Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Robert Fisk: The self delusion that plagues both sides in this bloody conflict
One common feature of Middle East wars is the ability of all the antagonists to suffer from massive self-delusion. Israel's promise to "root out terror" – be it of the PLO, Hizbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Iranian or any other kind – has always turned out to be false. "War to the bitter end," the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, has promised in Gaza. Nonsense. Just like the PLO's boast – and Hamas' boast and Hizbollah's boast – to "liberate" Jerusalem. Eyewash. But the Israelis have usually shown a dangerous propensity to believe their own propaganda. Calling up more than 6,000 reservists and sitting them round the Gaza fence is one thing; sending them into the hovels of Gaza will be quite another. In 2006, Israel claimed it was sending 30,000 troops into Lebanon. In reality, it sent about 3,000 – and the moment they crossed the border, they were faced down by the Hizbollah. In some cases, Israeli soldiers actually ran back to their own frontier.

These are realities. The chances of war, however, may be less easier to calculate. If Israel indefinitely continues its billion dollar blitz on Gaza – and we all know who is paying for that – there will, at some stage, be an individual massacre; a school will be hit, a hospital or a pre-natal clinic or just an apartment packed with civilians. In other words, another Qana. At which point, a familiar story will be told; that Hamas destroyed the school/hospital/pre-natal clinic, that the journalists who report on the slaughter are anti-Semitic, that Israel is under threat, etc. We may even get the same disingenuous parallel with a disastrous RAF raid in the Second World War which both Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanayahu have used over the past quarter century to justify the killing of civilians.

And Hamas – which never had the courage to admit it killed two Palestinian girls with one of its own rockets last week – will cynically make profit from the grief with announcements of war crimes and "genocide".

At which point, the deeply despised and lame old UN donkey will be clip-clopped onto the scene to rescue the Israeli army and Hamas from this disgusting little war. Of course, saner minds may call all this off before the inevitable disaster. But I doubt it...

Charlie here wishing y'all a happy & safe 2009, & if you have any money left please buy at least one of my grampy's new books--if you like either dogs, photography or pointless anecdotes about Nanaimo in the eighties try To the Dogs; if you would like those same anecdotes told less intelligibly, with added references to Judee Sill & Captain Beefheart, try
The Age of Briggs and Stratton---

some trees from a 2000 trip to Finland & Estonia

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nervous About Nixon?
In this curious blend of confessional and closing argument, Nixon is his own defense attorney, and he is as gifted as Clarence Darrow, which is all the more impressive because it is quite clear as the interview grinds on that he has absolutely no case. Watching this in 2008, after eight years of George W. Bush, a president who can barely put a sentence together, there is nostalgic pleasure to be had in following Nixon's agile use of language and the elaborate architecture of his thought process. Still, his guilt is clear; as he presses the unconvincing argument that he didn't obstruct justice, he is essentially throwing himself on the mercy of the public court. And the price he must pay to win this mercy is perfectly clear. He must consummate the deal with a cathartic moment and let his guard down long enough for the camera lens to slowly zoom in and scoop up a glistening teardrop...
It appears that Israeli political leaders and military planners labor under the illusion that there is a military “solution” to Hamas. The extended military operation in Gaza is expected to serve as a pedagogical tool for moderating or eliminating Hamas. But this will not work, and the idea that a ground invasion of Gaza could actually eliminate Hamas as a force in Palestinian politics is delusional. The Israeli approach is every bit as driven by militarism as Hamas’ strategy is. Beyond a certain point, it can serve no realistic political goals. In fact, I would offer a concise definition for militarism as not knowing when to stop. Israel is in danger of recapitulating in Gaza the last few weeks of the war against Hezbollah, which increasingly turned into a war against Lebanon...

Monday, December 29, 2008

farewell too Freddie Hubbard--

w/ Art Blakey - Moanin'
"Red Clay"

farewell to Winnipeg's Ann Savage, co-star of Detour--

My first scene was in the car, when she tells Haskell he’s not who he pretends to be. I read the lines and he corrected the tempo, and that was the last bit of coaching he gave me. He had given me the key, which was the tempo. It was difficult to speak that quickly, but it helped give the character her craziness–it was just right. I didn’t see the rushes, so I had no idea I was coming over as hard as I was...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Torture ambivalence masquerading as moral and intellectual superiority - Glenn Greenwald
...As the above-excerpted clip demonstrates, those who view American Torture as a fascinating moral dilemma over which Serious People publicly agonize -- as Drezner put it: "if you're a national security person, you don't care about the legal niceties . . . it is a complicated question; it's not cut and dried" -- have actually convinced themselves that their refusal to make clear, definitive judgments is a hallmark not only of their moral superiority, but of their intellectual superiority as well. Only shrill ideologues and simpletons on either side believe that the torture question is "cut and dried." They actually believe that their indecisive open-mindedness on such clear moral questions is a sign of their rich and deep complexity, even though it's nothing more than an adolescent inability to assess the world through any prism other than their own immediate reflexive desires and self-interest...

Friday, December 26, 2008

this just in: on TCM at 11 PST--Blood Freak!

you've ever wanted to know what would
happen if you combined a little
Manos: The Hands of Fate with Tammy Faye Baker's former religious
(and eye make-up), sprinkled in a little
Herschel Gordon Lewis inspired gore, the
plot-logic and Shakespearean sincerity of Robot
and every anti-drug scare film you've ever seen, you'd probably agree that such a combination
would have some noxious -- if not totally lethal results. Then
imagine that whole concept was scripted by Ed Wood and directed by Coleman Francis, and you might get an inkling as to
exactly what kind of brain-bending movie
watching experience
Blood Freak truly is.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Local trees

Jean Shepherd, the man who told A Christmas Story - By Donald Fagen
Listening to Shep, I learned about social observation and human types: how to parse modern rituals (like dating and sports); the omnipresence of hierarchy; joy in struggle; "slobism"; "creeping meatballism"; 19th-century panoramic painting; the primitive, violent nature of man; Nelson Algren, Brecht, Beckett, the fables of George Ade; the nature of the soul; the codes inherent in "trivia," bliss in art; fishing for crappies; and the transience of desire. He told you what to expect from life (loss and betrayal) and made you feel that you were not alone.

sing along with Christina Rosetti & Gustav Holst's In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

a winter favorite from Robert Louis Stevenson: A Lodging for the Night: a Story of Francis Villon
The air was raw and pointed, but not far below freezing; and the flakes were large, damp, and adhesive. The whole city was sheeted up. An army might have marched from end to end and not a footfall given the alarm. If there were any belated birds in heaven, they saw the island like a large white patch, and the bridges like slim white spars, on the black ground of the river. High up overhead the snow settled among the tracery of the cathedral towers. Many a niche was drifted full; many a statue wore a long white bonnet on its grotesque or sainted head. The gargoyles had been transformed into great false noses, drooping towards the point. The crockets were like upright pillows swollen on one side. In the intervals of the wind, there was a dull sound of dripping about the precincts of the church.

The cemetery of St John had taken its own share of the snow. All the graves were decently covered; tall white housetops stood around in grave array; worthy burghers were long ago in bed, benightcapped like their domiciles; there was no light in all the neighbourhood but a little peep from a lamp that hung swinging in the church choir, and tossed the shadows to and fro in time to its oscillations. The clock was hard on ten when the patrol went by with halberds and a lantern, beating their hands; and they saw nothing suspicious about the cemetery of St John.

...there was a small house...Yet there was a small house, backed up against the cemetery wall, which was still awake, and awake to evil purpose, in that snoring district. There was not much to betray it from without; only a stream of warm vapour from the chimney top, a patch where the snow melted on the roof, and a few half-obliterated footprints at the door. But within, behind the shuttered windows, Master Francis Villon the poet, and some of the thievish crew with whom he consorted, were keeping the night alive and passing round the bottle.
Isola di Rifiuti on Villon, Mayer, Bunting, Pound, & c.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

interview with Christopher Plummer
Then THE SILENT PARTNER came along several years later with Darryl Duke directing. He was a very talented director. And that script was written by our friend who is now a very big Hollywood director - Curtis Hanson. He was a very young guy then and had written a script - a really fascinating script. My wife’s idea was to put me in a Chanel dress in the last scene - that was Elaine’s idea - and I took it to Darryl and he said, “Oh, god, I don’t think our friend the writer is going to like that” but he said, “I love it” and finally I think we won both of them over. It did work. It was a great idea...
Glenn Greenwald
What's most striking is not that we have zero intention of prosecuting the serious crimes committed by our leading establishment figures. It's that we don't even recognize them as crimes -- or even serious transgressions -- at all. To the contrary, we still demand that those who are culpable be treated as dignified, respectable, serious and inherently good leaders. Real outrage is never generated by the crimes and outrages they have undertaken, but only when they are not given their proper respectful due as leading American elites. Hence:

An Iraqi citizen throws his shoes at an American President who -- all based on false pretenses -- invaded, occupied and obliterated his country; set up prisons where his fellow citizens were encaged without trials and subjected to brutal treatment; slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and displaced millions more. And the outrage is predominantly directed at the disrespect, irreverence and the "ingratitude" displayed by the shoe-thrower, not the murderous and inhumane acts of the dignified American leader.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Danto on The Paintings of Giorgio Morandi
In contemplating the achievement of Morandi's paintings, I can't help thinking of Jane Austen's wry characterization of her novels in a letter to her nephew James Edward Austen, also a writer: "What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited Sketches, full of Variety & Glow?--How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour?"

this year, have a A Doo Wop Christmas

Monday, December 15, 2008

confirmation for below in the helpful Tim Lawrence Liner notes for the Masters at Work Tenth Anniversary Collection--
Searching for an alternative to clubland's regulation rhythm, the Brooklyn beats supremo turned to his now huge record collection and picked out a rare jazz sessions drummer record. "The artist was Shelly Manne and the record featured four drummers -- Louis Bellson, Willie Bobo, Paul Humphrey and Shelly Manne himself," says Gonzalez, revealing his source for the first time. "It was recorded on Phillips."

Ever resourceful, Gonzalez used his street sense to dissect his favourite part of the record. "There was this track where two drummers were playing different rhythms at the same time, one out of the left speaker, the other out of the right speaker," he explains, "so I pulled one of the jacks out of the back of the mixer and recorded the side I wanted." A complementary section was lifted from another track on the album, before Gonzalez got busy with his own beat box...

YouTube - Christian Prommer Drumlesson - Nervous Track by MASTERS AT WORK

great live-instruments version of the record that turned me on to House Music when I heard it on a bargain bin mix in '91 or so--
YouTube - Nu Yorican Soul - Nervous Track (Horny Mix) though with the sadly not-on-youtube (Yellow) Mix, which instead of a sax had a weird off-kilter Morricone/Dylan harmonica...
...the original drum break (about two minutes in) was taken, I remember reading somewhere, was from the recording of a Drum Battle with Louis Bellson & Shelly Manne

which might be on this