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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
In his introductory lecture for "The Politics of Hollywood," an upper-division course at the University of Texas, government professor David Prindle argues that studying the film and TV industries is not a frivolous pursuit. "We as a nation often use the myths and images from entertainment in public debate about policy," Prindle says. As an example, he points to "High Noon," which advocates of the Iraq invasion evoked — like Marshal Will Kane in the movie, they said, the United States must stand alone against bad guys.
Here are some questions from the exam Prindle administered to the class' 225 students on Feb. 17:
It's a breeze if you simply know something about Hollywood.
By April, an armed version of the bomb-disposal robot will be in Baghdad, capable of firing 1,000 rounds a minute. Though controlled by a soldier with a laptop, the robot will be the first thinking machine of its kind to take up a front-line infantry position, ready to kill enemies.
Despite the obstacles, Congress ordered in 2000 that a third of the ground vehicles and a third of deep-strike aircraft in the military must become robotic within a decade. If that mandate is to be met, the United States will spend many billions of dollars on military robots by 2010.
Money, in fact, may matter more than morals. The Pentagon today owes its soldiers $653 billion in future retirement benefits that it cannot presently pay. Robots, unlike old soldiers, do not fade away. The median lifetime cost of a soldier is about $4 million today and growing, according to a Pentagon study. Robot soldiers could cost a tenth of that or less.
Just make sure you don't have a central control room for your robot army. Really, clones are the better way to go (so long as they don't have commands implanted to turn against you at the Emperor's say-so)....
Jean Mudadira, 34, a bartender, remembers being on the roof of the hotel one day when Hutu militia fighters stormed in. He said he considered leaping off to his death to avoid dying in an even more brutal manner. To his surprise, though, the killers let him live.
The idea of leaping from the hotel roof to avoid certain slaughter came up in the "Hotel Rwanda" movie, which neither Mr. Mudadira nor most other employees here have seen yet. There are some bootleg copies around Kigali, however, and during a showing at the hotel the other night, five men gathered around a tiny screen to watch Hollywood's version of events they knew well.
When the credits began to roll - after a warning appeared on screen saying "Loaned for awards considerations only" - the audience agreed on the verdict: the movie would help foreigners understand what happened here, although in a somewhat sanitized way.
Rwandans are used to having their national nightmare recorded on the big screen. Another movie on the massacre, "Sometimes in April," by the Haitian director Raoul Peck, was shown last month in one of Kigali's main stadiums, a place that had itself been the site of a mass killing. Five thousand people crowded in to see that movie but many of them found it difficult to watch. Another movie set in the Mille Collines, based on the book "A Sunday by the Pool in Kigali," by a Canadian journalist, Gil Courtmanche, is in the works. At the end of the impromptu screening of "Hotel Rwanda," the viewers said that no matter how violent the film portrayals might seem, reality was far worse.
Lacking cable tv, all I've seen of the new BG is the three-hour version of the premiere "mini-series," which I indeed thought quite well of -- surprisingly so, given how utterly crap the original series was to many folks who didn't see it when they were 9 nine years old (I was 19). Yikes, but it sucked.
I thought Ron Moore -- and this leaves me unsurprised, given his fine work in creating the best Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine -- did a superb job of turning a bombastic premise full of astrological nonsense that was, however, largely simply executed in a completely banal, utterly unimaginative, and juvenile way, as well as being "science fiction" only in setting ("You'll Never See It In Galaxy") -- though it differs in the last not at all from its parent, Star Wars, of course -- into a taut, terrifically acted, comparatively realistic and plausible, drama. I look forward to, eventually, seeing the new series.
WRAP. Most Moving Speech: Swank or Foxx, Foxx or Swank, take your pick. His timing was better than hers, though.
Only Person To Get Played Off: Hilary Swank, but, then, if you're one of the winners in the Top Five Categories and can't go on for all of three or so minutes, who can?
Best One-Liner: the writer, Charlie Kauffman, unsurprisingly, with "No, I won't take my time; I want to get off this stage!"
Runner-Up: Clint Eastwood's thanking "my cast, but you've already met a lot of them." Also thanking his "crack geriatrics team." And his "I'm just a kid!; I've got a lot of stuff to do yet." Here's to ya, Clint.
Most Deserving And Has Yet To Get An Oscar, which he deserves about maybe twelve times -- this is a man who has arguably never made anything but a great film -- Martin Scorsese. People, this is ridiculous. (Okay, I've not seen Kundun or Gangs of New York yet.)
Most Unexpected: Clint Eastwood's mother, at 96, being in the audience.
No real surprises or particularly notable events in the whole show, I'm sorry to say.
SOMETHING ALSO ALWAYS SEEMS A BIT OFF TO ME that applause for the Roll Of The Dead is an absolutely clear measure of popularity; this seems an entirely tacky time for people to be showing that, to me, though it's obviously inevitable unless the Academy called for strict silence, out of respect, during the roll of the dead. I can't help but wonder if they shouldn't, though I'm not at all clear on the answer.
I also can't help note that all writers, by necessity the most solitary of all workers in the movies, get almost no applause whatever.
SUPERB CASTING. That's where the winner for Best Score came from, right? Central Casting as a "European orchestra conductor"? Terrific job. (I'll get his name later; and kudos to John Williams for being the only nominee I've caught this evening without a Big Happy Face that someone else won, er, that the Oscar Went To someone else.)
2/27/2005 07:42:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
OH, MAN. Referring to Che Guevara only as "a young idealist" (at a time of his life when he could fairly be called one, if one didn't consider what came later, to be sure).
We're going to hear about that for a while, and with perfectly good cause, too.
On a complete disconnect, it was nice to see John Dykstra (and his team, of course) come back to win again, for visual effects, for Spider-Man 2, which deserved it, and because of his illustrious history with Silent Running, the original Star Wars, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Battlestar Galactica, as well as a few other films which were more or less lousy, but had excellent effects. I don't think he's ever worked on a film with decent dialogue, other than Spider-Man 2, which for all its virtues, I still wouldn't nominate for an Oscar for Best Dialogue (though it had its moments, and there is much to praise in the screenplay), but unfortunately that's often gone with the territory. Oh, if you count his doing the gopher in Caddyshack, okay.
I forgot to mention that Billy Wilder is about to turn 99 years old. And he didn't look a day under 80!
THE WILDER SIDE. When Sidney Lumet thanked Billy Wilder, mildly holy crap, they cut to Wilder in the audience; I kinda forgot he's still alive. [ADDENDUM: except, of course, he's not; see comments on the above post.]
So, Lumet is a perfectly sound choice for a Lifetime Achievement Award, given the huge body of his work, and his never having won. His career encompasses some great movies, some excellent movies, some movies that are, frankly, deeply pretensious, though doubtless there are those who appreciate them more than I, and a smattering of astonishingly off-key clunkers. Plus some that are just plain shruggers.
Among the greats: 12 Angry Men, Fail-Safe, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network. That's all I'd nominate, I think. It should be needless to say that that's a lot.
Excellents: The Pawnbroker, The Anderson Tapes, Prince of the City, The Verdict, Running On Empty.
Pretentious: Long Day's Journey Into Night, The Sea Gull, Equus.
Clunkers: Murder On The Orient Express (special award for Painfully, Painfully Bad), The Wiz (my eyes! my eyes! they burn!), Power (not horrible, but not anything as good as the talent involved), and Guilty As Sin (worse than the talent involved).
And some shruggers:
Family Business, well, any movie starring Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, and Matthew Broderick, directed by Lumet, should be terrific; instead, this movie was just blah; it was about on par with a medicre tv movie, though not as bad as one starring Tori Spelling. Big disappointment, although the funny part is when the screenplay tries to explain how these three can possibly be grand-dad, son, and grandson.
The remake of Gloria. The original Cassevettes is a classic. And, honey, Sharon Stone ain't no Gena Rowland. Not entirely bad if we mindwipe ourselves to forget this is a remake.
The Morning After. Utterly by-the-numbers bland-and-boring vehicle for the about-to-disappear Jane Fonda, who did fifty times better work back in Klute or Cat Ballou. If this movie never existed, no harm would come, save perhaps to the wallets of those who worked on it.
Q&A, which he took his name off of in favor of "Alan Smithee." 'Nuff said.
If I haven't mentioned it, it's probably because it's one of the rest of his films which I've not seen (unsurprisingly, this includes all of his early tv work).
And it's reassuring to know that even Al Pacino can misread a line.
THE ONE THING I'VE NEVER UNDERSTOOD ABOUT AWARDS SHOWS, save in a few cases of obvious intentional irony/self-mockery, is applauding one's self. Isn't that kinda, well, strange? Gauche?
Yea, me, that was a really great performance you just saw me give on the screen! I'm great! Yeah! Kudos, me!
What's up with that?
And in a more specific query, why are they playing the Theme To Star Trek: The Motion Picture to play Morgan Freeman off the stage? Was he in some small role I didn't notice? Assistant Jr. Assistant to the Senior Assistant to Khan Noonien Singh? Crewman in charge of... junior crew?
Hmm, and the Spartacus commercial was amusing to me, but I gotta wonder how many folks under my age have seen, or are familiar with, Spartacus? I'm happy with anything that encourages people to see that splendid film, but it seems a curious commercial choice just now.
The Ellen deGeneres/AmEx commercial was mildly amusing, too.
The volunteer's head was cradled inside a 12-ton medical imaging scanner at Caltech, held firmly in place at the focal point of a pulsing magnetic field. The chamber reverberated with a 110-decibel sandblaster roar.
The two Caltech researchers were investigating the effect of perhaps the most pervasive force in a consumer culture — marketing — on the most complex object in the world: the human brain.
They seek to understand the cellular sweetness of rewards and the biology of brand consciousness. In the process, they are gleaning hints as to how our synapses might be manipulated to boost sales, generate fads or even win votes for political candidates.
They have glimpsed how the brain assembles belief.
The why of buy is a trillion-dollar question.
By one estimate, 700 new products are introduced every day. Last year, 26,893 new food and household products materialized on store shelves around the world, including 115 deodorants, 187 breakfast cereals and 303 women's fragrances. In all, 2 million brands vie for attention.
To find profit in so many similar items, marketers try to brand a product on a buyer's mind. Such efforts put the average American adult in the crosshairs of as many as 3,000 advertising messages a day — five times more than two decades ago.
Children are exposed to 40,000 commercials every year. By the age of 18 months, they can recognize logos. By 10, they have memorized 300 to 400 brands, according to Boston College sociologist Juliet B. Schor. The average adult can recognize thousands.
These inquiries into consumer behavior harness techniques pioneered for medical diagnosis: positron emission tomography, which measures the brain's chemical activity; magneto-encephalography, which measures the brain's magnetic fields; and functional magnetic resonance imaging, which measures blood flow around working neurons.
Each triggered a response in the volunteer's brain, recorded by Quartz and Asp with Caltech's $2.5-million functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI) and then weighed against the volunteer's responses to a 14-page questionnaire.
Uma Thurman. Cool.
Barbra Streisand. Uncool.
Justin Timberlake. Uncool.
Al Pacino. Cool.
Patrick Swayze. Very uncool.
The volunteer's brain cells became a focus group.
Aww, I don't think Patrick Swayze is that uncool. Not that worse than Streisand and Timberlake, anyway.
But, then, I'm unlikely to be cool, I guess. And unlikely to care.
For all their differences, objects and celebrity faces were reduced to a common denominator: a spasm of synapses in a part of the cortex called Brodmann's area 10, a region associated with a sense of identity and social image.
In recent years, researchers have discovered that regions such as the amygdala, the hippocampus and the hypothalamus are dynamic switchboards that blend memory, emotions and biochemical triggers. These interconnected neurons shape the ways that fear, panic, exhilaration and social pressure influence the choices people make.
After analyzing test data from 21 men and women, Quartz and Asp discovered that consumer products triggered distinctive brain patterns that allowed them to classify people in broad psychological categories.
At one extreme were people whose brains responded intensely to "cool" products and celebrities with bursts of activity in Brodmann's area 10 — but reacted not at all to the "uncool" displays.
The scientists dubbed these people "cool fools," likely to be impulsive or compulsive shoppers.
At the other extreme were people whose brains reacted only to the unstylish items, a pattern that fits well with people who tend to be anxious, apprehensive or neurotic, Quartz said.
The reaction in both sets of brains was intense. The brains reflexively sought to fulfill desires or avoid humiliation.
Asp, a Swedish researcher who once majored in industrial design, volunteered for the fMRI probe. The scanner revealed a personality quite at odds with her own sense of self.
She searched the scanner's images for the excited neurons in her prefrontal cortex that would reflect her enthusiasm for Prada and other high-fashion goods. Instead, the scanner detected the agitation in brain areas associated with anxiety and pain, suggesting she found it embarrassing to be seen in something insufficiently stylish.
It was fear, not admiration, that motivated her fashion sense.
"I thought I would be a cool fool," she said. "I was very uncool."
Since 1999, consumers have been offered 545 new brands of carbonated beverages. Despite differences in taste, color, caffeine and fizz, they are all based on a single sensory theme: sugar and water.
What happens in the brain, Montague wondered, when people decide between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, two of the most popular — and most similar — soft drinks in the world?
The answer was interesting, as was the rest, despite the number of articles on this topic I've posted over the years.
Oh, one more little bit:
To 13 volunteers screened for political expertise and party loyalty, Iacoboni showed pictures of Sen. John F. Kerry, President Bush and Ralph Nader while recording their neural activity. He then screened footage for them from Republican and Democratic campaign ads.
Afterward, he recorded how their neural responses changed when they were shown the same faces a second time.
Not surprisingly, Iacoboni found that people watching their favored candidate responded with a surge of activity in the reward circuits of the brain.
Republican die-hards, however, seemed to have a strong positive emotional response to any prominent leader.
But those Republican brain patterns changed when exposed to Bush campaign ads, which stimulated activity in areas involved in more rational deliberation, Iacoboni said.
Shown campaign advertising that touched on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Republicans and Democrats again had different responses.
"The Democrats had a big response in the amygdala — the anxiety threat detector and bell-ringer in the brain," said UCLA psychiatrist Joshua Freedman, who helped organize the experiment. "Republicans did not have a statistically significant response to that, for whatever reason."
The people of Monowi have died or moved — all but one: Elsie Eiler. Brisk and unsentimental at 71, she lives in the one home still fit for living in, a snug trailer with worn white siding. She runs the one business left in Monowi, a dark, wood-paneled tavern, thick with smoke.
She also runs the library.
The sign outside is painted on a section of a refrigerator door. The floor is bare plywood. There's no heat. But there are thousands upon thousands of books. "The Complete Works of Shakespeare." "Treasure Island." Trixie Belden and "The Happy Valley Mystery." Zane Grey's westerns, every one of them, lined up across two shelves. Homer. Tennyson. Amy Tan. Goethe.
Elsie's late husband, Rudy, read them endlessly. He farmed and tended bar, he ran a grain elevator, he delivered gas to filling stations, and when the town was down to just him and Elsie, he served as mayor too. But he always found time to read — science fiction, history, the classics — anything but a Harlequin romance.
When he got sick with cancer two years ago, Rudy confided a dream to Elsie: He wanted to turn his collection into a public library.
Rudy ordered a custom-made building and set it a few steps from his home and his tavern. The Eilers' son, Jack, wired the lights, and friends built floor-to-ceiling shelves. But Rudy died in January 2004, before he could fill them.
Five months later, his friends and family came together to pack the small white building with Rudy's books. Elsie estimates they shelved at least 5,000 volumes.
Monowi, population 1, had its library.
It's a charming story, worth reading to learn about what difference the library has made.
There's also this:
Monowi remains an incorporated town because there's no reason to dissolve it. Elsie grants herself her own liquor license, collects taxes from herself — "it's a matter of cents, really" — and keeps the books.
Every year, Elsie has to approve a municipal road plan to receive Monowi's share of state transportation funds, which she sends to the county to maintain the two-lane highway that runs past her tavern.
A Notice of Public Hearing is duly posted in the tavern, announcing an upcoming meeting on the road plan for all citizens of Monowi to voice "support, opposition and/or suggestions." The meeting is to be held "at the usual place." Elsie figures it won't last long.
When the state sends her paperwork, "I just sign wherever it needs to be signed: mayor, secretary, treasurer," Elsie says. "They know I'm the only one up here."
I guess I couldn't incorporate my own town inside this apartment....
Read The Rest Scale: 3.75 out of 5, and a bit more for true book lovers. (Also via Zed.)
In other book news, what a bookshop can mean to a small town. This one's in Texas, and it's owned by Larry McMurty. It's a rather unusual and impressive bookstore (complex), as described, but on the other hand, if McMurty can't make money at it any more, and wants to close it, well, change happens.
I note that, unsurprisingly, the name "Gary" rose to a significant number of men only in the 1920's, and peaked at about 10,000 per million in the 1950's (I was born November 5th, 1958) before dropping further and further from the Sixties through the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties. Now "Gabriel" and "Garrett" are far more popular "G" baby names.
Which is fine by me; I'd prefer not to have a name as common as "John."
Shapiro sees the G.I.'s, 350 of them, selected by the Germans for extermination because they were Jews, or looked like Jews, or were deemed ''troublemakers'' or were just grabbed at random because the Nazis needed slave labor late in a lost war, and European Jews were already dead by the millions and those not yet slaughtered were too weak to work; he sees the Americans, in a place they could not comprehend, an ephemeral little hell for which they had no preparation or instruction, a Nazi concentration camp at Berga, in the east of Germany, too small to appear on most World War II maps; sees the bedraggled men, privates in their late teens or early 20's, fighting over crumbs, chewing pieces of wood or charcoal to try to stanch diarrhea, eating snow, coughing blood from throats lacerated by rock shards in the mines where they labored, slipping away in the night without a word. People who die of hunger and thirst die in silence. Either you strangle that memory or it strangles you. The shame of survival is sometimes too much to bear.
But is it not reasonable to demand this Schlußstrich, this closure, now that the Nazi perpetrators are already dead or will be soon? It is reasonable. But memory is not linear and reason has little purchase on it. The crimes of the Nazis have taken a tortuous course through the psyches of survivors. As Primo Levi observed, ''The injury cannot be healed: it extends through time.'' In this moment, such injury inhabits this Florida bungalow.
Hauer and the other European Jews at Berga, more than 1,000 of them, had been toughened by other camps. But the Americans were not yet familiar with the inexorable arithmetic of Nazi Vernichtung durch Arbeit -- destruction through work. When day after day the outlay of energy exceeds that consumed, the body wastes away. Survival comes down to calories -- calories and, in some measure, the mysteries of the mind.
Of the 350 young G.I.'s sent there, at least 73, or 21 percent, died in the space of 10 weeks, the highest rate of attrition among American prisoners of war in Europe. Yet on Oct. 24, 1945, five months after the Nazi surrender, Maj. Gen. Edward F. Witsell wrote to a relative of one of the dead, ''With respect to your desire to ascertain the location of Berga Elster, it has been learned that there was no German prisoner-of-war camp by that name.''
This sort of denial set a pattern of obfuscation and concealment that was to last for decades.
Americans, at least, might want to learn this story of their own.
Read The Rest Scale: 4 out of 5.
By the way:
The two Nazis chiefly responsible for the war crimes at Berga were identified, captured and tried in an American court in Dachau in 1946 but were free men within nine years.
Berry was named worst actress of 2004 by the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation for her performance in "Catwoman" and she showed up to accept her "Razzie" carrying the Oscar she won in 2002 for "Monster's Ball."
"They can't take this away from me, it's got my name on it!" she quipped. A raucous crowd cheered her on as she gave a stirring recreation of her Academy Award acceptance speech, including tears.
She thanked everyone involved in "Catwoman," a film she said took her from the top of her profession to the bottom.
"I want to thank Warner Brothers for casting me in this piece of s---," she said as she dragged her agent on stage and warned him "next time read the script first."
It is rare for a Razzie winner to show up at the spoof awards held on the night before Oscars (news - web sites) -- but Berry did, saying her mother taught her that to be "a good winner you had to be a good loser first." She received a standing ovation.
Winners receive a golf ball-sized figure of a "Raspberry" atop a mangled Super 8 film reel that is spray-painted gold. It has an estimated street value of $4.97, although Wilson said costs were rising as Super 8 film reel cans are getting harder to find.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 if you want to know a few other winners, including some simply shocking shots at Our Beloved President; who could believe that people giving a film award could think such bad thoughts?
IF LAWYERS WERE CEOS. Here are the Administration's plans.
Poor people love trial lawyers. What other means of justice do they have in many circumstances?
Apparently some rich folks hate them, since they have to pay them so much.
But, hey, so, you lose your legs and are paralyzed from the neck down, as well: $250,000 will cover your pain for your entire life, right?
Or maybe you were simply brain-damaged, making you blind, deaf, and incapable of speech: $250,000 will clear that up and make you happy, for sure.
Or you're an infant damaged in child-birth. Hey, we're pro-life, but only until you pop out of the womb! After that, so what if you wind up limbless and with no kidneys or intestines: $250,000 for the rest of your life is more than enough!
Another way this works, as implemented in California:
California malpractice lawyers say the law also discourages them from taking wrongful-death cases if the victims are children or retirees. Those groups have no economic value by the cold logic of the courtroom because they are not earning salaries, so the maximum award would be $250,000. Complex cases, which often require many expert witnesses and years of research, can cost that much to bring to trial.
Sorry about your dead baby, man, but nothing we can do about it; thank God the Republicans are in power!
Why do Republicans hate capitalism?
Complex cases can require reams of expert testimony, years of investigation and hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare. Medical malpractice lawsuits are custom work, focusing on one victim at a time, as opposed to large class actions against an entire industry, like the $246 billion tobacco settlement that trial lawyers helped 46 states win in 1998.
There are no hourly fees and no well-heeled corporate clients paying for expenses. Trial lawyers are the venture capitalists of the legal system, putting their money on the line and taking upfront risk. The occasional big paydays cover the daily expenses.
This is really evil! We need to eliminate such dangerous capitalistic ideas, which lead to people increasing their wealth!
And since limiting people's income is now a Sound Republican Policy, I'm sure that the next proposal will be to limit corporate CEOs to 40% of the first $50,000 from their stock options, and so on, capping at allowing only 15% of any CEO income over $600,000; who could object? Wage controls are now a jolly good American idea! I'm sure that once we have a new taste for it, we'll strictly stop at punishing evil trial lawyers and their fiendishly plotting clients, who doubtless maim and cripple themselves in their greedy assaults on doctors and corporations! There is no need to worry about the precedent being handed the Democrats for when they come back into power and contemplate limiting the income of folks they think are bad! That will never happen!
What's the knock? Republicans now stand for wage controls, confiscating wealth, increasing the size of the government, vastly increasing deficits and the national debt, leaving our ports essentially undefended, and allowing North Korea to become nuclear-armed.
Graffiti scrawled on the walls referred to Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's former prime minister, who was shot dead in Tel Aviv in 1995 by an ultranationalist Jew who wanted to derail a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. ''Rabin is waiting for Sharon,'' the protesters wrote. ''Death to Arabs.''
A policewoman who required hospital treatment after the scuffles was shocked when one woman called her a "Nazi".
Three protesters were later interviewed on Israeli television. ''I would be happy if Sharon was dead,'' one 17-year-old said. Her 16-year-old companion smiled as she said: ''But I would not waste my bullet on him.''
In the atmosphere of growing intolerance, threats have been made to the lives of several cabinet ministers, and Mr Sharon has hired a security company to protect the grave of his late wife, Lily, after receiving threats that Right-wing vandals would dig up her body at his ranch in the Negev. Mrs Sharon died of lung cancer in March 2000.
Brig Gen Ilan Paz, the head of the civil administration in the West Bank, also received a death threat from a far-Right activist.
Many mainstream settlers have been angered by the protesters, claiming that their actions are undermining their cause.
Last night Mr Ben-Gvir revealed that the protest group is several thousand strong and warned that there would be extreme violence if the Israeli settlements were evacuated.
"It would be better if these women were doing something else but Sharon has left us with no choice but to fight back," he told The Sunday Telegraph.
"Sharon has crossed a red line. We have to protest as this is the only language Sharon understands."
"Protest," as defined as mass marches, civil disobedience, and the like, is fine. It's "extreme violence" that is not a legitimate choice, you [Bad Noun].
Figures released this month show that anti-Jewish attacks in Britain rose by 40 per cent last year, with teenagers beaten for wearing yarkmulkas, and swastikas carved into the side of synagogues. Some 24 per cent of British people, in a recent poll, agreed with statements like "Jews only care about their own kind" and "Jews have too much power in this country" - up from 18 per cent in 2002.
There is no other form of racism that would make decent progressive people equivocate. But how many of us hesitate before we call this hatred by its proper name? How many of us wonder - just for a moment - if perhaps this wave of hate is a legitimate response to the crimes committed by Ariel Sharon in the Occupied Territories? But wait. Does anybody think the global wave of hostility towards Muslims was a legitimate response to Bin Laden's crimes?
Why is this happening, and should we be worried? A few months ago I was talking to an old woman who survived Auschwitz. She said: "Growing up in Weimar Berlin, I used to laugh when I heard my grandparents ranting about anti-Semitism. I told them they were paranoid. Well, I wasn't laughing in the cattle trucks. I obviously don't think Britain is about to turn Nazi. But in Jewish terms, sixty years is nothing. Nothing. Sure, we're on top today - but how many times in history have the Jews been on top and thought we were safe, only to see it disappear in the blink of a gentile eye?" I must have looked sceptical because she quickly added: "Sure, we have the support of most Americans today. But power passes. The Pharoah looked very powerful once upon a time. American power will ebb away, and then what will my grandchildren be left with? At this rate, it will be a world that hates us more than ever."
And, yes, the debate about Israel is being infected with anti-Semitism. I passionately support the creation of a Palestinian state - and a real Palestinian state, not the string of Bantustans offered to Yasser Arafat in the summer of 2000. But why the constant rhetorical inflation of Israel's crimes to put them on a par with Nazi Germany? A recent poll found that 51 per cent of Germans believe "there is not much difference between what Israel is doing to the Palestinians and what the Nazis did to the Jews". In truth, more people died in one afternoon in Bergen-Belsen than have been killed in twenty years of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. That doesn't make the murder of single Palestinian justifiable - but it does make me question the motives of those who would draw the comparison. Is it suppressed guilt? Is the old Jewish saying - the gentiles will never forgive us for what we revealed about them in Auschwitz - true?
Israel is committing real and terrible crimes in the Occupied Territories - but it does seem that human rights abuses committed by Jews provoke far more rage across the world than human rights abuses committed by any other group. Over the past 15 years, Russia has slaughtered at least 300,000 people in Chechnya - 40,000 of them children. This is more than ten times the number of Muslims who have (unforgivably) been killed by Israel. Western governments mostly supported and excused the killing in Chechnya, and Russia is - like Israel - a semi-democracy. So where's the comparable outrage? Does anybody constantly demand that Russians condemn Vladimir Putin before they have a right to be protected from racism?
I am angry about both Chechnya and Palestine - but why do so many people get furious about one and ignore the other? Some of my friends in pro-Palestinian campaigns say it's because our government is intermeshed with Israel when it comes to diplomacy, geopolitics and arms sales, so we have more responsibility for what happens there - but is that enough to explain the disparity? Aren't those things also true of Russia?
In case you still doubt the rise of anti-Semitism, let me offer you a small anecdote that opened even my flabby eyelids. At a recent debate about Iraq, one person in the audience came up to me afterwards and said: "Your skullcap is slipping, Mr Hari." Now, as it happens, I'm not Jewish (although a few of my relatives are). I asked him is he realised he was an anti-Semite, and he replied indignantly: "Criticising Israel isn't anti-Semitic!" I replied: "I agree. I criticise Israel all the time. But how are you criticising Israel by talking about my non-existent skullcap? You didn't mention Israel once, and nor did the debate." He scowled:. "You Jews are so paranoid!" he declared, before storming off. Jews across Britain are experiencing moments like all the time now.
So let’s get this straight: Zionism was created by a desperate people – many of them still emaciated from the camps – fleeing genocide. It was not, of course, morally simple. The cruel reality is that there was not – as many diaspora Jews had dreamed – "a land without people for a people without land". There was only historical Palestine, which had many Arab inhabitants who loved their land and their homes. 700,000 of these totally innocent people were ethnically cleansed to create the new state, as Israel’s new historians like Benny Morris and Tom Segev have shown.
This was a bitter tragedy, and an injustice against the Palestinians that should have been put right by Israel in 1967 with the creation of a heavily-compensated Palestinian state on all of Gaza and the West Bank. Every day of occupation since then has been unforgiveable. But I fear that only somebody with a prejudice against Jews would act as though – in the circumstances of 1948, fleeing the most psychopathically murderous anti-Semitism – they were acting in a purely evil way, even though the impact on the Palestinians was horrible and undeserved. We need to constantly remember that the Jews are not in the Middle East out of malice or as part of a “colonial project”, but because they were driven there; too often, in our desire to rightly criticise contemporary Israeli crimes, we forget this, and we forget to show that there have always been consistent Israeli advocates of Palestinian self-determination free to operate and campaign within Israeli society.
The great leftist historian Isaac Deutscher described the Israel-Palestine situation with an analogy. He said a Jewish man had jumped from a burning building, and he landed on an Arab man, breaking his arms and legs. The natural response of the Arab is to blame the Jew – but in truth he should blame the arsonist and try, slowly, to physically recover alongside the Jew.
The Palestinians themselves can hardly be blamed for failing to see the situation this way. Is there anybody in the world who would happily surrender half their land to a dispossessed and stateless group? In this country, we begrudge even giving the most paltry benefits and a few run-down council houses to asylum seekers. Imagine how we would react if the Kurds claimed Cornwall for a free Kurdistan, or the Roma violently seized Devon, ethnically cleansed the inhabitants and tried to establish a state there.
But – although it is understandable for the Palestinians to respond with rage and incomprehension – what excuse do the rest of us have? Is it really just that we are angry on behalf of the Palestinians? I would like to think so – but why the myopia about other victim groups? I fear that our reaction to Jewish crimes shows a latent anti-Semitism, because it is so disproportionate to our response to other, even larger horrors. Yes, be angry about Israel - very angry - but in the context of objecting to all human rights abuses. To single out Israel for unique condemnation - rather than the simple, shared condemnation it deserves - is a worrying sign that Israel has inherited the pariah status once applied simply to the Jews as a people.
The problem with anti-Semitism isn't with Ken Livingstone, folks. It is all around us.
I've said everything said here many times, in various places, so it's pleasantly lazy of me to simply quote someone else making the same points.
(Let me cautiously say that it's a great pleasure to at least see some hope, again, at present, in Israel/Palestine.)
DRESDEN, Germany, Feb. 13 -- Several thousand neo-Nazis and skinheads marched through the heart of this meticulously restored city Sunday to protest its incendiary destruction by Allied forces 60 years ago, the biggest effort yet by fringe groups to portray Germans as equal victims of World War II.
The demonstration was among the largest gatherings of Nazi sympathizers in Germany since the end of the war and overshadowed Dresden's official commemoration of the city's virtual annihilation by British and U.S. bombers on Feb. 13 and 14, 1945.
Police estimated that 5,000 neo-Nazis and other extremists attended their rally, which began outside the parliament building for the east German state of Saxony and continued past the renovated Semper Opera building and over the Elbe River, which bisects Dresden. Most of the marchers wore black clothes and carried black balloons and banners as dark-sounding classical music blared over loudspeakers.
"Here in Dresden, genocide took place in 1945, just like it did in Hiroshima," said Franz Schoenhuber, a former Nazi SS officer from Munich and a longtime far-right politician. "We're not afraid to call them war crimes."
German officials are considering new restrictions on public protests by neo-Nazi groups, which are planning an even bigger turnout in Berlin in May to mark the 60th anniversary of the surrender of the Nazi government. In Berlin, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder issued a statement criticizing extremists for trying to minimize the Third Reich's responsibility for the war and for the Holocaust, during which an estimated 6 million Jews and several million others were killed.
"Today we grieve for the victims of war and the Nazi reign of terror in Dresden, in Germany and in Europe," Schroeder said. "We will oppose in every way these attempts to reinterpret history. We will not allow cause and effect to be reversed."
Nazi symbols and public denial of the Holocaust are prohibited by law in Germany. But the government has reported a substantial increase in the past two years in the number of hard-core Nazis and their sympathizers. The trend has been fueled partly by the highest unemployment rates in Germany since the 1940s, anti-foreigner sentiment and a general dissatisfaction with mainstream politics.
It's still the same old story, a fight with no love nor glory, a case of do or die; will the world ever welcome Jews, as time goes by?
Last September, the National Democrats, a far-right political party that attracts support from neo-Nazis, won more than 9 percent of the vote in Saxony, the eastern German state of which Dresden is the capital. Since then, they have forged an alliance with other groups in a bid to win representation in the federal parliament.
Emboldened by their electoral success, the National Democrats have courted controversy in recent weeks by arguing that the degree of German suffering during the end of World War II has been unfairly repressed or minimized. Last month, party leaders walked out of a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, complaining that the Holocaust was being overemphasized at the expense of the bombing victims in Dresden.
What, me (us) worry?
"There is a myth, the myth of the innocent Dresden," said Gerhard Besier, director of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Totalitarian Research, a political think tank in Dresden that studies extremist groups. "People don't realize that the Nazis had been very strong in Dresden and in Saxony. They insist that the population of Dresden was innocent and was murdered, and that this bombing didn't make any sense."
That idea was emphasized for 40 years after the war by the East German government, which blamed Britain and the United States for attacking Dresden as part of a capitalist conspiracy to destroy parts of Germany that the Allies knew would fall under Soviet control. Besier noted that East Germany adopted terminology first used by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, who referred to the Dresden attacks as the "Anglo-American terror bombing."
Oliver Reinhard, a Dresden journalist who co-authored a history of the firebombings titled "The Red Glow," said such sentiments remain commonplace in Saxony.
"For a long time it was attractive to say that Dresden and its people were only victims," he said. "People still stand up and say, 'Let's face it: The Americans didn't bomb Dresden to hurt Hitler. They did it to hit and destroy all the big cities in the Soviet zone.' "
PLAYBOY: They all rode Harley-Davidsons, right? THOMPSON: Yeah, and they didn't like it that I was riding a BSA. They kept offering to get me hot bikes. You know -- a brand-new Harley Sportster for $400, stuff like that. No papers, of course, no engine numbers -- so I said no. I had enough trouble as it was. I was always getting pulled over. Jesus, they canceled my car insurance because of that goddamn bike. They almost took my driver's license away. I never had any trouble with my car. I drove it full bore all over San Francisco all the time, just wide open. It was a good car, too, a little English Ford. When it finally developed a crack in one of the four cylinders, I took it down to a cliff in Big Sur and soaked the whole interior with ten gallons of gasoline, then executed the fucker with six shots from a .44 magnum in the engine block at point-blank range. After that, we rolled it off the cliff -- the radio going, lights on, everything going -- and at the last minute, we threw a burning towel in. The explosion was ungodly; it almost blew us into the ocean. I had no idea what ten gallons of gas in an English Ford could do. The car was a mass of twisted, flaming metal. It bounced about six times on the way down -- pure movie-stunt shit, you know. A sight like that was worth the car: it was beautiful.
When you write for a living and you can't do anything else, you know that sooner or later that the deadline is going to come screaming down on you like a goddamn banshee.
Actually it took six months to write the first half of the book and then four days to write the second half. I got terrified about the deadline; I actually thought they were going to cancel the contract if I didn't finish the book exactly on time. I was in despair over the thing, so I took the electric typewriter and about four quarts of Wild Turkey and just drove north on 101 until I found a motel that looked peaceful, checked in and stayed there for four days. Didn't sleep, ate a lot of speed, went out every morning and got a hamburger at McDonald's and just wrote straight through for four days -- and that turned out to be the best part of the book.
Well, I don't see myself as particularly aggressive or dangerous. I tend to act weird now and then, which makes people nervous if they don't know me -- but I think that's sort of a stylistic hangover from the old days . . . and I suppose I get a private smile or two out of making people's eyes bulge once in a while. You might call that a Hell's Angels trait -- but otherwise, the comparison is ugly and ominous. I reject it -- although I definitely feel myself somewhat apart. Not an outlaw, but more like a natural freak . . . which doesn't bother me at all.
Indeed. The greedheads were terrified. We had a series of public debates that got pretty brutal. The first one was in a movie theater, because that was the only place in town that could hold the crowd. Even then, I arrived a half hour early and I couldn't get in. The aisles were jammed, I had to walk over people to get to the stage. I was wearing shorts, with my head shaved completely bald. The yahoos couldn't handle it. They were convinced the Anti-christ had finally appeared -- right there in Aspen. There's something ominous about a totally shaved head. We took questions from the crowd and sort of laid out our platforms. I was not entirely comfortable, sitting up there with the incumbent sheriff and saying, "When I drive this corrupt thug out of office, I'm going to go in there and maybe eat a bit of mescaline on slow nights. . . ." I figured from then on I had to win, because if I lost, it was going to be the hammer for me. You just don't admit that kind of thing on camera, in front of a huge crowd. There was a reporter from The New York Times in the front row, NBC, an eight-man team from the BBC filming the whole thing, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post -- incredible.
PLAYBOY: There's been talk of your running for the Senate from Colorado. Is that a joke? THOMPSON: No. I considered it for a while, but this past year has killed my appetite for politics. I might reconsider after I get away from it for a while. Somebody has to change politics in this country.
PLAYBOY: Would you run for the Senate the same way you ran for sheriff? THOMPSON: Well, I might have to drop the mescaline issue, I don't think there'd be any need for that -- promising to eat mescaline on the Senate floor. I found out last time you can push people too far. The backlash is brutal.
But no one did change politics in this country.
Classic Thompson advice:
Anyway, it didn't take me long to learn that the only time to call politicians is very late at night. Very late. In Washington, the truth is never told in daylight hours or across a desk. If you catch people when they're very tired or drunk or weak, you can usually get some answers. So I'd sleep days, wait till these people got their lies and treachery out of the way, let them relax, then come on full speed on the phone at two or three in the morning. You have to wear the bastards down before they'll tell you anything.
Oh, and I can't resist this, too:
PLAYBOY: Well, you certainly say some outrageous things in your book on the 1972 Presidential campaign; for instance, that Edmund Muskie was taking Ibogaine, an exotic form of South American speed or psychedelic, or both. That wasn't true, was it? THOMPSON: Not that I know of, but if you read what I wrote carefully, I didn't say he was taking it. I said there was a rumor around his headquarters in Milwaukee that a famous Brazilian doctor had flown in with an emergency packet of Ibogaine for him. Who would believe that shit?
PLAYBOY: A lot of people did believe it. THOMPSON: Obviously, but I didn't realize that until about halfway through the campaign -- and it horrified me. Even some of the reporters who'd been covering Muskie for three or four months took it seriously. That's because they don't know anything about drugs. Jesus, nobody running for President would dare touch a thing like Ibogaine. Maybe I would, but no normal politician. It would turn his brains to jelly. He'd have to be locked up.
PLAYBOY: You also said that John Chancellor took heavy hits of black acid. THOMPSON: Hell, that was such an obvious heavy-handed joke that I still can't understand how anybody in his right mind could have taken it seriously. I'd infiltrated a Nixon youth rally at the Republican Convention and I thought I'd have a little fun with them by telling all the grisly details of the time that John Chancellor tried to kill me by putting acid in my drink. I also wrote that if I'd had more time, I would have told these poor yo-yos the story about Walter Cronkite and his white-slavery racket with Vietnamese orphan girls -- importing them through a ranch in Quebec and then selling them into brothels up and down the East Coast...which is true, of course; Collier's magazine has a big story on it this month, with plenty of photos to prove it.... What? You don't believe that? Why not? All those other waterheads did. Christ, writing about politics would paralyze my brain if I couldn't have a slash of weird humor now and then. And, actually, I'm pretty careful about that sort of thing. If I weren't, I would have been sued long ago. It's one of the hazards of Gonzo Journalism.
And, damnit, this too: note his early aversion to burials:
PLAYBOY: What will you do? Do you have any projects on the fire other than the political stuff? THOMPSON: Well, I think I may devote more time to my ministry, for one thing. All the hellish running around after politicians has taken great amounts of time from my responsibilities as a clergyman.
PLAYBOY: You're not a real minister, are you? THOMPSON: What? Of course I am. I'm an ordained doctor of divinity in the Church of the New Truth. I have a scroll with a big gold seal on it hanging on my wall at home. In recent months we've had more converts than we can handle. Even Ron Ziegler was on the brink of conversion during that last week in San Clemente, but the law of karma caught up with him before he could take the vows.
PLAYBOY: How much did it cost you to get ordained? THOMPSON: I prefer not to talk about that. I studied for years and put a lot of money into it. I have the power to marry people and bury them. I've stopped doing marriages, though, because none of them worked out. Burials were always out of the question; I've never believed in burials except as an adjunct to the Black Mass, which I still perform occasionally.
PLAYBOY: But you bought your scroll, didn't you? THOMPSON: Of course I did. But so did everybody else who ever went to school. As long as you understand that....
And, and the truth on the drugs and his writing, and his plans for the future:
PLAYBOY: When you actually sit down to start writing, can you use drugs like mushrooms or other psychedelics? THOMPSON: No. It's impossible to write with anything like that in my head. Wild Turkey and tobacco are the only drugs I use regularly when I write. But I tend to work at night, so when the wheels slow down, I occasionally indulge in a little speed -- which I deplore and do not advocate -- but you know, when the car runs out of gas, you have to use something. The only drug I really count on is adrenaline. I'm basically an adrenaline junkie. I'm addicted to the rush of the stuff in my own blood and of all the drugs I've ever used, I think it's the most powerful. [Coughing] Mother of God, here I go. [More coughing] Creeping Jesus, this is it...choked to death by a fucking...poisoned Marlboro....
PLAYBOY: Do you ever wonder how you have survived this long? THOMPSON: Yes. Nobody expected me to get much past 20. Least of all me. I just assume, "Well, I got through today, but tomorrow might be different." This is a very weird and twisted world; you can't afford to get careless; don't fuck around. You want to keep your affairs in order at all times.
JOSS WHEDON REPORTS ON SERENITY and other matters at WonderCon (which like most comics cons, and unlike real sf cons, is run for a profit, but I digress).
"I'm still making this movie!" joked Whedon. "At some point I'm supposed to finish. I think I will. Not positive, I might just workshop it for a few years."
The crowd got quiet and the lights went down. The footage had the cast going into some kind of bank with the River Tam character using her psychic powers to find someone in a crowd. After roughing up a few people, the crew headed into a basement to try to get into a vault. As I looked behind me the crowd was glued to the screen. Not a frown in the house - just looks of sheer joy. Then a "Reaver" space ship came out of the sky and the footage ended.
After the cheers died down, Whedon opened up the floor mic for Q & A for the thirty-some fans already waiting in line. He seemed to reluctantly serve as Internet Rumor dispeller for the first few questions. He fielded questions about "Firefly" and "Buffy." He graciously told the fan there are no plans for an "Angel" or "Buffy" film, and that he got lilies on Valentines Day from people on who want a Spike movie. "All I have to say is I do, too."
Fans continued to ask questions about how each actor enjoyed working with Whedon. "Joss is boss!" said Nathan Fillion. "Everything that comes out of each of our mouths is 100% Joss." Fillion elaborated on Whedon as a captain who always works enthusiastically with each actor.
Other questions where directed at the actors. Summer Glau was asked where she draws her character River from. "River is me when I was 15 and how I felt as a young woman." Adam Baldwin spoke about how a lot of the credit for the chemistry of the cast comes from Nathan Fillion. "Nate is the captain of the ship and the driving force behind motivating most of us. He has most of the lead dialogue and is a real inspiration." To this Nathan smiled jokingly agreed and said "Totally."
The next series of questions were about the origin of the "Reavers" and if they will be actually seen in the film.
"The movie deals with the Reavers in a way that 'Firefly' would have as time went on," said Whedon. "Every story needs a monster. In the stories of the old west it was the Apaches." He explained how he removed the racial aspect of the Apache metaphor by using the Reavers. "I used that example by saying that anyone who goes out into space and goes mad can become a monster." He also commented on the use of a strict western and horror vernacular to create his story.
Some fans just wanted to thank Whedon for his and the casts support and posts on the now defunct Fox "Firefly" Web site. Another fan asked Whedon what medium he enjoyed working in most.
"I don't play favorites. I'm just doing my first film and it's an unbelievable experience. I do love television because it has a depth you can't get in movies. The comics are like having the best cast, the best DP and the best director and it's all just one guy sitting over there." Whedon motioned towards John Cassaday. "I can't choose, but the film is at the forefront of my life right now. I love me some art and I hope I never have to choose between them," he said calmly. "If I could do something I have never done before it would be to write a ballet."
Hmm. Given the character turns in many of his scripts, one might think he already has.
SPEAKING OF THE GUARDIAN, they've added an "Observer" blog to their many blogs (although technically the Observer on Sunday remains a separate publication from the Grauniad, which probably at least a few more people are aware of than are aware of the distinctive nature of the NY Times Magazine and The Sunday Book Review from the newspaper, which means not many).
Here's a helpful hint to welcome the writers. This sort of crap?
And the chips? Well, I decided to throw in my £3 to the office pot and share in the meats, bread and olives bought from the excellent local Italian deli, Gazzano's. All very Tuscan. And probably better for my waistline than a fish supper. Gaby will be pleased. Time for a brief beer, I think, before coming back to check the final changes. Good effort by all the team here this week. Already thoughts are turning to Tuesday and another paper, full of lots of blank space to fill.
See, nobody gives a shit. For a statistically meaningful use of "nobody," that is; your lover and family and deli owner don't count; sorry.
I wouldn't be rude enough to tell a blogger (as opposed to someone doing a personal journal!; there's a difference!, though it's blurry in many cases, to be sure) something like this to his or her face, but you guys are supposed to be pros, and to be able to take harsh language.
I learned this lesson sometime around age 14, when I was doing fanzines, and apazines, read by somewhere between twenty and a thousand people. Writing about How You Produced Your Issue, or the problems with the machine you used, or what you had for dinner, or how cute your cats are, or the long and tedious details of your car trip, or any other form of personal detail that is not, in itself, spritely, or highly witty, or possessing insight, or significantly well-written, or at least telling us interesting and unusual things about yourself that we don't know, or of some goddamn inherent value, trivial as it might be, is not interesting.
Kinda by definition.
It's a waste of space. It's a waste of the reader's time, and it's a waste of your time.
It's not mandatory, to do a blog, to fill it with lots of boring crap. I realize this may break your stereotype, and that since Sturgeon's Law (95% of everything is crap) applies to blogs, a casual familiarity with blogs may indicate otherwise, but it is, nonetheless, true.
People who blog lots of in-my-life detail, or do online journals, before assailing me, please note that I gave entirely open-ended categories that you may fall into and thereby be entirely excluded from this criticism. Also, loosely speaking, one might distinguish, in many cases, between blogging/journaling done primarily with a small audience of friends in mind, and ambitious, I-hope-to-be-read-by-tonnes-'o-people, blogging/journaling. I think doing the former is absolutely great.
I would trust that the Observer is trying for the latter, though, not the former.
(And, yes, it's wonderful to write in as personal and idiosyncratic a fashion as you like about details you figure may only be of interest to yourself, but hoping to find others who will find you of interest; that's one of the most sensationally great things about the Internet (and at many times, in different ways, for other media); so, of course, is writing for a small group of friends; they're just rather different approaches, in most cases, than in writing for a more mass-market publication -- which is what blogging for/as the Observer is, unless their intention is to provide a format for their writers to garner a vast audience of hundreds, I tend to think.)
(And, yes, I just bat all this stuff out off the top of my head, and surely make no claims to be forever (or at all) interesting, or of interest to anyone beyond myself; I'm doubtful there's anyone out there interested in the precise mix of topics I find most of interest; certainly I don't know of such a person.)
COULD SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN WHAT A "PERMALINK" IS TO HOWARD KURTZ? This guy now links to blogs on a daily basis (and has been doing so for months). Is there some sort of Washington Post style book violation if one actually links to the specific post one is discussing, as has been the online norm for, oh, about a decade (more if you go back to the days when everyone wasn't online, and over thirty years if you go back to ARPAnet and BBS days), instead of the extremely unhelpful (though better than not at all, and better than the dead links The NY Times still only used recently enough that when I [in careful detail] complained about the use of non-functional URLs to Daniel Okrent's assistant, many months ago, he expressed bewilderment and incomprehension as to what I was speaking of) links to the entire blog?
There's simply no excuse for this sort of dumpkopf nonsense in this day and age. It's like being unable to dial a telephone, but annoying everyone in hearing range by picking up the phone receiver and shouting into it whenever attempting to use the strange, new-fangled, device.
The final straw to my posting this, by the way, is Kurtz's linking to Jeff Jarvis's BuzzMachine (which he can't spell, by the way -- it's not "the Buzz Machine" -- is it so hard to actually get a name right?), and Jarvis's discussion with Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times; I'd post a link to the specific entry of Kurtz's, but the Washtingon Post doesn't believe in permalinks.
Read The Rest Scale: only if you otherwise want to peruse Kurtz, who certainly does perform a useful service in letting us know what the people who read his paper get to see of the news media coverage he provides, in between being a media critic on CNN who has no conflict of interest regarding his work for the Washington Post, and a media critic for the WashPo with no conflict of interest regarding his contract with CNN.
Here's the Missing Link, by the way. See, Howard? Very complicated and mystifying. Simply right-click the word, all in capitals, "LINK," at the bottom of the given post (some blogs use a slightly different style, of course, but I've never not recognized a permalink), and click on "copy link." Paste it in as the URL you are linking to.
As the Mahatma famously said when asked what he thought of Western Civilization, I think it would be a good idea.
Along the way, though, Prison Health has acquired at least one tenacious adversary. The State Commission of Correction, appointed by the governor to investigate every death in jail, has moved over the last several years from polite recommendations to bitter denunciations, frustrated by what it says is the company's refusal to admit and address deadly mistakes.
The commission has faulted company policies, or mistakes and misconduct by its employees, in 23 deaths of inmates in the city and six upstate counties. Fifteen times in the last four years, it has recommended that the state discipline Prison Health doctors and nurses.
Why aren't the directors of Prison Health Services, Inc, under arrest for manslaughter, or reckless negligence, at least?
Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5; it's long, but attention must be paid. See, it's not only guilty people who wind up in jail, and even the guilty aren't all supposed to be sentenced to death, or even regular raping.
By the bye: another stirring triumph of privatising government services. This always comes out for the best, because, of course, the primary goal of government should always be to be to make a profit. (If I have to tell you I'm being sarcastic, I shall hit you over the head with a giant ripe beet. And how red you'll be then!)
THE "I LAUGH AT DUMB TV" AFFAIR. It's stuck in my head for a couple of weeks or so now, so I will mention that I had on, the other week, as background noise, the considerably mediocre tv show NCIS, and -- I have to paraphrase slightly -- the lead Mark Harmon character is called upon to say whom the "Ducky" doctor character reminds him of; after a couple of careful beats, he utters "Illya Kuryakin."
WHY THE GUARDIAN IS CALLED THE "GRAUNIAD." I've gotten tired of explaining this to people who have spent far more time in Britain than I have, including some Britons, as well as the estimable Dr. Frank here, and David Adesnik of the fine (if sometimes, you know, wrong), Oxblog, just now, after he asked in e-mail.
The paper is sometimes known as the Grauniad (coined by Private Eye) as a result of frequent typographical errors for which it became infamous, although these are now less common.
The affectionate name the Grauniad for the paper came about because, in the past, it was noted for frequent text mangling, technical typesetting failures and typographical errors, including once misspelling its own name in the 1970s. Although such errors are now less frequent than they used to be, the 'Corrections and clarifications' column can still often provide some amusement. There were even a number of errors in the first issue, perhaps the most notable being a notification that there would soon be some goods sold at atction, instead of auction.
This came up yet again when I felt a strange compulsion to point out to David that the paper was still a broadsheet, after he called it a tabloid. I won't quote e-mail without permission, but he seems to feel that the figurative usage of "tabloid," meaning some sort of less reliable paper, should take precedence over actual literal usage and negate the fact that the Guardian is, for now, despite current plans to switch to a "Berliner" format later this year, still a broadsheet. (I didn't even bring up that the Times of London, as a counter-example, is now an actual tabloid; to be consistent, David must presumably argue that it should be called a "broadsheet" in his view, assuming he thinks the Guardian is more biased or less reliable, which is purely an assumption on my part, and which may be wrong.)
I really do think I must have a touch of Asperger's Syndrome (just a touch, mind), I'm so insistent and bothered at times when literal usages are ignored or denied.
My head literally explodes!
Okay, I didn't mean that. But the misuse of "literally," to digress, figuratively does make my head explode.
Figuratively. Which is the opposite of "literally." But I do digress.
Read The Rest as fascinated.
ADDENDUM: David responds. I suggest that Josh and I literally join arms, should we ever meet, in honor of our joint mission to stamp out misuse of "literally." I'm sure we'd cut quite a fine figure.
Among other things David says is this:
By metaphorically referring to the paper as a tabloid, I hope to remind some of its readers that the Guardian provides intellectuals with the same sort of cheap thrills and pretext for self-righteousness that real tabloids provide for those who prefer to read about Posh & Becks rather than W. & Condi.
He has a point -- I've spent plenty of time making fun of Guardian silliness at times -- but it also has a lot of fine reporting at times, in my view, as well; one just has to carefully consider -- and sometimes make fun of -- its biases, which, in the British newspaper tradition, they at least have the gumption to mostly make clear up front.
But I think it would be clearer to instead throw in an adjective or two from time to time, such as the "generally lefty Guardian," or "the Guardian, being as silly here as it often is," or "the oft-kneejerk Guardian," or somesuch, than to call a broadsheet a tabloid, but that's just me, and it's not exactly a major bother. (I'm a bit doubtful that "Berliner" will catch on as a popularly understood word for the (perhaps) upcoming format, but we'll see.)
2/26/2005 02:09:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | Tweet |
DOUBTLESS IT'S JUST ME, but does it make any sense that if you go to Mozilla Update to update your iteration of Firefox, there's no possible way to do that from that page?
It's the HQ update page for Mozilla products, but if you want to actually update your Mozilla Firefox, say, you can't. It only offers Extensions, Themes, and so on.
But like I said, it's probably just me who thinks one might find a link to update the actual program there. (Or maybe it's there and I'm not seeing it.)
Yes, I found it elsewhere on the site; I'm just sayin'.
THE CONSERVATIVE CASE AGAINST WAL-MART. I don't often quote Professor Bainbridge -- I believe this is the first time, actually -- but here it is. He's responding to iconic right-wing talk show host Hugh Hewitt, who says:
Resistance to WalMart opening new stores always amazes me. Really. Good jobs at good wages, many of them entry-level jobs with training and advancement possibilities. Excellent advantages for consumers, benefits for employees, and neighborhood redevelopment.
That there are upsides for some to a Wal-Mart I'd never deny. But Hewitt has clearly never worked in a Wal-Mart type operation; the notion that many or most of the jobs either are "good jobs" or have "good wages," not to mention that they have "advancement possibilities" that most people would find desirable, is asinine. They're low-paying mind-numbing jobs with as much opportunity for advance (and enjoyment in your work) as comes working at McDonalds.
I'll believe Hewitt and others who espouse the wonders of working at Wal-Mart when they urge their children to drop out of college and sign up for a career at Wal-Mart instead. After all, they're "good jobs with good wages"; who wouldn't want them?
One of the attitudes I find most pernicious and outrageous is any variant of "the poor are different from you and me," such as in "they'd be thrilled to have vastly worse jobs than I do!" Fill in more or less any common noun for "jobs."
In the Dec. 16 New York Review of Books, Simon Head, director of the Project on Technology and the Workplace at the Century Foundation, stated, "the average pay of a sales clerk [italics mine] at Wal-Mart was $8.50 an hour, or about $14,000 a year, $1,000 below the government's definition of the poverty level for a family of three." That the current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour leaves families even farther below the poverty line is a depressing topic for another day.
In fact, Genetic Savings and Clone announced this week that it is reducing the price of its clones to $32,000 per kitten, part of a business plan that Hawthorne said aims to make the company profitable in the next few years.
Ya want my opinion, yes, there should be at least as much regulation of animal cloning labs as there is of kennels and animal research labs.
And then people should be free to buy clones of their pets, if they like. It's no more or less foolish than buying thoroughbreds over mutts from the pound, and while I strongly prefer that people do the latter (I spent the better part of a year working for Seattle Animal Control once upon a time), I'm surely not so non-libertarian as to believe my prejudices should be written into law. (I'd also rather that people hold telethons and donate to homeless shelters and programs for humans, rather than animals, while the need remains so overwhelmingly great, but I'm speciesist that way.)
Anita Thompson can imagine what was going through Hunter Thompson's mind before the fatal shot: My beloved son, grandson and daughter-in-law are here. I'm in my perch. The fireplace has fire.
"I don't know if it mattered if I was here," Anita Thompson says. "I just like to think, and believe in my heart, he felt happy in his life."
Then there was the flag. Hunter Thompson is an Air Force veteran. And following protocol, according to Anita Thompson, a deputy coroner from neighboring Garfield County presented her with a U.S. flag. It now hangs on a storyboard in the kitchen area, normally used for Hunter Thompson's works in progress. A white, silk scarf that the Dalai Lama presented to Hunter Thompson — the two men looked alike — drapes over the flag.
Hunter Thompson was huge on swimming for his exercise. But he was also known for his love of fine whiskey, and to put it far too mildly, for experimenting with most every intoxicant known to man.
"He loved his body, look what he did to it," Anita Thompson jokes. She then adds a line that maybe even she fails, on its face, to grasp the significance of: "He gave his body everything it wanted."
Given that a few days have passed, many have now written on Thompson and his effect upon our lives.
"He was like the wild soul of the town, and the fact that he was still here, albeit with all the changes, meant a lot to a lot of people," said Mark Billingsley, a clerk at Explore Booksellers, a Main Street store that displayed Mr. Thompson's books by the front door on Tuesday. What Mr. Thompson's presence conveyed, Mr. Billingsley said, was affirmation and endorsement that Aspen - appearances, costs and demographics aside - was still Aspen after all.
"He still felt it was worthwhile to be here," Mr. Billingsley said.
And he celebrated anarchy whenever he could, residents say, with games like Shotgun Golf, which combined traditional putting and chipping with the Thompsonesque filigree of shooting at the ball if it seemed appropriate.
Aspen (whose mountains look not unlike the Front Range here in Boulder):
From Hunter S. Thompson's "Songs of the Doomed -- More Notes on the Death of the American Dream":
"It has been raining a lot recently. Quick thunderstorms and flash floods . . . lightning at night and fear in the afternoon. People are worried about electricity.
"Nobody feels safe. Fires burst out on dry hillsides, raging out of control, while dope fiends dance in the rancid smoke and animals gnaw each other. Foreigners are everywhere, carrying pistols and bags of money. There are rumors about murder and treachery and women with no pulse. Crime is rampant and even children are losing their will to live.
"The phones go dead and power lines collapse, whole families plunged into darkness with no warning at all. People who used to be in charge walk around wall-eyed, with their hair standing straight up on end, looking like they work for Don King, and babbling distractedly about their hearts humming like stun guns and trying to leap out of their bodies like animals trapped in bags."
He wrote this in Washington, in 1989.
As his first wife, Sandy, once said: "Hunter tends to make things worse than they are sometimes."
Thompson, at 67, was the gonzo journalist who shot himself in the head with a handgun on Sunday. He was also what you get when you combine Murphy's Law and some hillbilly Calvinist preaching the doctrine of innate depravity. He believed every man had it in him to do wrong. He also believed that if something could go wrong it would. We were all doomed, to use one of his favorite words.
Hence the birth of gonzo journalism, a term he picked up from a fan letter, and one that applied only to him. He was the prose laureate of the Age of Paranoia, which began, let's say, with the election of Richard Nixon in the middle of the counterculture's nonstop mental fire drill brought on by psychedelic drugs.
Except that I have to argue emphatically that this last claim is wrong, wrong, wrong, much as I hate to get in the way of a good Nixon-hate. But it should be obvious to any and all that the modern Age of Paranoia in the American body politic began with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in November, 1963, not five years later.
We also learn in this otherwise very good piece that:
He was a master stylist -- he once typed out the entire "Great Gatsby" as an exercise.
Yet according to the Gray Lady, and many other accounts, it was Hemingway he typed out:
A man who was so intent on generating a remarkable voice that he retyped Hemingway's novels just to understand how it was done, gave a final bit of dramatic tribute in turning a gun on himself.
Hunter S Thompson was a southern writer, born in Louisville, Kentucky. "He taught himself to write," says Susan Chenery. "He set his own rhythm by, when he was very young, he typed every word of Hemingway and that was how he got his own style.
I suspect garble and apocrypha both, but perhaps the truth is even more twisted; who knows?
And rereading the opening chapter of this harrowing journey of the writer and his Samoan attorney through the desert, I found an epitaph for the author, written by the author:
"No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough."
That would change in 1970 when Warren Hinckle, the editor of Scanlon's, sent him off to cover the Kentucky Derby in Thompson's native Louisville. The deadline got to him. He later described the panic: "I'd blown my mind, couldn't work. So finally I just started jerking pages out of my notebook and numbering them and sending them to the printer. I was sure it was the last article I was ever going to do for anybody." Hinckle did a fast, suave edit, and the article, "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved," was a blockbuster. Bill Cardoso, a Boston Globe editor, wrote to Thompson, "I don't know what the f--k you're doing, but you've changed everything. It's totally gonzo." The word came from the French Canadian -- a corruption of "gonzeaux," Cardoso says, French Canadian for "shining path." A star was born.
Ralph Steadman, his long-time friend, a cartoonist who illustrated many of his works, wasn't surprised when Thompson committed suicide. "No, because he told me he would do it one day if life became so unbearable for him, a trap, which he was in. A physical trap. He couldn't walk, he had two hip replacements, he broke his ankle and he was like an old man on a stick. Is that the image of Hunter S Thompson he wanted to remember? It was a trap and he had to get out of it. He tried, he married again, he had a lovely young wife and he just felt I can't live in this, that beat him actually and I think he sat there and felt this is it, now is the moment and he blew his brains out."
Howe's advice seems particularly apt, because an appraisal of Thompson and his work somehow needs to take into account the extraordinary outpouring of reaction from writers and journalists of all stripes and ages that has occurred over the past week. Every reporter who ever met Thompson — however briefly — attended one of his purposely incoherent lectures or once owned a paperback copy of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" seemed gripped by an irresistible impulse to tell the rest of us what "Hunter" meant to them.
He thinks we should "get a grip." But why not write of what one thinks, of Thompson, of all people?
We were walking along West 46th Street toward a restaurant, The Brazilian Coffee House, when we passed Goldberg Marine Supply. Hunter stopped, ducked into the store and emerged holding a tiny brown paper bag. A sixth sense, probably activated by the alarming eyes and the six-inch rise and fall of his Adam's apple, told me not to ask what was inside. In the restaurant he kept it on top of the table as we ate. Finally, the fool in me became so curious, he had to go and ask, "What's in the bag, Hunter?"
"I've got something in there that would clear out this restaurant in 20 seconds," said Hunter. He began opening the bag. His eyes had rheostated up to 300 watts. "No, never mind," I said. "I believe you! Show me later!" From the bag he produced what looked like a small travel-size can of shaving foam, uncapped the top and pressed down on it. There ensued the most violently brain-piercing sound I had ever heard. It didn't clear out The Brazilian Coffee House. It froze it. The place became so quiet, you could hear an old-fashioned timer clock ticking in the kitchen. Chunks of churasco gaucho remained impaled on forks in mid-air. A bartender mixing a sidecar became a statue holding a shaker with both hands just below his chin. Hunter was slipping the little can back into the paper bag. It was a marine distress signaling device, audible for 20 miles over water.
I have no idea if Thompson's ashes will be fired out of a cannon, as he wanted and as seems appropriate (I should think a tiny bit of his ashes should also be mixed in a wide variety of choices of his favorite drugs, and offered around to his friends, as well; don't you?), but good luck to his family in that.
If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.
It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie-doll president, with his Barbie-doll wife and his boxful of Barbie-doll children is also America's answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string warts, on nights when the moon comes too close....
At the stroke of midnight in Washington, a drooling red-eyed beast with the legs of a man and head of a giant hyena crawls out of its bedroom window in the South Wing of the White House and leaps 50 feet down to the lawn ... pauses briefly to strangle the chow watchdog, then races off into the darkness...toward the Watergate, snarling with lust, loping through the alleys behind Pennsylvania Avenue and trying desperately to remember which one of those 400 iron balconies is the one outside Martha Mitchell's apartment.
Ah...nightmares, nightmares. But I was only kidding. The President of the United States would never act that weird. At least not during football season.
The last thing Hunter S. Thompson probably wants to do is rest in peace. If he's still anywhere (which I doubt, but nevermind), I hope you enjoy lots of guns, explosions, drugs, and giving folks twisted, badger-ripped, hell, Hunter.