February 27, 2004

Three Poems by Hal Sirowitz:

Seen You Around

Each time I've come to this bar,
she said, I've seen you here.
You look like you come here often.
You must be having trouble finding
a steady girlfriend. I hope you
don't think I'm being critical.
I can't find a partner either.
I go to different bars, so it isn't as obvious.

We Try Harder

While I was getting a drink at the bar
a half hour ago I saw you deciding,
she said, whether you should talk to me,
I tried making your decision easier
by smiling at you, but you started
talking to someone else. I'm
your second choice. Just like
Avis has to try harder than Hertz,
I have to try to outshine the other women.
Knowing you picked her over me
makes me want to tell you
to just go back to square one.

Not a Cause of Death

No one died from lack of sex,
she said. So you're not going
to die if I don't sleep with you
tonight. I know I said I would,
but I said that when I was in
a different mood. I'm not
always in control of my moods,
just like you're not in control
of when you can do it.

February 26, 2004

to whom can i speak today the gentleness has perished

* Democratic Underground lists 34 senators (including 8 republicans) that oppose the FMA bill.

* Can't remember where I saw this but it's kinda funny:

"First of all, let's get this straight. All marriage is same sex marriage...the same sex, over and over and over again. It's a long tedious meal with dessert at the beginning."

* The drug war and free speech. [via drug war rant.]


"Congress has just approved a law blatantly censoring pro-drug reform messages.

"It was the brainchild of Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., the religious right's water carrier who, as chairman of the District of Columbia Subcommittee, blocked city ordinances with which he disagreed such as those authorizing publicly funded abortions and needle-exchange programs. Late last year, Istook added an amendment to the omnibus spending bill that cuts off $3.1-billion in federal funds from transit authorities nationwide if they accept ads for their bus, train or subway systems promoting the reform of drug laws. Large transit systems in big cities could forfeit tens of millions of dollars if they don't comply. San Francisco has at least $100-million at risk, New York at least $75-million and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority $85-million.

"So once again those who favor a less militant approach to the nation's drug war - and only want the freedom to make their case to the public - have been forced to trot back to federal court to secure their First Amendment rights.

"On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance, among other groups, filed suit against U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and the Washington Metro, after the D.C. transit system refused to accept a paid ad by the groups that proclaimed: 'Marijuana Laws Waste Billions of Taxpayer Dollars to Lock Up Non-Violent Americans.' The suit asks that the Istook amendment be found unconstitutional and that the court rule that no funds shall be withheld from transit systems that accept drug reform ads.

"The case should be a legal slam dunk. If free speech means anything in this country it is that a drug reform ad should be permitted to occupy the same bit of public space as an antiabortion ad or a gun control appeal. 'Congress keeps forgetting that there is no drug exception to the Constitution,' says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance."

It was very nice Candlelight and Dubonnet on ice

Excerpt from World on Fire by Michael Brownstein:

Because what doesn't kill me makes me stronger
Locales always have outlasted empires.

"Without legitimacy, power structures crumble." (A. Gramsci)
And this bastard structure's days are numbered.

This age of manufactured mind.
This push to transform life into products.
This culture drowning in the present in the name of the future.
This heart of darkness beating its fluid into every cell.
Flooding everything but the "American business" version of the bottom line.

Throw someone in jail for breaking a McDonalds window, but not whoever's responsible for the wage the
person is paid to work there.

Throw the landless in jail for squatting on a patch of weeds, but not whoever's responsible for the forests cut down around them.

Give an Earth Liberation Front activist 22 years in prison for torching three SUVs, but ignore the "property rights" of all other life forms.

Market prices the sole arbiter of value.

Every choice made on the basis of economic return.

Human life calculated as earning potential.

Tank cars full of privatized water and not a drop to drink.


February 25, 2004

the girl with the most cake

* Valentines Day to-do's of courtney love.
You're going to reap just what you sow

* Another installment of the worst album covers ever.

* LA Weekly interviews Karen Kwiatkowski, a former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who has master’s degrees from Harvard in government and zoology and two books on Saharan Africa to her credit.

Kwiatkowski found herself transferred in the spring of 2002 to a post as a political/military desk officer at the Defense Department’s office for Near East South Asia (NESA), a policy arm of the Pentagon. excerpt:

Q: So you don’t think there was a genuine interest as to whether or not there really were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

A: It’s not about interest. We knew. We knew from many years of both high-level surveillance and other types of shared intelligence, not to mention the information from the U.N., we knew, we knew what was left [from the Gulf War] and the viability of any of that. Bush said he didn’t know.

The truth is, we know [Saddam] didn’t have these things. Almost a billion dollars has been spent — a billion dollars! — by David Kay’s group to search for these WMD, a total whitewash effort. They didn’t find anything, they didn’t expect to find anything.

Q: You gave your life to the military, you voted Republican for many years, you say you served in the Pentagon right up to the outbreak of war. What does it feel like to be out now, publicly denouncing your old bosses?

A: Know what it feels like? It feels like duty. That’s what it feels like. I’ve thought about it many times. You know, I spent 20 years working for something that — at least under this administration — turned out to be something I wasn’t working for. I mean, these people have total disrespect for the Constitution. We swear an oath, military officers and NCOs alike swear an oath to uphold the Constitution.

These people have no respect for the Constitution. The Congress was misled, it was lied to. At a very minimum that is a subversion of the Constitution. A pre-emptive war based on what we knew was not a pressing need is not what this country stands for.

What I feel now is that I’m not retired. I still have a responsibility to do my part as a citizen to try and correct the problem.

* White House provided records it won't give to the Commission on 9/11, to Bob Wooward. excerpt:

"But there is little doubt that Woodward got details of documents that are central to the commission’s investigation—and more than a little sensitive for the Bush White House. One intelligence document that Woodward described in a May, 2002 Washington Post story , although not in his book, is the Aug. 6, 2001 PDB given to Bush while on vacation at his ranch in Crawford. This is the day that intelligence officials briefed Bush on the prospect of an upcoming Al Qaeda attack and the prospect that terrorists might seek to hijack commercial airliners—a warning that critics have long charged should have triggered a more vigorous response from the White House. The title of the PDB, according to Woodward’s story, was more prophetic than the White House has ever acknowledged: 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.'"

Its some special action with motives unclear

* Tangmonkey (scroll down a little) has posted the "greatest hits" version of will oldham's new partner. Gorgeous.

* This month's online edition of the sun features an excerpt of their print interview with Vandana Shiva, a leader in the social-justice and ecology movements, on how globalization and the WTO are turning people of the third world into the property of multinational corporations:

"Globalization has been presented as purely a trade issue, but it is actually about appropriation of resources. It makes property out of things that have never before been owned as property. Native plant life replentishes itself and belongs to communities. The idea of planting seeds, plants, and even genes of certain organisms threatens to change this. Similarly, water, which has always been recognized as a commons, is being privatized. This conflict involves nearly all of humanity -- and all the species on this planet -- versus a handful of corporations."

* ah, the onion:

"'I was staring at the figure for the deficit, and I decided that it simply could not stand," Bush said. "It was too high. Something had to be done. But Americans have been taxed and taxed. I say 'Enough taxes.' By my estimation, this historical crossing-out of the deficit will save American taxpayers millions, billions, and perhaps even bajillions of dollars.'

"The president then turned to Section 14-D of the official budget document, where the federal government's total expenditures, the GNP, and the difference between the two were listed. Using a black Sharpie, the president crossed out the third figure, eliminating it entirely.

"Bush then held up the newly marked-up page and said, 'My fellow Americans, I have solved the federal budget crisis.'"

February 24, 2004

the skies won't sink my soul

* The man who has claimed to be a uniter, is yet again a divider.

* Democratic Underground lists their top 10 conservative idiots.

* In DC gallery news, head over to Transformer, located at 1404 P, for Gleaming the Screen, a group exhibition featuring work by over twenty of the U.S. and Canada’s most talented and innovative silkscreen poster artists.

Fueled by musical movements dating back to psychedelic rock in the 60’s and punk rock in the 70’s, the best in music oriented poster art "have always captured both the essence of the music they promoted and the spirit of the time in which they were produced," according to the American Poster Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering public awareness and appreciation of the poster art form. This is as true today in Washington, DC as it was in San Francisco in the 1960s.
Three poems by George Oppen:

The Crowded Countries of the Bomb (1962)

What man could do,
And could not
And chance which has spared us
Choice, which has shielded us

As if a god. What is the name of that place
We have entered:
Despair? Ourselves?

That we can destroy ourselves

Walking in the shelter,
the young and the old,
Of each othes's backs and shoulders

Entering the country that is
Impenetrably ours.

Pedestrian (1962)

What generations could have dreamed
This grandchild of the shopping streets, her eyes

In the buyer's light, the store lights
Brighter than the lighthouses, brighter than moonrise

From the salt harbor so rich
So bright her city

In a soil of pavements, a mesh of wires where she walks
In the new winter among enormous buildings.

A Kind of Garden: A Poem for my Sister (1968)

One may say courage
And one may say fear

And nobility
There are women

Radically alone in courage
And fear

Clear minded and blind

In the machine
And the abstractions of the power

Of their times as can be blind

Untroubled by a leaf moving
In a garden

In mere breeze
Mere cause

But troubled as those who arrive

Where games have been played
When all games have been won, last difficult garden

Brilliant in courage
Hard clash with the homely

To embellish such victories

Which in that garden
She sought for a friend

Offering gently

A brilliant kindness
Of the brilliant garden

February 23, 2004

the skylight is like skin for a drum I'll never mend

From Vanishing Point by David Markson:

"From a Hemingway letter, on T.S. Eliot: 'A damned good poet and a fair critic; but he can kiss my ass as a man.'"

"At 37, in Key West, Ernest Hemingway badly marked up Wallace Stephens' face in a never fully explained fistfight. Stevens was 57 when it happened."

"'As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.' Begins an Orwell essay dated 1941."

"In 1490, a Rome census showed a population of roughly ninety thousand, including 6,800 registered prostitutes."

"Not long after Scott Fitzgerald's death, Scribner's let 'The Great Gatsby' go out of print. And then rejected the collection called 'The Crack-Up."

"No single book or manuscript is listed among Shakespeare's possessions in his will."

"James Baldwin borrowed money from Marlon Brando with which to finish his first novel."

"There were 954 booksellers in Paris in 1845."

"'An uninteresting, and one may almost say, a justly exterminated race,' was how the New York Times described the American Indian in a 1855 review of 'Hiawatha.'"

"J. Edgar Hoover lived with his mother until her death when he was 43."

"The first Gauguin ever sold was to Degas."
Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir

* Right now, purely a rumour, but if it is true, this rumour involving Texas governor Rick Perry and his Secretary of State, is sure to be damaging not only to those involved, but also to the Republican party and the President. Here is Indymedia's account.

* From National Lampoon's archives: How to write good.

* 2001 Index interview of Scarlett Johansson.

February 20, 2004

We are with you in your anger

* So much for courting NASCAR dads. A scene from Daytona:

"So perhaps it's not suprising that an impromptu anti-Bush rally brewed, lacking only the picket signs. Doug Shelby was denouncing Bush's policies -- and drawing agreement from the crowd. "We're $500 billion in debt and it's only getting worse!" he shouted.

"Overhead, Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless the USA." The crowd started chanting obscenities.

"After LeAnn Rimes sang the national anthem, the crowd above the grandstands started cheering; those below booed.

"Then Bush's motorcade drove by. One middle finger went up in the crowd, then another, and soon they were everywhere.

As the crowd scattered to their seats, one of the few black fans I spotted at the racetrack ran by and saw me scribbling in my notepad. 'Writing for a newspaper?' she asked. Before I could respond, she shouted, 'Tell them Bush sucks!' Then she disappeared back into the fray."
Sam Durant: Quaternary Field/Associative Diagram

In a gesture dear to the heart of a modernist art historian, Durant's Quaternary Field/Associative Diagram, 1998... appropriates the structuralist Klein group diagram Krauss used to map the "expanded field of sculpture" in a canonical essay of 1978. In place of her oppositions of landscape and architecture, Durant introduces terms drawn from Smithson and pop music in order to locate the Earth artist, Kurt Cobain, the Rolling Stones, and Neil Young along axes of, for example, scatology and pop stardom. This is much more than clever parody. Durant is seriously, and I would say successfully, attempting to map the 'expanded field' appropriate to our own time—namely, 'visual culture,' which tries to articulate the complex relation between commercial aesthetics and the aesthetics of advanced art.

Sam Durant's works address utopias and their failures. They cross past events to create relationship between art-historical, pop- cultural, and political phenomena that have come to define popular, particularly American, culture during the last thirty- five years. Durant's conceptually conceived, multimedia installations refer to specific guiding figures and ideas; artist Robert Smithson and his work on entropic processes, rock stars Mick Jagger and Neil Young, as well as Black Panther co-founder Huey Newton, are in different ways integrated into his work. The enormous enthusiasm with which Durant's work has been received in Germany thus far is surprising on first sight, given his preoccupation with specifically American issues. However, when considered in relation to Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Dennis Hopper, or Mike Kelley, Durant extends Germany's fascination with American art.

the impure thoughts of Sam Durant, from artforum:

February 19, 2004

I don't speak well I mumble

* A Punk Rock chronology: 1970 - 1976.

* Neil Pollack's foreign affair: "My freshman-year sex life, which was probably more typical than most people would like to admit, was comprised of a few dry kisses and an Everclear-induced blowjob from a nice girl in my dorm who fled in shamed terror when she saw me at lunch the next day. "

* The Aesthetic Triptych of Robert Frank.

* This USA Today editiorial, written by James Webb, the Sec. of the Navy during the Reagan Administration, is on the money:

"Bush arguably has committed the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory. To put it bluntly, he attacked the wrong target. While he boasts of removing Saddam Hussein from power, he did far more than that. He decapitated the government of a country that was not directly threatening the United States and, in so doing, bogged down a huge percentage of our military in a region that never has known peace. Our military is being forced to trade away its maneuverability in the wider war against terrorism while being placed on the defensive in a single country that never will fully accept its presence.

"There is no historical precedent for taking such action when our country was not being directly threatened. The reckless course that Bush and his advisers have set will affect the economic and military energy of our nation for decades. It is only the tactical competence of our military that, to this point, has protected him from the harsh judgment that he deserves.

"At the same time, those around Bush, many of whom came of age during Vietnam and almost none of whom served, have attempted to assassinate the character and insult the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with them. Some have impugned the culture, history and integrity of entire nations, particularly in Europe, that have been our country's great friends for generations and, in some cases, for centuries.

"Bush has yet to fire a single person responsible for this strategy. Nor has he reined in those who have made irresponsible comments while claiming to represent his administration. One only can conclude that he agrees with both their methods and their message.

"Most seriously, Bush has yet to explain the exact circumstances under which American military forces will be withdrawn from Iraq."

saint of barges / queen of nails

* And you've always thought your mom was crazy...[takes a few seconds to load but well worth the wait]

* What's with Donald Rumsfeld and his hands?

* Playlouder interviews cornelius. [via tim thompson]

"This insane workload indicates one thing: Cornelius is very, very highly regarded. His last album, 2002's Point, got rave reviews just about everywhere. A carefully crafted record, it escaped the claustrophobic scattergun approach of 1998's Fantasma while remaining just as layered, filling lucky earphones with gorgeous soundscapes, lush vocals and tight samples.

"These samples were the primordial ooze that spawned "PM", and the results are mostly Laptop Of The Pops. A good deal of the tracks take Point's soundscape approach and juice it, some trickling out a moody moan and others, a pumping dance-around. A clear standout, however, is by Animal Family feat MC Cat Genius, which starts off with some frankly horrible noises that slowly turn into Sabbath riffs recreated from samples. Then a weary sigh, and an American bloke says that he'll never finish his remix in time and he's gonna give up. In steps Cat Genius, a miaow-talking hip hop cat, to create a discount-Anticon flavour about his spiky cat cock."

February 18, 2004

Another season, but the same old feelings

Two Poems by Major Jackson:

Born Under Punches

The deejay fingered a 12"
From a batch of milkcrates &
We were back inside the school
Gymnasium, catwalking between
Slowdrags & hipgrinds.
Skullcaps pulled below
Brows, Timberlands
Laced high, our fists swelled
Inside goose-down, metallic
Parkas. Spacemen
On the dancefloor!
Heavy-eyed, feral-faced,
We roamed till some
Boy's neck flashed
Links of gold.
When Big Jake threw
A suckerpunch, the boy
Fell like a swimmer
Giving up breathing. Lovers
Left each other's arms,
Backing away.
Someone's sister moaned
In the bleachers &
A heavy groove
Unlocked a flurry of fists.
In that darkness,
Speakers rose like
Moonlight diamonded
Mesh-wired glass.
What was it that bloomed
Around his curled
Body when the lights
Came up, fluorescent,
Vacant, garish?
The gym throbbed
With beats & rage
And his eyes darted
Like a man nailed
To a burning crucifix.

How To Listen

I am going to cock my head tonight like a dog
in front of McGlinchy's Tavern on Locust;
I am going to stand beside the man who works all day combing
his thatch of gray hair corkscrewed in every direction.
I am going to pay attention to our lives
unraveling between the forks of his fine-toothed comb.
For once, we won't talk about the end of the world
or Vietnam or his exquisite paper shoes.
For once, I am going to ignore the profanity and
the dancing and the jukebox so I can hear his head crackle
beneath the sky's stretch of faint stars.

February 17, 2004

Let's Go Way Back to the Ancient Times

In 1987 or 1988, almost half a life ago, I and a high school friend attended a taping of the Morton Downey Jr. Show, at the Channel 9 studios, in Secaucus, New Jersey. Recently, I made a few still shots from the videotape:

The famous icon.

"We'll be right back."

Mort chain smoked thoughout each show and ended up dying of lung cancer in 2001.

Many in the crowd donated money so the guy wearing khakis, who was from Scarsdale, New York, could buy some socks.

One of Mort's guests that night was Brooklyn Civic Counsel Member Myrdle Whitmore.

Nice coat.

New Jersey and you, perfect together.

Bad sweaters, big hair, and gold chains. Jersey.

This is a shot of my friend and I. This was the only time I ever wore the baja shirt I have on in the picture.

Born Sean Morton Downey Jr. on Dec. 9, 1933, the son of singer Morton Downey and dancer Barbara Bennett grew up in privilege, attended military school and earned a marketing degree and a law degree.

As a young man he held a number of jobs, including special assistant on Capitol Hill, businessman, author, radio host, singer and songwriter. Among his most successful songs were the 1960s surf hits “Wipeout” and “Pipeline.”

He also appeared as an actor in such TV shows and movies as “Tales from the Crypt,” “Meet Wally Sparks,” “Revenge of the Nerds III,” “Predator II” and the new “Rockford Files,” before he obtained his own show.

the parasites will love you when you're dead la la la la la

* Former Nixon counsel John Dean calls President Bush's new Iraq commission a sham. an excerpt:

"George W. Bush has been nothing short of a magician when it comes to making unpleasant matters confronting his presidency disappear. And on February 6, Bush once again did a bit of conjuring.

"That day, he announced that he was creating an "independent commission, chaired by Governor and former [Virginia] Senator Chuck Robb, and Judge Laurence Silberman, to look at American intelligence capabilities, especially our intelligence about weapons of mass destruction." In doing so, Bush sought to head off what potentially could be an aggressive Congressional inquiry, or a Congressionally created independent commission, on the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) justification for the Iraq war.

"Such an inquiry would doubtless focus on a set of questions that is bound to make Bush very uncomfortable: the central issue of whether Bush, and his Vice President Dick Cheney, accurately represented the pre-Iraq war intelligence (or lack thereof) when claiming that Saddam had WMD and that Iraqi had ties with al Qeada.

"Bush's magic appears to have worked again. His commission is a sham, and simply ignores the very reason he was pressured to create it. Yet it seems no one is complaining -- or at least, no one who could force the commencement of an legitimate investigation."

Library Journal wrote of John Dean's upcoming book: If "Dean of Watergate notoriety is alarmed by Bush's obsession with secrecy, then you know there's a problem."

* Randy Newman interview. [via the fold drop]

an excerpt:

"As self-proclaimed underachievers go, Randy Newman is in a league of his own. He has an Oscar in his luxurious residence in west LA. He's supremely talented, wealthy, lauded by performers as diverse as Bob Dylan and Eminem, and regarded by many as America's greatest living songwriter. He has been favourably compared to George Gershwin, Cole Porter and - because music critics, like the rest of us, suffer the occasional rush of blood - Swift and Defoe. Now 60, he's never made a bad record, and his latest CD, The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. One, in which he revisits some of his greatest songs with only a piano accompaniment, is majestic. But none of this, somehow, has ever been quite enough.

"Newman doesn't enjoy interviews - 'grouchy,' 'miserable' and 'sullen' are some of the adjectives he's inspired. He takes a seat opposite me looking like a tousled academic who knows it's his duty to assist but is wary and preoccupied - his manner is that of a forensic scientist who's arrived to testify in court, but has just remembered that he left home with the bath water running."

* Leslie Silbert, an ex-coworker, left to write a novel, and actually did. It is set to be published later this month. Will the book be as good as the blurbs...?

February 16, 2004

make a career of being blue

Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David contributed an Op-Ed in Sunday's New York Times. In full:

My War

February 15, 2004

"I couldn't be happier that President Bush has stood up for having served in the National Guard, because I can finally put an end to all those who questioned my motives for enlisting in the Army Reserve at the height of the Vietnam War. I can't tell you how many people thought I had signed up just to avoid going to Vietnam. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, I was itching to go over there. I was just out of college and, let's face it, you can't buy that kind of adventure. More important, I wanted to do my part in saving that tiny country from the scourge of Communism. We had to draw the line somewhere, and if not me, then who?

"But I also knew that our country was being torn asunder by
opposition to the war. Who would be here to defend the homeland against civil unrest? Or what if some national emergency should arise? We needed well-trained men on the ready to deal with any situation. It began to dawn on me that perhaps my country needed me more at home than overseas. Sure, being a reservist wasn't as glamorous, but I was the one who had to look at myself in the mirror.

"Even though the National Guard and Army Reserve see combat
today, it rankles me that people assume it was some kind of waltz in the park back then. If only. Once a month, for an entire weekend - I'm talking eight hours Saturday and Sunday - we would meet in a dank, cold airplane hangar. The temperature in that hangar would sometimes get down to 40 degrees, and very often I had to put on long underwear, which was so restrictive I suffered from an acute vascular disorder for days afterward. Our captain was a strict disciplinarian who wouldn't think twice about not letting us wear sneakers or breaking up a poker game if he was in ill humor. Once, they took us into the woods and dropped us off with nothing but compasses and our wits. One wrong move and I could've wound up on Queens Boulevard. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to find my way out of there and back to the hangar. Some of my buddies did not fare as well and had to call their parents to come and get them.

"Then in the summer we would go away to camp for two weeks.
It felt more like three. I wondered if I'd ever see my parakeet again. We slept on cots and ate in the International House of Pancakes. I learned the first night that IHOP's not the place to order fish. When the two weeks were up, I came home a changed man. I would often burst into tears for no apparent reason and suffered recurring nightmares about drowning in blueberry syrup. If I hadn't been so strapped for cash, I would've sought the aid of a

"In those days, reserve duty lasted for six years, which, I might add, was three times as long as service in the regular army, although to be perfectly honest, I was unable to fulfill my entire obligation because I was taking acting classes and they said I could skip my last year. I'll always be eternally grateful to the Pentagon for allowing me to pursue my dreams.

"Still, after all this time, whenever I've mentioned my service in the Reserve during Vietnam, it's been met with sneers and derision. But now, thanks to President Bush, I can stand up proudly alongside him and all the other guys who guarded the home front. Finally, we no longer have to be embarrassed about our contribution during those very trying years."

Larry David served in the Army Reserve in the 1970's.

And, an excellent article from Progressive Southern on Bush and his National Guard Service. An excerpt:

"Many of those who came into close contact with Bush say he liked to drink beer and Jim Beam whiskey, and to eat fist-fulls of peanuts, and Executive burgers, at the Cloverdale Grill. They also say he liked to sneak out back for a joint of marijuana or into the head for a line of cocaine. The newspapers that year are full of stories about the scourges of cocaine and heroin making their way into the U.S. from abroad in the early days of the so-called 'war on drugs.'

"According to Cathy Donelson, a daughter of old Montgomery but one of the toughest investigative reporters to work for newspapers in Alabama over the years, the 1960s came to Old Cloverdale in the early 1970s about the time of Bush's arrival.

"'We did a lot of drugs in those days,' she said. 'The 1970s are a blur.'"

February 14, 2004

Letter to the editor of The Tennessean:

Can't be easy defending Bush day after day

To the Editor:

How many gallons of Republican Kool-Aid does a Bush supporter have to choke down in order to keep defending the worst president in American history?

Just as Alabamans happily say ''Thank God for Mississippi'' when annual ''quality of life'' rankings come out, I suspect Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover and Franklin Pierce are saying, ''Thank God for G. W. Bush'' somewhere in the afterlife.

Anyone who even thinks about voting for this man in November should be prosecuted for treason.

David Berman

February 13, 2004

February 13
-- by David Lehman

It's Friday the 13th and I wonder
how the superstition got started
I'd always thought it was because
there were thirteen diners at the
Last Supper but I recently saw a
documentary abou the Knights
Templar according to which
King Phillip of France mounted
a ruthlessly efficient surprise
attack on the Templars
and tortured them until they
confessed they were heritics,
gnostics. That happened on
a Friday the 13th in the 14th
century, and ever since it's
been an unlucky day to be caught
in a storm or shoplifting or in bed
with a person other than your mate
or just crossing the street before
looking both ways in New York
where, from one point of view,
it's always Friday the 13th.

February 12, 2004

hey, mr. spaceman, please take me along for the ride

Not breaking news, but in 2000 former Red Sox Pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee said he was rooting for George W. Bush in the U.S. presidential race because he once smoked pot with the candidate. [via skimble]

"The way things are now, people want to party and George W. is the kind of guy you can party with," the Montreal Gazette quoted Lee as saying.

"Back in 1973, we rolled a couple of doobies and smoked them together. And I can tell you -- he definitely inhaled."

"The Gazette said Lee had told a similar story on TV earlier in the U.S. election campaign.

"The former rebel left-hander with the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox was often at odds with baseball authorities during his career and once, when facing suspension for the use of illegal drugs, claimed he only got marijuana to sprinkle on his breakfast cereal."

what a curious life we have found here tonight

* grammar police points out this article, which begins:

"George W. Bush left his Texas Air National Guard assignment and moved to Alabama in 1972 even though the Air Force denied his request for a transfer, according to his military records.

"In fact, Bush did not even ask for an official transfer until nine days after he moved to Alabama in May 1972.

"The Air Force quickly rejected Bush's request, saying the fighter pilot was 'ineligible' to move to the Alabama unit Bush wanted - a squadron of postal handlers.

"Nevertheless, Bush stayed in Alabama until his Texas commanders finally gave him written authorization five months later to train there."

* Rumsfeld is eager to turn Iraq over to the State Department and wash his hands of Iraq mess he helped create.

* Skimble continues to monitor the activities of Neil Bush, concluding that "Neil, with his whoring, conniving crony capitalism, represents in many ways a more forthright version of the entire Bush family in microcosm."

what a beautiful thing that can flash on a screen and be gone

"We are bored when we don't know what we are waiting
for. That we do know, or think we know, is nearly always the expression of our superficiality of inattention. Boredom is the threshold to great deeds. -- Now, it would be important to know: What is the dialectical antithesis to boredom."

"Each generation experiences the fashions of the one immediately preceeding it as the most radical antiaphrodisiac imaginable. In this judgment it is not
so far off the mark as might be supposed. Every fashion is to some extent a bitter satire on love; in every fashion, perversities are suggested by the most
ruthless means. Every fashion stands in opposition to the inorganic world. To the living, fashion defends the rights of the corpse. The fetishism that succombs
to the sex appeal of the inorganic is its vital nerve."

--- from Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project.

February 11, 2004

A Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing

* Minutemen iMovie. [via twinkle twinkle blah blah]
there's no shadow, where you stood

* 1998 interview of Jonathan Richman. an excerpt:

JH: I heard it this way- you were listening to the radio and heard the Velvet Underground playing, and immediately hitchhiked to New York where you showed up unannounced at Lou Reed's door. Lou sent you over to stay with Danny Fields.

JR: No. That's not true. But it's a great story, though.

JH: Did you in fact hang out with the Velvet Underground?

JR: They played Boston. They played at the Boston Tea Party and through an amazing chain of events I got to hang out with them backstage even though I was underage.

JH: Ah, that got transmogrified by the myth-making machine. And the New York part?

JR: I visited Lou Reed in New York a few times before I went away. I visited them a few times when I was still living at home- took the train down. I hung out with the Velvet Underground a bit, slept on their manager's couch but it was Steve Selznick not Danny Fields. Later on John and I…see, I lived in New York for a year when I was 18. I moved to there to be with the Velvet Underground. While I was there I'd bought a little Fender Vibrolux amp and I'd left it there. So when I came home John Felice and I took the bus to NYC to pick up my amp. That could maybe be where that story came from. We slept in Central Park, which is no mean feat- we got there and it was almost dawn when we went to sleep. The fact that we slept in Central Park and woke up alive tells you that it was 1969 and not a day later. (suddenly realizing he has his dates wrong) Actually, it was 1970. So we were dead.

JH: The first record is almost like a Velvet Underground record screened through a Jonathan filter. I mean to me it sounds like a Velvets album- only better. I know you wouldn't use a superlative like "better," but I actually heard the Modern Lovers long before I heard the Velvets so it's different for me. Had they influenced you a lot as far as the sound you were going for on the black record? Or did you sound like that beforehand?

JR: If there was no Velvet Underground there would have been no such record. Does that tell you what you need to know?

* US military may run out of money. The military will have no money to pay for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for three months beginning Oct. 1 because the White House is declining to ask Congress for funding until December or January, well after the presidential election.

* Pazz & Jop poll is up.
Run Run Run Run Run, Take a Drag or Two

* The new Bush budget eliminates or sharply decreases funding for 129 government programs including those to improve literacy, demolish decrepit public housing and subsidize corporate technological research.

* Jenny Toomey featured on NPR's Morning Edition.

* A man in Western China is seeking permission to turn his home into a a public toilet as a way of making money for his family.

February 10, 2004

Without drama, what is ritual?

* 50 Coolest apes of all-time.

* Paris Hilton's book proposal. [via bookslut]

* Calpundit has found the full text of the ominous "torn document" detailing Bush's controversial "AWOL" status in the National Guard between 1972 and 1973. [via swamp-city]
Don't you want to go where things move slow?

Three paintings by Dana Schutz:

50 Foot Queenie

Death Comes to Us All

The Breeders

February 9, 2004


I ran across this today in John Siegenthaler's bio of Polk, "James K. Polk" (Henry Holt 2003). The original Timberlake/Jackson scandal (circa 1828):

"(John) Eaton, as (Andrew Jackson's) secretary of war, created a monumental public fiasco as his controversial marriage to Margaret O'Neale Timberlake escalated into a scandal that literally tore Jackson's cabinet apart. The president had become fond of the attractive, ambitious young "Peggy" when he and Eaton came to Washington as senators in 1824 and lodged in her father's boardinghouse. After her husband, a naval officer, committed suicide at sea, snide gossip flew about the capital that Senator
Eaton had "comforted" her in her "mourning." As Amos Kendall, a
journalist and member of Jackson's kitchen cabinet, put it, "Scandal says they slept together."

When Eaton told Jackson that he was thinking of marrying the
recent widow, the president urged him to do so and they were wed on New Year's Day, 1829. To the wives of the other cabinet members, the new Mrs. Eaton was a scarlet woman. Led by Florde Calhoun, the vice president's wife, they shunned her, boycotted events if the Eaton's were invited, and even refused Jackson's
invitations to the White House.

President Jackson took it as a personal affront, scolded the
cabinet members, and demanded that they force their wives to be kind to Peggy. The cabinet wives would not be forced. Great silliness ensued. There came a time when the president actually
cancelled cabinet meetings for weeks on end. During this period, Polk and other Jackson supporters in Congress, who were fighting the president's battles against internal improvements, the Bank of the Unitd States, high tariffs, and nullification, felt great frustration and longed for the stalemate to end.

The administration was a year old when Charles Wickliffe, Polk's House colleague from Kentucky, called a meeting to petition the president to fire the secretart of war. Wickliffe, a Calhounite, also wanted Jackson to fire Secretary of State Van Buren- who was unmarried and the only cabinet officer who had been courteous to Margaret Eaton.

The Eaton scandal was but a prelude to Jackson's climactic break with Calhoun. Van Buren was doing all he could to create friction between the two men. Their friendship finally was severed when Jackson learned that Calhoun, as Monroe's secretary of war, had been critical in cabinet meetings reviewing Old Hickory's conduct during the expulsion of the Spaniards from Florida.
Jackson confronted Calhoun and denounced him as a most profound hypocrite." The break was brutal and public. Suddenly Van Buren and Eaton resigned. Old Hickory demanded the resignations of the three cabinet officers who were Calhoun's close friends.....The war inside the administration was over."

February 6, 2004

Crowds of people standing everywhere And here they always play my song

From an Arthur Lee article in the Guardian.

Lee, on Charlie Parker:

"I've always really liked jazz, and when I was a teenager, I used to paint on moustaches so that I could go and see people like John Coltrane and Elvin Jones play live, and I thought those guys were the shit until I heard Charlie Parker. There is no comparison between his saxophone playing and any other musician who has played or is playing today. His talent was so incredible that it was a shame he had to live and die in the way that he did, but everybody has hard times. It is the creativity and the musicianship that counts, and that's what we'll remember people by. Not the hard times."

* The Land-Grant College Review, which is about to publish Issue Number 2, is running a special February Madness promotion you might want to know about. This month only, when you subscribe to the Land-Grant College Review or buy one of their handsome, all cotton, barn-burning T-shirts, you'll receive a free copy of the CD Charm School, by Bishop Allen. Bishop Allen is a band that has played some of the LGCR events, and they're loads of fun--the music is pop quirkiness at its best.
"Each man has his own way. After all, most writing is done away from the typewriter, away from the desk. I'd say it occurs in the quiet, silent moments, while your're walking or shaving or playing a game or whatever, or even talking to someone you're not vitally interested in. You're working, your mind is working, on this problem in the back of your head. So, when you get to the machine it's a mere matter of transfer.

"What is an artist? He's a man who has antennae, who knows how to hook up to the currents which are in the atmosphere, in the cosmos; he merely has the facility for hooking on, as it were. Who is original? Everything that we are doing, everything that we think, exists already, and we are only intermediaries, that's all, who make use of what is in the air." -- Henry Miller

"What's so hard about that first sentence is that you're stuck with it. Everything else is going to flow out of that sentence. And by the time you've laid down two sentences, your options are all gone.

"Yes, and the last sentence in a piece is another adventure. It should open the piece up. It should make you go back and start reading from page one. That's how it should be, but it doesn't always work. I think of writing anything at all as a kind of highwire act. The minute you start putting words on paper you're eliminating possibilities. Unless you're Henry James.

"I suppose that's part of the dynamic. I start a book and I want to make it perfect, want it to turn every color, want it to be the world. Ten pages in, I've already blown it, limited it, made it less, marred it. That's very discouraging. I hate the book at that polnt. After a while I arrive at an accommodation: well, it's not ideal, it's not the perfect object I wanted to make, but maybe -- if I go ahead and finish it anyway -- I can get it right next time. Maybe I can have another chance." --- Joan Didion

February 5, 2004

But soon that warmth turned to an itch

* Étude in Westchester, a short story written by Steve Almond and Alicia Erian.

* Thieves, a short story by Richard Yates. An excerpt:

"Talent," Robert Blaine said in his slow, invalid's voice, "is simply a matter of knowing how to handle yourself." He relaxed on his pillow, eyes gleaming, and shifted his skinny legs under the sheet. "That answer your question?"

"Well, now, wait a minute, Bob," Jones said. His wheelchair was drawn up respectfully beside the bed and he looked absorbed but dissatisfied, begging to differ. "I wouldn't define it as knowing how to handle yourself, exactly. I mean, doesn't it depend a lot on the particular kind of talent you're talking about, the particular line of work?"

"Oh, line of work my ass," Blaine said. "Talent is talent."

That was how the evening's talk began at Blaine's bed. There was always a lull in the tuberculosis ward after the wheeling-out of supper trays, when the sun threw long yellow stripes on the floor below the west windows and dazzled the silver spokes of wheelchairs in its path; it was a time when most of the thirty men who lived in the ward convened in little groups to talk or play cards. Jones usually came over to Blaine's bed. He thought Blaine the most learned man and the best conversationalist in the building, and if there was one thing Jones loved, he said, it was a good gabfest. Tonight they were joined by young O'Grady, a husky newcomer to the ward who sat hunched at the foot of Blaine's bed, his eyes darting from one speaker to the other. What was talent? Blaine had used the word, Jones had demanded a definition and now the lines were drawn--as clearly, at least, as they ever were.

"Best definition I can give you," Blaine said. "Only definition there is. Knowing how to handle yourself. And the ultimate of talent is genius, which is what puts men like Louis Armstrong and Dostoyevsky in a class by themselves among horn players and novelists. Plenty of people know more about music than Armstrong; it's the way he handles himself that makes the difference. Same thing's true of a first-rate ballplayer or a first-rate doctor or a historian like Gibbon. Very simple."

* a richard farina fan site.

February 4, 2004

Scientific delirium madness

* Clever european television ad for Trojan Condoms. [via slipkid]
--- by James Tate

When I drink
I am the only man
in New York City.
There are no lights,
but I am used to that.
There are the staircases
that go forever upward
like the twisted branches

of a cemetery willow.
No one has climbed them
since prohibition.
And the overturned automobiles
stripped to their skeletons,
chewed clean
by the darkness.

Then I see the ember of
a cigarette in an alley
and I know that I am no longer
alone. One of us
is still shaking.
And has led the other
into some huddle of extinction.

--- by James Tate

This is the hardest part:
When I came back to life
I was a good family dog
and not too friendly to strangers.
I got a thirty-five dollar raise
in salary, and through the pea-soup fogs
I drove the General, and introduced him
at rallies. I had a totalitarian approach
and was a massive boost to his popularity.
I did my best to reduce the number of people.
The local bourgeoisie did not exist.
One of them was a mystic
and walked right over me
as if I were a bed of hot coals.
This is par for the course-
I will be employing sundry golf metaphors
henceforth, because a dog, best friend
and chief advisor to the General, should.
While dining with the General I said,
"Let's play the back nine in a sacred rage.
Let's tee-off over the foredoomed community
and putt ourselves thunderously, touching bottom."
He drank it all in, rugged and dusky.
I think I know what he was thinking.
He held his automatic to my little head
and recited a poem about my many weaknesses,
for which I loved him so.

I'll put twenty-five knicker, please, on Gallop printer

* GBV back in the studio, expect another album from them this summer.

* Since Bush took office, more than 2.3 million non-farm jobs have been lost.

* Iraq citizens speak out about the water problems: “This is just like Saddam’s time. In fact, it is worse. We have less water now than before. We are all sick with stomach problems and kidney stones. Our crops are dying.”

And: “Bechtel is spending all of their money without any studies. We give our NGO’s all of our information before they do the work, and they know what to do. Bechtel is painting buildings, but this doesn’t give clean water to the people who have died from drinking contaminated water. We ask of them that instead of painting buildings, they give us one water pump and we’ll use it to give water service to more people. We have had no change since the American’s came here. We know Bechtel is wasting money, but we can’t prove it.”

And: “It was much better before the invasion. We had 24 hours running water then. Now we are drinking this garbage because it is all we have.”

February 3, 2004

"Pursue the small utopias: nature, music, friendship, intimate love." -The Fugs
So Much Style

Richard Yates: February 3, 1926 - November 6, 1992

Following the publication of Revolutionary Road and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, Yates found himself broke, living in New York, not working much. His good friend, William Styron recommended him to E. Barrett Prettyman Jr. for the position as the first speechwriter for Robert F. Kennedy, at the time the Attorney General of the United States.

As part of the interview process, Yates was asked to submit a trial assignment -- a civil rights speech to be delivered at an "exclusive girls' college in the east."

In the following section from his unfinished novel (which was found in his freezer after he died and later published in part in Open City 3) Uncertain Times, Yates -- calling himself William Grove -- writes about that trial assignment:

Alone on the shuttle flight back to New York that afternoon, with the sparsely typed assignment sheet in his pocket, Grove felt lost in the sky until he picked up a complimentary copy of Time and opened it to the book section. The featured article that week was an interview with the British novelist and scholar John Wain, and in reply to one question Wain had this to say:

“Yes. Well, I've always believed that the purpose of a higher education is to free the mind.”

It wasn't much, but Grove read it over several times because it might turn out to be useful. And there’d be no need to give John Wain the credit for it; he could make it seem like something Robert Kennedy had thought up himself – or better still, he could let Robert Kennedy attribute it to “wise men through the ages.”

“…Wise men through the ages,” he wrote with a pencil that night at his own work table, in his own Barrow Street basement, “have understood that the purpose of a higher education is not only to discipline and instruct but above all to free the mind – to free it from the darkness, the narrowness, the groundless fears and self-defeating passions of ignorance.”

A full glass of ice and whiskey was close at hand, his first drink of the day except for the quick one he’d taken at LaGuardia Airport, but he didn’t pick it up until he’d finished that sentence – until he’d found, with some astonishment, that it was the easiest and most pleasurable sentence he had written that year.

With his first sips and swallows, and then with deeper swigs that sent authoritative tremors of well-being down his arms, other sentences began to take form. Not many of them came out right the first time but their ways of faltering were quick to suggest their ways of recovery; very soon the page was filled with crossings-out and ragged little writings-in, and only William Grove could tell that this was how it read:

“And so perhaps it’s not too much to say that what we are celebrating here today is the liberation, the setting-free of your minds. School is out, girls. You have earned the right to do your own learning, to develop your own insights and draw your own conclusion, to embark on your own adventures in the world.

“You may sometimes regret your education, for a free mind will always insist on seeking our reality – and reality can be far more painful that the safe and comfortable illusions of the intellectually poor – but your regret will be nothing compared with your measureless capacity for understanding.

“Men and women with free minds may sometimes be mistaken, but they are seldom fooled. They may be influenced, but they can’t be intimidated. They may be perplexed, but they will never be lost.” …

“In the light of a truly free mind no pettiness can pose as importance,” Robert Kennedy would tell the girls of Saint Mary’s, “no bullying sanctimony can disguise itself as leadership, no bigotry – anywhere, ever – can masquerade as accepted social custom.” …

It was time to get into the meat of the speech, the civil rights part of it; and after crossing out one sentence about “American Negroes” and another about the “twelve percent of our population whose skin is not white, he found himself writing something Robert Kennedy had actually said:

“Our current national crisis in civil right can’t be resolved by governmental edict. Ultimately it is a human problem, and its solution will depend on the ability of men and women everywhere to recognize and follow their own best instincts – t move quickly in establishing those reforms which all of us know, in our hearts, should have been made long ago.” …

His first draft for the conclusion of the speech had been built out of a rising series of three or four, semi-climactic statements, with pauses giving the audience time to applaud after each period. That kind of thing…wasn’t appropriate for a college graduation. Restraint, decorum and a merciful brevity had to be kept in mind.

Reluctantly, Grove crossed out a hundred words, hours’ worth of labor, and cut the thing back to where the girls had still been alert and listening.

“I think I’ve said most of what I came here to say now,” Bobby would tell them (and that was a serviceable little throwaway line because it could be used again and again in other, future speeches). “And I need scarcely to remind you that your generation will have plenty of challenges to face – more, perhaps, than any other in history. My message here is simply that there can be no allowance for your complacency in the days and years ahead, and there will be every need for your active involvement. But take heart. As adults with free minds in a free society, you have literally everything to live for. And remember this: You have nothing to be afraid of. Good luck and may God be with you all. Thank you.”

Wave on wave of phantom applause came rolling and breaking over Robert Kennedy as Grove read through it again. It might not be the world’s most perfect speech but it gave him an unmistakable sense of having done his best. All he had to do now was type it, in the two-finger method that was the only kind of typing he had ever learned, and mark it up and get it into the mail; then in a day or two a Justice Department girl would make a clean finished typescript and see that the top copy was brought, like a sacrificial offering, to the Attorney General’s attention.

“Well, I think this is excellent,” Robert Kennedy said.
“Thank you, sir.”
“I really think it’s a work of art, ah, Bill.” And with the stacked pages in one hand, Robert Kennedy waved the other vaguely in the air as if seeking an elusive word or phrase. “I like the – the elegance of it,” he said at last. “I like the style.”

February 2, 2004

too awake to be famous too wired to be safe

* Buddyhead on Pig Lib:

"We almost didn't even bother listening to this one after his first shitty solo record, 'white reggae' or whatever, but then Don Devore told us he named the first song on this record when he did ecstasy with Stephen Malkmus, and told him that all you needed on that drug is'water and a seat' and you're all set. Apparently Stephen laughed and jotted that down, and wouldn't ya know it, the first song on here is called 'Water & a Seat.' Ya know Don ain't getting a check in the mail for that shit. Oh, this record is rad by the way."
making mistakes nobody sees

* The Center for American Progress examines Halliburton's history of overcharging the goverment, among other things. an excerpt:

"Vice President Dick Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton, yesterday chastised those 'who intimidate opposition, tolerate and profit from corruption and maintain ties to terrorist groups.' But VP Cheney appears to have amassed a business record that embodies all he is criticizing. According to two new reports, while Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, the company deliberately skirted U.S. law to do business with state sponsors of terrorism, while spending millions to bribe a dictatorial regime in Nigeria. While Cheney's office continues to refuse comment on the matters, the reports are raising new questions about what CEO Cheney knew, and why such behavior was allowed to go on under his direct leadership. While VP Cheney has responded to these criticisms by saying Halliburton has been 'unfairly maligned' by 'desperate' political opponents, no one has yet disputed the facts. And for an Administration that has declared it will 'actively investigate, arrest and prosecute corporate wrongdoers,' the question in Cheney's case is simple: Will the White House live up to its pledge?"

* Wales exports Super Furry Animals are currently touring the States. an excerpt:

"'We love writing in Welsh, ourselves, because there's been less rock 'n' roll written in the Welsh language,' says Rhys, who, like the rest of the Furry Animals, has been bilingual since he grew up watching 'Sesame Street' broadcasts in English. 'What's very useful in having two languages is you can translate the most mundane cliche from one language and it sounds like an original refreshing burst of language in the other.'"

* Gibson to start selling a digital guitar. The first run of 3,000 instruments will retail for about $2,600 each.