Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ONN Scoops a Peabody

The Onion News Network scooped a 2008 Peabody Award for electronic journalism last week.

Huzzah. We at the Main Point favor text news: newspapers, actual printed newspapers, and political blogs. The only video news we regularly watch is ONN... the key portal for understanding the world around us.

Watch the Onion News Network HERE.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Joe Boyd on Ley Lines, and John Michell's Vision of Ancient Britain

In the Guardian music producer Joe Boyd remembers a 1968 road trip with the late John Michell, the founder of the earth mysteries movement.

"John came equipped with a compass and some maps and asked if we would be interested in helping him conduct an experiment. He took a map and drew the most important English ley line, connecting Glastonbury Tor with Bury St Edmunds, which passes through a remarkable number of towns named St Michael or St George. John proposed that we leave the A4 and attempt to follow this trunk route of ley lines across the Wiltshire downs towards Avebury. We followed a dirt road out on to the downs, turning on to smaller and smaller tracks and eventually continuing on foot. Then, from the top of a rise, Avebury lay below us. The line we were following cleaved the stone circle below directly in half. More remarkable still was a long barrow placed at right angles on the crest of the hill. In the centre of the barrow, exactly where the line crossed, stood a stone dolmen.... His explanation for the geometric string of St Michaels and St Georges [was that] those names indicate "dragon-slayers", John said, and saints often originate in pre-Christian mythology. The ancient Celtic word for dragon..."

Read the whole thing HERE.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Uncle Seymour Tries to Make a Picnic

... but, speaking from Dubai last week, Hersh was at least one sandwich short.

Recently, New Yorker writer Seymour Hersh, speaking in Minnesota, claimed that Vice President Dick Cheney had been in charge of a "secret assassination squad," and that since the change of administration this unit has been "leaderless"... like "ronin," presumably, those samurai who've lost their master... and we all know from Japanese legend how dangerous ronin can be.

Hersh was, in his clumsy and irresponsible way, trying to refer to Joint Special Operations Command, a military group tasked with hunting al Qaeda particularly in inaccessible areas of Afghanistan. The leader of the unit from 2003 to 2008 was Stanley A. McChrystal, recently named by President Obama to be commander of NATO's Af-Pak operations. The JSOC unit of course is now commanded by Vice Admiral William H. McRaven, reports to the Secretary of Defense, and (as pointed out by Bill Roggio) is subject to Congressional Oversight... so is, for one thing, not "leaderless" at all.

In Dubai, at the Arab Media Forum last week, Hersh repeated his strange allegation of a "special death squad," doubled down, and claimed that during the Bush era the American Press became irresponsible "cheerleaders."

In South Asia reports have appeared that Hersh claimed "Cheney's death squad" killed Benazir Bhutto. In Dubai, he contradicted this notion (see link below). We're relieved.

When asked whether "Cheney's death squad," meaning presumably JSOC, then under command of McChrystal, could have killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, Hersh said "I can't verify [that]," only later going on to discount this.

Would someone please bring this man home? I understand his address is pinned to his jacket.

Links:

Dubai's Gulf News, here and here.

Qatar's Gulf Times.

Bill Roggio on Hersh's earlier left-field fly HERE.

UPDATE - further dis-info and counter-dis-info at these links:

The Dawn (PK)
Daily Times (Pk)
The Nation (Pk)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Martyrs' Square, Beirut, 14 February 2009

While in Beirut as part of a press delegation I attended a memorial in Place des Martyrs for Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister slain four years ago. The memorial became a political rally for the parties who launched the Cedar Revolution. While there I interviewed journalist Jonathan Foreman, writer-at-large for Standpoint magazine, who offered these observations, in the video above.

Over the following weeks I'll be posting here further interviews, as well as photos and diaries of my visit.

This interview, by the way, was shot on a Flip Video Recorder ($85 via Amazon) and edited on a Macintosh using iMovie software.

This video has been updated and has been posted here in March 2012.

Kanye Blogs, But He Doesn't Twitter

... apparently.

This from the blog of Kanye West:

"I DON’T HAVE A F****** TWITTER… WHY WOULD I USE TWITTER??? I ONLY BLOG 5 PERCENT OF WHAT I’M UP TO IN THE FIRST PLACE. I’M ACTUALLY SLOW DELIVERING CONTENT BECAUSE I’M TOO BUSY ACTUALLY BUSY BEING CREATIVE MOST OF THE TIME AND IF I’M NOT AND I’M JUST LAYING ON A BEACH I WOULDN’T TELL THE WORLD. EVERYTHING THAT TWITTER OFFERS I NEED LESS OF. THE PEOPLE AT TWITTER KNOW I DON’T HAVE A F****** TWITTER SO FOR THEM TO ALLOW SOMEONE TO POSE AS ME AND ACCUMULATE OVER A MILLION NAMES IS IRRESPONSIBLE AND DECEITFUL TO THERE FAITHFUL USERS. REPEAT… THE HEADS OF TWITTER KNEW I DIDN’T HAVE A TWITTER AND THEY HAVE TO KNOW WHICH ACCOUNTS HAVE HIGH ACTIVITY ON THEM. IT’S A F****** FARCE AND IT MAKES ME QUESTION WHAT OTHER SO CALLED CELEBRITY TWITTERS ARE ACTUALLY REAL OR FAKE. HEY TWITTER, TAKE THE SO CALLED KANYE WEST TWITTER DOWN NOW …. WHY? … BECAUSE MY CAPS LOCK KEY IS LOUD!!!!!!!!!”

link HERE... I mean here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

MEGAN MCARDLE on The Risk of Debt:

'For a while now, I’ve been asking people at conferences, on and off the record, what America’s sovereign debt risk is? That is, how long until people stop treating treasuries as the “risk free” securities, and start demanding a premium for the risk that we might default.... But last Thursday, the Treasury auction was . . . well, descriptions vary from “weak” to “horrible”. This raises the unpleasant possibility that markets are, as my business school professors insisted, “forward looking”. Voters may believe that getting a bunch of special interests to agree in principal that costs should be cut is the same thing as actually cutting costs. Bond markets don’t. . . . Obama can assure voters that he inherited these deficits. But bond markets pay closer attention to the fact that Obama has already increased the projected deficit he inherited by 50%.'

Read the who thing HERE.

Ace of Spades is

... as sharp as ever on Pelosi's denial of knowing water-boarding was to be employed on terror detainees. Read him HERE, and his originating piece HERE.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Coalition Commander for Afghanistan

Michael Yon comments:

"In December 2008, I saw General McKiernan briefing Secretary Gates in Afghanistan. That's as close as I've come to General McKiernan. Though I do not personally know General McKiernan, I have heard only positive reports about him. His replacement, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, has an outstanding reputation in the special operations community. McChrystal has a solid reputation for knowing the fight. Unfortunately, though our special operators are the best in the world at the fight, they only stumble and fumble with the press. With media, our special operations forces are clueless and self-defeating. This is crucial. McChrystal can win every fight on the ground and still lose the war. Time will reveal whether McChrystal can adapt and win."

Read more from Yon here.

It's Called CAPITAL-ism for a Reason

... as Bainbridge writes:

"The WSJ’s "USA Inc" series continues today with detail on how the US got secured lenders to abandon their fight to get paid more than 30% of their claims, as against giving more than half [Chrysler] to unsecured workers.... The Journal report quotes one anonymous -- but asinine -- Obama administration official as opining that: 'You don't need banks and bondholders to make cars," said one administration official."

Try telling that to Chrysler when they go to capital markets for further financing down the road.

Read the whole thing HERE, and the WSJ report HERE. And a keen observation HERE.

On Wanda Sykes

Regarding Wanda Sykes's jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner, in which she suggests that Rush Limbaugh was a traitor, comparable to a terrorist and mortal enemy of the US, should be water-boarded, and that she hoped he would die, Christopher Hitchens comments:

"The president should be squirming in his seat. Not smiling. The black *&#$ got it wrong. No one told her the rules."

Go to NYM for unredacted version and full account, HERE.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dijon-gate


The latest stir in the blogosphere has been Dijon-gate (see link below), in which MSNBC has hidden President Obama's request at a hamburger restaurant for some "some spicey mustard, some Dijon mustard."

Amazing really. That word... a place-name in fact in France... was right at the tip of his tongue. He didn't even have to think about it.

Odd that Professor Jacobson should make a comparison to the Watergate break-in and cover-up (ie, Water-GATE... Dijon-GATE). To me this calls to mind the airbrushing of photographs practiced by regimes behind the Iron Curtain, the ultimate totalitarian post-modern practice elaborated so brilliantly by Milan Kundera, particularly in his novel "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting."

That said, one Main Point correspondent, "Chicago Stretch," opines that both Jacobson and TMP miss the point. Chicago Stretch, who spent 35 years in our nation's capital before re-locating to Chicago not long ago, writes:

"If Barry and Joe were regular guys, they would have gone to the original Five Guys for burgers, but since it's entirely carry-out there wouldn't have been a place to sit and pose for the photographers. The original Five Guys is on Beauregard just off King Street in western Alexandria. Of course, Ray's Hellburgers is where I'd go for an Effeteburger, the sort you would put Grey Poupon on, as noted in this local review: 'A guy can spend upwards of $17.50 on the signature attraction, but choices such as "The Burger of Seville," which packs in foie gras, bordelaise sauce and white truffle oil, have nothing on the simpler models. Customers place their orders at a counter overlooking the big grill, then listen for their names to be called. The strongest brew available is root beer, but it's great, and while you might wish for french fries, Hell-Burger recently began offering sides of chunky potato salad and creamy coleslaw. The downside? We appreciate the fact that it's toasted, but the brioche bun tends to fall apart under the weight and juice of the hamburger.'"

Gosh, we'd like to try that. We'll have to pop in to Kramer's on the way to pick up the new Kundera. (Is it just me or did the quality of his work drop when he switched from writing in Czech to French?)

Legal Insurrection's revelation of Dijon-gate HERE.

Sitting at Night, by Po Chu-I

Facing the courtyard at day's end, I welcome night--that dark

realm ripe for sitting at this lamp, looking into bright clarity.

No words for such depths of heart, I wonder who can share them.

That's when the moment allows a whispered howl: once, twice.



-translated by David Hinton

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Akira Kurosawa's STRAY DOG

After watching "Marathon Man" earlier this week I've been thinking about pulp fictions and genre films.

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. Elsewhere on this blog I've offered 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.

"Stray Dog" tells the story of the frantic search by a rookie cop (Toshiro Mifune) for his stolen Colt pistol, which to his shame had been lifted from him on a bus. A manhunt, lead by the rookie's mentor, begins after the stolen gun is used in a murder. The action throughout takes place during a heatwave in a bombed-out post-war Tokyo. One thing that gives the film such psychological depth is that both cop and killer are from the same background and are the same age... though it's never mentioned both must have been recently de-mobilized from the defeated Imperial Army. There's a sense of "there but for the grace of God go I."

The mini documentary in the Criterion Collection edition recounts a stir over the opening shot of a dog panting feverishly. The film premiered during the American occupation of Japan, and a busybody American woman associated with the ASPCA accused Kurosawa of having injected the dog with rabies to get that wild-eyed effect. This was in the wake of post-war revelations about "scientific" experiments performed by the Japanese imperial army. Apparently this woman was persistent, obsessed even, and brought suit. It was the one blot on an otherwise happy production.

Of course, to get the shot Kurosawa simply had his team take the dog on a run for a few minutes on a hot day.

Apple’s New Line of Netbooks

Forgive me but I love their computers so I'm addicted to their news... late last year an Apple executive was talking down netbooks:

“They have cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens, and just not a consumer experience, and not something that we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly. And so, it’s not a space as it exists today that we are interested in, nor do we believe that customers in the long term would be interested in. It’s a segment we would choose not to play in." (via NYT)

More recently an Apple executive responded cryptically to questions whether the company is developing a netbook. Since then there's been much speculation on the subject (see link at bottom).

Some have suggested the company will produce one in the form of a touch-tablet computer, akin to a giant I-pod touch, or a Kindle. Here's my guess what we'll see later this year:

Imagine if you had a computer as thin as the Macbook Air, with the small footprint of the discontinued Macbook Pro 10-inch, a durable solid state drive, and a glass panel below the keyboard that would act as track-pad, dock, widget-dashboard and i-pod application stable. You'd "drive" your computer from the track-pad/dock, freeing up more room on screen.

To get an idea of what this would would simply stand above a Macbook, and lay your I-phone down horizontally over the touch pad. That would be a wonderful driving experience, especially if it had built-in 3-G wireless capability.

Other more responsible though less fun speculation here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Decline of Journalism (and Math) in the Digital Information Age

Homer, and The New Yorker magazine's vaunted Department of Factual Verification, nods.

In the first paragraph of the lead story of the May 4th issue, a "Comment" piece on tax increases and the prospect of Texas seceding from the union because of them, author Hendrick Hertzberg attempts some math.

He calculates that under the tax hike proposed by the Obama administration, raising the top marginal rate from 35% to 39.6%, "a fellow making, for example, three hundred grand could see his tax bill go up $34.62 per week."

Is Mr. Hertzberg missing a zero, or does he does customarily take extraordinary deductions when he files?

I'm terrible at math, and as readers of this blog know even worse at spelling, but my calculation is an increased liability of $265 per week.

That's not peanuts.

Duffer's Holiday


... named for the two or three weeks in late May into early June when mayflies hatch and even the laziest and most incompetent fisherman (see figure above) can hook one.

This was part of the catch last year on the River Test. I look forward to returning shortly, to Duffer's Heaven. Perhaps I'll encounter this fish again, as I released him moments after the photo was taken.

More on the Test River here.

Mary Kinzie - OBJET

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

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

... posted with permission of the author

Friday, May 1, 2009

from Harold Brodkey

"The night crept on, swept on, late minutes, powdered with darkness, in the middle of a sleeping city, spring crawling like a plague of green snakes, bits of warmth in the air, at 4am smells of leaves when the stink of automobiles died down. Dawn came, so pink, so pastel, so silly."

Yorkshire Dogs


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

Anti-Bloggists



Print reporters in the White House press room have posted a sign in the desk area reading "Blog-Free Zone."

Hat tip "Page Six"... as if they need it...