March 31, 2005

click clack and I'm back

* Wolcott on Joe Scarborough:

"And then there's Joe Scarborough. Because I have a heart, I removed a couple of pages from by book Attack Poodles about the death of Lori Klausitis, a young staffer for then Republican Congressman Scarborough whose body was discovered in his district office. He was in Washington, DC at the time of her death, but there were some iffy aspects about her case and unlike the Gary Condit situation, this mini-mystery got no play in the national media since it didn't plug into the horny Clinton Democrats-interns meme. I wrote about it in a Vanity Fair column but when I reworked the column for the book, its inclusion bothered me; there was something tonally wrong about it that clashed with the rest of the text, and I heard that Scarborough had been upset about it when it came out and that it caused distress to his new family. I had also heard from more than one person that he was not a bad guy off camera, funny and unpretentious, which also tilted towards leniency. I felt I could make my points about him as a TV personality without the passage, so I cut it, and hearing second-hand he was concerned about the book, called him up to tell him so. We had a very pleasant, brief conversation, and that was it.

"I still don't regret cutting it, but I really think it's the last time I'm cutting anyone on the other side the slightest slack. Joe Scarborough may be a nice guy off-camera, but his performance in the Schiavo case has been one of the most disgusting stretches in cable-news history--the biggest blotch on MSNBC's record since the hiring/firing of Michael Savage, and you would have thought Rick Kaplan would have learned something from the blunder of his predecessor instead of letting Scarborough lash and trash night after night. He has become such an odious, poisonous joke that his own guests are telling him, "You should be ashamed of the show you are running" (scroll down), and asking, 'How can you possibly be so stupid?'

"Joe Scarborough is just a symptom, a noisy, ignorant, pimply symptom to be sure, but still. The real malefactors are the men in executive suits and suites who put such a bozo on the air and allow him to plant his shoes on the dying body of Terri Schiavo and use her as a political soapbox and religious pulpit. It's conservatives who are dehydrating her, draining every last drop of dignity from her death."

* "A boy doesn't have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn't like pie when he sees there isn't enough to go around." -- Edgar Watson Howe

* Where is the Counterculture when we Need It? excerpt:

"But why was there so much counter-movement in the 1950s - including coffee houses, cool jazz, the civil rights drive, existentialism, and the beats - and so little today? Why, at a time when the country is more bitterly divided and more overflowing with alienation than at any moment in modern history is so little of the angst expressed in alternative action, culture or community rather than largely in criticism, complaints, protests, depression and despair? Where is the counterculture when we need it?

"To be sure, elements can be found on a localized, random, or individual scale. Temporary autonomous zones, in Hakim Bey's fine phrase, exist across our land - from persistent strains of rebellion of the west coast to smaller and more fragile manifestations such as the Ugly Fishermen, a book club I visited the other night comprised largely of former peace corps volunteers in their 20s and 30s that was stocked with more conviction, consciousness and thoughtful self-examination than I ordinarily encounter in a whole month. There are also punk musicians, alternative agronomists, utopian urbanists, struggling ministers, stubborn social workers and others whose lack of mention here merely supports my point: although they share courage and conceptions, attitudes and ideals, we don't think of them as one, but only as lonely candles in the dark. And it is easy to forget they are even there.

"Some, mainly younger Americans, have told me that a counterculture is too much to expect. Every promising rebellion in our society these days quickly becomes commodified and corporatized. Certainly the road between Stonewall and Queer Eye has become stunningly short. MTV and record companies have stolen whole age cohorts for their rapacious purposes and Starbucks has even made the word coffeehouse suspect."

March 28, 2005

Love is like a bottle of gin

Recovering, slowly but surely, from a nasty case of food poisoning/fever. Back soon.

March 24, 2005

You rock me like a Pharaoh

Vesna Pavlovic, Kasina Hotel, Majdanpek, 2001. [photo via]

* Dowd. excerpt:

"Are the Republicans so obsessed with maintaining control over all branches of government, and are the Democrats so emasculated about not having any power, that they are willing to turn the nation into a wholly owned subsidiary of the church?

"The more dogma-driven activists, self-perpetuating pols and ratings-crazed broadcast media prattle about 'faith,' the less we honor the credo that a person's relationship with God should remain a private matter.
"Maybe President Bush should spend less time preaching about spreading democracy around the world and more time worrying about our deteriorating democracy.
"The president, who couldn't be dragged outdoors to talk about the more than a hundred thousand people who died in the horrific tsunami, was willing to be dragged out of bed to sign a bill about one woman his base had fixated on. But with the new polls, the White House seemed to shrink back a bit.
"The president and his ideological partners don't believe in separation of powers. They just believe in their own power. First they tried to circumvent the Florida courts; now they're trying to pack the federal bench with conservatives and even blow up the filibuster rule. But they may yet learn a lesson on checks and balances, as the federal courts rebuffed them in the Schiavo case.

"Mr. DeLay moved yesterday to file a friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court asking that Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube be restored while the federal court is deciding what to do. But as he exploits this one sad case, Mr. DeLay has voted to slash Medicaid by $15 billion, denying money to care for poor people in nursing homes, some on feeding tubes."

* At the Black Cat last night Robyn Hitchcock hoped "Emperor penguins would attack Karl Rove" and wished "a reincarnated Jimi Hendrix would take Don Rumsfeld's position" at the DOD. Certainly interesting ideas.

* Weird science: Skiers tan faster when skiing on powder. excerpt:

"Skiers get suntanned faster on new powder snow than on old, wet snow which absorbs far more of the sun's ultraviolet rays, according to Norwegian researchers.

"About 90 percent of the ultraviolet rays which cause suntans and sunburns reflect off the crystals in dry, new snow against just 10-20 percent from wet snow.

"'We get brown, or burnt, almost twice as fast on dry new snow as on wet, heavy snow,' said Berit Kjeldstad, a physics professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

"She said surroundings were often as important as whether it was sunny or cloudy for anyone seeking a tan."

March 23, 2005

Well you certainly are nice people

At the Moment of Death
-- by Frank Stanford

Girls kiss in the street

The cucumbers swell on the vine
And the lame cheerleader
Is let off early after the game.

Someone is thinking: are there enough
Smokes to go around,
Who will go for the coffee,
Will the ringing bother the others
On the party line?

No one can get through
To the house of the bereaved.

The coon dogs are lonely tonight,
But not the priest

I am still down
In Arkansas, still drinking
Charter and branch water,
Looking for a fight.

The undertaker creeps out of his daughter's room.
The janitor beats a spider with a broom.

To The Harbormaster
-- by Frank O'Hara

I wanted to be sure to reach you;
though my ship was on the way it got caught
in some moorings. I am always tying up
and then deciding to depart. In storms and
at sunset, with the metallic coils of the tide
around my fathomless arms, I am unable
to understand the forms of my vanity
or I am hard alee with my Polish rudder
in my hand and the sun sinking. To
you I offer my hull and the tattered cordage
of my will. The terrible channels where
the wind drives me against the brown lips
of the reeds are not all behind me. Yet
I trust the sanity of my vessel; and
if it sinks it may well be in answer
to the reasoning of the eternal voices,
the waves which have kept me from reaching you.

-- by David Lehman:

Every so often my father comes over
for a visit he hangs his overcoat and hat
on my hat rack I brief him on recent
developments and serve us coffee
he is surprised that I like to cook
once when he made an omelette
he flipped it in the air much to my delight
and it landed on the floor yes that
was the summer of 1952, he remembered
the high breakers and how fearless
I was running into the ocean anyway
the important thing is to see you doing
so well he said and took his coat and hat
and left before I remembered he was dead

In memory of William R. Fox, July 12, 1944 - March 23, 2002

March 22, 2005

People so busy, makes me feel dizzy

* David Brooks on the Masters of Sleaze. excerpt:

"...The sleazemasters of old look back into the land of the mortals and they see greatness in the form of Jack Abramoff.

"Only a genius like Abramoff could make money lobbying against an Indian tribe's casino and then turn around and make money defending that tribe against himself. Only a giant like Abramoff would have the guts to use one tribe's casino money to finance a Focus on the Family crusade against gambling in order to shut down a rival tribe's casino.

"Only an artist like Abramoff could suggest to a tribe that it pay him by taking out life insurance policies on its eldest members. Then when the elders dropped off they could funnel the insurance money through a private school and into his pockets.

"This is sleaze of a high order. And yet according to reports in The Washington Post and elsewhere, Abramoff accomplished it all.
"Yet it's important to remember this: A genius like Abramoff doesn't spring fully formed on his own. Just as Michelangelo emerged in the ferment of Renaissance Italy, so did Abramoff emerge from his own circle of creativity and encouragement.

"Back in 1995, when Republicans took over Congress, a new cadre of daring and original thinkers arose. These bold innovators had a key insight: that you no longer had to choose between being an activist and a lobbyist. You could be both. You could harness the power of K Street to promote the goals of Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich. And best of all, you could get rich while doing it!
"Soon the creative revolutionaries were blending the high-toned forms of the think tank with the low-toned scams of the buckraker. Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay's former chief of staff, helped run the U.S. Family Network, which supported the American family by accepting large donations and leasing skyboxes at the MCI Center, according to Roll Call. Michael Scanlon, DeLay's former spokesman, organized a think tank called the American International Center, located in a house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which was occupied, according to Andrew Ferguson's devastating compendium in The Weekly Standard, by a former "lifeguard of the year" and a former yoga instructor.

"Ralph Reed, meanwhile, smashed the tired old categories that used to separate social conservatives from corporate consultants. Reed signed on with Channel One, Verizon, Enron and Microsoft to shore up the moral foundations of our great nation. Reed so strongly opposes gambling as a matter of principle that he bravely accepted $4 million through Abramoff from casino-rich Indian tribes to gin up a grass-roots campaign.
"Abramoff's and Scanlon's Indian-gaming scandal will go down as the movement's crowning achievement, more shameless than anything the others would do, but still the culmination of the trends building since 1995. It perfectly embodied their creed and philosophy: "I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!!" as Abramoff wrote to Reed.

"They made at least $66 million.

"This is a major accomplishment. And remember: Abramoff didn't do it on his own.

"It took a village. The sleazo-cons thought they could take over K Street to advance their agenda. As it transpired, K Street took over them."

* Wolcott on Wolfowitz. excerpt:

"The argument for Paul Wolfowitz heading up the World Bank seems to be that he's not as vile as his fellow neocons; more caring and idealistic than his ideological cohorts, an almost poignant figure (to the point of Eric Alterman taking pity on him and chatting him up at a party). Well, anyone would look like the skim milk of human kindness compared to Richard Perle, Doug Feith, John Bolton, and Elliott Abrams. After all, every criminal enterprise has its degrees of iniquity. Reggie Kray was by every account a much nicer gangster than brother Ronnie. But it hardly justifies foisting him on our allies at the World Bank, no matter how gangrenous that institution.

"The truth is that Wolfowitz's judgment has been unfailingly wrong and he's either easily suckered or drawn to unsavory types.
"As Richard Ingrams, former editor of Private Eye and certainly no liberal, wrote in the London Observer this week:

"'Closely involved with both men was Richard Perle, another notable hawk. As Seymour Hersh writes in his book, Chain of Command: 'There was a close personal bond between Chalabi, Wolfowitz and Perle going back many years.' Perle was a business associate of the disgraced Daily Telegraph owner Lord Black, who, like Mr Chalabi, also finds himself accused of fraud.'

"One pictures them in the sauna together, sweating oil."

* 20 albums you should hear, according to John Darnielle. excerpt:

Red Mecca, Cabaret Voltaire
This one's from just shortly before the Cabs hit what most people think of as their prime period, but I prefer my Cabaret Voltaire a little more raw. In the middle period, the band sounds like they're at war with themselves over something obscure. This album starts off a little weak but once you lock into its bleak dystopian groove there's no stopping it. Music for machines to sing to their android babies.

Sky Motel, Kristin Hersh
This album stays in the iPod even when everything else gets purged; massively underrated record in the Kristin Hersh catalog! The guitars are really pretty, all chorus'd and flange'd out, and the lyrics are cutting, hard, hermetic, great.

Natural Bridge, Silver Jews
Such great lyrics, such subtle melodies, such canny musicianship. The drumming on "Pet Politics" is especially subtle and great. But every song's got little lyrical gems to be dug up & wondered-at.

Manzanita, Mia Doi Todd
Another confessional folk record. Years ago I ran from confessional stuff like a villager fleeing the Visigoths but how can anybody resist Mia's voice and how close to the bone she's willing to go? I love the world when I listen to this record.

March 21, 2005

Don't lean on me man, 'cos you can't afford the ticket

* Top 10 conservative idiots. excerpt:

"1. Congressional Republicans

The story of Terri Schiavo is a sad one. She exists in a vegetative state and is kept alive by a feeding tube. Her parents want her to remain that way, her husband of twenty-one years wants to remove the feeding tube, and the courts have become involved. But last week Republicans on Capitol Hill lost their minds and decided to make a political issue out of Schiavo's case.

First they issued a subpoena which in theory prevented the courts from taking further action in the case, but also raised the possibility of Schiavo being wheeled in front of a committee so that Republicans could use her as a political prop. Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill 'HIV Can Be Transmitted Via Sweat' Frist took to the Senate floor to dispute the diagnosis that Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state - based on a video that he had spent 'an hour or so looking a'" - which caused raised eyebrows among medical experts and ethicists. Tom Delay called the case "an act of medical terrorism," demonstrating once again that Republicans will play the terrorism card on just about any issue. John McCain suggested that Terri Schiavo should divorce her husband, despite the fact that Republicans are constantly harping on about the sacred bond of marriage between a man and a woman.

But all this rhetoric is put neatly into perspective by the revelation that Senate Republicans circulated a talking points memo last week explaining why they should try to make political hay out of Terri Schiavo. The memo stated that the 'pro-life base will be excited' and that it is a 'great political issue - this is a tough issue for Democrats.' Excited? Great? Do these ghouls have no shame whatsoever?"
"6. War Profiteers

"Last week the House of Representatives approved yet another $80+ billion request by Our Great Leader to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's about $300 billion or so we've spent on these wars since Bush came to power. Impressive. Of course, all the money is going to a good cause, right? I mean, surely its worth cutting child services, education, and health care in this country so that the Iraqi people can elect an Islamic theocracy, thus severely punishing the people who attacked us on 9/11... wait a second, that doesn't sound right.

Anyway, there's no need to worry at all about where this money might be going because helpful corporations such as Halliburton will be taking care of it. Why, just last week it was revealed that Halliburton had bought gasoline from Kuwait for $82,000 and then charged the Pentagon $27 million to transport it into Iraq. In fact, Pentagon auditors reckon the amount of overbilling by Halliburton on fuel imports alone adds up to $108 million dollars.

So as you can see, destroying Iraq was the smart thing to do. Not only do companies with extremely close ties to the Bush administration now get to make vast profits off the backs of the American taxpayer, we also get to cut programs at home for those who need them the most! It's a win-win situation!"

* Tom Waits' 20 favorite records. [via] excerpt:

"2. Solo Monk by Thelonious Monk (Columbia) 1964

Monk said 'There is no wrong note, it has to do with how you resolve it'. He almost sounded like a kid taking piano lessons. I could relate to that when I first started playing the piano, because he was decomposing the music while he was playing it. It was like demystifying the sound, because there is a certain veneer to jazz and to any music, after a while it gets traffic rules, and the music takes a backseat to the rules. It's like aerial photography, telling you that this is how we do it. That happens in folk music too. Try playing with a bluegrass group and introducing new ideas. Forget about it. They look at you like you're a communist. On Solo Monk, he appears to be composing as he plays, extending intervals, voicing chords with impossible clusters of notes. 'I Should Care' kills me, a communion wine with a twist. Stride, church, jump rope, Bartok, melodies scratched into the plaster with a knife. A bold iconoclast. Solo Monk lets you not only see these melodies without clothes, but without skin. This is astronaut music from Bedlam.

3. Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart (Straight) 1969

The roughest diamond in the mine, his musical inventions are made of bone and mud. Enter the strange matrix of his mind and lose yours. This is indispensable for the serious listener. An expedition into the centre of the earth, this is the high jump record that'll never be beat, it's a merlot reduction sauce. He takes da bait. Dante doing the buck and wing at a Skip James suku jump. Drink once and thirst no more."

* How many American POWS died while captured by the insane and lawless North Vietnamese during the entire Vietnam war? 113. From all causes. What killed the 108 (so far) reported in our custody? Mostly 'violent causes.' [via]

March 18, 2005

The ghosts of a different dream are singing

--by Patti Smith

I keep trying to figure out what it means
to be american. When I look in myself
I see arabia, venus, nineteenth-century
french but I can't recognize what
makes me american. I think about
Robert Frank's photographs -- broke down
jukeboxes in gallup, new mexico...
swaying hips and spurs...ponytails and
syphilitic cowpokes. I think about a
red, white and blue rag I wrap around
my pillow. Maybe it's nothing material
maybe it's just being free.

Freedom is a waterfall, is pacing
linoleum till dawn, is the right to
write the wrong words, and I done
plenty of that...

-- by C.X. Hunter

I stole anything useless
made my lair in the basement
diddled the junk
on the floor in the closet
listened to show tunes
on a wooden radio
licked the dust from the windows
hid from the crow
hid from the bluebird
imagined bugs in the plumbing
dreaded the ring
of a big black telephone
feared I might be related
to a family of monsters
went without sleep for
fourteen years

The Professional
-- by Joe Maynard

"That's the good thing;
about my profession,"
she said
putting her hand on my arm
while her other hand
palm up
with lipstick clad filter
sandwiched between her index
and bird finger
like a smoldering
"All you have to know
is how to use the phone."

Poem for Paulie
-- by David Roskos

the snow is so peaceful
when its falling,
covers up the garbage.
I looked out the window
of the church after the
meeting last night
& thought of Paul B.,
He's dead due to a shot
he took in the arm
on a rooftop in New York.
He said he knew the needle
was infected, realized it
a second before he sunk it,
just had a gut feeling,
& and said FUCK IT.
He died in the VA Hospital
in full-blown dementia,
lesions on his skin,
pockmarked face --
snow settles on his grave.

March 17, 2005

souls are crumbling like a dirt clod hole

* Works by Ray Caesar, who has a show at New York's Jonathan LeVine Gallary from March 19 through April 16:

* Interview of Sam Lipsyte, most recently author of the very funny novel Homeland. excerpt:

Q: If you could fuck a book, which book, and why, and in which position?

Lipsyte: I'd fuck Klaus Kinski's autobiography All I Need Is Love, which accommodates all positions.

Q: Have you ever entertained sexual fantasies about a literary character? If so, please describe your date.

Lipsyte: Robert Jordan (For Whom the Bell Tolls) and I fight the forces of fascism in Spain. Later we fuck in a cave. Queequeg wanders in and does unmentionable things with his harpoon. Ulrich's sister in The Man Without Qualities and Daisy Buchanan join in. It's not really a date, but it's something very exciting.

Q: When you try to pick someone up at a reading, what's your favorite literary euphemism (i.e., you wanna come over and anna my karenina?)

lipsyte: Would you like to Primo my Levi? I guess I don't know any literary euphemisms. I guess I don't cruise readings, either. Don my DeLillo? At least there's a legitimate verb there.

Q: Whose books do you save for bedtime reading in the hopes that the author will visit you in your dreams? If this has ever worked, please describe the nocturnal encounter.

Lipsyte: Sometimes I read Edward Dahlberg in bed, but I definitely don't want him to visit me in dream. I just think his prose, so lush and allusion-dense, makes my dreams that much dreamier. I'm tired of falling off cliffs or not getting my homework in on time.

* Bob Dylan mp3's from his Frbruary 1962 performance on the Cynthia Gooding Radio Show.

March 16, 2005

Every now and then I fall apart

* Perhaps the best cover video ever? Norway's Hurra Torpedo, which uses kitchen appliances for percussion, does their tribute to Bonnie Tyler's 1983 hit song, 'Total Eclipse of the Heart,' on the SNL-like tv show, "Lille Lørdag." Brilliant. [via]
To all the people underground listening to the sound

* Kaskarov on his retirement. excerpt:

"It's not common, in our age, for someone to retire while still at the top; but I'm a man who needs a goal, and who wants to make a difference. My accomplishments and contributions are for others to judge, but I feel that I am no longer playing an essential role in chess. With reclaiming the unified world championship out of reach due to political chaos in the chess world, I am reduced to unfulfilling repetition."
The more time I spend exploring the limitless realm of human thought, the harder it becomes to contain my energy within 64 black and white squares. The huge amount of work required to stay at the top has led to diminishing returns both for me and for the chess world. Every year it takes more study time to keep up with my young competitors, who have all followed my methods of working ceaselessly with computers to prepare. Opening variations must be analyzed to depths of dozens of moves and you carry around a 'mental database' of tens of thousands of moves that is constantly updated."
"But ultimately, it is my interest in politics that has played the principal role in my decision to reallocate my resources away from chess. For many years, I have been an ardent supporter of democracy in Russia, and at certain times I have participated in political activities. Now I will be able to do this with the same determination and passion I brought to the chessboard."
"My retirement from chess is not about running for president or any other higher office, although I am not prepared to rule anything out. It is about opposing our authoritarian regime and bringing positive change. There are millions like me in Russia who want a free press, rule of law and fair elections. My new job is to fight for those people and to fight for those things."

* From a short interview of M. Ward. [via]

Q: Conor Oberst yelled 'M. Ward for president' when you played with Bright Eyes on "The Late Show." Any idea why?

M. Ward: Nope, no idea. That was a pretty spur-of-the-moment thing, and I accepted it as such.

Q: Had you been elected, would you also be pushing for the privatization of Social Security?

M. Ward: I'm not sure about Social Security. I'd probably be pushing to get radio out of the hands of the corporations. I think that'll happen with its own volition, though I don't think it'll be AM or FM radio. It'll probably be satellite or Internet radio.

* K. Silem Mohammad author of Hovercraft, Deer Head Nation and, most recently, A Thousand Devils, will be reading at DCAC (18th Street, Adams Morgan) on Sunday March 20 at 3pm. His work has been published in numerous journals and is featured in 'The Best American Poetry 2004' anthology. He is member of a writers’ collective, Flarf, which has been featured by the BBC World News, the Village Voice and The Nation. Mohammad is assistant professor of English and writing at Southern Oregon University.

March 15, 2005

found your way to heaven, left sadness on earth

* Krugman:

"The argument over Social Security privatization isn't about rival views on how to secure the program's future - even the administration admits that private accounts would do nothing to help the system's finances. It's a debate about what kind of society America should be.

"And it's a debate Republicans appear to be losing, because the public doesn't share their view that it's a good idea to expose middle-class families, whose lives have become steadily riskier over the past few decades, to even more risk. As soon as voters started to realize that private accounts would replace traditional Social Security benefits, not add to them, support for privatization collapsed.
"As it happens, Mr. Lieberman stated clearly what was wrong with the bankruptcy bill: 'It failed to close troubling loopholes that protect wealthy debtors, and yet it deals harshly with average Americans facing unforeseen medical expenses or a sudden military deployment,' making it unfair to 'working Americans who find themselves in dire financial straits through no fault of their own.' A stand against the bill would have merged populism with patriotism, highlighting Democrats' differences with Republicans' vision of America.

"But many Democrats chose not to take that stand. And Mr. Lieberman was among them: his vote against the bill was an empty gesture. On the only vote that opponents of the bill had a chance of winning - a motion to cut off further discussion - he sided with the credit card companies. To be fair, so did 13 other Democrats. But none of the others tried to have it both ways.

"It isn't always bad politics to say things that aren't true and claim to support things you actually oppose: just look at who's running the country. But Democrats who engage in these tactics right now create big problems for a party that has been given a special chance - maybe its last chance - to remind the country of what Democrats stand for, and why."

* Come out and see the caribbean and portions toll at the Black Cat this Thursday, St. Patrick's Day. Doors at 9:30. The Caribbean will then embark on a quick roadtrip up the east coast, playing selections from their just recorded album. They are playing at:

-- Knitting Factory, New York, New York, March 19 10pm

-- AS220, Providence, Rhode Island, March 20

-- Elevens, Northampton, Massachusetts, March 21

-- Zeitgeist Gallery, Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 23

* Radio Free San Francisco
-- By Klipschutz

Rejoice People of Iraq

The President of the United States
has announced he will erect
a prison to be proud of, demolishing
the old with its unreconstructed past.
He never said expressly, precisely,
he will empty the old prison first,
so best stay clear of its iron fist embrace.
(Assumption is the province of the Lord.)
If he says he moves with a swagger
called walking in Texas, our man
who means every last word
he canít quite pronounce: it is so.
He will build you your own Alamo.

* Very funny commercial, check it out.

March 14, 2005

Deep in the back of my mind is an unrealized sound

* Propaganda advertisements: NYT's reports that under Bush "the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance."

"It is the kind of TV news coverage every president covets.

"'Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.,' a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of 'another success' in the Bush administration's 'drive to strengthen aviation security;' the reporter called it 'one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history.' A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

"To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The 'reporter' covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications."
"In three separate opinions in the past year, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that studies the federal government and its expenditures, has held that government-made news segments may constitute improper 'covert propaganda' even if their origin is made clear to the television stations. The point, the office said, is whether viewers know the origin. Last month, in its most recent finding, the G.A.O. said federal agencies may not produce prepackaged news reports 'that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials.'"
"On Sept. 11, 2002, WHBQ, the Fox affiliate in Memphis, marked the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with an uplifting report on how assistance from the United States was helping to liberate the women of Afghanistan.

"Tish Clark, a reporter for WHBQ, described how Afghan women, once barred from schools and jobs, were at last emerging from their burkas, taking up jobs as seamstresses and bakers, sending daughters off to new schools, receiving decent medical care for the first time and even participating in a fledgling democracy. Her segment included an interview with an Afghan teacher who recounted how the Taliban only allowed boys to attend school. An Afghan doctor described how the Taliban refused to let male physicians treat women.

"In short, Ms. Clark's report seemed to corroborate, however modestly, a central argument of the Bush foreign policy, that forceful American intervention abroad was spreading freedom, improving lives and winning friends.

"What the people of Memphis were not told, though, was that the interviews used by WHBQ were actually conducted by State Department contractors. The contractors also selected the quotes used from those interviews and shot the video that went with the narration. They also wrote the narration, much of which Ms. Clark repeated with only minor changes.

"As it happens, the viewers of WHBQ were not the only ones in the dark.

"Ms. Clark, now Tish Clark Dunning, said in an interview that she, too, had no idea the report originated at the State Department. 'If that's true, I'm very shocked that anyone would false report on anything like that,' she said."

* Up for grabs: the Pete Townsend potato.

* G.W. Bush: photoshopped or not?

March 11, 2005

freedom hangs like heaven over everyone

The Heavens
-- by Denis Johnson

From mind to mind
I am acquainted with the struggles
of these stars. The very same
chemistry wages itself minutely
in my person.
It is all one intolerable war.
I don't care if we're fugitives,
we are ceaselessly exalted, rising
like the drowned out of our shirts...

The Risen
-- by Denis Johnson

How sad, how beautiful
the sea
of tumbling astronauts,
their faces barred
and planed and green amid
the deep.

I see them dancing in the kindness
of a broken answer,

by the light
of the jukebox
by the light

of our fiery homes.
We are that sunset.
The angels envy us.

like a mother burns
like an evil flame --


the angels stand up inside themselves.

Man with Wooden Leg Escapes Prison
-- by James Tate

Man with wooden leg escapes prison. He's caught.
They take his wooden leg away from him. Each day
he must cross a large hill and swim a wide river
to get to the field where he must work all day on
one leg. This goes on for a year. At the Christmas
Party they give him back his leg. Now he doesn't
want it. His escape is all planned. It requires
only one leg.

The Buddhists Have the Ball Field
--by James Tate

The Buddhists have the ball field. Then the teams
arrive, nine on one, but only three on the other.
The teams confront the Buddhists. The Buddhists
present their permit. There is little point in
arguing it, for the Buddhists clearly have the
permit for the field. And the teams have nothing,
not even two complete teams. It occurs to one team
manager to interest the Buddhists in joining his
team, but the Buddhists won't hear of it. The teams
walk away with their heads hung low. A gentle rain
begins. It would have been call anyways, they
think suddenly.

Dear Reader
by James Tate

I am trying to pry open your casket
with this burning snowflake

I'll give up my sleep for you.
This freezing sleet keeps coming down
and I can barely see.

If this trick works we can rub our hands
together, maybe

start a little fire
with our identification papers.
I don't know but I keep working, working

half hating you,
half eaten by the moon.

March 10, 2005

turn the volume up and get a little bit high

Happy (belated) Birthday to John Cale

* From Context. Under-read books booksellers are passionate about:

Act of the Damned, António Lobo Antunes
The Death of Virgil, Hermann Broch
The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
The Lost Scrapbook, Evan Dara
The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot
Ask the Dust, John Fante
Crusoe's Daughter, Jane Gardam
Cosmos and Pornografia, Witold Gombrowicz
Staggerford, Jon Hassler
The Heart Is Katmandu, Yoel Hoffmann
Raintree County, Ross Lockridge Jr.
Reader's Block, David Markson
The American Woman in the Chinese Hat, Carole Maso
Dictionary of the Khazars, Milorad Pavic
A Dance to the Music of Time, Anthony Powell
Third Factory, Viktor Shklovsky
Confessions of Zeno, Italo Svevo
You Bright and Risen Angels, William T. Vollmann
Nog, Rudy Wulitzer

* The Rude Pundit on John Bolton. excerpt:

"The Bush administration loves motherfuckers. Man, the President and his shit-stained minions can't get enough of motherfuckers. If there is a place for a motherfucker in the administration, Bush or another cabinet member will be out there makin' announcements about which motherfucker they're gonna appoint. Alberto Gonzales? Motherfucker. Michael Chertoff? Motherfucker. John 'Motherfucker' Negroponte? As Tony Soprano might mutter, a mother-motherfucker. One might think that the job of a motherfucker would be to fuck one's own or another's mother; however, like 'asshole' doesn't just mean a place of tight, ecstatic access for Jeff Gannon, a 'motherfucker' is someone who is such an asshole that he/she would fuck your mother if it meant more power, glory, money, whatever.

"And in John R. Bolton, we have one more motherfucker running some aspect of America that actually, really touches all of our lives. And the lives of our mothers. When Condi Rice, no stranger to the fucking of mothers herself, announced Bolton's nomination to be the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., she praised Bolton's ability to drop his pants and take a giant shit in front of the General Assembly. She spun his statements like, 'If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference' into a kind of tough love for saving the U.N. from all other nations but the United States and Israel. Spaketh Condi, "'ohn Bolton is personally committed to the future success of the United Nations and he will be a strong voice for reform at a time when the United Nations has begun to reform itself to help meet the challenging agenda before the international community.'"
"Bolton was an assistant Attorney General under Edwin Meese and Richard Thornburgh back in the Reagan era. In that role, among other accomplishments in motherfuckery, Bolton attempted to fire Joan Bernott, a female attorney at the Justice Department, in 1988 because she listened to her doctor and stayed home after the birth of her child in January of that year. We can thank Bolton's brazen cruelty because it spurred parental leave legislation further into the public consciousness."
"Bolton's the perfect motherfucker for this government of the motherfuckers, by the motherfuckers, and for the motherfuckers. He'll go to the ends of the earth for his masters, which is the kind of blind loyalty prized above all else in these times."

* Momus on america, from an interview published in Index:

STEVE LAFRENIERE: You seem to really enjoy living in America. Isn't our pathology almost off the chart, though?

MOMUS: But it's so pluralistic here. That's a real counterbalance to creating any danger. In Europe we still have these monolithic populations with small fringes of immigrants at the edge. People still have an ingrained national mind-set. Here the national mind-set is totally synthetic, and everybody knows it. The American Dream is a thing you plug into when you get here, a common property for all of humanity.

STEVE LAFRENIERE: So, does the "fake folk" idea of your new songs relate to this?

MOMUS: I think fakeness is a democratic value. If you can only be a real folk musician if you have certificates to prove you're poor, or badly educated, or mentally retarded, or slim, fat, or blind, that's an inverted snobbery. Whereas fakeness is a core American value. Here you can be a Jewish folk singer, or a Ukrainian Baptist from Alabama, or any combination of identities — which makes them essentially plastic. A lot of Europeans are terrified of that. I think it's great.

March 9, 2005

I've dug beneath the wall of sound

Heroin addicts, Pakistan, 2001, by James Nachtwey

* Check out photographer James Nachtwey's site for additional war/documentary photographs.

* The cunning realist provides two interesting anecdotes regarding the big business feeling on Social Security reform. [via] excerpt:

"This week, I spoke to an executive at a large publicly-traded technology firm. We talked about the state of his business, the outlook for the future, and the performance of his company's stock. One issue he is extremely concerned about is the FASB-required expensing of employee stock options, which will become mandatory for all public companies later this year. This new accounting rule will have the effect of making the stock of many companies that are profitable appear far more expensive from a price to earnings ratio perspective, and those companies that have no earnings at all--many of which are tech companies--will become even more unattractive to asset managers like me.

"This executive sees one shining beacon in the fog of increasingly strict accounting standards and a difficult business environment: The prospect of Social Security reform. He told me that he and many of this colleagues at other companies favor the creation of private accounts, because a new source of demand for his stock will help compensate for the increasing unattractiveness of his company from an investment perspective. This executive also made it completely clear (albeit in casual, friendly terms--which is perhaps the only way he would have voiced this sentiment at all) that he looked forward to private accounts 'picking up the slack' that the new accounting rules and increasingly difficult business conditions in general will create."
"This week I also spoke to a former co-worker of mine, who works at one of the largest investment banks in the world. We had a brief conversation about the private accounts issue. Predictably, there was no beating around the bush here; executives of investment banks and brokerages are known for direct, often crass language. He said: 'I want that dumb public money coming across my desk.' It's debatable whether that money would come across HIS desk as well as how much the financial industry in general would benefit from private accounts, but his expectation is clear. And just like my friend at the technology company, my former co-worker is employed by what is considered a 'blue chip' company, which would presumably fall under the rubric of 'safe' equities in which a private account program would invest.

"One last point: In addition to my belief that Bush's 'ownership society' is, at least in the examples of my two friends above, in many ways a program to transfer risk from the 'owners' to the public, I have another misgiving about private accounts. I strongly believe that the last thing we need is for the stock market to become an even greater national priority. I believe this on a political, fiscal, monetary and spiritual level. With an even greater public focus and reliance on the stock market, the political pressure to take extraordinary, unconventional measures to boost stock prices--pressure that already exists--will be overwhelming."

* Not so new but not so old interview of MWard in which he discusses Transistor Radio, which I've had a hard time getting out of the cd player. excerpt:

Antidote: Yes. So what's going on after tour, are you going to start recording, take a break?

Ward: I'm finishing a record. It's going to be released in January, February.

Antidote: What do we have to expect for that?

Ward: A little bit of everything that I've already done. A little bit of new experiments I think. A lot of collaborations on the new album, maybe more so then I ever have and that's been an experiment for me. I think it's going to be a good one. I'm still working out the kinks. There's a lot of collaborations on this album. It's very helpful to me. I tend to be a perfectionist... When you open the door to someone else, it's somewhat of a liberating experience; because you are freeing yourself of your own expectations. Bringing in another voice is an experiment and I love it.

Antidote: Can you give us a hint on who you are collaborating with?

Ward: Yeah, the new album has a bunch of them. My Morning Jacket, heard of them? Giant Sand, John Parrish from PJ Harvey's band. All kinds of people.

Antidote: No. Not at all. I wanted to ask "What is the appearance you want to present to the world?"

Ward: Well, that's an interesting question. I'd much prefer some sort of selflessness rather then forcing my personality on people. I feel like music is richest for me when there's mystery involved. Disolving all those mysteries is not something that's very intriguing to me. Creating mystery in music and words is intrigue to me. So as far as ego goes, my guitar has more of an ego then I do I hope, because, I'm more interested in the instrument then what's happening with my own personal feelings. Even though feelings are important. Now I'm contadicting myself. Imposing my face in media isn't intriguing to me. I want to present my music,my first passion, my instrument, rather then my own selfish fancies.

March 8, 2005

backwashed thoughts and you made me talk

* Alaska man leaves his sprinkler on and result becomes a major tourist attraction. excerpt:

"Reeves began work on the tower in October when he set up a sprinkler system and pumped water through it. He guesses the tower will be 160 to 180 feet tall and weigh an estimated 80,000 tons by April, when he plans to turn off the water to the sprinklers."

* Krugman:

"Above all, of course, at a time when ever-fewer workers can count on pensions from their employers, the current administration wants to phase out Social Security.

"The bankruptcy bill fits right into this picture. When everything else goes wrong, Americans can still get a measure of relief by filing for bankruptcy - and rising insecurity means that they are forced to do this more often than in the past. But Congress is now poised to make bankruptcy law harsher, too.

"Warren Buffett recently made headlines by saying America is more likely to turn into a 'sharecroppers' society' than an 'ownership society.' But I think the right term is a 'debt peonage' society - after the system, prevalent in the post-Civil War South, in which debtors were forced to work for their creditors. The bankruptcy bill won't get us back to those bad old days all by itself, but it's a significant step in that direction.

"And any senator who votes for the bill should be ashamed."

* Slice, everyone's favorite pizza site remembers Hunter S. Thompson. excerpt:

"Not quite satisfied with our visit, we headed to the Woody Creek Tavern (right), a small, shacklike bar. We pulled into the parking lot and knew right away that we were going to have a fucked-up experience: Parked out front was a red Chevy convertible, an early '70s model. It was a replica of the Red Shark, one of the vehicles Thompson rented and trashed during his masterpiece saga, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

"I can't remember the exact circumstances anymore. For some reason, my buddy 'Jackknife' went into the bar a full five minutes before E-Rock did. Maybe I was rearranging the luggage in the trunk. Who knows. Jackknife walked back out into the parking lot, stark white with a terrified look in his eye, like he had just watched one of his pet cats get raped and impaled in front of him.

"'He's here,' Jackknife wheezed. 'It'’s him.'

"He was sitting at a corner table when we walked in with some guys who looked like Hell’s Angel–type bikers. E-Rock was petrified. We sat down at a table in the middle of the room, and I tried to eavesdrop on what Thompson was saying. Anyone who has heard him speak knows that he was terribly hard to understand. I think I comprehended the words 'Las Vegas' at some point, but my memory could be deceiving me.

"Then this guy, who was obviously drunk, walked up to Thompson's table and said, 'Hey, Hunter. I was you for Halloween.'


"The poor guy asked for his autograph, and one of the biker guys said, with a menacing tone, 'Stay away. He doesn’t want to be bothered.'"

March 7, 2005

it's four in the morning and I'm twisting in my bed

* "All religions are the same: religion is basically guilt, with different holidays." -- Cathy Ladman

* "We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the same sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart." -- H. L. Mencken

* Top Ten conservative idoits. excerpt:

"4. Ann Coulter

While we're on the subject of Jeff Gannon, Ann Coulter posed some curious questions in a recent article. 'Are we supposed to like gay people now, or hate them? Is there a Web site where I can go to and find out how the Democrats want me to feel about gay people on a moment-to-moment basis?' This was, of course, in response to revelations that Jeff Gannon is a gay prostitute.

So I have a couple questions of my own: Are we supposed to like gay people now, or hate them? Is there a Web site where I can go to and find out how the Republicans want me to feel about gay people on a moment-to-moment basis?

It's just that I'm perfectly consistent in my support for gay rights. What I'm not comfortable with is the White House giving a real live prostitute with a fake name who works for a fake news organization that is actually a front for a Republican activist group free and easy access to press briefings so that the aforementioned prostitute can toss softball questions at the president to get him out of sticky situations.

But now we're in a bizarre situation where Republicans like Coulter are one day screaming about amending the Constitution in order to discriminate against gays, or telling me that gays are sinners who are going to hell, or that cartoon characters are secretly working on an evil gay agenda to corrupt our children, or that 'tolerance' and 'love' are secret gay code words, and then the next day they're telling me that I'm the homophobe and poor gay people like Jeff Gannon need to be defended from the likes of me and my awful liberal friends.

I mean, if gay prostitution is okay - which, according to all these Republicans who are now accusing the left of homophobia, it is - then gay marriage must be double-plus-good, right? Otherwise I just don't get the argument. How come, according to Republicans, it's fine for a gay man to sell himself for no-strings-attached sex with other men online, but it's not fine for two gay men to enter into a lifelong, loving marriage partnership?

Still, at least there's no ambiguity about the fact that Republicans think all Arabs are terrorists. In the same column, Coulter says, 'Press passes can't be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the president.' So while Ann may have suddenly had a dramatic transformation on gay rights, at least that ol' racism is alive and well."

* MP3's of the 1969 Dylan/Cash sessions are available here.

March 4, 2005

someone's laughing with the girl I used to be after

Poem for the Working Man and the Upper Mobile Yuppie
-- by A.D. Winans

Some people guard their lives
Like a eunuch guards
The Harem door
Like a stock broker with
A hot tip
Like a banker who knows
That today's dollar will only
Be worth one-fourth what
It is today
In less time than it takes
To die
Better to linger over
A cup of coffee
Like a skilled lover with
No need for bragging rights
Remember that every newsman
On every street corner in America
That every meat packer and fisherman
Knows more about life than
Your average poet
The blind man rattling
An empty tin cup
Make more noise than
A yuppie gunning
One his way
to the graveyard

-- by Klipschutz

I want all the women
all the money
all the fun

I want every rainbow
all the marbles
and a personalized introduction to God

I want a death list
transparent skin
and a cat with no fur

I want everything
I have nothing
I will negotiate

To Woody Woodpecker
-- by Ron Padgett

I love you, Woody,
when you peck
on the head
of a bad person
and laugh and fly
away real fast,
speed lines
in the air
and clouds of invisable
dust dissapating,
I love the way
you last only seven minutes.
The heart has seven minutes
with Woody Woodpecker,
seven minutes of pure bliss.

Cafe Ennui
--by Sharon Mesmer

Are we the result of some bizarre narration
of the pleasure principle?
Are we versions of desire, but not desire itself?
Do you often find yourself awash in these vague ideas?
Then nip it in a budding grove.
You should be able by now to discern the good from the stupid.
If not, what you really need is vodka. Vodka. Polish vodka,
& the 99 sacred and profane versions of "louie, louie."
As for me, what I don't understand I will loathe,
and what I loathe I will fuck.

You Can Get Your Point Across, by Frank Zappa

March 3, 2005

got lonesome fuel for fire

* Hunter S. Thompson on George Bush:

"Thompson claimed to know a thing or two about the president's partying past. In an interview with The Independent in 2004, Thompson said he remembered meeting Bush at Thompson's Super Bowl party in Houston in 1974. He said that Bush was 'with a guy who had come to sell . . .' but then cut himself off. 'Look, I'm not going to put this next sentence on the record. Let's just say that 'a friend of mine' was buying cocaine. I have friends in Houston from all walks of life. Lawyers. Professional men. Bush was hanging around with this crowd of what you might call gilded coke dilettantes.'

"Thompson's memory wasn't always the most reliable, and his story about his Houston encounter with Bush evolved over time. But in the 2004 telling of it, at least, Thompson said the future president had left an indelible impression on him. 'He knew who I was, at that time, because I had a reputation as a writer,' Thompson said. 'I knew he was part of the Bush dynasty. But he was nothing, he offered nothing, and he promised nothing. He had no humor. He was insignificant in every way and consequently I didn't pay much attention to him. But when he passed out in my bathtub, then I noticed him. I'd been in another room, talking to the bright people. I had to have him taken away.'"

* Great aerial shot of Amsterdam. If you point your mouse at the lower right hand corner you can expand the picture.

* "Show me a man who lives alone and has a perpetually clean kitchen, and 8 times out of 9 I'll show you a man with detestable spiritual qualities." -- Charles Bukowski

March 2, 2005

I'm a bit like the freelance fence painter

Cover of the new Smog record to be released on May 23, 2005 on Drag City.

* From the March 2005 edition of Harper's:

-- Ratio of the number of computer viruses targeting Mircosoft Windows-based computers to those that target Macs: 1,000 to 1

-- Amount that the U.S. wedding industry would gain each year if gays wed at the same rates as straights: $17,000,000,000

-- Amount that U.S. divorce attorneys would gain if gays also divorced at the same rate: $1,900,000,000

-- Percentage of songs on Billboard's Top 20 list during 2004 whose lyrics mention at least one brand name: 40

-- Percentage that mention weaponry: 50

* Recent Boondocks:

March 1, 2005

and you know there's something else but you can't give it a name

* Studio Gallery (2108 R street, wdc) is showing new work by Laurence Wyllie. The opening reception and open house will be Friday March 4, 2005 from 6pm until 8pm in conjunction with Galleries of Dupont. Wyllie's work will be on
display at the gallery until March 27, 2005.

* Daily Show "reporter" attends press conference. excerpt:

"A 'correspondent' from the fake news show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, was outside City Hall yesterday to get some answers from City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.

"Wearing a badly groomed hair piece, a fake mustache and an ugly 1970s tie, Rob Corddry waited patiently until after the real reporters had posed their questions to ask one about about Social Security.

"Standing awkwardly with his legs far apart as though he were getting ready to sprint, nodding in agreement to every word spoken by Miller about the West Side Stadium, Corddry finally raised his hand.

"'Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker'" he shouted, as if in a White House news conference, identifying himself as 'Dino Ironbody''
His question: 'How do you feel about the president's awesome plan to privatize Social Security?'

"Miller, who realized what was going on, played along.

"'I'm not such a big fan of the president's plan to private Social Security,' Miller said. 'I think Social Security has worked pretty well for generations and we outta stick with something that works.'

"After the gathering broke up, Corddry, in a move uncharacteristic of reporters, invited them to chat.
"'Anybody wants to talk shop, I will be right here,' he said, pointing to the ground and cameras rolling. 'Good conference man.'

"A spokesman for Comedy Central, where the show is aired, said the pretend reporter was spoofing the former White House correspondent known as Jeff Gannon -- who is really James D. Guckert -- who worked for a conservative Web site and was accused of asking pro-Bush questions. The access Guckert enjoyed to White House news conferences has been a source of controversy.

"Comedy Central says the segment will air during Thursday's show."

* Luna's Last Waltz, which has posted a neat picture of Dean getting into a cab following the final Luna gig, documents Luna's final days. [via]