October 25, 2004

Life's just a cocktail party on the street

* Wollcott is fantastic:

"Forget it. Fineman will never obtain a lasting clue about anything. His translucent shell of professional narcissism is impregnable.

"This morning I saw him on Chris Matthews' weekly show--the one where Matthews doesn't sound as if he's bouncing off the walls of his own brain--and Fineman was talking about the excitement on the Democratic side. He said that thousands were turning up at rallies all 'pumped up.'

"'Are they pumped up about Kerry?' he asked. 'No. His job is to come across as normal and acceptable to--'

"At which point I changed channels.

"First of all, how does Fineman know the crowds aren't pumped up for Kerry? Did he attend these rallies? Did he ask anyone? No, he's assuming, as most of the media elite do, that no one could possibly be "up" for a Kerry event because the media narrative is that Kerry is a stiff hunk of bark.

"As reflected in Adam Nagorney telling Charlie Rose that heck he has more charisma than poor Kerry.

"Really, Adam? You think you could hold the interest of 12,000 people, as Kerry did at a recent rally in Reno, Nevada?

"You're the kind of putz people walk away from at cocktail parties!

"Forgive me for shouting, but this stuff burns my waffles. It's the same junk we heard from Chris Matthews' crew and all the other clique queens in the press about Al Gore as Gore was wowing crowds and closing in for the kill in 2000.

"That's why Jon Stewart's takedown of Tucker Carlson was greeted with gratitude and joy everlasting."

* Toronto's NOW talks with Art Spiegelman, among other things, author of In the Shadow of No Towers. [via maud newton] excerpt:

"His latest book, In The Shadow Of No Towers, contains his response to the events of September 11, 2001. The hefty, oversized tome includes 10 broadsheet-sized plates depicting his impassioned, insightful and horrified reactions both to the terrorist attacks and to what he calls 'the hijacking of the hijacking' by the Bush administration.

"One of the most controversial images in the book consists of Spiegelman in a Maus mask, two figures hovering over him one a bin Laden type brandishing a scimitar, the other a Bush-like character wielding a gun. Referring to that image in simultaneous reviews, Time magazine called him a moron while Newsweek labelled him a genius.

"It was Spiegelman's shrill tone that frightened editors of many left-leaning magazines and newspapers that previously had courted and published him. After 9/11, no one, not even the New Yorker where he was a staff artist and writer for 10 years would touch the work.

"'Shrill?' he shouts. 'Listen, if I had been making Maus in 1943, it would have been pretty fucking shrill!' He calms down. 'At the time, I honestly didn't feel I was going to be around to see any sort of book made at all. You can't say 'The sky is falling!' while wearing a monocle.'

"The fact that he couldn't find a mainstream American outlet for the work saddened but didn't surprise him.

"'In the wake of September 11, at least on these shores, the news media abdicated their responsibilities. They either wanted access to power or were guilty of misguided patriotism or were afraid of being seen as unpatriotic if they were critical. As a result, this was a lonely place for a while.'

"In the end, he ended up publishing the work in a German weekly called Die Zeit, as well as an American Jewish publication called The Forward. Jews and Germans together: talk about ironies. Other European publications eventually picked up the work.

"'They were my own coalition of the willing,' he smiles. 'The funny thing is, in Europe my opinions weren't on the fringes.'"
"'The whole incident made me re-examine what was permanent,' he says thoughtfully. 'We thought those stupid towers would be up there forever. And here were these comics that were created by people who figured they would be fish wrap 24 hours later.'

"For the book, he singled out specific images that carry sinister or ironic implications for a reader today. In one, a boy named Nemo and his racial stereotype of an African companion are manoeuvring through a tiny version of Lower Manhattan, chased by another boy who knocks down several towers. In another, a character named Abdullah the Arab Chief accidentally causes a tower of acrobats to collapse.

"'Look!' he exclaims. 'That could come from the pen of Susan Sontag.'

"It's not a coincidence that his book tour for No Towers coincides with the lead-up to the American election. At an interview and book signing at Washington Square Park, he doesn't hold back his anger at Bush, although he won't call it Bush-bashing.

"'That makes him sound like some gay guy who got caught in an alleyway a victim as opposed to a victimizer,' he tells the crowd.

"'The thing is,' he says the next day in his studio, 'we're living in an incredibly dangerous moment that requires a regime change. If going out and talking to people can change things, great. It sure feels better than yelling at my TV set on a nightly basis. That's why the tour intentionally goes up to November 1.'"

* David Berman will be doing a reading (not a musical performance)Wednesday, October 27 in Bloomington, Indiana at the Rose Firebay Theatre at John Waldron Art Center. Please contact the Art Center directly for the time of the performance.


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