Wednesday, January 31, 2007

POEM: Our Lady of the Snows by Robert Hass

In white,
the unpainted statue of the young girl
on the side altar
made the quality of mercy seem scrupulous and calm.

When my mother was in a hospital drying out,
or drinking at a pace that would put her there soon,
I would slip in the side door,
light an aromatic candle,
and bargain for us both.
Or else I'd stare into the day-moon of that face
and, if I concentrated, fly.

Come down! come down!
she'd call, because I was so high.

Though mostly when I think of myself
at that age, I am standing at my older brother's closet
studying the shirts,
convinced that I could be absolutely transformed
by something I could borrow.
And the days churned by,
navigable sorrow.

... posted to TMP, with permission of Robert Hass, by the heroic Jeannie Vanasco from Sandusky, Ohio

Extra Hot

In the news today... the nuclear power sector in Russia and across the former Soviet Union is inviting female employees to compete in Miss Atom-2007. A contest, presumably, to discover the industry's most "radiant" beauty. Find out how to vote on-line at

Quite a public relations campaign. Perhaps they need a slogan as well. "Russian Nuclear Power... we're not glowing, we're growing."

miseries and blessings

Winston Churchill once said socialism is the equal sharing of miseries whereas capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. Did anyone ever imagine it would be this unequal?

Monday, January 29, 2007

the noise outside the window

... this month I'm reminded just how noisy New York can be. too easy to forget that the literary life is what happens between someone at a desk and a blank piece of paper. or between a person and a book they're reading. probably happens, the forgetting, when all that blank white paper just gets too scary.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


... Lucy P is sending us more unpublished Hunter S. Thompson photos next Friday. Check back then. Meanwhile, Agar and Sandy below...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Interview with Chilean finance minister Andres Velasco

On a Sunday evening two weeks ago we visited Chilean finance minister Andres Velasco and his wife at their home in Santiago. In a quiet neighborhood, their 1960s low-slung modern was furnished with Saarinen furniture, abstract paintings, and an overflow of books.

JSL: Can a country's natural resources be a curse?

AV: It’s a problem when your economy is held hostage to their price cycles. Taking account of the effects of commodity cycles has been a key to our policy. When your commodity income is high, you save. When your income is low, because the economy is low, because the price of copper is low, you spend more than you would otherwise to move against the cycle. It's known as a counter-cyclical fiscal policy.

…the entirety of this interview with Andres Velasco will run in the debut issue of Monocle magazine, available February…

Thursday, January 25, 2007

BANDE A PART...the part where they dance

POEM: Good-Bye Finch by Robyn Schiff

When that which closes
hopes. Better to
measure. Leaner
weaves the raven
nearer the center, our
single reminder which the black bird makes
"find me, I am here" music,
crying out
"this food is not filling." Find me
time, pleasure, ocean, ever,
or pure abstraction
as if the lightness

Forget that which is
rare? ounce? blessed?
Do you know the word for
what you do not
want. Transactions take place
Always a disruption
Transactions take the place of you

... posted to TMP by the heroic Jeannie Vanasco

Gonzo PHOTO: Agar and Sandy, Big Sur, © Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson's Gonzo Photography

Thanks to Michael Hoppen Gallery for the above photo, "Agar and Sandy, Big Sur © Hunter S Thompson. See more at Hoppen Gallery”

My friend Lucy tells me that the HST show, "GONZO," runs at Michael Hoppen Gallery in London from 3 February until 10 March 2007. It will be the very first time private photographs of and by Hunter S Thompson will have been shown to the public in Europe and coincides with a limited edition book, also entitled GONZO, published by Ammo Books ( Prints are available in a limited edition of 10 only and are produced on either silver gelatin or Fuji Crystal archive paper.

Caleb Carr on conflict analogy

military historian and novelist Caleb Carr writes to TMP:

Well, what we already know is that the Cold War is a bad one: Russia was an intensely centralized state, and the whole Reagan/Thatcher thing is, I fear, hogwash; the Soviets were absolutely imploding on their own, as evidenced by the fact that the people who thought we needed to do all those questionable things to bring them down still believed they had many years of fearsome strength left.
The problem is we really do have a slightly unique situation: you can't compare it to the uprising of a tribe or a group, because the connection among Islamic fundamentalists is religion -- but were not really fighting fundamentalism (if we were half the White House would be in Gitmo), what we're fighting is a BEHAVIOR, an aberrant belligerent tactic that has no precise precedents. What I suggested in my book were the examples of slavery, piracy, and genocide, all once staples of war, now considered either anachronisms or outright crimes and rarely seen. So we look to those examples and what do we get?
Here's the problem: we get tactics that CAN be fought militarily, that indeed MUST be, but that CANNOT be DEFEATED militarily -- because when you fight a behavior, the ultimate solution is not the defeat of its practitioners, it is convincing the world that the behavior itself is an abomination.
It is here that that Western Left, and now the Bush administration, have done so much damage: by trying to paint terrorism as the "force equalizer of the weak," the Left not only makes an absurd, self-defeating argument (for if it is the weapon of the weak, then the strong cannot by definition be terrorists, which the Left rightly claims they on occasion ARE), but makes it that much harder to rally public opposition by romanticizing it. And now Bush has played into this by failing to understand that the war against terror is, at heart, an ethical and not a moral struggle: that is, that what we are fighting is not "evil," are not the complaints of these people, but rather their methods. Even Osama has justifiable goals -- the removal of US troops from Saudi Arabia -- as do the Palestinians; but we now declare that we will not consider any such arguments until the terrorists change their behavior. But that will not happen, because their behavior is their existence, and the more you engage them militarily WITHOUT engaging them diplomatically (or rather engaging more responsible opposition groups) the more life you breathe into them, because LONG-TERM YOU WILL END UP DOING BAD THINGS, TOO. Al Qaeda's life blood is the struggle with the US; remove it, and they wither and die, and they know it; maintain it, and American forces will get so tired and furious that they will begin fucking up.
That's why Afghanistan was important: it was quick, it was in conjunction with indigenous groups on the ground, and it didn't give Al Qaeda time to redefine the conflict as they are trying (and to some extent succeeding) in doing in Iraq. We CANNOT have protracted campaigns in this war. We have to strike hard at those who strike at us, do what we can to help the friendlies, and get out; the democracy idea in Iraq was a disaster that will have no result any different from what the original RUMSFELD plan was (six weeks to handover), and had we been talking to the RIGHT people on the ground from the start -- i.e., Sistani -- we could have made it work. Bremer and Wolfowitz put the poison in Bush's ear, and the little man saw a path to greatness. He wanted to be Lincoln and free the slaves; and while there are similarities, as I say, to the fight against slavery, there aren't any exact parallels.
So where does that leave one? Searching in OTHER PLACES for answers. This is, unfortunately, the kind of war they understand in the East, the kind of war they've been fighting since ancient times. Machiavelli, as those who know KNOW, was a piker compared to Sun-tzu in the area of war, particularly when it came to understanding that war and diplomacy are inextricably interwoven: and Clausewitz, who is a God in America, was dead wrong, you don't stop negotiating and then start fighting, you MUST do both at once constantly. Doing so would have mitigated even the Second World War, or could have; but we never considered it.
We have to, now. Everyone's racing around trying to find "the War Model" that works for this situation, but my central point that there is NOT one -- not in the West, at any rate. Remember that the East has a good record of success against America: the only times we succeeded were when the enemy fought like us (Japan, Korea) or we fought like them -- in the Philippines, which MAY be one of the best hints we have to fighting this. (Certainly it is the unfortunate parallel in terms of what it did to American society.) The Vietnamese, on the other hand, as well as the Muslims thus far, have been able to put a modern spin on the ancient notion of how to deal with an enemy by reaching across his army and to his people, both with and without force; "the greatest general is he who wins wars without fighting battles"; and we don't have an answer, yet, because we're still violently searching for the Clausewitzian "center of gravity" in the enemy, without realizing that he has once again been clever enough to deposit that item within us.


... some old news via... “Page Six,” NY Post, July 28, 2006

Former Paris Review Editor James Linville is writing a movie adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Garden of Eden" for Berwick Street Productions, a UK indie film company. Hemingway kept that novel, a boundaries-breaking erotic drama about a young American triangle in the South of France, under lock and key, publishing it posthumously, only after all the real-life models were departed. Linville was a longtime protégé of the Review's George Plimpton, who himself was mentored by "Papa." When Plimpton visited Hemingway in '50s Havana, the older writer told him, "There are three good rules you can trust for writing. The first: Write about what you know. The second and third? No one ever remembers what they are."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Poem: Courtesy by David Ferry

It is an afternoon toward the end of August:
Autumnal weather, cool following on,
And riding in, after the heat of summer,
Into the empty afternoon shade and light,

The shade full of light without any thickness at all;
You can see right through and right down into the depth
Of the light and shade of the afternoon; there isn't
Any weight of the summer pressing down.

In the backyard of the house next door there's a kid,
Maybe eleven or twelve, and a young man,
Visitors at the house whom I don't know,
The house in which the sound of some kind of party,

Perhaps even a wedding, is going on.
Somehow you can tell from the tone of their voices
That they don't know each other very well--
Two guests at the party, one of them, maybe,

A friend of the bride or groom, the other the son
Or the younger brother, maybe, of somebody there.
A couple of blocks away the wash of traffic
Dimly sounds, as if we were near the ocean.

They're shooting baskets, amiably and mildly.
The noise of the basketball, though startingly louder
Than the voices of the two of them as they play,
Is peaceable as can be, something like meter.

The earnest voice of the kid, girlish and manly,
And the voice of the young man, carefully playing the game
Of having a grown-up conversation with him:
I can tell the young man is teaching the boy by example,

The easy way he dribbles the ball and passes it
Back with a single gesture of wrist to make it
Easy for the kid to be in synch;
Giving and taking, perfectly understood.

Piscos sour

Three parts pisco, one part lemon, a drop of bitter, not very much sugar (powdered), and lots of ice. That's the way Chileans have it. Have it in Peru, it will also have some egg-white.

Monday, January 22, 2007

more from interview with Andres Velasco

Among the people behind the [1988] opposition campaign were a team of ad people, journalists, economists, and data analysts who came together to brainstorm. I was a small part of that. The symbol of our campaign was a rainbow. The slogan of the campaign, which to this day sounds a bit “much,” was simply “Happiness is coming.” And the campaign emphasized young people, walking down the street together, running on beaches, something like the old Coca-Cola ads but it was important, and it worked. There was another ad that was remarkably subtle but powerful. It just shows faces of boys singing in a school choir. The camera pans across the choir: all the boys are blonde and blue-eyed and singing in a foreign language, until the camera comes on one boy with brown eyes and brown hair and it stops, and you see that the boy is struggling and doesn’t know the words to the song. The camera pulls back and the voice-over says simply: “Exiled. Never again.” You didn't need to say more. Everyone in Chile knew people who were exiled in far off lands, and knew that they wanted to return. Many would return… but many would not.

more to come

back soon...

now blogging at STANDPOINT on line...

please click HERE.

Elizabeth Wurtzel writes, on evil

... EW sent this missive to TMP...

I know where temptation lies inside of your heart
I know where the evil lies inside of your heart
If you’re gonna try to make it right you’re surely gonna end up wrong
(Somebody shut the door)

Lou Reed

I want to say something about evil, about how it resides in all of us, that it's not extraordinary, it's quite ordinary. We tend to think it belongs to terrorists, that it's the provenance of Osama Bin Ladin or Saddam Hussein, that evil is within Adolph Hitler or Ivan the Terrible. But really it's part of us all. The capacity to drive planes into towers and kill three thousand people, the ability to behead someone because we just don't like him, the cold harsh talent to orchestrate the Holocaust—actually those things are not within all of us. Thank God. But that stuff is not just evil—it's crazy. To act out on our wretched impulses thusly is so plainly crazy.
And actually, most of us are not crazy, are not sociopaths, are gifted with too much compassion to kill. Mostly we have no desire to kill.
But we are full of evil. Evil deep within, evil nearing the surface, evil chilling our hearts. We think terrible awful things all the time. We look unkindly upon others, we look impatiently upon the dreadful slowness of the world, we lose it, we become hateful, we think things we shouldn't think, and we pretend we don't. What doesn't kill us may well make us stronger, but it most surely makes us meaner. Hurt and heartbreak are wearing and tearing, callous us up of course—but it's not even life's little indignities that do us in.
Because we are born bad. Evil is something we've got going from the get-go. I'm not talking about something as sweet as original sin, Christ cannot redeem this, because it's just human nature, it's just who and what and where we are. We are as evil as we are, yes, good. You go to therapy for years to come to terms with yourself, to stop viewing yourself as a bad person, when really it would be more sensible to simply accept the bad because it's there, you're not wrong or mistaken to think so.
Confront your evil, or there is no chance that you will ever be any good at all.

On 11 September 2001, 9/11, a Tuesday, I woke up at eightish as per usual to feed my cat, and looked out my window at the sky and the way it was an unusual bright blue. I don’t usually notice these things and I noticed, it was a clarity so intense, and as one who is addicted to sunshine and brightness, I was struck by that big sky. It was so extreme that a couple of years later when I first heard Bruce Springsteen sing “Empty Sky,” which is actually about the day after it all, about the blankness of downtown Manhattan and looking up at no twin towers, I thought he was talking about the day of, the thing itself. I thought “Empty Sky” was the point of view of the terrorists, climbing into those airplanes, breaking into those cockpits, thinking how lucky they were that the view was so cloudless and clear and easy to fly through, that it was a fine day to crash some planes into some finely chosen targets. To me, that morning was the last day of empty sky, of clear blue. After the terrorist attacks, there was so much smoke and death burning up all the time—my Lord, the sky was never empty again.
Bruce got it so wrong.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Getting way ahead of myself. A couple of years or so. Which is the last thing I want to do.
I don’t want to tell this story retrospectively. I don’t want to tell you about 9/11 and how it was to live it from my apartment diagonally across the street from the World Trade Center in the past tense. I want to tell you events as they happened, I want you to live it with me, to be there now. If I were advising anyone else how to construct this or any other narrative that is, of course, what I would tell her to do, that’s just basic to decent writing: bring your reader there. Immediacy is the only thing I’m certain I can do with any kind of skill. And yet I just can’t do it with this one.
This may well be a story about the failure of memory.
It might be the story of trying to remember what’s happening as it’s happening.
At any rate I only know how to tell it as memories—faulty and flabby ones at best, and yet the total effect is so vivid. Memory: pathetic, leaden, and finally all we are left with.
So yes, it’s about eight, I’m awake, or half so, forking out Fancy Feast, boiling water for some tea, and since I fall asleep to Conan O’Brien, The Today Show is playing on my little TV that sits atop a milk crate at the foot of my bed, there’s Katie and Al, Matt and Ann, the bright brightness of the glare through the window makes the screen barely legible, and so it goes. No there’s no foreboding in the air, this is not a tsunami wind that the animals feel first, and I squeeze lemon and mix honey into English Breakfast tea like it’s morning in America, because it is.

I stretch into bed to sip on tea, pretty much planning to go back to sleep, which is what I do every day.
You didn’t really think I was such an early riser? Of course not. It’s just that the cat needed to be fed and so it gets done, he hits my face with his paws every morning until I relent, so we have our routine, and usually while I’m up I’ll manage to get this or that done even. Maybe I call my mother, who is up at that hour, and who I check in with in spite of myself. Every so often there’s someone to phone in Europe, a publisher or editor, because sometimes I attend to what I must if I must. But mostly I dawdle and think and accept that nothing’s quite worked out like I planned, that this is it just now, and I’ll even look out the window at the World Trade Center over to my left, at the Hudson River just ahead, at the school children just arriving to my right, and it all makes me so sad.
And you didn’t think I’d fail to find my way to the present tense? Sure I would. Of course. For now. For now while it’s all still clear. While we still have an empty sky.
Before I slip back.
Before I tell you that when the first plane hit the North Tower, which was throwing distance but not quite spitting distance from my apartment, I don’t remember hearing a thing.
People say: How is that possible?
People say: Are you crazy?
People, exasperated, finally say: Are you hard of hearing?
Of course, surely I heard it. But I must not have been especially struck. Struck, of course, is an unfortunate word to use in this context, but I think it’s just right, I think I wasn’t hit or thrown off balance by the crash, the noise was a noise like so many you hear in New York City all the time, maybe louder, but as a native of Manhattan, I don’t think big bangs catch me and scare me especially much. I don’t think I hear them the way other people do. I think noise is my natural atmosphere.
Either that, or the shock had already begun.
I guess I just don’t know.
Here’s what I do know: I’ve been waiting all my life for a bomb to drop on my head. I don’t mean that as a metaphor, or not really: I mean that I’ve always had the strange sensation that the sky was falling. When it actually was, I could hardly have been surprised. The noise must have sounded like what I’d always been hearing anyway.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

... more from interview with Chilean Finance Minister, Andres Velasco

You were away from Chile for many years in the 1970s and the 1980s. But you returned to work on the campaign for the 1988 plebiscite that ended the Pinochet dictatorship.

AV: It was an important time to be here. If there’s one day in my life where I thought the things one did could make a difference, the one day in my life which I will never forget, it was that day, especially the evening, when the dictatorship conceded that they had lost the plebiscite, and would have to hold elections and leave power. Leading up to it, I was working on my dissertation at Columbia in New York, but I had spent all of 1987, and much of 1988 in Chile. I came back again about a month before the plebiscite to work on the campaign. I helped with some of the ads, mostly conducting background research. On the day of the vote, I was assigned to be in charge of the team of poll-watchers for downtown Santiago. In that capacity I turned up at 7 AM, just as the polls opened, at Instituto Nationale, the best and most respected public school smack in the middle of downtown. We knew that’s where Pinochet would be voting. He swept in with a group of guards. We stood outside, our credentials as members of the opposition team in hand, and we were apprehensive. I’d been wondering what the army officers guarding the polling site would do when this team in our twenties appeared to say, “We've come here to check on the vote.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

... from interview with Chilean finance minister Andres Velasco

James Linville: I’ve been staying around the corner from the old US Embassy. I heard that long ago, when he was a university student, your father stormed the embassy. What was the occasion?

Andres Velasco: Not precisely “stormed,” I think. Those were of course different times, in the 1940s, after the end of the war, and once upon a time the anti-American demonstrations in Chile were not so few or far between. There was, however, an occasion when he was part of a group out front. The American ambassador came out and he invited the leaders of the demonstrators in for a chat. Yes, my father did enter, and then, well, it all ended perfectly amicably, until the next issue arose.

from MONOCLE magazine, March 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

last Friday Night in Santiago, Chile

Caleb Carr note II: "Life in the Double Lightning Bolts vs. Life in Iraq"

First, as to the facts of Grass' case: 10th SS Panzer Division and its sister, the 9th, were called into being toward the end of the war as prime examples of desperation units. The average age of their troops was reportedly eighteen, but it was well-known that many were a good deal younger, and some were quite a bit older. Their first task, significantly, was to try to plug the proliferating leaks on the Eastern front. Now, a word about the Eastern front: Especially toward the end of the war, the German practice of shipping all "undesirables," i.e. nearly all indigenous peoples and certainly all Jews, gypsies, Poles, and anyone displaying personal "imperfections" back to Germany for slave labor was increasingly giving way to the practice of executing such people in larger and larger numbers on the spot. As Anthony Beevor makes irrefutably clear in his masterful study of "Stalingrad," there was NO German soldier -- regular army, SS, Waffen SS, whatever -- who did not or could not know about all these programs, no matter how hard he tried, and no German officer who did not know of the details. Therefore, to assert that Grass could have been involved in action on the Eastern front, especially in a Waffen SS division, yet simply have been a dutiful soldier ignorant of what was going on around him... It doesn't work. You would have a much harder time making that case for someone working in Abu Ghraib and not knowing what Lynndie England and her boyfriend(s) were up to; and, as some of you have so indignantly pointed out, that case can't be made, either.

But let's say that Grass joined 10th SS Panzer later, after it returned to Germany; it was then involved in the follow-up offensive to the Battle of the Bulge, "Nordwind," during which it came under the PERSONAL command of Heinrich Himmler. If anyone is in any doubt as to what that means in practical terms, let's just say that on at least one occasion a surrounded American armored unit was driven to any and every extreme to avoid massacre -- the same kind of massacre that Waffen SS troops had committed at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge. No one familiar with the Waffen SS will be surprised by any of this; it is only the worst kind of Nazi freaks and biker morons that keep the imagery and "romance" of the fighting arm of Himmler's private army alive; for the rest of us, the mere fact that Grass chose to join ANY unit of the Waffen SS is sufficient to nullify any social commentary he may have chosen to make during the rest of his life, UNLESS he had chosen to admit his past FIRST.

Now, as to the charge that Amir Taheri's commentary cannot be taken seriously because he believes in the American-led invasion/liberation/occupation of Iraq: Well, one can only say that Himmler would be very pleased by that argument; although perhaps less so than Goebbels, and I do NOT mean that in any George Bush sense -- quite the contrary. It is not that rational people cannot disagree on this difficult subject, they certainly can, and I think everyone's opinions, or every sane person's opinions, have undergone great change during the last three years. But it is the perfection of propaganda to be able to link utterly disconnected topics, to use one subject's difficulties to supposedly reveal the fallacies of another that is, in fact, in no way connected to it. What Taheri believes about Iraq is immaterial to his analysis of Günther Grass, and vice-versa. But the larger point I was trying to make -- i.e., that an entire generation of now-senior German intellectuals have, to a very large extent, ignored their own history (whether during the war or after it, when their mistreatment of Muslims created the problems that Europe is now faced with) while focusing on every misdeed of the United States -- is, I still think, encapsulated very well in what Taheri says, WHATEVER you believe about the Iraq war and its origins; in truth, the German intelligentsia since the war, as Grass has revealed, have practiced the same techniques that their nation perfected before and during the war. This has NOTHING to do with the merits (or lack thereof) of Iraq; it has to do with the merits of German social and political commentary.

- Caleb

Caleb Carr writes on Gunter Grass

[in response to Amir Taheri's "Grass and his Dark Secret"] And it bears repeating that the unit Grass joined, 10th SS Panzer, was one of the most vicious at that time, responsible for some of the most serious war crimes at the end of the conflict.
There's almost no way that he could himself have played no part in those crimes;
Important mostly because of what it tells us about so much of the elder German intellectual leadership today, and the underpinnings of its anti-U.S. moral posturing.
So, one can hate Taheri all one likes; usually right, though, from all I've been able to tell...

Envirobabe Nora M reports

... Gunnar Lund, the Swedish Ambassador, told me that at dinner with Bush, he was impressed by how incredibly animated and knowledgeable Bush was about renewable energy and is looking to make it his legacy. The same thing at a big conference a few months ago. Bush was there with 1,000 others, furiously taking notes on
everything from cellulosic ethanol to plug-in hybrids...

Opinion Journal's Political Diary
Ethanol to the Rescue

President Bush is expected to pursue a major domestic initiative in the next year to build a "legacy" before he leaves office. Conservatives are nervous that this means the White House striking a deal with Democrats to shore Social Security -- a deal that might include a whopping tax increase if the current cap on payroll taxes is raised. That danger still exists, but my sources tell me Mr. Bush may instead be placing his "legacy" chips on changing energy policy.
Democrats who have recently visited with Mr. Bush in the Oval Office have found him both fixated and fascinated by alternative fuels. "He's all into switch grass," Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat, told the San Francisco Chronicle. She said Mr. Bush was "very engaged and wants to move forward" on bold plans to cure America's "addiction to oil."
Indeed, it appears something is in the works for Mr. Bush's State of the Union message. A federal advisory council on bio-fuels has been told to delay issuing its just-completed report because it might upstage a major announcement from Mr. Bush. White House advisor Al Hubbard is telling reporters to expect a major initiative on energy soon.
Conservatives may not like the subsidies and government-directed research that will be a likely part of any Bush energy plan, but if it means he spends less time pursuing a deal on entitlements with Democrats, they'll consider it a victory. "Bush should know that Democrats could always lead him down the primrose path on Social Security and then use it to bash Republicans in 2008," one GOP Congressman told me. "With energy you have a better chance of building a bipartisan consensus and less political risk."
-- John Fund

Saturday, January 13, 2007

temporary space

from the Pre-Columbian Museum, Santiago

to Santiago... Chile... then

... arrived yesterday in Santiago, Chile, to interview the Finance Minister Andres Velasco for Monocle magazine.

After the overnight, I rocked up at NH hotel... to find no reservation.

The wonderful Andrea at the front desk searched and searched, only to discover a reservation for me at their hotel in Santiago... de Campostella, Spain.

Still a few bugs in the system. Let us speak of this no more.


... while looking for DeLorenzo's Tomatoe Pies, Trenton, NJ

POEM: The Tent by James Scott Linville

Clouds drift into the night sky.
Far from out of sight/out of mind,
I miss Orion even more.

A wet wind almost took down the circus tent.
The ropes beat a tune against the poles.
Just the warm up notes before
the performance. I can’t wait.
And now the band has arrived.
Tootling instruments,
correlating keys.

And me, not a pound
in my pocket (the shame of it!)
and yet, still, here I am,
ushered in,
welcomed to the crowd.

The shame… no, it’s the piercing
music that shames me. But, tonight,
even the gorgeous night sky
shames me. How long
can this go on?

The rest of my life, if I'm lucky.
Sometimes it works
that way. Last night
I prayed, and this morning
the sun rose.

And in between time, I dreamed,
trudging all night
through cloud cuckooland.
In my dream, I even put in
an appearance in tonight’s tent,
showing up pants-less—c’mon, you’ve had
those dreams. So what?

Of course, the only other recourse was
a few eloquent seduction lines.
By the way, who
Was that talking? I think me.
If it was, they were the only
weapons I had. Or rather… defense.

Remember, yesterday, how I swooned
over the shine
of your hair, the blue
of your eye—who
was that doing
the swooning? And
did it work?

Apropos, just last week, I got
a summons for skipping jury duty one
too many times. So I wasn’t in the box.
Instead, it was the docket
for me, before the judge
in my best suit and clean shirt.
No counsel was provided
for me, as had been promised.

My defense? That
I’d swooned over your
brown eyes, that I was daydreaming
about the way your hair shined,
all the things I should have said
yesterday… things I plan, when
I see you next, to say … with all
the insouciant
I can muster.

The prosecutor, a hard-nosed young woman,
said, “The name of the woman in question’s
hairdresser is immaterial,” and
I was inclined to agree.

The judge saw this was going
nowhere, and called a recess and ordered
me into his chambers. His clerk
brushed something off my shoulder,
then barred the door to keep
out the pesky prosecutor.
“Okay, who shot the arrow?” He asked.
“You’re not going to go after HER are you?”
“Hell no, with your record she just
might be the victim.”
“So you think there’s a little
mischief-maker to run
up on charges?”
“Something like that.”
Putting my hand
to the buttons
of my shirt, I said, “I tell you true, I
never saw the chubby
little guy. And certainly didn’t
have a chance to see what hit me.”

As I pulled open my shirt, from
the place around where these lines
just written stuck out, a few
drops of blood seeped.

The judge, hands on knees, gave me
a look, not without sympathy,
and said, “C’mon,
not on the carpet there,

TMP on Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll

Thursday, January 04, 2007
Rock 'n' Roll... still rolling

Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll

James Linville, December 15, 2006

While in the Big Apple the first part of Tom Stoppard’s “The Coast of Utopia” trilogy emerges as a hit at Lincoln Center it never quite became in London, here in the Big Smoke his thrilling new play, “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” continues its triumph with a new cast after moving from the Royal Court.

The play, with iconic rock songs serving as a sonic intra-act curtain, is Stoppard’s paean to youthful ideals and illusions, to freedom both political and social/sexual, and (surprising from this most intellectual of playwrights) a gesture toward prizing the heart above the head. It begins in an English garden where a pan-like piper plays Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair” to a young woman. But was that piper Barrett himself, the Pink Floyd founder and psychedelic visionary who retreated to Cambridge a drug-maddened golden boy? It’s a question that recurs poignantly, asked by that same woman through the decades and throughout the play.

The play, ostensibly about the difficulty of “living in truth” in societies that lie to themselves, charts the contrasting lot of two overlapping worlds, that of a Cambridge academic who happens to be a Marxist (but would define himself the other way around), and his Czech student who thinks of himself as a lover of rock and roll but is soon cruelly defined by the Marxist government he naively returned to live under as a dissident.

Max (David Calder) is the Cambridge don, born the same years as the Russian revolution, never swerving into doubt through the sixties, even during the crushing of emerging Czech liberty by Soviet tanks during the Prague spring of 1968, through the seventies as the Eastern block descends into dull repression, nor even the eighties when Marxism is discredit, the Iron curtain crumbles, and he learns that the Czech communist party had been spying on him.

Jan (Dominic West replacing Rufus Sewell) was his Czech philosophy student, drawn to the gentility of Cambridge and England, and unwittingly leaving behind there a child impulsively conceived with Max’s daughter, the girl in the garden. Jan returns in time for the Prague spring but remains a non-combatant, a Czech simply outraged by the Russian invasion, and then drawn to a perverse Czech art band Plastic People of the Universe.

The Plastic People were, apparently, a Czech hybrid, complete with artistic director in the person of Ivan Jirous, a cross between Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground, who painted their faces like the pop-glam band KISS. The Plastic’s music is now even harder to listen to than Kiss’s, dissonantly ungraspable in their song between acts, and unavailable even on I-tunes, but no matter.... As Stoppard wrote in the play’s “liner notes”: ‘The band was not interested in bringing down communism, only in finding a free space for itself inside the communist society. But of course there was no such space. In the logic of communism, what the band wasn’t interested in and what the band wanted could not in the end be separated. What could not be separated were disengagement and dissidence. In the play, Jan tells a British journalist, “The Plastics is not about dissidents.” The reporter replies, “It’s about dissidents. Trust me”—and he’s right.’

Not that such points are demonstrated, let alone spelled out in the play. Max, far from being portrayed as a deluded unrepentant, scores many good points of his own, and he’s the sole sympathetic Marxist in the oeuvre of the reputedly-conservative, and Czech-born, Stoppard. Instead the playwright riffs around these themes, glides past without touching his characters’ inner lives, as they experience births, marriage and its dissolution, deaths, overlapping affairs, and pauses for an arpeggio only when he returns to one of these motifs.

When Max’s wife, a classicist, played by Emma Fielding, gives a tutorial on Sappho, the Greek poet who was the first to write about life-thrumming Eros, she and her student unpack one of her 7th century BC poems: "Eros deute m'ho lusimeles donei glukupikron amachanon orpeton," and debate on which word turns the meaning of the poem: glukupikron, a neologism of Sappho’s which would mean "sweet-bitter," or instead amachanon, meaning "contrivance, device, instrument." They debate: Is Sappho saying that Eros is a spirit and not a machine? Who knows? I once long ago studied Sappho and I couldn’t follow their argument at all. But perhaps Stoppard’s play is not to be pored over as if it were a machine of meaning, or so the playwright might hope. In any case it is an utterly exhilarating and very funny trip.

What are we to make of the fact that whereas the play began with Barrett’s ineffable sound poem it ends with the Jan and company joyously attending a Rolling Stones concert in Prague as communism was poised to end across Europe. A crystallization of the return of Dionysian and political freedom? The endurance of rock?

While on its opening night last June the audience was sprinkled with some of the rock stars whose music is featured in the interludes, on the first night of the new cast the audience was garnished with other actors, comedians, and novelists. Some, one suspected, had returned for its encore. This remains the hottest ticket in the Royal Court’s fifty-year history, and the center-piece of its anniversary celebration.

Duke of York’s Theater
St. Martin’s Lane, London WC2
Box Office: 0870 060 6623

Green Salon Update

Envirobabe reports:
"The salon was really wild. The Saudi Ambassador, Prince Turki, showed up right on time and stayed to the end. He was really keen on getting Woolsey to talk to him. Woolsey looked totally freaked out but then calmed down and at one point we had the cold fusion guy, Gunnar Lund, the Swedish Ambassador, Ed Sines, the inventor of a magnet flux clean energy generator (still in process), Woolsey, and Prince Turki, all huddled together. The best part was when Amory Lovins told Prince Turki that he could make more money extracting hydrogen from oil than burning it. I piped up that burning precious oil was akin to burning Picassos. To which Prince Turki quipped "If you like Picassos!" Everyone laughed. Scott Sklar, the solar/wind/trash to fuel modulation godfather kept cracking to the Prince that we weren't going to put him out of business, quite the contrary, then he and I started laughing hysterically. Anyway, by the end of the event, Prince Turki had invited Amory to Saudi Arabia to show them how they can make more money being clean and green than dirty and gooky. And all the rest were scrambling to get their hands on some of the solar cloth and solar xerox machines from Scott. "

TMP about "Moon for the Misbegotten"

"Moon for the Misbegotten" at the Old Vic

A Moon for the Misbegotten
Old Vic, London

After stumbling badly with a dire production of “Resurrection Blues,” and closing the theater for the summer, Kevin Spacey and the Old Vic have returned with a magnificent, powerful production of a touchstone of American theater--Eugene O’Neill’s last play, “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” The play, intimate and accessible yet three hours long, is all too little seen (its last major production was more than twenty years ago). Critically it’s been overshadowed by the playwright’s towering masterpiece, “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” to which it serves as a kind of coda. This production, in the hands of artists most devoted to O’Neill--Spacey, the shatteringly-talented and earthy actress Eve Best, and Howard Davies directing--is simply a triumph. These hours at Old Vic were among the shortest I’ve spent in the theater.
Josie Hogan (Best), a full-figured and “real” woman, with a quick tongue and ruined reputation, lives on a ramshackle Connecticut farm with her ducking-and-diving father Phil Hogan (played by the Irish film and theater star Colm Meaney).
They rent their patch, the only home Josie’s ever known, from Jim, a member of the disintegrating Tyrone family seen in “Long Day’s Journey.” A third-rate actor who long ago buried his dreams, Jim now evades his grief with bourbon at the local hotel and with his mad dashes toward the bright lights in New York.
This is a genre-shifting play, beginning as hard-working Josie takes her pleasure in slapstick pranks at the expense of a local millionaire, her own father, and their friend Jim, who hides his self-loathing under his own good-natured high-jinks. In a mortgage melodrama subplot, Josie’s father, fearing Jim will sell out their homestead, schemes to put one over on him. This plan is knocked sideways, when during Jim and Josie’s long night’s journey… of talking, drinking, and carnal wrestling, and delicate caressing… toward day, and something like love, he reveals to her a searing pain at being unable to love without destroying, as well as his humiliation over a betrayal of his dead mother. Josie has her own, more surprising secret that Jim had already perceived. As Josie and Jim begin reluctantly to expose to each other the terrible pain of living a constant lie, the play transforms during these mesmerizing performances into a display of raw emotion and naked humanity. Miraculously, as the morning dawns, O’Neill, writing with the lightest touch, draws these two back into their own skins, with an air of grace still lingering about the stage. The last words spoken by Spacey’s Jim, and the last words O’Neill was ever to write for the stage, reflect what each has allowed the other to give themselves: “forgiveness and peace.”
Two points might give theater-goers pause… first, the Irish accents of the Hogans, Josie and Phil; in fact, O’Neill had insisted in the play’s first production that Irish actors should play the roles of these characters who would have been recent immigrants. Second, the high-plains-inflected music of Dominic Muldowney, reminiscent of Ry Cooder, sounds very odd for the play’s New England setting.
A deep bow, nonetheless, toward Davies, whose Almeida production of O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh first brought Spacey to the London stage, and who directed Best in “Mourning Becomes Electra” at the National, winning her the 2003 Critic’s Circle Best Actor Award. Their performances are likely to be award-winning again.

Until December 23, Box office 0870 060 6628

- James Linville

Farmer who reaped the Sun

Farmer Who Reaped the Sun

Hot German July Doesn?t Faze Farmer Who Reaps the Sun Lonnie Schlein/The New York Times
Heiner Gärtner saved the family farm by turning it into a solar
electricity plant, with 10,050 solar panels.

Published: July 28, 2006
BUTTENWIESEN, Germany, July 25 ? Surely Heiner Gärtner is one of the
only farmers in Germany, if not most of Europe, who greets the dawn
of yet another cloudless day with anticipation rather than angst. Mr. Gärtner had to win the support of Buttenwiesen?s mayor

Lonnie Schlein/The New York Times
Mr. Gärtner?s 69-year-old father, Heinrich, feeding the pigs on the
farm, whose waste is used to fuel a biogas plant to generate
As Germany sizzles through what is expected to be its hottest July on
record, crops are shriveling and farmers are growing desperate. Some
have petitioned the European Union to allow sheep and cattle to graze
on land normally off limits, because their own fields are scorched.

Here on Mr. Gärtner?s 200-acre farm, however, the fields are covered
with 10,050 solar panels, which soak up the sunshine and convert it
into electricity. The ambient hum in the air is not the sound of
insects but of transformers carrying a high-voltage current to the
villages nearby.

?We?ve had so much sun,? said Mr. Gärtner, 34, a wide-brimmed hat
shielding his face from the rays. ?It would be better if we could
have this much sun with less heat. But you can?t have everything.?

Extreme heat actually reduces the efficiency of the solar panels, he
said, pointing to a dial that showed the plant was running at 83
percent of its capacity. On cooler days, the panels operate at full

Even so, this is shaping up as a thriving summer for Mr. Gärtner ?
vindicating his decision in 2003 to turn this 150-year-old pig farm
into a small-scale electricity plant. Switching from pigs to power
saved his family?s enterprise, which was teetering on the edge of
economic ruin.

?I couldn?t repair the roof if I only bred pigs,? said Mr. Gärtner, a
self-confident fellow with a spiel that is far more entrepreneurial
than agricultural. ?We have to compete worldwide these days. Pork
from Brazil costs half as much as German pork. Our costs are simply
too high.?

When Mr. Gärtner took over the farm from his father in 2002, his
options seemed few and dismal. He considered selling most of the
property and keeping only his family?s stone house ? a last vestige
of the farm started by his great-grandfather, who kept cattle,
chickens and other animals.

But there were few buyers, even for a farm that is fairly large by
southern German standards and blessed with broad, flat meadows amid
the gently rolling countryside of Bavaria. Farms in eastern Germany
and Poland are much larger and therefore more economically viable.

Although the recent collapse in global negotiations over tariffs,
farm subsidies and other barriers at the World Trade Organization may
protect European farmers awhile longer, Bavaria has long promoted its
high-technology industry over agriculture. ?Germany is an industrial
country, not an agricultural country,? Mr. Gärtner said. ?We?re on
the wrong end.?

Visiting a classmate in northern Germany after graduating from
college with a degree in agricultural engineering, Mr. Gärtner was
struck by the windmills that dot the countryside there. His father
had already experimented with making biodiesel fuel out of rapeseed ?
even running a Volkswagen with it ? so the concept of renewable
energy was not alien to him.

Europe, seeking to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, has
encouraged the development of alternative energy by offering hefty
subsidies for people to put up windmills on their property. Germany?s
wind-power industry is the world?s largest, yet growth here has
slowed as people have begun to protest the proliferation of these
giant propellers near their homes.

Bavaria, with its inland location, lacks the coastal breezes that
turn windmills. But it gets more sunshine than other parts of
Germany. Moreover, the Gärtner farm, which is known as Maierhof, has
an especially sunny location, with southern exposure and few hills to
block the light.

In 2004, Germany passed a new law that guaranteed people who built
solar parks a minimum price for each kilowatt of electricity that was
two to three times the market price.

That prompted Mr. Gärtner to investigate the possibility of turning
his fields of corn, wheat and barley into rows of photovoltaic
panels. With a lack of solar experts in Germany, he and his
classmate, Ove Petersen, taught themselves the technology (they are
now partners in the venture).

The hardest part, he said, was obtaining loans to finance the roughly
$5 million in construction costs. Mr. Gärtner also had to persuade
the mayor of Buttenwiesen to allow him to string power lines across
the fields. With only a handful of farmers in Germany installing
these panels on a large scale, ?people really had no idea what we
were talking about,? he said.

The project is a family affair. Mr. Gärtner recruited his sister,
Annette, who is an architect in the nearby city of Augsburg, to
design the complex. His 69-year-old father, Heinrich, provides moral
support, keeping an eye on the dials when he is not feeding the fish
in his pond.

When his panels run at full capacity, Mr. Gärtner figures the farm
could supply power to all 7,000 residents of the village. The utility
that buys his electricity, however, uses it to meet demand at peak
periods, like during this heat wave, when air-conditioners are
running full blast.

Mr. Gärtner makes more than $600,000 a year from the sale of this
electricity, which will allow him to pay off his loans in 15 to 16
years. That is good for him, because the government is phasing out
the preferential prices over the next decade. The Mercedes parked in
his farmyard attests to his success.

As he sees it, his farm is merely adapting to an economic cycle that
happens to favor a different sort of energy.

?Animals are energy too; they create food for people,? Mr. Gärtner
said. ?At the moment, power is more profitable than food. That may
not always be the case. You have to be flexible.?

To hedge his bets, Mr. Gärtner has held on to his 1,000 pigs. The
other day, they were huddled in a shed, sleeping through the searing
heat. With the world?s population expanding, he believes, the price
of pork may someday rebound enough to make it a viable business again.

In the meantime, the pigs serve another purpose: Mr. Gärtner uses
their waste to fuel a biogas plant, which also generates electricity.
?One of the criticisms of solar energy is that it is unpredictable
because the sun doesn?t always shine,? he said. ?This is completely

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Envirobabe is a Force of Nature 2

Envirobabe is a Force of Nature 2

Earlier this year, The New York Post reported that at a Georgetown holiday party, my friend the left-leaning screenwriter and “envirobabe” Nora Maccoby challenged Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to recognize that America’s oil dependency was a national security issue. Soon after, Rumsfeld sent out a “snowflake” memo to Pentagon policy wonks resulting in one theme (renewable energy) in Bush’s state of the union speech. Another result: the closet green science wonks hiding in its basement, the group who ACTUALLY invented the internet, began to come out of hiding with the renewable energy science projects they’d long been tinkering with. In the meantime, one Pentagon numbers cruncher did the math and demonstrated that the majority of combat deaths in Iraq derived from attacks on transport convoys carrying oil, water, and other supplies, and that increased energy efficiency would save American soldiers’ lives. Now, Nora, a co-founder of the genuinely bi-partisan Energy Consensus advocacy group is hosting, along with William Haseltine (the biotech pioneer of Human Genome Sciences fame) and his sculptor wife Mara, are hosting the first Green Salon, this weekend in DC. Keynote speakers will be Amory Lovins (author of the seminal green book “Winning the Oil Endgame”) and James Woolsey, former CIA director under Bill Clinton, and sometime advisor to Rumsfeld. It was Woolsey, founder of the “Greenhawk” movement, who pithily observed that “with our addiction to oil we are literally funding the enemy.” One Arab ambassador, set to attend, from a friendly oil-producing nation may politely disagree.

UNITED 93, from filmmaker Paul Greengrass

from Feb 2006

UNITED 93, from filmmaker Paul Greengrass

Reports of strong reactions to the trailer for Paul Greengrass's "United 93." Too soon for such a depiction? Not really, so long as potential audience members have weeks to prepare themselves for the experience... to build up to it and steel themselves.

Or perhaps just in time. Conspiracy moonbats have put their foot on the border of received opinion, and the film, meticulously researched by an experienced team... albeit one from m.s.m, should clarify things.

The significance of what happened on 9/11/01 onboard United flight 93 has now itself become clear: American civilians engaged an enemy before their government did, before their government had recognized that enemy had declared war on it and its citizen... and on civilization. Meanwhile, in the intervening years the sentiments of Americans have not been fully engaged for what may be a long war.

-- James Linville

Envirobabe is a Force of Nature

Envirobabe is a Force of Nature

earlier in “Page Six,” NY Post

IF President Bush unveils strong environmentally conscious initiatives... credit (or blame) goes to Nora Maccoby . At the end of the year, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was seen at a holiday party in Georgetown genially locking horns with the enviro-babe and screenwriter. After a half-hour of Maccoby lecturing Rummy that energy independence through renewable clean sources should be the heart of a national security strategy, a grinning Rumsfeld bleated to those nearby, "I can't believe this - this girl's kicking my ass, and she's right." Then to Maccoby, "Call the Secretary of Energy. You can use my name. By the way, how old are you?" Maccoby: "Why?" Rumsfeld: "I have a son, actually." Rumsfeld then sent out a "snowflake" - a memo to friends and associates with ideas he believes will "snowball."