Wednesday, February 21, 2007

POEM: What Remains by Zachary Sussman

On the nightstand, a glass of water,
a blank mirror: you’ve grown more remote
than either, the fan of your ribcage
now opening, now closed,
in time with the rasping pipes.

You’ve entered a place behind your eyes
where nothing can reach you, ignorant
of the ivy loosening the mortar, the bright
stain of the harbor, the brass clock
I forgot to wind.

Outside, if it matters, a man lights a fire
under a bridge. He has stood
a long time in the trashcan’s shadow,
waiting for the heat to bless him.

Even as the flames perform their work,
weaving a thin bandage
of smoke above the rooftops,
some cavity in his chest
still shivers under his flannel shirt.

There are places in the body
we cannot find or name.
So I am left in a room
the shape of your sleep

as the headlights of a passing taxi
graze the curtains like brushstrokes,
falling over the bedposts
until your limbs, before darkening,
are remade entirely out of light.

... posted to TMP with permission of the author

POEM: Objet by Mary Kinzie

Dear child, why
is it still, along the pillow
this hand of yours half
open on the brightness
thrown by the lamp
anemone in
water the current
once passed through

In sleep you answer
that life catches
against the edge of
its own likeness
vein ever blue
in the body's
marble drift

... posted with permission of the author

Peretz: Political expediency and the nonbinding resolution

Our political imagination of evil is impoverished, and nowhere is it more impoverished than in Iraq. Even today, when the blood of innocents flows so richly and regularly, we do not seem to grasp its origins, or its power. That is, we do not seem to grasp the centrality, and the perdurability, of culture. And in this regard, the president and his party, as well as the Democratic Party, are equally blinded by their respective orthodoxies.


from Sunday's WSJ, read it all at

Blogging abroad

from a WaPo op-ed by University of Chicago’s Raja Kamal and Cato Institute’s Tom Palmer:

A former college student, Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman, is sitting in an Egyptian prison, awaiting sentencing tomorrow. His alleged “crime”: expressing his opinions on a blog. His mistake: having the courage to do so under his own name. … Whether or not we agree with the opinions that Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman expressed is not the issue. What matters is a principle: People should be free to express their opinions without fear of being imprisoned or killed. Blogging should not be a crime.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Professor of Law Chris Borgen on "unacknowledged legislators"

Literature, at its best, bridges gaps of experience and culture. It helps you stand in another’s shoes. If one of the things we, as international lawyers, care about is a just world then fostering an understanding of each other’s views is an important step in that direction, regardless as to whether we actually agree with those views. You cannot let rhetoric bury nuance, anger bury analysis. Anger can spur great literature and righteous anger can be the seed of political reform, but great literature and just policies are more than angry reactions. Writers (and international lawyers) are fortunately not the world’s legislators. But both can have a profound influence in how we understand and shape our world.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Baghdad Nights: by Omar Fahdil of Iraq the Model

Omar Fahdil of Iraq the Model, one of the most interesting Middle East blogs, checked in, as things turn grim:

Last night was a sleepless one for me. It dragged on until around 4 in the morning and though exhausted I couldn’t sleep. I’ve come to actually like these times because at this hour 99% of Baghdad’s private generators are shut down and the city becomes, for a brief period, enjoyably silent.

It was dark in my room except for a pale ray of moonlight coming through the window. Suddenly the floor began to tremble and a loud roaring sound broke the silence “What the…!” I thought. Then something really creepy happened. That pale ray of moonlight vanished leaving me in total darkness.

“First an earthquake and now the moon has vanished. Is this the end of the universe?”

Not a pleasant thought for a very secular person like myself.

I finally found the courage to get up and look out through my window. Two meters from me was a line of Stryker Armored Combat Vehicles that for some reason had pulled over in our street.

“Phew! Not the end of the universe yet!”

After some time, the convoy moved off, their engines fading slowly as the streets swallowed them up. I stood for a moment thinking about the men in those vehicles who stay up at night patrolling the dangerous streets of Baghdad to protect the few insomniacs like myself, and the millions of other sleeping Baghdadis. I said a prayer (in my own way) for their safety and went back to toss and turn in my bed.Baghdad is still enjoying some days of relative calm interrupted only with minor sporadic incidents. In general there’s a feeling that these days are better than almost any other time in months. This is more evident in the eastern side of Baghdad than the western part, because the former part has received more US and Iraqi military reinforcements than the latter.

Read the whole thing HERE.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Billy Wilder: How Lubitsch Did It

JSL: You have a gold-framed legend on the wall across from your desk. "How would Lubitsch do it?" That confronts you every day. Is it a question you often asked yourself?

Billy Wilder: When I would write a romantic comedy along the Lubitschian line, stopped in the middle of a scene, I'd think, "How would Lubitsch do it?"

JSL: Well, how did he do it?

Wilder: One example I can give you of Lubitsch's thinking was in Ninotchka, a romantic comedy which Brackett and I wrote for him. Ninotchka was to be a really straight Leninist, a strong and immovable Russian commisar, and we were wondering how could we dramatize that, without wanting to, she was falling in love. How could we do it? My partner, Charles Brackett and I wrote twenty pages, thirty pages, forty pages! All very laboriously.
Lubitsch didn't like what we'd done, didn't like it all. So he called us in to have another conference at his house. We talked about it, but of course we were still, well... blocked. In any case, Lubitsch excused himself to go to the bathroom and when he came back into the living room he announced, "Boys, I've got it."
It's funny, but we noticed that whenever he'd come up with an idea, I mean a really great idea, it was after he came out of the can. I started to suspect that he had a little ghostwriter in the bowl of the toilet there.
"I've got the answer," he said. "It's the hat."
"The hat? No, what do you mean the hat?"
He explained that when Ninotchka arrives in Paris the porter carries her things from the train. She asks, "Why would you want to do this? Why would you want to carry this?" He says, "Money."
She says, "You should be ashamed. It's undignified for a man to carry someone else things. I'll carry them myself."
At the Ritz Hotel where the three other commissars are staying, there's a long corridor of vitrines with windows showing various objects. Just windows, no store. She passes one window with three crazy hats. She stops in front of it and says, "That is ludicrous. How can a civilization that puts things like that on their head survive?" Later she plans to see the sights of Paris - the Louvre, the Alexander III bridge, the Place de la Concorde. Instead she'll visit the electricity works, the shops with practical things they can put to use back in Moscow. On the way out of the hotel she passes that window again with the three crazy hats.
Now the story starts to develop between Ninotchka, or Garbo, and Melvin Douglas, all sorts of little things which add up, but we haven't seen the change yet. She opens the window of her hotel room, overlooking the Place Vendome. It's beautiful, and she smiles. The three commissars come to her room. They're finally prepared to get down to work. But she says, "No, no, no, it's too beautiful to work. We have the rules, but they have the weather. Why don't you go to the races. It's Sunday. It's beautiful in Longchamps," and she gives them money to gamble.
As they leave for the track at Longchamps, she locks the door to the suite, then the door to the room. She goes back into the bedroom, opens a drawer, and out of the drawer she takes the craziest of the hats! She picks it up, puts it on, looks at herself in the mirror. That's it. Not a word. Nothing. But she has fallen into the trap of capitalism, and we know where we're going from there. . . all from a half page of description and one line of dialogue. "Beautiful weather. Why don't you go have yourselves a wonderful day?"

Sunday, February 4, 2007

POEM: Rotary by Christina Pugh

by Christina Pugh

Closer to a bell than a bird,
that clapper ringing
the clear name
of its inventor:

by turns louder
and quieter than a clock,
its numbered face
was more literate,

triplets of alphabet
like grace notes
above each digit.

And when you dialed,
each number was a shallow hole
your finger dragged
to the silver

then the sound of the hole
traveling back
to its proper place
on the circle.

You had to wait for its return.
You had to wait.
Even if you were angry
and your finger flew,

you had to await
the round trip
of seven holes
before you could speak.

The rotary was weird for lag,
for the afterthought.

Before the touch-tone,
before the speed-dial,
before the primal grip
of the cellular,

they built glass houses
around telephones:
glass houses in parking lots,
by the roadside,
on sidewalks.

When you stepped in
and closed the door,
transparency hugged you,
and you could almost see

your own lips move,
the dumb-show
of your new secrecy.

Why did no one think
to conserve the peal?

Just try once
to sing it to yourself:
it's gone,

like the sound of breath
if your body left.

POSTED to TMP by the heroic Jeannie Vanasco (heroic, because she stands up for poetry)

to explore on the next trip to Chile

Before heading to Chile last month to interview their finance minister, I bought a copy of Economics for Dummies and asked friends for help. Nada on that, except for one downtown novelist and wine critic who suggested asking if the Carmenere grape is the true blue grape of Chile.

Will ask that next time.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Morning thought

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in. Forget them as you can, tomorrow is another day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson --

Thursday, February 1, 2007


Manhattan Nocturne
by Joseph Brodsky

Buenos noches.
Don't mind the roaches.

French Films

Invited out last night by Whit to join the French film girls. To the Bubble Lounge then. Maria T, Aslihan C, and Isil, who ordered Champagne, capital C, all around. Not my usual. Heard lots about a young French actress who's been having an affair, since she was seventeen, with her director, who's in his late fifties, and how, now that's she's "taken" other lovers it's driving him mad. Ah, news from the Rialto, as the late great GAP used to say. But why have I never heard of this director, or actor? Is it me?

Relying on the Dream World

Self-deception seems always to depend upon the dream world, because you would like to see what you have not yet seen rather than what you are now seeing. You will not accept that whatever is here now IS what is, nor are you willing to go with the situation as it is. Thus, self-deception always manifests itself in terms of trying to create or recreate a dream world, the nostalgia of the dream experience.

--Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche