December 14, 2006

the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming


Hunter S. Thompson, Tijuana Street, circa 1960s

The M+B Gallery in Los Angeles is showing photographs by HST through January 20, 2007.

* Iraq is Beyond Repair. excerpt:

"During the Opium Wars between Britain and China in the 19th century, eunuchs at the court of the Chinese emperor had the problem of informing him of the repeated and humiliating defeat of his armies. They dealt with their delicate task by simply telling the emperor that his forces had already won or were about to win victories on all fronts.

"For three and a half years White House officials have dealt with bad news from Iraq in similar fashion. Journalists were repeatedly accused by the US administration of not reporting political and military progress on the ground. Information about the failure of the US venture was ignored or suppressed.

"Manipulation of facts was often very crude. As an example of the systematic distortion, the Iraq Study Group revealed last week that on one day last July US officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. In reality, it added, 'a careful review of the reports ... brought to light 1,100 acts of violence.'

"The 10-fold reduction in the number of acts of violence officially noted was achieved by not reporting the murder of an Iraqi, or roadside bomb, rocket or mortar attacks aimed at US troops that failed to inflict casualties. I remember visiting a unit of US combat engineers camped outside Fallujah in January 2004 who told me that they had stopped reporting insurgent attacks on themselves unless they suffered losses as commanders wanted to hear only that the number of attacks was going down. As I was drove away, a sergeant begged us not to attribute what he had said: 'If you do I am in real trouble.'"
...
"Mr Bush and Mr Blair have always refused to take on board the simple unpopularity of the occupation among Iraqis, though US and British military commanders have explained that it is the main fuel for the insurgency. The Baker-Hamilton report notes dryly that opinion polls show that 61 per cent of Iraqis favour armed attacks on US forces. Given the Kurds overwhelmingly support the US presence, this means three-quarters of all Arabs want military action against US soldiers.

"The other great flaw in the report is to imply that Iraqis can be brought back together again. The reality is that the country has already broken apart. In Baghdad, Sunnis no longer dare to visit the main mortuary to look for murdered relatives because it is under Shia control and they might be killed themselves. The future of Iraq may well be a confederation rather than a federation, with Shia, Sunni and Kurd each enjoying autonomy close to independence.

"There are certain points on which the White House and the authors of the report are dangerously at one. This is that the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki can be bullied into trying to crush the militias (this usually means just one anti-American militia, the Mehdi Army), or will bolt from the Shia alliance. In the eyes of many Iraqis this would simply confirm its status as a US pawn. As for talking with Iran and Syria or acting on the Israel-Palestinian crisis it is surely impossible for Mr Bush to retreat so openly from his policies of the past three years, however disastrous their outcome."

* Interivew of Arthur Nersesian, whose books include The Fuck Up, Manhattan Loverboy, Unlubricated, and Dogpark. excerpt:

Interviewer: You were profiled in the latest issue of FHM. It was all about how writing a novel is not worth the time, and how you should want to do something more useful. Did you feel exploited by this journalist?

Nersesian: I spoke to the interviewer for a while, and he used what he wanted, and threw away the rest. I feel exploited by you too. But it's controlled exploitation. You have to understand that in FHM Magazine you are going to get that whole wacky tongue-in-cheek tone throughout. I respect that. They should be making fun of people who got a degree in Literature in college.
...
Interviewer: Who are some of the writers who inspire you? There was the Kafka feeling with "The Sweet Smell of Success."

Nersesian: I loved that movie. There was no deliberate mimicking of any writer on this book, but I heard many comparisons. I didn't think that I was following any writer consciously. My greatest influence until the day I die will be and always has been [New York] city. I write against the city. I try to absorb all the shit around me and then squeeze it into fiction.

Interviewer: How different is Manhattan Loverboy from the early novel, The Fuck-Up? The thing about you writing I like is its unpredictable nature. You're always pulling the rug under the characters and the plot.

Nersesian: It's different in style and tone. The Fuck-Up is somber and I tried to be fairly social realistic. The new book is slightly surreal and off the wall. As far as the plot goes, if you can see the end coming up and can predict it, there's no point in reading it. If can anticipate where you are going, then it's pointless. To that end, I don't over-plot or over-outline my novels. I have a general idea where I'm going, and I try to stop until I get there in the writing, and check out my options. I always try to find something unexpected and yet consistent with the ideas and the story, and whatever I'm dramatizing. But I really want to surprise myself. If I can't do that then no one will be surprised. What's the point?
...
Interviewer: I noticed that you don't make much reference to music and bands in your novels? Is that a deliberate choice or do you not follow music very closely?

Nersesian: That's a sore point for me. I always lived in lower Manhattan, and I lived on 16th Street and 3rd Avenue since 1973. The point is that this is a very musical area for Indie bands, CBGB's, The Academy of Music, and so on. I never really got into that. I saw rock and roll as a homogenized factor for American teens, and absorbed them from what would be an intellectual and literary culture. Initially I had some hostility towards that. Most teens perceived rock and roll as a form of rebellion, and I guess still do, but nowadays seeing a punk is like seeing a hippie back in the 1970s: it's such a cliche. It's not a rebellious act anymore. It's just so sad to see a punk rocker who has a leather jacket and spiked hair today. You might as well join the Republican party. It was a cliche twenty years ago. Music is a small part in my work. I usually celebrate the lamest love songs in a mocking way. It's what I hear in the background at cafes where I write. Most people just ignore it.

Interviewer: Do you write full-time now or do you work another job to support yourself?

Nersesian: I just got fired from my crappy job of ten years. I was teaching in the South Bronx, which was a noble chore, bringing light to the darkness. I too have Irish ancestry on one side as does Frank McCourt. I write pretty steadily. That's all there's left for people like me. I'm not invited to any parties. I've been excised from the community very slowly. I used to collect string and stack stones, and now my pastime is writing novels.

* Sparklehorse mainman Mark Linkous stars in a short film that may or may not have been made for the North Carolina bureau of tourism. must see youtube tv.

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