Friday, April 10, 2009

terrific looking "Who Reads an Early American Book" issue of Common-place...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites
The gloves came off: four simple words. And yet they express a complicated thought. For if the gloves must come off, that means that before the attacks the gloves were on. There is something implicitly exculpatory in the image, something that made it particularly appealing to officials of an administration that endured, on its watch, the most lethal terrorist attack in the country's history. If the attack succeeded, it must have had to do not with the fact that intelligence was not passed on or that warnings were not heeded or that senior officials did not focus on terrorism as a leading threat. It must have been, at least in part, because the gloves were on—because the post-Watergate reforms of the 1970s, in which Congress sought to put limits on the CIA, on its freedom to mount covert actions with "deniability" and to conduct surveillance at home and abroad, had illegitimately circumscribed the President's power and thereby put the country dangerously at risk. It is no accident that two of the administration's most powerful officials, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, served as young men in very senior positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations. They had witnessed firsthand the gloves going on and, in the weeks after the September 11 attacks, they argued powerfully that it was those limitations—and, it was implied, not a failure to heed warnings—that had helped lead, however indirectly, to the country's vulnerability to attack.

And so, after a devastating and unprecedented attack, the gloves came off. Guided by the President and his closest advisers, the United States transformed itself from a country that, officially at least, condemned torture to a country that practiced it. And this fateful decision, however much we may want it to, will not go away, any more than the fourteen "high-value detainees," tortured and thus unprosecutable, will go away. Like the grotesque stories in the ICRC report, the decision sits before us, a toxic fact, polluting our political and moral life...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Local trees &c.

tomorrow on TCM a Tribute to Morris Engel, including three of his features & two new documentaries--
"Truffaut said that without Little Fugitive we wouldn't have had our French New Wave. We have to take that comment seriously. As a film historian I can say that LF was the first of its kind. It was really, truly the first American independent film. John Cassavetes and Shadows [1959] often get credit for that but that's not true. It's Little Fugitive, seven years before. It was the first American independent film that had worldwide screenings..."

all you lucky folks in the tri-state area still have a couple of weeks to catch the Pierre Bonnard show at the Met--
For all the apparent softness of things, their blurred and smudged edges, they have been fitted together with a will, worked patiently and hard so as to be pressed into the pictorial grid. The paintings are disquieting and enraptured all at once, but they never want to tell you why...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Destruction of Grain Elevator at Milton & Hecate, Nanaimo

I remember when this still operated as a grain elevator, but it must have shut down in the early 80's. Since then it has been a warehouse mostly, a series of increasingly suspect thrift stores, more recently abandoned & then a crack house, which probably accounts for its destruction. Broken windows & all that. Though not photographed by me, people were scavenging wood on the site. For readers of my poetry, this building is from the block of Milton discussed in the first book of Hammertown & is rich in association for me. I lived a half-block up Hecate (on Prideaux) in the apartment mentioned in my poem Gin & Lime. I had always wanted to build a scale model of Tatlin's "Monument to the Third International" using the grain elevator as a base....I suspect the site will become a vacant lot; that blue perimeter fencing is not a good sign, another piece of the old town gone...

On "Creative Writing"
Emerson’s plea for creative reading and writing -- no matter how tin our ears are to it now -- had nothing to do with writing stories or poems. We come closest to what he meant by it only when we attempt, clumsily and inconsistently, to distinguish good writing from bad...

Bob Dylan on Barack Obama, Ulysses Grant and American Civil War ghosts
He’s like a fictional character, but he’s real. First off, his mother was a Kansas girl. Never lived in Kansas though, but with deep roots. You know, like Kansas bloody Kansas. John Brown the insurrectionist. Jesse James and Quantrill. Bushwhackers, Guerillas. Wizard of Oz Kansas. I think Barack has Jefferson Davis back there in his ancestry someplace. And then his father. An African intellectual. Bantu, Masai, Griot type heritage - cattle raiders, lion killers. I mean it’s just so incongruous that these two people would meet and fall in love. You kind of get past that though. And then you’re into his story. Like an odyssey except in reverse...

Sunday, April 05, 2009