Jasper Johns, Target, 1958
* Last Plane to Jakarta on Tony Snow. in full:
"It's time once more for a post rooted entirely in political hopelessness. Here, try this:
July 24,2007 | WASHINGTON -- The White House said Tuesday that there was nothing improper about Bush administration political advisers briefing top diplomats about key congressional and gubernatorial races and President Bush's re-election goals.
"'You've got political appointees getting political briefings,' White House press secretary Tony Snow said Tuesday with a dose of sarcasm. 'I'm shocked. Shocked.'
"Mr. Snow is not the first political speaker to quote Casablanca in recent days. Indeed, from constantly-running mouths both right and left, you'll hear 'shocked, shocked' as a presumably clever dismissal of an opponent's arguments. It's perhaps instructive, not to say 'illuminating' but who knows, to remember the phrase's original context.
"It is spoken by Captain Renault, played by the immortal Claude Rains. Captain Renault is a corrupt Vichy official on the take. When he closes down Rick's Cafe Americain, he states loudly that he's 'shocked, shocked' to learn that gambling is going on there. The punch line of the scene is that as soon as Renault has delivered the line, a croupier hands him a wad of cash: 'Your winnings, sir.'
"The ongoing simplification of this nifty little exchange - to dumb it down so that it means 'well, duh!' - is perhaps not surprising, but something kinda awesome happens in the process. We now have the President's press secretary using the words of a corrupt Nazi-sympathizing police captain - fictional, to be sure, but drawn from real life - as a way of rebuffing allegations of impropriety within the administration. It is as if the speaker were chastising the press for not taking administrative corruption as a given, like the sun rising in the east. This is one of those situations where the irony seems both subtle and too broad to be true. Last Plane to Jakarta will personally reimburse the journalist brave enough to holler 'your winnings, sir,' while throwing a handful of cash at the next spokesman, politician or pundit whose idea of a role model is the lovable but amoral Captain Renault."
* RIP Michelangelo Antonioni. excerpt:
"Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, whose depiction of alienation made him a symbol of art-house cinema with movies such as 'Blow-Up' and 'L'Avventura,' has died, officials and news reports said Tuesday. He was 94.
"The ANSA news agency said that Antonioni died at his home on Monday evening.
"'With Antonioni dies not only one of the greatest directors but also a master of modernity,' Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said in a statement."
"His exploration of such intellectual themes as alienation and existential malaise led Halliwell's Film Guide to say that 'L'Avventura,' Antonioni's first critical success, made him 'a hero of the highbrows.'
"The critics loved that film, but the audience hissed when 'L'Avventura' was presented at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. The barest of plots, which wanders through a love affair of a couple, frustrated many viewers for its lack of action and dialogue, characteristically Antonioni.
"In one point in the black-and-white film, the camera lingers and lingers on Monica Vitti, one of Antonioni's favorite actresses, as she plays a blond, restless jet-setter.
"'In the empty, silent spaces of the world, he has found metaphors that illuminate the silent places our hearts, and found in them, too, a strange and terrible beauty: austere, elegant, enigmatic, haunting,' Jack Nicholson said in presenting Antonioni with the career Oscar. Nicholson starred in the director's 1975 film 'The Passenger.'"
* Talking George W. Bush Paranoid Blues.
-- A designated area for booksellers existed in the central market in Athens as far back as in the fifth century BC.
-- Every passenger in the non-smoking section of a plane that crashed off Norway in 1948 was killed. Bertrand Russell had been smoking -- and was one of those able to swim to safety.
-- Albert Camus had already purchased a train ticket, between the Vaucluse and Paris, when he made a last minute decision to accept a ride with Michel Gallimard -- which would end in the crash that killed them both.
-- How miraculous it was, noted Diogenes, that whenever one felt that sort of urge, one could readily masterbate. But conversely how disheartening that one could not simply rub one's stomach when hungry.