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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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Monday, 13 June 2005

Topic: The Media

Enough Already: Michael Jackson So Over

As editor of this web log and its weekly parent site, Just Above Sunset, I have really, really tried to avoid commenting on the Michael Jackson trial.

Oh there have been lapses:

May 8, 2005 - Celebrity trials are the opiate of the masses? - This is stupid stuff!
May 29, 2005 - Michael Jackson and Postmodernism - Maybe we can use the trial to talk about something else?
June 5, 2005 - "Maybe a little less of the pervert of the day..." - The news media are fools to cover this.

Monday, June 13, late in the afternoon, Jackson was acquitted on all counts. Can we stop dealing with this now?

But the problem is my ace local columnist, Bob Patterson, is pressing really, really, really hard for these two sites to devote as much space as possible, as often as possible, to this Michael Jackson business. I think the idea is we're missing the biggest story of our times. We may have an inarticulate, dim-witted and causally sadistic leader who has lied to us and put us in an endless war. As one fellow puts it - "We are losing the war in Iraq. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals." Yep, we now are the torturers, the economy is being stripped to make the ultra-rich richer at the expense of the average Joe, we are fast heading toward something like an angry evangelical theocracy, and all the environmental laws are being dismantled by this crew that just doesn't like science – and there's Social Security issues and this and that about who we really are. But I'm being told the biggest story is Michael Jackson.

Bob has told me several times that had Jackson been found guilty there would be race riots across America. Well, he floated that one at a press function recently, and was met with silence, and then wry smiles.

Perhaps he thinks covering Michael Jackson will help our circulation. It seems Just Above Sunset has leveled out at just under 12,000 unique logons each month, and that seems to be a plateau right now. Will doing less on political matters, particularly French politics, and on where the country is headed, and more covering stories like this Michael Jackson trial, move us up a notch or two? Perhaps. More readers all always welcome.

Bob urges that Just Above Sunset and As Seen from Just Above Sunset decide on its audience, and dump what doesn't appeal to that target audience, and grow because of a really intense focus on what is hot for those readers. I think he is really discouraged that we haven't grown as much as we could.

I don't get the marketing stuff. I publish what interests me. Thus, it seems, I am doomed to a small readership and logons from servers like these in the last ten days –

unwgsgs4.customs.treas.gov - The Treasury Department (four hits in one day)
wdcsun25.usdoj.gov - The Department of Justice
p124-72.senate.gov - The US Senate
wcgwcc.ocio.usda.gov - The Food and Drug Administration
gk-west-24.srvs.usps.gov - The US Postal Service
ws244-042.f04.nsf.gov - The National Science Foundation
si.edu - The Smithsonian Institute
host463.ny.corbis.com - Microsoft's photography folks
ptohidea.uspto.gov - The United States Patent and Trademark Office
gov.ab.ca - The website of the Government of Alberta
gov.bc.ca - The website of the Government of British Columbia
proxy-ny.cbs.com - CBS
tacom.army.mil - US Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command
uscourts.gov - the site maintained by the Administrative Office of the US Courts on behalf of the US Courts - a clearinghouse for information from and about the Judicial Branch

Those and all the universities are getting us nowhere. Yep, we hit a wall.

But I still don't want to deal with Michael Jackson.

Monday morning Bob tried to get me going with this -
THE JACKSON TRIAL'S IRONIC SYMBOLISM

The USA (and the world?) seems deadlocked for and against. Some folks approach the topic from the "you know he's guilty" point of view and are not very concerned with the specifics of the evidence. Others tend to stick to the "nothing has been proved" line of defense.

When the verdict is announced, the results will be debatable (to put it mildly.) No matter what the jury says the public will stay with their pre-verdict assessment and not be open to any new "evidence."

The verdict will not settle the question in the least bit. Do folks still defend Bruno Hauptman?

Odd thing about it all is that the folks who think Michael Jackson is guilty, and are not concerned with the specifics of his trial, are quite likely to be staunch Bush defenders, while Jackson's supporters would be open to impeaching the president for lying about WMD's.

Maybe the most fascinating aspect of the Michael Jackson trial is that it could be interpreted as a trail by proxy of the guy who invaded Iraq to find Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Hasn't the Bart Simpson quote "No one saw me do it; you can't prove a thing" become the nations new motto?
And I wrote back -
You do the Jackson trial. I will have nothing to do with it. Period. And it has not one thing to do with Bush. Your speculation is far beyond "a stretch" ? it seems to me to be a crazed attempt to find meaning where there is none. Why push it? You are trying to make something out of nothing. He is no longer a "star" - that was over a decade ago. He is no longer black - that was over three decades ago. He's just a minor freak.

The only story here is, perhaps, about the press. Why are they flogging this story? That it is covered at all has to do with selling advertising spots - and the whole thing is a commercial venture by the collective herd of television news marketing departments who don't care about embarrassing the journalists who work in their corporations.
And I sent him this:

UnThriller
Jacko: American Nightmare
Andrew Sullivan - June 10, 2005, Sunday Times of London (UK)

A bit of that?
A very strange thing happened during what had been breathlessly billed as the "trial of the century." Americans turned off. Yes, the Michael Jackson trial has spawned its "media circus," its occasional tabloid splashes, and its cable news shows. But compared to the trials of, say, Martha Stewart, Scott Peterson (the man who murdered his wife and dumped her in a lake), or, of course, O.J. Simpson, the whole affair has been a bit of a dud.

... The key fact about Michael Jackson is that he is the first true black celebrity in America who has literally turned himself into a Caucasian. African-American culture has long been obsessed with varying degrees of blackness. Light-colored men and women have historically enjoyed social status in African-American society and we have learned from the exhaustive biographies of Jackson that his father ridiculed him in his youth for having a flat nose and stereotypical black features. Jackson's response? To take the valuation of lighter skin to its logical conclusion.

That has brought its costs to Jackson's p.r. For all his nightly chats with Jesse Jackson, the Gloved One can hardly play the race card. With O.J. Simpson, black America still saw the former football player as one of them, even though he had largely left black society, had married a white woman and done next to nothing for black causes. But Michael Jackson has more support among Japanese teenagers than American blacks - and for understandable reasons. He looks more like a character from a Japanese anime cartoon than anything resembling a black American male. He is not Tiger Woods, declaring himself post-racial. He is far more retrograde and repulsive figure: a person who has become a reverse minstrel, a black man finally reincarnated through surgery as a white androgynous waif. He is therefore a racist in the most profound sense - and one that neither blacks nor whites want to claim.

His alleged crimes, moreover, are repellent, but not on a scale that can shock Americans into paying attention. If you read the papers, you will know that hundreds of Catholic priests have raped young boys and teens with impunity over the past few decades; the visuals of sex abuse at Abu Ghraib, soon to be amplified by a new release of photographs, are still seared into the American consciousness. Jackson, in contrast, is merely accused of creepy fondling, getting kids drunk, exposing himself and other sordid habits, but the pattern never quite rises to the level of real horror. The fascination comes less from the crime itself than from the lurid details of its environment - the insane luxury of Neverland, the locked doors and hidden alarms and stashes of pornography that give you a glimpse of derangement on credit. So we're left with a trial between a highly unpleasant mother with a history of scams and what can only be described as a walking hologram of self-love. No wonder few want to stay for the credits.

... No one cares much about Jackson's music any more. No one cares about his soul or those of his alleged victims. What the culture of celebrity builds it also destroys - casually. In this case, the wreckage is a husk of a human, the detritus of a culture that feeds on exposure and then, bored, moves on to the next victim. It is because we do not want to look at this too long that we finally look away. The world that created Michael Jackson is also the world that will happily forget him.
Well, I would have liked to happily forget Michael Jackson, but sometime after noon on Monday the phone rang ? Bob telling me to turn on my television, quick! The jury in the Jackson trial had reached a verdict! This was followed by instructions on how to take screen shots of the coverage ? shutter speed and exposure and all that. I had to cover this!

Well, Bob spent much of his career as a newspaperman - he used to work for Associated Press. I don't have that background, or that nose for news. He does.

But what the heck - it was a chance to learn more about what the Nikon can do, and what more can be done in Adobe Photoshop. Why not? I watched a bit.

Michael Jackson was acquitted on all counts. Like I care?

Bob sent this a bit later -
Now Tom Sneddon knows how Dubya felt when there were no WMD's in Iraq. It was only taxpayer money to stage the big nothing.
Well, if he says the two things are connected, who am I to argue?

But I don't see it.

Below are the screen shots ? and perhaps there will be a big spike in readers today because of this. If so, Bob wins.

But perhaps then I will continue with these sites ? commentary and analysis of politics and the culture - and Bob can start his own site that covers the real "news" as it is defined today in this country. I'll stick with my modest audience - and he can really get famous with hundreds of thousands of hits each day. We'll both be happy then.

The screen shots -

You can sort of make out the French flag. What's THAT about?































The accused entering court to learn his fate ?






























Leaving the court - a free man - and that's his sister Janet with no wardrobe malfunction at all -




























Playing with Adobe Photoshop - the two of them leaving (free at last!) with the umbrella to protect his pale skin from the harsh Californian afternoon sun -

















Posted by Alan at 16:39 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 14 June 2005 19:37 PDT home

Sunday, 12 June 2005

Topic: Photos

Hollywood Today: Where Is Paris?

As mentioned previously, today was the day.

Hilton Grand Marshal in Gay Pride Parade
Sunday, June 12, 2005, ABC News Los Angeles
WEST HOLLYWOOD (CNS) — Paris Hilton will be the grand marshal in today's gay pride parade in West Hollywood, where about 300,000 are expected to line Santa Monica Boulevard as 35th annual event steps off.

Though some questioned the selection of Hilton, known for her heterosexual exploits, to represent gays, the 24 year-old model and reality TV star appeared enthusiastic last night when she made a brief appearance at the two- day Los Angeles Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual & Transgender Pride Festival. …
Walked down the hill to Santa Monica Boulevard at Crescent Heights Boulevard – few short blocks. Had the Nikon and all the lenses. Covered the staging area thoroughly. Watched a lot of the parade.

No Paris Hilton. Got there too late? She didn't show?

Oh well. As you can see in a new photo album (link below), some other folks will have to do. In addition to the amazing participants in the parade, you will find some of the local celebrities –

Former Grand Marshall of the parade, Mamie Van Doren -

Edith Shain who claims to be the nurse being kissed by that sailor in the famous end-of-WWII Eisenstaedt photo -

E.G. Daily - a friend of Paris - "Hey guys, I just got back from Florida where I played Paris Hilton's mom in the new movie 'National Lampoons Pledge This!' The most ironic part of the whole thing is my ex-husband Rick Salomon just happens to be the guy in the infamous x-rated tape with Paris and here I was playing her mom!! Crazy!!! We all ended up having a great time and the cast was awesome!" You get the idea.

And Ann Nicole Smith of course… Great Big Beautiful Doll: The Anna Nicole Smith Story - "She was the Guess! Girl. She was Playboy's Playmate of the Year. She is Anna Nicole Smith and this is the story of her meteoric rise to fame and her astonishing marriage to one of the richest men in America." Yep. Her.

Oh yeah, for the locals, shots of the new Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, of Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks (used to be chief of police – the LAPD man! - but the former mayor fired him as the parallels to Cleavon Little in "Blazing Saddles" were too much to bear), of Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky (great name, but a pain in person, as I found out a few years ago), of Gloria Allred – the famous attorney who once represented Michael Jackson, and Amber Frey if memory serves – a firebrand on women's rights and employment discrimination and whatnot.

The photo album is here – Paparazzi Time: Minor Celebrities and Major Oddities

The Great Big Beautiful Doll - Anna Nicole Smith – being eyed critically -


Posted by Alan at 16:01 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 12 June 2005 16:07 PDT home


Topic: For policy wonks...

But Wait! There's more!

In these pages there has been much, perhaps too much, on that Downing Street memo, revealed May 1 by the Times of London (UK, not London, Ontario). As early as July 2002 we were "fixing" the intelligence to support the predetermined policy – we had decided to go to war in Iraq and remove that government and occupy that country, even though we said we weren't set on doing that at all.

Yeah, yeah. So?

Sunday morning, June 12, we get two more memos. Yep, two. Even worse.

Bob Patterson emailed me about the first Saturday evening, but I was busy assembling the weekly online magazine and couldn't respond.

Okay, now that Just Above Sunset has been put to bed, as they say in the newspaper world, what is going on here?

The Times of London got their hot little hands on another memo, actually a briefing paper, prepared for Prime Minister Blair in July 2002 – saying Blair had, in April, agreed to join in with us in a war to take over Iraq, so, as the memo suggests, it might be wise to figure out some way to make it legal, somehow. Geez.

Someone is leaking to the Times - and no doubt has an agenda. A British Deep Throat who has a grudge?

The Times says, among other things, this -
The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair's inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was "necessary to create the conditions" which would make it legal.

... "US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia," the briefing paper warned. This meant that issues of legality "would arise virtually whatever option ministers choose with regard to UK participation".

... The document said the only way the allies could justify military action was to place Saddam Hussein in a position where he ignored or rejected a United Nations ultimatum ordering him to co-operate with the weapons inspectors. But it warned this would be difficult.
Difficult? Yep. He kept letting the inspectors have more and more access.

Yes, yes – we all know Bush said, on July 14, 2003, with the Secretary General of the UN standing beside him, in the Rose Garden, "we gave him [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in." What? As Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, said back them - "Technically, he's obviously wrong, UN inspectors did obviously go in and then leave shortly before the bombing started. On the other hand, he was probably thinking of that time before the UN resolution when Iraq actually was refusing to allow the inspectors in, at least unconditionally."

Maybe. Now it seems it was part of a general approach worked out with the Brits a year earlier. You just have to make this seem legal, somehow. The "conditions" on the inspectors made the war perfectly legal. Given we knew, or a fact, that there were WMD there – tons of stuff as we "proved" - any restrictions or conditions Iraq wanted to discuss were exactly the same as not letting anyone from anywhere see anything at all. Same difference.

Whatever. No one cares.

As for the other memo, that's from the Washington Post, and it's also from the summer of 2002. Same deal. Different document.

But this one speaks not to motive, but to competence -
A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.

The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.

In its introduction, the memo "Iraq: Conditions for Military Action" notes that U.S. "military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace," but adds that "little thought" has been given to, among other things, "the aftermath and how to shape it."

… Saying that "we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective," the memo's authors point out, "A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise." The authors add, "As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden."
The US military plans are virtually silent on this point…. No kidding. Well, we're working on it now.

Whatever. No one cares. We'll get it fixed.

Over at the Washington Monthly Kevin Drum explains -
One of the reasons the previous Downing Street Memo hasn't gotten much traction — and the reason these new memos will probably get limited attention as well — is that I don't think anyone really finds any of this a surprise. After all, previous evidence has already made it clear that George Bush was intent on war against Iraq almost immediately following 9/11. It was the first thing on Donald Rumsfeld's mind on 9/11 itself, and Dick Clarke has testified that hours later Bush himself was more eager to go after Iraq than Afghanistan — although the Iraq plan was subsequently delayed due to pressure from both Tony Blair as well as more levelheaded Bush staffers. Even so, by early 2002, with Osama bin Laden still on the loose, intelligence assets and special forces were already being moved out of Afghanistan and into the Iraqi theater.

By April it was clear to the British that war was inevitable, and in July they were discussing a strategy to use the UN as a cassus belli. In September Bush went to the UN as planned, and White House chief of staff Andy Card explained the timing with his famous statement that "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." Two months later, Saddam Hussein allowed UN inspectors into the country, thus ruining the hoped for legal justification, and three months after that the inspectors still had uncovered no serious violations. Nonetheless, war commenced in March 2003.

Was the Iraq war a foregone conclusion by early 2002? Of course it was. These new memos provide further evidence of that, but I'm not sure there's anyone who really doubted it in the first place.
If you go to the Drum item he links to all the evidence.

Note: "Saddam Hussein allowed UN inspectors into the country, thus ruining the hoped for legal justification, and three months after that the inspectors still had uncovered no serious violations. Nonetheless, war commenced in March 2003."

It was all pretty obvious. And it doesn't matter.

Atrios disagrees -
Look, this is just bullshit. There are two sets of people here. One consists of inside the beltways types and assorted news junkies and the other consists of The Amerkin Public. The former knew the Iraq war was a foregone conclusion by early 2002, but didn't bother to tell the Amerkin Public. They still haven't. I knew the dance with the UN was bullshit and I tried to point it out, but my blog is not all-powerful. The American press did not bother to tell people. And, now, they still don't want to bother to tell people.

This isn't about attacking Drum, I've fallen into this trap before myself. Everyone should've known this in 2002. But, they didn't.

It's just like Russert calling the Downing Street Memo the "famous" Downing Street Memo? Famous to whom? To all the fuckers who didn't give a shit enough in 2002 to tell us what was obvious to anyone who was paying attention.
Maybe. But perhaps everyone, paying attention or not, knew we were going to take out Iraq and its leader, and just liked the idea – thinking knocking a few heads and killing a few foreigners would fell pretty good just about then.

How about this from "Adventus"?
… it isn't that people "didn't know." Frankly, they didn't care. They were all too willing to buy the line that Iraq was a threat, and behind 9/11, because it gave them something to use the military against. Armies are tools, at least in America. In Switzerland the army is a purely defensive proposition, but in America, we have to trot it out once in a while to be sure we can still scare people. Or just to throw our weight around.

It's not that people didn't "know." They didn't care. A military excursion, in the words of one Vietnam era general, presents the opportunity for a "pleasant outing for the troops." Americans like that idea.

When it turns into a bloody bog and men are dying by the hundreds, then we don't like it anymore. Twain wrote about it. The Civil War was all about that. Korea and Vietnam were more of the same. Why should the invasion of Iraq be any different?

The frightening truth is, Bush is the nation's Id. This is why the people continually respond to him, rather than get disgusted with him. But the Id can only sustain a response for so long, before the ego, and finally the superego, are disgusted and reassert control. In the Roman Empire, they called Bush's position that of "dictator." It was a special office created solely to consolidate all Roman military power under one person, who could rule without check and act for the defense of the Empire. But once the threat had receded, the dictator's office was dissolved, and power returned to the Senate. The concept is simple: when there is a serious threat, you need decisive action. Once the threat is gone, the need for action returns to more consultative hands. We may be heading in that direction again, but make no mistake: the American people will always appoint a "dictator" when they feel threatened, or just feel the need to be "dictator" to the world, themselves.
Oh, that's way too deep.

I'll not think about it. I need to grab the Nikon and walk four blocks down the street and check out this -

Hilton Grand Marshal in Gay Pride Parade
WEST HOLLYWOOD (CNS) — Paris Hilton will be the grand marshal in today's gay pride parade in West Hollywood, where about 300,000 are expected to line Santa Monica Boulevard as 35th annual event steps off.

Though some questioned the selection of Hilton, known for her heterosexual exploits, to represent gays, the 24 year-old model and reality TV star appeared enthusiastic last night when she made a brief appearance at the two- day Los Angeles Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual & Transgender Pride Festival.

"I love the gay community, I love you guys, I love your style," she gushed to the gregarious crowd. "You're hot, you're sexy."

… "I just don't know what anybody was thinking of. My jaw dropped when I heard it," Dan Berkowitz, a member of the West Hollywood Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, told the West Hollywood Independent. "I'm sure she is a very nice girl and her mother is a very nice woman, but what they have to do with gay pride in West Hollywood or anywhere else is utterly beyond me."

Rodney Scott, board president of Christopher Street West, a Los Angeles- based volunteer group which organizes the festival, told the Independent that Paris Hilton would soon show her support and help raise awareness on gay and lesbian issues, such as same-sex marriage and adoptions.

"Paris has the opportunity to touch and communicate to a generation of people that I, as a 40 year-old man, won't be able to talk to," Scott told the Independent. "She has a fan base and audience base. When she talks about issues pertaining to our community, I believe it will have significant impact."

"If she was a lesbian, I think a lot of people would be happy," a woman at the festival yesterday said. Today's parade is expected to draw about 300,000 people. It begins on Santa Monica Boulevard at Crescent Heights Boulevard and goes to La Peer Drive.
Santa Monica Boulevard at Crescent Heights Boulevard down the hill three blocks, and right one block. I can do that.

As for the war and how we got there? What is there to do now?

I'll go for a walk.

Posted by Alan at 10:00 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 12 June 2005 10:16 PDT home


Topic: Announcements

Second Site: "But Wait! There's More!"

The new edition of Just Above Sunset, the weekly parent site to this web log, was posted just before midnight last night, Pacific Time. This is Volume 3, Number 24 - for the week of June 12, 2005

Can George Bush be impeached? In the in-depth feature this week find out, and note carefully what one of our own contributors has to say, an attorney who studied constitutional law under Peter Rodino, the man who chaired the impeachment committee in the Nixon case. Other current event topics touch on the fellows rewriting history - Nixon was a hero and anyone who says otherwise is a bad Jew, or something - and on the nationwide discussion of class, and on the medical marijuana ruling, and on how the press is doing, and on much more, including Bush and Rimbaud (see Language Notes). These are extended versions of what first appeared here.

In addition we have two "on the scene" reports, a media event and a report from Erotica LA. And Bob Patterson is back, channeling Raymond Chandler in one column and asking rather interesting questions in the other.

Features? Our Man in Paris, Ric Erickson, reports the sad story of a big change in Paris, with photos. There's a bit too about the book controversy - which are the most dangerous books of the last century? And in honor of the birthday of William Butler Yeats, the quotes are from him.

Extensive photo sections this week - for those of you elsewhere, surreal beach shots, and even more of them in a new photo album you can call up separately.

Check it out….

Current Events ________________

Revising the Past: Where Have All the Good Men (from Newark) Gone?
Chasing the Zeitgeist: "Are there no prisons, are there no poor houses?"
Jurisprudence: Gonzales v. Raich, case no. 03-1454
Press Notes: A Shift in the Wind?
Language Notes: Worlds Apart
Who We Are: Decline and Fall
Short Shot: Dispatches from Cincinnati

Speculation ________________

Clueless: The Evidence Mounts, and There's Nothing You Can Do With It
Impeachment: Fantasy of the Week (or of the Weak)

Reporting from the Scene ________________

Erotica LA: Freedom of speech is so American!
Sporting LA: "If you make the headline big enough…"
Click here to go directly there: < >

Bob Patterson ________________

Book Wrangler: Gumshoes - The Search For The Next Great Mystery
WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - "Wet the ropes!"

Features ________________

Our Man in Paris: Taps for Samaritaine (with new photos from Paris)
Mind Games: Dangerous Books and Mission Statements
Quotes: William Butler Yeats - born June 13, 1865

Beach Photography ________________

At the Edge: Surf and Sand and More
Color Studies: Long Late Light, and a Pink Church Reconceptualized
Botanicals: Rose Avenue in Venice Beach
Public Art: Claus Oldenburg, Frank Gehry and Jonathan Borofsky

And the link to the new photo album is in the left column on this page.

Ah, California….



Posted by Alan at 08:39 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 12 June 2005 08:40 PDT home

Saturday, 11 June 2005

Topic: World View

Language Notes: Worlds Apart

Last weekend, with Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, there was much on Dominique de Villepin (as I call him, the French anti – John Bolton) in Fallout from the French Kiss of Death and two other items. One suspects this wasn't widely read, even with Ric's amusing editorial cartoon from Paris. No one much on this side of the world, and particularly out here in Hollywood, really follows French politics, except for the few local French expatriates. And the circulation of the online magazine is small – edging up to 12,000 unique logons a month, with maybe a tenth of those from Western Europe. Ah, well. It is fun to write about such things, even if the readers are few and far between.

This week what is mentioned below is about far larger implications. It is about what we used to call different mindsets – really, about language and its uses. Our president, this Bush fellow, has not much use for language – as you see in the Bushisms that appear in these pages now and then. "It's in our country's interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way." - George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2005

You get the idea.

That is why it might be wise, or something, to consider this –

When Rimbaud meets Rambo
The new French Prime Minister's grandiose poetic style won't cut much ice with the White House action men
Ben MacIntyre – The Times of London (UK) - June 04, 2005

Who is this Rimbaud person? Doesn't matter. Read this and you'll get the general idea.

The sort of guys that run our government? – "At a NATO summit in Prague, Donald Rumsfeld was once forced to sit though a performance of modern dance and poetry. Asked for his reaction afterwards, he shrugged: 'I'm from Chicago.'"

On the other side? - "For George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld words are blunt instruments, used to convey meaning, not feeling. Actions speak louder. The President of France, by contrast, rocked by the rejection of the EU constitution, has attempted to shore up his Government by appointing a poet as his Prime Minister, a patrician intellectual in the French romantic mould, a true believer in the transcendental and redemptive power of words."

The appointment of Dominique de Villepin was intended to send the message that French exceptionalism is alive and well? That's what I was said in these pages here last weekend.

It's a cultural war.

So what does MacIntyre have to add?
"A SINGLE VERSE by Rimbaud," writes Dominique de Villepin, the new French Prime Minister, "shines like a powder trail on a day's horizon. It sets it ablaze all at once, explodes all limits, draws the eyes to other heavens." Here is a rather different observation, uttered by George Bush Sr in 1998, that might stand as a motto for his dynasty: "I can't do poetry."
Of course not.

As for the poetic language of Dominique de Villepin -
He speaks in a grandiloquent style that delights French audiences, but baffles most English-speakers. His high-flown rhetoric before the United Nations in the build-up to the Iraq war ("We are the guardians of an ideal") marked him as the political and cultural antithesis to the US, and his appointment is intended to send the message that French exceptionalism is alive and well.
And on the divide?
… poetry does not stir the soul of President Bush, unless you count the Bible and George Jones singing A Good Year for the Roses.

To the Anglo-Saxon mind there is something dodgy, even dangerous, in the man who rules the world by day and writes verses by night. As W.H. Auden wrote: "All poets adore explosions, thunderstorms, tornados, conflagrations, ruins, scenes of spectacular carnage. The poetic imagination is not at all a desirable quality in a statesman." Indeed, the precedents are not happy ones, for there is a peculiar link between frustrated poetic ambition and tyranny: Hitler, Goebbels, Stalin, Castro, Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh all wrote poetry. Radovan Karadzic, fugitive former leader of the Bosnian Serbs, once won the Russian Writers' Union Mikhail Sholokhov Prize for his poems. On the whole, you do not want a poet at the helm.
No, someone inarticulate is, perhaps, safer.

And the conclusion is this – that the appointment of Dominique de Villepin "is certain to increase the accusations of pretentiousness from the American side, and philistinism from the French. The chasm has never been wider, or more in need of a bridge. America's public image could benefit from a sense of imaginative wonder, a little more Rimbaud and a lot less Rambo."

I don't think that is the public image we want to project. In fact, this appeared June 7 and explains a lot.

Bush urged: 'Never apologize' to Muslims
Administration officials reportedly inspired by classic John Wayne movie
Some members of the Bush administration have taken a cue from a classic John Wayne Western and are advising their boss to take the film's advice – "Never apologize" – when dealing with Muslims, reports geopolitical analyst Jack Wheeler.

In a column on his intelligence website, To the Point, Wheeler explains Wayne's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," made in 1948, though lesser known than many of the star's films, includes what's been called one of the top 100 movie quotes of all time.

Wayne's character, Capt. Nathan Brittles, who is facing an Indian attack, advises a junior officer: "Never apologize, son. It's a sign of weakness."

It's that attitude that some employees of the Pentagon, State Department and White House are urging President Bush to take when dealing with charges of Quran desecration and other allegations from radical Muslims. They've even sent a DVD copy of the film to the commander in chief. …
And they didn't send a copy of "Total Eclipse" (1995) - the story of Rimbaud's life in Paris with Leonardo DiCaprio as Rimbaud, David Threwlis as Verlaine and the French actress Romane Bohringer as Mathilde Maute, Verlaine's wife. The director was Agnieszka Holland, not John Ford.

A little more Rimbaud and a lot less Rambo? Not likely. Not likely at all.

Posted by Alan at 13:17 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 11 June 2005 13:26 PDT home

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