Having mostly favored writers and thinkers who exhibit synoptic views I find myself, via some osmotic transference, inhibited from chronicling some of the thoughts and observations that are whizzing around some part of my mental space because they are small and somewhat self-contained. Or at least do not, at the moment they occur to me, connect to something else. Perhaps that Weltanschauung will keep me from mastering the art of the aphorism—I hope not. Just this last week I have been flush with ideational monads, little billiard balls of thoughts. Perhaps I will be able to expand upon them in the forthcoming memoir of my turbulent elementary school career, What Would George Orwell Say? In the meantime, what follows are some this and that kind of thoughts:
Eyestrain or ennui or perhaps even a frisson of schadenfruede found me spending a good part of a day recently watching videos. First up was the masterful Standing in the Shadows of Motown. This documentary tells the story of the studio musicians, known by themselves and a few insiders as the Funk Brothers. These men were contributors to more number-one hits than the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson and a few more superstars combined. And, of course, nobody knows their names. Interestingly, someone suggests in the film that (not taking away anything from the people who sang the songs) a monkey could have sung these songs and they would have been hits. Any way, it is a terrific film and story with guest appearances by Gerald Levert, Joan Osbourne, Meshell Ndegeocello, Bootsie Collins, Ben Harper and Chaka Khan.
Later in the day I watched Emimem’s 8 Mile. I was quite impressed with almost everything in the film except for the music. Probably because I had trouble hearing it (though later in listening to The Eminem Show CD I was moved by "Cleaning out my Closet," which is sung in the film and "White America," which isn’t (I don’t think). Occasionally, seeing a movie triggers an impulse to curate a film festival around it. Some titles that I would love to see connected to 8 Mile: Before Night Falls (the Renaldo Arenas story filmed by Julian Schnabel), Pollack (Ed Harris’ film about Jackson Pollack), Theo and Vincent (Robert Altman’s movie on Vincent Van Gogh) and —as kind of a reach—Barton Fink (the Coen brothers story of struggling writer with a fictional cameo by William Faulkner).
Last week a couple of items that got attention in the blogosphere had me to wondering. Adam Kirsch, who is purportedly the New York Sun (that’s the only paper that reported Prince of Darkness Richard Perle’s braggadocio about suing Seymour Hersh) Book editor, wrote a piece on Dante Alegheri for Slate. Kirsch mentioned the history of translating The Divine Comedy and recent translations and even a recent novel by one of those Harvard youngsters. But astoundingly (to me) no notice of Nick Tosches‘ In The Hand of Dante. Since the book was published in October of 2002 and as Nick Tosches is a worthy and able writer and author of numerable important books, how to explain this glaring omission? I have asked around and I intend get to the bottom of this.
Also, one of those snarly and snide publications that contributes to Manhattan’s reputation as a snake pit published a list of 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers. Now the captions were of the highest New York style vitriol (funny and accurate) and yet I was disturbed at the whole shabby gesture. Though I must admit a certain guilty pleasure at the number-one slot being occupied by the self-proclaimed savior of magazine publishing who edits Maxim. And oh yeah, Henry Kissinger was on the list. I found the claim that this was a Reader’s Poll unbelievable and more to the point I thought that just because this paper had the ability to trash fifty celebrities does not mean that they should. Michael at Literary Saloon @ the complete review did have the best take on this sordid matter suggesting that:
††One can understand that the ideologues (Safire, Moore, Coulter) irritate, but it’s nice to see that plain ol’ writers can also be considered significant enough that people actually bother to loathe them!
Given the infestation of the infosphere with cliche-ridden prattling and ululating by embedded news robots and other wage-earning primates it occurred to me that if (given the nature of modern warfare) one could distinguish the first casualties of war, truth and dissent probably fall behind originality as victims of this formidable Horseman. Since I do not watch television I know very little about the Iraqi conflict (I do not even know if we have formally declared war). Anyway, I have caught talk radio in a number of public places and have heard two jamooks arguing about military strategy—as if they knew anything and battlefield commanders should be taking their advice. Yow! One bloodthirsty war criminal in the making disdained any concern for civilians since the Iraqi military was guilty of using these noncombatants as shields. So much for liberating the Iraqis.
Thankfully John Lee Anderson (who wrote the definitive Che Guevera biography and recently a book of his New Yorker filings from Afghanistan, The Lion’s Grave) is not in bed with anyone except his well-honed sense of observation and reportage. His "Letters from Baghdad" in the New Yorker should be required reading by all the careerist androids polluting the infosphere with their pre-digested Defense Department press releases.
I am proud to call Barry Crimmins a friend and a comrade and Elsewhere on Identity Theory Barry’s quips are regularly posted. When I read through his latest posting, also found on his own website, it occurred to me that Crimmer is subject (at least by me) to being taken for granted because he is so prolific. Anyway, this "quip" stopped me:
Blowhard politicians and hack journalists are making big career moves with this war. They act as if they are going through great tribulations to serve mankind at this time. But the most expensive commodity required to fuel the war machine — blood — will be heavily infused with salt of the earth not commonly found at networks or among political spin-doctors. It’s the poor and middle class kids who will be maimed in this war, die in this war and get held captive in this war. They will live with this war long after the rest of us think it has ended. They will know of the true horror of war first hand. Their families and friends will receive secondary exposure.
The newest batch of vets will be misled by implication to believe that to speak of what they have seen and done would be tantamount to disloyalty and cowardice. And so their torment will be internalized and a lifelong soul-gnawing experience will commence. These troops will be forgotten very quickly as they head back to neighborhoods and rural locations that are even more impoverished than those they left behind for war. The misuse of our national resources for this unjust military action will have made sure that what’s gone around to the Mideast, has come around to the cities and towns of America.
The very people who claimed devotion for our troops will turn their backs on those they called heroes when they needed cannon fodder to help further their jingoistic goals. And the same commentators, who called for people to attend pro-carnage rallies, will denounce any GWII vet who speaks out against the madness of the next war as "treacherous and un-American." Returned troops learn quickly that just because they know better doesn’t mean anyone wants to hear about it…
Squamscott River / November 2002 / foto.Red Diaz