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"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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Friday, 20 May 2005

Topic: NOW WHAT?

End of the Week Follies: When in Doubt, Send a Librarian

On Monday 17 May in Newsweek, Suckered, Sucks the Air Out of the Room it seemed the story of the week would be the business with Newsweek and the-Koran-that-may-not-have-been-in-the-toilet story – which devolved into those on the right suggesting it was time to rein in this so-called free press and force it to report what the White House says it should report. You can read all about it there. Or you can read what the Medium Lobster has to say - Stop Newsweek... Before It Kills Again!

Then there was that business with the MP from Scotland testifying to a senate committee that wanted to put him in his place. Didn’t work. He called them out and made them look like fools – see The Scots are Known for Being Blunt from Tuesday for that. And for a late reaction you might want to glance at An Open Letter to Democrats - Listen to Galloway and Learn Something -
George Galloway did that for which you have proven incapable; he spoke as an opposition. Since there seems to be a great dark space in the middle of your heads where the notion of opposition should be - a void filled by parliamentary molasses and the pusillanimous inability to tell simple truths - I suggest you all review the recordings of Galloway's confrontation with Republican Senator Norm "Twit" Coleman to see exactly how effortless it is to stand up to these cheap political bullies (watch the video). While you are at it, you can watch your colleague Carl Levin demonstrate exactly what I mean about most of you and your party, as he alternately hurls petulant cream-puff insults at Galloway and kisses Coleman's stunned, clueless ass to give that toothy dipshit some comfort in the wake of Galloway's verbal drubbing.

Galloway didn't have to walk up to the docket and slap the cowboy shit out of Coleman - though I admit I still struggle with my own secret urges to do just that with most of the air-brushed, combed-over, Stepford meat-puppets who now people the United States Congress. No, all Galloway had to do was tell the unvarnished truth, and it had exactly the same effect. If Democrats had half the spine that Galloway does if you would stop chasing your creepy little careers through the caviar and chicken-salad circuits of duck-and-cover American political double-speak, then not only would people like me not be calling for all to abandon the Democratic Party and take their fight to the streets like good Bolivians not only that, but you'd have won the last election.

The reason Galloway was able to break from your mirror party in UK - Blair's sell-out Labor Party - and still get elected, is that Galloway fights for his convictions and the real needs of his constituents, and doesn't run for cover every time the bully-boys of the capitalist establishment attempt to take him down.
Oh my! And that’s just part of it.

Then at the end of the week we get Saddam Hussein in his underwear and a leaked US Army report, an internal one, that we have been torturing people we know are innocent and, not surprisingly, a number of them die, and it is not just in Iraq and Guantanamo, but in Afghanistan too – as in wide-spread and systematic and that sort of thing. In the middle of this, scientists in South Korea come up with a medical breakthrough involving stem cells. The medical community cheers. The president says this is awful. Congress moves to loosen the rules on the medical use of stem cells, and the president, who as governor of Texas broke the record for approving executions, without paying much attention to the cases he had to review, says he will veto any such legislation. All life is sacred. When a cell is fertilized THAT is fully functional human being, after all, or could be one day. One almost expected him to break into a chorus of that Monty Python tune Every Sperm is Sacred - but he didn’t. But, now in his fifth year in office, this would be his very first veto – if he doesn’t veto the highway bill first.

And the senate is mired in that filibuster business – change the rules to get those last few judges approved. Enough has been said on that.

Meanwhile the war is not going well. Mid-week the top commanders in our military risked angering the president and reluctantly admitted things are getting worse and worse - and our guys won?t be coming home any time soon.

So those in power had a bad week. With such a muddle, what to do?

Send in the librarian!

Laura Bush on a Mideast tour to fix damaged U.S. image
Friday, May 20, 2005 10:00:00 PM GMT
U.S. first lady Laura Bush started on Friday a Middle East tour with the aim of fixing the U.S. image that was damaged among the Muslim world as a result of the Iraq war, Abu Ghraib scandal and the Qur?an desecration report, that was retracted by the Newsweek magazine earlier this week.

Arriving in Jordan on Friday, Mrs. Bush was greeted by Alia Hatough-Bouran, the country's minister of tourism and antiquities. Mrs. Laura prepares to give a speech on Saturday before the World Economic Forum.

Mrs. Bush said she hopes her Mideast tour will help repair the U.S. image damaged by a recently retracted Newsweek report that American interrogators desecrated the Qur?an at Guantanamo Bay, as well as the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

"We've had terrible happenings that have really, really hurt our image of the United States," she said.

"People in the United States are sick about it."

?I hope that the Middle East, the broader Middle East, get to know Americans like we really are,? Mrs. Bush told reporters before arriving in Amman.

?I don?t think they really have the sense of Americans being religious.?

Mrs. Bush hopes her five-day mission in Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt will help repair that damage. ?
"I don?t think they really have the sense of Americans being religious?"

Oh, one suspects they do. They just wonder about our particular religion ? the one with the Avenging Jesus, Bringer of Pain and Death.

And by the way, that excerpt was the story in Al Jazeera Online.

Got a problem with that?

Tell them -

AJ Publishing
Sheikh Zayed Road, PO Box 31303
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Tel:(9714) 319 7575
Fax: (9714) 319 7573

Anyway, the Saddam in his skivvies story just compounds the Newsweek business. Laura will have to be extra charming.

Over at Editor and Publisher you can find a detailed summary of the Saddam issues.


- Our military on Friday condemned a British newspaper's decision (the British tabloid Sun) to print photographs of a captive Saddam Hussein, including one showing him in his underwear. Later the New York Post published on its front page one of the photos of Saddam in his white briefs, under the headline, "Butcher of Sagdad."

- The Pentagon raised fears that the photos could cause a backlash in Iraq. But President Bush said Friday that he did not think photos of Hussein clad only in his underwear would incite further anti-American violence in Iraq. "I don't think a photo inspires murderers," Bush said.

- Bush was briefed by senior aides Friday morning about the photos' existence, and "strongly supports the aggressive and thorough investigation that is already under way" that seeks to find who took them, White House press spokesman Trent Duffy said.

- The Post had described the photos this way: "The pictures capture a Saddam Hussein far removed from the man who once owned 100 palaces, a huge yacht and a fleet of cars. This is the post-downfall Saddam -- a man of no wealth, no luxuries and underwear that doesn't fit right."

- From the Pentagon? The photos were "expected to fuel anti-American sentiment among supporters of the former dictator who are believed to be the driving force behind the country's insurgency," the Associated Press observed.

- The Sun said it obtained the photos from "U.S. military sources." Both the Sun and Post are controlled by Rupert Murdoch, a longtime supporter of the U.S. invasion that toppled Hussein.

Then Editor and Publisher quotes Col Allan, editor of the New York Post giving a very short answer to why they ran the pictures - "They were interesting." And he was not aware of the Pentagon's objections and would not comment on them. But our guys say the photos violated military guidelines "and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals." And they are, of course, disappointed the pictures got out.

Editor and Publisher tells us the Sun said it received the pictures from a source in the military who, according to the New York Post account, "hoped the release of the pitiful pictures will deal a body blow to the lingering Iraqi insurgency." The source supposedly said: "Saddam is just an aging and humble old man now. It's over, guys. The evil days of Saddam's Ba'ath Party are never coming back -- and here's the proof." And late in the day the Post spokesmen at Howard J. Rubenstein Associates says this - "Saddam Hussein is a genocidal maniac who tortured, gassed and killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. The photographs published today by the New York Post show the U.S. military is treating him with a regard he never showed his own people."

Yeah, whatever.

Just what is Rupert Murdoch up? He wants a holy war ? for News Corp?

Do you remember this exchange of telegrams in January 1897 between William Randolph Hearst and his reporter in Havana?

To: W. R. Hearst, New York Journal, N.Y.:
Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return. - Remington.

To: Remington, Havana:
Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war.

Well, this may not have happened - but maybe Murdoch saw Citizen Kane one to many times and has Orson Welles? voice ringing in ears ? ?You provide the prose poems, I'll provide the war!?

Is Charles Foster Kane running these tabloids and Fox News ? telling Roger Ailes what to do? Could be.

But Friday?s big story was the New York Times letting everyone know what was in a classified US Army report on torture ? this time at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

This was all over the news so there is no need to deal with it in detail ? but a good summary of where we now stand on all this torture stuff comes from Andrew Sullivan (paragraphing changed for emphasis ) -
It has gone chronologically something like this:

"It's not true. It's not true."

"It may be true but it's not torture."

"Okay, it's torture, but isn't official policy."

"It may be true and official policy, but we changed the policy and we uncovered the abuses ourselves."

"It may be true, it may have been widespread, but we've punished the culprits."

?It may be true, it may have been widespread, it may still be happening, but all these reports are old news."

Well, give these guys points for effort.

How about: it is true; it should never have happened; the people responsible for the policy as well as the criminals should be punished.

Ah, but that would mean taking responsibility, wouldn't it? And we don't do that in this administration, do we? ?
Those of use who are news addicts, and political junkies, and policy wonks ? those of us who follow such things ? know Sullivan has provided a quite useful review here. It is pretty amazing.

Laura has her work cut out for her.

As for what was in the Times? It seems our guys beat prisoners to death ? using the famous "common peroneal strike" - a real good whack to the side of the leg, just above the knee. They did this so often to certain prisoners within a short period of time that they developed blood clots from the injuries and died - and said they did this mostly just to hear them scream - it was funny. The tissue on their legs, as the coroner described it, "had basically been pulpified." The guys were mostly body builders who called themselves "the testosterone gang" and decorated their tents with the confederate flags.

Cool. Why does the Times hate America? And the South?

Key excerpts ?
Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.
Yep, they sort of knew he was just unlucky? Oh well.

And there is this pop culture aspect to it all -
Some of the same M.P.'s took a particular interest in an emotionally disturbed Afghan detainee who was known to eat his feces and mutilate himself with concertina wire. The soldiers kneed the man repeatedly in the legs and, at one point, chained him with his arms straight up in the air, Specialist Callaway told investigators. They also nicknamed him "Timmy," after a disabled child in the animated television series "South Park." One of the guards who beat the prisoner also taught him to screech like the cartoon character, Specialist Callaway said.

Eventually, the man was sent home.
No comment.

And there is this -
With most of the legal action pending, the story of abuses at Bagram remains incomplete. But documents and interviews reveal a striking disparity between the findings of Army investigators and what military officials said in the aftermath of the deaths.

Military spokesmen maintained that both men had died of natural causes, even after military coroners had ruled the deaths homicides. Two months after those autopsies, the American commander in Afghanistan, then-Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, said he had no indication that abuse by soldiers had contributed to the two deaths. The methods used at Bagram, he said, were "in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques."
What is generally accepted on our side isn?t playing well in the Middle East.

Digby over at Hullabaloo adds this -
As we already know from the stories in Guantanamo, many of the prisoners were sold or turned over to the Americans by Afghan warlords with an agenda. They were not guilty of anything.

? Perhaps most tellingly, the soldiers felt they were justified in beating and torturing prisoners because the secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, had declared that the detainees, as "terrorists," were not covered under the Geneva Conventions. They took the gloves off. Just as their superiors told them to.

Perhaps when Newsweak "takes action" to remedy the damage they caused to US credibility, they can explain ?
Oh, they don?t have to. Laura the Librarian will explain it all. No one envies her that job ? and we really do wish her well.

But sometimes the wife just cannot clean up the mess the husband has made.

Posted by Alan at 22:28 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 20 May 2005 22:43 PDT home

Topic: Photos

Paparazzi Corner

This is Hollywood, so one needs shots of stars. Most of what is here has been on politics and culture. Before people complain it seems best to provide celebrity shots.

Coming in this Sunday’s Just Above Sunset you will find a column from Bob Patterson on the day, many years ago, Paul Newman asked for Bob’s autograph. Really.

That day in Pacific Palisades he took a series of black and white photographs, and I have been digitalizing them.

Here are a few. (Photos Copyright ? 2005 – Robert Patterson)

Richard Pryor being interviewed.

Paul Newman

Jack Lemon

Walter Mathieu

Obviously when not ?on? ? when not selling the persona ? these four look a bit unhappy, or pensive, or ordinary.

More to follow on Sunday ? including some from the Oscars ?

Posted by Alan at 16:45 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 20 May 2005 16:54 PDT home

Thursday, 19 May 2005

Topic: The Culture

Barney Does Paris

As a break from the war – the top commanders in our military risk angering the president and reluctantly admit things are getting worse and worse - and our guys won’t be coming home any time soon – along with all the other dismal news – it may be time to consider why kids like dinosaurs.

They do. I did when I was a kid – always off to the natural history museum to see them bones. These days the children of my nephews have movies and television - check out The Ten Best Dinosaur Movies of All Time where Godzilla (1954) come in fifth, and Pat Boone and James Mason in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1958) comes in eighth. Of course Jurassic Park (1993) is number one. This all may have started with the first really popular dinosaur movie, the animated Gertie The Dinosaur (1914) made by one Winsor McCay. Tiffany and JT prefer the cute Disney sort of movies one gets these days.

And there is, for the real young kids, Barney on PBS – “Barney is an incredibly lovable, warm, and friendly six-foot purple dinosaur who comes to life from a plush toy by way of children's imaginations. Barney serves as a guide or facilitator for the children to use their imaginations to problem solve and to discover the world around them… Barney is a friend to all children-they feel safe with Barney and look to him for reassurance and security.”

Much has been written about this Barney – but my favorite comment comes from the New Yorker writer, Adam Gopnik, in his book Paris to the Moon (Random House, 2001) - on living for many years in Paris with his family while writing the New Yorker’s Paris Journals - “Bill Clinton is Barney for adults … Barney and Bill are not amiable authority figures, like the Friendly Giant and Ronald Reagan. They are, instead, representations of pure need: Wanting to be hugged, they hug.”

Barney is creepy. Clinton could be too.

But as a diversion you might want to check out what Keith Stewart Thomson has to say in Dinosaurs as a Cultural Phenomenon in the May-June issue of The American Scientist - Volume: 93 Number: 3 Page: 212

Thomson digs deep into the origins of this all -
The key to modern dinomania may have been the discovery in 1884 of a whole herd of intact Iguanodon skeletons in a Belgian coal mine. Two years later, Camille Flammarion's popular book on Earth history, Le Monde avant la Creation de l'Homme (or The World Before the Creation of Man), showed an Iguanodon in a theatrical pose: taking a meal from the "fifth floor" of a Paris apartment building (in France, the ground floor is the unnumbered rez-de-chaussee). Even so, it took a while for this sort of dramatic depiction of dinosaurs to catch on in the USA, until American newspapers followed in 1897 (American Century) and 1898 (New York World and Advertiser) with similar depictions of the far larger Brontosaurus against a backdrop of skyscrapers. The reception given to these fantastic images firmly established the potential of dinosaurs to capture public interest.
And Thomson provides this illustration from Camille Flammarion’s Le Monde avant la Creation de l'Homme (1886) – which is pretty cool.

But as much as dinosaurs have captured the popular imagination, and kids like them, there are problems.

Given the recent hearings in Kansas which resulted in the Intelligent Design folks winning equal time in the public schools there with the evolution theory pushers ? covered in these pages here, here, here and here - what are we to believe? A few witnesses on the winning side argued that early man and dinosaurs lived together at the same time ? and the scientists say no, the evidence shows not. A few witnesses on the winning side argued that God ? or Satan ? messed with our minds and placed them bones in the sediment or whatever to test our faith, and all this geology is wrong as the earth couldn?t be more than six thousand years old, if you read the Bible carefully.

What is one to believe?

Paul S. Taylor has one answer. In DINOSAUR MANIA AND OUR CHILDREN first published in Impact in 1987 ? the magazine of the Institute for Creation Research - and republished last year, he explains. And he is, after all, Production Director of the Films for Christ Association.

His thoughts?
Dinosaurs are the newest fad. Will they lead children away from our Creator? Or to Him?

Ever since the first dinosaur reconstructions in the mid-1800's, dinosaurs have been big business. They have been used to sell everything from breakfast cereal to gasoline. And now interest is greater than ever. A new craze for dinosaurs and related merchandise is sweeping America and other western nations.

Almost anywhere children go these days, they are exposed to dinosaurs in one way or another, even on school milk cartons. Furthermore, these creatures are almost as popular with adults.

Much of the trendy merchandise appeals to the "yuppie" generation. Articles on new dinosaur extinction theories and fossil discoveries are frequently featured in major national magazines. And a steady stream of new adult-level dinosaur books continues to be issued by humanistic publishers each year. Even adults are fascinated by these great beasts--and likewise the history and controversy surrounding them.
So what?s the problem?
Dinosaurs are being used on a monumental scale to promote evolution. Parents are often amazed at how much even kindergartners know about them. Portrayed as strange, fierce-looking creatures, they are effectively used to indoctrinate millions of children with false evolutionary concepts, such as the following:

1. Dinosaurs and many other animals are pre-historic. Most of the earth's history took place long before the Bible or any other book was written and long before any man existed.

2. It is a scientific fact that the earth is exceedingly old--perhaps 5 billion years.

3. Evolution is a fact. God did not create the world as portrayed in the Bible.

4. There once was a time when the land was inhabited only by reptiles--the Great Age of the Dinosaurs.

5. Dinosaurs and other animals evolved into completely different kinds of creatures. Every creature evolved from lower forms of life, even man.

6. Man is just an animal--a highly-evolved primate.
Dangerous misconceptions corrupting our youth? Maybe so ? in Kansas. But they are fixing that problem!

David Albrecht offers a satire about that:

Kansas Outlaws Dinosaur-Themed Toys, Cartoons
"Barney Ban" Will Protect Children, Says State Attorney General Kline. Legislative Leaders' Goal: "Healing Wounds of Darwinism"
May 13, 2005 ? posted at Democratic Underground
TOPEKA, KS - Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline stunned many Kansans yesterday by announcing that books, toys and cartoons depicting or featuring dinosaurs were now illegal across the state.

Kline, no stranger to controversy on such hot-button issues as abortion and gun control, defended the actions of the Kansas Legislature, which in a special late-night session overrode Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius' veto of the Childrens' Defense & Truth in Science Act.

"The people of the Sunflower State understand rock-bottom honesty," he said. "They know that this is not some sort of anti-science conspiracy. We're not moving backwards. We simply believe that this is the best way possible to heal the partisan wounds that decades of rule by the secular left have inflicted on this state."

Kline emphasized that information on dinosaurs would remain available to students in university paleontology classes, provided they supplied waivers signed by their parents or guardians.

The new state law, effective immediately, makes it illegal for Kansans to purchase for or supply to children any book, toy, game, video or electronic media which portrays dinosaurs or "to import, send or ship" any such materials into Kansas from outside the state.
And on it goes. It?s pretty amusing.

It ends with this -
Many at a press conference called by the attorney general questioned whether diverting law enforcement resources to raiding bookstores, searching cars and opening packages in search of black-market brontosauruses was a sensible use of taxpayer dollars. Kline, however, was outspoken in his support of the new law.

Pressed by one reporter for the Kansas City Star, who pointed out that methamphetamine-related crime had risen 37% in the past year, Kline posed a rhetorical question: "Who can say where the road to drug abuse begins? I believe that it begins for many young Kansans with the cold, brutal message of Charles Darwin, imposed and enforced by the secular left. It ends, as you point out, in meth labs and prisons across the state."

In Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas and arguably the most liberal corner of the state, Borders Books & Music was one of the first targets of suddenly reassigned KBI agents. General Manager Lisa Bakke stood by in shock as officers hauled boxes of Barney videos, Dinotopia books and Jurassic Park DVDs off to waiting police cruisers.

"It's just beyond belief," she said, noting that she had still heard nothing about compensation for businesses like hers in cases where authorities seize merchandise. Also seized in the raid were works by Stephen Jay Gould, Dougal Dixon, E.O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins.

KBI agents who participated in the raid said they had no idea whether CDs by the seminal alt-rock group Dinosaur Jr., or the popular 1980s AOR dance track "Walk The Dinosaur" by Was (Not Was), would be covered by the ban.

"We're just waiting for clarification from Mr. Kline's office", said Sgt. Frank Pickering, who declined further comment. However, legislators are preparing to revise the law with an eye towards answering troublesome enforcement questions.

This will include just what Kansas intends to do about national broadcasts of Animal Planet and Discovery Channel. Law enforcement officials are also concerned about how to handle comic strips like BC and The Far Side, which occasionally depict dinosaurs, as well as the caveman-themed 1950s hit song "Alley Oop," the 1933 horror classic "King Kong," and Blue Oyster Cult's 1980 heavy metal magnum opus "Cultosaurus Erectus."

For the time being, Kansas "Flintstones" fans and collectors of Sinclair gasoline memorabilia will also be left hanging.
Satire? I guess it is.

An additional irony is, of course, that Barney the Purple Dinosaur, like George Bush, is a TEXAN! - "A six-foot purple dinosaur, Barney is the star of the children's TV show Barney and Friends. Barney began in 1987 as the star of direct-sale videos created by Dallas teacher Sheryl Leach. The tapes caught the eye of the Public Broadcasting System, who put Barney and Friends on the air in 1992."

Well, Texan or not, Barney is not really in trouble. That was satire above. On the other hand, Barney has been in court.

You will find this of at Case Law - and it is quite real -
No. 98-11003

LYONS PARTNERSHIP, Plaintiff-Appellant,
TED GIANNOULAS, doing business as Famous Chicken; TFC, INC., Defendants-Appellees.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

July 7, 1999
Before REAVLEY, JOLLY, and EMILIO M. GARZA, Circuit Judges.
What the heck is this about? Here is E. Grady Jolly, Circuit Judge:
Lyons Partnership LP ("Lyons"), the owners of the rights to the children's caricature Barney, sued Ted Giannoulas, the creator of a sports mascot--The Famous Chicken ("the Chicken")--because the Chicken had incorporated a Barney look-alike in its act. The district court granted summary judgment to Giannoulas and awarded attorneys' fees.

On appeal, Lyons raises six issues, the most important of which is whether the district court erred when it determined that there was insufficient evidence that Giannoulas's use of the Barney trademark caused consumer confusion under the Lanham Act. (1) Because we agree with the approach taken by the district court, we affirm.

I .

This case involves a dispute over the use of the likeness of "Barney," a children's character who appears in a number of products marketed to children. (2) Barney, a six-foot tall purple "tyrannosaurus rex," entertains and educates young children. His awkward and lovable behavior, good-natured disposition, and renditions of songs like "I love you, you love me," have warmed the hearts and captured the imaginations of children across the United States. According to Lyons, the owner of the intellectual property rights for Barney and the plaintiff in the suit below, the defendants--Giannoulas d/b/a The Famous Chicken and TFC, Inc. ("TFC"), the owner of the intellectual property rights to the Chicken--sought to manipulate Barney's wholesome image to accomplish their own nefarious ends.

The Chicken, a sports mascot conceived of and played by Giannoulas, targets a more grown-up audience. While the Chicken does sell marketing merchandise, it is always sold either by direct order or in conjunction with one of the Chicken's appearances. Thus, the Chicken's principal means of income could, perhaps loosely, be referred to as "performance art." Catering to the tastes of adults attending sporting events, most notably baseball games, the Chicken is renowned for his hard hitting satire. Fictional characters, celebrities, ball players, and, yes, even umpires, are all targets for the Chicken's levity. Hardly anything is sacred.

And so, perhaps inevitably, the Chicken's beady glare came to rest on that lovable and carefree icon of childhood, Barney. Lyons argues that the Chicken's motivation was purely mercenary.
Seeing the opportunity to hitch his wagon to a star, the Chicken incorporated a Barney look-alike into his acts. The character, a person dressed in a costume (sold with the title "Duffy the Dragon") that had a remarkable likeness to Barney's appearance, would appear next to the Chicken in an extended performance during which the Chicken would flip, slap, tackle, trample, and generally assault the Barney look-alike.

The results, according to Lyons, were profound. Lyons regales us with tales of children observing the performance who honestly believed that the real Barney was being assaulted. In one poignant account related by Lyons, a parent describes how the spectacle brought his two-year-old child to tears. In fact, we are told, only after several days of solace was the child able to relate the horror of what she had observed in her own words--"Chicken step on Barney"--without crying. After receiving such complaints from irate parents who attended the Chicken's performances with their children, Lyons sought to defend this assault on their bastion of child-like goodness and naivete.
Oh, the humanity! The poor kid.

But from the record -
Giannoulas offers a slightly different perspective on what happened. True, he argues, Barney, depicted with his large, rounded body, never changing grin, giddy chuckles, and exclamations like "Super-dee-Dooper!," may represent a simplistic ideal of goodness.

Giannoulas, however, also considers Barney to be a symbol of what is wrong with our society--an homage, if you will, to all the inane, banal platitudes that we readily accept and thrust unthinkingly upon our children. Apparently, he is not alone in criticizing society's acceptance of a children's icon with such insipid and corny qualities. Quoting from an article in The New Yorker , he argues that at least some perceive Barney as a "pot-bellied," "sloppily fat" dinosaur who "giggle[s] compulsively in a tone of unequaled feeblemindedness" and "jiggles his lumpish body like an overripe eggplant." The Talk Of The Town: Pacifier, The New Yorker, May 3, 1993 at 37. The Internet also contains numerous web sites devoted to delivering an anti-Barney message. (3) Giannoulas further notes that he is not the only satirist to take shots at Barney. Saturday Night Live, Jay Leno, and a movie starring Tom Arnold have all engaged in parodies at the ungainly dinosaur's expense.

But wait! There?s more!
Perhaps the most insightful criticism regarding Barney is that his shows do not assist children in learning to deal with negative feelings and emotions. As one commentator puts it, the real danger from Barney is "denial: the refusal to recognize the existence of unpleasant realities. For along with his steady diet of giggles and unconditional love, Barney offers our children a one-dimensional world where everyone must be happy and everything must be resolved right away." Chala Willig Levy, The Bad News About Barney, Parents, Feb. 1994, at 191-92 (136-39).
You see, Giannoulas is claiming that, through careful use of parody, he sought to highlight the differences between Barney and the Chicken. He says he was not merely profiting from the spectacle of a Barney look-alike making an appearance in his show. Instead, he was engaged in a sophisticated critique of society's acceptance of this ubiquitous and insipid creature.

But, you ask, who won, Barney or the chicken?
Because this case comes to us on appeal from a summary judgment motion, we review the district court's decision de novo applying the same standards applied by the district court. See Boyd v. State Farm Ins. Cos., 158 F.3d 326, 328 (5th Cir. 1998). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the record establishes that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device adopted and used by a manufacturer to identify the source of goods. To establish a trademark violation, Lyons must establish that Giannoulas has used in commerce a mark confusingly similar to Lyons's. 15 U.S.C. ? 1127. (4) The district court held that there was no likelihood of consumer confusion. In reaching this decision, the district court relied on its finding that the Chicken's performance was clearly meant to be a parody.

Lyons makes two arguments with respect to its trademark confusion claim. First, Lyons argues that Giannoulas's use of Barney was not intended as a parody. Because Lyons continues to contest this issue on appeal, we first address whether there are any genuine issues of material fact regarding whether Giannoulas was engaged in parodying Barney. Lyons's second argument is that the district court accorded too much weight to its finding that Giannoulas's use was a parody.

In general, a parody is defined as an "artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule." Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music , 510 U.S. 569 (1994)(quotation omitted). In general, a reference to a copyrighted work or trademark may be permissible if the use is purely for parodic purposes. To the extent the original work must be referenced in order to accomplish the parody, that reference is acceptable. Giannoulas claims that his use of a Barney look-alike clearly qualifies as a parody. He used the minimum necessary to evoke Barney--while he used a character dressed like Barney that danced like Barney, he did not make any other references to the mythical world in which Barney resides. He did not, for instance, incorporate any of Barney's other "friends" into his act, have the character imitate Barney's voice, or perform any of Barney's songs. According to Giannoulas, Barney was clearly the butt of a joke and he referenced the Barney character only to the extent necessary to conjure up the character's image in his audience's mind.

Lyons argues that the conduct was not a parody but simply the use of Barney. To support this claim, Lyons points to two kinds of proffered evidence. First, Lyons notes that Giannoulas himself admits that he did not have a definite plan when he incorporated Barney into the act. Lyons argues that this creates an issue of fact regarding whether Giannoulas really intended to parody Barney or simply intended to profit from incorporating the Barney character into his act.

This argument is meritless. Clearly, in the context in which Giannoulas intended to insert a reference to the Barney character, the humor came from the incongruous nature of such an appearance, not from an attempt to benefit from Barney's goodwill. This point is clearly established by the fact that the Chicken's actions toward Barney seem to have always been antagonistic. Although the performance may have evolved into a far more sophisticated form of commentary, even at its inception, it was clearly meant as a parody.

The second argument made by Lyons is that the audience could not have understood the performance to be a parody. Lyons assumes that the target audience here is children and that children would clearly believe that the caricature actually was Barney. Although Lyons is correct that the intended audience is an important factor in determining whether a performance qualifies as a parody, Lyons presented no credible evidence that a significant portion of the audience at evening sporting events are children. Even if young children--like the two-year-old who had such a traumatic reaction to the down-trodden Barney--are in attendance, we would expect them to be supervised by parents who could explain the nature of the parody.

We therefore agree with the district court that Giannoulas's use of the caricature clearly qualifies as a parody. We note that Lyons's insistence that the Chicken's act is not a parody is, in our view, a completely meritless argument.
So score one for the chicken. The dinosaur loses. "Chicken step on Barney."

This is, course followed by a long discussion of the Lanham Act and copyright issues. Go to the link and read all about Elvis Presley Enters. v. Copeck , 141 F.3d 188, 194 (5th Cir. 1998); Conan Properties, Inc. v. Conan's Pizza, Inc., 752 F.2d 145, 149 (5th Cir. 1985); Armco, Inc. v. Armco Burglar Alarms Co. , 693 F.2d 1155, 1159 (5th Cir. 1983). Or don?t. Lyons cites to Elvis to argue that a strong mark can be relevant even in the context of a parody. In Elvis, however, the issue was whether the Elvis trademark had been infringed by a nightclub titled "the Velvet Elvis." In that case the parody was not of Elvis but of cheesy sixties bars. Therefore, because Elvis was not the brunt of the joke, the fact that Elvis is a strong trademark could be regarded as an endorsement of the nightclub. Geez!

But kids still like dinosaurs. Go figure.



Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, defends Barney (somewhat) ?
First of all, as a parent and a catch-as-catch-can observer of "kid kulture," I think the famous dinosaur mania may be dying way down, just as the Hopalong syndrome of my day eventually did.

But I must also happily admit, I really think that insipid Barney character actually helped reinforce those attitudes of niceness we tried to instill in our son - back when he was old enough to watch it without losing his lunch, that is; he's now eleven.

I also remember my mom back then sneering that parents just use Barney as a babysitter; my reply was that, "Well, duh! I mean, SOMEBODY has to baby-sit, and you sure-the-hell aren't going to do it!" (She was living 3,000 miles away in California at the time.)

On the other hand, this legal case seems to me like a slam-dunk for parody from the get-go.

The only chance the Lyons Partners had, as far as I can see, was to put all their emphasis on the target audience, which was everybody in the stands - not just adults, who could presumably tell the difference, but also some little kids, many of whom probably genuinely believed it was Barney having the crap kicked out of him, and would only see their parents telling them otherwise as a version of, "Who ya gonna believe, your loving dad, or your lying eyes?"

The only recourse I can see for the plaintiff in this case is to hire some humongous professional wrestler, dress him up in a Barney suit, have him show up at a game and go out on the floor and beat the living f**king sh*t out of that goddamned chicken.

With any luck, every tiny tot in the place will jump up, with fists waving in triumph, and shout, "Whoa!!! Go, Barney, go! Testify! Truth to Power!" And then they could turn to their parents, and by way of explanation, sing a little snatch of Dylan's "The Times, They Are A'Changing!" - and then sit back down.

It's just this fantasy I have.

Posted by Alan at 16:07 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 19 May 2005 19:45 PDT home

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

Topic: The Media

Midweek Ennui: What to say…?

Max B. Sawicky over at Max Speak: You Listen sums up how many of the left feel given events so far this week -
Politics - more specifically, the things that come out of Republican pieholes - has degenerated to such a deep vat of bullshit that it seems a waste of time to react.

Iraq is still a mess, but on the strength of a few unrelated flurries of democratic expression in the Middle East, some suckers think there is an "Arab spring." After a cavalcade of lies from official sources and their toadies to justify an unnecessary, unjust war, the focus settles on a lightly-sourced but probably accurate report in a news magazine.

Nobody is paying any attention to the labor market, even though it sucks, and our economic overlord is treated as an indispensable hero.

The Federal budget outlook is still a mess, also relegated to inside pages.

We have to fight about the appointment of judges who are certifiable imbeciles, babbling like talk radio jingoists.

On the other hand, the Social Security issue goes well, as the Bushists' ongoing privatization campaign flops around like a mackeral on kitchen linoleum, L.A. has a new progressive mayor, and school will be out soon, relieving me of 6:36 a.m. drop-offs at the bus stop.

Got to roll with the punches.
Yeah, I suppose.

That business with the Koran and Newsweek and the riots and all - see Newsweek, Suckered, Sucks the Air Out of the Room - will not go away.

From Baghdad, the noted local blogger there - ?Riverbend? - says this -
We've seen enough blatant disregard and disrespect for Islam in Iraq the last two years to make this story sound very plausible.

... Detainees coming back after weeks or months in prison talk of being forced to eat pork, not being allowed to pray, being exposed to dogs, having Islam insulted and generally being treated like animals trapped in a small cage. At the end of the day, it's not about words or holy books or pork or dogs or any of that. It's about what these things symbolize on a personal level. It is infuriating to see objects that we hold sacred degraded and debased by foreigners who felt the need to travel thousands of kilometers to do this. That's not to say that all troops disrespect Islam - some of them seem to genuinely want to understand our beliefs. It does seem like the people in charge have decided to make degradation and humiliation a policy.

By doing such things, this war is taken to another level ? it is no longer a war against terror or terrorists ? it is, quite simply, a war against Islam and even secular Muslims are being forced to take sides.
Ah, but we say it?s not a war against Islam. And the administration says this unhappiness all the fault of that badly sourced item in Newsweek.


Kevin Drum, in the Washington Monthly has this to say about that: ?By the time this is all over, I suspect the Pentagon is going to be sorry it ever made a fuss over the Newsweek item in the first place. Every reporter in town is now going to start investigating this stuff, and the results are not likely to be pretty. Stay tuned for a fusillade of deeply researched stories about allegations of religious desecration by American troops starting in about a week.?

Oh, that should be fun.

Andrew Sullivan cites the White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, this week ?
[O]ur military goes out of their way to handle the Koran with care and respect. There are policies and practices that are in place. This report was wrong. Newsweek, itself, stated that it was wrong. And so now I think it's incumbent and -- incumbent upon Newsweek to do their part to help repair the damage. And they can do that through ways that they see best, but one way that would be good would be to point out what the policies and practices are in that part of the world, because it's in that region where this report has been exploited and used to cause lasting damage to the image of the United States of America. It has had serious consequences. And so that's all I'm saying, is that we would encourage them to take steps to help repair the damage. And I think that they recognize the importance of doing that. That's all I'm saying.
So the news magazine should print what the White House says they should print? Well, if they are patriotic and support our troops they will.

Some of us caught a bit of the reaction to that at the press briefing. Reporters asking if Scott thought he should be editor of Newsweek and decide what stories to run. No, he didn?t mean that! Then why the pressure? No guys ? it?s NOT pressure, just a suggestion. Scott, what?s the difference ? is the White House telling us what to say? No guys ? it was just a suggestion! And so on and so forth. It was amusing.

Sullivan adds this -
Does McClellan really want the press to report more widely on what has been going on at Guantanamo Bay? Does he really want more stories about forced nakedness, female interrogators using panties and fake menstrual blood, and many reports from former inmates about deliberate misuse of the Koran?

Well, let it rip, I say. The press's response should not be to whine about the Bush administration pestering them. It should be call McClellan's bluff. Demand far greater access to inmates at Gitmo. Demand that former interrogators be allowed to speak freely to the media. Ask for interviews with CIA interrogators at Gitmo and in Afghanistan. Get military permission to debrief Muslim military chaplain, James Yee. Run long, detailed stories debriefing released Gitmo detainees and try to confirm or debunk their allegations of abuse. Pull together all the reports of abuse of religion in U.S. facilities and explain the full context for readers. And when the administration and Pentagon resist such efforts for deeper exploration of "policies and practices," refer to McClellan's briefing. The administration has now opened the door for a fuller exploration of their policies and actual practices regarding detainees. Let's walk in and see what's in there, shall we?
This is getting good.

Jacob Weisberg over at SLATE.COM argues here that this whole business is just your run-of-the-mill attempt to shut down the free press ?
? the problem with the Bush administration excoriating Newsweek's insensitivity to Islam isn't just hypocrisy. There's a larger issue of bad faith and an underlying lack of appreciation for the necessary role of a free and independent press. With increasing forcefulness, Bush has tried to undermine the legitimacy of the media, or at least that subculture within it that shows any tendency to challenge him. When the Bushies say there ought to be more of a check on the Fourth Estate, they aren't really asking for more care and accuracy on the part of journalists. They're expressing frustration that they still have to put up with criticism at all.
Well, no one likes criticism, do they?

Weisberg also points to an interesting New York Times item containing this -
Republicans close to the White House said that although President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were genuinely angered by the Newsweek article, West Wing officials were also exploiting it in an effort to put a check on the press.

"There's no expectation that they're going to bring down Newsweek, but there is a feeling that there is no check on what you guys do," said one outside Bush adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to be identified as talking about possible motives of the White House.

? "This is hardly the first time that the administration has sought to portray the American media as inadequately patriotic," said Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. "They are addressing the mistake, and not the essence of the story. The essence of the story is that the United States has been rather indelicate, to put it mildly, in the way that they have treated prisoners of war."
No kidding, Marvin!

So who are we to believe? We are told the press is the problem.

Fred Kaplan in Kaboom! How to enrage Iraq's Sunnis points to a front page story in the May 17 Philadelphia Inquirer, by staff reporters Hannah Allam and Mohammed al Dulaimy, headlined, "Iraqis Lament a Call for Help." The piece is about last week?s Operation Matador where we fought all those foreign jihadists in the desert villages of western Iraq. Our government says this was a great success, and for the first time since the Vietnam War, we were provided with body counts to prove it. The problem is Allam and Dulaimy say it was ?a grave disaster.? It seems that Iraqi tribal leaders in the area had formed a vigilante group called the Hamza Forces to stop all those Islamic extremists coming in across the Syrian border. They were outnumbered and at least three of the tribal chiefs asked the Iraqi defense ministry and the US Marines for help. We rolled in and flattened the place. But we weren?t exactly careful. We killed a lot of the Hamza guys too, and their families ? and their homes are gone. Now they?re pretty ticked at us. And obviously, they?re not too happy with the new Shiite government in Baghdad. The prospect for a unified Shiite-Sunni-Kurdish everyone-is-happy Iraq gets dimmer. But we did the body count.

We won - depending on who you believe.

Who are we to believe?

You might want to read - Afghan Poppycock - Hamid Karzai's halfhearted jihad by David Bosco ?
There's all sorts of good news coming out of the Afghan drug war. Hamid Karzai recently announced that opium cultivation might be down as much as 30 percent this year. In April, the United States nabbed alleged Afghan drug lord Haji Bashir Noorzai. U.S. and European money are helping Karzai's government build special drug courts and train paramilitary interdiction teams. One might almost be convinced that Afghanistan?site of an ongoing political renaissance?has pulled off another miracle.

Don't believe it. The truth is that the war against opium in Afghanistan is stumbling badly. A bureaucratic struggle on counternarcotics strategy inside the U.S. government produced an unhappy compromise. For its part, the fragile Afghan government is too timid to do serious crop eradication. There may be a drop in opium production this year, but it will be due primarily to recent flooding and to the huge stockpiles from last year's bumper crop. ?
And Bosco goes on to explain it all in detail.

No wonder the administration is frustrated. Some folks are calling them out. So they work to stop it.

And there was the Scottish MP - George Galloway ? doing the mother of all call-outs this week ? see The Scots are known for being blunt? from earlier in the week.

I found a good item on that, from Jeanne at Body and Soul of course. It?s also on rhetoric ? how one makes one?s points.

Usual domestic method: ?? if the facts aren't with you, and you can only win by scoring cheap points here and there. Pulling off a sharp insult. Twisting a fact to good effect. Bullying the messengers into parroting your message. Ha! We win!? (think Ann Coulter, Bill O?Reilly)

UK method: No cheap shots and bitch slaps. Tell the truth ? and, oh yeah, use anaphora.

She says this -
There's a wonderful sentence in one of the Guardian's pieces on George Galloway's Senate testimony yesterday: ?By condemning him in their report without interviewing him, the senators had already given Mr Galloway the upper hand.?

Wonderful, as in the sense of producing wonder. In this country, the common political wisdom is the exact opposite, that if your opposition gets to define you before you have a chance to defend yourself, you are doomed. Nothing you say afterwards will have much impact. I think it's fair to say Mr. Galloway ground that common wisdom into the dust yesterday (although I have no doubt the Democrats will dig it up, slap a few layers of pancake makeup on it, and send it out to campaign again.)

The New York Times, in its continuing effort to turn itself into a national joke, sent Judith Miller to cover the story, and to tell us that Galloway was not credible, without actually letting us in on much of what he said.

Judith Miller thinks George Galloway is not credible.

There isn't much more to say after that.

Common Dreams has the full transcript of Galloway's statement. Crooks and Liars has a piece of the video. Steve Soto had a delighted review of Galloway's performance yesterday, and, more importantly, a terrific post Monday on the Bush administration's own involvement in the oil-for-food scandal.

But I'd like to quibble a bit with Steve's review. I'm as delighted as Steve is with what Galloway said, but I have to disagree with the post title: George Galloway Bitch-Slaps Norm Coleman. No, I'm not diving back into that topic again, although I'm headed in the direction of one that will probably annoy just as many people.

I think Galloway's testimony was inspiring -- and, although it's not the whole thing, you really have to watch the video to get the full effect -- precisely because he didn't bitch-slap, knock down, bowl over, slay, or roll anyone. That kind of triumphalism - the "victory orgies," as Barbara O'Brien, who is so good at tracking these things, calls them - is essential if the facts aren't with you, and you can only win by scoring cheap points here and there. Pulling off a sharp insult.

Twisting a fact to good effect. Bullying the messengers into parroting your message. Ha! We win!

But what Galloway did was the exact opposite. The rhetoric was good; the anaphora compelling. It helped that he had an empty suit like Norm Coleman for a foil. But it all worked because of the shock of hearing a political figure sit there and tell truth after truth after truth. Not a small truth buried in a ton of lies. Truth upon truth.

If you want to disentangle yourself from the wrapping the opposition has put you in, that's how you do it. No cheap shots and bitch slaps. Just truth upon truth.
Well, our friend, the systems guy in London, Ontario ? a bilingual French-Canadian but born out here in Yorba Linda, Nixon?s hometown ? suggests telling the truth is, shall we say, something you don?t do down south here -
One important note about that - it also helps a great deal if you have nothing at stake to lose by telling the whole truth (and nothing but). Mr Galloway will never have to face the voters in the US, and considering that he ran in Britain on an anti-war platform squarely opposite Blair and Company, he will probably be given the keys to the city and carried around town on people's shoulders in a mass celebration of the opening of this big ol' can o' whoop-ass when he gets back.

If he were instead a Democratic congressman from, let's say, Indiana, and pulled this, he would be labeled an anti-America, anti-freedom-and-democracy pro-terrorist TRAITOR and could kiss his political ass goodbye. Period.

I seem to remember a fellow named Kerry who tried telling the truth (these same truths, actually) to the American electorate a while back, and what happened to him?

Swift Boat, a swift kick in the teeth, and a swift one-way ticket home.
Probably true. The administration has a problem with news that reports what is actually happening. We have a bigger problem with our leaders saying anything we don?t want to hear. And they know that.

Posted by Alan at 21:01 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 18 May 2005 21:11 PDT home

Topic: World View

Paris: Trademark Violation Gone Bad

As noted at the beginning of the month in Trademark and Public Domain Issues with the Eiffel Tower, if one takes a picture of the Eiffel Tower at night there now is a licensing fee to post it.

But some things can be done for free. The Associated Press reports this from the city of dreams, or lights, or whatever -
May 17, 2005, 11:59 AM EDT

PARIS - A Norwegian man who leaped off the Eiffel Tower in a publicity stunt was killed after his parachute got stuck on an upper deck of the monument and came off, officials said Tuesday.

The man was Norwegian, said Anne Lene Sandsten, a spokeswoman for Norway's Foreign Ministry.

Preliminary investigations indicate the man planned to film his jump as part of a publicity stunt for a Norwegian clothing brand, police said. The man, 31, entered the tower with a hidden parachute and a helmet that had a small video camera attached to it, an official at Paris' police headquarters said on condition of anonymity.

When the man reached the tower's second deck 380 feet up Monday evening, he jumped. Investigators believe his parachute got caught on the tower's structure and detached.

The man continued his fall, crashing onto the 182-foot-high first deck of the Paris landmark, according to police and an official for SNTE, the company that manages the tower. …
This was unauthorized, of course. One is not supposed to do any parachuting from the tower, and this Norwegian clothing company obviously didn’t ask permission, if that is what this was about. It was at night.

So what was this about?

Our Man in Paris lets us know. Received Wednesday 18 May at 5:52 am Pacific Time from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis -
The story of the man who had an unsuccessful descent from the Eiffel Tower on Monday night was too late for the evening's TV-news. Monday was the day when France was undecided about having a holiday, so this was the news along with the other usual twenty-five items. It was also the 'official' start of the campaign for the referendum vote. We barely get one thing finished before we're on to the next.

On Tuesday the prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin told the French why they should vote 'oui' in the referendum. To fit this in the TV-news was shortened, so there was no time to mention the tower jumper. Those pushed or who jumped in front of Metro trains on Monday and Tuesday were not mentioned either. A bunch of people near Lyon are infected with Legionnaire's Disease and the authorities don't know what's causing it.

But Monday's news is still around if one digs deep enough.

Apparently the jumper was one of a small group who had tried to set up a take-off from the Tour Montparnasse around 15:00 in the afternoon on Monday. It is 210 metres high and there is not much grass around its base.

The Eiffel Tower was open on Monday night when the Norwegian, reported to be 31, leaped off wearing some sort of parachute. He went off the second stage, which is only 115 metres high. Something went wrong and he slammed into the first stage, 57 metres above the Champ de Mars.

The reports are conflicting. One says the jump was to be filmed as an Internet stunt and another says it was supposed to be filmed as some sort of ad for clothing. Apparently nothing was filmed. In 1912 another parachutist didn't make it down in one piece and the film of it was over in 5 seconds.

Statistics about the numbers of jumpers from the Eiffel Tower are not readily available. The management company thinks jumpers give the metal tower a bad image. There are a lot of controls on the tower to prevent jumpers but it is a very complex structure and it's impossible to watch it all.

Reports quoted a spokesman as saying that, 'in some years there can be two or three jumpers but there are also years when there are none.'

Requests for permission to climb on the Eiffel Tower are 'systematically refused.' Films and documentaries have permission, but are restricted to areas accessible to the general public. The only regular climbers, once a month, are members of a special Paris fire department unit, who use the tower for training.
Well, this is a mystery - and wouldn’t be in the news if the fatal jump had been the Tour Montparnasse – the only skyscraper in the city proper, a big black thud of a thing. No romance there.

Want to see a successful parachute jump from the Tower?

This week on cable here in Hollywood one could watch a rather tired old James Bond movie, A View to a Kill (1985) - the last one with Roger Moore as Bond – where Grace Jones (as the evil villainess May Day) parachutes from the Eiffel Tower and lands on one of those Bateaux-Mouche and an odd chase ensues involving a Citroen that Bond drives, losing more and more of the car in various crashes until it’s just the seats and the front end (kind of like the chopped-up knight in the Monty Python movie). But that really was the Eiffel Tower, and a real jump - but not Grace Jones. The parachutist was a stuntman named B. J. Worth. Ah well.

So catch it if you can...

From the Just Above Sunset archives. Those are not safety nets. They were painting the thing.

Posted by Alan at 18:21 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 18 May 2005 18:25 PDT home

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