Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Sunday, 21 March 2004

Topic: World View

New issue of JUST ABOVE SUNSET MAGAZINE now online!

No blogging today. In fact, I took yesterday off to reedit material for the magazine.

And Sunday is the day I do final assembly and post the week's new issue of this: Just Above Sunset Magazine.

Commentary here will resume tomorrow.

Check it out the news issue of the magazine! There are some "artsy" photos of Sunset Strip in the early morning fog that you might find interesting.






But it is already tomorrow in Europe, and I've been scanning the press.

You might find this of interest.

See Liberty takers: The entire Bush foreign policy is based on a dubious narrative of US history that has freedom at its heart
Tristram Hunt, The Guardian (UK) - Monday March 22, 2004

Tristram ("Sadness") Hunt makes some curious observations on history.

Although the neoconservative polemicist Charles Krauthammer has declared America to be "the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome", and Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, sounds every day more like an Edwardian viceroy, the White House is adamant that the war on terror is distinct from the colonial ambitions of previous great powers. Instead, what the Bush administration is concerned with is fulfilling the ideals of the American revolution.

However, although bookshops in the US are awash with new biographies of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, what the White House has learned from all this scholarship seems little different from the historical interpretation of the Mel Gibson film The Patriot. For Gibson, the revolution was a clear-cut struggle for liberty from the wicked British.

The neoconservatives have taken this dubious history as read and then universalized the principle. The liberty won by the founding fathers in the 18th century is for the Pentagon hawks a value of global validity. As President Bush put it: "If the values are good enough for our people, they ought to be good enough for others." And as the disillusioned Republican thinker Paul Craig Roberts has pointed out, it is this claim of universality that seems to endow American principles with their monopoly on virtue. It behooves America, as a republic of virtue, to export these ideals around the world.

... This sense of moral clarity is what is meant to distinguish neoconservatism from plain old conservatism. While the likes of Kissinger and Nixon were happy to collude with terrorism and bolster tyrannies, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, will brook no such betrayal of America's heritage. It is this call of historic virtue that accounts for President Bush's recently launched "forward strategy for freedom in the Middle East". Instead of supporting friendly if corrupt Arab regimes, democracy and liberty would provide the litmus test for US diplomacy in the region. "For too long, American policy looked away while men and women were oppressed," announced the leader of the free world. "That era is over."

Leaving aside US support for some pretty distasteful regimes in the oil-rich Caspian basin, or Rice's intervention in the Venezuelan elections, or the decision to postpone the polls in Iraq, there [are] remainfundamental historical problems with the neoconservative vision.

For at the political core the American revolution was a highly restricted notion of freedom: the right of property holders to dispose of their wealth as they saw fit. Many revolutionaries simply wanted to be treated as Englishmen - which might account for Benjamin Franklin lobbying for a job in the Westminster government as late as 1771. No taxation without representation is a very different cry from the universal right to liberty.

Moreover, the property that many founding fathers wanted to protect was their slave holdings.
The whole thing is rather negative. It seems Hunt is arguing that it is presumptuous of the United States to say it is "the best" - the model of how the world should be, and everyone should be just like us, and it is our moral duty to make them over in our image.

As I have said before, if the Canadians thought like this we'd all have get our coffee and doughnuts from Tim Horton's, not Starbucks and Krispy Kreme, and we'd all have to put gravy on our fries. But we're the sole superpower in the world. They're not.

Heck, everyone thinks they're right and everyone else should be just like them. We just have the power to make it so. No one else does. Too bad. We win.

The world is now saying, hey, not so fast, cowboy.

It should be an interesting week coming up.

Posted by Alan at 20:07 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Friday, 19 March 2004

Topic: World View

Wolfowitz wants us, and all nations, to get in touch with our inner bullfighter.
Why would the Spanish find this patronizing?

Paul Wolfowitz is second in command to Donald Rumsfeld. He's Deputy Defense Secretary. And he is considered the leading theoretician of the policy we have adopted as our way of dealing with the world - the preemptive removal of all governments we suspect may, in the future, be some sort of threat. That's the line now. We now admit Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, nor the means to produce them. But as Bush said to Tim Russert last month in that special Meet the Press interview... Saddam Hussein wished he had these weapons. Good enough. Diane Sawyer earlier had pressed Bush on this in an interview - asking about the actual Iraqi WMD (not there, really) and the intent of Saddam to one day, eventually, maybe, get some WMD (there, of course). Bush's reply? "What's the Difference?" Bush doesn't do nuance. He says so. Flat out.

But Paul Wolfowitz is supposed to do nuance. He's the deep thinker in the administration. He's the one who helped work out this: we now reserve the right to judge if any country might, down the road, carry out possible future hostile actions against us, regardless of their present capabilities or current resources, or even any and all claims that they have no such intentions, and act accordingly. That is we have the right to invade and occupy that country and compel that country to create a government of which we approve.

One might say... bull? But that's precisely the point. Wolfowitz thinks we should think like the Spanish. No, not the Spanish who just tossed out the Aznar guy and elected a "socialist." Wolfowitz wants us, and all nations, to get in touch with our inner bullfighter. Really.

Of course these comments caused a lot of Spanish people to step back in puzzlement, then in anger. The Spanish know bull when they see it.

See Spaniards See Red Upon Hearing Top U.S. Defense Official's Comments on Bullfighting and Iraq
Andrew Selsky, Associated Press, Published: Mar 19, 2004

Here's the gist:

In an interview on PBS television Thursday, Wolfowitz said [newly elected Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez] Zapatero's withdrawal plan didn't seem very Spanish.

"The Spaniards are courageous people. I mean, we know it from their whole culture of bullfighting," Wolfowitz said. "I don't think they run in the face of an enemy. They haven't run in the face of the Basque terrorists. I hope they don't run in the face of these people."

"This is an ignorant comment," snapped Madrid firefighter Juan Carlos Yunquera, sitting on a bench outside his firehouse. "For a top official, it shows he doesn't know what he's talking about."

Yunquera, who heard the American official's remarks on the radio, pointed out that Spaniards overwhelmingly opposed the war in Iraq, even as Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar joined President Bush's "coalition of the willing" a year ago and later contributed troops for the occupation.

Prime Minister-designate Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, elected in the aftermath of the devastating bombings, has pledged to withdraw his country's 1,300 troops from Iraq unless the United Nations takes charge.

Carlota Duce, a waitress at the Retinto Bar, where a bullfighting sword, lance and hat hung on a wall above patrons sipping beer and eating tapas, said she had no use for such comments.

"It's drivel," she said above the strumming of flamenco guitar on the stereo. "There is absolutely no comparison between bullfighting and Spain pulling out of Iraq."

Zapatero, who won Spain's elections last Sunday, pledged repeatedly while campaigning to withdraw Spain's troops from Iraq unless the United Nations takes charge.

Bartender Oliver Iglesias said there was a kernel of truth in Wolfowitz's words.

"We are indeed very brave," he said. "But no one here likes the war in Iraq. And there's a big difference between killing a bull and killing a person
."

Gustavo de Aristegui, a legislator and spokesman in parliament for Aznar's Popular Party, also criticized Wolfowitz, saying: "A top-ranking politician should be more careful about the remarks he makes, and that's all I'm going to say about Mr. Wolfowitz."

Yunquera, the fireman, said he was annoyed that Wolfowitz even mentioned bullfighting.

"I've never liked bullfighting," he said. "If I was to describe Spain, I would say Spain is a tolerant and joyful country and not even mention bullfighting."
Well, it seems the Spanish people mentioned here felt a bit patronized.

But you see from the bartender fellow what the real problem is. They don't like killing people. Bulls, yes. But it's different with people? One assumes that's what is being said.

I guess such a position makes them cowardly appeasers. If only they were more like us.

___

And this doesn't even cover the problem with the French. Visit Arles in late summer and buy yourself a ticket to the bullfights at the old Roman amphitheater there. The damned French don't even kill the bulls; they just get them really irritated. Just what you'd expect, I suppose.

But the way, that old Roman amphitheater in Arles really has been around a long time. Here's a shot of its structural detail from June almost four years ago. I was a month or more too early for the bullfights. Oh well.


Posted by Alan at 18:36 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Thursday, 18 March 2004

Topic: Music

More on Shostakovich and Stalin

As I see from my "hit counter" not many people read the piece in my magazine last Sunday on Shostakovich and Stalin. That's here.

Well, my friend Kevin, who wrote a few film scores himself, traded some email with me about Shostakovich and politics. The question really is this - what was the net effect of Stalin hammering Shostakovich so hard, for political reasons that had little to do music?

From Brian Micklethwait (London) writing in Samizdata.net we get this.

Oh yes, Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Here's the core of why Uncle Joe actually did some good, according to Micklethwait.

Shostakovich was almost certainly a better composer after Stalin had given him his philistine going-over following the first performances of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, than he would have been if Stalin had left him alone. Although both are very fine, I prefer Symphony Number 5 ("A Soviet Artist's Reply to Just Criticism") to Symphony Number 4.

Had Shostakovich continued unmolested along the musical path he was traveling before Stalin's denunciation of him, I don't think he would merely have become just another boring sub-Schoenbergian modernist. He was too interesting a composer for that already. But I do not think his subsequent music would have stirred the heart in the way his actual subsequent music actually does stir mine, and I do not think I am the only one who feels this way.

Thanks to Stalin, if that is an excusable phrase, Shostakovich was forced to write what is now called 'crossover' music, that is, music which is just about entitled to remain in the classical racks in the shops, but which also gives the bourgeoisie, such as me, something to sing along to and get excited about. Shostakovich had always written film music as well as the serious stuff. What Stalin and his attack dogs did was force him to combine the two styles. He might well have ended up doing this anyway, but who can be sure?

What Stalin also did for Shostakovich was to make his music matter more. Thanks to Stalin (that phrase again!) every note composed by Shostakovich became a matter of life and death - while it was being composed, and whenever you listen to it.

Stalin turned Shostakovich into a kind of musical gladiator, a man who knew that every day might be his last. Not many composers get that kind of intense attention....
Everyone needs to be challenged now and then, it seems. Being attacked makes one respond, or might make one respond. And that response can be transforming.

Thus Michael Powell and the FCC might make Howard Stern into an important and insightful political voice in America.

Well, maybe not.

Posted by Alan at 18:41 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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Topic: Photos

A note on having the right attitude...

When the morning sun comes through the window...

Los Angeles at 8:30 am local time
59?F Light Ground Fog
Feels Like: 59?
Dewpoint: 55?
Barometer: 29.95 in and steady
Wind: calm
Humidity: 88%
Visibility: 150 mi
Forecast High: 79? Partly Cloudy



Posted by Alan at 09:09 PST | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
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Wednesday, 17 March 2004

Topic: The Law

The law is what you say the law is...

In a companion piece to the item below regarding Dayton "Scopes Trial" Tennessee, one might note this.

LGBT Federal Workers Lose Job Protections
Paul Johnson, Newscenter Washington Bureau Chief
365Gay.com - Posted: March 17, 2004 2:01 p.m. ET

Here's the scoop:

(Washington, D.C.) Gay and lesbians in the entire federal workforce have had their job protections officially removed by the office of Special Counsel. The new Special Counsel, Scott Bloch, says his interpretation of a 1978 law intended to protect employees and job applicants from adverse personnel actions is that gay and lesbian workers are not covered.

Bloch said that the while a gay employee would have no recourse for being fired or demoted for being gay, that same worker could not be fired for attending a gay Pride event.

In his interpretation, Bloch is making a distinction between one's conduct as a gay or lesbian and one's status as a gay or lesbian.

"People confuse conduct and sexual orientation as the same thing, and I don't think they are," Bloch said in an interview with Federal Times, a publication for government employees.

Bloch said gays, lesbians and bisexuals cannot be covered as a protected class because they are not protected under the nation's civil rights laws.

"When you're interpreting a statute, you have to be very careful to interpret strictly according to how it's written and not get into loose interpretations," Bloch said.

"Someone may have jumped to the conclusion that conduct equals sexual orientation, but they are essentially very different. One is a class . . . and one is behavior."

It is the first time that Bloch has explained his position on the issue of gay workers despite pressure from unions and Federal Globe an organization that represents LGBT government workers after the OSC began removing references to sexual orientation-based discrimination from its complaint form, the OSC basic brochure, training slides and a two-page flier entitled "Your Rights as a Federal Employee."

Bloch's position is a marked departure from how the previous special counsel, Elaine Kaplan, enforced the law. "The legal position that he is taking, that there is some distinction between discrimination based on sexual orientation and discrimination based on conduct, is absurd," Kaplan told Federal Times.

Bloch indicated that he may amend his position. He said he is initiating a review of the issue and plans to meet with the Office of Personnel Management and congressional staff to hear their opinions before making a final decision on how his office will handle complaints alleging sexual orientation discrimination. The review will not get completely under way until next month, when Bloch's senior legal adviser begins work, he said.

Bloch was appointed by President Bush to a five year term beginning in January.
Clear enough?

Because I am not gay - by nature I am actually rather morose and gloomy - I suppose this should not bother me. But it does.

The special counsel here is reversing the position of the federal government. You can be fired for being a homosexual - it's quit legal. The previous special counsel had it wrong? Guess so.

For the sake of argument, let's assume homosexuality is a condition one finds one simply has, like left-handedness or having red hair. That is to assume homosexuality is not something one chooses as a "lifestyle" - it is simply what is. Should "having that condition" be necessary and sufficient cause for dismissal from your job - even if having "that condition" alone is the one, and only, determining cause? It would seem so.

Well, it doesn't seem fair. But then again, homosexual folks seem to make the majority of mainstream, born-again Christian Americans very uncomfortable. Something must be done, they believe.

It seems to me we live in a dangerous world. There are the terrorists out to get us. Forty-four million folks are without health insurance. Thirty-five million folks live below the poverty line. Jobs are hard to get - the percentage of adults working is the lowest it has been in forty or fifty years. And there's global warming and AIDS (SIDA) and lot of things to worry about.

Worrying about gay marriages and spending time making sure we can fire folks for being born a bit different than John Ashcroft - or so I'm assuming about him - just seems pointlessly mean.

Or maybe I just miss the point.

Posted by Alan at 20:47 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
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