Now, via this entertaining site, some enterprising souls bring us the action figures from the paintings. These (Chinese made no doubt) Hieronymus Bosch Action Figures depict sin and moral failings as pictured in the infamous Garden of Earthly Delights 1504 — or possibly behind the Ranger Curtain at the NYC Convention. There is something too contemporary and media saavy about it all now, like a publicist just off camera and one can almost discern Rita Cosby bulldozing her way into the morass for an exclusive.
It's the usual assortment of playful array of demons, half-human animals and machines to evoke confusion and fear of people different than you. In all seriousness, the pieces do seem to be somewhat well done, and when collected might inspire one to build a mighty think tank yet to be. Interns, research fellows, the senior fellows and of course thoe with endowed chairs. It's hard work pushing the AgitProp against gale force winds. Just ask a Grandfather of the Neocon Leaders of History strutting across the global stage, you know it is your duty to demand the U.S. bomb Iran for the sake of Israel.
We all at some point in our lives give books or favorite movies to friends. Among the Imperial City parasitical class, the “gift” is usually a copy of their latest thought piece on Malawan Adoption Laws and Imperial Legacies. We once endured a POTUS state of the union party on the Big Screen on Capitol Hill (when he commanded fear not ridicule) and one of the table members (Joe DeGenova and his now apparently purple-coiffed wife a table a way) shuffled about handing out his his latest treatise on God knows what.
So we are not talking about that kind of bound fruitcake here today.
Another gift seems to come from gentle and almost child-like souls with enthusiasms to share. We have a friend who probably dreams in Byzantium dialogues, knows (correctly) that Rome never fell and collects these wonderful tomes on the logistics of the late 3rd Century Roman Army. The thing to know is that there are probably only 35 ever really printed at any one time. (Toyota print on demand type thing). They are wonderfully arcane, filled with a subordinate clause that can light a dinner conversation about Roman calvary for 1/2 a night. Wonderful stuff.
But mostly know, today in the Imperial City book giving is transactional, utterly false, devoid of soul or meaning. “Here, read this. It's shit. But it says everything we both believe.” Or the alternative, “Here, read this, I pretended to read your last so you owe me.” Or the worst, “Here, you don't even need to read this shit, just mention it and then blast the other side.”
It's quite scary that a modest mind in all senses like Tweety now boasts of the *quantities* of books he ingests, as if it was the equivalent of Bolshevik ball bearing production. The Stiftung is fairly strongly rooted in the libertarian impulse and believes the solution to poor speech is more speech (usually, except for FOX and MSNBC). But when our publishing industry requires Oprah to expose them as not even bothering to fact check their non-fiction, the train left the tracks long ago. Do Editors say NO anymore? Whatever happened to Slushpiles? And God help us if this stuff is what gets off them.
I was trying to recall the last time a friend turned me on to a non-historial-turgid-tract with the simple thought of this will lighten your life a bit. Knowing people like Jim Baen and Jerry Pournelle it was easy back then. So recently, I did it myself. Appointed myself ambassador of genteel dream sharing. (No, it was not Leaves of Grass and no interns were involved! Bad! Bad Readers!) I gave a book hoping against hope that it would spark delights of imagination, of romance, of sorrow, of love and redemption — and that we could share in the delights and reconnect. None of the mephitic stuff that we deal with here at all. Has it happened yet? I don't know, but the effort has made me feel more alive in months.
We all have them. And all of us believe that ours look good.
One of the Stiftung's is to read ostentatiously the hard print copies of long since marginalized publications like the New York Review of Books or the newly exorcized National Interest. Sure, there're the blizzard of razor sharp subscription cards to endure and the endless typographical experiments.
Paper just gives tactile immediacy lacking on the Web.
Which brings us to the pleasant surprise of Nikolas K. Gvosdev's National Interest. (A couple of caveats. We knew Dmitri Simes back in the day and had a friendly relationship with Natasha. This item is unrelated to those memories).
We recommend going to the news stand and purchasing the current issue. Lind's piece is suggestive, elaborating on some of his recent talks and speeches. He's exploring broad themes systematically. It's all very old school.
Still, a bit odd to see David Rivkin and Lee Casey pop up. (They almost always publish in tandem and there used to be a third cohort whose name escapes the Stiftung). We helped them get going a couple of decades ago breaking them in a national specialist magazine.
Back then, David was name dropping, boasting of his hitting on “babes” in horseback country and his close personal relationship to the long since fired and not lamented shock jock “the Greaseman”. Proof perhaps that a flea can lie down and pick up a dog. He's now firmly of the Establishment. Yet a cannier operator you will not find this side of the Tysons Jiffy Lube. And a very quick mind. One can be too harsh. It's been a long time since actually speaking to him about whether he actually believes his act any more.
General (and good natured) cattiness aside, the Rivkin piece is actually nuanced here and there a good read. So is Judith Miller.
In fact, the whole Indo-centric focus of the rest of the issue is a welcome relief from Eurocentric dead weight. The dessicated claws of blue veined Europeanists still crinkle SALT 1 texts desperately like nitro pills.
If this issue is any guide, the newly liberated National Interest remains a pleasant surprise, consistently provocative and informative.
Artprice is an art auction data service. Rothko has a ways to go, alas. The top grossing artist of 2006 remains Picasso, firmly number one for over a decade. Warhol is now number 2 and has appreciated 346% since 1996, Dear Readers.
Washington, D.C. on the cusp of the Memorial Day recess is reliably a cross between the end of the school year and 4 hour treks in stalled traffic: exuberant stasis. The destinations are nice enough: to Rehobeth Beach for the significantly attached and shopping inclined, Dewey Beach for the twenty-somethings, and Bethany (but not the appalling Sea Colony) for the sedantary sort. Even the traffic tie ups can yield a zen moment. Few joys can equal looking down on Robert Novak stuck in a 4 mile back up before the Bay Bridge banging his steering wheel in frustration, all slung gun slinger low in his ludicrious Corvette.
Which is to say the true Natives have long since ceased paying attention to who blinked where and on whom. That earnestness remains for the nouveaux arrivees in the blogosphere. Their almost earnest outrage at it all shows the shabbiness of our expresso-laden san culottes. The Permanent Court has moved, white is now officially en vogue and the parties on the shore matter now. Now Tal Afar may still not be worth the bones of a single American reservist, but have you tried the surf and turf over at the Lockmart gig? A tell tale sign? Third stringers sitting in for cable gab fests.
Anakin Skywalker, the Star Wars character who became Darth Vader, had borderline personality disorder, psychiatrists report.
The news comes not from a galaxy far, far away, but from San Diego, where the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is holding its 160th annual meeting.
Experts from the psychiatric department at France's University Hospital of Toulouse told the APA's annual meeting that Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader could “clearly” be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental illness marked by instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior, according to background information on the Web site of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
The French psychiatrists — who included Laurent Schmitt, M.D. — based their diagnosis on original Star Wars film scripts.
As always, early diagnosis is key, along with aggressive treatment and heavy dosages of ritalin specialists say. One marvels at such acute diagnosis. But what of the tell-tale “I was going to go to Toshi Station to get some power converters!” Here, the French fall mute. And how would our esteemed French specialists evaluate and warn of those who hide in open sight? Until too late? 700,000 dead Iraqis and 30,000 killed and wounded Americans would very much like an answer to that one.
Slate has a jejune write up about David Rockefeller's Rothko fetching a handsome $73 MM. By coincidence, this afternoon we shambled into a small, welcoming mall outlet cheerfully called “We Frame Anything”. We were on a periodic “walkabout” in the Imperial City, seeking sentience and meaning amid the dry cleaners, nail shops and dollar stores.
And there, luxuriating in the glorious un-PC air conditioning, we flipped through the wares, past the “Success!” totems and the various homo-erotic Marilyn Monroes and obligatory Twin Tower sets. Finally, we saw a Rothko. Sotheby's would be quite out of of joint; the opening bid here about $69, including frame. No word on whether the Guatamalan shopkeepers had gotten word from that sour puss McCain about quivering Team Mitt's varmit hunters. This crowd did not look like it it was jacked up to handle the straight dope from Mogok, Burma anyway. Mostly handling that fake Jagdalek blue-ish junk for Christies out of Khandahar.
Does it matter any more? With synthethics, lasers and printing techologogies available, a Titian is a Titian except when it's not. What is the value of a Rothko in a SecondLife pad? What is the value of a fake Rothko hanging in the oversized drywall foyer of a McMansion entombed Tyvek (tm) monstrosity, evoking Venetian Republican grandeur for unknowning occupants, all guarded by their Hunched Hummers ready to rend at master's bidding.
In a land where Nothing Is Real, the winning bidder at Sotheby's auction may be a saint or or fool. We feel it in the the air. In the handshakes at the local market. A hunger for what was. For real. Beyond that, nothing matters. And the rest can burn to perdition.
Eye on Iraq: Why Cheney failed
By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
WASHINGTON, May 9 (UPI) — U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said
Wednesday he was encouraged by the greater sense of urgency he found in
his talks with the prime minister of Iraq. What else could he say?
But the bottom line was that Cheney left Baghdad without being able to
force any tangible progress towards the revenue and power-sharing deals
with Sunnis and Kurds that the U.S. government regards as essential to
creating an effective government over the whole of Iraq and cutting
support for the remorseless Sunni guerrilla insurgents in the country.
“I was impressed with the commitment on the part of the Iraqis to
succeed on these steps and to work together to solve these issues,”
Cheney told reporters after his meetings with Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders.
Heroes concludes its improbably thrilling and surprising run tonite with an elegiac send off. Of all the post “Lost” concept merchandise shoved down our retinal canals — “Invasion”, “Threshold”, “Surface” and even the extraordinarily over-rated “Battlestar Galactica,” “Heroes” manages to make us care care about characters in addition to plot devices. BSG is so monotonous and plot driven as to be unwatchable. Heroes by contrast is an improbable achievement — created by Tim Kring who famously doesn't read comics — or much - or watches old sci fi shows. More than the whole lot of bloated CGI nihilism splashed across the movie screens, “Heroes” gets the sense of wonder and geek joy that is fandom at its finest.
The last time the Stiftng felt this way about a season finale was Season Five of Buffy, when she sacrificed herself for her sister Dawn and the others. Her epitaph there was so fitting: “Buffy Anne Summers: She Saved The World Alot.” John Boorman and Harvey Mansfeld inadvertantly checked their codpieces, doubtless.
Trying to divine political sensibilities from a product that gets so throroughly masticated by vapid 30 something studio and network executives is akin to seeking dispersal significance in cans of Ensure. Still, we note something — the sense of individuals awakening to their potential and coming together to do a great thing — a refutation of the ethos and mythos of this whole rotten edifice and what this regime has done to our country.
Timothy Garton Ash has a thoughtful review of the new movie “The Lives of Others.” One of Germany's most singular achievements is to have associated itself so intimately in the world's imagination with the darkest evils of the two worst political systems of the most murderous century in human history. The words “Nazi,” “SS,” and “Auschwitz” are already global synonyms for the deepest inhumanity of fascism. Now the word “Stasi” is becoming a default global synonym for the secret police terrors of communism. The worldwide success of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's deservedly Oscar- winning film The Lives of Others will strengthen that second link, building as it does on the preprogramming of our imaginations by the first. Nazi, Stasi: Germany's festering half-rhyme.
It was not always thus. When I went to live in Berlin in the late 1970s, I was fascinated by the puzzle of how Nazi evil had engulfed this homeland of high culture. I set out to discover why the people of Weimar Berlin behaved as they did after Adolf Hitler came to power. One question above all obsessed me: What quality was it, what human strain, that made one person a dissident or resistance fighter and another a collaborator in state-organized crime, one a Claus von Stauffenberg, sacrificing his life in the attempt to assassinate Hitler, another an Albert Speer?
To say that we were on the cusp of that here exaggerates our circumstance and minimizes theirs. Yet for 2 or 2 1/2 years we were, in the Stiftung's opinion, in a precursor state edging towards evolution in that direction. But for the horrors of Katrina and other events leading up to November, 2006 . . .
Recovery of the myriad email accounts used by the Movement in and around the Administration's husk will be important. Beyond headlines at the next congressional hearings. We need to know whch sociological groups were involved and on which issues. We need to know the names od the enemies of liberal small “d” democracy.
Veteran analyst of the press (and former presidential press secretary) Bill Moyers, considering a classic moment of media failure, concluded: "The disgraceful press reaction to [then US secretary of state] Colin Powell's presentation at the United Nations [on February 5, 2003] seems like something out of Monty Python, with one key British report cited by Powell being nothing more than a student's thesis, downloaded from the Web - with the student later threatening to charge US officials with 'plagiarism' . . .
The Stiftung is sympathetic to the analysis and goal. Well, read on, Dear Reader, and you decide.
“Dad/Mom, what did you do during the Occupation?” Melodramatic? Not really.
At least for the medium term, it's hard to see how the 2001-2006 period here will be understood as anything but. Eventually, contending narratives seeking to explain what really happened to us will emerge. The United States has a long history of post-facto socially reconstructing memory for political and cultural imperatives. Distortions of American collective memory don't always have to be for cynical AgitProp purposes. Usually, nationalism has played a strong and “neutral” role — i.e. neither consciously benign nor malignant.
Did you feel an ineffable shift on Wednesday? Or was it just us? A sense that when we look back on this period, 9 May, 2007, will stand out as one of those particular days when the wheels of the American Empire unmistakably slipped their lug nuts and began sailing into the ether. For some reason, we felt that way.
This afternoon we huddled with business within the shadow of Rummy's old haunt. When we stepped into the bald sun, something was different from the usual spate of calamity. Like entering the Forum and knowing somehow that Jove finally washed his hands of the Claudians. Later, winding down and switching on the idiot box, bam! Not to get too melodramatic about it all . . .
We've mentioned before our bemused experiences in Newtopia back in the 1990s. One could make alot of excuses for it all but it remains what it is. Although it is hard to go to a certain website or watch cable microchannels to see an ex-Newtonian without a smile, recalling back then her driving to an Imperial City homeless shelter in her then-husband's limosine to serve soup (with photographer train in tail) as example of Marvin Olasky's “compassionate conservativsm”. Still, fun watching her commingle with the unaware NORML folks at the UPenn 2000 Counter-Convention. To paraphrase Fitzgerald, “There are no alternative director's cut endings to American lives except when there are.” All ethanol under the Prius, one supposes.