Ken Nordine, yeah I know that guy, I heard his voice 1000 times, he’s the guy in the bus station that says “go ahead I’ll keep an eye on your stuff for you,” and you see him the next day walking around town wearing your clothes. He broadcasts from the boiler room of the Wilmont Hotel with 50,000 watts of power. I know that voice, he’s the guy with the pitchfork in your head saying go ahead and jump, and he’s the ambulance driver who tells you you’re going to pull thru. He’s the guy in the control tower who talked you down in a storm with a hole in your fuselage and both engines on fire. I heard him barking thru the Rose Alley Carnival strobe as samurai firemen were pulling hose. Yeah, he’s the dispatcher with the heart of gold, the only guy up this late on the suicide hotline. Ken Nordine is the real angel sitting on the wire in the tangled matrix of cobwebs that holds the whole attic together. Yeah, Ken Nordine, he’s the switchboard operator at the Taft Hotel, the only place in town you can get a drink at this hour. You know Ken Nordine, he’s the lite in the icebox, he’s the blacksmith on the anvil in your ear.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Hank Levine & His Orchestra ~ Image Part 1
Goldfrapp ~ Lovely Head & Pilots
Nikki Giovanni ~ Ego Tripping
Ray Bryant ~ Up Above the Rock
Massive Attack featuring Terry Callier ~ Live With Me
Cornelius ~ Drop
Jenny Evans ~ In the Name of Love
Flora Purim ~ Preciso Aprender A Ser Só
Tenth & Parker featuring Mark Murphy ~ Kool Down
Ken Nordine ~ Faces in the Jazzamatazz
De-Phazz ~ Chez Clerambault
This Kid Named Miles ~ Ring of Fire
RJD2 ~ Ghostwriter
Flying Pop's ~ Côte Ouest
I'm not a New Yorker,
Though I do own a monocle,
While my ol' Pict patrimony
points to an apple-eyed,
as the static,
of all new nouns, towns,
Two-Paced Poverty of Mind
Ofttimes it leaps.
In the still of airs.
Or with solar flares:
Stuttering to move.
Often cutting a groove.
Like Mythe: If only slightly so.
Or/either: intending to cop and blow.
Upped or magnetically Poled.
More by way of through-put.
Leaving not, nor bulbs or fruits.
Lest there are roots therein.
Where iffy splendidz begin.
a hungering junkie.
With heavy permeability.
High in man de tact.
Tangled thick with time,
one de facto lacks:
Tipped for riches and gifts.
Dipped in a reality of grift.
While illusion carves its bent,
Dial delusion, curve the scent.
Extracting feelings to bury.
Retract reality: Hurry.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Monday, March 20, 2006
Before I tear in, let me begin by saying that I sincerely believe the Wachowski's simply can't write charismatic scripts. It seems that, somewhere along the road between Whitney M. Young Magnet High in Illinois, and the heady heights of an audience with 'The Architect' insisting 'Zion' was already five-times destroyed, they bypassed their Curie Point, and became artistically null and void.
For a moment, lets forget their next trick, and remember that for their last flick, they refused to do any press, interviews, or photo-ops whatsoever, insisting that 'the material' must speak for itself. Well, I'd advance a theory that it spoke volumes for 'the gimmies', and made these small men susceptible to complex, Napoleonic allegations of being greedy, self-abased elves, doing a pseudo ladder-shimmy.
I'd reason that it offers a retrospective ray of light for why they've chosen to now make an entire picture around an incuriously expressionless hero, while adding a salty insult to a stinging injury, by wasting the collective talents of Hurt, Graves, Biddle and Mazzotti. Sure, wearing a full facemask peels eyes over pulped pages, but on-screen it made 'V' oh-so-resistible, and for that you have to shoulder arms' blame onto those schnook sibling sages.
You would think that a comic book caper would fit right into their overuse of overhead shots, particularly given that trenchmate James Matrix McTeigue directed again here, but it takes more than a signature storyboard gimmick to hit the limit and break the skin that quickly formed over the top of this not-so-hot soupy shizit.
Further, for a screenplay with such dusty dialogue, it's doubly disappointing to say that neither the effects, the sound, the furious fantasy, or even the au courant arc save the day.
Less than intriguingly, the Wack Bros. have also written what is reckoned to be one of "the best unproduced films ever," at least according to Empire anyway. It's called Carnivore, and it remains frozen in their digital domain, somewhere between the cutting room floor and where the rain gets in by the bottom shelf. Perhaps art imitated life, and it ate itself?
Monday, March 13, 2006
Passing immediate judgement on Don's (and the Dan's) output is inadvisable. As I said in Planet Dan :
If Morph the Cat never quite promises to be an inexhaustible repository of "sensations which stagger the mind", à la Aja or The Nightfly, it clearly contains at least one stone-cold Don classic. Fagen's tribute to Ray Charles, What I Do, is superb, and the lyric is as erotically-energised as doing wrong with Miss Right in Manhattan at midnight:
A statutory prohibition should be placed upon Dan reviews until such time as the reviewer has adequately assimilated their latest languorous, languid, bittersweet, blissful, cryptic, cynical, entrancing, encoded communiqué into the bloodstream.Like love affairs Don & Walt’s work can only be evaluated and contextualized in retrospect. As assuredly as ephemeral lipstick traces mutate into life's lingering leitmotifs, the Dan’s spectral melodies and enigmatic lyrics haunt past, present and future, defying definition.
I say Ray, why do girls treat you nice that way
He said it's not what I know, what I think or say
It's what I do, It's what I do
It's deep beneath the skin
It's what I major in
It's what I do
Yes I come to play and I bring big soul
Well I could rock long before they named it
Rock & roll
It's what I do, it's what I do
I'm specially qualified
To keep 'em satisfied
It's what I do
You turn the lamp down low
And make her feel secure
You gotta show the girl
That she's the one you adore
If you want that sugar to pour
You bring some church but you leave no doubt
As to what kind of love you love to shout about
Its what I do, its what I do
If you can't dance by now The Raelettes will show you how
It's what I do
You turn the lamp down low
And make her feel secure
You gotta show the girl
That she's the one you adore
If you want that sugar to pour
He says Don don't despair- just take some time
You find your bad self- you're going to do just fine
It's what I do, it's what I do
It's not some game I play
It's in my DNA
It's what I do
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,
Since our incarnation as a destitute and sometimes diligent academic, we haven’t possessed a TV, much less cable. We lead a wonderfully Spartan life here in Cambridge, reading, writing, braving the Massachusetts winter. Like hermits, ascetics, Eskimos, or those lost natives of the Amazon with dangling members, it seems we have also lost the talent for chit-chat, small talk. Consequently, the opening episode of “The Sopranos” Season Six presented us with a project. We had to call up old friends, mend tenuous if not severed relationships, invest in wine, crackers, a pricy lump of cheese. It was an awkward encounter, a bona fide production.
Had Tony been in a similar predicament, he would have done things differently: the balding, bearish, flinty-eyed Soprano antihero would have showed up unannounced, yelled at his host (arguably Arty), consumed the six-pack he brought for himself, sprawled on the couch, hand jammed in trousers, cradling his testicles. Strangely, we understand the impulse. In fact, we have a visceral appreciation of Tony’s likes and dislikes, his aspirations and motivations, his rages, his lusts. Even Tony’s theme song, the moody, bluesy A3 number, resonates in quiet cantons of our head most mornings during Soprano season:
“When you woke up this morning everything you had was gone/
By half past ten your head was going ding-dong/
Ringing like a bell from your head down to my toes/
Like a voice telling you there was something you should know/
Last night you were flying but today you’re so low/
Ain’t it times like these that make you wonder/
If you’ll ever know the meaning of things as they appear to the others…”
Typically, we’d consider having our head checked. After all, identifying with a sociopath is always a troubling development. And Tony is not a mere sociopath; he’s serial adulterer, a misogynist, a man who considered murdering his own mother. He has no real friends and has people he calls friends murdered. He is a very, very bad man.
We have, of course, empathized with such men before, from Richard III to Patrick Bateman, American Psycho. In American popular culture, the antihero has a rich heritage. The protagonists that populate the canon of film noir, for instance, are real pieces of work. Mike Hammer, the antihero of “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955), is, as his name suggests, not a charming rogue but a brute. A commentator characterizes him as a “cheap and sleazy, contemptible, fascist private investigator/vigilante.” Hammer’s doppelgangers populate other genres of cinema, from the cool, squinty, monosyllabic and violent Blondie in the late Western, “The Good, Bad and Ugly” (1967) to the raging, foul-mouthed Cuban gangster, Tony Montana in DePalma’s gangster film, “Scarface” (1983).
Interestingly, David Liao makes the case that Scarface has even influenced gangsta rap:
“Perhaps no movie has had as conspicuous an impact on hip-hop, and more specifically the genre’s gangsta variation, as ‘Scarface’…Since its release, [it] has lent its dialogue, music, fashion and imagery to countless rap artists and their songs, such as Notorious B.I.G’s ‘10 Crack Commandments’ and Mobb Deep’s ‘It’s Mine.’ One rapper has even gone so far as to adopt ‘Scarface’ as a stage name, and build an entire career around references to the movie. Indeed, two decades later, it seems as if the very essence of De Palma’s film has been assimilated by the hip-hop community, or at least a highly prolific segment of it. Evidence of this can be seen in the 2003 album ‘Def Jam Recordings Present Music Inspired by Scarface,’ a compilation of songs by artists including Jay-Z, N.W.A, Ice Cube and even Grandmaster Flash.”
There may be some resonance of the classic American antihero in the rage of old-school gangsta rap but its ethos is informed by a different variety of disestablishmentarianism. Institutional racism dates back not more than a couple of generations and continues to exert itself. NWA’s beef with the police has little to do with Hammer and Blondie, Tony Soprano or Tony Montana. Their anthemns concern certain ground realities; in particular, the reality of being a young black man on the streets of Compton, LA:
“*uck tha police comin’ straight from the underground/
Young *igga got it bad cuz I’m brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority…
*uckin with me cuz I’m a teenager/
With a little bit of gold and a pager/
Searchin’ my car, lookin’ for the product/
Thinkin’ every *igga is sellin’ narcotics…”
Of course, this raw sentiment has since been appropriated and cheapened by hip-hop, repackaged and marketed for an audience of young white men who wear baggy jeans and tilted caps and furiously mouth manifestos while listening to their I-Pods. Faraway, in the banlieus of urban France, young North African men find meaning in hip-hop, in what Staley Crouch calls the “thug-and-slut minstrelsy,” and roving child soldiers in Sierra Leone also listen to it while hacking off limbs.
But perhaps we shouldn’t treat this generation with too much sarcasm. After all, back in the day, we listened to NWA as well (and can spout lyrics on demand). Why, boys and girls, are we all drawn to the antihero, black, or white?
Montana sagaciously mulled this question before us and arrived at the following conclusion:
“Whattaya lookin’ at? You’re all a bunch of *ucking *ssholes. You know why? ‘Cause you don’t have the guts to be what you wanna be. You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your *ucking fingers, and say ‘that’s the bad guy.” So, what dat make you? Good? You're not good; you just know how to hide. Howda lie. Me, I don’t have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth--even when I lie. So say goodnight to the bad guy. Come on; the last time you gonna see a bad guy like this, let me tell ya. Come on, make way for the bad guy. There’s a bad guy comin’ through; you better get outta his way!”
In this rather brilliant discursive philosophic pose, Montana seems to be suggesting the symbiotic duality of good and evil, an echo of the Zoroastrian creation myth, the Sufi malamti tradition, the business of Yin and Yang. Also inherent in his response is an allusion to Freudian tension, the Ego grating against the Id. (We here must note that we agree when Nabokov when he says, “Let the credulous and the vulgar continue to believe that all mental woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts.”) Parsing Montana’s pithy treatise is a project for a bigger, better man. We return, then, to our initial impulse, Tony Soprano, and pose a different, perhaps more interesting question altogether: why does “The Sopranos” command such popularity in America today?
That Tony is a sociopathic leader may have some resonance among a segment of the voting populace but this variety of exegesis seems somewhat facile to us (and as a young Muslim male in America today, not at all advisable.) No, we suspect that apart from being an intelligent, dramatic show (when every other critically feted production these days seems to be peculiarly undramatic, whether we’re talking “Capote,” “Good Night and Good Luck” or “A History of Violence”), “The Sopranos” evokes nostalgia for a simpler time, for simpler violence.
After 9/11, America, indeed the world, changed. The scourge of international terrorism suddenly threatened civilization. A “War On Terror” was waged. Now, there are different ground realties. Iraqis are daggers drawn, their country teetering on civil war. The Afghans have a smart new leader but continue shooting themselves in the foot as they have throughout their bloody history. And somewhere in the southern Afghanistan, in and around Helmand, lurks Osama bin Laden, and his one-eyed pal, Mullah Omar (who corroborates the proverbial theory that “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”). They are figures we cannot identity with. Tony Soprano may be a very bad guy but he’s goodfella. He whacks some people; he scratches his balls; he’s the sort of antihero we get. It’s kind of like the sage once said, “All I have in this world is my balls, and my word, and I don’t break ‘em for no one. Jou understand?” We do.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
In his current book, "An Offer We Can't Refuse: The Mafia in the Mind of America," George De Stefano bemoans the fact that young Italian Americans know themselves only through skewed popular images: "They know all about John Gotti but not John Fante." Unfortunately, you don't have to be Italian American not to know who John Fante was, though perhaps a few more will discover his work thanks to Robert Towne's adaptation of Fante's best-known novel, "Ask the Dust," starring Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek, which opens March 10.
If it weren't for Charles Bukowski, who regarded Fante as his (please excuse the term, but it applies) literary godfather and who dedicated poems to him, it's likely that few would remember Fante's name today. Bukowski, who was known in the early part of his literary career to go around shouting, "I am Arturo Bandini!" in tribute to Fante's ebullient, raw-nerved literary alter ego, was instrumental in getting Fante's books back into print in the late '70s, shortly before Fante's death in 1983. (Twelve of his books are currently in print from Ecco, including all four of the Arturo Bandini novels.)
Fante -- the name rhymes with Dante, which must have afforded no end of amusement to someone whose best-known character constantly proclaimed a desire to be "the world's greatest writer" -- is one of the true bad boys of 20th century American literature. Born in 1909 and raised in an Italian American ghetto in, of all places, Boulder, Colo., Fante fits into no particular niche. Many refer to him as the quintessential L.A. novelist -- not exactly the most glowing of recommendations, but one that does take in, after all, Raymond Chandler and Nathanael West, whose "Day of the Locust" was published in 1939, the same year as "Ask the Dust." (Michael Tolkin, author of "The Player," is a longtime admirer of Fante's work. He recently told the Los Angeles Times that if the Los Angeles school system was serious about its curriculum, it would "make 'Ask the Dust' mandatory reading.")
Others have called him the big brother of the Beats. Italian Americans have never known quite what to do with him; second-generation Italian Americans might display a copy of "Christ in Concrete" by Pietro Di Donato on their bookshelves (as my father did), even though Di Donato was a communist, because, after all, he had achieved some measure of respect in the literary world, as few Italian Americans had. But John Fante was notorious. My father's generation didn't read him, or didn't admit to reading him, which is a shame because in many ways he was the writer who most embodied the hopes, dreams and insecurities of the children of immigrants.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Just when you thought it couldn't possibly get any more wrist-slashingly boring, the boringness collapsed in on itself and became a deadly howling void of terrible sucking from which the light of no star could escape. These Oscars were so hideously uptight, they got pulled down a worm-hole and traveled light-years, on and on, forever, until they finally ended up in the darkest, airless regions of some fat, ultraconservative's welded-on undershorts. Somehow, the roaring vacuum of these Oscars even killed the chi of the Golden Boy, our very own Jon Stewart. He began apologizing within 20 minutes, once he realized he'd never get his ankles out of the anaconda.
How ... HOW did Jon Stewart suck so hard?
I think somebody MADE him suck. I think there was some serious Hollywood penitentiary shower-shanghai going down. Somebody stuck Jon Stewart in the tent with Oscar and made him commit unnatural acts of sucking. I don't want to name names, but I think it was probably J.C. Penney himself.
Walk it off, Jon. Sasha Cohen showed us that you can fall on your ass and still lose with dignity. It's just not America's year.
A few things were surprising: We thought this was going to be the Gay Oscars. Instead it was the "Hey, you fearfully ignorant red-state hick-weeds: Hollywood is America's social conscience and history proves that we've always been smarter than you" Oscars. Oscar was being defensive, because Hollywood is tired of being called dirty names by the no-necked monsters hanging around the White House bowling alley.
I am beginning to think that the Oscars are doing for Hollywood what the Gap and Banana Republic did for American fashion, for a while -- which was to lock the whole chaotic scene into a flavorless, oatmeal-colored safety zone. Once a decision is made to be tasteful and risk-free, all spark, soul, variety, sleaze, spontaneity and fun go right out the window.
I had this list of awards I was sure I was going to be able to hand out from my upside-down perch in my bat-cave, and was disappointed to not be able to use them:
Shiniest, Pinkest Face-lift: Hell, nobody had a really shitty, pneumatic one where the skin is all raw and as lineless as an uncooked chicken breast. Everyone on camera was fairly natural-looking. Snore.
Moment Jon Stewart Looked Most Manic-Depressive: I thought there would just be one or two, but you could see his "my material and I are tanking" realization dawning within the first 20 seconds. He hopefully tried to airlift the thing for a while, but after the second commercial break his mood just plummeted unchecked, until he finally became bravely and professionally glum, soldiering forward with all the glee of a rescue worker who continues to try to relieve suffering when he secretly knows that All Is Doomed.
Most Rambling, Self-Indulgent, Ungrateful Twit (aka the James Cameron Award): Again, nobody was really outstanding in this category. The jackbooted Oscar brass must have sent out a DMV-style "Rules of Tasteful Oscar Participation" etiquette guide, and threatened bold penalties for those who went astray. This helpfully eliminated most human error from the evening, and totally ruined everything.
Star Most Insouciantly Acting as if This Event Were Totally Unimportant in the Scheme of Things: Again, what was with all the infuriatingly respectful, middle-of-the-road, nondrunken behavior? Did they breathalyze all the celebs before they let them in the Kodak auditorium?
Camille Paglia asked the right question: Are there no capital-N Narcissists left in Hollywood? No wonder box-office receipts are so grim. No obnoxiously starlike stars are allowed on campus anymore. I guess the honchos now regard such egocentricity as too problematic to deal with. To be a Hollywood success these days, you have to be reasonable and polite. It really makes me pine for notorious tyrants like Vincent Gallo and Faye Dunaway -- sure, they're impossible, tantrum-throwing wack jobs ... that's the same mental illness that makes them preternaturally fun to watch.
Best and/or Worst Use of Double-Sided Nipple Tape: This year, the Academy Awards proclaimed that they were embracing a "Return to Glamour" -- but there were no nipples to contend with for the second year in a row. There wasn't even a particularly plunging neckline in sight -- just ill-fitting, strapless, ace-bandage-type '50s ball gowns. Yet another edict from the brass, I'm sure, which seems to be nostalgically yearning for nice, decent girls like Debbie Boone. Look for gloves and headscarves next year, and some kind of rule against indecent ankle exposure.
Most Sarcastic Hair: Nope. Tim Burton, maybe, but his sarcastic hair has been sarcastic for so long it is now totally sincere. Luke and Owen Wilson, Russell Crowe and Jake Gyllenhaal all showed their solidarity with the incarcerated George Michael by sharing the award for Most Passive-Aggressive, "I Can't Be Buggered to Shave for This Tiresome, Whorish Event, Because It Is Not Art" Facial Hair.
Person Who Will Require the Most Amount of Therapy Later to Overcome Their Embarrassment: Jon. It's not even funny. I'm worried. He needs our prayers.
Most Burnt-Sienna Spray Tan: That went to J.Lo, who is going into Latin overdrive and obviously allowing the wrong family members on her payroll to do her ethnic bronzing job. Her contouring had the unfortunate effect of making her forehead look wildly convex, as if a toboggan were trying to emerge from it, fully formed.
Most Self-Loathing Zero-Body-Fat Fitness Nazi: You had to be around for the preshow, but that went to Lisa Rinna, who looked as if she had been training for some kind of new, inverted, yogic speed-skating event where she did handstands with the skates on her fists and built enormous quadriceps in her arms and shoulders. And then she steeped in the vat of Guinness-colored tanning dip. And then she had a pit crew keeping her breasts inflated to exactly the right pressure.
All in all, good people got good awards ... and that's good, I guess. There were some solidly good movies (although I wouldn't have listed "Crash" among them). Philip Seymour Hoffman is a hugely talented guy, as is Ang Lee and George Clooney and Rachel Weisz and etc.
But something was rotten in the Kodak auditorium. It wasn't obvious to me, at first.
I like Reese Witherspoon, and I thought she did a very fine, thoughtful and nuanced job of being June Carter -- a very bossy and righteous ball-buster who was still miraculously lovable. She deserved the trophy.
Reese is a very, very nice girl. A nice Southern sorority debutante with a nice marriage and nice children and nice morals. Nice. Upstanding. Proper. Acts like a decent lady. This reeks of some kind of subterranean, 1950s social conditioning to me. Maybe I'm paranoid, but what with abortions slowly becoming illegal across the bleak states, I have a queasy suspicion that if, say, "Klute" had come out this year, with Jane Fonda playing the intelligent, sassy, empowered hooker, not only would she not have been nominated, but, really, the film would have never been made.
I think Hollywood is tacitly endorsing a Good Behavior code that I find frightening. Sure, the entertainment industrial complex recognizes minorities and good causes and champions them -- but it also disallowed the winning song, "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp," from using the word "bitches" in the broadcast. I mean, really. The word "bitch" has been commonplace on prime-time TV since ... when ... "Dynasty"? At the latest?
George Carlin's act in the early '70s listed the Seven Words You Can't Say on TV as "shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits." Not a "bitch" on that list, although it seems to have suddenly been added. Joan Rivers' red-carpet color commentary was distinctly decolorized, at least when it came to blue: Her monologue was bleeped out so often, it had more holes than a document released through the Freedom of Information Act.
This alarms me.
When you allow permissiveness and open-mindedness to devolve, shut down and roll back, it's a slippery slope all the way back to the Stone Age, where pretty soon you won't even be able to swear on TV in a dead language if you want to.
Sleaze doesn't go away. You can marginalize it, ghettoize it, hide the dirt under your nails beneath nice white gloves ... but the dirt is still there, people. It needs to be healthily integrated into the cultural psyche. Denial of these impulses doesn't work so well -- which was, ironically, the underlying, consciousness-raising message of "Brokeback Mountain."
To not trust ourselves with a free use of harmless, naughty things is to suggest that we don't have enough inherent goodness or flexibility or strength to absorb some light shock. Moral certainty is the enemy, my friends. Not the word "bitch," taken in its proper context, e.g. an autobiographical song written by a fictional pimp.
I think the worst thing about the whole evening was that Hollywood was trying to paint itself as a machine that makes bold, brave and radical statements to the world. It sang its own praises for being an organism that tenaciously upholds the torch of forward, open-minded thinking in the face of oppressive forces, and for championing tolerance, peace, awareness and free speech.
And all night long, there they were, censoring the living fuck out of themselves.
So, OK, Clooney: I hate to say it, but it's time to make a social consciousness documentary about Howard Stern. Who'd have thunk that Howard Stern would have to become Lenny Bruce, and fight those awful fights all over again? Who would have thunk we'd have to fight for abortion rights all over again? What's next on this fearful agenda? Separate water fountains?
Look what coloring too far inside the lines did to our boy Jon Stewart Sunday evening. Do we need more proof that this kind of conformity is evil and deadly and soul-assassinating?
I would like to thank Ms. Camille Paglia for adding a whole lot of wit and intelligence to the podcast and for expertly negotiating my torrents of profane blathering. That podcast was a lot of fun and everything -- but in the end, it was like trying to jump-start a dead whale: There was no imposing life on the subject, and after a while, the putrid goo just got everywhere.
Life is good. We seem to be forgetting this in our zeal to make it cleaner. You have to take the bitch with her warts and all. Cut too many small parts off, the soul is forced out. Impose too much control, freedom dies.
I wonder if Chris Penn and Shelley Winters had to pass because there was no oxygen for their burning spirits in the airtight Hollywood terrarium this year. I hope Oscar decides to start breathing again soon. I hope America decides to be actually free again, too, instead of just loudly congratulating itself for having freedom while slowly and sneakily cutting more and more small parts off of it.
Freedom: Love it or lose it. It will be much harder to jump-start that whale after it's dead than to protect it while it's still alive. If Hollywood really wants to pretend it's useful, it should at least protect itself.
Originally published here
For a half-hour, I watched and wondered as this award-winning programme juxtaposed a live interview with Dr Ali A. Larijani, Iran's Chief Negotiator for Nuclear Issues at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, with some bellicosely brazen rhetoric brimming from America's UN Ambassador, Mr John R. Bolton, to a hand-picked horde of Israeli sympathisers.
Now, I'm totally Swiss when it comes to matters of the dark arts of international diplomacy, and by that I mean: I'm nobody's "hater". So, it's with the clearest of conscience that I reveal my wonder at who is the real wrong-doer here, and who is taking an understandable view of national security. By the time the piece finished, amid a segued sequence of voluble vox pops from Capitol Hill hawks, one could have justifiably joked to oneself: "These Yanks are nuts!"
There are scores of arguments on both sides, of course...
For, it is undeniable that Iran has benefitted from the quagmire the US has created inside Iraq – but whose fault is that, folks? – while allegations continue to persist of Iranian intervention on behalf of various insurgent factions therein. Yet, Iran has assisted the US-led Coalition in Afghanistan, and this despite there being zero prospect of a US Embassy reopening in Tehran.
If the recent remarks attributed to the Iranian President by sections of the Western media – about "wiping Israel off the map" – are obviously outrageous, you've got to keep in mind the geography of incitement: Israel have some 200 nuclear warheads to fiddle with, and they are constantly threatening the Iranians. (The difference is, of course, that they enjoy immunity because of their bald eagle ally).
Further, while the current administration purports to spread freedom and democracy across this sweet swinging sphere, whose model of democracy is that? Why, lets not forget already that the Palestinians recently elected Hamas by legitimate means... only to have their US-funding freezed. Remember too, that a CIA-financed coup overthrew a democratic Iranian regime in 1953, replacing them with a hand-picked despotic autocracy, and this long-before Reagan's seminal Contra hypocrisy. Of course, it is only natural to endeavour to control the proliferation of nuclear cuckolds... but it's the US, and not Iran, who is bent onto a constant war foothold.
One also has to wonder what role the international community is playing in this brinkmanship, particularly when the Russians are directly involved, and when the Chinese already have 20% of US GDP in their pocket. Contrast that with the UK, France and Germany's stance. So, who's ball-bustin' who?
My own view, is that this is an instrumental struggle, to decide who is dancing to whose tune.
We'll have to wait and see what outcome this week brings, but at least this long-running soap has, among the cast of its many cross-purposed characters, a number of diplomatic doves in Washington, who will resist the hardline hawks for as long as there is 15 Round Bout feathers flying a flag for the Rest of the World Team.
Amid all of the Muslim misrepresentation, the Secular confusion, and the media's 'misconstrusion,' let us not forget that these dudes have a sense of humour too. We'll maybe never get it, mind you, because our perspective is fit to be tied, and paralysed by way of some received dim view.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Casa del ionesco eagerly awaits the imminent release of music and video from the collaboration between surrealist auteur, David Lynch and bewitchingly beautiful chanteuse, Chrysta Bell. In the meantime, this video, from DutchRall.com, tells us all we need to know about why Dave fell for the Texan belle:
Chrysta Bell video
Please note this is a RealPlayer video file.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Christopher Hart reviews "Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show" by Rachel Shteir.
The Innocence of the Striptease
Rachel Shteir’s history of the striptease is also a celebration of a vanished art form. She obviously relishes her subject, and her relish is infectious. Not for her the dour puritanism of first-wave feminists, who would insist on taking pity on their poor, exploited sisters on stage. But nor, one senses, would she subscribe to the post-feminist notion that for a woman to sport artificial GG breasts is somehow liberating and, gulp, “ empowering”. Her account of the disappearance of erotic undressing before the onslaught of hardcore porn is a sad one; because, in its heyday, striptease was a lot of glamour and fun.
Was it ever exploitative? Well, it certainly wasn’t a prelude to prostitution, as some might glibly assume; and although she finds one tragic example of a stripper who was also a heroin addict and committed suicide, it is only one case among many happier stories: tragic, but not statistically significant. Most of the women made a great deal of money, and managed their careers with a fierce independence.
Even though Shteir is a fully fledged academic (associate professor of dramaturgy and dramatic criticism at DePaul University), her writing style is elegant, vivid and mercifully free of jargon. Not for her the kind of soporific bilge spouted by too many of her peers. Indeed, she quotes a little mockingly from a forerunner of such jargon-mongers, Roland Barthes, to show the path she will not be taking. Here is the great Gallic thinker in 1957, writing on the G-string: “This ultimate triangle, by its pure and geometric form, by its brilliant and hard material, brandishes sex like a pure sword and re-imagines the woman in a mineralogical universe, the precious stone being here the irrefutable theme of the total and unuseful object.” In 1955, the French actually founded an Académie du Striptease. Thank God for les Anglo-Saxons and their pragmatism.
Shteir dwells much more on the lives of actual striptease artists than on windy abstractions or academic arguments, and this is the book’s great strength. There is a wealth of marvellous biographical detail here, with the leading players lit up in the full glare of the garish footlights. Striptease stars such as Blaze Starr, Tempest Storm, Lili St Cyr, Dodo d’Homberg and Rita Cadillac — even the names are redolent of a past age, far from a world where hardcore porn is a click away. One stripper, Sherry Britton, fainted when she first revealed herself on stage, although it seems she soon got the hang of it, and was gaily balancing glasses of water on her breasts.
Such acts could earn the girls a lot of cash. $500 a week for a top stripper was the usual rate in the 1930s, and $1,000 not unheard of, at a time when, Shteir points out, the editor of Vanity Fair was earning $35 a week. The stripper Rose Zelle Rowland did even better by marrying her sugar daddy, the Belgian financier Baron d’Empain, who owned the Egyptian railway system, among other things.
A number of the women had time to develop their minds in between flaunting their bodies, more like geisha girls, or the hetaerae of ancient Greece, than modern-day porn stars. Ann Corio negotiated herself not only a grand a week plus 25% of the house take, but, when asked how she spent the time backstage between shows, said that she liked to read Spinoza and Omar Khayyam. Well paid, well read, cultured, and perhaps rather amused by the fascination that their own nakedness held for men, these were clearly no dim, exploited dollybirds.
My favourite stripper by far in this gallery of nudes must be the wonderful Gypsy Rose Lee, with her “regal persona”. The girl was Dorothy Parker in a G-string. Hard-nosed and sassy, she understood her craft precisely. “The naked skin to the naked eye is just so much epidermis,” she said. It’s what’s “hinted at rather than hollered about” that is erotic. Gypsy Rose could do an absurdly demure but tantalising routine that began with her on stage in a long polka dot skirt, like a virgin bride on her honeymoon night; or she could do an almost absent-minded routine in which she stripped right down while chatting casually to her audience about whatever came into her head, as a wife might talk to her husband in the bedroom. Perhaps that was its intimate appeal, though it could also be extremely funny. She would even teeter about on stage, rolling down her garters while explaining to her admirers why she simply couldn ’t strip to the music of Brahms.