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August 3, 2003 Reviews

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Some notes on what seems to be out there, and what some of us have sampled....


The Brits did it right.  Why can't we do it right?

Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, Niall Ferguson, Basic Books: 392 pages  $35.00

Many of us have a habit of reading opinion columns in the major journals and newspapers, and that's certainly easier now that most everything is available on the net.   There may be hundreds of essays each month from pundits left and right on whether the United States has become an imperial power. 

We do seem to be occupying Iraq after having removed their government, and it seems we will be there for a long time attempting to create a representative democracy there, with an open-market capitalist economy.  

This should take some time as we will not accept an Islamic theocracy there, should the folks decide to vote for that, nor will we accept a non-capitalist economy.  A top-down directed economic system will not do.  They'd better not vote for that either.  And they probably should, at some point, as they get their new government up and running, recognize Israel - and be reasonably friendly with Israel.  When the freed Iraqi people starting voting, when the build again that country, they are expected to do so employing our values.  That seems to be the whole point of our ongoing efforts there.

And then we leave.  And the question is, is this imperialism?  Are we building an American Empire?

Well, if and when we leave, the answer would seem no.  As for what we expect, what we will allow and what we will forbid, what we will reinforce and what we will punish, the answer may be yes.

Niall Ferguson has written a lot about this.  He has written books on subjects such as the Rothschild family saga and World War I.  He is a professor at both Oxford and New York University.  He has a reputation.  In this book he answers the question of whether the United States is an imperial nation with a clear yes.   And he thinks that's just fine.  He does not consider imperial conquest immoral.  His contention is that imperial conquest confers certain responsibilities and obligations that the British embraced and that the Americans shirk.  He thinks we will botch the job.

The Brits did it right.  The world today, he argues, is largely "the product of Britain's age of Empire," and the United States is the uneasy heir to the throne.  Like the British in the 18th and 19th centuries, the United States can, "do a very great deal to impose its values on less technologically advanced societies."  As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."

In short, we can use our power to do good in the world.

Zachary Karabell summarizes Ferguson this way in his Los Angeles Times review of the book:

To those who contend that British imperialism impoverished much of what is now the developing world, Ferguson says that, to the contrary, empire was enriching.  Because India and many parts of Africa were under the direct rule of Britain, the British, Americans and Europeans felt safe investing in businesses in the colonies.  Contrast that with today, he says, when most businesses and private enterprise are loath to invest in developing countries for fear that there will be no stable government or legal authorities to enforce contracts.

Gently in the book, and not so gently in some recent essays, Ferguson contends that the United States today would be advised to learn from the British Empire.  Given the overwhelming power of the U.S., it is an imperial power whether it likes it or not, and Ferguson chides Americans for not embracing the burdens and responsibilities that come with such power.

Curiously were you to browse the commentaries on the NewsMax website (www.newsmax.com), perhaps the most far right of the news outlets, you will find a few recent essays that agree with this.  The general idea is to remind the far right that all those worries about the evils of a world government, sometimes thought of as a conspiracy of communists at the evil United Nations plotting to take over the world, and sometimes thought of as a conspiracy of Jewish bankers (the Rothschild people again) and a few British aristocrats plotting to take over the world -- well, that may be interesting, but, in fact, the United States has pretty much taken over the world.  The question is now how to manage it. 

It's not just NewsMax.  James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal this week said George Bush is, really, the de facto King of the World, and folks should get used to it.  

I suspect well see more folks "getting real" and asking how we manage our commitments all over the world, whatever we call them.

Minor Note: Lyndon LaRouche is mounting another run for the presidency, but he's still worried about the Rothschild family and other Jewish folks out to destroy America.  Who said American could not produce its own Jean-Marie Le Pen?  Le Pen was convicted of slugging a woman running for office who Le Pen thought had insulted his daughter.  LaRouche was convicted of mail fraud and tax evasion and defrauding a lot of elderly folks of their savings.  Yipes. 


A Man and a Woman.  The film, the new film, and real life...

    This is mostly reporting, with only a few comments.

    Why does no one take movies seriously?  Jean-Louis Trintignant's race-car driver asks Anouk Aimée's script supervisor in a scene from Claude Lelouch's A Man and a Woman.  To which she replies, "Because we go when everything's okay."

    Item 1:

    A Man and a Woman
    Release Date: 1966
    Director: Claude Lelouch
    Producer: Claude Lelouch
    Screenwriter: Claude Lelouch, Pierre Uytterhoeven
    Starring: Anouk Aimée, Jean-Louis Trintignant

    Item 2:

    And Now Ladies and Gentlemen
    North American Release Date: August 1, 2003 (NY, LA)
    French Release (Cannes): Valentin, May 2002
    Director: Claude Lelouch
    Screenwriter: Claude Lelouch, Pierre Leroux, Pierre Uytterhoeven
    Starring: Jeremy Irons, Patricia Kaas, Thierry Lhermitte, Alessandra Martines, Jean-Marie Bigard, Ticky Holgado, Yvan Attal, Amidou, Claudia Cardinale, Sylvie Loeillet, Patrick Braoudé, Constantin Alexandrov, Stéphane Ferrara, Samuel Labarthe, Paul Freeman

    Item 3: Actress dies after alleged beating...

    Continued here... On emotion in film and real death...


    Is there a Vietnamese Miles Davis?

    A club mix worth a listen: Arôme: Barbara Bui Café, Volume 1.  This is blended by Emmanuel S (the "S" is for Santarromana) on Pschent Records (465010) and shouldn't be too hard to find in the Ambient or Deep House or Electro section of a large record store.

    If you're in Paris you could drop by the Barbara Bui Café (27 rue Etienne Marcel, 1er, tel: 01 45 08 04 04) for this sort of thing.  

    There is one more Franco-English word that has been introduced in the French vocabulary: "Before", as in: "un before" (a before).  This word is for a special subset of bars/restaurants/nightclubs.   Between nine and midnight, this is where I suppose the terminally hip Parisians now meet.  For instance, you go to the Alcazar restaurant on Wednesday evening and while eating some light food, the best DJ's play their music.  You can talk, flirt, dance if you want  - the idea is "a sensual and casual atmosphere."  Befores have become somewhat of a phenomenon, even if local to Paris.  "You go to a B4 to talk, to meet your new girlfriend or simply to warm up before the rest of the night," explains Sophie Berbar-Sollier, a reporter who covers that scene for the daily Libération.  "A regular schedule, a very affordable menu, soft lights, great DJ's and a good word of mouth," seem to be the formula for the success of places like this, according to that newspaper.

    Yeah, well, I often have walked by the Alcazar.  I'm not one of these folks and I'm an old guy.  But the music is good.  I like the compilations I have for the Alcazar, and this one from Barbara Bui Café.

    By the way, as I guess everyone but me knows, Barbara Bui is a fashion designer - businesswoman stuff  - "Dressed in her lean, impeccably cut trousers, figure-hugging shirts and jackets and dagger heels, your wish is the board's command."  - if you are to believe Time Out Paris.  The café is next to the main store.

    But the music... .

    The second cut is interesting - Emperor's Main Course in Cantonese by Kid Koala which is a mix of David Byrne stuff from the film The Last Emperor and a good amount of odd Chinese hip-hop all mixed together.  The ninth cut, The Awaiting (Hô Hué) is a soft jazz love song mix in rather literary Vietnamese - a kind of Miles Davis meets fermented fish sauce.  There's a "groove mix" of Send in the Clowns which is a whole lot better than Judy Collins singing off key.  The rest is just somewhere between jazz and electronic thumping.  But is sure is pleasant and sucks you in, even if you don't quite know what's going to pop up next.