Saturday, November 25, 2006

farewell to songbird Anita O'day--this site has clips, including a bit of her wonderful dismantling of "Sweet Georgia Brown"--in white gloves and a big hat, leaving the band way behind--from "Jazz On A Summer's Day"...the end of an era of singing...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

if you can't take a stroll in the wet English fall countryside this afternoon then the new short films "Stort", "Cherry Tree in November Rain" & "Thirteen Minutes in the Garden" at Scenes of Provincial Life are the next best thing--Mr. Szpakowski is the Thomas Bewick of the Quicktime, I think...
Iraq: The War of the Imagination

Information, that is, could slow decision-making; indeed, when it had to do with a bold and risky venture like the Iraq war, information and discussion—an airing, say, of the precise obstacles facing a "democratic transition" conducted with a handful of troops—could paralyze it. If the sober consideration of history and facts stood in the way of bold action then it would be the history and the facts that would be discarded. The risk of doing nothing, the risk, that is, of the status quo, justified acting. Given the grim facts on the ground—the likelihood of a future terrorist attack from the "malignant" Middle East, the impossibility of entirely protecting the country from it—better to embrace the unknown. Better, that is, to act in the cause of "constructive instability"—a wonderfully evocative phrase, which, as Suskind writes, was

"the term used by various senior officials in regard to Iraq—a term with roots in pre-9/11 ideas among neoconservatives about the need for a new, muscular, unbounded American posture; and outgrowths that swiftly took shape after the attacks made everything prior to 9/11 easily relegated to dusty history.

The past—along with old-style deliberations based on cause and effect or on agreed-upon precedents—didn't much matter; nor did those with knowledge and prevailing policy studies, of agreements between nations, or of long-standing arrangements defining the global landscape.
What mattered, by default, was the President's "instinct" to guide America across the fresh, post-9/11 terrain—a style of leadership that could be rendered within tiny, confidential circles.

America, unbound, was duly led by a President, unbound."

It is that "duly led," of course, that is the question. Information, history, and all the other attributes of a deliberative policy may inhibit action but they do so by weighing and calculating risk. Dispensing with them has no consequences only if you accept the proposition that the Iraq war so clearly disproves: that bold action must always make us safer...

Monday, November 20, 2006

on Dec 1 at 2300 PST on TCM don't miss Vincent Price in the very scary & timely Witchfinder General

" Price's witch-finders are allowed to call victims perpetrators and sling them up in the moral vacuum that exists on the ungoverned fringes of this and any civil war (his title implies that he has some marshal commission to do so). Figures who are split off from the wider conflict of the 1642 – aspects again more in keeping with an early Peter Watkins docudrama – filter into the quietism of the film's forest of symbols. Loitering military bands, forgotten human carcasses decaying in the bracken, and other social consequences of the breakdown in systems of authority – starvation, criminal and fatalistically disinherited social order and behaviour – allow Reeves' the chance to execute what Wood called “stunning set pieces of mise-en-scene”. Instead of Hammer or Corman, this fraught moral geography now seems more consistent with Bresson's Lancelot du lac (1974), Nelson's Soldier Blue (1970), and other films of the times where the recreation of military history and it myths seems to have been derived from the unending casual destruction of innocence broadcast nightly from Vietnam. The only supernatural component in Reeves' film is contained within the frightened social imagination of Civil War England and in the rhetoric of the witch-finders. We are closer to Mi Lai and Jonestown than to Elm Street. "

interesting piece on Shakespeare and the Puritans...

"In the simplest terms, without the bawdy world of Falstaff and Prince Hal and of Shakespeare’s jesters, beadles, and gravediggers or the hovering evil of murderous kings, corrupt priests, scheming witches, and ungrateful daughters there would have been nothing for those dissenting Puritans to dissent from. The godly needed the rude, the venal, the vulgar, ignorant, and irreverent and framed their own identity against them. "Puritan" is the word with which the profane mocked the godly, a fact that emerges most clearly in Twelfth Night, where the Bard’s only ostensibly Puritan character takes the stage in the person of Malvolio..."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hawk History

for Vanessa Renwick

1. Duck Hawk

Wings half closed now,
he shot down past the north end

of the cliff, described
three successive vertical loop-

the-loops across its face,
turning completely upside down

at the top of each loop,
and roared out over our heads

with the wind rushing through
his wings like ripping canvas.


Just above the water
the hawk suddenly
accelerated, tapped

the cormorant lightly
on the back, then
circled easily away,

while the frightened
quarry took refuge
unharmed in the water.


At last as one turned
to evade the rush,
the hawk swung over
on its back,
and reaching
up one foot
as it shot by,
caught the swift
in its powerful grasp.

2. Eastern Pigeon Hawk

How closely
they huddled together,
as if seeking mutual
but he went
right through the flock
and came out
on the other side
with one in each fist.


Holding it forward
and downward

in one foot,
it occasionally bent

down its head and
tore off a bit

without slackening
its speed.


All the while
the Titlark
was nearing,
if by devious
a dense
of alders
into which
it plunged at length,
to be seen no more.

3. Black Pigeon Hawk

He swung on one,
and when the gun cracked

the bird started falling
in a diving, fluttering

flight, appearing
to have a broken wing.


The hawk
struck the snipe
squarely in
then quickly
carried it away.


Thus the successive
lungings and chasings
were not either one-

sided or haphazard,
but so conducted
that each bird alternately

took the part of pursuer
and pursued, and when
enacting the latter role

gave way at once,
or after the merest pretence
of resistance, to flee

as if for its life, dodging
and twisting; yet it was
prompt enough to rejoin

the other bird at the end
of such a bout, when the
two would rest awhile

on the same stub, perching
only a few feet apart
and facing one another,

perhaps not without
some mutual

4. Eastern Sparrow Hawk

The point of the beak
is sunk into
the base of the skull,
and the skull
is torn off
with a swift
forward motion.


Then, sometimes
with a precise adjustment

to the force of the wind,
it stops the beating of it wings

and hangs as if suspended
in complete repose and equilibrium,

seeming to move not a hair's breadth
from its position.


Perched on dead stumps
by the side of the cottonfields,
flying off from the wires
along the track, hovering above
the bare brown stubble, we see them
again and again, nearly always alone.

5. Desert Sparrow Hawk

The grasshopper is held
much the same
as a child would hold
an ice-cream cone.


Flies are
repeatedly rejected,

even if
the bird is hungry.


In flight, the sparrow
hawk was silhouetted against
the evening sky

and its extended talons
could plainly be seen
clutching the body

of the little bat,
whose wings appeared
to be folded.