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.