers are unable to let go of the hatred of the war. In addition to liking the film, I'm happy that it marks the growing prominence of African film-makers.
To completely non-film related things. I was talking to someone the other day who speculated that George and Laura Bush must have a great sex life. This is something that I find repugnant to think about. What are your speculations? My guess is that both of them are uptight prudes, but I could be wrong.

Friday, April 29, 2005

news flash!

I usually limit this to one post (and one hour) per day, but I just had to post an extra edition. More good music on Goodman's show. "Meu Sapato ja Furou" by Clara Nunes, one my favorite samba songs ever. amazing. What has happened? I guess change is possible.

"The F Word,"

I heard something about a press-conference last night. ick.
How appropriate then that yesterday's movie was "The F Word." It was pretty great. It was shot in nine days and cost $6,000.00 to make and, in homage to Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool, it combined actors and real people who came in and out of protests at the Republican National Convention last Summer. I was impressed at how good the thing looked - given the "man-on-the-street" quality of it. The basic story was a guy walking from lower Manhattan to Central Park, on the premise that he was a radio host whose show was going off the air because of FCC fines. One of the luckiest parts of the film was that the film-makers managed to be there when that dragon caught on fire in front of Madison Square Garden in a still-murky accident. The charges against Josh Banno, who was accused of lighting the fire were recently dropped. They also got some great footage of very brutal arrests of Critical Mass riders, which they inter-cut cleverly with Mike Bloomberg's hypocritical speech at the convention. My labor union activist friend who joined me for the film wanted very much to know, was the "construction worker" who argued in favor of Ralph Nader at a hot-dog stand in Tompkins Square park real? I found out that indeed, he was an actor.
Unfortunately, the idiot from Gawker who went to the premier party didn't know anything about the left in NY, knew so little in fact, that he wondered why some "left-Jesus Freak" deserved to be in a movie when Rev. Billy was pointed out to him. I guess Gawker's writers don't even read the NYT It bugs me that someone who doesn't do any work can have so many readers.
Bizarrely, some people that I vaguely know were in the movie. There was of course, indie-actor Ed (now "Edoardo Ballerini"), who was in my circle of friends, and with whom I once had a big fight at Wesleyan. I don't remember what it was about, but I proudly disliked him from then on. He recited a Walt Whitman poem during the dream sequence... Then there was Owen, who I recall meeting in Minnesota; he was an ex-Special Forces marine who was spending as much time as possible in Cuba, and when mention was made of his ex-marine status in the post-film Q&A I realized that the vague familiarity that I felt while he was on-screen was not in fact a wannabe-friend-of-movie-people fantasy. And yes, it was my email pen-pal in that first scene, sporting a beard in the bell-ringing protest. I had thought I was imagining things.
And now, it's time to stop blogging...Once again Amy Goodman has found some good music, defying her usual bad musical taste -- a montage of different people singing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime." (on this link, you can hear Studs Terkel interview Yip Harburg about the song.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Tonight I saw a really fantastic film, Lionel Rogosin's 1959, clandestinely made "Come Back, Africa," about which he wrote a book that is now published.
The post-film Q&A was lovely. Rogosin's wife explained quite a bit about how the film was made using all non-actors, and under false pretenses. The fact that they were able to process the film and then send it to NY is pretty amazing. One of my guests at the theater told me that she had gone to highschool with Makeba's daughter. The film gave a devastating and very true picture of life under Apartheid, and reminded me of how I felt so conscious of the terrible injustices there for years and years in high school and college. I felt so passionately about what was going on and felt every day that I was party to a crime - that a crime was going on that I had to do something about. Now, more thanten years after the fall of Apartheid, conditions in the townships are still bad, as my friend Premesh would explain in detail. There are still conditions around the world about which, when I think about them, I have that same feeling; only now, I have less of a sense of my own capacity to have an effect. The comparable, wretched, hateful situation is in Israel/Palestine, where today settlers are protesting the most limited move to pull them out of their outposts on Palestinian land. Given the fact that the wall is well on the way to completion, I still conclude that historical conditions have not yet pushed Sharon into the deKlerk position on the eve of Apartheid's end. I certainly hope that I am wrong.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Literary Personals' Ads, Movie Comments: "Based on a True Story" and "American Ruling Class"

My friend Wigz alerted me to a blog entry about the personals ads in the London Review of books. They are funny. This conversation reminded me of how humorous I used to find the New York Review of Books personals, which all seemed to describe the same people. My recollection, without looking, is that they were fifty year olds with progressive politics, pets, and a penchant for the writing of Iris Murdoch/Flannery O'Connor, etc. Let's see, has anything changed? (just a minute). After checking this group, it seems that the hobbies are more outdoorsy, the age range remains the same, and the self-promotion seems to have increased. I notice a lot of the women describe themselves as "beautiful" - I don't think I would do that.
Yesterday I saw two movies: Based on a True Story, a documentary about the bank robbery and the robber upon which the movie "Dog Day Afternoon" is based, and "the American Ruling Class," a sort of star vehicle for Lewis Lapham of Harper's Magazine. (they have a very limited personals section).
I enjoyed, but was a little disappointed with "Based on a True Story," because I had remembered seeing fascinating clips from another movie juxtaposing "Dog Day" with the memories of Wojtowicz, which turned out to be Pierre Huyghe's film The Third Memorywhich I had seen pieces of at the Guggenheim's big "moving image" show a few years ago. Unfortunately, no mention was made of this 1999 film in the newer one. However, since the focus of Stokman's "Based on a True Story" was a set of phonecalls with Wojtowicz in which he demanded increasingly large sums of money for the privilege of his visual presence in the film, I can hardly blame Stokman for not doing what Huyghe did, and I wonder how Huyghe managed to work with "the Dog." Stokman's was more of a documentary because it did involve interviews with other people in Wojtowicz's life, many of whom came to the screening. Because of this film, I noticed when later, at Yaffa, Wojtowicz's ex-wife, Sharon, walked in the door with some friends. I felt great sympathy for her, as she failed to see who her husband really was, and still wanted to "get back" with him in the early 70s despite his marriage to a transsexual.
More disappointing was "The American Ruling Class," an arch film which really needs a major edit. There seems to be a bit of a conflict within the film about its meaning, as this New York Times piece suggests. The film, which my friend said was a big "apology" by Lapham for being a member of the ruling class himself, does have a little of that flavor. It is not filled with the same bizarre self-congratulation and self-hatred that you see in David Brooks' "work;" it is a lot more funny and more true. The best pieces, (oh future editor...Hear me) were the interview with Babara Ehrenreich in the IHOP, the rock video of workers singing "nickel and dimed." (I had so many friends who didn't like that book because of the idea of someone "playing working class," instead of just interviewing working-class people. The interview reveals Ehrenreich's sympathies and her interest in the people she works with) - the party scene with the trust-funded public defender arguing with her investment banker college friends, the moment when the naive Goldman Sachs hire was asked "where were you educated?" by Walter Cronkite, because of his shocking naivete, and the interviews with James Baker and other members of the power-elite. I noticed that as Jack went through the levels of the ruling class that people highest on the ladder denied the reality of the ruling class, while liberal intellectuals such as Kurt Vonnegut and Cronkite had no problem belieiving in it. There was a lot in this film worth keeping, but it should probably get shorter by about 30 minutes.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Anything to Declare? Movie Comments

This was a set of intimate films all done by students of film-maker and teacher Graham Weinbren, an unassuming fellow, who said during the Q&A that he'd made so many films that he now vowed only to make 1 minute films. Two of these opened the group of films: Q and L, part of a for series of filmseach letter of the alphabet- beautiful.
The films by his students were "Gay Motherfuckers" a sort of artfully filmed hang-out with a group of FTM folks, butch dykes, "biomen," and lesbians talking about masculinity and their own identities, which was cleverly edited to produce both insights and hilarity; "Photo of Luzmilla," the story of a family whose mother's picture was part of a special photo exhibition about Peru called Yuyanapaq: To Remember.
This film, which featured interviews with Luzmilla's two sons who were tortured by the Peruvian police, was very powerful. The older son talked about his experiences of torture somewhat matter of factly, recalling "it was terrible" when.. "they stretched my bones on that pulley, when they tried to drown me in a bathtub full of excrement, when they hung me. If I had to go through it again, I would rather die." The film-maker edited it so that his voice-over played as he walked through the streets of Washington Heights, "once a person has been in prison living only with "a couple of rats"....we are changed forever, we can't concentrate, remember...Even though I am in NY, I don't feel safe." As I was hearing them I thought, "how terrible and yes, how true," and wondered also how many people walking the streets of NY have gone through such harrowing experiences. As I write these statements now, I also think, "aren't these the symptoms that they describe for "post-traumatic stress disorder?"
The younger son was outwardly more expressive about his experiences, crying as he remembered being tortured and made to sing the police anthem while in prison.
The final film, Negotiations, was an intimate set of discussions between a couple, one Israeli, one white American born ot Lutheran missionaries in Japan, talking about the imminent birth of their first child, what the name will be, whether ot have amniosentesis, whether the child will speak Hebrew or English. Very fascinating and touching. It was shot all over the place - the midwest, Israel, and NY, and really investigated both the kinds of differences between people that seem universal to human relationships and the special circumstances arising from a cross-cultural relationship such as theirs.
Tomorrow...two films! Tonight: one video 'Dog Day Afternoon" in preparation. Tomorrow, I will be sleepy.

garden diary day two Posted by Hello

sundial mix garden diary day two Posted by Hello

front corner, day two Posted by Hello

planter, day two Posted by Hello

the big picture, garden diary day two Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Gilaneh, "Bullets in the 'Hood," "the Life of Kevin Carter"

The films I liked best at the Tribeca Film Festival today were all about terrible, wrenching, pain.
Gilaneh, directed by Rashkan Bani-Etemad (whose name was spelled incorrectly by Variety, by the way) and starring Fatemeh Motamed Arya was brilliant and heart-breaking. I found an interesting article about the major Iranian film festival which places Gilaneh in context. The film centers on Gilaneh, her son and her daughter, and their efforts to survive the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. The first section shows the son leaving for the front as mother and pregnant daughter stay behind in the village. Eventually too panicked about the whereabouts of her husband, Gilaneh's daughter Mogyul demands a journey to Teheran, which takes the two women past groups of refugees fleeing Iraq's missile attacks. The second half of the film takes place back in the village, on the first day of the US bombing of Iraq and centers on the terrible condition of Gilaneh's son, who after the war was left paralyzed, with some kind of severely compromised lung capacity, and subject to fits. Increasingly labored herself, Gilaneh attempts to take care of her damaged son. Fatemeh Motamed Arya gave an incredible performance, that I would compare a little bit with that of Imelda Staunton as Vera Drake.The two characters are similar in their steadfastness and stoicism.
The other films I saw today were short ones. OF these, two were really special: "The Life of Kevin Carter," about the photographer who won the pulitzer prize for that truly disturbing photo taken of a child crawling to a UN food mission and being followed by a vulture. Seeing in the film that Carter watched the girl get up, fall and try to walk, only to fall again, and seeing other pictures on the contact sheets, it seems terrible to me that he did not help her. Some people, both in the film audience and in the film say that the photograph was so great, that it would have done more than simply lifting the child up and carrying her to the station by telling the world of the situation, the argument doesn't make sense to me. It's hard not to feel, when looking at the photo, that what you're seeing is not only a picture of starvation, but the moment when a photographer lost his humanity, as this person's suffering became only "the big photo" that would make his career. If you're interested in what other people had to say about this issue, go to the link above and read the list of comments on lavannya's blog, "secrets of my inner world."
The polar opposite of the Carter's detached approach to documentary was the remarkable Bullets in the Hood, a movie shot by Terrence Fisher, which began as an anti-gun documentary, in which he interviews various neighbors in the Bed-Stuy projects and gets them to show him their guns, but became an activist cry for justice when Fisher was present at the shooting and killing of Timothy Stansberry, by the NY housing police. Unlike Carter, who was not a part of the communities that he became famous for photographing, Terrence Fisher and his crew were documenting their own lives and surroundings and for this reason they could not be detached. As this film's maker responded to events by changing the nature of the project, and made the project specifically an activist one, it was a great example of how amateurs, untrained in the "professionalism" of the journalistic world, bring a different attitude to the process of documentation. The line between protesting the death of a friend and making a film about gun violence in the projects was competely gone by the time the directors, crew, and Stansberry's mother got on the stage to talk about the film/issues after the screening was over.

I hope these grow. I like these lettuce-like sunflower things and of course, the verbena. Posted by Hello

The planter Posted by Hello

These trashcans are full of the stuff I pulled out of the ground Posted by Hello

I moved this little plant and pruned it. Posted by Hello

garden diary

As I said before, it's Spring break, and I've finally had time to get to work on the garden. First, I pulled a bunch of stuff up, then I did soil ammendments by "double digging" big trenches in the ground, then filling them in with manure and topsoil and stirring it all up, then I finally planted a few things. Today, it's raining so I have to wait to put in the next shift of plants because I don't want to damage the soil structure by digging and tilling when it's muddy.
Here are the pictures of day one.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Forgacs and the Anarchists

I just came back from a disappointing, if beautifully researched and edited, documentary called "El Perro Negro: Stories of the Spanish Civil War," by Peter Forgacs, who told us that the CNT in Spain hated his film so much that he has to negotiate with them every time it is screened because he uses about 7 minutes of footage of Durruti and anarchist militias that they own. For this reason, he says the CNT has kept the documentary off Spanish TV.
I say, three cheers to the CNT for their success in intervening in the politics of representation. Despite the fact that the film portrays poverty and social conflict as the principle reasons behind the Spanish civil war, it is completely simplistic in its "cold war" style narrative that equates executions by Republican Spain and Fascist spain, never clarifying fully which parts of the Republican united front led the executions, or even what these executions were for. "You could be executed for wearing glasses, which were seen as bourgeois," is the uncontested quote from the diary of one of the film's two cameramen, Ernesto Diaz Noriega, and because it comes from a man who was there, it is probably read by the audience as true. The first cameraman, Joan Salvans Piero, is killed by an anarchist named "Pedro el Cruel" and this is presented as a great tragedy. According to the film-maker, "he was an innocent, and this film is dedicated to all innocents." He might appear innocent in his own home-movies, which make up 1/2 of the basis of the film, but perhaps from the perspective of "Cruel," who worked in the factory that Salvans Piero owned, the man had blood on his hands. Certainly, his family fled to "nationalist" (ie, fascist Spain) following his killing and did not return to Catalunya until Franco's victory.
Diaz Noriega's story is more interesting and does better what Forgacs said he was aiming at, a representation of the war by someone who did not want to take a side. This particular student first is jailed by the Republicans for (unbeknownst to him, he says) aiding a Phalangist leader, and then fights for the Republicans, and then is captured and joins the Phalange militia because it pays better than the other option they gave him. Describing how soldiers on his side traded tobacco for rolling papers from the other side, Noriega illuminates unusual and "every day" aspects of the war. However, Forgacs' vapid commentary after the film left me retrospectively increasingly appalled by the movie and its "politics" despite its artfulness.

Optimistic Pessimists; Two Movies

Last night I was having dinner with a friend who told me about how pessimistic her boyfriend is. "Every morning he reads the paper and tells me that 'the economy's going to tank,' or 'Japan and China are going to war,'" she said, "Don't tell me that!" she exclaimed, "I don't wanna know."
How can we left-wing news readers explain that we actually, weirdly, sometimes enjoy the mere fact of reading a really good piece of pessimistic analysis by a like-minded person, even when the news is so fucking bad? But today, readers, it's hard to feel any enjoyment. It's especially disheartening to see that the top officers were cleared by the Army. Well, isn't that a nice in-house operation? Let's see what Mark Danner has to say. To show you how bizarre is my optimistic pessimism, here I was going to that website to see whether he'd made a comment yet (he hadn't) I noticed that Mark Danner is pretty fine looking. Is it possible that I'm more downcast by Danner's non-availability to me as a date than I am about Abu Ghraib? Not really, but it's close. Shallow, readers, I'm very shallow...I went reading on his website to see whether he was married with a passel of children and I discovered that those hot pics on the website are from 20 years ago. hmmmm. At least I can get over the fact that someone who was so damn young looking had written so many important pieces of journalism, one of which, his piece on El Mozote, my joyfully pessimistic father once called me up, exclaiming about. "You must read this New Yorker piece!" he cried, "it's just awful, awful, awful, what happened in El Salvador."
It's also depressing to note that Silvio Berlusconi has managee to hang onto power in Italy and it's interesting, but slightly confusing to see what's going on in Ecuador because it's so hard to trust US media on anything related to Latin American politics especially. It sounds as if this is a genuinely popular uprising, not a right-wing coup, so it's then troubling to read that he's being sheltered by Lula in Brazil.

Part Two: Tribeca Comments

Yesterday afternoon I enjoyed a couple of short films and one long one, Bastards of the Party, at the Tribeca Film Festival. Bastards was made by Cle Sloan, also known as Bone, a former Bloods member who set out to learn the history of LA's gangs. While the movie did not contain any wildly new historical narrative (the party of which the gangs are defined as Bastard offspring is the BPP for Self Defense), it was interesting to see what has been a pretty rarified history up on the big screen, partly told to Bone by Mike Davis sitting in the LA newspaper archives. What was most fascinating and more rare to find anywhere were the interviews with "OGs" from the Slausons and similar old LA gangs, along with Bone's own comments on his experiences from the world of crime. It was not unlike hearing Alex Ryabov talk about the experience of the military, where the primary allegiance is not to any particular ideology or campaign, but to the "guy next to you." It addressed a lot that blood-bonding and revenge that goes on in military societies. Another peak in the film was the section on the LA rebellion and footage of meetings between different groups that were part of the gang truce. It's well worth seeing, and one can only hope that it gets major distribution, or a spot on some cable TV doc. day.
The other film that I saw and truly enjoyed was the short "Bicycle Gangs of NY." I'm always looking for a documentary that tells a story visually and without too many talking heads or voice overs. There were none in this rocking little visual story. There were some "bike-on-the-street" interviews, but these were edited in such a way that they fit the whole punk-rock and green ethos of Critical Mass. For example, the champion bike jouster from "Black Label" (a crew that had a real presence in Minneapolis) showed his various jousting faces to the camera. The music by Tussle was really groovy. You can hear it if you watch the "Bicycle Gangs" video clip on Dunn's website. I was happy that the audience cheered for the Critical Mass ride. yayy, Critical Mass. (ok, it was me saying that), and that a young woman made this movie. I had to leave before "One Track Mind," a film about Philip Ashforth Coppola and his subway obsession, ended. While totally fascinating, THAT movie was depressing, really depressing.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Spring Break , News Highlights, Dating Quesions

I'm in the realm of the trivial this morning. For the rest of the week, since I'll be going to movies almost daily, and perhaps chatting with some random people that I meet in the process, I'll be posting about the movies I see at the Tribeca Film Festival, and anything else remotely interesting that I come across. If you're reading this blog, and you happen to be going, perhaps we'll meet in line outside "El Perro Negro: Stories of the Spanish Civil War" tomorrow evening. Wouldn't that be just great?
Oh yeah, did you all know that I have a site tracker? I was really excited to see that I had so many readers, and that I can even figure out where they were reading from: lots of CUNY faculty out there reading away, I see, and My Mom and Step-Dad, and my old roomie. There are even a few strangers who read this - directed, whaddya know, to me, by google. However, when I looked at the site-tracker DailyKos, I developed a major inferiority complex.

Other news....My room-mate hunt was over, but now it's started again. The opinion of Joe, who's been renovating the screened-in porch is that her boyfriend disapproved of the landlord's extroversion. Whatever the reason, I got a call last night that instead of moving in, my roomie-to-be was leaving me in the lurch. Thanks. I once swore off people in their twenties, and I should have followed that rule this time. I was just thinking that I should bring the same criteria to dating that I do for room-mates, because I've tended to be somewhat more careful in that regard.
Do you think that's too extreme, though, wondering to yourself on the first date, "hmm, could I live with this person?" Should I ask him whether he does his dishes right after eating or leaves them in the sink?" Should I ask about chore sharing?
I'm always begging for your input, readers, so let me do it again. Do you have a first date check list? What would turn you off/on on first meeting? What do house-keeping traits suggest about people's personalities, if anything?
Real News: Rahul Mahajan, can I be your number one fan? Once again, he has an interesting comment, this time about how the Iraqi resistance has created space for Venezuela's president to institute a tax of 50% on private oil firms in order to fund social programs. Here's the most interesting thing I saw on the DailyKos.Here's a smart commentary on the mediocrity of much of the world's leadership by Robert Fisk from April 16th.
Oh yeah, and here's an interesting set of book commentaries from a guy named David Hernandez who I found while looking for a link to "roommates and stories." He is a cheerful fellow, it seems to me, and refers to Brett Easton Ellis as "that guy who wrote American Psycho" and also as a "dullard." Actually, I liked American Psycho, though I hadn't expected to. Read it years ago, and have had a long-standing plan to write an article about it and Briggite Jones' Diary as creating characters exemplary of (post?)-modern identity's overdetermination by commodities and advertizing.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bad Stuff Continues to Go on in the World

Ah, dear readers, what's there to say about the world?
Here is a cartoon about imperialism that my pen-pal sent me.
When I got home today I had new issues of the New Yorker and The London Review of Books on my doorstep and a copy of Jean H. Baker's Votes for Women: The Story of Suffrage Revisited had just arrived. I am excited for new periodicals, as I had actually gotten so caught up in my subway reading recently that I started polishing off three year old copies of the NY Review of Books on the train this week. There were some pretty fascinating things in there, including an essay written about whether the Israelis were really going to erect that apartheid wall that would so expand Israel's land at the expense of the Palestinians. Sadly, the author was correct.
I've been thinking about Israel recently because the particular piece of the past I'm teaching right now so evokes it. The week's highlight for me was a stimulating conversation with two groups of students on the question of "what do we do with the terrible, shameful events of history?" spurred by the playing of Sarah Vowell's excellent radio documentary of "Trail of Tears."
I was thinking today that the ongoing disaster in Israel/Palestine is exactly what we all deplore and shake our heads over in American history: the story of removal, murder, displacement, arbitrary exercise of power. And yet, we are not all up in arms, and following in Rachel Corrie's footsteps as if we held the lessons of history close enough to see the significance of current events. I know I am not up in arms enough. Every time I think about it, I want terribly to do something...but I don't want to terribly enough apparently. There are enough ongoing crises and disasters that we should all be up in arms all day long, and most of these disasters are much worse than the Pope being a Nazi ass and Tom DeLay being a criminal, though of course those things are bad. I mean global warming and constant war, bad stuff.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Sectarianism vs. Lameness, Either way you go, a Recipe for Paralysis

I'm sure I could have come up with a better title, but that seems like the two extremes of the current debate within the U.S. left, at least as represented at the Left Forum. Maybe I'm just adding provocation to the already provoked.
Nonetheless: here's what I saw (forum by forum)
AM Saturday: Discussion between two tendenies in the Trotskyist left about whether the anti-war movement should support the Iraqi resistance, which seemed a bit academic, given that the anti-war movement can't even come to the consensus on "out now" as a position, but the positions were well laid out by each side, though as my friend commented, those who made the claim that they want to only selectively support the resistance seemed to be "parsing" and not looking at the bigger picture.

Sunday: AM, discussion of meaning of current imperialist war (Reloaded or Overloaded) which was the best session I went to. The question was: Is the current US empire in a state of near collapse? and there wasn't total agreement.
Afternoon One: What's going on in the Middle East? Where the significant disagreement was between Gilbert Achucar, who says the US empire's clumsiness is reviving democratic movements in the Middle East and that the Iraq elections were won in spite of the occupation and were democratic (he's the one who made the argument that Mahajan echoed at his USLAW talk) and Christian Parenti, who says the occupation could continue as is for another eight years, and that he's not so sure about the elections.
These two panels were good to go to one after the other, and helped me think about how little we really know about what's happening, and how choices we make as activists in such a moment are really based on these assessments of a situation which is so completely unpredictable, and about which our sources of information are cloudy. No one I talked to among those who support the resistance could say anything about the ongoing murders of Iraqi trade union leaders. I left with new questions that I didn't know I had before, which is to me the sign of an excellent discussion.

Afternoon two: A reasonable discussion of why Americans fall for the "ownership society" at which Ellen Willis made an excellent critique of Tom Frank's "What's the Matter W/Kansas." She had a great position that the left needs to argue for pleasure,and she and others have been making a similar point for years. I generally agree with it, but unfortunately, it's a voice that few are listening to. The session was in a very small room.
There was a much bigger presence at the afternoon plenary where there was a face-off between Nader supporters and leftists who believe it's possible to present a challenge within the Democratic party.
While I responded positively to things that everyone said, (Medea Benjamin talked about how important it is not to be "mean" which people in a lot of leftist parties don't take seriously enough as an obstacle to organizing; Bill Fletcher talked about the importance of addressing race; The Green Party guy talked about the need for an independent voice and the history of third parties as putting pressure on other parties), I don't think it's worth spending much time on any of these initatives. Why spend time building within the Democratic party? - It's obviously a corporate ho' that has deflected and co-opted activist forces - (Look, for example at Mississippi-Atlantic City, 1964 and downward from there to Clinton and welfare reform).
Sure, do all the things politically and in terms of activism that the "Neo-rainbow" people suggest, but why focus those things on election campaigns instead of more direct community activism? It's possible to throw up one's hands and turn to "pure" social activism and create real pressure that elites and parties must respond to. I always like to use the example of Nixon's creation of the EPA - it wasn't because he just thought of doing that. When there's a significant movement - when labor spends money on organizing etc. instead of putting money in candidates' pockets, for instance, its more likely that the left will be in a position to build a third party.
That's why I'm even less sympathetic to the third party effort in the national elections because I think it actually sucks up more energy than the neo-rainbow initiative would. While I agree that it's important to maintain an independent voice, and that the democratic party is not a place to build change, I think that the battle for such a long term goal as changing the party system often fails on the national level to do anything about the very serious immediate political demands that need to be addressed - especially when it comes to battles around racial justice, which is probably why Nader's grouping is so largely white.
While I know plenty of people on both sides of the issue who do valuable organizing: IS, ISO etc. people are very good union activists, CodePink has effectively mobilized people across the country, Local and state-wide Green campaigns have made a difference and have been important. What is probably most frustrating, more frustrating than any strategic quagmire over what to do about elections, is the fact that UFPJ, which seemed initially so promising, and whose leadership was mostly absent at this weekend's conference, have been pretty lame when it comes to actually leading these "broad bases" of people that are involved in the anti-war movement to take more radical positions.

Friday, April 15, 2005

What an Ordeal!

what a trying tax day it was. Just when I thought I'd paid enough, there was more to pay. As usual, looking on the bright side, I was happy when I made it at 6:30 to the 8th avenue post office, that I at least to meet up with some people taking signatures right next to the large banner that said, "Make Your Deposit to the New Stadium here" with a big arrow leading to the mail drop. Of course I'm not against taxes, I think we should pay them. It's just not fair that the system has become so damn regressive. Expropriate the expropriators, I say.

Speaking of righteous indignation, I just got done seeing Andre De Shields captivate an entire theater full of people for an hour and a half. His indignation was visceral. Towards the end of the play, he seduced audience members out of their seats and onto the stage, cajoling, "come, get in the cosmic pool.." As most most of us stayed in our seats, after a while, his invitation changed abruptly to a command, "Come, get in the pool!" That step from seduction to rejection and reaction was one of the realest single moments I've seen in theater in a long time. Even if I felt that parts of the play were more theatrical or burlesque than I really liked, I left so affected by it, and am more and more impressed each time I think about the performance. DeShields was not only amazing simply because of his physical strength and endurance: he wrestled, danced, joked, sang, and generally projected a larger than life character for the entire show. He was also amazing for the nuances and subtley of his performance; his character in the midst of a completely self-conscious, ironic, post-modern and hilarious "variety show/theater/spectacular," felt real and human. Like everything I've seen at the Classical Theater of Harlem, the show was completely polished, professional, and topical. While George Bush may say he prefers Jesus to incest and bestiality, and may demonstrate a piety that Caligula would despise, the two men share an intense narcissism, and in other ways as well, CTH's "Caligula" feels very much modeled on our modern Empire and its emporer.

And for left-wing commentary, at its utmost topical, tomorrow begins the second day of the 2005 "Left Forum." Tariq Ali, Frances Fox Piven, and lots of other great folks will be speaking. In case you were wondering, the conference is a response to a call for a replacement of the Socialist Scholars Conference, usually held at Cooper Union in April, after "7 of the 16 members of that conference's Board of Directors resigned last spring in protest of the lack of democratic and participatory governance procedures." (Global Left Dialogue). The NY Sun, perhaps seeking to gloat and giggle over left wing divisions, actually has an article about the original break up and the current conference that is fairly descriptive,and potentially at least partially accurate. I recall when the split happened and wondered what it was all about. If you're reading this and have corrections, make them by all means.
But ah, my fellow procrastinators..It's time to get cracking, or at least to get napping. There are intellectual treats to be had in the morning, intellectual treats that will, no doubt, fill me with anxiety and dread about the coming apocalypse, and it's a bad idea to try to boldly face the future without a full night's sleep.

Procrastinating from Procrastinating

I thought for a second that it might be because I've changed my ways and started doing so much of my work on time, that I actually have to plan time to procrastinate these days. As I thought about what I was working on when I started reading blog comments in my email today and thought, "oh yeah, I haven't done a blog entry in a couple of days," that it's just all the procrastinating coming home to roost.
For example....I'm in the midst of finishing mine now, so should I take some of the precious minutes off to write about taxes? I certainly have put them off till the last minute, but I hate to talk about things when everyone else is. Today I'm listening to Amy Goodman interview a tax protester. Taxes are on my mind. I hate adding up all my internet purchases in order to calculate how much I owe in sales taxes. Jeez, I buy a lot of stuff online - all in amounts of about $8.00. It's been enlightening to see how much money I spent on books and CDs and when. I think I should be able to deduct coffee as a work expense.
My favorite tax-paying procrastination experience was near midnight in Minnesota in April 1993, when I rushed to the central post office to throw my envelope in the mailbag. What a scene it was: tax protesters, a person dressed up as a bottle of aspirin handing out free samples, and inside, hunched over those big black tables: people assembling their tax forms in a frenzy of folding, spindling, and correction-fluid besmattering. There was a similar, though much warmer, late night scene at the Birmingham post office, where I rushed my tax envelopes last year - as I had carried them with me all the way there on an airplane instead of dumping them in the mailbox in the corner before leaving town.

content: Apparently I did not accurately represent the Lancet study's method- maybe because I read the Iraq Body Count's explanation of the study. The Lancet study was based on "33 clusters of 30 households each." Thanks for the note, dsquared.

style: I've been informed by one reader that my wit and personality do not come through clearly enough on the blog, but that she is not sure how I could insert my personality more fully. I'm taking this as a compliment, as it must mean that my personality is so magnetic, scintillating, and charming that it is impossible to capture in such a medium. My natural modesty does however, come through, in my continuing understatement of said qualities. I plan on working to correct this problem, though it's true that I'm not always at my most witty and magnetic when I write these entries, sniffling, pajam-ed, and surrounded by piles of postponed work to which I really should give my full attention.
Thus, in lieu of providing commentary on important events myself today, I will link to others who are more on the ball at the moment:
First of all, Andy Borowitz is funny today.
And Susie Bright's column about Andrewa Dworkin's death on April 11th is one of the most interesting comments that Bright has yet produced. If you're looking for wit, Tom Engelhardt's "George's Amazing Alphabet Book" provides critique, an orderly format, and humor.
I, on the other hand, must get back to adding up the online purchases. sigh.
Open questions, readers:
What should you be allowed to deduct? What's your favorite tax-paying story?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Money, Money, Money

Greg Palast has his first new entry on his blog in a long while. Why, my goodness, that man must be actually working, because this one tells us all kinds of under-reported corporate crime news. He writes: "On Friday, the Manhattan District Attorney's office announced it had captured a couple of Texas varmints, the Wyly Brothers, Charles and Sam. The two have 'fessed to concealing half their holdings in one of the rich boys' companies, Michaels Stores. The grand jury is still out on deciding to indict the two for the crime of fraud upon the stock market....In 2000, Sen. John McCain was wiping the electoral floor with Bush Jr. in the Republican primaries … until that March when the Wylys secretly put up two and half million dollars for a campaign to smear Bush's opponent just days before the crucial Southern primaries. They repeated the trick in 2004, putting up cash for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the vicious little snipes who tore apart the Kerry campaign. So what makes these guys so thrilled with Mr. Bush? There are more than ninety million reasons. While George W. was governor of Texas, investigative reporter Joe Conason discovered, a Wyly family private investment fund, Maverick Capital of Dallas, was awarded a state contract to invest $90 million for the University of Texas endowment. That's not all. As Governor, Bush signed into law an electricity "deregulation" bill that was little more than ill-disguised raid on consumers' wallets by Texas power companies. The bill was in part drafted by an outfit called, a power company owned by … Sam Wyly. " He makes a nice case for why the assets Bush gained from these crooks should be claimed by the public. You an read more on the Wylys (or rather, less) in the NYT

Also in cheerful business news, did you see that the U.S. trade deficit has hit a new record high? You can read more anxiety-producing commentary onHat Trick Letter where Jim Willie refers to this trade gap producing a "capital hemorrhage...uninterrupted from the USA to Asia. Even as the US Dollar has declined, the trade gap has grown worse, a severe warning of structural imbalance and imminent monetary crisis." I don't know about you guys, but when I read this website I think, hmm, 16th century Spain...what went wrong?
How many of you want to bet that there will be more stories in the press about Mike Tyson's $38 million debt than about the U.S's trade deficit? I think the man is probably a terrible misogynist, but when I hear of this debt, and that he has to fight to make up for it (after that humiliating defeat to Lennox Lewis a few years ago * and folks, I didn't think this was humiliating because of the gay baiting of Lewis, wbut he just got totally beaten in a completely humiliating way, from what I saw -but now that I read about Tyson's homophobic comments to Lewis, the humiliating defeat seems only fair.) Despite all that, I actually feel sympathy for the big spender. He must have been feeling really bad and have serious problemto go into debt like that. Of course, there was the time he bit that man's ear off in a fight in the 1990s, the rape, the wife-beating, and other examples of serious problems, so we knew he had problems. Instead of paying him to be a spectacle, some sports fan with a whole lot of money should be paying to help him recover. Wouldn't someone have done it for Terry Schiavo?

Speaking of money and insanity.. I've been listening, while doing laundry and going to the gym, to Kurt Eichenwald's Conspiracy of Fools. It's fairly entertaining, though it's hard to keep track of what the crazy financing deals mean when you're really in the midst of the intense part of the workout, panting, puffing, and sweating... "now, WHAT did Fastow think he was doing setting up that crazy partnership as a hedge??" It seems like he's just setting up a way to take a bunch of money for himself..hmm, right. that's exactly what he wound up doing.
Finally, according to the Daily News, the Corporate Welfare Pay off is now on hold. Apparently, this has little to do with a study suggesting that 65% of NY voters oppose the fucking stadium. It makes me wanna holla, throw up my hands. Unfortunately, I gotta be quiet. roomie's sleeping.

Loving the Animals, Not so clear about people

Did anyone else notice the total lack of irony or er, consciousness, or something in this absurd story about the city resources that are available for homeless dogs?
It reminded me of how people went beserk when an anti-war activist at the University of Wisconsin threatened to kill a puppy to protest the war in 1991. Predictably, there was more outrage over the puppy than there was about the war. It's amazing, by the way, how many websites one can find in "google" by searching various combinations of "gulf war" 1991 madison and puppy without actually finding a single article mentioning that aforesaid event.Another memorable commentary on this appeared in Doonesbury in the 1970s, when BD's girlfriend was horrified to learn that "baby ducks" had been killed in connection with My Lai.
Why, why do people love Puppies, foetuses and Terry Schiavo?... Because puppies, invalids, foetuses, and dogs are helpless, while people imagine that those people killed in American wars are bad, wicked terrorists - who can fight back. The idea of a person fighting back is seen as bad in most contexts (unless it is done on behalf of Schiavo, baby ducks, etc) has to do with denouncing the exercise of power and aggression not only in the "other" but by oneself. "Oh no, I'm not exercising power," why, "I'm only helping the dogs/baby ducks/ give me some more money for weapons."

In my failed effort to find a copy of the "baby ducks" frame, I found this interesting article on Garry Trudeau's support of the Kosovo bombing -- remember that?
The news is just one war after another. It's all so perfectly avoidable and yet, so defined as inevitable. One of my students today said, as I was explaining why we're spending more time on the civil rights movement than on WWII (I told them there was whole channel on cable dedicated to WWII, I was sure they could learn a lot without me) that I should just admit it, "You don't like war."
probably true.
And if you can't get enough news about dogs, then see what you can find on this web page.
If you want to find something newsworthy, may I suggest that you attend Rahul Mahajan's talk on April 13th? I am simply excited about the extremely large number of totally diversionary events I am planning on attending in the coming weeks, beginning on Thursday at the Public Library, where R.Crumb will be speaking. oh goody!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Songs about sunshine

I spent the day grading papers on at Connecticut Muffin on Brooklyn's 7th avenue. Narrowly avoiding a baby-attack, a dog-poop-meets-shoe disaster and the rest of the hazards of the area, I managed to plow through several blue books along with a large cup of iced cofee and the crooning of..: Gilberto Gil, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Stereolab, Tupac Shakur, the Roots, Bob Marley, Nellie McKaye, and Sonic Youth. It was a beautiful day. Here are some links to random songs about sunshine: " I can see clearly now" "Who Loves the Sun", Good Morning Starshine and of course there's "here comes the sun," which really is a cliche by now. It's hard to feel sad, or conscious of a raging war and a thinning ozone layer when you're placidly enjoying coffee in an upscale urban neighborhood like Park Slope. It was a hard working couple of hours.
At the moment, I've gotten done with the first run through the pile, and I'm taking a break with you, oh readers, while on my way to constructing a lesson for my students about the decision to drop the atomic bomb...Speaking of which, Gar Alperovitz has a new book out. I still remember the first day that I heard his theory in a lecture, given by Hy Berman at the U. of Minnesota when I was TA'in the U.S. history survey. Hy managed not only to introduce me to Alperovitz then, but to another giant of left wing diplomatic history, Walter La Feber.
And that's enough for a very busy Sunday. I'm sure there's plenty of news out there, and Gawd knows, there are plenty of places to read about it.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Invisible Deaths

Bob Herbert's column from Friday, "Black and Invisible" is one of the more moving commentaries I've seen about youth crime and violence. This reminded me of similar stories I heard while at the million mom march in May of 2000. I've had students who've told me absences were the result of funerals for friends in the neighborhood.

Also, in news of death and mourning, I heard Randi Rhodes talking about "44 Americans" over and over again as the story that wasn't being covered during the Pope's funeral. Now this led to me several websites that collect casualties in search of this 44 (I thought she was saying "dead") figure. As I did this, I found that a website that will take you to casualty lists of Americans, Iraqis and "coalition forces." The site takes its numbers from the "Iraq Body Count" project, which provides a relatively low number of Iraqi civilian casualties (about 18,000), which has been challenged by the count 100,000 from Lancet. The difference between the two projects has to do with projected numbers as opposed to reported numbers. Lancet's study is based on a small sample of 1000 people surveyed that is projected to argue a 100,000 casualty count. The "Iraq Body Count" collection is based on reported deaths. As IBC points out, "both studies have arrived at one conclusion which is not up for serious debate: the number of deaths from violence has skyrocketed since the war was launched." However, you can also see the way that the IBC's reliance on mainstream news of casualties is resulting in a dramatically reduced body count.
But back to Randi's "44 Americans" - I went to her website and found a link to a story about the attack on Abu Ghraib, the prison in which 3000 Iraqi insurgents are currently being held. I can imagine easily why this one wasn't reported widely, and I'm sure you can too.
As always, you will find an excellent discussion of news from Iraq and media coverage on Juan Cole's website.

An Oasis in the City

So my plan to have a blog entry without doing any work was a total washout. Oh well. I finally have some time to write here before rushing off to do something else.

And in subway news....Here's the statement from NYC transit about yesterday's track fire and subway rescue operation: "Today's incident is not emblematic of any system-wide breakdown or lack of maintenance. The only common denominator in these four incidents is that we inconvenienced our riders, and for that we are profoundly sorry." It's so galling, as usual, to see how this will only continue if that stupid stadium deal goes through. I don't know how it's possible that people will put up with this hand-over of what could be a major benefit to the public to some more rich people.
Speaking of handing things over to rich people, I finally watched Frontline's documentary on credit cards yesterday. Wow! I was surprised that it contained all kinds of things that I didn't know: for instance, the way the industry will change an interest rate on a card that you have with them if you make a late payment on another card with a different bank - or if you begin to carry a high balance on another card, thus hurting your credit score.

In oasis news....I cannot say enough about how wonderful it is to go to an open rehearsal of the NY Philharmonic. I spent yesterday morning sitting happily in Avery Fisher Hall with my Mother listening to Shostokovich, and then to Mitsuko Uchida play Beethoven's Piano Concerto #4. She was truly one of the best musicians I have ever seen play live; it was so clear that she was serious student of the music she was playing, and it was marvelous to watch her play. After playing the short beginning to the first movement, she hopped off the piano bench, off the stage, and then ran up the theater aisle and to the back and then came back to her seat just in time to play the rest of the first movement. As she played, she bounced up and down on the bench, and seemed to punch her hand in the air after completing a very fast passage, though I think this may have just been a kind of "follow through." To me, She seems to be listening so intently to the music that her playing is itself a kind of listening. She is precise in an effort to capture an historically accurate sound, but she is not cold or intellectual in the least. You can listen to some samples of a recording she made on amazon. I like the way one of the amazon reviewers (Grady Harp) described it; "The opening of the Largo of the #3 seems to emerge from the center of the earth and then blossom with the most elegant of phrasing details." That combination of precision and intellectual seriousness with a deep and sensitive kind of feeling is so rare in a musician of any type.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

open type hype

It's been a whole two days since I last posted and there is some exciting news going on, but unfortunately, I can't discuss any of it. You, however, are welcome to post comments on what's going on!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Chapel Hill Nostalgia

In 1982, when the UNC tarheels won the first NCAA championship of my lifetime, my stepdad and I went up to Franklin Street to watch the celebration.
In 1993, I was in graduate school and watched the game with my Chapel Hill homies in the bare, muddy, and bone-cold Minnesota April
And in 2005, woo hoo, I spent the game alone on the couch in Brooklyn, calling my Mom, Step-dad and brother during almost every commercial break to either share nail-biting panic or goofy cheers.
This one is especially Suh-weet, as we used to say back in the high school days because it's Coach Roy Williams' first win. Maybe it is just because I was raised to be a fan, but I think Dean Smith left the Tarheels with a sort of moral legacy in college basketball. Watching Sean May give that victory speech also reminded me of how much sweeter and more honest college basketball seems that the big money NBA...but when I was living in Chapel Hill, we all knew the basketball players were practically professionals already, that they got perks,etc. However, it is true that Michael Jordan and James Worthy, both of whom went for the NBA draft before graduating, both did finish their degrees in the summer.
How dedicated are Tarheels fans? How obsessive? One of our common practices is to "turn down the sound" on the tv in order to listen to local sportscaster Woody Durham . However, now that Digital Cable has come into use, the 3 second delay that WCHL had added for tv-watching fans, is not enough. My Stepdad told me, "Woody's described the whole play before you see it." They were talking about this all important need to listen to Woody Durham on UNC's student radio station, WXYC, and my Stepdad called up and found out that there is a device that costs $140.00 that will put a delay on the radio to match the TV.
Another measure of Tar Heel Fandom is its universality, its capacity to cross all social borders. Back when I was an alienated punk-rock highschool kid, I recall hanging out at Schoolkids records with some local rock guys and hipper-than-thou record store workers right after Marvin Levi(of "The Veldt") (oh yeah, and check this nice bit about them.) had gotten so excited by the game a few minutes before that he went running out of the store and did a back flip on a car parked on the street outside. I believe, sadly, that was one of those years when the Tarheels didn't win...despite that insane tournament game when Matt Dougherty scored a basket with something like 7 seconds left in the game. Oh Tarheel readers, help me out -- was that the '86 season? Was it the Arkansas Razorbacks that defeated the heels that year?
Well, thank goodness, that didn't happen this year - but it was a close one.
Tomorrow, I will write about real news again, but today, I'm enjoying a little vicarious victory.

Injury and Death, The Lot of the Poor

Thanks to Bob Herbert for his comments on the stadium.
Also in today's New York Times there is a report about the terrible experiences that one can encounter at Rikers. In case you're not familiar with the basics, Rikers is a JAIL, which means a place that people are held before they go to court. While some people are actually given sentences to be in jail, most of the people who are there are those who have not been convicted of any crime. If you look at this story, it's unclear whether David Pennington, 27, whose suicide was one of 23 deaths in NY jails, had been convicted of any crime.

The NYT also has an article commemorating the 1980 transit strike. The key issues, according to the Times were management's response to a call for a 10%-15% wage increase with an offer of 6% over two years. The result of the strike was an 8%-9% wage increase. What were the non-economic issues at stake, I wonder. OK, transit union experts...perhaps you have more details on strike gone by?
And speaking of commemorations, there was an memorial to the victims of the Triangle Fire last week. Gvven that the names of the victims were put on the walls of their former homes, mostly on the Lower East Side, it may have been a reminder to present-day yuppies of the history of their playground and living space.

When I think of the Triangle Fire, I'm reminded of the factory fire that occurred in North Carolina in 1991, which is commemorated in this four year old notice by the ufcw, and described more vividly in this 2003 article from the Christian Science Monitor.
For an update on the Bush administration's record of health and safety laws, go check out this afl-cio record, which notes the 50,000 occupational deaths of workers every year. If you are interested in the number of people killed this week, I recommend reading the weekly toll, which appears on the blog, "Confined Space."
Continuing in the same morbid vein, may I suggest reading George Orwell's essay, How the Poor Die.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Lizz Winstead's website, News from Iraq

I just went and read old issues of the Unfiltered blog today and found a link to Lizz Winstead's brand new website. Lizz has a comic bit here about her departure called "I'm all lost in the Super Wal-Mart." She promises she is on the way to doing a daily Podcast, and that sounds thrilling. Although her role was to play the funny girl on the radio, Lizz was and is generally incredibly well-informed. I liked that she said in an interview that it was problematic for Daily Show host John Stewart to be so friendly to arch-villain guests like Henry Kissinger. And indeed, it turns out that she is a fan of Barry Crimmins, who pointed out in his book that one should follow at least one rule: Never Shake Hands with a War Criminal.

And then it's down a not-so amusing or liberating avenue in the Pop Culture universe; I went to see "Sin City" last night (no link, because I'm sure it's easy enough to find it.) The movie reminded me of the book Male Fantasies, about the pulp fiction of Germany in the 1920s, where dead women figured significantly in the plot as the reasons for heroic quests of vengeance, but in which the heroes never actually have sex with anyone. The closest to an actual relatiionship in this movie was articulated in the line, "I'll love you always....and never," as studyly mand and woman embraced with guns in hand. Theleweit argues that these kinds of stories and characters reveal something about the sexual roots of Nazi psychology, which rejects all forms of male vulnerability and seeks instead a pornography of death. As in the proto-Nazi pulp fiction, the only "money shots" in this movie were various different colors of cartoon-blood (white, red, and yellow) spurting out of various wounds - at which members of the audience cheered enthusiastically. ick. And next week, perhaps they'll be killing some Iraqis...just like the heroine asked, "kill him for me...kill him good."

Speaking of Iraq, Juan Cole has a good set of answers to important questions about the meaning of the Sunnis decisions to cooperate with the Iraqi army and police forces, which certainly raised my eyebrow when I saw it reported in the NYT this AM.

Friday, April 01, 2005

This is what Plutocracy Looks Like

Oh well, the Jets won the bid for the stadium. And it's especially nice because NY1 reported that according to a "Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, Fifty-three percent of city voters don’t want the stadium, and 38 percent approve of the project." Thanks Mayor. Check out the commentary from Neil DeMause, and this one from Mike Lupica.I do have one friend who is super excited. "I'm a Jets fan!" he said, "Of course I want the stadium,"
but that guy's related to an actual former Jets player. In case you're under any delusions about union support for this stadium, note this connected guy's role in bringing out the union support.

But enough about that. In old news, the kind I'm just catching up on, go check out this article about priorities in the AFL-CIO from In These Times on 3/25. There's a really interesting set of comments following the article which gets into a discussion of reasons for the 1970s economic turn. For even more discussion of what's going on, you might want to check out this blog: working life and of course, labor notes.
If you want to know more about that global downturn though, I suggest reading things by Giovanni Arrighi, such as this online article or this book.
and finally -- about Iraq:
There were at least two good round-ups of information about what's going in Iraq right now. One appears in today's Common Dreams, an article by Carolyn Eisenberg (who I heard speak at the American Historical Association conference, where she really rocked the house, as much as historians do that) and in this London Review of Books piece by Rory Stewart and this radio commentary from Rahul Mahajan.
and that's it for today.