It is very likely that nearly every one has been very nearly certain that something that is interesting is interesting them...

31 August — Sunday

§ John P. Bowles | "Return to Black Mountain" | Rev. of Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art, edited by Vincent Katz | Art in America | September 2003 | 35-37

"Black Mountain College did not simply provide visiting artists, writers, dancers and composers with a quiet place to work, removed from the demands of New York City. The school and its denizens must have intruded too much for such reclusive activities. Instead, the demands placed on instructors and students alike inspired active participation in a collaborative process of learning and teaching. The four essays in Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art contribute new evidence about what made the campus so artistically fecund. Further inquiry into the disputes and disagreements, the failures and weaknesses that helped to define such an ambitious project as Black Mountain might appear unseemly—scholars often do not like to point fingers or name names—but would undoubtedly prove historically useful" (37). Of course, Martin Duberman's standard (if by default) history of the college provides a full airing of the "disputes and disagreements" that defined the college by bringing it to the brink of dissolution any number of times, but Bowles oddly never mentions it or Mary Emma Harris's 1987 book The Arts at Black Mountain College (like Katz's volume, from MIT, though now out of print) in the course of this lukewarm review.

30 August — Saturday

§ Manny Farber and Patricia Patterson | "Our Critical Precepts" (1977) | Negative Space | 2nd Ed. | New York: Da Capo, 1998 | 392

Kent Jones's preview in the current Artforum of a fall exhibit of Farber's paintings alludes to this short text that accompanied Richard Thompson's 1977 interview with Farber and Patterson for Film Comment. As a former San Diegan who used to know to the minute how long the drive to LA would take, I especially appreciate number five.

Our Critical Precepts

(1) It's primarily about language, using the precise word for Oshima's eroticism, having a push-pull relationship with both film experience and writing experience.

(2) Anonymity and coolness, which includes writing film-centered rather than self-centered criticism, distancing ourselves from the material and the people involved. With few exceptions, we don't like meeting the movie director or going to press screenings.

(3) Burrowing into the movie, which includes extending the piece, collaging a whole article with pace changes, multiple tones, getting different voices into it.

(4) Not being precious about writing. Paying strict heed to syntax and yet playing around with words and grammar to get layers and continuation.

(5) Willingness to put in a great deal of time and discomfort: long drives to see films again and again; nonstop writing sessions.

(6) Getting the edge. For instance, using the people around you, a brain like Jean-Paul Gorin's.

(7) Giving the audience some uplift.

For the pdf-patient (at least you get to look at Björk while the document loads) there's more about Farber in a February 1998 Notes to Poetry entry, archived at Arras (go to page 158).

29 August — Friday

§ The Banger Sisters | Dir. Bob Dolman, 2002 | DVD | IMDb link | See below, 24 August

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops warns: "The movie would have audiences believe that Lavinia [Sarandon] must channel the vamp within her to truly be happy. It is a superficial story which, while admirable for presenting women in their 50s as sexy and attractive, nonetheless relies on the foolish premise that only through living it up is one truly liberated. Although Lavinia remains faithful to her husband, when the two women pull out mementos from the past (Polaroids of former lovers' private parts) and light up an old joint, the story becomes more than a little off-putting."

28 August — Thursday

§ Daniel Anderson | "Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Norton Anthology May Be Bigger, But Is It Any Better?" | Harper's | September 2003 | 84-88

The editor of Howard Nemerov's Selected Poems dislikes Jahan Ramazani's new two-volume edition the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry (first brought to market with a shorter title and in a single volume by Richard Ellman and Robert O'Clair in 1973)—and not just because his guy is down to three pages out of the two thousand Ramazani has amassed. "Diminishing the presence of Wilbur, Hecht, and Nemerov is a pronounced step in trivializing not just technical expertise in poetry written today but narrative clarity too. Their shortened entries, as well as the glaring absence of their stylistic and intellectual heirs, such as Charles Martin, Mary Jo Salter, and Greg Williamson, point to a significant and lamentable imbalance in Ramazani's idea of contemporary poetry" (88). Anderson is irritated equally by poets who write clearly about personal experience—failing to "extend beyond the particular in order to address the experience of what it is to be human" (86)—and by those whose "fascination with the raw experience of language has, over time, often come to preclude more a more accessible mode of poetic thinking" (87). He approves of Li-Young Lee, Agha Shahid Ali, and Derek Walcott, while finding little to value in Cathy Song, Marilyn Chin, and Sherman Alexie. He's troubled by the legitimacy newly attached to Objectivism (Reznikoff, Niedecker, Zukofsky) and language poetry (he names Susan Howe, Hejinian, Palmer) and spots an unwarranted "tilt" toward lyricism (though to the exclusion of what he never quite says) in Ramazani's selections. Where the quality of Anderson's thinking is probably best assessed is in the crude closing attack he mounts on Michael Palmer's work ("the kind of hokum that makes poetry...largely dismissible to the general reading public"). Here as elsewhere in the piece (which reads, on the whole, much more like a Weekly Standard article than something in Harper's), one senses a seriously and purposefully narrowed mind, motivated more by anger than argument, defensively clinging to a very few elders while lashing out at a field the vastness and variety of which defies the narcissistic wish that one's own tastes would everywhere prevail. Despite some thought provoking moments, the article thus makes for depressing reading—and in that regard, it is not unlike the second volume of Ramazani's anthology. • Link to a 1998 PoetryNet member profile for Anderson here.

§ Mark Ridley | "Clues to Catastrophe" | Rev. of When Life Nearly Died by Michael J. Benton | Times Literary Supplement | 22 August 2003 | 28

In the most recent 500 million years of life on earth, as many as five catastrophes have occurred "in which the dominant life forms die out and are replaced by others." The book under review investigates one such catastrophic event, taking place 251 million years ago and wiping out something like "90 per cent of species." The cause of the catastrophe is unclear: meteors, the reviewer points out, seem unlikely, and Benton's hypothesis—mass volcanic eruption"—remains unverified. "But the Permian mass extinction could become one of science's hot topics in the next ten years. Michael Benton's book is an ideal preparation to follow the unfolding story."

27 August — Wednesday

§ Robert Ashley and Paul de Marinis | In Sara, Christ and Beethoven There Were Men and Women | Text by John Barton Wolgamot | CD | Lovely Music, 2002 | LCD 4921 | 40'54"

Very titanically.

§ Thom Holmes | "Robert Ashley: Built for Speed" | The Wire 234 | August 2003 | 26-31

"'No matter how hard Bob Dylan tried or John Lennon tried, you can't make popular music into anything but a labelling of your own experience that you never realised needed a label.' [Ashley] sits up straight and places the palms of his hands firmly on the table in front of him. 'Opera doesn't do that. Opera is supposed to present you with characters. In that sense, it is amoral. You're supposed to be able to see it because it's brought to you. That's totally different than labelling experience. You have to continually refer back to what human beings know. My job is to establish those characters'" (28).

26 August — Tuesday

§ The Son's Room (La Stanza del Figlio) | Dir. Nanni Moretti, 2001 | 99min | DVD | IMDb link

Manohla Dargis, writing in the LA Weekly, hated it: "Professionally mounted—the cast is winning, the mise en scène functional—the film portrays a family undone by grief over the death of a loved one; that, in any event, is its plot synopsis. More accurately, the film is a wallow of authorial narcissism, and a tedious, unrelenting, uninteresting wallow at that." Jim Hoberman, writing in the Voice, thought it "a movie more to be prescribed than recommended—as visually bland as a dentist's waiting room, complete with soothing Muzak and a cushion of predictable narrative rhythms." And yet I liked it.

24 August — Sunday

§ Girl | Dir. Jonathan Kahn, 1998 | 99min | DVD | IMDb link

§ Kristen Kidder | "Giving It Up: Groupies at the Crossroads of Girl and Grown-Up" | Bitch 21 | Summer 2003 | 75-79, 88

Kidder surveys books by Pamela Des Barres (I'm With the Band) and Bebe Buell (Rebel Heart) alongside the films Girl (see above), Almost Famous, and The Banger Sisters (see 29 August above). Her thesis is that "female adulthood, Hollywood-style" amounts to "a series of sacrifices that culminate in a self that is safe, self-effacing, and stereotypically successful" (79, 88). Kidder does find one consolation: "Hollywood's efforts to manipulate this rite of passage wouldn't be necessary if there weren't something that needed to be reined in. The countercultural spirit that figures so prominently in these films is still alive in many women—Des Barres and Buell are only the most visible" (88).

21 August — Thursday

§ Slavoj Zizek | "Not a desire to have him, but to be like him" | Rev. of Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson | London Review of Books 25.16 | 21 August 2003 | 13-14

"For me, the name 'Patricia Highsmith' designates a sacred territory: she is the One whose place among writers is that which Spinoza held for Gilles Deleuze (a 'Christ among philosophers')."

17 August — Sunday

§ Attention Span | Signed and Commented Lists | link

I'm sure some typos remain to be spotted (all help appreciated), but the bulk of the formatting is now done. I'll concentrate on adding links in the coming few days—if you contributed and want to be sure a particular link is included (say, in your contributor's note), please let me hear from you (

§ Brian Eno | "Lessons in How to Lie About Iraq" | 17 August 2003 | Guardian link

"Guided by the overtly imperial vision of the Project for a New American Century (whose members now form the core of the American administration), the PR companies helped finesse the language to create an atmosphere of simmering panic where American imperialism would come to seem not only acceptable but right, obvious, inevitable and even somehow kind."

16 August — Saturday

§ Amy Taubin | "In the Shadow of Memory" | Rev. of In Praise of Love by Jean-Luc Godard | Film Comment | Jan/Feb 2002 | 50-52

15 August — Friday

§ In Praise of Love / Éloge de l'amour | Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 2001 | 98min | DVD |IMDb link | Wheeler Winston Dixon article mentioned here, 1 August

"There are many things that In Praise of Love laments and a few in which it rejoices. It's been over three decades since Godard last shot a movie on the streets of Paris, and doing so seems to provide him with an elemental pleasure. Studied as they are, these unprepossessing images of the city and its inhabitants (many of them dispossessed) feel as newly minted as the earliest Lumière brothers' views; they evoke the thrill of light becoming emulsion. Much of the movie is a voluptuous urban nocturne with particular emphasis on the transitory sensations that were the essence of the first motion pictures. More specifically, the coordinates of Godard's free-ranging cinephilia are mapped by his allusions to such modest and personal statements as Robert Bresson's Pickpocket and teenage Samira Makhmalbaf's docudrama The Apple, along with the industrial simulations of The Matrix and particularly Schindler's List—which, in its totalizing re-creation of World War II and the Holocaust, serves as Godard's prime negative object" (from J. Hoberman's Village Voice review of September 2002).

§ Max Rodenbeck | "Bohemia in Baghdad" | New York Review of Books L.11 | 3 July 2003 | 20-23

"I find [Fakhri] Karim on a noisy street corner outside the hotel where he is staying, looking bemused and slightly uneasy. A former Communist, he fled the country three decades ago. He runs a publishing house in Damascus that has long been a haven for Iraq's exiled intellectuals. Now on the fringe of the furious politicking among Baghdad's myriad new parties, he has not been encouraged. Between fundamentalists intent on seizing power and Baathists determined to keep their clammy grip, and amid tensions between the 'insiders' and those coming from abroad, there seems little room for dreamy liberals of the old school" (21-22).

14 August — Thursday

§ The blackout | NYC to Toronto

"In my view we're the world's greatest superpower but we have a Third World electricity grid," [New Mexico Governor and former Secretary of Energy under Clinton Bill] Richardson said. "We have antiquated transmission lines. We have an overloaded system that has not had any new investments and we don't have mandatory reliability standards on utilities, which caused this problem" (qtd. in Larry Margasak's AP story, picked up by the Washington Post here). "After deregulation in the late 1990's, there was a burst of interest from many power companies in building new plants, but the collapse of Enron and the markets it had pioneered dried up much of the capital for such investments, and the recession curbed demand slightly. As a result, decisions on nearly all the plants proposed for New York City and surrounding areas are being delayed" (David Firestone & Richard Pérez-Peña, NYT link). The view from Basra, NYT link.

13 August — Wednesday

§ Donnie Darko | Dir. Richard Kelly, 2001 | 113min | DVD | IMDb link

"Donnie is a martyred teenager, a sacrificial victim of his own empathy with other people; that concept makes ''Donnie Darko'' insufferable. (It didn't do Natalie Wood much good in ''Splendor in the Grass,'' either.) Mr. Kelly tangos with attempted shifts in the narrative, trying to blend comedy and tragedy, but the movie is often lumpy and dolorous" (Elvis Mitchell, writing in the NYT). Though I've now discovered I don't share in it, I do recall with pleasure Never Neutral's enthusiasm for the film, recorded here.

9 August — Saturday

§ Short Cuts | Dir. Robert Altman, 1993 | VHS | 187min | IMDb link

"When future social historians want to know what the temper of life was like in one corner of America in 1993, Short Cuts will be a mother lode of information. It's also a terrific movie" (Vincent Canby, NYT link requires registration). Canby's pronouncement shades pretentious, but the film does get something about SoCal life—the relentless misogyny, the drab distribution of opportunities lived with careening energy, the preening psychic fascism of the cops, the copters, the diners, etc. Despite some "off" performances (Canby pans Jack Lemmon, I can't deal with Matthew Modine's wierd name shouting), I still feel repaid by watching this film after four or five viewings in the decade since its release.

§ Kevin Young | "The Black Psychic Hotline, or the Future of African American Writing" | Introd. to Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers | Ed. Kevin Young | New York: Perennial/HarperCollins, 2000 | 1-12

§ Poetry Forecasts | Publishers Weekly | 21 July 2003 | 188-190

Eleven volumes by ten writers: It Was Today by Andrei Codrescu (Coffee House) ; Owls and Other Fantasies by Mary Oliver (Beacon); One Kind of Faith by Gary Soto (Chronicle); The Wind, Master Cherry, The Wind by Larissa Szporluk (Alice James); Some Values of Landscape and Weather by Peter Gizzi (Wesleyan); Ecstatic in the Poison by Andrew Hudgins (Overlook); Zither & Autobiography by Leslie Scalapino (Wesleyan); Selected Poems and Then: Essays in Reconstruction by John N. Morris (both volumes from Washington University in St. Louis); Day by Kenneth Goldsmith (The Figures); and Music or Honesty by Rod Smith (Roof).

08 August — Friday

§ Sharon Theimer | "Billionaire Commits $10M to Defeat Bush" | Gaurdian Unlimited | 8 August 2003

George Soros is giving the money to a group called America Coming Together (ACT).

07 August — Thursday

§ Jorie Graham | "The Art of Poetry LXXXV" | Interview by Thomas Gardner | Paris Review 165 | Spring 2003 | 52-97 | link to online excerpt

§ Philip Gasper | "The Politics of Islam" | International Socialist Review 30| July-August 2003 | 42-49

06 August — Wednesday

§ Squawkbox tv | "No comments yet" | Suddenly everywhere

There's something poignant about that "yet."

§ Katie Terezakis | "Time Out of Joint: An Interview with Agnes Heller" | Radical Society 29.3 (2003) | 41-49

The 73-year-old Hungarian philosopher (and former protégé of Lukàcs) has written a book on Shakespeare as a philosopher of history. "Hegel, I suppose, loved Shakespeare, but he did not understand what the Shakespearean conception of tragedy is all about. In Hegel, history is about the necessary relation of contingencies. He never acknowledged the independent roles character and contingency play in history, irrespective of whether something is 'realized' or not. For Shakespeare, though, this is the point,and that is why as a historian, Shakespeare is more modern than Hegel" (48). "Maybe my character has changed too little, I'll be self-critical about this. It could be a kind of rigidity not to invent oneself again. So, I'm not an ironic person who can keep inventing herself. I simply love life, my life. That is why I sympathize with the Shakespearean heroines who absolutely feel gratitude to life, yet must deal with its situations as they are. I think this gratitude permeates all my work" (49).

§ Chris Lott | "Blogs, Time, Small Crowds" | 24 July 2003 | Ruminate

I'm late to discover this, and I'm not saying that I agree, but the ambivalence interests me: "But it seems strange to me that weblogs often seem to result in a cliquish divisiveness where I would have expected something akin to a bazaar, or at least a convention where the spirit of a broader notion of community often prevails."

§ John Leslie | "Return of the Killer Nanobots" | Rev. of Our Final Century by Martin Rees | Times Literary Supplement 5235 | 1 August 2003 | 6-7

A scientist named Martin Rees has written a book called Our Final Hour (in the US; the hour becomes a "century" in the UK release) in which he details various doomsday scenarios for earth. Dennis Overbye's 18 May 2003 review in the NYTBR mentioned, among other potential species erasers, "bioterror or bioerror," the 70,000-bombs worth of enriched uranium and plutonium left over after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the possible "creation of intelligent self-reproducing nanoparticles that could eat us and every other living thing on Earth." Some risks have already come and gone. When the first atomic bomb was to be tested, one risk was that it would ignite all the nitrogen in the atmosphere and incinerate everyone. They went ahead with it anyway. More recently, an experiment "in which atomic nuclei would be accelerated to collide at high speeds…might [have] cause[d] all the matter in the earth to collapse into exotic dense particles called 'strangelets.'" TLS reviewer John Leslie cites several additional grim scenarios (designer Ebola viruses, carbon dioxide chomping microbes on a rampage) and makes an interesting point vis-à-vis the risks scientists non-consensually expose us to: "Even a tiny probability of annihilating all intelligent life could be intolerable, given Rees's principle that the large or small scale chance of a disaster should be multiplied by the number of people who would be killed or who would never live at all—for he thinks that people stranded in the realm of mere possibility, people never born because the human race became extinct too quickly, should also count for something" (7).

§ Art Spiegelman | "In the Shadow of No Towers" | Installment of 10 June - 14 July 2003 | London Review of Books 25.15 | 7 August 2003 | 20-21

§ Robert Irwin | "Ramadan Nights" | Rev. of The Koran, trans. by N.J. Dawood | London Review of Books 25.15 | 7 August 2003 | 27-28

Irwin prefers Arthur Arberry's 1955 translation (available as an Oxford World Classic) to that of Dawood ("for my taste, rather flat"). "Though somewhat archaic, Arberry's version preserves the verse arrangement and with it some of the rhythm and rhetorical effect of the original. He stuck to the emphatic repetitions of the Arabic, whereas Dawood tends to weaken the effect by opting for elegant variation. It is in the Arberry version that the majesty and mystical power of the Koran is most fully apparent" (28).

05 August — Tuesday

§ Steve Erickson | "Interview with Kent Jones" | Senses of Cinema | May 2003 | link

"Some Westerners who've become immersed in Iranian culture think a film like The Circle is great because it deals with the plight of Iranian women in a way that other films haven't. Wait a minute! Is that the reason it's a good film, or is it a good film that deals with those issues?" | Jones on Claire Denis here

§ Drew Gardner | Notes on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance | Dir. John Ford, 1962 | Overlap

"Naive lawyer Jimmy Stewart goes west and gets his ass kicked and his lunch money stolen for being a bookworm, and then threatens the thug-based political economy of a small town with the twin forces of literacy and federalized power."

§ J. Bottum | "The Last Public Poet: Rereading Robert Lowell" | The Weekly Standard 4/11 August 2003 | 35-39 | link

The Lowell Collected again serves to awaken memories of a lost era of seriousness and responsibility (conservatives grow so wistful when they steal a meditative moment from their otherwise hectic days of busting unions, polluting the environment, and appointing ideologues to the bench): "A new poem from Lowell was an event, something to be talked about, in a way that we haven't seen since" (36). Bottum, the books and art editor at Irving Kristol's slender, low-circulation right-wing weekly, turns in a calmly ambivalent review, though the following early paragraph did make me wonder if I could persist: "Nothing except the recreation of the world itself—nothing except being God, in fact—could have satisfied the cosmic ambitions of his poetry, and it's tempting to say that he was never really serious about any of the subjects he took up in his writing. But even to begin thinking this way is to sound ridiculous, for Robert Lowell was perhaps the most serious poet America has ever known—our last poet of high seriousness, as it happens, and also our last public poet" (35). Conclusion? "Robert Lowell survives the rainbow of his own will—a little tattered, a little less important than we once thought him, but still alive, still the genuine thing" (39).

04 August 2003 — Monday

§ John Boorman | "Bright Dreams, Hard Knocks: A Journal for 1991" | Projections: A Forum for Film Makers 1 (1992) | 5-120

While in Portland to see the Fairfield Porter show, I happened upon the first issue of Projections at a used bookstore on Congress street. Boorman's journal for 1991 makes up about half of the issue and provides a candid and unusually sustained glimpse into the state of the industry circa Iraq War I. In addition to making a short autobiographical film (I Dreamt I Woke Up) and scrambling to finance and cast his next feature-length project (Broken Dream—the fate of which remains uncertain at year's end), the 58-year-old Boorman also serves as an outgoing board member at BFI, a juror at the Venice Film Festival, an eulogist for David Lean and Lee Marvin, and a careful and opinionated watcher of other people's films.

Some excerpts: "I have the movie in my head. With a lot of work and money, other people could see it too" (120). Of de Oliveira's A Divina Comédia: "the fact that everyone in the film is 'pretending' allows us to overcome the resistance we bring to every movie, the little voice in the head which says, 'You are an actor trying to be someone else. Convince me you are that person'" (95). Of Oshima: "His film about his mother's life in Kyoto was surprisingly gentle and stately, a forgiving documentary from a man who had yearned for total revolution as the only remedy for Japan's oppressive ills" (92). "With the wisdom of age, one no longer feels compelled to finish bad books or watch lousy movies through to the end, but as a jury member you cannot walk out, fall asleep or even fidget. Eyes are upon us. The rigours of this task are beginning to dawn on me" (89). "There is a limit to what a director of photography can do if the director provides him with dull set-ups" (88). Of Chen Kaige's Life on a String: "It recalls Tarkovsky in that you feel that film was invented for such a movie" (79). Marcello Mastroianni: "He said that for him acting is like making love. 'It is wonderful while you are doing it, but when it is over you forget about it, and hope that you can do it again tomorrow" (50). At an LA stag party: "A book called Iron John has swept the land with new notions of manhood. Bob belongs to a men's group which comes together once a week, sits in a circle, beats drums and honours their fathers and grandfathers, and speak from their hearts on manly matters. The stag party took that form" (46). Of Dances with Wolves: "Almost the only voice raised against it was Pauline Kael. She said it was a film made by a bland megalomaniac, that his Indian name should not have been 'Dances with Wolves' but 'Plays with Camera.' Its enormous and universal success...hastened her retirement from the New Yorker. She felt profoundly out of joint with the times" (43). On spectacular violence: "It is an outlet for frustration, it is about hate. Is is to do with the repression of savage responses. It is a release of our deep-seated secret contempt for other people. There are too many people in the world and they jostle and crowd us and we would like to kill them. [Peter] Greenaway's films are full of disgust for other people, and they touch a chord. Baudelaire said, 'When I hear laughter, I hear the roar of the wild beast.' That is what I hear in movie theatres, particularly in the United States" (28). Of Visconti's Death in Venice: "Beautiful shot succeeded beautiful shot until you wanted to scream" (19). Of Goodfellas: "The script is relentless in demonstrating that the characters are without redeeming virtue—cruel, ruthless, unforgiving, brutal. It is Scorcese at his virtuoso best. The script may deplore these people but Marty's camera caresses them, cherishes them, celebrates them, dances attendance on them like the most sycophantic fan" (8).

§ All I Wanna Do | Dir. Sarah Kernochan, 2000 | Originally released under the title Strike! in 1998 | Buena Vista | 94min | DVD | IMDb link

Andi Zeisler, writing for Bitch magazine's "pink issue" (summer 2002), called this film "a smart, resonant tribute to teen-girl tenacity." Alas, it's duller than that with its recycling of elements out of Porky's, Grease, Dead Poets Society, Little Women, Girl Interrupted and other middling films, but there are about fifteen minutes toward the end when the pace quickens and things become less than totally predictable.

§ Christopher Caldwell | "Base Anger: Why Howard Dean Is Leading the Democratic Pack" | The Weekly Standard 8.45 | 4/11 August 2003 | 15-17

"The Democratic Party is a wishbone of proletarian sloganeering and plutocratic direction that, when snapped, always leaves one side disillusioned" (15). "As for the general election, Republicans seem unaware of how riled up Democratic activists remain, even three years after the 2000 elections. A substantial segment of the party's base has been radicalized to the point where it does not recognize the legitimacy of the Bush presidency. This is a very different thing than mere dislike of a president. It means that Democrats are prepared to fight this election as if they were struggling to overthrow a tyrant. One fears that 2004 could wind up—in its rhetoric and its electoral ethics—as the the dirtiest general campaign in living memory" (17).

§ Alan Maass | "Anybody but Bush?" | International Socialist Review 30| July-August 2003 | 16-21

"Ultimately, the Democrats are not a party that represents the interests of working people. They represent big business. Whenever Corporate America's preferred choice—the Republicans—become too discredited, it can count on the Democrats, waiting in the wings with predictable and non-threatening policies" (17). "What marginal differences there are between Republican and Democratic presidents are no excuse for amnesia when it comes to the Democrats' sorry record. Anyone who is considering voting for a Democrat as the lesser evil in 2004 should think about how organized labor and mainstream liberal organizations found themselves disarmed when they fell in line behind the Clinton White House. As Robert Reich points out, if Democrats know that they have the support of those to their left safely in hand, they will always pander to the right in the search for more votes. That's why those who vote for the lesser evil usually get both the lesser and the greater evil" (21).

§ Anne Tardos | "Multilingual Writing, For Example" | 16min talk archived on Try Listen | link

03 August 2003 — Sunday

§ Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, 1907-1975 | Curated by Justin Spring | Portland Museum of Art | Through 7 September 2003 | More Porter info available on Artchive, from which the jpg below of "Iced Coffee" (not in the Portland exhibit) is also taken.

02 August 2003 — Saturday

§ Frank O'Hara | "Porter Paints a Picture" (January 1955) | Standing Still and Walking in New York | Ed. Donald Allen | San Francisco: Grey Fox, 1975 | 52-58

§ James Schuyler | "Fairfield Porter" I-IV and "An Aspect of Fairfield Porter's Paintings" (1958-1975) | Selected Art Writings | Ed. Simon Pettet | Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow, 1998 | 3-22

§ The Circle [Dayereh] | Dir. Jafar Panahi, 2000 | 90min | DVD | Sight & Sound link

From Andre Habib's April 2001 review on Hors Champ: "Le Cercle se constitue autour d'un ensemble de micro-récits, se produit à la faveur d'une série de bifurcations narratives. Les personnages n'existent que le temps de leur courte apparition, et nous n'avons que le temps de saisir un bref tracé de leur situation et de leur volonté, même floues: celles-ci ont fui la prison et tentent de regagner un paradis imaginaire; celle-là est enceinte de son fiancé, exécuté depuis, et veut obtenir un avortement; cette autre encore a trouvé refuge auprès d'un mari à qui elle a dû voiler son passé; cette mère désespérée essaie d'abandonner sa petite fille, certaine qu'un orphelinat saura mieux s'occuper d'elle; celle-là se prostitue dans les rues de Tehéran, le soir, pour se payer de quoi vivre, et caetera, et caetera. Chaque personnage prend le relai d'un autre, et nous plonge un degré plus loin dans le cynisme, l'absurdité, la cruauté et l'indifférence. Ce ne sont pourtant pas des sketchs que Panahi enchaîne mais des strophes qui éclairent et approfondissent un poème général. Nargess, Arezou, Salmaz, Pari, tous ces noms de femmes sont autant de résonnances d'un symptôme plus vaste et englobant : 'Si l'une échoue, toutes échouent', confiait le cinéaste en interview." | See also Nasrin Parvaz's account of prison life in Iran, noted here.

§ Edmund White | "More History, Less Nature: The New Historical Novel" | Times Literary Supplement 5234 | 25 July 2003 | 11-13

The historical novelist—a role into which White has eased for his Fanny: A Fiction—undertakes an "archaeology of feeling" the results of which must not be narrowed to fit contemporary mores.

§ Edmund White | Our Paris: Sketches from Memory | Drawings by Hubert Sorin | New York: HarperCollins/Ecco, 1995 | 143pp

Sorin and White collaborated on this brief and desperately charming volume as a way to divert their minds from the suffering that AIDS was inflicting on Sorin in the final year or so of his life. White deliberately keeps the tone light and the focus on the "chattable" elements of everyday life: the basset hound they love, their throwback concierge, the gossip picked up at this or that dinner party. Sorin's sketches distinctively illuminate the prose just as the prose zeroes in and comments on elements of the sketches. From White's afterword: "The subtitle alludes to Hubert's earlier Mémoires dessinées and to something he once said about his method. I'd suggested he sketch from life or from photos, but he shot back with the speed and clarity of conviction that he worked exclusively from memory and had no interest in letting reality sit for him if it was unmediated by his fantasy" (139).

01 August 2003 — Friday

§ Fredric Jameson | "The End of Temporality" | Critical Inquiry 29.4 (Summer 2003) | 695-718

"What could not be mapped cognitively in the world of modernism now slowly brightens into the very circuits of the new transnational cybernetic. Instant information transfers suddenly suppress the space that held the colony apart from the metropolis in the modern period. Meanwhile, the economic interdependence of the world system today means that wherever one may find oneself on the globe, the position can henceforth always be coordinated with its other spaces. This kind of epistemological transparency no doubt goes hand in hand with standardization and has often been characterized as the Americanization of the world (if not its Disneyfication). The attribution is not misleadingly incorrect but omits the way in which the new system also transmits oppositional tendencies and their messages, such as the ecological movement; paradoxically, like the anti-globalization movement itself, these are political developments predicated on the damage done by globalization at the same time that they are themselves enabled by it" (701). • "[W]e have been throughout evoking a historical tendency, but a tendency is by definition never fully reached or it would already have folded back into actuality itself. Let's follow the psychoanalytic model even further; the tendency also summons up complex patterns of resistance, such that what we are forced to observe in the form of its symptoms are precisely those patterns and not the unknowable tendency itself. This is what we are obliged to posit here: the historical tendency of late capitalism—what we have called the reduction to the present and the reduction to the body—is in any case unrealizable; human beings cannot revert to the immediacy of the animal kingdom (assuming indeed the animals themselves enjoy such phenomenological immediacy). There is a resistance to this pressure, which I hesitate to call natural for political as well as philosophical reasons, for the identification of such a tendency and the organization of resistance to it are not matters to be entrusted to any confidence in humanist reflexes" (717).

§ Now | 1 August 2003 | PBS | link

An hour devoted to the military-industrial-Congressional complex in 2003: "spending other people's money, spilling other people's blood" (as longtime Pentagon insider and critic Chuck Spinney puts it in his interview with Moyers).

§ Wheeler Winston Dixon | "In Praise of Godard's In Praise of Love" | Film Criticism 27.3 | Spring 2003 | 18-39

"Agnes Varda's Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse (2000), a film that chronicles with a handheld digital camera the underside of French society, as well as Varda's own intimations of mortality, seems far more connected to its subject than Godard's newest work. Certainly, the two films have different objectives: Varda's film celebrates the art of surviving on nothing, whether in the countryside or in Paris, and radiates optimism throughout its running time. In Praise of Love is cut off from the spectacle it witnesses, rigorously composed, and broken into brief bits of images, interspersed with long sections of black leader. When once Godard's camera stared unflinchingly at its subjects (as in the "Miss Nineteen" interview in Masculin/Feminine, or the garbage truck coda in Week End), now Godard offers us mere glimpses of his actors, their settings, and their actions, suggesting that their motivations are unclear, or impossible to derive, and their presence is ephemeral" (21-22). "Godard's dislike of Steven Spielberg is genuine and deeply felt; indeed, one might well argue that In Praise of Love is, at one level, a detailed critique of the moral impulse behind the creation of Spielberg's Schindler's List" (28).

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