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.

Obamacon 2

David Brooks sounds almost like another "Obamacon" HERE, or perhaps just another admirer.

Lots to admire. Again and again, Obama has outclassed HRC.

Leonard Cohen's note of retirement from his vows

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The FLIP camcorder, and the Star Inn, Yorkshire

I've already written about my enthusiasm for the FLIP point-and-shoot video camcorder HERE. Am just back from a long weekend on the north Yorkshire moors and have some results. Will post a brief clip as an example soon. My other new enthusiasm is the The Star Inn, a Michelin-starred pub in a north Yorkshire village. No footage from inside the Star...

SPY WARS by Tennent H. Bagley

... this week marks the paperback publication of Tennent H. Bagley's SPY WARS, a remarkable book urged upon me by a journalist friend. Last year the book was selected by NYT's William Safire (who called it a "bombshell") as "sleeper book of the year." I've read the book twice, and am still digesting the implications of this complex story.

An old-school espionage story from the early Cold War, “Pete” Bagley was the counter-intelligence officer who handled the noted case of the defector Yuri Nosenko. The question of whether Nosenko was a bona fide defector, or had been dispatched as part of a deception plot, tore the CIA apart for the better part of a decade. Some forty years later Bagley finally makes public his report, and it diverges considerably from the comfortable version of events the agency has long presented.

In The Spectator last year, Oleg Gordievsky described the author, one-time head of Soviet Block Counter-Intelligence for the CIA, as "one of the most respected and knowledgeable experts on Soviet espionage." The book, he said, was "perhaps the most amazing non-fiction spy book that has ever appeared during or after the Cold War."

After my second reading I turned to a series of "twenty unavoidable questions" posed by Bagley (to be found on the Yale Press website, at the bottom of the page HERE).

Bagley's questions are indeed, if one has an interest in this matter, unavoidable. What's more, his account was persuasive that the Russian defector was not quite who he said he was; that Nosenko could not have reviewed the complete, specific KGB files he claimed he did; and that Nosenko's stories of how the KGB discovered the identities of two CIA moles in Moscow was unlikely to have been true.   David Ignatius in the Washington Post wrote, "It's impossible to read this book without developing doubts about Nosenko's bona fides. Spy Wars should reopen the Nosenko case." I don't know what it would mean to "open" a case forty years old, if it's possible or even advisable, but perhaps a new generation of analysts and historians will examine the case. The account Bagley offers in the book of the long history of deception operations, stretching back to Peter the Great, is alone worth the price of the tome.

An Obamacon - another conservative for Obama

The delicious Dorothy, a.k.a. PhDiva, has been dubbed an "Obamacon," a conservative who's crossed the aisle for that candidate. Andrew Sullivan has thus coined a new and useful term.

Read the whole thing HERE.

She has a predecessor in Susan Eisenhower, as noted HERE.

Nick Hornby on books to film

in The Observer, via Page Six: "I can't stand it when writers moan about what filmmakers might do or have done to their books. There's a very simple answer: Don't take the money."

Makes sense. Of course, Hornby has been well-served by filmmakers.

Lee Smith guest blogs

Lee Smith is guest blogging at Middle East Journal which Michael Totten travels the Balkans. A regular at Slate and the Weekly Standard, why isn't Lee blogging already all the time?

Imperfect Paradise by Nicole Burdette

Only an American would bring a canary
Down with him in the mines
Only an American would make a sport
Where you could steal home and win
The Greeks say if catastrophe strikes
To practice composure
Is the credo – no irony – no opinions
Go back. Go back. To Huckleberry Finn
With exceptional flux I dreamt of
Orange blossoms and violence

Is there nothing quite like the face of a losing man?
A soldier, a boxer, a lover, a boy
I see all sorts of Johnny Boys strut
Down Saint Marks Place
They know. That greatness falls…
And all those underdogs and Mary Magdalene’s
Do their best
For as the sailors proverb goes
A sea refuses no river

These are not the bravest men –
But some of the kindest
Not the strongest men –
But some of the smartest
We stand there; witnesses to it
We can’t help but worship
Even the most ragged soul
A flawed ideal is worthy of reception
I wait here
From ‘prayer to shivering prayer’
As Yeats put it returning to war

Friday, May 2, 2008

Elizabeth Wurtzel on another bombshell

Elizabeth Wurtzel in today's Opinion journal on Obama's other Weather Underground friend Bernardine Dohrn, a former Most Wanted. "She sounded like a kick." I'm sure Elizabeth probably identified with her because as a fifteen year old she too had an urge to throw bombs... though there'd have been a conflict since she never likes anyone to get hurt. She writes:

"To my angsty adolescent mind in 1982, the fact that she helped bomb something like 25 targets, including the Capitol and the Pentagon, seemed to have been lost. In fairness to me, it also was lost on Northwestern University's law school, which made her a faculty member and director of its Children and Family Justice Center in 1992. And on swanky Sidley Austin, the elite Chicago law firm that employed both Bernardine and the Obamas some 20 years ago. (After living underground for years, she pled guilty to aggravated battery and bail jumping, and was put on probation.)

"Still, like many teenagers tragically lost in the Reagan '80s, I had Woodstock dreams, imagining some perfect purple haze of love. By the time I got to college, the cult of latter-day hippies had become a phenomenon: groups of us made daytrips to Walden Pond to drop acid on Thoreau's acreage. I was there, one of many, in love with a dream I'd had as a kid. Today, of course, I know wh LSD really stands for: let the Sixties die. If only the last terrorist act of the Weathermen had been to forever destroy hippie nostalgia."

Read the whole things HERE.


Have been confounded and intrigued over the last year by the videos of Brighton-based artist Seraphina Samet. Among them, "Empathy with Trees" is the most accessible. Others are beautiful... if sometimes confounding. They can be found HERE, in the pink box.

It could be I've returned to these videos again because I'm romancing my own recent purchase of a FLIP video camcorder. A half-hour capacity to point-and-shoot, a USB connection to your computer, and only a hundred dollars.

Of course, I've only shot streetscapes outside my window, but that makes me admire her work all the more.

Everyone should pick one up. I had a friend long ago, David Robbins, who worked for Andy Warhol in the Factory. David was admiring some Mao silk screens that were being pulled, and said so. Warhol said, "So make your own."