Friday, November 14, 2008

George, Being George Plimpton

An oral biography of my old boss has just been published in NYC by Random House, edited or "choir-mastered" by Nelson Aldrich. One memory that did not make it into Nelson's book:

... George used to write on his grandfather’s typewriter, a massive thing that rose form his desk like an upright piano. I’d say why don’t you get a computer? “A MACHINE?” he’d say. “You know, James, there are many advantages to this typewriter that you may be unaware of. When every once in a while I come to a word and am buffaloed as to whether there should be one ‘t’ or two, I just type three ‘t’s, and the person reading the letter assumes it’s the typewriter.”

The Hitchcock Blonde Imagines Her Own End

"In my imagination, I know exactly how it goes. Bedecked in nothing but a ragged top hat, a pair of cashmere socks and a tremulous snakehipped boy, I finally breathe my quavering last in a secluded riad, ravaged by a life of intellectual and sensual excess. As weeping acolytes pile in to preserve any secreted scraps of unpublished prose, one sobbing lover burrows ‘neath the Nobel, pushes aside the Pulitzer, and nudges away the nest of squeaking ermines to unearth two hundred slim volumes bound by a blood-stained garter and crammed with sloping script.

"Rejoice! The Blonde Journals! The ultimate, intimate insight into the greatest scribe of our time! Finally her iconoclastic, eclectic originality, engaged with every important issue of the age, can be revealed, free from the constraints of society, salary or shame!

"They open a page at random, mewing with moist anticipation, and read: ‘Late train. Cold. Chocolate brazils. Boyd’s AHH. What happened to my blue hat?’"

Read the whole thing by estimable ink-stained friend HERE.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Descartes, sitting in a bar

Descartes is sitting in a bar, having a drink.

The bartender asks him if he would like another. 'I think not,' he says and vanishes in a puff of logic.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My "Surfing Injury"

I’ve been away from this blog, while toodling around the states. I’ve parked myself for the moment at a beach house near Point Pleasant, on the north New Jersey coast. Until the weather turned yesterday, it had been beautiful--sunny, the surf high, the water warm. I’m looking out the window at the water now.

Last week I spectated at the Kenny Tooker Long Board Classic, sponsored by Beach House Surf Shop, and I was inspired to get out on the waves the next day. Consequently I’ve been nursing, and complaining about to anyone who’ll listen, a surfing injury. Actually, it’s more a boogy-boarding injury. My Malibu correspondent, filmmaker and surf aficionado Steve Gaghan, suggests it’d be a better if I said, “I was pulling a floater high and inside at bondi when my back fin hit the back of a great white, i tumbled down the face, at least six feet aussie size meaning triple overhead anywhere else, went through the washing machine, fortunately my momentum carried me back over the shark nets and i was saved.”

The truth is I tripped on a flipper… here on this beach in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, more here...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Today is Labor Day

And here's some history via Talk Left.

Years ago, before I was an editor or a writer, I worked at a factory making paper and was a member of United Paperworkers of America. The work was exhausting, but I made a living.

James Linville is...

... now posting primarily at STANDPOINT magazine, HERE... still as James Scott Linville... me, as described HERE.

All Main Point archives remain here.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Summer Postcard from the Hills, India

In north London something has been messing around with the bins. The neighbors' dog, no doubt, the aged one that barks blindly, still not recognizing me, whenever I pass their gate. Meanwhile, another near neighbor received this missive from our friend Anuradha Roy, author of the recently-published An Atlas of Impossible Longing.

Roy writes:

Feeling rather shaken because as I was writing this email a leopard came andtook our neighbour's dog, a sweet, slightly demented little thing calledGoldie who had barked his heart out at Biscoot this morning, as everymorning. He stands on his hind legs and barks in a frenzy--such comical rage. Now there's much yelling and shouting down the hill, but too late.Last month another favourite, a short legged, bushy tailed brown-and-whitecalled Bobo had vanished.

A leopard. Panthera pardus, a protected species in India. We come across them on and off--crossing a road, sliding into the forest--after dark. From the safety of a car, they're magnificent. The town I live in is at the edge of a forest which has quite a lot of wildlife, the leopard included--and when they haven't enough prey in the forest, which they usually don't, they are always on the lookout for food. They love dogs--but not in the way we do!

Under the Elm, by Pierre Martory

- translated by John Ashbery

Under the elm for a long time
I've been waiting for you, O my soul.
Weeks follow each other like books
Perused, my thoughts elsewhere,
Full of music that's distracted too
Full of a deep buzzing where words images
Perceptions dwell in the jumble of memory
Of which our mind is composed.
And nothing comes to assert your coming
No other sign than smoke.
Is it you that we should have welcomed
When tenderness filled our hearts?
You that we should have discovered
On the shores of pity or of love?
I have not been taught to notice your presence
Even when reveille raises the limbs
Of a future happiness; even when
Tired of a long day I seek
Silence in the immense dark where I jettison
What differentiates the sun from death.
Hours accumulated, absurd riches,
I am ready to give up the trees and the cities
But I still hope to receive you, my soul,
Laden with my own eternity.
You who are me, who resembles nobody,
You that I must give back some day to who knows who.

Recommended to TMP by the heroic Jeannie Vanasco

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Rocky Mountains look at Al Jazeera

... while Al Jazeera looks back at the Rock Mountains, and the Democratic proceedings going on there. The Al Jazeera coverage has been strong and nuanced, comparable in many ways to that of the US networks... with only occasional lapses.

More on this HERE.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Apple's New Line of Macbooks

Since Apple cryptically announced recently a “new product transition” to be debuted in September, speculation has been rife. Some have posited a touch-tablet computer, akin to a giant I-pod touch. But would someone really wish to type on such? Or read a new novel on one? Ask Amazon. Others have suggested an updating of the I-Mac that would merge with Apple TV. But people won’t watch TV at the same place as they’ll work on their desktop computer, let alone in the same seating configuration.

The answer is readily figured when you hear that Apple has ordered new touch-pads made of glass. The new Macbooks, then, will ...

read the rest please go to STANDPOINT magazine on-line, where I've posted HERE.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Standpoint: on Obama, Iranian Missiles, Hunter S. Thompson

New posts up on my blog at STANDPOINT magazine on-line.

I write about Obama's Iraq dilemma in their newly inaugurated media blog "Lost Illusions" here.

About the Gonzo Photography of Hunter S. Thompson here.

About the faked Iranian missile photos here.

About a dossier of photos Ahmadinejad will allegedly present to the UN here.

Also, there been much talk about the difficulty of creating and delivering political jokes and satire about Barack Obama. I disagree. Here's one:

“A traveling salesman knocks on the door of a farmhouse, and much to his surprise, Barack Obama answers the door. The salesman says, ‘I was expecting the farmer’s daughter.’ Barack Obama replies, ‘She’s not here. The farm was foreclosed on because of subprime loans that are making a mockery of the American dream.’ ”

Maybe its' not so easy after all.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama's Re-Calibrated "Plan for Iraq"

I've just posted on STANDPOINT magazine's "Lost Illusions" media column about Barack Obama's NYT Op-Ed "My Plan for Iraq."

My conclusion?

"Obama's primary posturing, and McCain's hyperbole, aside, differences on Iraq are narrowing. That said, Obama concludes his editorial by again underscoring his long ambition to "End the War"; but as I've twice asked in Standpoint on-line posts: what war does the candidate mean he is ending?

"Over the last year, US, UK and Iraqi forces, fighting together, have virtually ended the conflicts against the various parties attempting to thwart establishment of civil society and democracy in Iraq. They’ve done so by defeating those malefactors.

"It’s now clear that, over the last eighteen months, the best way to 'support the troops' was to let them win."

Read the post HERE, please!

Along with Jonathan Foreman and others, I'll be an occasional contributor to "Lost Illusions," which of course took its name from the Balzac novel of the same name, about the 19th century Parisian world of letters.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Akira Kurosawa's STRAY DOG, Hemingway's Shortest Story

I've been blogging over at STANDPOINT magazine recently, and I've just posted on Akira Kurosawa's great film noir police procedural, as well as Hemingway's shortest story. As I write there:

Many of the finest filmmakers did their finest work in what some, incorrectly, call the lesser genres. Billy Wilder's film noir "Double Indemnity," an adaptation of the James M. Caine novel, compares well to his original "Sunset Boulevard," and in some ways paved the way for that later work. In an upcoming post, I'll offer Wilder's account of working on that adaptation with Raymond Chandler, from a conversation I had with the director shortly before he died. (It was a contentious relationship and in the end Wilder was legally enjoined by the studio from brandishing his riding crop during working hours. A limit was also placed on the number of calls he was allowed to accept from young ladies.)

This week I've been re-watching Akira Kurosawa's film noir "Stray Dog" (1949). That film had its genesis as an unpublished police procedural novel that the great Japanese filmmaker himself wrote over a feverish two month period.

Read the whole thing HERE.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Obama and Iraq again

I've just posted again, at the STANDPOINT magazine site, about developments in Iraq and how success there continues to throw up hard questions for Barack Obama.

Mickey Kaus has waggishly suggested that the looming "tipping point" in Iraq may lead to a "flipping point" on the part of Obama.

Obama himself has gamely allowed that when facts change he changes his opinion... and quite right.

The key question for him, and the Democratic party, is define which Iraq war it was they were against. As I say at Standpoint:

Is the Iraq War they opposed "the invasion of 2003, the subsequent counter-insurgency effort devised by General Petraeus and his strategist David Kilcullen in support of the pluralistic, democratically-elected government in Baghdad... or the long “engagement” dating from sporadic bombing inflicted by the US and UN on a recalcitrant Iraqi regime throughout the 1990s?

"Obama has pledged both to 'end the war' and 'support stability in Iraq.' Of course one way to accomplish those aims would be to WIN the various conflicts in Iraq, including those against al Qaeda, now composed of a rump collection of fighters being pummeled in their last urban redoubt in Mosul, as well the Shiite militias, confronted in Basra and aligned to some degree with Muqtada al Sadr and/or Iran, who may reach some other accommodation with the Iraqi government. Iraqi forces, along with the Coalition, look on the verge of accomplishing just such a win."

Please read the whole thing HERE.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Hard Questions for Obama on Iraq at STANDPOINT

Further to my "Hard Question" series below, I've just posted a piece on my new blog at STANDPOINT magazine.

"Barack Obama has had an Iraq problem building over the last ten months. Ever since General Petraeus’s Iraq counter-insurgency strategy, involving “the surge” of troop deployments in theater, has shown signs of success, the Democratic Party and its attendant commentators have been in a quandary."

Read the whole thing HERE.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Last Poem by Manuel Bandeira

I would like my last poem thus

That it be gentle saying the simplest and least intended things
That it be ardent like a tearless sob
That it have the beauty of almost scentless flowers
The purity of the flame in which the most limpid diamonds are consumed
The passion of suicides who kill themselves without explanation.

- translation by Elizabeth Bishop

Hitchcock Blonde Unleashed in New York

She reports:

One thing New Yorkers do "superwell" is effort, even in the midst of attempted effortlessness.

Girls: shirts thick and plaid and shorts micro, circa circa Annie Hall 1977; nipples errant and hair long, loose and tousled circa Woodstock milkmaid 1969; specs oblong and black circa Buddy 1958. Boys: shirts thin and ratty and jeans skinny and grubby circa Blake Fielder Civil 2007; hair long, loose and tousled and beards thick and tortured circa JC 0BC; specs oblong and black circa Buddy 1958.

Attention, Focus... and Distraction

A NYT blogger HERE discovers lessons regarding mental attention and focus via Maggie Jackson's new book "Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age” (Prometheus).

Interesting essay, and book, but it's nothing Buddhist adherents haven't understood for more than two thousand years.

Those interested might consult Sakyong Mipham's short, simple instructions, "How to Meditate," HERE. About a thousand words and all you need to know to train your mind to focus... to pay attention.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Flying Saucers!" "UFOs!" Roswell, Shropshire

Wired magazine takes a look back, HERE, at June 24, 1947, and the first reported sighting of a UFO, or "flying saucer."

Pilot Kenneth Arnold was flying at 9,000 feet near heavily-wooded Mt. Rainer, in Washington state, in search of a downed C-46 transport plane when he saw nine "peculiar-looking aircraft" flying in formation at an estimated 1,700 mph.

Two weeks later the Roswell story broke, and UFO hysteria was on. A very amusing story about the power of suggestion, and this early cold war phenomenon.

Wait, update, GULP, yesterday soldiers at an army base in Shropshire, England, recounted spotting thirteen UFOs in the night sky.

Cpl Proctor, 38, of the 1st Battalion Irish Regiment, recalled how he saw the "fleet" just after 11pm on Saturday, June 7. “I was on duty in the guard room when the other boys outside began shouting. I went out to see what the commotion was about and could see thirteen craft in the skies. They were zig-zagging, but I filmed two before they disappeared. They were like rotating cubes with multiple colours. I made a full report to my commanding officers and gave them my footage.”

A full account, with footage HERE.

I'm sure it's nothing. Nonetheless, just in case, perhaps we'd all better behave.

Hat-tip instapundit for the Wired look back.

Good News, and HARD QUESTIONS on Iraq for Obama

As we've noted before, Barack Obama, the Democratic Party, the mainstream media have been slow to recognize the progress in stabilizing Iraq and building a civil society there.

They've refused to acknowledge a distinction between the war to overturn the regime of Saddam Hussein, which Obama and some others were against, and the recent counter-insurgency effort to support the democratically-elected, pluralist government now sitting in Baghdad.

Today brings news that Anbar Province, the heartland of the Sunni insurgency, the Sunni Tribal region, the so-called "Wild West" has been handed over to Iraq control.

Read the Reuters report, HERE, and also see AFP report.

Rather than adopt an isolationist posture, the Democratic Party needs to address the Hard Questions.

Hat tip to the Times for the photos.

Bunny, a photofantasy by Polly Borland

... Polly Borland's much anticipated, and slightly disturbing, photo series "Bunny" debuts this evening at Michael Hoppen Gallery in London.

There's also a book, brought out by Damien Hirst's own publishing company. Hirst has bought one of each print in the exhibition.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wurtzel on The Boss

Lawyer and Prozac Nation author Elizabeth Wurtzel praises the Boss, Bruce Springsteen in an introduction to a selection of his lyrics:

When I was 12 years old, for my birthday my dad gave me an Ibanez six-string acoustic guitar, and my mom bought me guitar lessons at the local YMCA. In a short time, I knew a G7 from a C minor chord, I could pluck out an arpeggio and strum a syncopated rhythm. But it was plain enough: this was not where my talent lay. I would never grow up and be a rock star like my idol, Bruce Springsteen. But soon enough I had another plan: in Blinded By the Light, the whiplash of a lyrical Möbius strip that opened Bruce's debut album he makes mention of "some hazard from Harvard". This meant the Boss had heard of that university, which gave me a new goal: I would get good grades in high school and go to Harvard, so at least I would be at a college that Springsteen was aware of. That's how much I loved Bruce Springsteen. Anything I did was good enough, so long as I could at least peripherally link it to him.

Read the whole thing HERE.

"Her Jolieness," Angelina Jolie

Last eve TMP enjoyed an eyeful of Angelina Jolie in an advance screening of WANTED by Kazhak-Russian director Timur Bekmambetov.

Alongside "Her Jolieness" (see above) are James McEvoy, Morgan Freeman, and Thomas Kretschmann. If you have an inner geekboy, this kinetic comic-book-derived flick will be the thing.

As for the story, it's as if there were a KGB within the KGB who've begun to have second thoughts... but of course it's set in a futuristic Chicago.

Thanks to Lucy P for this opportunity to popcorn blog.

Kucinich Proposes Bush Impeachment

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh) introduces articles for impeachment of President W. Bush, documents HERE.

I'm not sure I understand. There's nothing in there about sex.

Norman Berke on Obama vs. McCain

The Main Point received this missive with astute analysis of the election ahead via a friend of its author, Norman Berke. Berke writes:

Now back in France, where there is a somewhat
different take on the candidates.

As I have said before, I believe there are very
few real "undecideds" among the electorate. This is a 
contrarian view, since just about all the analysts
still keep talking about the independents as a
sizable force whose vote is up for grabs. There are,
indeed, independents and moderates out there. But not
undecideds in sufficient numbers that could make a
difference either way. Now, that is my opinion, and I may be stuck with it. 

Again, as I have said, if the election were to be
held tomorrow, the result would be the same as it will
be in Nov. But in the meantime, we just don't have that crystal ball.

I base my opinion on two reasons: 

 Firstly, the present-day, persistent polarization
of the electorate, driven by the disputed election of
2000, carried over into 2004. And secondly, the
long, drawn-out Hillary and Obama campaigns, which have
defined all the issues, as well as dragging in the
 Repubs, so that we poor citizenry will be left
with nothing but sound and fury, signifying not very
much, all the way to Nov.

The following reasons are the basis of my belief that
the demographics favor Obama and why I believe he
will be elected.

1. I start with the Bush-Rove coalition of 
rock-ribbed Repubs, socially and otherwise conservative,
allied with the Christian evangelicals - a powerful
voting bloc that contributed mightily to the last two
 elections. In spite of grumblings, if not outright
rejection, of the maverick Mccain, and signs of
the evangelists turning away from politics for other
 causes, they still have no place else to go, so I
 would count them solidly in the Republican camp.

2. However, one different thing this time around
is the emergence of a countervailing force, an
equally powerful bloc --- the black vote. Yes,
traditionally democratic. They voted 70% for Kerry, I believe,
but in '08 many more of them will vote and it will be
99% pure. I believe this will pretty much neutralize 

3. The primaries have indicated that the Reagan 
Dems are still a Republican asset, and maybe a little
stronger because of the color problem.

4. Somewhat off-setting that is the
dissatisfaction and intense dislike now existing among the more
moderate republicans, especially over the war, and
among women voters. When polls consistently show
that 80% of voters think the country is on the wrong
track, more than a few Bush supporters have already made
up their minds to switch. Mccain may be the answer
for the majority but by no means all. There is plenty
of anecdotal evidence to support this.

5. Then, of course, there is the usual Democratic
 base. After all, the popular vote in the last two
elections was very close. Much has been made
 about the Hillary base deserting, especially women. I
thoroughly disagree. Democratic women are not
going to vote Republican.

6. Then there is the most phenomenal happening of
all, at least in my opinion. That is the
Democratic turnout in the primaries, surely a
party aroused and committed. Along with the '06
congress results, that signals to me the shifting of the
dial from right of center to left. Not by much, but it
doesn't have to be much. The Repblican campaign
issue, portraying Obama as a far left liberal out
of the mainstream, simply won't wash with the broad 
electorate who are looking for reforms in health
care, mortgage and wall street mis-steps, among others.
 It will turn out that it is the Repblicans who are out
of the mainstream.

7.Finally, I have never known an electorate that
 voted to keep a party in power during hard times. 
Electorally, the Democrats will win all the states
 Kerry won, and I predict they will squeak by in Ohio,
 but even if not, states in play as Va.,N.C., N.M.
 Col.. and a few others will break mainly Democratic.

So what does McCain have to offer? Quite a bit,
actually, as of now. The maverick and straight
shooter image adds up to an appealing persona
and brand, something which Obama has yet to achieve.
But his supporters are counting on him getting there,
and we think he will, over the next several months.
Also, MacCain has many vulnerabilities, which will be
revealed over that same time frame. How he
balances the far right stance while he goes for the center
will be interesting to watch. 
How he sheds the warrior image, which will be hung
on him, is another. A thesis he wrote at the War
College shortly after his release from prison in
Viet Nam is very revealing. In it, he points to
the anti-war sentiment at home as damaging the morale
of the troops. His suggestion is that in addition to
the usual training, soldiers should be indoctrinated
in foreign affairs so that they will understand
more fully what their mission is. But whose attitude
to foreign affairs, other than what the administration
in power is spinning? Nowhere does he refer to the
false premise upon which the Viet Nam war was based,
i.e. that if we fought communism in that country, we
would prevent the domino effect throughout the region.
And for that, 50,000 Americans died. It so happens
 that the war's critics were on the right side of
 history, and MacCain was on the wrong side. His stance on
Iraq is the mirror image. In other words, it's a mind
set of "My country, right or wrong", a fatal flaw in
 leadership which leads to fatal consequences.

It seems to me this is exactly the kind of
leadership we desperately don't need or want at
this juncture in our world, or in our nation's,
history. It's up to the American people to decide.

Your comments, welcome.

Norman Berke

Norman Berke, a new contributor to The Main Point, is a retired businessman and a nonagenarian blogger. He resides in Florida and the south of France.

Many thanks to the estimable Christopher Maclehose for passing it along to us.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jay McInerney, and the Wine He Drank

Since House & Garden folded last year, The Main Point has been missing Jay McInerney's wine column. It was amateurism... by which we mean "doing it for love of the thing"... at its best. Accordingly, we've asked him what wine he drank last week did he particularly like, or even love?

McInerney writes:

That would be a 1997 Coche Dury Meursault Caillerets that I had a couple of days ago at Louis Quinze in Monaco. It had a nice grilled bread nose and a strong mineral crushed gravel element for a Meursault, and I always prefer rocks to fruit when it comes to white burgundy. It was a more of a Kate Moss Meursault than a Kate Winslett Meursault. Also we were drinking it with Ducasse and his wife in the kitchen of the restaurant, where he has a little dining table, so the context, as always, was part of the pleasure.

Since I mention context... I should mention the turbot roasted with scallions, lemon and capers which we were drinking it with.

from Anuradha Roy's An Atlas of Impossible Longing

This week we're reading Anuradha Roy's AN ATLAS OF IMPOSSIBLE LONGING. We were introduced to the book by the esteemed publisher Christopher Maclehose, whose imprint at Quercus Books (UK) has just published the book in the UK.

ATLAS is a beautifully written multi-generational saga that, oddly, is reminding us, in its charting of the centrifugal forces acting upon a family, of "The Cherry Orchard." This excerpt below has been lent to TMP by the author herself:

“Look, a skeleton!” one of my workmen exclaimed.
However busy I was, and however many buildings I was building, I always supervised each one’s first day of digging. That day I sat on a tin folding chair on the building site, shaded by my usual large, black umbrella by then so worn out that the sun came in through its many minute holes as if through a salt cellar. The week before we had cleared out the last of the debris from the crumbling mansion we had demolished, and work on the foundations of a new building had just begun. I had been arguing with my manager about some detail in his accounts when I heard the workman’s voice: “Look, a skeleton!” After a pause I heard another labourer snort with disappointment, “Hah, just a dog or cat, Nandu, carry on.”
I looked into the tumbled earth and, within a tangle of bleached weed roots, I saw an almost perfectly preserved brownish skeleton of what must have been a dog, with the mouldy remains of a blanket and an aluminium dish from which it must have eaten all its life. I sat on a stone next to the grave filled with disproportionate grief for this dog I had not known, for the family that buried its dish and blanket with it because they could not bear to part the dog from its possessions. I thought without reason of the children that may have pranced around with the dog in that vanished mansion’s garden.
There was a house once whose garden I knew, every last tree, and where the stairs had chipped away and which of the windows would not shut. The ophthalmologist asked me once, “Do foreign bodies ever interfere with your vision? Floating black specks?” And I thought, not bodies, houses, and not foreign, ground into my blood.
“Shall we carry on, Babu?” the labourer had enquired after a bemused pause. The sight of me sitting practically in the dirt next to the dog’s grave had startled him.
I could not imagine shovelling the dog out with its things like the rest of the rubbish we were daily heaping into trucks and sending away.
Eight families now live in slabs, one on top of the other, over those bones and the dish, which I planted deep in the foundations. They know nothing of it, naturally; skeletons have no place in new apartments.
People are afraid of ghosts in old houses. I know it’s the new ones that are haunted, by the crumbling homes they replace. Old houses don’t go away. They lurk crumbling and musty, their cobweb-hung rooms still brooding over the angled corners of shining new kitchens and marbled bathrooms, their gardens and stairwells still somewhere there in the elevator shafts.
Left to myself – despite my profession – I would let old houses remain exactly as my memory told me they always had been. Termites would write their stories across ceilings and walls, their wavering lines mapping out eventual destruction. Once the termites had dissolved the houses, returned them to the earth, a natural cycle would be complete.
I know all about houses and homes, I who never had one.
I am Mukunda. This is my story.

Fiery Furnace's "Pricked in the Heart"

Listen, these are not drunken as you suppose.

It might not be 3 o’clock in the morning like it seems:

The little children will be prescient. And your

young men will see shows,

And your old men will dream dreams.

- from the album Widow City

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen

... is what I'm reading next, because...

"Peter Matthiessen's work, both in fiction and non-fiction, has become a unique achievement in his own generation and in American literature as a whole. Everything that he has written has been conveyed in his own clear, deeply informed, elegant and powerful prose. The Watson saga-in-the-round, to which he has devoted nearly thirty years, is his crowning achievement. SHADOW COUNTRY, his distillation of the earlier trilogy, is his transmutation of it to represent his original vision. It is the quintessence of his lifelong concerns, and a great legacy." -- W.S. Merwin

Friday, June 20, 2008

Charles Burnett's "The Killer of Sheep"

This week to the British Film Institute's Southbank Theater comes the legendarily unavailable film "The Killer of Sheep" by Charles Burnett.

What a wonderful movie. Not much in the way of story, but the film has a gaze that's penetrating yet generous to its characters. One thing I especially loved was the constant stream of oblique glimpses into their lives. Example... filmmakers are always taught to get into a scene quickly without entrances and exits, to begin "in medias res." Burnett, instead, begins one scene with kids in a little handstand competition on their front porch. Clearly they're bored out of their skulls. After a good while of this, the father, coming home from work and in a "mood,' enters the frame, distractedly brushes their hovering feet away from his face, dumping the kids over, and lumbers in the front door. Somehow hilarious, and an entrance invested with so much psychological material. Genius rarely comes so offhand.

See it! Meanwhile, a good broad assessment of the film HERE, excerpted below:

The legendary South Central film “Killer of Sheep,” will be released for the first time in theaters on its 30th anniversary. The film, now in a beautifully restored 35mm print, will be commercially distributed for the first time.

Directed by Charles Burnett, “Killer of Sheep” examines the black Los Angeles ghetto of Watts in the mid-1970s through the eyes of Stan, a sensitive dreamer who is growing detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse. Frustrated by money problems, he finds respite in moments of simple beauty: the warmth of a teacup against his cheek, slow dancing with his wife to the radio, holding his daughter. The film offers no solutions; it merely presents life -- sometimes hauntingly bleak, sometimes filled with transcendent joy and gentle humor.

“Killer of Sheep” played at a handful of colleges around the United States and in some small European festivals before receiving the Critics' Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1981. In 1990, the Library of Congress declared it a national treasure and placed it among the first 50 films entered in the National Film Registry for its historical significance. In 2002, the National Society of Film Critics also selected the film as one of the 100 Essential Films of all time.

“Killer of Sheep” was shot on location in Watts in a series of weekends on a budget of less than $10,000, most of which was grant money. Finished in 1977 and shown sporadically, its reputation grew and grew until it won a prize at the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival.

"Be True to Yourself" - Peggy Noonan on Tim Russert

From Peggy Noonan's pondering of the late newsman Tim Russert, these humanistic observations:

'In a way, the world is a great liar. It shows you it worships and admires money, but at the end of the day it doesn't. It says it adores fame and celebrity, but it doesn't, not really. The world admires, and wants to hold on to, and not lose, goodness. It admires virtue. At the end it gives its greatest tributes to generosity, honesty, courage, mercy, talents well used, talents that, brought into the world, make it better. That's what it really admires. That's what we talk about in eulogies, because that's what's important. We don't say, "The thing about Joe was he was rich." We say, if we can, "The thing about Joe was he took care of people."'

From Russert's example, we see these may be the keys to a life well-lived:

'Taking care of those you love and letting them know they're loved, which involves self-sacrifice; holding firm to God, to your religious faith, no matter how high you rise or low you fall. This involves guts, and self-discipline, and active attention to developing and refining a conscience to whose promptings you can respond. Honoring your calling or profession by trying to do within it honorable work, which takes hard effort, and a willingness to master the ethics of your field. And enjoying life. This can be hard in America, where sometimes people are rather grim in their determination to get and to have. "Enjoy life, it's ungrateful not to"....'

Noonan is wonderfully out of step with our times. Read the whole thing HERE.

The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire, by Peter Clarke

Martin Rubin writes perceptively HERE about Clarke's The Last Thousand Day's of the British Empire. Clarke sees the end not as a parade of leading figures (Churchill, Mountbatten, Gandhi) but in material terms, Britain being unable to feed its own people while becoming a debtor to its then-colony India. He recognizes the seeds of inevitable dissolution of the empire in the decisions Churchill took over the preceding ten years.

Clarke also shows a visceral distaste for the US and its postwar rise, and with gratuitous viciousness and obtuse moral vision writes that that, by 1947, "the British Empire was now in the hands of the liquidators. Churchill's thousand-year Reich had barely outlasted Hitler's."

Still the book sounds very interesting. I'll be curious when I read it to see if from Clarke's perspective a distasteful subtext argument arises: If Britain had reached an early accommodation with Nazi Germany, as had been urged on by certain segments of the British upper class, and abjured Churchill's Anglo-American unity, would Britain have retained its empire?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

For Release: Barack Obama Campaign Denials

Christopher Beam offers amusing advice to the Obama campaign, suggesting a strategy to deal with rumors via their website. Read it on SLATE here.

But Beam has it all wrong. The most effective way to disseminate new myths about a candidate is not by advancing them, but by DENYING them.

So, with a hat-tip to the aforementioned, here are THE MAIN POINT’s statements for release concerning Democrat Party candidate:

From: [Redacted]
To: [Redacted]

We’d like to clarify some recent speculation about candidate Barack Obama.

Barack Obama does not wear his FLAG PIN even in the shower.

There is no tape in our possession of Michelle Obama saying the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE at a conference on PATRIOTISM.

Barack and Michelle do not take their daughters HUNTING every weekend.

Barack Obama does not have the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach

FRANCIS SCOTT KEY is not the only artist on Barack Obama's iPod.

Barack Obama has not memorized The BIBLE.

Barack Obama does not go to CHURCH every day.

Barack Obama's new airplane includes a conference table, a kitchenette, but it does not include a CHAPEL.

Barack Obama does not own a BASEBALL TEAM.

Barack Obama is not licensed to drive a SIXTEEN-WHEELER.

Paul Smith Declared a Hadley Freeman-Free-Zone

Paul Smith has banned Guardian Fashion Columnist and TMP friend Hadley Freeman from his next show.

She shrugs.

To really get her attention, and respect, you have to ban her for life, apparently.

Set America Free

I've written before here and in STANDPOINT magazine about the Greenhawk Movement. I should also have mentioned a like-thinking organization - SET AMERICA FREE. They're "a coalition," according to their website, "of tree-huggers, do-gooders, sodbusters, cheap hawks, and evangelicals."

They advocate American taxpayers providing $12 billion of incentives for auto manufacturers to produce, and consumers to purchase, plug-in and flex-fuel hybrid vehicles.

They advocate a mandate to incorporate plug-ins into the US government transportation fleet.

They advocate incentives to transform fueling stations to serve all liquid fuels for flex-fuel vehicles.

They advocate government policies to encourage mass transit.

Read their manifesto at

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On sad suburban afternoons of autumn by Reginald Gibbons

On sad suburban afternoons of autumn,
the piercings, leather and tattoos that bought
these bungalows from mixing bowls and golf
barbeque and drink beer, watch football, eat,
laugh like ponies--everything has changed
and not a lot except which music blares
through the meat-scented smoke and streaks of sun.
Big motorcyles drip dark staining oil
where Oldsmobiles once waited between breakdowns.
Slightly aslant on windows are the self-
adhesive souvenirs of stadium concerts
by rockers getting osteoporosis;
T-shirts advertise five-pointed leaves;
kids are neglected in the age-old ways,
unkempt and shrieking as they run--or older,
buy their own weed, sneak drinks, ditch school and fuck.
In front yards, back yards, alleys and dead ends
may all these signs convince the distant gods--
or Fate, or The Fates, an absent "G-d," a Christ
somewhere or other, not right here, an Allah
with gnashing prophets, or a great magician,
or the chance events that can destroy a life--
that there's no need to bring down any more
than customary miseries and brief
illusions of good luck on such old, young,
different, same, frail creatures of a day.

first appeared in Ontario Review #62
posted to TMP with the author's permission

"Nokia Impressionism"

I've written before about "Nokia Impressionism," the snatched and accidental beauty that sometimes arrives via the low-res camera in your phone.

Here above is one from a Friday night in Santiago, Chile last year.

More here, from France, and here, from London.

Hitchcock Blonde Popcorn-Blogs David Lean

The best theater-... pardon me... theatre-blogger in Britain, aka Hitchcock Blonde, turns her attention to cinema, and the kick off of the David Lean retrospective at the British Film Institute theater at the South Bank.

The H-Blonde writes:

"The best literary and filmic realism stems from meticulously constructed fakery. The English, masters of precise practical craftsmanship and emotional detachment, do it particularly well: we frigid orgasm-feigning voyeurs are brilliant at building sincere pieces of insincerity that hit the heart by tricking the mind. From Thackeray and Hardy to Eliot and Dickens, our great realist novels are composed of the very symptoms of sham: cliche, stereotyping, coincidence and highly selective symbolism abound."

Read the whole thing HERE.

The H-Blonde is a legend in the making. She deserves her own star on the walk of fame (see above). Oh, and she can stop traffic too.

New York Restaurants

A London friend, aka Hitchcock Blonde, visiting my home town asked for tips on restaurants. New York dining is always about the NEW restaurants, those of the moment, whereas London, where she's from, is about the standbys and old favorites. I offered her a contrarian list of old New York favorites that still hold up. (None will be surprising to a native.)

If you have some dosh to spend, head to Elaine's, the greatest saloon in America. My old boss George Plimpton, if he'd heard one of us from his Paris Review staff had finished the night by heading there, would invariably ask "And what news from the Rialto?!"

Indeed, I'll ask the same from her tomorrow.

Then, the Waverly Inn, the new Elaine's. If downtown, The Odeon, which somehow still exists, and is best for large groups if you don't have a reservation. For a date, Raoul's.

If you're on a budget, or in any case, visit the Ear Inn on Spring Street near the Hudson River... a place that once, a hundred years ago, before landfill and the west side highway, was literally dockside. You can imagine it the place where Eugene O'Neill hoisted one when he was down-and-out. Very Iceman Cometh, but with a good crowd, and the fishcakes are good.

A fish place called Fish on Bleecker Street. Little Frankie's. Daksuni for Korean. PJ Clarke's for a burger. Danny Meyer's Blue Smoke is best for "healthy" barbecue.

Smith Street in Boerum Hill Brooklyn is worth a gander, since every place is good.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Useful Advice by Carl Dennis

Suppose you sat writing at your desk
Between days, long before dawn,
The only one up in town,
And suddenly saw out the window
A great star float by,
Or heard on the radio sweet voices
From wandering Venus or Neptune,
A little hello from the voids.
Who would believe you in the morning
Unless you'd practiced for years
A convincing style?
So you must learn to labor each day.
Finally a reader may write he's certain
Whatever you've written or will write is true.
Then all you need is the patience to wait
For stars or voices.

posted to TMP with the author's permission by the heroic Jeannie Vanasco

Power Struggles on Staten Island by Ben Ryder Howe

On Staten Island, Republicans have put forward retired banker Frank Powers. He's been challenged, meanwhile, by Fran Powers, the punk rocker and carpenter... and his estranged son from Powers Sr.'s first marriage.

A very funny account by former Paris Review editor Ben Ryder Howe, at The New Yorker on-line. Read the whole thing here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A "Milestone"

So much has been made of the fact that Obama is the first black nominated by a major party in a Western country that I feel it's overshadowing the true significance of his candidacy, which is something else and which I'll address above shortly. In any case, I think that was a milestone America was ready to pass almost a decade ago when Colin Powell could have gained the nomination from either party. What's more, Barack Obama is, properly speaking, mixed race.

That said, Ezra Klein HERE is good on the milestone, such as it is:

"Towards the end of the 1967 movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," Dr. John Wane Prentice, played by Sydney Poitier, sits down with his fiance's white father, played by Spencer Tracy. "Have you given any thought to the problems your children will have?" Tracy asks. "Yes, and they'll have some...[But] Joey feels that all of our children will be President of the United States," replies Poitier. "How do you feel about that?" asks Tracy, looking skeptically at the black man in front of him. "I'd settle for Secretary of State," Poitier laughs.

"Written in the late-1960s, the exchange was, indeed, laughable. The Civil Rights Act had been passed three years prior. Two years before, the Watts riots had broken out, killing 35. Martin Luther King Jr. would be assassinated a year later. But here we are, almost exactly 40 years after theatergoers heard that exchange. The last two Secretaries of State were African-American and, as of tonight, the next president may well be a black man. John Prentice's children would probably still be in their late-30s. They could still grow up to be cabinet officials or even presidents, but they would not necessarily be trailblazers."

Hat tip Tigerhawk

Hard Questions - and Robert Kagan

If you want to see someone stick to their guns, watch neo-con, McCain advisor, and classics scholar Robert Kagan on BBC's Hard Talk. Video, available only in the UK, here.

Iraq - More Hard Questions

As note by WSJ:

"This spring, the Iraqi army routed insurgents in three of their most important urban strongholds. These gains follow the success of the surge in crushing al Qaeda in the Sunni triangle, meaning that we are at last on the verge of winning in Iraq and securing a strategic victory in the Middle East. Question: Is this emerging victory – achieved at a cost of more than 4,000 American lives – something we are prepared to abandon after November?
"This is the improving Iraq that the next U.S. President will inherit, and it is the heart of the Iraq debate Americans should have in November."

read the whole thing here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Jeffrey Eugenides - A Very Short Story

Defenestrated baby, methamphetamine, prison, rehab, relapse.

# 30 #

A Film by Massimilian Breeder and Nina Breeder

"Devil Come to Hell and Stay Where You Belong" will be screening this week at The Wild Project in the East Village, NYC. I've seen other work by the distaff Breeder, Nina, and thought it strange and excellent. It will soon screen at the Fondation Cartier in Paris and then in Rome. Clips and further information HERE.

Billy Wilder: On Raymond Chandler

From "Billy Wilder, The Art of Screenwriting," originally published in The Paris Review

I understand your collaboration with Raymond Chandler was more difficult?

Yes. Chandler had never been inside a studio. He was writing for one of the hard-boiled serial magazines, The Black Mask, the original pulp fiction, and he'd been stringing tennis raquets to make ends meet. Just before then, James M. Cain had written The Postman Always Rings Twice, and then a similar story, Double Indemnity, which was serialized in four or five parts in the Black Mask.
They don't have those serial magazines anymore, but in Germany they were very popular. At the end of that week's excerpt you're left with a great feeling of suspense. I understand that thousands of people would wait near the docks for the arrival of the boat coming from England with the new chapters of a Dickens novel.
Paramount bought Double Indemnity, and I was eager to work out with Cain, but he was tied up working on a picture at Fox, called Western Union. A producer-friend brought me some Chandler stories from The Black Mask. You could see the man had a wonderful eye. I remember two lines from those stories especially: "Nothing is emptier than an empty swimming pool." The other is when Marlowe goes to Pasadena in the middle of the summer and drops in on a very old man who is sitting in a greenhouse covered in three blankets. He says, "Out of his ears grew hair long enough to catch a moth." A great eye. . . but then you don't know if that will work in pictures because the details in writing have to be photographable.
I said to Sistrom let's give him a try. Chandler came into the studio and we gave him the Cain story, Double Indemnity, to read. He came back the next day--"I read that story. It's absolute shit!" He hated Cain because of Cain's big success with The Postman Always Rings Twice.
He said, "Well, I'll do it anyway. Give me a screenplay so I can familiarize myself with the format. This is Friday. Do you want it a week from Monday?"
"Holy shit," we said. We usually took five to six months on a script.
"Don't worry," he said. He had no idea that I was not only the director but was supposed to write it with him.
He came back in ten days with eighty pages of absolute bullshit. He had some good phrases of dialogue, but they must have given him a script written by someone who wanted to be a director. He'd put in directions for fade-ins, dissolves, all kinds of camera moves to show he'd grasped the technique.
I sat him down and explained we'd have to work together. We always met at nine o'clock, and would quit at about four-thirty. I had to explain a lot to him as we went along, but he was very helpful to me. What we were doing together had real electricity. He was a very, very good writer, but not of scripts.
One morning, I'm sitting there in the office, ten o'clock and no Chandler. Eleven o'clock. At eleven thirty, I called Joe Sistrom, the producer of Double Indemnity, and ask, "What happened to Chandler?"
"I was going to call you. I just got a letter from him in which he resigns."
Apparently he had resigned, because while we were sitting in the office with the sun shining through I had asked him to close the curtains and I had not said "please." He accused me of having as many as three martinis at lunch. Furthermore, he wrote that furthermore he found it "very disconcerting that Mr. Wilder gets two, three, sometimes even four calls from obviously young girls."
Naturally. I would take a phone call, three or four minutes, to say, "Let's meet at that restaurant there" or "Let's go for a drink here." He was about twenty years older than I was, and his wife was older than him, elderly. And I was on the phone with girls! Sex was rampant then, but I was just looking out for myself.

Wasn't there something about shaking a riding crop?

Well, when I work it's true I can sometimes have a temper, but that was just ridiculous. Later, in a biography he said all sorts of nasty things about me--that I was a Nazi, that I was uncooperative and rude, and God knows what.
I told them forget about all that shit, let's just go on with the script. I agreed not to use the crop anymore.
I would say, "Would you please move your legs so I can walk past to the toilet?" Always, please, please, please.
Maybe the antagonism even helped. He was a peculiar guy, but I was very glad to have worked with him.
In any case, he must have learned something, because he went on to write two pictures at Paramount without me.
When Double Indemnity premiered in Westwood, Chandler didn't show, had disappeared, but Mr. Cain had come to see it. Afterwards, he was crying, he was delighted with what we'd done.

copyright: James Linville, 1996. Read the whole thing in The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1

Elizabeth Wurtzel - Yale Law School Grad

TMP's friend and occasional contributor graduated officially from Yale Law School yesterday. Hats off to her and the friends, coaches, and teachers who helped drag her across the goal line.

Five Best Books about Hollywood - Whit Stillman

Whit Stillman's choice for the five best books about Hollywood. Interesting that the selections of this writer-director are not auteur-theory-driven. I especially likes his comment about this film editor:

3. When the Shooting Stops . . . the Cutting Begins
By Ralph Rosenblum and Robert Karen
Viking, 1979

The dourest of men, Ralph Rosenblum was the editorial genius behind many of the great modern film comedies, including the first films of Woody Allen, Herb Gardiner and Mel Brooks. Rosenblum's account of the editing-room transformation of "The Producers," "Take the Money and Run" and "Annie Hall" is a film education in itself and a counterweight to the usual debate over the primacy of either script or direction. Rosenblum's bête noire is the cult of the film director. In his memoir only three directors -- Allen, Gardiner and Sidney Lumet (the first two also writers and so more tolerably "auteurs") -- come off well. "The myth that the director is the sole creator of his film is a burden on almost everyone in the movie business, including the director," he and co-author Robert Karen write. Particularly revealing is Rosenblum's description of how the beautiful ending to "Annie Hall" -- when Allen, as Alvy Singer, muses on the absurdity and necessity of romantic love -- was concocted in a taxi and recorded in a sound booth barely an hour before a key audience screening.

Read the whole thing HERE.

Shakespeare & Co. Paris Literary Festival

Shakespeare & Company's Literary Festival begins in Paris soon, June 12-15. This year's theme is Real Lives: Exploring Biography and Memoir.

Schedule HERE.

We had a friend who lived for awhile at Shakespeare & Co. and volunteered in the store, and pronounced it a great experience, except for the lack of bathing facilities.

Baseball in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Athletics dugout prior to start of Game 1 of 1914 World Series at Shibe Park. Courtesy: George Grantham Bain Collection

1000 Words, Michael Grieve, and Raimund Koch

... that's what a picture is worth, according to some, eh-hem. In any case this on-line photo magazine, 1000 Words, is new and worth following, and features the work of Martin Parr, Li Wei, and others.

Also worth seeing, the work of photographer Michael Grieve, seen here and here... both NSW by the way...

Not to mention the architectural photography of Raimund Koch, seen here.

Cult Beauty

Going off-piste here to announce the launch of our friend Jessica Gearhart's Cult Beauty blog... definitely worth watching if that's you bag. More about Jessica here shortly.

Reading, Watching II

These days I'm diving into David Fromkin's classic A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East... a book twenty years old now and more relevant every day. Also the superb debut issue of Standpoint, the UK journal of opinion that defends and celebrates Western civilization. Also Monocle magazine's Aviation Survey, in their June issue, Tim Lott's piece in Granta 101, Christopher Tilghman's In a Father's Place. Looking forward to Rowan Somerville's novel The End of Sleep, and Anuradha Roy's An Atlas of Impossible Longing. Am following changover at the Abumuqawama counter-terrorist theory blog.

Watching Hitchcock's Secret Agent. And will soon watch American Beauty, as I'm re-reading Alan Ball's screenplay... a perfect script... and recalling Mena Suvari's wonderful performance.

Am daydreaming of islands along the southern Dalmatian coast and of American beaches, which I miss.

A Look Back at Avenue A

Had coffee on Avenue A in the East Village recently. Saw baby carriages… on Avenue A. All tidier than when years ago I put together a reading series at Limbo Café. I dug out the list of writers… they hold up. Will link to the books from which they read.

Mona Simpson, James Lasdun, Charlie Smith, Dale Peck, Barry Yourgrau, Harold Brodkey, Dan Stern, Jonathan Dee, A.M. Homes, Diane Williams, Fran Lebowitz, Veronica Geng, Susan Minot, Bradford Morrow, Walter Abish, Richard Price, Jeff Eugenides, John Richardson, Marianne Wiggins, Kelvin Christopher James, Thomas Beller, Edwidge Danticat, Michael Cunningham, Darcy Steinke, Iva Pekarkova, Lucy Grealy, Richard Howard, Colm Toibin, Donald Antrim, Stig Larsson , Paul Watkins, Billy Collins, Mary Karr, Robert Antoni, Aga Shahid Ali, William Wadsworth, Garry Indiana, Rick Moody, Helen Shulman, David Foster Wallace, Michael Collins, Mark Leyner, Victor Erofiev, Kathryn Harrison, Mark Richard, Ana Castillo, A Frank O'Hara Tribute , Robert Olen Butler , Patrick McCabe, Michael Drinkard, Sophie Cabot Black, Randall Kenan, Martha McPhee, Glen Savan, Amanda Filipacchi, Jordan Orlando, Walter Mosley , Edward P. Jones, Jim Lewis, Frederic Tuten, Brooks Hansen, Jennifer Egan, George Plimpton , Thomas Bolt, Caleb Carr, Vince Passaro, Douglas Bauer, Patrick McGrath, Maggie Estep, Allen Kurzweil, Ted Mooney, Tibor Fischer , Walter Kirn, Michael Hornburg , Irvine Welsh , Maritza Perez, Amy Hempl, William T. Vollmann, Gordon Lish, Sandra Scofield, Darcy Steinke, Francine Prose, Bev Jafek, Lisa Fugard, Stephen Wright, Susan Power, Anne-Christine D'Adesky, Geoffrey O'Brien, Scott Malcomson, Peter Reading, David Lehman, Brooke Stevens, Todd Komarnicki, Peter Carey, Dani Shapiro, Jacqueline Deval, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Stephen Dixon , Carol Maso, John Ashbery, Brett Easton Ellis , Thom Jones, Stephen Wright, Colm Toibin, Harry Mathews, Noy Holland, David Bowman, Kevin Canty, Andrew Solomon, Don DeLillo, Amy Bloom, Paul Beatty, Peter Eisenman, Tobias Wolff, David Guterson, Junot Diaz

Richard Cummings

update here.

King Wenclas

update here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tesla - the Car of Choice

... for diverse drivers like this one and that one.

Look for one yourself and leave the gas-guzzlers behind.

Best Little Bathouse in Texas - Annals of Malaria Prevention

Pictured here, from 1914, one possible solution to the encroaching malaria problem in the UK. (Worriers fear that with global warming that pestilence will reach the shores of the sceptered isle soon).

Here, Dr Charles Campbell perches on the "municipal bat-roost" he championed in San Antonio, Texas. This would be a home, the innovator and epidemiologist claimed, for "one of man's best friends." His idea for mosquito control, at a time when malaria was a major public health problem in the US, was to disguise the roost as a favorite bat habitat--a church steeple, complete with cross. The structure was fitted with a trapdoor and stilts for harvesting bat guano by the wagon-load to use as fertilizer.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection.

Oldest Watering Holes

Nice list here, and I concur, and this makes me mourn the still-closed Chumley's of Barrow Street, West Village.

Hang in there Chumley's.


"I would never insult someone right to their face. I believe in talking behind peoples' backs. That way, they hear it more than once."

- Fran Lebowitz

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Whither Mirth on Russian TV?

Satirists have been banned from Russian TV.

Too bad, I always like Russian humor.

Three Mini-Mediations

Kay Goldstein outlines three mini-meditations, and does a fine job of boiling down "mindfulness" meditation for beginners, which after all we all are.

1) Putting yourself "On Pause"
2) Visualization
3) Shifting into Neutral

Read the whole thing here.

Reading, Watching

... post moved to here...

Liberty Peak's Other Odes

Yesterday I wrote about the tributes to librarians that are a regular feature of Liberty Peak Lodge... or Liberty Peek as I'm beginning to think of them, and they made surprised sounds that I should consider them a mid-century throwback 'mid the blogosphere. Both they and another site friendly to them, Last of the Few, do espouse old-fashioned virtues, and have a penchant for old-fashioned iconography, not to mention women from another time, as you may see here.

Perhaps they're just retro-sexuals.

I'd urge them to look forward, and look to another blog nearby (alphabetically), edited by one LibertyLondonGirl, who also has a smart bombshell thing going for her, as you may see here. So smart she's left her blog behind and been snatched up by the Throw-back Media, who've offered her an exalted post.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Literary Pin-Ups: a visual ode to smart women

Liberty Peak Lodge is a sort of strange throwback, a mid-twentieth century outpost mid the blogosphere, but they do include one regular feature of which I especially approve, portraits of representative librarians. Seen here and here and elsewhere. Let this be a reminder to shut off your computer and read more books.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Iraq - The Hard Questions

As the press becomes distracted by the latest non-controversy in the primaries, the hard questions about Iraq are receding from view. However, "Iraq," meaning the continuing conflict, the efforts to build a civil society, is not going anywhere. It's always tempting to push difficult questions aside.

The next president will face questions raised by the facts here. , and by Muhammed Fadhil here.

The candidates should begin to address them now.

Also noted, Mudville Gazette retraces his own time-line here. As his parsing shows, his own narrative differed markedly from that of the main-stream media. The LA Times, NYT, and WaPo is only this week catching up to him.

About this Victor Davis Hanson comments:

How odd (or to be expected) that suddenly intelligence agencies, analysts, journalists, and terrorists themselves are attesting that al-Qaeda is in near ruins, that ideologically radical Islam is losing its appeal, and that terrorist incidents against Americans at home and abroad outside the war zones are at an all-time low—and yet few associate the radical change in fortune in Iraq as a contributory cause to our success.

Read the whole thing here.

Big-Time Sport in Texas: Armadillo Racing

And it's oddly riveting, as you can see in the video here.

Thanks to Jeff Mermelstein for the picture.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yorkshire Dogs

... observed by Lucy Perceval at a village fair in the North Yorkshire Moors.

More photography by Lucy Perceval HERE.

Mark Dow, Leonard Michaels, and Paris Review #184

A long-lost interview with the brilliant short story writer Leonard Michaels. In one story by Michaels, long ago, the narrator, a young man from the Bronx romancing a Park Avenue girl, is caught and interruptus-ed when her parents return home early that night. He sneaks out the back door and slips into the service elevator... still naked. As the elevator stops to let on another resident, he thinks fast, performs a headstand. An elderly gentleman stops on, presses a button. The swain proceeds un-noticed and makes his escape into the night.

Also in the issue a memoir by the excellent Houston poet Mark Dow.

James Linville is

... now posting here, as James Scott Linville... me. My writing will also be featured in STANDPOINT magazine and on its website.

The Greenhawk Moment

... in STANDPOINT, a London-based journal of opinion that debuts today, "The Greenhawk Moment," an article by the undersigned about the convergence in thinking between renewable energy advocates and national security strategists.

As one Greenhawk puts it:

"Wahabis and friends of Ahmadinejad sit atop two-thirds of the world's oil reserves. Dependence makes the US vulnerable from both a security and environmental perspective. In buying oil from Islamic theocracies that sponsor terror, we are funding our enemies."

Read the whole thing HERE.

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

Not B.B... but rather Freddie King

Texas bluesman the late Freddie King jams it HERE. The man likes his music. I like his shirt collar.

Another Hybrid Super-Car

I'm already a fan of the Tesla electric speedster. Now comes this hybrid super-car, with loads of horsepower that gets 220 miles per gallon.

... hat tip Instapundit

The Review of Reviews

Omnivoracious does an excellent job of rounding up the weekly book reviews.

Worth a look and a bookmark.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge at 125, II

... as I said, HERE, the Bridge, now 125 years old, still looks so darned good I'd buy it.

"Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge/ prayer of pariah" - Hart Crane

Image courtesy of Library of Congress

Standpoint Magazine

... the debut issue of Standpoint Magazine, on newsstands today in London, looks terrific.

The magazine was profiled this past Sunday in the Observer, here, and here is an interview with editor Daniel Johnson. Coverage also in the Independent.

Keep an eye out for their on-line edition, coming soon HERE, for whom the undersigned has written about the Greenhawk Movement... found here.

Update: at the Standpoint launch last night at the Wallace Collection in Marylebone a speech by advisory editor (and playwright) Tom Stoppard that was both witty and rousing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fiction pod-casts from The New Yorker

... not that they need a plug from me, but The New Yorker are now doing fiction reading podcasts. I love this. You can too, here.

Dee Poon, at the center of all things Hong Kong

TMP has long considered our Hong Kong friend Dee Poon a paragon of glamour, and all the more so since she doesn't take glamour, or fashion, seriously, runs a documentary film festival in the Far East, has a Harvard philosophy degree to boot.

I understand that that she threw the most fun lunch at Cannes this year. That, the same week she was named one of the ten best dressed in Hong Kong and China. Interesting since when I met her she was wearing jeans and trainers.

And you can read her musings, and presentation for Dysemevas here and here.

Since LibertyLondonGirl has gone from posting to an editorial post, we'll have to depend on Dee for fashion references.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Manhattan Nocturne by Joseph Brodsky

Buenos noches.
Don't mind the roaches.

The Art and Design of Charley Harper

Designer Todd Oldham has been championing the work of 1950s graphic designer and artist Charley Harper. Ammo books has just published a collection.

ULA, Karl Wenclas, a.k.a. King Wenclas, Richard Cummings, Steve Kostecke & co.

Some links added to post HERE, re: the theories of Karl Wenclas, Richard Cummings, Steve Kostecke, Pat Simonelli, and ULA.

Brooklyn Bridge at 125

Today the Brooklyn Bridge turns 125 years old. And it looks so good I'd buy it. As Hart Crane wrote: "O, harp and altar of the fury fused/ How can mere toiling align thy strings?"

Photo courtesy of the G. G. Bain Collection, Library of Congress.

Insta-lanche! For which nod thank you, GHR.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dog Days of Summer ahead

Would be good to get some travel in (from postcard, 1885)

All Souls Church

This picture of All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, was taken with my Motorola phone. Sometimes phone cameras, or an unsteady hand, give a wonderful inadvertent effect that I'll call "Nokia Impressionism." All Souls, designed by John Nash, was built in 1823, and sits next to BBC's Broadcast House. A friend who follows such things tells me that between and slightly behind All Souls and Broadcast House is the location where once flowed a spring considered sacred by the pagans in those parts. Here's hoping that somewhere underneath the water still flows clear.

What Hands Remember by Johanna Ekstrom

What hands remember

arms at sides
seeming to be waiting

the big words
sleep beneath
the palm of the hand

a sweet sucked
to a sliver
words like glass
a splinter under the fingernail

Who died of love?

In the lining all the children sleep
mouths and eyes wiped clean
They have no mouths where mouths should be
no sight where sight should be
Whoever would trust to the injury itself?

From these hands fires can dart
characteristics be burned away

Hands fall like tulip petals
sweep away a facial feature

As hands do in sleep
they remember their loneliness

She places the petals over the children
covers them with the palm of her hand

No-one died of love
There is a contrary wind I have never known

Johanna Ekström, born 1970, is a writer and artist. She lives in Stockholm, Sweden.

Criticism's vocabulary of cruelty

Molly Flatt opines HERE that it's easier to display panache in slating a book than in praising one. I'll just simply say then that I liked the piece.

Mao at Museum

The PhDiva asks a good question: Why is the British Museum exhibiting the iconography of Mao? She illustrates this question here... with a critical eye!


A London film friend has just begun work on a new film, "Lesbian Vampire Killers." I'm unclear about whether the film concerns Lesbians who kill vampires or people who kill Lesbian vampires. No matter, but I hope to receive an invitation to visit the set.

I think, along with the Tarantino/Rodriguez double bill "Grindhouse" what we may have here is a new subgenre... Neo-Drive-In.

ps-have just been tipped to another, Zombie Strippers, out from Sony. Hit tip to Matthew.

Is Obama the new Bill (circa 1992)?

Ezra Klein sees potential pitfalls for putative president Obama. In case he may face the same challenges Clinton did on his arrival in Washington. At Prospect.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tweaking the Tyrants from the Comfort of her Living Room

Jane Novak, a stay at home mom in New Jersey, speaks to truth to power, to those in power in Yemen. Her blog here, and the NYT story here.

Sign her petition to help free Abdulkarim al-Khaiwani, here. As Novak says, the authorities in Yemen shouldn't set terrorists free and jail journalists who report the truth.

Surprising that the NYT is now so regularly reporting on bloggers. Kudos to them for here getting it so right.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Rachel Donadio pleads "enough about 1968" and HERE unpacks the cultural moment of 1958, when changes were afoot just as momentous and that have greater continuity with today.

I'm with her, and would go further to say that sometimes when I hear the "soixante-huitards" of Notting Hill reminisce about '68 it sounds almost as if they're taking pride over a disruptive tantrum. That said, a great filmmaker of that generation, who indeed made a film looking back at it, recently told me a deliciously self-mocking story about being a guest at a dinner party two years ago in Paris's Sixth. He and his former comrades went to balcony high above to cheer on a crowd of youth on the march in protest. Below them, protest turned to mayhem, and cars were set alight, as they were then again. Still the soixante-huitards, glasses of Bordeaux in hand, cheered. On the balcony fists were raised in fraternite, and below the protesting youth raised fists back, shouting up to them in solidarity.

Suddenly, one of the guests shrieked, "Wait, STOP! That's MY car! They're burning my car!!"

Yes, let's instead look back to 1958. Do read Donadio's essay, and alongside the photos of Robert Frank, the novels of Kerouac she mentions, put the first publication of William Burroughs, the continued ascendance of the Actor's Studio, the performances of Marlon Brando, and John Cassavettes's "Shadows," a cheaply-made and improvised film about jazz musicians, shot in 1958.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Hands Remember by Johanna Ekstrom

What hands remember

arms at sides
seeming to be waiting

the big words
sleep beneath
the palm of the hand

a sweet sucked
to a sliver
words like glass
a splinter under the fingernail

Who died of love?

In the lining all the children sleep
mouths and eyes wiped clean
They have no mouths where mouths should be
no sight where sight should be
Whoever would trust to the injury itself?

From these hands fires can dart
characteristics be burned away

Hands fall like tulip petals
sweep away a facial feature

As hands do in sleep
they remember their loneliness

She places the petals over the children
covers them with the palm of her hand

No-one died of love
There is a contrary wind I have never known

Johanna Ekström, born 1970, is a writer and artist. She lives in Stockholm, Sweden.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lebanon 3

Above, a picture by Spencer Platt from the conflict last round.

Young Lebanese drive through a devastated neighbourhood of South Beirut, 15 August. After a long morning walking through the rubble of a bombed Beirut and documenting people returning to what was left of their homes, Platt saw the red convertible out of the corner of his eye. His photo won the World Press Photo of the Year 2006, as detailed HERE. (Thanks to Getty Images.)

After that photo ran, Dutch freelance journalist Gert Van Langendonck tracked down its subjects in the car and interviewed them, as elaborated HERE in Photo District News. The photo was, then, the cause for some controversy. Fascinating, read the whole thing.
- James Linville

Lebanon 2

"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the unrest was a purely 'internal affair.'"

This might be a good time to consider again the question who killed Hezbo commander Imad Mughniyah.

Terrible again what's happening in that country, and to think what's ahead for it. What began as labor unrest Wednesday appears headed for a major showdown.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Griffith Electric Supplies - Trenton, NJ

Taken with my Motorola phone...

On Travel - Jean-Paul Sartre

It must be such an upheaval. If I were ever to go on a trip, I think I should make written notes of the slightest traits of my character before leaving, so that when i returned I would be able to compare what I was and what I had become. I’ve read that there are travellers who have changed physically and morally to such an extent that even their closest relatives did not recognize them when they came back.

An Ivy-Leaguer's Lament

... and it's all about clothes, but very witty, here, via A Continuous Lean.

G. Bruce Boyer writes:

"When I was growing up back in the late 1950s, the matter of dress for young men was relatively simple. There were basically three types of clothing stores. There was of course the traditional store for the traditional American business look: conservatively cut suits, safe shirts, and discreet foulard or striped neckwear. Then there was the somewhat “sharper” store, a more courant version of the trad store. Finally there was the Ivy League shop.... For most, the subtleties of double-breasted jackets and grenadine neckwear, of suede town shoes, enameled cuff links, covert cloth chesterfields, and cashmere cabled hosiery were not imaginable. But then neither were exterior logos, Italian designers, or microfibers. There also didn’t seem to be the questions of what to wear when. We certainly knew when the occasion called for a tie, and gym clothes were confined to the gym. It was, as I say, a simpler time."

Read the whole thing.


Gunmen on the streets of Beirut, the most beautiful and cosmopolitan city in the mid-East, and instinct tells me this will escalate. Is Hezbollah essentially declaring war on Lebanon?

An excellent round-up at Michael Totten's blog, here, where Lee Smith is offering guest-blogging coverage. Michael Young's commentary from the Beirut Daily Star is as always essential.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Coda by Jason Shinder

A sad and beautiful coda by the late poet and arts administrator...


And now I know what most deeply connects us

after that summer so many years ago,
and it isn’t poetry, although it is poetry,

and it isn’t illness, although we have that in common,

and it isn’t gratitude for every moment,
even the terrifying ones, even the physical pain,

though we are grateful, and it isn’t even death,

though we are halfway through
it, or even the way you describe the magnificence

of being alive, catching a glimpse,

in the store window, of your blowing hair and chapped lips,
though it is beautiful, it is; but it is

that you’re my friend out here on the far reaches

of what humans can find out about each other. 

More by and about the late Jason Shinder HERE.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A heart beats in San Francisco

Wow. At the link, from a recently laid-off associate, is an absolutely heroic kiss-off letter to the San Francisco law firm who had just heartlessly done the dirty dead. Read it HERE, via Abovethelaw.

Anyone looking for a passionate, truth-telling advocate to plead their case should find this woman and hire her.

A deep bow in her direction.

- James Linville

Protein Wisdom gets wise

Thanks to Dan Collins and company for qualifying (here) their earlier on TMP friend and contributor Elizabeth Wurtzel.

My original post, which they've responded to, can be found HERE.

Will write more on this soon.

- James Linville

Halitosis, and George Plimpton

Nicole Burdette's reminiscence, received this morning (posted here) took me back to my time at Paris Review with Plimpton.

There was a time when at the office on East 72nd Street all manner of diverse gossip swirled. Even, so I gathered, about me... patently false rumors I should add. At the time I found all this talk a little upsetting, but George made a concerted to effort to instruct me in an important life lesson, to teach me to ignore gossip... some of which, of course, he being a mischief-maker probably had a hand in unleashing. In his office upstairs he adopted a sage-like pose, leaned back in his chair, and offered this bit of wisdom: "James, halitosis is better than no breath at all. You know, just as long as they're talking about you, it’s all right." I could only shake my head.

One night, a week or so later, a work drink with a young woman in publicity from Random House turned, at her suggestion, into dinner, and then a sort of date. At one point, she put her fork down, stared at me intently and asked “Is it true you procure black transvestites for George Plimpton?" I burst out laughing. It was so absurd. But oddly I suddenly had a free feeling. I realized there came a time in life when attention began to be paid, even in a small way, and there really was little you could do to control what people said about you. It really was much better just to learn to let it slide off your back. The very life lesson George had tried to impart.

The next morning I went into George’s office to tell him I finally saw that, after all, he’d been right. Well, I told him the story of the night before, the dinner, and he hit the roof—“She said WHAT?!” Who is this?” I had to back out of his office saying, "Halitosis. George, remember halitosis!"

- James Linville

Away by Nicole Burdette

Last week I asked my favorite poet/actress/playwright for another poem for TMP, and she sent "Away," which you can see below. Burdette was a co-founder of the Naked Angels Theater Company in New York and in her spare time played Tony's cool sister Barbara from California in the HBO series "The Sopranos." My favorite Burdette performance, however, was as Brad Pitt's sullen Indian girlfriend in "A River Runs Through It." Along with the poem, she also sent this reminiscence of my old boss George Plimpton:

"I read this at the Oak Room at the Algonquin and the Great George was there, and after I read he picked me up into the air (my feet clear off the ground) and told me that was the poem HE had been trying to write all these years - I still don't know quite what he was talking about, and Steve Clark had to take his shoulder and say 'Okay George, you need to let Nicole down now.'"


I lived in a windowsill once
A year plus; I never slept
Hardly ate – saw the sun
I was in love then – with a boy
He never saw where I lived
And it frightened me to think
Of a place where he would keep
His things – though he never frightened me
He, rather, held me in his arms,
At night on the steps of that church
On Sixteenth Street and one night
Again – in his arms on a park bench
On St. Luke’s Place he made me a poet
That boy – I sometimes think – that boy
Who was fifteen years older then –
Still is – that boy who brought me
A single silver bracelet made by Indians
In Montana – that boy whose father is a Saint
It’s true that boy –
Who was a prodigy many years back –
At Trinity in Dublin – the favorite son
Until the day he read Yeats and suffered –
Suffered so much – suffered I guess
What his father did before him –
- Listen carefully to what I say –
- About this boy

He read Yeats one day
And lost his mind –
He got lost –
They found him and sent him home
You see I could never go to his place
see his things –
I but lived in a windowsill –
Barely enough for my weightless self
That’s the summer I watched a Saint
Walk away from my windowpane
He always had a slight limp
And his eyes squinted as if he was
Forever in the midst of making a very important decision
Should I go up University or down Ninth Street
I saw him last contemplating that corner

- posted to TMP by James Linville. See more by Nicole Burdette here, here, and here.