24 December 2008

Though she's still quite young, the great flamenco cantora La Macanita has for years performed villancicos around Jerez de la Frontera, Spain at Christmas. I'm not pulling an Eliot here, but this is worth checking out more than a few times. Her solo recounts the conversation between Jesus' parents and an innkeeper who demands money, and the chorus talks about their hard winter journey. This is a very cute video of one of her numbers from the 70's...

I hope to blog more next month and thereafter..

01 December 2008

Review: BBQ Tour

I had the occasion to drive back and forth through the Carolinas the last two weeks so I suppose I should chime in with my bbq rankings:

1. Brown’s BBQ, Kingstree, SC, a little under a half hour from 95 and north of town. Kingstree also boasts James Witherspoon’s plantation house which served as ‘an encampment for 100 British dragoons and a number of Tories,’ its name originating from an 18th Century search for the best lumber for British shipbuilding. I did not venture to Hemingway, SC, NE of Kingstree, which offers Big D’s and Kenny’s bbq and Home Boy Soul Food, but Southern Pee Dee River cuisine is unquestionably one of the high points of the East Coast, right smack in House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn’s congressional district where black roosters land by the roadside and not a mile goes by where you’re not reminded of Jesus’ love. Because eating in means that you can only get the buffet, don’t do as I did and eat Clyde Cooper’s at noon and pull in here to sample a sandwich at four. The $9 buffet features bbq pork, ribs, chicken cued, roasted and fried, meatloaf, offal, catfish stew (my favorite offering), delicious beef stew, Southern greens, sweet potatoes, etc. as well as classic pecan pie. The pork is a coarse chop rather than fine, but the sauce here is the best I’ve ever had and expect to ever have. Pee Dee sauce uses vinegar as the main ingredient in East NC fashion but uses mustard and tomato sauce in significant portions, and it seems that there was some sort of meat stock in ample evidence in Brown’s sauce. En route there was a small grocery store/ gas pump which had Pee Dee River Swamp Sauce as the only offering other than Kraft, exceptional and universally acclaimed upon my return, with a blend similar to Brown’s but without the presumed stock ergo not quite the same. I was looking for veggies at the small store to dine on after processing Brown’s but:
“Do you sell any produce?”
“No, there’s a place right up the road.”
“That way?”
“Yessir, just seven miles up the road.”
“I’m from NJ; seven miles is not right up the road.”
“I’m from DC, honey, and they told me this job was right up the street, but it’s thirty miles away from where I live. That was 10 years ago, and I’m still working here.”
2. Parker’s, Wilson, NC, right off 95 but a little tricky to find. All reports that Parker’s is not great are woefully misguided and it is with great difficulty that I don’t put them first. Snowbird motorists are well served to select a Wilson hotel from the NC Welcome Center coupon books, check in for layover and then fill an empty stomach here before venturing to the NC art museum in Raleigh first thing in the morning. I am one to believe that bbq should only serve bbq and do it well, but the decision to serve fried chicken here was made long ago to keep the groups of locals that meet here every night from going somewhere else for variety. Keeping the locals in volume away from the town’s other cue spots prompts them to offer a pork sandwich, a large side order, hush puppies, and a pitcher of water to the cash strapped for $3. A combo platter (my choice) where a juicy chicken breast is placed atop your pork goes for $7 and ‘all you can eat’ administered by accommodating waiters in white paper hats goes for $9. Great sweet tea which comes in pitchers, best Brunswick stew of the three examples on the trip, delectably moist hush puppies, mustard-based slaw and the best pork on the trip. East NC vinegar sauce on chopped pork is my favorite so this was quite an event for me.
3. Clyde Cooper’s, Raleigh, NC. The 70 year old lunch spot for people working in NC government with prices similar to Parker’s, the pork sandwich is wonderfully chopped with a layer of slaw that awaits your application of their pungent sauce. Also great hush puppies, good Brunswick stew, collards, tea, every seat taken, in a stollable downtown with street parking and free museums.
4. The GA Pig, Brunswick, GA. This was started 20 years ago as a stop on 95 (exit 29, Jekyll Island) that locals would drive to, so it doesn’t have the historical authenticity and geezer prices of the previous three but every detail has been attended to to give the atmosphere and food appeal to purists, especially the smell of the dining room with its long tables and rustic decor. It’s Brunswick, so the stew seems authentic, lightly seasoned to accent the taste of the ingredients. A heavy ketchupy sauce, tho, accompanies the enticingly fatty cuts of pork that await the hungry sojourner who must plan on healthier fare later.
5. Maurice’s Piggy Park, Columbia, SC. Local chain that basks in the glory of mustard sauce beneath the Confederate flag. The sauce is really good for turnup greens which are not for sale here, but spicy green beans are available.

Other highlights:

1. O’Steen’s, St. Augustine, FL. The place had a long line outside as it often has so I took out a bowl of the Minorcan clam chowder with the locally grown dalil peppers. A real treat for any fan of Manhattan CC and worth a stop off 95 along with a trip to the art galleries near the winery, specifically Energy Lab with canvases by its founder Carlos Paredes and its next door neighbor, the Butterfield Garage which features Maribel Angel paintings.
2. Tony’s and Sons, Kingston, PA. Okay, why is this included and why am I there? I’m including a three day trip upstate to Ithaca and east of there the weekend before going south that Tuesday. Omelettes and hot sandwiches. The exterior is dilapidated deco with no references to sons, so I was unsure I was at the right place, but upon crossing the threshold to encounter inside the owner holding fort at the counter wearing his engineer’s cap in the three colors of Italy, I knew I was in the right place. I don’t get into political arguments frequently offline and wasn’t seeking out research on the pockets of the Giuliani electoral base in the post-anthracite NE PA urban centers, but after watching the BBC report on racial attitudes in this area, Tony’s is a hornet’s nest for people who want to go right to the story. Everywhere pasted on the walls are expressions of dissatisfaction with the Obama victory amid homophobic jokes about the Hon. Barney Frank and other musings. I overheard “there’s suddenly a lot of stolen cars turning up at the White House.” It makes you appreciate Ithaca once you get there. Many of the omelettes are named after people, including at least two doctors who may have performed successful operations on Tony. I was querying about ingredients of said omelettes and after some reluctant responses, Tony found his discursive form:

“Look, you don’t need to know the ingredients. Everything here’s good. Who is this guy, coming in here and asking me the ingredients?! He’s not from around here. You don’t know nothing, but you just walked in on the best Italian food anywhere! Order any omelette, it doesn’t mattah! As long as you don’t got no allergies.”

I opted for the Soprano’s omelette with an Italian hoagie to go, reportedly their only cold sandwich, which came on a fresh roll. The omelette was the best I ever had, incorporating tomato sauce and local sausage with a garlic doused toast. You can spend a month ordering omelettes in Lyon and not have it this good. I’m not saying Act Up shouldn’t pay Tony a visit, but I will go back for more omelettes during which I kowtow to Tony, ignore his political pronouncements and invoke the privileges of being a white guy with a deep voice.
Update: 2. (tie) Aloy's, Poughkeepsie, NY. Can't believe I forgot about this from that weekend. Pizza that evokes comparison to De Lorenzo's in Trenton and Mario's in the Bronx served by friendly staff with accents from the Abruzzo region. I'll make it a tie for second so that I don't have to change the numbers. Unfortunately the German Expressionism show is down at Vassar, but there's some Julie Mehretus up if you can't make it to NC and a Tintoretto. They also have a plaster model of Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise doors of the Baptistry, hidden in the stairway above the bathrooms, if you want to save yourself a trip to Florence.
3. Pasha Middle Eastern Foods, Daytona Beach, FL. Not to be confused with the chain further south. Good ethnic food is much in evidence on International Speedway Drive along with, without exaggeration, some of the best used book stores on the East Coast: Mandala on the Speedway Dr and Abraxas around the corner on Beach St. Mandala has a poetry section featuring New Directions offerings of the 70s and 80s which are out of print and half priced, which isn’t of course quite as good as it was when I walked in, and a large and well selected fiction and philosophy section to go with a radical section second only in my travels to Village Books in Tivoli, NY. The two stores have the best and second best selections of Kierkegaard I’ve ever seen used. I didn’t get whether the Pasha family was Armenian, Turkish, or whatever but I had the gooey Armenian cheese pita and the quality of the food could be passed off at a much higher price... Grocery items are pricey as I suppose its where you have to go for that in Daytona.
4. Mexican place in a small white building, South of Ocala, FL. I certainly should do a better job of noting the name and location of this eatery, but I note the fact that there are a lot of good Mexican places and promising bbq that I sort of wish I had saved room for in this area, which I traversed between Blue Springs National Park and the Margorie Rawlings home at Cross Creek via the national forest. Blue Springs Park is a must in the wintertime because the manatees congregate there for the hot water, which means you get to meet dozens upon dozens of these friendly creatures whose shyness is overcome by the need to come up and breathe oxygen. I think they were elephants who decided to swim away from predators when the continents were closer together.

There should be some attachment to a motorboat to keep them away from the propellor, their main foe here and now, but due to conservation efforts their numbers seem to be increasing slightly in recent years. Also there seem to be many more armadillos, which I like because they also look ancient. The Mexican place made me feel like I was in Mexico on account of kitsch nativity sets on sale and general disorganization, and a 14 year old son of the owner took me around and gave me his life story, apologizing for the fact that the meat shipment had not arrived yet, prompting me to ask for whatever the pretty cook was frying which turned out to be 5 delicious ham and corn empenadas for $4. The boy’s dad was from El Salvador so he opened a jar of Salvadoran slaw for me which was included with the sour cream and a gravy-like salsa picante.
5. Shangri-La at Mountain Gate, Oliverea, NY. If you drive all the way out here for Indian food you will get mountain scenery. There no light or sign at McKinley Hollow Road, so it’s the turnoff south of the better lit resorts on the main roads. I don’t know how much business they do in the winter but they gave us a space heater because the dining room hadn’t been heated.
6. Louis’s Lunch, Ithaca, NY. This is where French bread pizza got its start. The actual original is the Hot Truck which opens around 9pm NW of campus but this is north of campus and open during the day. I can report that French bread pizza is better when it isn’t frozen and there are two sides to the roll.
7. Tony’s Pizza, Crescent Beach, FL. I had been there a long time ago and was struck not by the food but how the pretense to being an Italian place was set aside in order to decorate the walls with framed excerpts from the Koran which promise eternal damnation for the uncharitable adjacent to a TV screen showing the really bad WB sitcom spinoffs. At this visit I confirmed that “Tony” was actually a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, and this time the TV featured closed-captioned Jerry Springer which could be seem in the background with a framed overhead photo of Mecca in the foreground.

30 November 2008

22 November 2008

The first two were clear, but today’s gained an Arthur Dove quality from its clouds, especially before the sun broke the horizon when there were just a few strips of grey carrying a little orange on their backs. As the sun ascends it sends rays out from behind the clouds as if scrolls are going to come down with laws and judgements.

20 November 2008

I have not beheld a sunrise for a considerable amount of time, perhaps to be counted in years. I’m inclined not to characterize this as an incompleteness, treating this, too, to the phrasing of consumerism, but to note how something this fundamental can be placed behind. The wait has given this morning a force. Like Indian music structures itself around the unity of the universe and time, the ritual of light, life and cycle, memory joins me to my own life and through sight to the notation of eternity as it is taken down in our quarter in the universe. The sun is heard as it affects.

16 November 2008

Dream journey: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson came over, saying he needed to chill out a bit. "I brought Jackson Browne. Should I put him on?"

10 November 2008

There's a lot of paintings up in the galleries this fall, which is a good thing. How can it not be? I like paintings. Paintings are really what I go there for. Video exhibitions should be confined to works with imagination and artistry. I like video, but I usually come away thinking that people in Williamsburg have cameras but aren't sure what to do with them. Large, post-industrial spaces lend themselves initially to single-concept sculpture series or installation works, because hanging paintings means filling up a lot of wall space which is viewed as daunting. So I note that the large space occupied by Gagosian on 24th Street which has housed large Serras and Mike Kelly high school catharsis carnivals is now showing its second straight painting exhibition, and I'm not afraid of progress, progress that returns to that old, obvious form.

I've only really been in Chelsea for 45 minutes for the past month, which enabled me to see the new Lari Pittman show and peek in on a few other things. The Pittman show (recommended) is up for the rest of the month.

I became interested in Pittman's work in the mid-90s upon seeing one of the Decorated Chronology of Insistence and Resignation series, taken in by the endlessly possible critiques of culture and form within the post-Arshile Gorky depth of the canvas.

Credit card symbols, are, first of all, two-dimensional, so they frame the other methods of foregrounding, and represent an inclusive entrapment, as when Ashbery notes that everyone is invited to the showboat to gamble. Pittman notes there is no culture in LA that precedes consumerist culture, and the canvases serve as depictions of commodity culture while simultaneously existing as objects within that culture. Beyond the object, though, there is life, the life of the canvas and art and the references to heart, body and soul. Debt is the postmodern medium of exchange between cultures, artistic debt being no less illusory as economic and political debt.

Pittman displays a proper appreciation for Picabia's own perspective on perspective, use of text, and his figurative strategies, an appreciation that is most recognizable with his early work but is continually developed on, transported from the masculine in somber wartime Europe to gay Day-glo culture in Los Angeles (shown: Pittman, This Wholesomeness, Beloved and Despised, Continues Regardless; Picabia, La Nuit Espagnole). If Pittman's early use of Victorian silhouettes relate to Picabia's figures, both images have the effect of removing the picture from time and space, grasping at an eternal erotic image.

Pittman's new show returns to eternal themes by way of referencing the Flemish vanitas painting of the 16th and 17th Centuries, which influenced Cezanne and Picasso (pictured: Vanitas by Juriaen van Streeck, 1632). That late Reformation-era genre's biblical grouping of art with vanity and death responded to the Catholic, Southern European baroque style of the Counter-Reformation, and perhaps Pittman is consciously reconciling his Protestant blood with his more talked about Colombian heritage, but he is clearly subjecting the gloomy sepias of Dutch interiors to his florescent Southern California palette.
Whatever the inspiration, Pittman isn't reproducing the objects of the vanitas tradition so much he is internalizing the representative strategies and playing with the still life juxtapositioning. The empty glass, for instance, remains for its utility as a convex mirror generator, but the skulls and scrolls are set aside for fried eggs, bunnies, and mice with butterfly wings for ears.

The utilization of the day-glo palette for cultural critique calls to mind the recent Sue Williams show at Zwirner. I am not inclined to report on shows that have ended, but the series is a variation on a theme and I can just put a picture on my blog,

which consists of day-glo abstraction with some body parts suggested in the Bacon/Matta vein, titled "Project for an American Century," a direct reference to the thinktank group that planned the Iraq War before the attacks of 9-11. My interpretation, which doesn't take much speculative daring, is that the works are suggestive of the Disneyfication of both cultural awareness where the lightness of pop culture obscures the death of over a million and the international promotion of this culture through pop music- bubble gum sensibilities. It was interesting to see the two shows in sequence, though I wish I had seen Pittman's first in a way because of Williams' direct appeal to the viewer. Pittman is all over the place and exists to be seen in its many permutations, which gives you more to do if you truck out there.

As I said, I didn't stray far from Zwirner and the 24st Street row in the time I had but I checked out some of the 23rd Street presentations amongst the pricey apartment lobbies, which included Nathan Redwood at Carin Golden that evoked Thomas Hart Benton on BC weed (in the sense that they're landscapes that aren't landscapes) with Guston-Crumb cartoon methods, and the easy on the eye artistry and art history references in the oils and bronzes of the straighoutta Yale MFA Havard Homstvedt at Perry Rubenstein.

05 November 2008

The country had one choice amongst the major candidates that opposed the Iraq War, and that choice won despite relative inexperience, but his first choices have been pro-war: Biden and Emanuel. I recall him promising he would change the 'culture of Washington' that led to that war. At least Obama reiterated his critique of the war up to the general election date and, most importantly, won instead of McCain, Rudy and Hillary.

The United Nations should monitor Alaska elections. Lisa Murkowski outperformed polling expectations in 2004 and now Ted Stevens, coming off the felony conviction, has substantially outperformed post-conviction polls which had Begich up by margins of 8 (Rasmussen), 22, 2 and 6 in the days before yesterday. Alaska uses Diebold optical scan machines, which have been proven to be susceptible to voter fraud.

The Democratic Senate pickups, as well as the Presidency, have been by large margins and the Republicans have generally won the close Senate races of the past decade. What's comforting is that the margins put up in GA (Diebold), AK, and MN (ES&S) are not 51% or more which is what you would shoot for if you were rigging the election. Bev Harris documented in her book something I noticed at the time, that Chambliss' 1994 margin for victory over incumbent Max Cleland defied all polling, and she noted other irregularities in Georgia voting that year.

30 October 2008

During a 27-year championship drought you forget how to experience this. I don't believe it happened. I am accustomed to feeling a combination of hope, frustration, remorse, and bitterness at this time of year, following a Fall Classic with two other teams involved, followed by a Spring of the Philly symphony of if, if, if, if, if.

I started rooting for the Phillies in the late 70s.. mostly '78. That club had such a strong combination of hitters and pitchers, Hall of Famers like Schmidt and Carlton, a solid bullpen and top fielding, that I became accustomed to that level of play. After losing to the Dodgers in the NLCS in consecutive years, then-owner Ruly Carpenter outbid the rest of the league in the free agent market and signed Charlie Hustle, Hall of Famer Pete Rose, who represented the more reliable World Series winning model in Cinci. His annual salary was a record $800,000. We had a 5th Grade video project where students were picked to answer the question, "Should Pete Rose make more than the President?" I said that multiple teams were bidding for Rose, and many people wanted to be president, so the laws of supply and demand applied. Of course that idea was pushed aside for the statements on cue "The President should make more because he makes important decisions, etc..." and so my years of disenchantment with school began.

Then there was '80 and Tugger et al and I never was so excited to be a Phils fan as then, right before adolescence.

After the '81 strike season Carpenter wanted to sell the team, and the buyer turned out to be team VP Bill Giles fronting for a group of investors that included Dave Montgomery. Giles initially wanted to meddle with player personnel and his longstanding feelings about certain players became apparent. I remember being in school on Nov 20, 1981 when OF Lonnie Smith was traded to the Cardinals for C Bo Diaz, concurrent with the Phils giving up on C Bob Boone on the grounds that he couldn't throw out runners. There was an immediate sense of doom and melancholy, knowing that two important players had been lost and that great team was being taken apart. The following years Smith hit .307 with 120 runs and 68 stolen bases and was the runner up for the MVP. Boone went on to success with the Angels which included league-leading effectiveness throwing out runners. Then that January, Philly icon Larry Bowa was traded away for the Cubs' shortstop Ivan DeJesus, who had just hit .194 for the Cubs with a .233 slugging percentage, and the Phillies wanted to make the deal so bad they threw one of their AAA prospects in, the Oklahoma 89ers SS Ryne Sandberg who had batted .296 in the American Association at age 21. DeJesus went on to slug .313, .336, and .306 in his three years as a Phil and Sandberg won 9 Gold Gloves, Rookie of the Year, MVP the following year, enshrined in Cooperstown, one of the best ever..

The following year, the Phils traded away a SS prospect that had slugged .499 in AAA ball, Julio Franco, in a six-player deal that brought in Von Hayes, a solid player for many years. I remember looking at pictures of Sandberg and Franco in my yearbooks and then having to watch them star for other teams. After the Rose-Morgan '83 World Series team came The Steve Jeltz Era which was in full force by the mid-eighties, when spring training hype would turn to disappointment year after year, coupled with the Sixers trading Moses Malone in '86 for Jeff Ruland and then the top pick in the draft for power forward Roy Hinson, even thought they already had Charles Barkley at power forward. When Barkley left town I stopped watching basketball, and I didn't watch any football, including the Super Bowl, for some 10 years until Limbaugh started ribbing McNabb and I was dating an attractive Eagles fan. It became clear that the Phils were being run poorly, the emphasis was being placed on marketing and the silent partners behind Giles were guided by profit motive, while Steinbrenner was asserting himself increasingly as a megalomaniac who would spend anything to win in NY.

The minor league system was awful, too, as high school outfielder/bust Jeff Jackson became so emblematic of its decline that they were afraid to pick high school athletes for many years afterwards. By '92, they went outside the organization to grab Mike Arbuckle from the Braves, who were oozing prospects, to direct the minors. As a Baseball America subscriber for much of the 90's, I can say that the Phils usually didn't have a lot of players on the Top 100 list but after time the system turned out today's nucleus. Ryan Howard was a low draft pick, Utley a 1st rounder without the great athleticism that draws attention, Rollins and Rolen were both picked in the 2nd round out of high school. Myers and Hamels were the utilization of top picks and Pat Burrell, the top pick his year, came to represent the Phils consolation for being too stubborn to sign J.D. Drew, who got the same exact contract after a year-long holdout.

Rolen was ran out of town after false reports of lucrative offers and unfair smears by the management. Thus began the David Bell era, which included waiting way too long for Utley to start his MLB career to keep Bell, the light-hitting brown nose, in the lineup and eventually trading Placido Polanco because they didn't want to bench Bell. Feliz came through tonight but they still haven't replaced Rolen. Likewise, Howard resorted to having his agent say 'play me or trade me' and thanks to an off-year by Jim Thome, the Phils turned to Howard when Gillick came to town and ate half of Thome's contract for Aaron Rowand. My good vibes about Gillick can be found here, and I'm afraid that even though Arbuckle and Ruben Amaro, Jr. are smart guys, I prefer GMs like Gillick who come from outside the culture of the Phils organization. That post even includes my impomptu poem in the comments section:

Every baseball winter in Philly is the winter of our discontent,
Made glorious summer by deluded public relations copy
And all the promises of glorious autumns
In the masochistic accumulations buried...

Ed Wade was the GM for quite a while, and like most Phils fans I'm not an Ed Wade fan. The best thing Wade could do for the team was get hired by the Astros and give the Phils Brad Lidge. Gillick got Lidge knowing that Wade was a PR man through and through and would pay a premium for a bunch of Phils prospects, Michael Bourn and Mike Constanzo, who weren't any good but had been hyped up so much that Wade began to believe his own BS. The Wade era consisted of a lot of hype and missed opportunities while Wade and manager Larry Bowa both talked endlessly about how great they each were and their selfishness was, as Rolen stated on the way out, "a cancer." When Wade finally canned Bowa he realized that the PR coup of bringing Bowa in to manage had blown up in his face, because the fans sided with Bowa over him. Then he interviewed nine managerial prospects in a high-publicity fashion, including Jim Leyland who never really was under consideration because of the possibility he might quit and rip management. Managers who quit forfeit their contract while managers that get fired get paid the remainder, and when the Phils wanted Jim Fregosi out they started to undermine him hoping he would quit and he held out til he was fired, upon which he gave a press conference beaming with the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders. Managers who do quit, in deference to the organization, like Tony Pena and Leyland are treated worse because of the fear that they can't be controlled by money.

All this bitterness on a championship night seems odd but that's what being a Philles fan means. I knew, though, going into this post-season that they had the bats and the bullpen to go all the way, but this was the Phillies, and I had become accustomed to dashed hopes. I even was much less fatalist about the situation than most after the Mets signed Johan Santana, because fans place much too much stake in the off-season acquisition of proven players. I hope they can tie up Howard, Hamels, Werth, Victorino, and Madson to multi-year deals. I hope they give Lou Marson a shot to catch soon, Jason Donald a chance to help out somewhere, and work in young pitchers like JA Happ and Carlos Carrasco.

But for tonight: Yo Philly!!!

02 October 2008

McCain: Six degrees (actually two degrees) of Chalabi

During the last presidential debate, John McCain correctly said: "The next president of the United States is going to have to decide how we leave (Iraq), when we leave, and what we leave behind. That's the decision of the next president of the United States."

Shouldn't, then, presidential candidates not have lobbyists that are making millions of dollars on the Iraq War as their chief advisors? The lobbying firm founded by McCain's senior advisor Charlie Black, BKSH (B stands for Black) has received over 1.6 million from Occidental Petroleum for services. Late in July, OP CEO Ray Irani told Wall Street analysts in a conference call "There are some very large fields in Iraq which are going to become available. The huge ones will be run by...the oil majors and companies our size."

What Black's firm mostly has to offer in Iraq is access to the operations and contacts of Ahmed Chalabi, who was Iraq's Oil Minister as late as 2006 while serving as Deputy Prime Minister. This April 2008 article in The Nation reports that seven months after the Senate Intelligence Committee was told that Chalabi had misled the U.S. Congress on WMDs, Chalabi was riding a helicopter again with Gen. Petraeus, and Black's firm is the primary middleman that U.S. companies use to avoid having to pay Chalabi directly.

"The business elite was eager for a seat at the table. Corporate executives flocked to conferences, corporations set up divisions to work on developing business in Iraq, consultancies thrived and newsletters proliferated to detail legal niceties and dispense advice. BKSH was going to get in on the ground floor of the industry. Charles Black said it was a busy time. "After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein a lot of US companies, some of our long-term clients as well as some people who weren't our clients, came to us and were looking to do business in Iraq," he explained. The problem, he said, was that BKSH was not "going to be over there. We didn't have an office over there or have full-time personnel." (endquote)

"But the Chalabi operation did. Margaret Bartel, an accountant who had been hired by the State Department to sort out the INC's books and stayed on to become a key member of the organization's staff, was taking in Defense Intelligence Agency funds and delivering them to Chalabi's intelligence operation. Zaab Sethna, Chalabi's press aide, was also in Iraq. As Black explains it, "Peg was there and Zaab was there, so we just referred business to them." Bartel and BKSH reached an agreement: in exchange for a referral fee, BKSH would send clients to Bartel's consulting company, which would set them up with contacts, influence, housing, security and everything else they would need to get themselves started on Iraqi reconstruction. In the gold rush of 1849, they say, it was not the miners who got rich but the operators who sold the picks and the shovels and the wagons and the denim. So it was in Iraq, with the likes of Bartel, the INC and BKSH. The American businessmen would be the miners taking their chances, and the PR operatives and INC loyalists were selling the picks and shovels."

McCain, who has said previously the US could be in Iraq for "100 years or more," said in the Friday debate "the important thing is, if we suffer defeat in Iraq, which General Petraeus predicts we will, if we adopted Senator Obama's set date for withdrawal, then that will have a calamitous effect in Afghanistan and American national security interests in the region. Senator Obama doesn't seem to understand there is a connected between the two."

The MSM has an absolute responsibility to ask John McCain, on behalf of the public, if Charlie Black has influenced his decision to stay in Iraq longer than the recommendations of General Petraeus, who told Financial Times in late August that U.S. troops could be out of Iraq by July of next year.

30 September 2008

Richard C. Cook has admirably embarked on a Clifford Hugh Douglas Social Credit revival while commenting on the financial crisis of recent months in Global Research, which has led to his celebration of the mostly Republican defeat of the bailout bill and a castigation of the Democrats. As I’ve said, the difference in support of the bill between the two parties is a result of closer races for Republican incumbents.

That last point is important because the public outcry of both parties is not related to the ideology of the electorate, except to the extent conservatives oppose national debt despite the Republican record deficits of the last 30 years in the executive branch (which always picks the amount of the federal budget even if Congress changes what it’s spent on), and the extent that liberals view this as asking the public to finance the political interests in Wall Street that have counteracted their wishes. I’m not going to speak for the public but it the backlash seems tied more to general anger towards the inequalities inherent in consumer credit and the act of asking the public to finance the maintenance of this system by paying off the lenders and not the borrowers.

I agree that inaction would cause a credit crunch and recession, and I agree that the reaction by Wall Street and the corporate media to the views of the public has been arrogant and uncompromising. Uncompromising, because deference to the public structurally contradicts the mantra that money for purchasing power should be extended to the poor at a greater cost than money extended to the rich, the mantra that consumer identity through ‘credit worthiness’ for the purchase of housing, cars, and health care is sustainable. So we are being asked to prop up the status quo while the public is given the psychological concession of lower executive salaries and questionably effective congressional oversight.

The question of whether to castigate Obama from a Douglasite prism is similar to the question of whether to support him despite disagreeing with him on important issues like health care, the war on terror, etc. Major Douglas would certainly say that we are financing a flawed system but didn’t see national debt as being a breach of doctrine.

Douglas (pictured) viewed profit and consumer credit as part of the same problem. An economy based on profit presupposes that the purchase power of the corporate employee is less than the cost of the product produced, and charging interest exacerbates the inequality, so workers should be compensated based on their real value of production through companies and the national credit office.

What’s happened in recent years is that profit-taking and interest has been so indulged that a structural imbalance has taken place. The Iraq War raised the price of oil due to centralized corporate control of the Middle East shipping routes, has shifted public expenditures overseas, and has so exploded the national debt that there’s less capital available for lending. The deference paid to the profits of Big Oil by Bush has crippled the rest of the economy. Meanwhile, the higher interest of sub-prime credit which covers the higher default rates has understandably raised default rates, since higher interest decreases the likelihood of repayment.

So ending or reducing the wars, diversifying energy sources, and regulating consumer credit create a more moderate application of the Laws of Douglas through a belief in effectively ‘sustainable profit and credit.’ Of course, the concept of sustainable profit and credit is an anathema to Douglasites, as capitalism is inherently based on expansion and accumulation, but one way or another, the perceptions of Douglas and others that ring true are not going to be applied by a legislative faction that supports expanded wars and opposes consumer protection and regulation. Douglasite analysis can cut different ways and policies can be applied with differing degrees of purism.
There's been a talking point for McCain supporters for about two weeks that has led to a commercial, saying that McCain had warned about Fannie Mae in 2005. That's factually true. What isn't true, which McCain and other right-wing pundits have attempted to claim, is that the bill in question, the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act, was squashed by Democrats. Just with the info you have now, you see it doesn't make sense: Democrats won the Senate majority and committee chairmanships in 2006. Republican Richard Shelby was the chair of the Banking Committee where the legislation gathered dust. The MSM hasn't picked up the story and scrutinized it so the reportage has been left to McCain propagandists.

The bill was authored by Chuck Hagel who was on the Banking Committee along with co-sponsor Elizabeth Dole. Hagel and McCain, who wasn't on Banking, had a working relationship which may be frayed by the Iraq War and Chuck no doubt contacted McCain about a co-sponsorship, which McCain obliged to do, and afterwards he released a statement in support of it. At that time, Fannie and Freddy were run by Republican appointees as were the Senate committees.

It's one thing to use this published statement of 2005 in support of McCain, but for McCain to blame the Democrats for squashing Hagel's bill is dishonest and indicative of the lack of accountability that caused all these problems, right up to the ridiculously one-sided blank check that Paulson publicized and tried to ram through Congress this month.

Note: Of the many problems the events of the week have caused McCain, a notable one is the grassroots fervor of the bailout opposition which will drive conservative Republicans to vote for Bob Barr in Virginia, North Carolina, and possibly Indiana, Ohio, and Colorado. Nader has focused on adding transparency to the bill and so far can't be accused of opportunism over this issue.

29 September 2008

The reason why the Republicans voted against the bailout more than Democrats is because they have more incumbents in close reelection races, not because of the yarn by Republican leaders that they voted against Bush’s wishes upon being offended by Pelosi’s criticisms of Bush. This isn’t a case of one side demagoging the matter at the House level though Mr. Country First is up to his usual garbage.

Kucinich notes a letter from an law professor saying that because the government is buying minority shares of mortgages, they wouldn’t actually have the legal authority to renegotiate the mortgage with the homeowner.

I hold to my conviction that things need to get better to get better, on account of my sentimentality for surprising people with depression-era theoretical approaches during an economic boom. Poetry, however, needs to get worse to get better, lest anyone think I have abandoned commentary on the art form here.

27 September 2008

Had to be there to be condescending

Obama: And the problem, John, with the strategy that's been pursued was that, for 10 years, we coddled Musharraf, we alienated the Pakistani population, because we were anti-democratic. We had a 20th-century mindset that basically said, "Well, you know, he may be a dictator, but he's our dictator."

McCain: I -- I don't think that Senator Obama understands that there was a failed state in Pakistan when Musharraf came to power. Everybody who was around then, and had been there, and knew about it knew that it was a failed state.

FACT: The Musharraf coup was immediately condemned by the U.S. State Department, The European Union, Great Britain, and Germany, all of whom called for a "return to consititutional order" to a nation whose recent development of nuclear weapons was not met with major international concern.

10 September 2008

Anyway, I don’t decide for the unwritten. Dream journey: The poetic treatise was along the lines of the MoMA exhibition on the war on terror, so I thought, but I thought, ‘whoever that kid is is okay,’ turning the page to find it was Donald Justice, who wrote the excepted poem, not the treatise. Just reportin’.

08 September 2008

Dream journey: A co-worker asked me to pick him up a Cheese Shake from a local deli.

06 September 2008

More talk about politics and religion

As you may have gathered from the news, McCain picked a hardcore evangelical for VP and Obama picked a hardcore Catholic.

If this matters state by state, this is how it will likely do so in crucial states:

An evangelical could help in: Virginia (32.7% evangelicals to 14% Catholics as a percentage of overall Christians), North Carolina (40% e, 11c), Georgia which may end up close (32.7e, 8.9c), OR, SC and AK which lean McCain.

Missouri has plenty of both (27e, 19c) but where it's close keep in mind that Catholics are more likely to be undecided while evangelicals are mostly counted already in the Republican base, but with potentially increased turnout and mobilization. We can also presume that evangelicals are more inclined to vote for their own than Catholics.

Florida's Latinos put Catholics slightly over the top (26c, 24.6e). Ohio is 25e 19c, Colorado 25e 23c about 10% Mexican, Michigan 25e, 23c.

A Catholic could help in: New Mexico (40.2c, 30% Mexican, 18e), New Hampshire (35c, 22.3e), North Dakota (30c, 16.2e), Pennsylvania (27.4c, 21.5e), and Nevada (23c, 20e). The 5.9% Mormons in Nevada like others there may resent Palin calling out their senior Senator Harry Reid.

What percentage of evangelicals will say "Sarah Palin is a cheap attempt to get me to vote for a dangerously unqualified potential president"? We'll see...

This analysis suggests that if Palin conducts herself perfectly and communicates a command of the issues, she could take a few votes from Obama in Virginia and force him to win it in other states. This is a minor effect on a race that represents the best case scenario for the Alaska governor. Obama's position looks very strong even if this happens.

Source: Beliefnet

03 September 2008

I remember in 2000 when McCain would camp out with the media, perhaps, as some say, trying to win them back after the Keating scandal amid his campaign finance speeches. Reagan and Clinton both had those early phases when they would relish frequent press conferences as a bully pulpit. They all enter a later phase when scandal keeps them from interfacing with the press: Reagan during Iran-Contra while suffering from Alzheimer’s, Clinton after Starr investigated the Monica cover-up. The disinfo for the Iraq War made Bush and Cheney largely off limits long ago. The week that McCain has accepted the Republican nomination, he is already slipping into the second phase after they fear press questions about the vetting process of Sarah Palin, and Ms. Palin is likewise unlikely to be the ubiquitous surrogate talking head that Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney auditioned for as they fear her responses to policy questions.

McCain chief Steve Schmidt has now said there will be no further information about his vetting process and has declared open war on the media. This comes at a time when Rupert Murdoch seems to have become a Obamacan and The O’Reilly Factor, which may be expected to have a Sarah Palin pep rally for the night McCain speaks, is hosting Obama in what Obama is hoping will be a congenial exchange. The best response to comparisons of Obama’s and Palin’s experience is having Obama do a lot of interviews to force Palin out to the cameras herself. The week when the GOP traditionally slams the Democratic nominee they are defending their own VP nominee and the judgement of McCain.

Update 9/4: Palin handler Nicole Wallace has now said that Palin will not do interviews:

31 August 2008

One other note about Iristun: you really can't negotiate these things they way the regions and geopolitics are currently conceived. I had thought that Kosovo should have been at least negotiated or drawn so that the Serb towns stayed in Serbia, but discussions with folks from the area confirmed that the Serbs would never agree to to any giveaway of land, period. Ditto the Georgians: Saakashvili ran primarily on giving away none of the breakaway regions, which made it impossible for anyone to negotiate the status the Georgian regions of Ossetia and Abkhazia if they wanted to, especially after the bombings.

Like the Bonn Agreement on greenhouse emissions was caused by Bush insulting Europe, Iristun's independence, like Kosovo's, was brought about by anti-diplomacy and chest-thumping. These new nations will need to be more diplomatic in their difficult early years when they won't have the luxury to squander an economic superpower on a bloated defense budget and the corruption of the executive branch by the oil cartels. The pro-Western Khatami was president of Iran when they were put on the Axis of Evil and the anagonism was ramped up thereafter.

Good videos to watch to put McCain's sudden interest in Arcadian culture in context.

21 August 2008

Iristun celebration, continued

I caught on our PBS a story from ITN last night that focused on Ossetian militia chasing Georgians out of their homes, a story that did not identify the victims as ethnic Georgians, and didn't mention the bombing raids by Saakashvili to commence this conflict. All you need to know is that the Ossetians are the bad guys and they and the Russians need to be stopped.

In analyzing this as a phenomenon of 'crisis of NATO,' 'crisis of US-Russian relations,' one has to look at what makes this conflict different from the larger wars that took place in these regions (Ossetia and Abkhasia) in the early 90s. At that time, Scheverdnadze was in power rather than a US puppet, although Shevardnadze was pro-Western, initiating ties to the US, declaring an intention to join NATO, and making the deal for the pipeline that was built several years ago. In the Abkasian war, Shevardnadze asked for Russian help in protecting the 250,000 Georgians in the region that were being displaced, and Russia provided some help, prompting Georgia to join the post-Soviet bloc CIS. Russia has been covertly helping the breakaway majorities in these regions and Georgia has no military means or functional government to keep this from happening. Saakashvili's corruption, which has included suppression of free press, alleged assassination of major political opponents, violence against protesters, state sponsored blackmail and vote buying, before he decided to bomb Tskhinvali to rubble, has easily eclipsed the magnitude of the charges that brought an end to Shevardnadze's administration.

But the wars in these regions in the early 90s were of greater consequence than those in 2008, so why is this suddenly an American crisis? The pipeline is built, but that's not being threatened. The leadership is more anti-Moscow, but that's not going to change. What's different is that the Bush Administration and the stenographers in the media are blowing this up into a crisis in an election year after the mainstream media is well past the point when it can get away with promoting 'weapons of mass destruction.'

Update Sept 2, Putin agrees with that last sentence: "We have serious reasons to believe that there were U.S. citizens right in the combat zone. If that is the case, if that is confirmed, it is very bad. It is very dangerous; it is misguided policy

"But, if that is so, these events could also have a U.S. domestic politics dimension.

"If my suppositions are confirmed, then there are grounds to suspect that some people in the United States created this conflict deliberately in order to aggravate the situation and create a competitive advantage for one of the candidates for the U.S. presidency. And if that is the case, this is nothing but the use of the called administrative resource in domestic politics, in the worst possible way, one that leads to bloodshed."
I hadn't had a B complex for at least two weeks, and one arrived with 125mg of B6 yesterday. Dream journey: In Rio de Janiero, I was involved in some activity that prompted local friends to put my stack of books into a canvas bag with very long straps as the straps were sewn into the skin of a large, happy dog willing to transport them. Relaxing at the end of the day, I noticed the dog and thought I should take the straps out. I pulled them out carefully and eventually I was pulling something out that wasn't canvas but could have been intestinal matter. The dog kept smiling with its tongue sticking out. There was a baseball diamond there for some reason which had shrunk enough that the center fielder could quickly throw to third base to pick off a tall, fast baserunner identified as Otis Nixon but who didn't look like him taking a lead off third base, repeatedly for eternity. The center fielder was very pleased to repeat himself in this way. This had gone on for so long upon my arrival that a daily fruit market had located itself around the third base cutout, so that the throws to third had to be directed around the fruit vendors and their clientele, and 'Mr. Nixon' would frequently bump into people while trying to get back to third. I wrote and performed an impromptu samba about being complimented for my bracelet when I was not wearing a bracelet.

18 August 2008

Iristun, an Olympic celebration

It would appear that the word “Iristun” does not occur in the English speaking World Wide Web, so Piri’ Miri Muli’ is honored to welcome the concept of the Nation of Iristun to the web and declare it the undisputed victor of the Olympiad, a victory that came at a striking cost to human lives and infrastructure.

“The Ossetians call their land Iristun, which is divided by the Caucasus into North Ossetia, an autonomous republic in the Russian Federation with Vladikavkaz as capital, and South Ossetia, with its capital of Tskhinvali. Ossetian plans for the unification of the two regions now appear to be given up as impractical.” (Lonely Planet Georgia, 1st Edition. Pictured: Mikhail Lermontov's Tiflis)

As I've suggested, if the events of this month bring the Ossetians closer to the Nation of Iristun, it has come at a human cost – Moscow puts the death toll resulting from Georgian bombing of the capital at at least 1,600, with over 30,000 fleeing north from the combat zone. Georgian president Saakashvili claims that the region had been evacuated by Russia, he was returning fire, and no civilian sites were targeted, but global media reports cite the total destruction of the city’s civilian buildings and eyewitness reports of mass graves after the bombings.

Both the mainstream Western media and the suspicious blogosphere has begun the process of summarizing “the true meaning of the Ossetian war,” making a wide range of assertions about new Cold Wars, old Cold Wars, American motives, and Russian motives. Today’s New York Times: “It’s.. the story of how both Democrats and Republicans have misread Russia’s determination to dominate its traditional sphere of influence” ‘that’s the way they all became the Putin Lunch.’ These assertions, be they pro-Georgian propaganda in the corporate media or elegies for the American empire in the blogosphere, seem to be characteristic of the narcissism of any empire’s inhabitants.

The facts support the conclusion that this was a local war between Russia and a Georgian president that was completely out of line, in which Russia performed its duty to the will of the Ossetians in a manner which is, in retrospect, unassailable and without any viable alternative and wants to maintain relations with the US and NATO as they have been. Assertions that Russia is ‘counteracting NATO expansion,’ ‘paying back NATO for Kosovo,’ ‘playing games with oil pipelines’ tend to reflect Western propaganda rather than the reality that any inaction on Russia’s part would have led to a further humanitarian catastrophe.

Is that boring? Maybe, but not for the poor and desperate Ossetians whose lives, marked by poverty and desperation have endured crisis and death for a long term victory for the unification of North and South Ossetia.

The assertion that the Russian defense of Ossetia is somehow a poke in the eye of the US almost requires the assumption that the US had a hand in the planning of the Georgian offensive. For sure, the war has spawned a reaction by the Bush administration and its occupation of the McCain campaign that US-Russian relations are in peril, and that is not without significance, but it’s unclear what that significance may actually be. There will be no sanctions, no successful appeal to the world community to isolate Russia. There is no interruption of pipelines recently built or any change in plans of future pipelines short of the destablization of Georgia itself.

Russia has used the occasion to warn NATO of supporting Saakashvili, not implying directly that there was any US support for the attack which would possibly draw the US further into the conflict. Beneath the propaganda in the Western press is the implicit suggestion that any further military support or arms sales to Saakashvili would constitute a major blunder and should heretofore be avoided. The NY Times article cites the Cheney faction of the White House supporting arms sales, and any covert US support for the attack on South Ossetia would have most likely come from Cheney loyalists.

The predictable result of the war has been a stronger Russian position and the weakened rule of the US puppet, which doesn’t circumstantially rule out the work of those ‘brilliant, visionary’ Neocon planners. Another predictable result is the talking point of media pundits that “this conflict makes McCain’s foreign policy experience more valuable.” The Cheney faction is clearly invested in perpetuating Republican support of war operations, and is the faction that sought congressional approval for a naval blockade of Iran, which would be legally a declaration of war. Alarmed web journalists consider the Georgian provocation to be an attempt to bog the Russians down in such a grandiose war plan involving Iran, but if that’s true, the Russians weren’t bogged down long.

But while I have no idea what makes Saakashvili bomb, I get back to the main point of this or any saga that the mainstream media ignores, the life and death of poor people in other countries. Back to the Lonely Planet: “You will probably be better received if you speak a little Russian, rather than Georgian, although there are areas where the population is predominantly Georgian. The preferred currency is the Russian rouble, though the lari is sometimes accepted, and the clocks here are one hour behind the rest of Georgia, in harmony with Moscow time.

“In the period of the Russian revolution, many Ossetians were on the Bolshevik side. In 1922 the South Ossetian Autonomous Region was formed within Georgia. However, a request in 1925 for the creation of a united Ossetian Republic was rejected by nationalities minister Stalin.

“In the late 1980s, encouraged by Gorbachev’s glasnost (openness) policies, many Ossetians demanded more cultural and political autonomy from Georgia. At the same time, many Georgians, led by Zviad Gamsakhurdia, began to support and intransigent nationalism. The South Ossetians’ demand to merge with their northern half within the Russian Federation was seen by many Georgians as a Russian plot. When South Ossetia declared itself a republic, Gamsakhurdia’s response was to abolish its autonomous status. Armed conflict broke out in 1989, and lasted until 1992, a few months after the successful coup against Gamsakhurdia in Tblisi. Russian, Georgian, and Ossetian units were deployed to patrol the cease-fire.”

Since then, the South Ossetians voted on an independence referendum in 2006, in which the South Ossetians voted overwhelmingly to break away from Georgia. Ethnic Georgians, who constitute a quarter of the population, for one reason or another didn’t vote, but it showed nonetheless the unanimous will of ethnic Ossetians to break ties with Georgia. Ossetians accused Georgia of attempting a coup at that time and seeking to assassinate their leader, Eduoard Kokoity, a denizen from Moscow.

So when people remember the year that Georgian president Saakashvili made bombing entire cities to rubble a new Olympic sport, Iristun may be remembered as having brought home the purest of gold in the 2008 Olympics.

13 August 2008

Protest the Olympics

Some afternoon, you show me how you swim and dive off the diving board, and I’ll do the opposite.

11 August 2008

One minor quarrel I have with this video is the Iraqi death count. ORB, which has done polling research for the BBC and the British Conservative Party, put Iraqi deaths since the US invasion at between 733,000 and 1,446,063. 20.2% of respondents to the poll said that at least one household member has died as a result of the US invasion. The British medical journal Lancet published a study in October 2006 putting the number at 655,000, and a co-author of that study said “time alone counts for most of the difference (with the ORB survey).”

Orphans: 5 million, 35% of all children in Iraq.
Refugees: 3.9 million, 16% of the population.

And of course there’s another 71 million in Iran for McCain to “bomb” and other presidential aspirants to “obliterate.”

10 August 2008

I have discovered a tunnel from leaf blowers to tugboats, walls covered with honey.

07 August 2008

Paco de Lucia reports that flamenco is completely devoid of the mention of death. So limiting for the Westerner of letters. Eisenhower highways, indoor plumbing, death and taxes, taxes for death.
A firefly on my nose between my eyes just now. Why didn't I want him there? Familiar beacons.

06 August 2008

I am recycling the mosquitos, and then assuming that they are rare and expensive.

29 July 2008


I made a new chair out of the floor. I could have just sat on the floor, I suppose, but I felt inspired.

Ethical dilemmas

I was thinking I would use my blog to relate ethical dilemmas. I don't have any at the moment.

25 July 2008

A duration between days and months that you can see. Flowers, bread, planets, bliss, fruit, stars. Even the day is too connected to clocks, which never stop for any length of time.

Thomas Mokey Woodrow

table cream of shadow
with stones I saw
surveying in figure

pilgrim with a string

when wheeled in
whale no essence

when tree with
wild precedents

where missile with
worn vestments

Taking can sackments
For underwater things
When or of two pigeons
Moke the whole loose

If it’s in crying air
it’s seven like what’s poison

Better moke the breathe
for the next at the real

lava like figurines
tin like opening
Poetry is the world through the prism of self; prose is the self through the prism of the world.

01 July 2008

They're still at it with the second person in the magazines, as if the marketing department needed help: second’s true in first and third where art permits, a limit beyond which Art demands: “Play your instrument.”

18 June 2008

One of the things I love about Neo Rauch is that no one really knows what to say about the paintings, as the terminology that permits some to make definitive statements without actually having to think is rendered useless. The Zwirner show runs through the weekend.

My thoughts, which you may skip over to look at the actual paintings: The circle over the woman’s head in Das Gut seems to reference medieval depictions of the Holy Mother, as the repetition of the three foregrounded personae in the garage suggest episodic frescos from the same period. The mermaid is another archetype and the guys with no legs evoke the guy standing behind the billiard table in Van Gogh’s the Night Café. Past utopian ideologies seem to animate the characters on the right of Entfaltung, the man being dressed in
Krönung I, and the bureaucratic women with the flags in Die Stickerin. Daniel Richter, whom I intend to comment on here shortly, also uses images suggesting past utopias and female archetypes like Susanna and the Elders and Ophelia that suggest tragic outcomes of society. Die Aufnahme is a delightful illustration of ‘traditional Germany,’ especially rewarding is the expressions on the faces of the guys mixing ‘the white stuff’ (and the guys being held in place by the matriarch figure, who seems to be sitting in a bucket as a young girl) in response to the guy who breaths fire. The time image is kept on the ‘infinite’ setting as is the dramatic situation, the interplay and identity of the characters, and as with D. Richter (& Polke), the abstract expressionist and psychedelic elements create an infinity of stylistic approaches.


Das Gut

Die Stickerin

Die Aufnahme

Krönung I

Der Garten des Bildhauers

I didn’t see Zhang Huan at the Guggenheim but the woodworking at Pace Wildenstein til the 25th should answer any wavering thoughts that he is a mere "installation showman": woodworking like I’ve never seen.

New on DVD: Truffaut's Stolen Kisses suddenly came out without prior warning, a welcome surprise.

The gold standard of presidential election blogs, Al Giordano's, has moved to his site of unmatched Latin American reporting due to insidious editorial intervention.

04 May 2008

Review: Gallery shows

One show I like that’s still up is Aaron van Erp, a Dutchman known to employ figures in his canvases but who's taken to show figures physically broken up. The postcard, which I have kept at my day job desk for two days for extended subtext contemplation, has such a figure (a dog, actually) burning at the top of a pole with a shopping cart at the bottom and a small house in the background which a large number on it. You can see all five paintings on the gallery website but his painterly effects reward a visit.

Piotr Ulanski is giving New York what it wants: references to American traditions and sots-art. Sots-art was interesting before Gorbachev took office, or, more precisely, before Komar and Melamid became the first Russians to get an NEA grant in the late 80s. Ulanski’s irony is simple, garish, opportunistic, and monumental, and thus an enjoyable and forgettable outing.
During my break from this blog the world lost one of its great poets, Aimé Césaire. I surmise that the incantation style of "Footnote to Howl" (repetition of "I'm with you in Rockland..") comes from Césaire's "Notebook of a Return to a Native Land" (repetition of "Au bout du petit matin.."). Although I'm not aware of a direct reference to Ginsberg reading Césaire then, it is likely that the translation of Notebook was purchased and absorbed by Carl Solomon between its release in the US in 1947 and his meetings with Ginsberg in 1950, because one can't imagine Solomon seeing and not buying it given his tastes, and it was as obtainable in New York as the French language works that Solomon is documented to have shared with Ginsberg. Breton called Notebook “nothing less than the great lyrical monument of our times.”

The conditions of Césaire’s upbringing have been a matter of continuous debate, but his father was clearly of an upwardly mobile mindset which led to Aime being assiduously taught French rather than Creole. I have noted on this blog in the past the relation between the two languages in the Caribbean - the phrase “He spoke French” being synonymous in Creole to “he is trying to deceive you,” and these suspicions being vindicated repeatedly by the histories of Martinique and the other Creole nations. Yet for Césaire, French led him directly to the caste of Rimbaud and Lautreamont and to a fateful meeting with André Breton in 1941, after Breton had discovered his work in Tropiques. Césaire called the meeting “a great shortcut towards finding myself.” Césaire forcefully and famously but without analysis addressed the tension of using the colonial language by mythologizing his lineage: “Because we hate you, you and your reason, we call upon the early dementia, the flaming madness of the early dementia, the flaming madness of an tenacious cannibalism...Take me as I am, I don’t adapt to you!”

As his election to public office coincided with the post-Vichy reclassification of Martinique as a department, Césaire’s belief in the “transitional” nature of culture and politics was both in the active, Surrealist spirit of transmutation and the more passive deference to nature, especially later in his years as a poet and politician. 1960's Ferraments is both a political and historical text and a demarcation of limits of the present within infinity, as in the “when/ when is tomorrow my people” of Out of Alien Days and “a child will half-open the door..” (In Truth). Amongst the Surrealists, his poetry utilized the rhetorical and polemic perhaps most frequently as these impulses intermixed with the connotive alchemy throughout his life. I see him as a poet of infinite transitions: through a magic he lets us partake of Truth and Justice, translating truth from the Creole and justice, as he reiterates repeatedly, from nature itself.

02 March 2008

This one is a real gem; a much better example of Conjunto Chappottín live than the snippet I put up two months ago. “Camina y Prende el Fogon.” I have no idea of the where and what, but I would guess this is a recording from the early 50s.

With the dark glasses in the footage between 0:03 and 0:17 is Arsenio (Blind Marvel) Rodriguez, who started the band before moving to NYC hoping to salvage his sight, in whose absence this recording was made. The band leader, trumpeter Felix Chappottín is wearing the white hat and coat. The lead singer with the white hat is Miguelito Cuní. I don’t think the pianist is Rubén González here; most probably it’s Luís Martínez Griñan, and I’m guessing that the backup singers are René Scull and Carlos Ramírez with the rhythm guitar. The guitar riff at 2:45.. ..before Elvis’ first recordings. This is really the first band to make "son" into dance music and incorporate trumpets, an essence that can't be improved upon.

12 February 2008

"Books, not records.."

We've made it this long, we can make it one more week til Pierrot le Fou comes out. I can make it.

11 February 2008

Avant, Post-Avant, Pre-Avant...

Crucial to my perception of the avant-garde is how the act of traversing new territory of expression is both tied to the spirit of the forms that preceded it to that end, but not dogmatically to the forms themselves. Ron Silliman’s term ‘post-avant’ or Paul Hoover’s ‘pan-avant’ signify poets whose style relates to a lineage of styles that have been utilized for experimentation. Emphasizing the lineage of style is what creates these discussions where ‘post-avant’ is falsely synonymous with ‘parataxic,’ while the School of Quietude represents the lyrical. The nature of the avant-garde is that all stylistic bets are off, but it is through the spirit of the avant-garde that an avant-gardist would have natural affinities with a lineage such as Silliman’s and the potential utility of the forms created by that lineage. Silliman, though passionate about his views on form, does not limit the term ‘post-avant’ to exclude poets not sharing his stylistic views, as his loose use of the term over the last five years attests.

I am in agreement with most of the basic premises of Renato Poggioli on this topic: that the avant-garde arrived with Romanticism, is a force of nature, and is not comprised by a linear development of dogmatic style but presences of form and personae that light the way to its next incarnation. Poggioli views Rimbaud’s 5-15-1871 letter to Paul Demeny as the document where the spirit of the avant garde is best expressed:

“I say that one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. The poet makes himself a seer by a long, immense, and rational dissoluteness of all the senses... For he arrives at the unknown! Because he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than anyone else! He reaches the unknown, and when, terrified, he ends up by losing the meaning of his visions, at least he has seen them! Let him die of this bound through the unheard-of and countless things: other horrible workers will come; they will begin from the horizons where the other has succumbed!”

Ignoring now the gender aspects of this letter, we see the qualities of the ‘unknown’ and ‘horizons’ sought, relating to the character of perception, using form as a mere vessel to transport the poet to the undiscovered. I have been most interested in poetry where opacity is rooted in a desire for expression: in Vallejo, Dickinson, Pound, Zukofsky, and Peret, rather than poetry satisfied with its utilization and refinement of form. In new platforms: vispo, soundpo, hypertext, we see both the creation of new vessels and altered landscapes of beauty and expression, and I would be pleasantly surprised if, say, the Poetry Foundation showcased work in these fields, but vessels can only be justified by the selves that guide them, gold delivered from self (Breton: “I seek the gold of time.”) The infinity of the page and line is unchanged amid its familiarity, so I consider the work of Buck Downs more avant-garde than what comes now from new platforms.

Stan Apps and Ron Silliman in their own ways cite the problematics of Eliot’s position towards tradition after Pound’s editing gave Eliot avant-garde credentials. Apps characterized as ‘rear-guardist’ attempts to link an avant-garde to a tradition of the avant-garde, which I disagreed with at the time on account of the examples he cited. As I said above, the avant-garde is both intrinsicly connected with the spirit of the avant garde of the past and the effect of this spirit has had on form, so without any prescribed allegiances to literary form the avant-gardist is bound to echo and reshape what came before. The avant-garde generally knows the forms of the past so as not to reinvent them, and can emerge without such knowledge only by good fortune.

So yes, I believe in the avant-garde both as a matter of faith and as an objective analysis of phenomenon. The avant-garde is neither pacifistic or militaristic so disassociating oneself from the military sound of the term, as Ron does, seems to me an irrelevant contrivance. ‘Post-avant’ is a term more invested in the avant-garde traditions of the past century than the infinite term ‘avant-garde.’ Silliman’s term School of Quietude relates to the systematic hostility of the SoQ to the spirit of these traditions of form, rather than a stylistic tradition of its own of a single lineage. He does place certain stylistic traditions, such as narrative poetry, at odds with the post-avant, but this is a minor aspect of the term and can be seen as a stylistic symptom of antagonism to the avant-garde traditions he defines.

Circles of the avant-garde can be administered but the avant-garde is not administered on a whole and, while determined by historical and economic forces, is not so determined in a uniform pattern or in any singular manner which cannot be overcome.

The statements ‘there is no avant-garde now,’ ‘there is no outside now,’ or ‘everything has been done’ are self-referential admissions of the individual will, unrelated to phenomenon. I am incapable at fathoming the artistic outside now, I wish to do so: a simple and enjoyable state of curiosity.

10 February 2008

Dream journey: I was parked at a convenience store and people I knew were across the lot and I went over to talk to them. I thought it would be a brief discussion but it took a half hour, ending with our looking for the new tires I had bought (4 for $130), admiring the tires on the wrong cars first. When I got to the car I was by myself as the rest of the group threw in the towel on the tire search. Then one of the people from the van next to me was in my car, which was left unlocked with the windows open. When he saw me he and the others got into the van quickly and started to drive away. I asked them for my wallet and they gave it back to me. Despite this incriminating act of consideration, I pursued the car on foot, trying in vain to see and memorize the license plate, following them into a large field adjoining the convenience store that led to the lodge of an alternative community that emigrated from Europe in the early 19th Century and was currently inhabited by aging hippies. The van was part of a group that was trying to take the lodge by force, but to their dismay the alternative community was founded on the virtues of hunting and they were good shots. I ran into the middle of the dirt field after the van and found myself in range of the shootout, stood there for a few moments and then ran behind a metal fence 20 feet away where others had taken shelter. Behind the metal fence there was a path to the lodge, and by the time I got there the shoot out was over, though some of the intruders were alive. The lodge members were friendly and nonchalant and showed me a map of their former territory, when they “would hunt freely a wide swath of plains encompassing hundreds of miles.” A skeleton wearing cowboy gear who lives in a coffin nailed vertically onto the door walked up to me and hugged me. One police car arrived and made arrests. I was hoping that the police would let me see if I could recover any stolen items so I ran up to where they were, about 300 feet from the lodge. I had my hands up but they yelled at me to say where I was and not move. Later, Mitt Romney was explaining the intrusive aspects of the Patriot Act in a stump speech.

09 February 2008

In the name of Poetry

Reginald Shepherd’s dossier on the post-avant says that "the avant-garde isn’t ahead of the guard anymore," whatever that means, noting the preferable state of “passing through the avant-garde.” As people grapple with the significance of AWP this fortnight, I am struck that this vision of “the Third Way” would seem to be more advanced than 99% of the writing programs in the country. The Third Way is the first way without the baggage. The source of the expression, the political sphere, is not a dialectical synthesis as it is an attempt to circumvent such a synthesis by enabling the first way to resist the second by corrupting its institutions and legacy, enabling Britain's entry into the Iraq War, and its aesthetic application remains true to form.

I’m pleased that this point I made last November has been stated again by Josh Clover and Josh Corey, and I’m told that Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett is preparing a statement. I just need to remind readers that this Spring I’ll be kicking off the promotional campaign for my hair care line Poesy by Ian (TM), featuring Third Way (TM) shampoo, conditioner and mousse with the tag line "the Third Way is the First Way" (TM).

Saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo has brain tumor

On Friday, January 25, 2008 world-renowned saxophonist/composer Andrew D'Angelo suffered a major seizure while driving in Brooklyn, NY. Tests in the hospital revealed a large tumor in his brain. Andrew will undergo brain surgery at some point in the next few weeks. At this time, it is believed that the tumor is not cancerous, but this will not be confirmed until a biopsy is performed.

Andrew is providing updates on his experiences in the hospital via his new blog at www.andrewdangelo.com.

Like many Americans, Andrew has no health insurance. A fund has been established to help with the costs of his surgery and recovery. Donations can be sent via PayPal at donate@andrewdangelo.com. We deeply appreciate any efforts that can be made to spread the word about Andrew's situation.

Benefit concerts are currently being planned for New York City, Seattle, Reykjavik, and Boston. The first will be at the Tea Lounge on Union St. in Brooklyn on February 22, 2008. More information about these concerts will be posted on www.andrewdangelo.com as soon as it is available.

Visitors to the site can also join a mailing list for updates on Andrew's condition.

Andrew D'Angelo, born 1966 in Seattle, Washington is one of the key members of Brooklyn's avant-garde jazz community. His work as a composer, performer, and bandleader has been a pivotal influence on his peers, as well as on younger generations of musicians. Andrew first achieved worldwide notoriety as a member of Human Feel with his longtime friends Jim Black, Chris Speed, and Kurt Rosenwinkel. After moving to Brooklyn in 1986 he joined the downtown music community centered around the Knitting Factory, working with musicians like Mark Dresser, Erik Friedlander, Bobby Previte, and many other leading artists. He is also currently a member of the Matt Wilson Quartet and Hilmar Jensson's band Tyft. Skirl Records released "Skadra Degis," the debut of Andrew's trio with Jim Black and Trevor Dunn on January 31, 2008.

For more information, please visit www.andrewdangelo.com. Phone: 917-443-7904, info@andrewdangelo.com

06 February 2008

Some Manolo

Traca tra traca tra
ay, ole arsa y toma
tran trabili trabili tran tran tran
trabili trabili trero
arsa y toma, arsa y toma
trabili tran
ay, lemon seller,
give me some lemonade

I’m a gypsy,
made from the salt of Cádiz

Guitar: Manolo Sanlúcar
Cante: Diego Carrasco

05 February 2008

It's mild enough now that I can sit outside in the evening. At six, it was getting a bit colder and I said 'it's not the last nightfall' and went in. Then I said 'It's not the first, either' and am going back out.

25 January 2008

A Third Term for Rove

I have been trying to keep this from morphing into a political blog, but there’s plenty of content and goings on out there to prompt a major relapse into political junkiedom for the time being. I tune it all out when I want to, as when I let myself be totally oblivious to the Gore-Bush recount news when it was happening and didn’t know about Saddam Hussein’s capture for over a week.

Obama’s Super Tuesday strategy is designed to keep the campaign going for the long haul and lower expectations for his ability to make up what was just last summer a 30 point deficit in California. A long campaign can give Democrats a longer look at what they’re choices are and digest the tactics used to win early primaries. Much prognosticating has gone on about the Edwards effect, but my sense is he takes votes away from Hillary in Red States and Obama in Blue States.

For one thing I’m glad John Kerry has spoken up today against Hillary’s attacks, because his use of the term ‘swift boating’ puts the nature of the campaign into proper focus, bringing together the themes of Honesty and Change and highlighting the similarities between the methods of W’s and Hillary’s campaigns.

In South Carolina in 2000, John McCain had just won New Hampshire and found himself the subject of a whisper campaign from Karl Rove that had he'd ‘fathered an illegitimate black child,’ referring to his daughter Brigit, adopted from Bangladesh. South Carolina in 2008, Obama is facing an email campaign that he swears his oaths on the Koran and doesn’t take the Pledge of Allegiance, requiring him to respond to the allegations. In New Hampshire, Hillary sent out a mailer saying Obama was ‘unwilling to take a stand on choice’ right before the primary despite Obama 100% rating from Planned Parenthood.

Ken Waldman has had interesting things to say about all this:

“So many of the ingredients of a typical GOP campaign are there, in addition to fear. We have the efforts to make it harder for the opponent’s voters to get to the polls (the Nevada lawsuit seeking to shut down at-large caucus sites in Las Vegas, to which the Clinton campaign gave its tacit support). We have, depending on how you interpret the events of the last couple of weeks, the exploitation of racial divisions and suspicions (including multiple Clinton surrogates criticizing Obama for his admitted teenage drug use). And most of all, we have an utterly shameless dishonesty.”

Someone in the Hillary camp has gone to school on how to campaign Rove-style, scripting a plan to turn whites against Obama to use in case of emergency, and it’s pretty obvious who that was: chief strategist Mark Penn, who talked about Obama’s cocaine admission on a talk show that was supposed to be about campaign attacks. Penn was brought into the Clinton camp by Hillary in 1994 concurrent with Dick Morris to script what continues to be her political style: co-opt the positions of the Republicans and make it a race about ‘V-chips and school uniforms.’

Mark Penn’ PR firm has advised Blackwater on its testimony to Congress, having garnered their business with a resume that includes representing, as Ari Berman writes, “everyone from the Argentine military junta to Union Carbide after the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, in which thousands were killed when toxic fumes were released by one of its plants, to Royal Dutch Shell, which has been accused of colluding with the Nigerian government in committing major human rights violations.” It was through Charlie Black, the Republican head of the lobbying wing, that the firm has had close ties to Rove himself, which no doubt helped them get the Blackwater contract in addition to that of Iraqi warmonger Ahmad Chalabi. Berman notes that Penn’s client list has affected Hillary’s policies as with her reluctance to oppose the Indian Point nuclear reactor that’s had nine unplanned shutdowns since 2005, and that Penn has already conducted Rove-style push polling utilizing fabrications about Obama on the topic of abortion.

What happens if Hillary’s race baiting and smear campaigns snatch the nomination from the claws of defeat is that then the political tactics of Rove will make way for the policy positions of Rove. She’s been the beneficiary of her Democratic opponents’ unwillingness to lay her record on the line, but predictably she couldn’t leave well enough alone because the Rove playbook is all Hillary and Penn know. The Republicans will get to finally dig in on the Marc Rich pardon if they get Hillary, who is no competition for McCain for independent votes. Hillary’s attacks seem to have scraped two or three points off Obama’s general election numbers, but Obama can win them back if and when the party’s wrecking ball returns to her legislative duties.