October 13, 2004

chilly, chilly is the evening time Waterloo sunset's fine

* Allen Ginsberg told Kristine McKenna, in her new and excellent book of interviews, Talk To Her, that if he could own any single artwork it would be Brueghel's "The Triumph of Death," because "its so big and ingenious, and is such a masterpiece of black humor. It depicts thousands of skeletons bowing before a group of terrified living people who are pulling out their swords and struggling to battle down the skeletons. That was the first painting I saw when I was traveling through Europe in 1957. I went from Tangiers up into Madrid and to the Prado Museum, and bam, I saw that painting and it opened my eyes. Bosch's "Garden of Delights" is next to it, and both paintings are really terrific.

* Seymour Hersh spoke and Berkley last week and talked about a call he received from a lieutenant in Iraq, who had seen Americans massacring Iraqis. excerpt:

"I got a call last week from a soldier -- it's different now, a lot of communication, 800 numbers. He's an American officer and he was in a unit halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border. It's a place where we claim we've done great work at cleaning out the insurgency. He was a platoon commander. First lieutenant, ROTC guy.

"It was a call about this. He had been bivouacing outside of town with his platoon. It was near, it was an agricultural area, and there was a granary around. And the guys that owned the granary, the Iraqis that owned the granary... It was an area that the insurgency had some control, but it was very quiet, it was not Fallujah. It was a town that was off the mainstream. Not much violence there. And his guys, the guys that owned the granary, had hired, my guess is from his language, I wasn't explicit -- we're talking not more than three dozen, thirty or so guards. Any kind of work people were dying to do. So Iraqis were guarding the granary. His troops were bivouaced, they were stationed there, they got to know everybody...

"They were a couple weeks together, they knew each other. So orders came down from the generals in Baghdad, we want to clear the village, like in Samarra. And as he told the story, another platoon from his company came and executed all the guards, as his people were screaming, stop. And he said they just shot them one by one. He went nuts, and his soldiers went nuts. And he's hysterical. He's totally hysterical. And he went to the captain. He was a lieutenant, he went to the company captain. And the company captain said, 'No, you don't understand. That's a kill. We got thirty-six insurgents.'

"You read those stories where the Americans, we take a city, we had a combat, a hundred and fifteen insurgents are killed. You read those stories. It's shades of Vietnam again, folks, body counts...

"You know what I told him? I said, fella, I said: you've complained to the captain. He knows you think they committed murder. Your troops know their fellow soldiers committed murder. Shut up. Just shut up. Get through your tour and just shut up. You're going to get a bullet in the back. You don't need that. And that's where we are with this war." [via war and piece]

* Scientists digging up the grave of the great Italian poet Petrarch, found in the grave a skull that was not his. excerpt:

"Instead the skull belongs to a woman who died before the poet was born, project leader Vito Terribile Wiel Marin said Tuesday.

"Marin wanted to use Petrarch's bones to construct an image of the poet.

"'Thank God we did not do it because we would have ended up with the face of a woman, much to everyone's amusement,' Marin said by phone from his home in Padua in northern Italy.

"Petrarch was born in Tuscany in 1304 and is considered second only to Dante in the pantheon of Italian poets. His tomb is in Arqua-Petrarca, a village near Padua where the poet died in 1374.

"Marin and his colleagues suspected in April that the skull was not Petrarch's, but sent a fragment to the United States for carbon dating to be sure.

"The results showed that the head belonged to a woman who died between 1134 and 1280."


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