28 January 2007

Orphan teddy

"Mister Dominick, tear down that wall!"

THE INTERMITTENT GROANING AND BLEEPING along the half city block of mud and dirt on Chicago Avenue from first light to dusk is no mystery, but the view is gone. The spread of land where the Edmar supermarket stood until summer is now hidden from eastern eyes: a greater-than-story-high pale retaining wall, drab, Soviet, up against the McDonald’s on the corner, a gray cement barricade, like a barrier against slurry in mining operations. Kitty-corner there’s a Subway, and despite the burst of independently owned businesses: restaurants, bars, bakeries, a comics store, a record store, an art-toy store, the neighborhood will immediately be marked by the market to come. This block, in a few months, will be where you go, not to shop, but to go to Dominick’s, a multi-story multi-brand mini-mall. The first thing that came to mind the morning the wall went up last week was Ronald Reagan’s calculated shout to Mikhail Gorbachev about the Berlin Wall, “Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” This wall, for this first day at least, lacks the expressive graffiti and tribal markings of the long-gone German barrier. Birds circle overhead, pigeons, gulls, the shapes and shadows of birds. The birds circuit and spiral over the urban intersection, shadows like furious origami conveyed in flickery, reflected anime, avian Muybridge of piercing presence. They gather in hope of a market. They remember the market that’s gone; they can’t know a new supermarket is being built to replace the old one, the 1950s supermarket founded as an A&P. (The “ghetto grocery” as neighbors affectionately dubbed its low-cost aisles.) The birds expect flat roofs the span of a small beach, with irregular, shallow mirrors of sky from regular rain. That’s why the seagulls join the pigeons two, three miles inland from Lake Michigan. They recall the market, they expect the mirror. Today there’s only a wall, held up at streetside by an orange strut, a yellow strut, first markings of the edifice complex. From the several community meetings, there’s no telling what will wind up attached, semi-detached and festooned to this traffic artery-clogging, high markup, conglom foodery: one meeting I attended had the spectacle of a spluttering corporate representative conceding yes, that the markup at Dominick’s on some products is spectacular, but that every one in those folding seats ought to be grateful that something so special, so wonderful, so profitable for the holders of the corporation’s bank notes ought to be welcomed with open wallets. The birds swoop. Dusk comes. Sharp shadows fall. (Appeared in a different form in Newcity, 25 January 2007.)

10 January 2007

08 January 2007

04 January 2007

Construing the Republic: the President signs

Originally uploaded by old_b1oke.
NY Daily News' James Gordon Meek reports that the President of the United States says it's o.k. for him to read your mail. Apropos of nothing, "President Bush added a "signing statement" in recently passed postal reform bill that may give him new powers to pry into your mail - without a warrant... The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions. That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it. ... "Despite the President's statement that he may be able to circumvent a basic privacy protection, the new postal law continues to prohibit the government from snooping into people's mail without a warrant," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the incoming House Government Reform Committee chairman, who co-sponsored the bill. Experts said the new powers could be easily abused and used to vacuum up large amounts of mail.... Most of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act deals with mundane reform measures. But it also explicitly reinforced protections of first-class mail from searches without a court's approval. Yet in his statement Bush said he will "construe" an exception, "which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection in a manner consistent ... with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances." ... [An expert] said that Bush is "using the same legal reasoning to justify warrantless opening of domestic mail" as he did with warrantless eavesdropping.

02 January 2007

Story Schmory II

Alfonso Cuarón, via whataboutblack.
NY Times' David Carr is is being kind again: "A while ago, the Bagger linked to Ray Pride's interview with Alfonso Cuarón, in which he said that story qua story was waaaaaay overrated. The point was well made, but the Bagger thought again about the value of narrative this weekend when he made his way through several screeners, including The Painted Veil and Water... [E]ven though the Bagger knew how [The Painted Veil] ended, he was pulled through by the story. It is a grand film, and yeah, the sets and the acting are spectacular, but it is the story that kept the Bagger watching deep into the night. The same for Water, another tale of tragic love that is born[e] aloft by a great story. You know that the story of an impossibly lovely Indian widow will end horribly, but you can't look away. We are all 10-year-olds at heart, ready for bed, but begging to be told "one more story." These are two that should not be missed."