31 December 2006

The same sidewalk twice



LET US OBSERVE THE ONE GREAT CONSTANT of a Chicago New Year's Eve, and that is how dampness expresses itself: slicks and drifts of sooted snow? Or gray streets, lightly drizzled with beads of moisture, dusted with grit and turds and muck? No matter the quality of past year's resolutions or how resolutely they've been resolved across the course of the 364 or so days that just tumbled down the rat hole, you will be walking somewhere, hands-in-pocket, head-down against the wind, contemplating a sidewalk tapestry, beat-down cement and macadam crusted with junk, organic or not, a mirror-image of the bottom of your shoe. A lifetime of New Years can be rolled out as a succession of "And once I..." memories. But I long for sweeping banalities: I like to hear stories that consist mostly of smile and mental furze, undergrowth of determined guzzle atop crunchy groundcover of tipple. Bleary, happy memories, capturing the essential sensation of fun and fracas and folly and fraternity, recalled with a goofball's grin. Legend of waking to buttered cinnamon toast and cloudless afternoon and then hot bowls of lucky black-eyed peas, mushy like hung-over friendship. Straining memory, of course, the generalities fall away and singularities stand out: I could test your tolerance with the tale of the night of 90 degree weather in Florida backwoods as then-girlfriend's father tried to put out the dozen-persons-warming campfire with a barrage of freshly-distilled piss as Mormon cattle stared across lines of rusty barb with eyes red like zombies and sixty miles to the south fireworks rose high and hardly audible above Disney World. Or the party marshaled by someone just out of college, who kept no clock that night, and ready for the twenty or so revelers who'd braved then-dangerous Western Avenue to count down to the nouvelle année, turns on the radio only to find the new year was twenty minutes of age already. (Drip, drip, drip went the polite yet speedy exodus of guests.) Or smiling across the course and cosmos of a party as guests, one-by-one and two-by-town filter down the stairs and back into their lives and you repeatedly catch the hostess' eye as she catches yours, sharing a peripheral vision. (Good times, which you should say in a Greek or Portuguese or Russian accent for best effect.) A highball cup is always a half-second from falling, a keg is always spewing its last, someone else's inner tumult will somehow be expressed as a facial expression to be taken in autistic-Asperger tumble as a syndrome of desire or admiration. (And sometimes this will be so, and how!) But there remains the constant: just as the pedestrian-endangering footpad at the wheel, who swears behind the windshield while jerking into crosswalks will within moments climb down from the SUV cab and become once more a creature on foot themselves, you will be a citizen in seconds, reveler in retreat. Outside the party where it is warm and bright and the music grows quieter, where the golden glow is like timeless candlelight as you withdraw, patterning of sidewalks resume once more, Chicago paths, a muddy, murky rivulet that can lead in so many directions, as it has since the city's history began amid tall, clean, strong prairie grass, but mostly home, soon, home, bed, gravity itself taken for resolve, toward tomorrow, tomorrow, and 363 to come. [Published in a slightly different form, Newcity, 28 December 2006.]

27 December 2006

Rotofugi + 4



Adding a touch of Chicago to wildposting in Thessaloniki, Greece.

22 December 2006

Within the Cave: when you're "scum" to Nick



In the Guardian, Mat Snow recalls why Nick Cave's "Scum" is about him. "I'd got to know Nick Cave when he fronted the Birthday Party and I was just starting to write for a living. He made great music, I wrote gushing reviews. In 1983 he and his then-girlfriend Anita stayed in my flat in Brixton when they needed a room and I needed rent money. When they moved out, we lost touch, until in 1986 I came to interview him for NME. Frosty in the extreme, he explained why. The previous year I'd mentioned in print that I found his forthcoming album "disappointing". I was, he told me, "an arsehole". And he'd written a song that developed this theme. Weeks later, I bought for £1 a green 7-inch flexidisc called "Scum" off his merchandise stall at a Bad Seeds show... "Miserable shitwringing turd," he snarled to a grindcore accompaniment, "fuckin' traitor, chronic masturbator, shitlicker, user, self-abuser," adding, almost superfluously, "my un-friend, I'm the type that holds a grudge." It's a brilliant record, and if I have any complaints it is that Nick has squirrelled "Scum" away as a bonus CD track on his album "Your Funeral, My Trial. " ... I'd rather be memorialised as the spotlit object of a genius's scorn than a dusty discographical footnote. Still, my Cave-fan wife-to-be was mightily impressed when, on our first date, I unrolled the story (not for the first time). Seven years later Scum is "our song".

the places that we are broken



Investigative journalist Murray Waas writes at length at Huffington Post about "a cancer survivor's right to respect," after what appears to be horrifying harrassment by reporters, editors and publishers at DC's City Weekly. It's a painful read, but I am glad I made it to his final sentence, after he has examined the sources of his strength as a writer, and as a human being: "It is from the wellspring of our despair and the places that we are broken that we come to repair the world. "

21 December 2006

ThinkyTimes

DAVID CARR, THE ASTUTE GENTLEMAN JOURNO WHO WRITES NY TIMES' MOVIE AWARDS SEASON BLOG, THE CARPETBAGGER, gives a nod to an article of mine published this week: "Sometimes amidst the din of the chanting Oscar Ninnies - Dreamgirls can't be touched!" or "United 93 is fading!" - it behooves us to remember that directors are artists and that their medium has a history they should study and understand. Over at The Reeler, Ray Pride, the editor of Movie City Indie, and Alfonso Cuaron, the director, have a discussion steeped in cinematic antecedents about Children of Men, Mr. Cuarón's dark look at a future where humans have lost the ability to reproduce... Mr. Cuaron is a funny guy, and he offers a thinky, and occasionally hilarious look inside the craft. Among other things, Mr. Cuaron tells Mr. Pride he is fed up with simpleminded cinema that does with very little with images save moving the story along in the very predictable ways.

"What I hate is when cinema is hostage of narrative," he told me. "Then I say, 'Come on - don't be lazy, read a book.' If you want to see performances, go to the theater; it's fantastic. It's an actor's medium there and a dramatic medium - at least conventional theater. But come on, leave cinema alone! Let cinema breathe, in which narrative is an element of the cinematic experience, but it's [just] an element, as acting is an element, cinematography is an element. Music and decors, those are elements. But right now? Cinema becomes just about seeing illustrated stories as opposed to engaging audiences in an experience in which you don't explain much."

Mr. Cuaron points to the work of his fellow Mexican director Guillermo del Toro to suggest that it is a film's exploration of themes, as opposed to its narrative, that determine its ultimate success.

"A lot of reviewers nowadays, they fall into that vice: they want stories. They want explanations, they want exposition and they want political postures. Why does cinema have to be a medium for making political statements as opposed to presenting facts, presenting elements and then you making your own conclusions - even if they are elusive? There's nothing more beautiful than elusiveness in cinema." [Speaking of elusive, a commenter to Carr's entry offers this remark: ""Is this Comedy Central? An interview in The Onion? Is this the guy who made mint directing HARRY POTTER? — Posted by marrtyy"]

20 December 2006

Equally Strongly Both Ways



THE FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY AND LATTERDAY CORPORATE CONSULTANT believes that he can have many things his own way, including two separate winds blowing two sets of flags. The exploratory committee website for his 2008 presidential aspirations mentions his May 2003 marriage to Judith Nathan, but not the two children he had from his second marriage to Donna Hanover. As others have pointed out, there is also no mention of his first marriage, to Regina Peruggi, annulled it was revealed that she was his second cousin. Family values!

Hominid Security: infant edition



"A woman mistakenly put her 1-month-old grandson through an X-ray machine" at LAX. "A startled security worker noticed the shape of a child on the carry-on baggage screening monitor and immediately pulled him out," LA Times reported Wednesday. "The infant was taken to a local hospital, where doctors determined he did not receive a dangerous dose of radiation. "This was an innocent mistake by an obviously inexperienced traveler," said Paul Haney, deputy executive director of airports and security for the city's airport agency. The TSA says it's not their fault, because they don't have enough money to do their job, per Nico Melendez, a Transportation Security Administration spokesman, who "said the agency doesn't have enough workers to constantly stand at tables in front of the screeners to coach travelers. Still, he said the agency works hard to educate passengers."

Le Pen



Closed for two years and the sign softens in the sun.

19 December 2006

Two




Palms



This is very close to an impolite gesture in Greece.

After



Sunday dinner in Thessaloniki.

18 December 2006

The Gingrinch who stole headlines: why does Newt hate America?



The Gingrinch who stole headlines, the bright fresh face of GOP youth, dapper, dashing, debonair failed politician, 2008 Republican presidential hopeful, and friend to "Meet the Press"'s Tim Russert on the stump in New Hampshire further explains that freedom of speech is so 18th century and listening to him speak is all that's needed to bring a godless nation back to G*d, the Manchester Union Leader reports. "Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich last night defended his call to limit freedom of speech... Gingrich said the threat of biological or nuclear attack requires America to consider curbs to speech to fight terrorists, if it is to protect the society that makes the First Amendment possible. "Our friends at the 'ACLU left,' of course, were staggered at this concept," Gingrich told an audience of Republicans at a Christmas banquet. [Paging Bob Barr, Paging Bob Barr.] "How could we talk about anything less than 100% free speech? How could we consider in any way thinking about this issue?" Gingrich cited last month's ejection of six Muslim scholars from a plane in Minneapolis for suspicious behavior, which included reports they prayed before the flight and had sat in the same seats as the Sept. 11 hijackers. "Those six people should have been arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists," Gingrich said. "And the crew of the U.S. airplane should have been invited to the White House and congratulated for being correct in the protection of citizens." Gingrich spoke to a crowd of about 250 at the Manchester Republican City Committee's Christmas dinner, held at the Executive Court Banquet Facility... "If you give me any signal in the age of terrorism that you're a terrorist, I'd say the burden of proof was on you," the serial adulterer, Ethics Committee-fined bulk-sales book author told the paper, also urging "a departure from heavy partisanship." The Union-Leader did not report on Mr. Gingrich's expression when he tossed those words.

12 December 2006

American communism: saluting Craigslist's destruction of journalism



At Attytood, Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch describes his "lone nut" theory of the assassination of the American newspaper . "The American newspaper is being assassinated by "a lone nut." And we're going to tell you the name of that lone nut: Craig Newmark of Craigslist... -- a man whose altruistic vision of running a business to NOT maximize profits is now threatening the livel[i]hood of thousands of working men and women across this country, your neighbors who work at and publish your local newspaper, jobs that were once supported by the classified ads that have migrated to the most[ly] free (or low-cost) Craigslist. Last week, Newmark's co-conspirator... -- his CEO Jim Buckmaster -- told stunned Wall Street analysts how they're happy to forego profits to save you a couple of bucks on a classified ad, and put some of my best friends on the unemployment line in the process." Bunch quotes a Forbes story, which asks of Craigslist: "Why not earn money and then give it away to charity: "I think it's a valid argument and one that we don't necessarily have a persuasive answer for,'' Buckmaster said. "That is a proven model for doing good in the world. It just doesn't happen to be our model. Ours is to try to be as philanthropic in our core business as we can be and leave all the money out there in the hands of users.'' Bunch says a Craig's Foundation would be good for one lovely reason: "[W]hat will be the main benefactor of this new foundation? A scholarship fund, to pay for the college education of the dozens of displaced journalists across America losing their jobs everyday... And if there's any cash left, how about building a retirement home for any newspaper folks who might somehow see a diminished pension down the road? In the meantime, I think every journalist who's a threatened victim of layoffs should be sure to send Craig Newmark and Jim Buckmaster a holiday card this year, including a family photo, and let them know how we're doing in 2006. After all, even a "lone nut" should see who his victims are."

06 December 2006

05 December 2006

Death of Old Media: part 276 (The little trainwreck that could)



Whoever's leaving their Trib behind at the coffee shop must, must stop. Please! Take it away, so I don't keep stumbling into Charlie Madigan's cubicle, where on Tuesday he tenders his musing aboutabout "the big, juicy meal" that is Barack Obama after "one fabulous speech." and how Obama would be Al Gore's ideal running mate, since "Gore has tree-hugging chops, and Democrats can't resist that." Here's more of Madigan's mad mulligatawny of condescension and conventional wizardom, representing all the valor and acuity of TribCo MegaCorp's op-ed faculty: "First, in presidential handicapping, the media know just about as much as the guy in the street." [But get paid more and talk to themselves more, apparently.] "If it were up to us, Howard Dean would have won the Democratic nomination the last time around and surfed into the White House on a tide of Web site-based contributions and blog fluff.... He yee-hawed himself out of it." Like incessant false references to Al Gore claiming to have "invented the internet," Mr. Madigan does not see fit to recall that Mr. Dean's "yell" came from the way the candidate was miked for the media, and how the image was repeated not only by Fox, but most major broadcast media, and not how he came across in the context of that rally. But Madigan is quick to consider himself "elite," which I suppose, despite an admission of cluelessness, as "superior": "My own thought is that reporters made this mistake for the same reason we make most of our mistakes: We aren't like normal people and haven't been for a long time. We are elites given to pronouncements." But "[W]e are about as accurate as anyone you grab out on the street. Go find some good-looking person [I'd guess Madigan means gal but someone caught that one] and conduct your own poll over coffee. What do I think is going to happen? Frankly, there is no wisdom in the office. I might as well be at home in the basement blogging in my underwear." [Is that how this internet thing works? Collating unsavory images to thrust across the breakfast table? Yes, but then you would be giving up your years of pension, Charlie!] " But I can play the game as well as anyone, so here's my scenario. Clinton is dashed on the rocks of reality in New England, where the Democratic voters of New Hampshire... say they would rather rub chowder in their eyes than vote for her. Even backing from the liberated legal hookers and gamblers in Nevada can't help her." [More making with the cliches 'n' stuff at the link. This Charlie Madigan is the Little Trainwreck That Could. Also posted at SharkForum.]

03 December 2006

A courtesy so deep it amounts to beauty: Peggy Noonan



WHEN A NAME WRITER publishes something heartily, wholeheartedly ridiculous, it's tempting to presume their editorial overseers have cut them loose for one reason or another, permitting them to soil themselves publicly. In Saturday's Wall Street Journal, career GOP speechwriter and neoconservative credulist Peggy Noonan speculates on the aftermath of November's election and the civil war in Iraq: "We're going to need grace. We are going to need a great outbreak of grace to navigate the next difficult months." Noonan writes of the "genius cluster that invented the republic" but worries of Democrats and their "energetic smugness" after the electoral defeat of her chosen. She wonders why Democrats have not "broken out in war... like Iraq, like a dropped pane of glass that is jagged, shattered, dangerous." What does she invoke to keep her Republican cohorts safe from the elected Visigoths who "lack a certain public grace"? "What is needed is grace—sensitivity, mercy, generosity of spirit, a courtesy so deep it amounts to beauty. We will have to summon it. And the dreadful thing is you can't really fake it." No, you can only type for it, and hope for it, and ignore the sniggers and grins of one DowJones editor who surely sleeps well at night. [Also posted at SharkForum.]

01 December 2006

Malpensa



Fog at dawn with six hours of layover and delay ahead.