Day: July 11, 2002

Painting by Vuillard


Two dumpy women with buns were drinking coffee
In a narrow kitchen—at least I think a kitchen
And I think it was whitewashed, in spite of all the shade.
They were flat brown, they were as brown as coffee.
Wearing brown muslin? I really could not tell.
How I loved this painting, they had grown so old
That everything had got less complicated,
Brown clothes and shade in a sunken whitewashed kitchen.

But it’s not like that for me: age is not simpler
Or less enjoyable, not dark, not whitewashed.
The people sitting on the marble steps
Of the national gallery, people in the sunlight,
A party of handsome children eating lunch
And drinking chocolate milk, and a young woman
Whose t-shirt bears the defiant word WHATEVER,
And wrinkled folk with visored hats and cameras
Are vivid, they are not browned, not in the least,
But if they do not look like coffee they look
As pungent and startling as good strong coffee tastes,
Possibly mixed with chicory. And no cream.



—Thom Gunn

Home Bound

Why Pat Buchanan’s new magazine will be a surefire failure

And Raimondo is not the only one trying his hand at far-left/far-right synergy. On the University of California, San Diego, campus, David Duke’s supporters have distributed flyers on “Israeli genocide.” Lefty Pacifica Radio broadcasts right-wingers who rail against elites, including recordings of the late conspiracy theorist Anthony Sutton. Thomas Fleming, the editor of the paleocon Chronicles, told me, “I agree with environmentalists on chain stores, fast food, and the Americanization of Europe. I don’t even bother calling myself a conservative anymore.” Over the course of the ’90s the anti-globalization critique that started on the right with Buchanan’s 1992 and 1996 presidential runs migrated left. And 9/11, which has forever linked opposition to globalization to opposition to the war on terrorism, was the final straw. The Buchananites may not want to admit it, but in the post-9/11 era, as during the cold war, the prominent critiques of American internationalism will come from the left. The New Republic

‘Ripe for Ecological Disaster’

Snakehead Fish Were Dumped Into Pond, Officials Say. ‘…(A)n individual had dumped two northern snakehead fish into a drainage pond behind a suburban shopping center after the creatures got too big for their aquarium. Yesterday, state biologists returned to the pond and caught a half-dozen more baby snakeheads after they electro-shocked the water. All in all, it was not a promising discovery. Two adult snakeheads and several babies have been caught in recent weeks.

“We could very easily be talking about hundreds, if not more, juveniles in the pond,” said Eric Schwaab, head of fisheries for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. ‘ Washington Post

Has Horror Lit Found its Voice Again?

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Evil:

‘ “9-11 resembled cheap, lazy fiction,” says horror author Neil Gaiman, whose slim volume Coraline is already being called the scariest novel of the year, “and because it did, it made it strange for writers to decide what is valid artistically.”

Gaiman’s domain is often looked down upon as hack work, but the attack on the World Trade Center and the subsequent social dislocation have dovetailed precisely with the field’s new themes. After a spasm of doubt within the genre, which was just beginning to find new voices and readers at the close of a decade-long downturn, horror is back, freshly relevant and ready for a prime place on the shelves…’ The Village Voice

Bloody mess:

Blood sculpture may be ruined: Workmen may have melted a Marc Quinn sculpture rendered in frozen human blood by unplugging the freezer while remodelling art collector Charles Saatchi’s kitchen.

‘Saatchi bought the piece for a rumoured £13,000 in 1991 from art dealer Jay Jopling, who said the “very fragile” sculpture “requires quite a bit of commitment on the part of the collector”. ‘

Guardian UK [via Spike Report]

Fourth of July ironies

A Palestinian activist was arrested in Cambridge MA because of ‘suspicious’ wires in his car — which he says were to fix his stereo — and leaflets for a legal pro-Palestinian counter-demonstration planned for Boston’s Israel Independence Day celebration. This column about, among other things, the incredible abuses he suffered while in custody in a Massachusetts jail — including four dental extractions without anaesthesia — is by my friend Dennis Fox, a psychology professor turned gadfly journalist in my hometown. It almost didn’t get published because the Brookline Tab editor feared the backlash from vocal anti-Palestinians in this very pro-Israel Jewish community. (The excuse she used was that it was only peripherally Brookline-related.)

Memory in Motion:



“Striking new computer images taken by confocal microscopy capture the brain in action as it builds new synapses. The images reveal the formation of new dendritic spines, a process Swiss investigator Dominique Muller says reflects long term potentiation, widely believed to be the most fundamental molecular basis of learning and memory.” BioMedNet

Is NPR appropriation vote coming soon?

‘Six months after the fact, the head of National Public Radio apologized for what some lawmakers called a “slanderous” report linking anthrax-laced letters to a Christian conservative organization, according to Fox news.

“We have made mistakes at NPR. One mistake was our report about TVC,” said Kevin Klose, the network’s president and CEO, referring to a story that suggested the Traditional Values Coalition was connected to the anthrax letter.

…Several Republican members implored NPR to apologize for a January news package that suggested that the conservative group, which represents 43,000 member churches, was connected to the anthrax letters sent last fall to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The story suggested that TVC “fit the profile” of groups that might have been responsible for the letters linked to the death of five.

At the time of the broadcast, listeners complained and NPR issued an on-air statement calling the reporting “inappropriate,” but did apologize or issue a retraction.’

Jet packs? Mag-lev cars?

Will the future really look like Minority Report? “Two of Spielberg’s experts explain how they invented 2054.”

Underkoffler: …. I’m a huge fan of all of Dick’s writings. It’s a very compact little piece with a fascinating central idea that very much competes with all his other stuff. As with the rest of his writings, he recognizes that social science fiction is more interesting than pure science fiction. He was one of the few guys back in the ’50s who knew the truth about technology. Everyone else wanted shiny ray guns and perfect societies floating around in anti-gravity space stations and who knows what. Dick knew that technology mostly doesn’t work or complicates things in unforeseen ways. And so, in Dick’s books and stories, you always have doors that won’t let you through ’cause you have to give them a quarter and you have to argue with them because you don’t have any spare change. In general, with him, it’s the intersection of high-end science with other more human elements: individual psychologies, larger-scale sociology or politics. That’s what makes him continue to be relevant where other authors of the same era … their shiny spaceships and ray guns look a little tarnished right now. Salon

Whatever you might say about the plotting, it certainly had a distinctive look. It joins Blade Runner, also from a PKD story of course, as an original and meticulously executed vision of the future. No matter what else, it ought to get the production design Oscar. Only a couple of things didn’t really work for me. For one, the vertical highways; maybe 150 years, but surely not 50. And, while much has been made of the gestural computer interface Cruise uses (“like conducting an orchestra”), I would imagine a way would have to be found for the control movements to be more subtle, less sweeping and dramatic (less cinematographic?); otherwise computer use would be exhausting!

And then there’re all the egregious product placements.

Armed Flight

House Approves Bill to Arm Pilots:

“The bill was passed after months of aggressive lobbying by pilot unions, which said their members want to carry guns because loopholes remain in airport security.

…The Bush administration opposed the bill, which was approved 310 to 113. A similar bill has stalled in the Senate, but supporters said yesterday that they hoped to build on the unexpectedly strong support for the House bill.” Washington Post

IMHO, quite a bad idea, as I’ve written about previously, for a number of reasons. Evidence people are still reacting to 9-11 with their testosterone instead of their heads.

Crow-Eating Dept:

U.S. Backs Off Court Immunity Demand: “Facing worldwide opposition, the United States has retreated from its demand that American peacekeepers be permanently immune from the new war crimes tribunal. U.S. diplomats are instead proposing a yearlong ban on any investigation.


The compromise proposal made Wednesday marked a significant change in the Bush administration’s campaign to shield Americans from frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions by the new International Criminal Court.” AP

Silencing moderate Palestinian voice

“Israel has shut down the office of Dr Sari Nusseibeh, the leading voice of moderation among Palestinians, accusing him of undermining Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem by serving as an agent of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.

Dr Nusseibeh, an Oxford and Harvard-educated intellectual, has been a driving force among Palestinians who have signed a statement urging their compatriots to abandon suicide bombings.” The Age

"Dying is not good for you"

Casting a Cool Eye on Cryonics: ‘Sometimes art, like hitting, is all in the timing.

A case in point is “Dying Is Not Good for You,” a exhibition of photographs by a British artist, Jason Oddy, which opened last night at the Frederieke Taylor gallery in Chelsea.

What makes this exhibition topical is its subject: an inside look at two of the nation’s cryonic centers, one of which, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., now holds the body of the Hall of Fame hitter Ted Williams, who died last week at 83.

That development, and a family battle over the handling of Williams’s remains, has suddenly given front-page status to cryonics, whose proponents advocate deep-freezing the dead in the hopes that medical advances will make it possible to resurrect them.’ NY Times