Doc is seventy-nine, blind, and about the best flat-picker there is. He plays rockabilly, Appalachian folk, blues, gospel, country, and bluegrass. Old-time, Janx Spirit kind of music. He is amazing. But don't take my word for it.
"Only twice in my life have I witnessed history. I’ve seen one of America’s musical wonders in concert twice. His name is Doc Watson. One day I’ll tell my grandchildren that I saw him play. I’ll tell them how out of the mountains of Western North Carolina came a blind guitar picker who could stop a riot by playing a couple of choruses of Black Mountain Rag.
I find myself, like many reviewers, emphasizing Doc's guitar playing while failing to spend the time to extol the warm baritone voice that God blessed him with. This is by no means an instrumental album. The vocals are as sweet as sugar.
I play this album compulsively over and over again. I know every chorus. When I hear a version of one of these songs by another artist it somehow seems profane, like looking at a paint-by-number version of a Van Gogh." (amerpie, on epinions)
I caught Doc at The Bottom Line last summer. Like american pie says, he is amazing. At 79, he can't stand for a whole show, so he has a chair put up on stage and he sits. He sits, and he looks out into the audience that he can't see, and he plays like the house is on fire and the only thing keeping the flames at bay is the speed of his picking.
I used to like Jackie Mason, because he's funny. I even have one of his comedy tapes somewhere here in the Manse. But now I am saddened to learn that Jackie Mason is a bigot.
Ray Hanania, a comedian scheduled to open for Jewish comic Jackie Mason, was told hours before the show he couldn't perform because he is Palestinian, Mason's manager said.
"It's not exactly like he's just an Arab-American. This guy's a Palestinian," said Jyll Rosenfeld.
"Nothing personal against this fellow," Rosenfeld said. "Jackie doesn't even know him." (more)
There you are, ladies and gentleman. The man isn't just an Arab-American, he's a Palestinian. My God!
Mason's manager goes out of her way to point out that they made the decision purely on the basis of Hanania's ethnicity. Racism is apparently a defense now. Of course, right after this, Rosenfeld says, "Don't turn this into a racist issue, because it's not." How do you figure that one?
In fact, Rosenfeld named Mason explicitly when explaining the decision to cancel Hanania's performance. "Jackie does not feel comfortable having a Palestinian open for him," she said. "Right now it's a very sensitive thing."
It was indeed sensitive. Zanie's -- the club where Mason and Hanania were to perform -- had received threatening phone calls complaining about a Jew and a Palestinian appearing on the same stage. Jyll Rosenfeld and Zanie's general manager Linda Moses apparently decided that it was easier to give in to racist pressure than to stand up for what's right. This was probably an easy choice for them, since Mason himself was uncomfortable with Hanania's ethnicity.
Defending himself to reporters, Mason denied Hanania's implication that he was involved in the cancellation. The statements of Mason's wife make this hard to credit, but even if it's true, Mason should be chastised for not doing anything to stop the cancellation.
Referring to Hanania, Mason said that he had "no problem with the fact that he's Palestinian." Fine. Then Mason's voice should've been the loudest raised in condemnation of Hanania's firing. How different the press would've been then. How wonderful.
Instead, Mason and company embarrassed themselves further by changing their story after the controversy over Rosenfeld's initial statements erupted. They claimed that Hanania's inexperience was the reason he was cancelled. This seems odd, since Hanania's level of experience was no obstacle to his getting hired in the first place. Did he grow less experienced as opening night drew nearer?
It seems that what really happened is that three Jewish people felt it was OK to discriminate against a Palestinian person because his ethnicity made them uncomfortable.
In a statement about his blacklisting by Mason, he writes: "I began this comedy career less than 9 months ago because I believed that we need to do something different to break the headlock of hatred that has grasped Palestinians and Jews. Comedy can work (in a comedy setting, of course and with those who come to comedy clubs to hear the humor)."
Zanie's, Mason, and Rosenfeld later claimed that Hanania's promotion of the show was the reason he was fired. He had apparently orchestrated a publicity push for his appearance with Mason, and highlighted the fact that a Palestinian and a Jew would be bringing comedy to audiences on the same stage. Given Hanania's avowed purpose for getting into comedy in the first place, this is completely understandable. Indeed, it is laudable. It's hard to see an angle where such publicity justifies the cancellation of Hanania's performance, but that is what Mason and company want us to believe.
Hanania may end up getting more publicity now than he would have if Zanie's had let him perform, but he did not ask to be cancelled. Thanks to Mason and company, we are reading about racism when we could've been laughing in its face.
Hanania ends his statement about the cancellation like this: "Instead of pushing people apart, Jackie Mason should work to bring people together." Now, there's a voice that clearly deserves to be silenced. Mason and Rosenfeld ought to be ashamed of themselves.
Jane Galt is hosting a fascinating discussion of communism's effect on Russia. A friend of Jane's claimed that Russia's per-capita GDP in 1916 was actually greater than in 1989. This is a dramatic claim even assuming a larger population to divide the GDP among.
What's interesting is how the U.S. and Russia compared in 1916. According to Robert Speirs, a commenter on Jane's site, "pre-Revolution Tsarist Russia was in a "takeoff" stage where the developed parts of the economy had advanced tremendously."
Another commenter tells a similar story: "Russia in 1916 was industrializing at an accelerating rate, and foreign capital was providing an impetus. And remember Herbert Hoover 'feeding the starving Armenians'? He did so via shipments of grain purchased from Ukraine, which had for a long period been a grain exporter. It never was again after the glorious Revolution."
Imagine two countries, nearly equal, now so vastly different, all because of an idea.
I first heard of OnePotMeal because of his parody of Operation TIPS. About a month ago, Steve Himmer, who writes OnePotMeal, put up a post on the moral dilemma of war. He writes from the perspective of a civilian wrestling with his relationship to a military that he wishes to both honor and protest against.
It's not beautiful writing, but beautiful thinking. Because of that, it isn't actually amenable to quotation. You'll be doing yourself a disservice if you don't read it.
I have been thinking a lot about the kinds of writing that one finds in public media on the subject of politics. What bothers me is that so little of it leaves room for doubt. As a reader, I trust writers who struggle with complex issues, because that struggle implies a consideration of both sides. When the answers are too pat, you have to wonder if any thoughtful questioning occurred.
Modes of thinking and writing perpetuate themselves. A thoughtful essay provokes thoughtful responses. A partisan essay provokes a partisan response. All of this makes Steve Himmer's reflection on soldiers and objectors something valuable and precious.
Nick's argument, which Glenn Reynolds was quick to laud (!) is that "the US needs to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime mainly because the West needs to humiliate the Arab world, and dispel the Islamic millennial fantasy."
In a long entry that begins with reason and ends somewhere closer to perversion, Nick makes the case for war as a tool of social reform.
The Islamic world -- mainly the Arab Islamic world -- needs to realize that it has failed. Medieval Islam cannot compete with liberal capitalism either economically or culturally. Unfortunately, that message has taken several hundred years to filter through. There is nothing like cataclysmic military defeat to teach the lesson more rapidly.
Inhabitants of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries must realize that medieval Islam and strongman dictatorships are bankrupt. Arab political systems have held back progress, and even the Islamic traditionalists who deny those Western notions of progress will have to accept the objective measure of military accomplishment. Let the US send 40,000 soldiers against an Iraqi army ten times the size; let the defeat be total; and let Arab people realize that liberal democracy isn't just a soft western indulgence, but the most effective form of social organization on this planet, and it is their future, if they want a future. (more)
Most hawks argue that war is necessary because Saddam Hussein represents a threat to American security. They at least attempt to provide evidence of the danger posed by Iraq. Implicitly, these hawks argue from the premise that a just war is only undertaken in self-defense. They may favor pre-emptive action, but the motive for action is rooted in the perception of a threat.
There are counters to the hawkish arguments -- but a nation that went to war believing that it was responding to a threat is still a moral nation, even if the belief is mistaken and the actual war results in tragedy. Such is the stuff of great films and novels, and horrible realities.
Nick Denton's proposal is so startling because it begins by tossing such considerations aside as "miss[ing] the point."
"The debate over war with Iraq needs to be recast. So far, justification for the war has fallen into three categories: retribution, pre-emption, and geo-strategy. All miss the point."
While others focus on whether or not Saddam Hussein has connections to al Qaeda, whether or not Iraq is a danger to America and whether pre-emptive action would be a proper response should a threat exist, Denton dismisses the entire debate as secondary. "There's a much more basic reason to crush Saddam Hussein's regime," Denton writes. And that reason is to teach the Arab world a lesson. A war should "mainly" be about humiliating the Arabs, not defending Americans.
This is my interpretation of Denton's argument, expressed as a simple logical chain:
Military defeat of Iraq -----> humiliation of the Arab Muslim world -----> adoption of capitalism, science, and liberal democracy -----> a better life for the Arabs
Denton's rationale is that military humiliation will benefit the Arabs.
Of the three links in his argument chain, I do not dispute the last. Capitalism beats a planned economy in my book, science beats superstition, and democracy (while flawed) beats autocracy. These are ingredients for a better life.
Denton's other two links are remarkably tenuous.
Nick presumes that defeating Iraq would sufficiently humiliate the Arabs, but would it? Iraq was roundly defeated once before, just ten years ago, and yet the Arabs doggedly refuse to give up their dignity. Why should the Arab world care if Iraq is defeated again?
Nick also presumes that humiliated Arabs would change their ways and become liberal, democratic capitalists. But would they? Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq were all beaten by Israel in 1948, yet no wave of liberal democracy swept across the Middle East. Consider Germany after the first World War, or the Palestinians for the last few decades. Did humiliation change these cultures in ways that outsiders wanted them changed?
The Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are certainly candidates for Most Humiliated People in the World, and the result of Israel's oppression is the suicide bomber. Everywhere one looks in the Middle East the Arabs are humiliated, and the consequence is discord. Why should we think that the war Denton envisions will have a different outcome?
"Possibly I'm just projecting from my own personal experience of the world, but I've never found that humiliating others helps me get anywhere in the long run, nor have I found that being humiliated made me inclined to admit defeat or accept the agenda my humiliator wanted to foist on me."
The burden is certainly on Nick to demonstrate that his proposed method of modernizing the Arab world will actually work, and that the benefits will outweigh the costs. Given the drastic nature of his chosen tool -- war -- that burden should be high indeed. And Denton has failed to meet it.
As an example, Nick points to the Ottoman Turks. Turkey "only began to pay attention to Western science and organization after its first serious military defeats at the hands of Austria and Russia in the 17th and 18th centuries." Of course, the fallout from the West's division of the Turkish Empire led directly to World War I, indirectly to the recent series of wars in Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina are former Ottoman provinces), and -- again directly -- to the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.
In exchange for all of the deaths in these conflicts, we supposedly got the Ottomans to begin paying attention to Western science. So that was worth it.
These same Ottomans, theoretically liberalized after their 17th and 18th century defeats, went on in the 20th century to massacre over a million Armenians in the first modern genocide. Today, while maintaining a parliamentary democracy, Turks oppress the Kurdish minority within their borders and the Cypriots without. Forty percent of the population remains employed in traditional agriculture. Turkey's neighbor Iran is similar -- defeated by Russia and Britain in the 19th century, it is now far from scientific or liberal or modern.
Confronted with evidence that the defeats and humiliations of the past have not produced the sort of Arabs or Muslims that he wants, Nick Denton retorts with the typical cry of the failed utopian: his ideas were never properly implemented. If they had been, then the dream of a liberal Arab Muslim world would be a reality. As with the communists, proper implementation of Denton's idea is a frightening concept, one that he clarifies himself in a response to Bruce Baugh:
"While total military defeat has changed countries for the better, a partial victory would be the worst of all worlds. The most dangerous enemy is one humbled, but still capable of retaliation. It's all or nothing: if the US is to invade Iraq, let it do so without hesitation, and with confidence in complete victory."
Replying to Dave Winer's critique, Denton drives the point home, writing that "the Arab world has long felt humiliated, it's already dangerous. If you are going to defeat your enemy, do so conclusively."
For Nick Denton, the only problem is that we actually left some Arabs capable of retaliating. We did not go far enough for Nick (there's that utopianism again). However, we already have reason to doubt that a war on Iraq alone would be sufficient to humble the entire Arab Muslim world. Now the appropriate question for Denton becomes, "When does defeat become total?" How will we know when we have sufficiently, conclusively humiliated the Arabs?
Luckily, just two posts later -- before we can get into tiresome arguments about slippery slopes -- Denton shares the following quote from reader Christophe Kotowski [emphasis mine]:
"If you really want to humiliate, then you'd have to do it in a grand, total, undeniable and very bloody scale: Iraq + Syria + Iran + Saudi Arabia + Gulf States + others? It's not just about winning; it's about inflicting a boundless defeat that all people can relate to - death and destruction must reach every corner of society."
Denton says absolutely nothing to moderate Kotowski's bloodthirst or to imply that he disagrees with it. We've gone from debates about whether it is proper to start a war to hearing arguments that suggest it may never be appropriate to stop. We avoided that slippery slope altogether and just started right at the bottom.
Luckily, we won't have time to feel guilty -- right after death and destruction reach every corner of Arab society they'll rush to institute liberal democracies all over what's left of their countries, and we'll be too busy supervising free and fair elections to worry about self-reproach.
But forget the likelihood of this utopia's occurence for a moment. Forget efficacy, forget the cost-benefit analysis. Yes, Nick's dream of violently culture-jamming the Middle East is misguided, bigoted, impractical, and unlikely to produce the ostensibly desired results. But so was the welfare system. Nick Denton isn't talking about paying people to stay unmarried and unemployed, he's talking about snuffing the life out of so many human beings that their deaths will cause everyone who even speaks the same language to bow down and beg for mercy. He's talking about doing this to bring them kicking and screaming into "their future, if they want a future."
The notion that another people needs to be attacked 'for their own good' is so backwards that I can hardly believe I'm reading it on a computer screen. This idea should've died with British colonialism and American slavery, but Nick has dusted off two-centuries-old morality and brought it into the information age.
Sure, Denton uses modern language like "capitalism" and "liberal democracy," but these are decorative. They are variables in an old equation and can be switched in and out to suit the times. The computation is the same: the end justifies the means. And the end has hardly changed. We are still civilizing savages, but now their uplift doesn't involve Christianization or allegiance to the Queen; it involves liberal democracy. Just as before, the would-be dominators try to convince us that it is necessary to apply a firm hand to the benefit of a shiftless character.
People usualy talk about ends justifying means when the means are ugly and malevolent and no good person could accept them without shame.
Why do Muslims and Arabs deserve this? Why does the West need to humiliate the Arabs? What do we care if they believe in a "medieval" religion and are subject to bankrupt dictatorships? In responding to Bruce Baugh, Denton revealed the fears that are the true drivers of his modest proposal. War should only be undertaken if the U.S. has the will to achieve an absolute and total victory, Denton tells us:
"Otherwise better to listen to the pragmatic isolationists, stay home, and hope that Arab rage burns itself out. Or wait until New York is attacked again, and the mandate for war is clear."
Like the traditional Iraq hawks, Denton does perceive a threat. But there the similarities end. Most hawks are worried about danger from a specific source: Saddam Hussein, his chemical and biological weapons, and the potential he has to obtain nuclear weapons. Denton, on the other hand, refuses to link the threat he is worried about -- another attack on New York -- with a specific source. There is a danger, but no identifiable origin for that danger.
In the post that started all this, Denton explicitly makes the point that "no convincing evidence of Iraqi involvement [in the September 11th attacks] has been made public. Better to leave that rationale on the cutting-room floor."
By refusing to identify a source for the threat he fears, Denton can point his finger at the entire Arab Islamic world, and then justify an aggressive war against them. But Denton is ignoring the fact that we know who perpetrated the September 11th attacks.
Nick wants to link a generalized "Arab rage" with al Qaeda's attacks, and he then promotes the forceful defeat of Iraq as the way to extinguish that rage. It seems superfluous to have to respond that al Qaeda do not represent most Arabs. Denton's arguments conflate Bin Laden and his terrorists with the Arabs as a whole.
If New York is attacked again, it will be the radical terrorist, not the average man, who is responsible. Denton wants to obliterate this distinction. He seems happy to let the common people be the ones to suffer for al Qaeda's crimes; and not just to let them suffer but to deliver their pain himself. Again, it seems superfluous to have to respond that it is morally abhorrent to wage war on millions of innocents because of the acts of a few.
If Denton wants to argue that most of Arab society is indeed complicit in al Qaeda's terrorism, then he needs to make this case explicitly and carefully, or at least link to someone who does. Ignoring the need to prove this point means we are indifferent to the death of innocents -- we are happy to kill the Arabs whether or not they did us any harm. That kind of thinking makes us look a lot like the evil that we're trying to defeat.
What connection does Denton make between your average Arab and the terrorist attacks? He identifies "strongman dictatorships" and "medieval Islam" as threats to the U.S., and implicitly blames the Arabs for supporting them. Presumably with a straight face, Denton writes that the Arab people need to "realize that liberal democracy isn't a soft western indulgence."
I wonder what does Nick think U.S. arms and money do in the Middle East? It is we who perpetuate a theocratic dictatorship in Saudi Arabia; it is we who supported Iraq's dictator for years, and who still support Mubarak's autocracy in Egypt. Where we support liberal democracy, as in Israel, we also supply the money and military hardware used to oppress a civilian population.
Do the Arabs deserve to be attacked for being on different sides of these issues than we are? Are we even on the right side ourselves?
Nick Denton blames Arabs for supporting regimes that oppress them and also, in the same breath, for condemning the super-power that enables that oppression. Which is it? Do we hate them for supporting dictators or do we hate them for their "rage" against imperialism? Denton seems happy to have it both ways and the irony is amazing. "Stop hating imperialism or we'll destroy you!"
There is no doubt that popular Arab sentiment runs against the United States, but this is a far cry from demonstrating that most Arabs supported the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people on September 11th.
Arabs of good conscience who oppose U.S. policies in the Middle East are not all filled with a "rage" that must "burn itself out." Europeans and some Americans oppose these same policies without anyone subtly implying that they are angry, irrational fanatics. Denton ought to consider the possibility that even if the U.S. policies are right it is still plausible that reasonable people will disagree. The Arabs may have access to different facts, they may draw different conclusions or set different priorities. Yes, they may even be mistaken. Their disagreement with us may have justifiable grounds and need in no way signify a support for terrorism.
We have a real enemy. It's name is al Qaeda. This nation has a duty to retaliate against al Qaeda's murder of innocents. That duty is a result of our dedication to the good, and the cornerstone of that morality must be the protection of innocents. If we fail to make distinctions between the guilty and the innocent, then we have no ethical basis for our actions.
Denton fails to make that distinction. His plan is not retaliation, as he himself admits. That makes it aggression, and the fact that he can support such an aggression is dismaying. Eric Mauro has tried to explain Nick's blind spot to him:
You just don't get it. Holocausts come when those in power decide that they ought to kill those under them for their own good. That the Arabs are not developed enough to understand what's good for them, and a war will fix that. They will not be humiliated into their senses. They will resist again and again, more violently each time, and you will hit back, as if just a little more humiliation will do the trick.
It's not that the Arabs will make a holocaust, it's that we will do it, because by adopting this idea, our humanity is going out the window. There's a reason they call it "humanism", it's because it's supposed to apply to all humans. By segregating Arabs this way, by determining them culturally unable to process secular humanism without getting bombed to their senses, you're the one committing the holocaust.
Nick deserves credit for linking to a number of other bloggers'criticisms of his post (though he left out Istanblog's twoposts). But that's all he deserves credit for with regards to this subject. Because we are talking about killing people. That's what a "cataclysmic military defeat" does. That's what engenders humiliation: death.
The notion that the entire Arab world needs to be defeated in war in order for the U.S. to remain secure is ridiculous. The notion that this needs to happen regardless of U.S. security -- that it needs to happen in order to introduce the Arabs to science and democracy -- is ludicrous and barely credible as an argument. What Denton's suggestion comes down to is death and destruction for its own sake. This is a disgusting project, one that deserves to be called by its right name: murder.
Weblogger Nick Denton today proposed a solution to divisive racial issues in the United States: the re-institution of slavery. "Whites need to humiliate Black society and dispel their egalitarian fantasy," Denton told reporters at a press conference promoting his Humiliation is Education plan.
"Black people need to realize that they have failed. Welfare babies raised by unwed mothers cannot compete with rich White kids educated in private school, either economically or culturally. Unfortunately, that message has taken one hundred and fifty years to sink in. There's nothing like the re-introduction of slavery to teach the lesson more rapidly."
Popular commentator Glenn Reynolds praised the Denton plan. "He's right," Reynolds said in a prepared statement, "it's just politically incorrect to say it."
Back in May, c|net ran the headline Bertelsmann to buy Napster for a song. Under the deal, according to c|net, the German media conglomerate "will pay $8 million to Napster's creditors to acquire the company's assets."
Eight million is nothing to Bertelsmann, which has already sunk ten times this amount into Napster. And it is apparently nothing to Napster's other creditors, who are looking for an alternative to Bertelsmann's bid, and asking for a minimum offer of $25 million.
Because Napster has filed for bankruptcy, its sale is governed by bankruptcy laws, and rules established by the court. These rules are designed to ensure that creditors recover as much as possible, within a given hierarchy of priority. Secured creditors -- people who loaned Napster money and had that loan secured by Napster's assets, the way a mortgage is secured by the house itself -- rank first. Unsecured creditors come second, which often means they get little or nothing.
In hopes of getting more of their money back, Napster's unsecured creditors have put together a 14-page Executive Memorandum that seeks to attract buyers for the company.
And I have it.
You can see the entire document in PDF format here.
According to the fine print, the solicitation "is being conducted by the [Official] Committee [of Unsecured Creditors] and not by or in conjunction with the company," and the memorandum "is solely for the use of industry and/or institutional investors who are qualified to make their own investment decisions based upon independent analysis."
Luckily, the "document is NOT CONFIDENTIAL and therefore can be sent freely to any prospective bidder." In fact, none of the memo's details are secret, though they'd require some legwork to collect. "This Executive Memorandum is based solely upon publicly-available information and data regarding the Company including pleadings filed in the Company's chapter 11 bankruptcy cases."
The deadline for submitting a bid was yesterday (yes, I've been lax in my posting). If anyone came forward with an alternative to Bertelsmann's offer, the news should hit the press soon.
The clear intent of the memo was to convince someone that Napster was worth salvaging, and that a business could be built distributing music on the internet. I tend to believe that the latter is true, though I have serious doubts about the former. You can read the memo and make up your own mind.
I just want to say "thank you" to Jim Henley, Leonard Dickens, and Jer Olson, all of whom have said nice things about Objectionable Content, or in Jim's case, quoted me at length and sympathetically with regards to my take on a war against Iraq.
Each of these gentlemen has a damn fine blog even in those moments when their writing has nothing to do with me. One day, we may form Voltron.
PS: When you get to Jer's blog, hit PageDown (after you finish reading the post I link to).
Almost everyone I know who has ever read and loved Bloom's book has hated this passage and the section it is a part of:
Rock music provides premature ecstasy and, in this respect, is like the drugs with which it is allied. It artificially induces the exaltation naturally attached to the completion of the greatest endeavors--victory in a just war, consummated love, artistic creation, religious devotion and discovery of the truth. Without effort, without talent, without virtue, without exercise of the faculties, anyone and everyone is accorded the equal right to the enjoyment of their fruits.
It's almost Randian. "One must never seek or grant the unearned or undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit" the lady used to say. And it's persuasive, isn't it?
Jim Henley is looking for songs that prove Bloom wrong, but he seems to give in to Bloom's argument from the get-go. Jim H's point is, I think, to show that listeners do sometimes earn the pleasure they receive from music; and he wants to prove this point by identifying songs that convey a meaning. Songs that are intellectually or emotionally deep do more than hand their listeners a shortcut to ecstasy. They teach. And wouldn't Bloom, who wrote a book about the life of the mind, appreciate this?
I don't know. Maybe. Bloom didn't indict all music, just rock, so he must've thought Mozart was redeeming. I haven't read the book in more than ten years and can't remember where and why he drew the distinction--but leave that aside.
What about the other songs? What about "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun?" and "Come on Eileen?" What about "Mississippi Queen?" These songs can't be saved with intellectual virtue.
How do you redeem "Travelling Riverside Blues," a song whose lyrics include the words "squeeze my lemon til the juice runs down my leg," and if you don't know what he's talking about, they go on, "I wonder if you know what I'm talkin' about." I want someone to defent that. Defend the instant ecstasy of the slide guitar.
I know what Allan Bloom would say.
The Needle and the Damage Done Allan says that rock is lies.
It fools you when it satisfies.
What did you do to deserve that thrill?
Some act of virtue? A triumph of will?
No, man. You just pop that pill.
The needle and the record touch,
and contact always brings a rush;
you turn the dial, and that stereo sound begins to fill
your head with glories, stars--
But show me your scars.
Good men earn the joy they get,
While ravers just run up a debt
that they don't have the werewithal
to pay--and then they try to stall:
"Say, how about another fix?"
One more before the payment's due.
It's true. They cheat the universe.
But the world won't fall for that old trick.
We'll teach you hippies a work ethic;
stop the dances, the drums, all that black magic.
We'll make you shape up--quick!
Talent is the price of happiness.
Or at least hardship, work, endeavors grand
and perilous. Achievement! Adversity.
According to a study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a 4.5 billion year-old meteorite believed to have come from Mars has been shown to contain materials that "require the intervention of biology to explain their presence."
Specifically, scientists believe that magnetite crystals found in the meteorite could only have been produced by bacteria. No living bacteria have been found, nor do the researchers believe that life currently exists on Mars – but the crystals in the meteorite are the strongest indirect evidence in history that life did exist on other worlds.
Given the careful style of most scientific writing, the study's opening and its conclusion reflect the magnitude of the discovery:
Evidence of biogenic activity on Mars has profound scientific implications for our understanding of the origin of life on Earth and the presence and diversity of life within the Cosmos.
Perhaps the most profound implication of this study is that approximately one-quarter of the magnetite crystals embedded in the carbonate assemblages in Martian meteorite ALH84001 require the intervention of biology to explain their presence. No single inorganic process or sequence of inorganic processes, however complex, is known that can explain the full distribution of magnetites observed in ALH84001 carbonates. Under these circumstances, our best working hypothesis is that early Mars supported the evolution of Martian biota that had several traits (e.g., truncated hexa-octahedral magnetite and magnetotaxis) consistent with the traits of contemporary magnetotactic
bacteria on Earth.
The entire study, Magnetofossils from Ancient Mars: a Robust Biosignature in the Martian Meteorite ALH84001 is available in PDF.
Images of the biogenic-looking features of the meteorite are available at the JSC's web site.
Paul Krugman's column in the Times yesterday was titled The Memory Hole. Number 13 on Daypop's Top 40 today is a site called The Memory Hole. It has a noble goal, "to preserve and spread material that is in danger of being lost, is hard to find, or is not widely known," with an emphasis "on material that exposes things that we're not supposed to know (or that we're supposed to forget)." Kudos to Russ Kick, its creator.
But there is one and only one original Memory Hole. That site, run by gnomes that include Alan Koontz, has been around since 1999. I mentioned it here back in January, scooping Daypop and everyone else by eight months and counting (oh, you're so great Jim!). The original TMH has a noble goal, and they had it first: "We are engaged in a publishing project intended to make accessible certain materials otherwise generally unavailable owing to the political squeamishness of the American public, vide Theodore Roosevelt."
“...When compared with the suppression of anarchy every other question sinks into insignificance. The anarchist is the enemy of humanity, the enemy of all mankind, and his is a deeper degree of criminality than any other. No immigrant is allowed to come to our shores if he is an anarchist; and no paper published here or abroad should be permitted circulation in this country if it propagates anarchist opinions.”
In addition to sending a good natured "screw you Teddy" in old TR's direction, the original Memory Hole gives credit for its name where that credit is due, to Orwell:
This site is, of course, named after a document disposal system described in George Orwell's famous novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. The candidates for this system were generally documents whose continued existence would very likely undermine the legitimacy of the State. For the sake of preserving that all-important legitimacy the inevitable fate of these documents was incineration. They were erased from living memory through a highly bureaucratised system of bookburning.
There is a trove of great stuff at TMH, everything from the complete text of Étienne de La Boétie's sixteenth century essay, The Politics of Obedience, to all of Lysander Spooner's No Treason (after which a certain Unobjectionable blog is named).
As you may have figured, the original Memory Hole emphasizes historical writing, with a focus on philosophy as opposed to politics. There are sections on Anarchism and Feminism, Civilian-Based Defense, Austrian Economics, Philosophical Egoism, Education, and other topics in vogue with post-Objectivist types. The new Memory Hole emphasizes current events, putting news over philosophy.
Bloggers will find more link material at the new Memory Hole, but you'll find the idea of freedom at the original.
Update: Both Tom McAlister and Zem point me to Cryptome, whose creator, John Young, has been archiving liberty-related material since 1996 (though his site design isn't as clear or usable as it could be).
Itzak Frankenthal's son, a soldier in the IDF, was murdered by Palestinians in 1994. In 2000, Frankenthal formed the Bereaved Families Forum, a group of nearly 200 Israeli and 140 Palestinian parents whose children were killed in the conflict. According to Frankenthal, "When I was in mourning, my friends said Arik's death proved we were dealing with enemies and there is no chance to make peace. But I told them Arik was killed because no one had done what was necessary to make peace."
A recent [as of Jan 2000] public survey found that 80 percent of the ultra-Orthodox and the national-religious public see peace as dangerous to the integrity of the Land of Israel; 50 percent are opposed to any compromise giving back land; 30 percent put the authority of rabbis above the rule of law; and 68 percent say Arabs do not deserve equal rights.
Fundamentalism is probably more widespread among Palestinians than Israelis, but Leah Rabin, the widow of slain Israeli PM Yitzakh Rabin, paints a familiar picture of evils one would not expect to find in Israel – one of clerics inciting fundamentalists to terrorism.
"The man who murdered my husband was a religious Jew incited by a rabbi," Mrs. Rabin says. "He believed the prime minister had no right to live because he was returning Judea and Samaria, and land is holier than the life of the prime minister."
The real problem is not sporadic acts of violence, but systematic ones. More from CS Monitor:
"Right-wing people say to me, 'Yitzhak, you are our greatest enemy because you are religious and talk our language, yet you are ready to make peace.... Why are you in a hurry? We've got time,' " Frankenthal says.
"They want time because they believe that with time, the settlements will be 200,000, half a million, and then you can't do anything. I say, 'How many kids do you want to lose to have more time - a hundred? a thousand?'"
While the notion is taboo here, it is openly discussed in Israel: delaying a final settlement is in the interest of those Israelis who wish to retain Gaza and the West Bank. These people are against peace. What they want is a quiet without justice.
On July 27th, shortly after the IAF dropped the bomb that killed Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh, and 9 Palestinian children, and 4 innocent adults, Frankenthal spoke at a rally in Israel. His speech is available at the Courage to Refuse web site. Like the IDF reservists who will not serve in Palestine, Frankenthal's dissident voice is a minority in Israel, but it is one that I feel is worthy of amplification. I reproduce his words in full below.
Speech by Itzhak Frankenthal, Chairman of the Israeli-Palestinian Parents' Circle, at a Rally on July 27, 2002
My beloved son Arik, my own flesh and blood, was murdered by Palestinians. My tall blue-eyed golden-haired son who was always smiling with the innocence of a child and the understanding of an adult. My son.
If to hit his killers, innocent Palestinian children and other civilians would have to be killed, I would ask the security forces to wait for another opportunity. If the security forces were to kill innocent Palestinians as well, I would tell them they were no better than my son’s killers.
My beloved son Arik was murdered by a Palestinian. Should the security forces have information of this murderer’s whereabouts, and should it turn out that he was surrounded by innocent children and other Palestinian civilians, then – even if the security forces knew that the killer was planning another murderous attack that was to be launched within hours and they now had the choice of curbing a terror attack that would kill innocent Israeli civilians but at the cost of hitting innocent Palestinians, I would tell the security forces not to seek revenge but to try to avoid and prevent the death of innocent civilians, be they Israelis or Palestinians.
I would rather have the finger that pushes the trigger or the button that drops the bomb tremble before it kills my son’s murderer, than for innocent civilians to be killed. I would say to the security forces: do not kill the killer. Rather, bring him before an Israeli court. You are not the judiciary. Your only motivation should not be vengeance, but the prevention of any injury to innocent civilians.
Ethics are not black and white – they are all white. Ethics have to be free of vengefulness and rashness. Every act must be carefully weighed before a decision is made to see whether it meets the strict ethical criteria. Ethics cannot be left to the discretion of anyone who is frivolous or trigger-happy. Our ethics are hanging by a thread, at the mercy of every soldier and politician. I am not at all sure that I am willing to delegate my ethics to them.
It is unethical to kill innocent Israeli or Palestinian women and children. It is also unethical to control another nation and to lead it to lose its humaneness. It is patently unethical to drop a bomb that kills innocent Palestinians. It is blatantly unethical to wreak vengeance upon innocent bystanders. It is, on the other hand, supremely ethical to prevent the death of any human being. But if such prevention causes the futile death of others, the ethical foundation for such prevention is lost.
A nation that cannot draw the line is doomed to eventually apply unethical measures against its own people. The worst in my mind is not what has already happened, but what I am sure one day will happen. And it will – because ethics are now being twisted and the political and military leadership does not even have the most basic integrity to say: “we are sorry. We did wrong”.
We lost sight of our ethics long before the suicide bombings. The breaking point was when we started to control another nation. My son Arik was born into a democracy with a chance for a decent, settled life. Arik’s killer was born into an appalling occupation, into a moral chaos. Had my son been born in his stead, he may have ended up doing the same. Had I myself been born into the political and ethical chaos that is the Palestinians’ daily reality, I would certainly have tried to kill and hurt the occupier; had I not, I would have betrayed my essence as a free man.
Let all the self-righteous who speak of ruthless Palestinian murderers take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves what they would have done had they been the ones living under occupation. I can say for myself that I, Yitzhak Frankenthal, would have undoubtedly become a freedom fighter and would have killed as many on the other side as I possibly could. It is this degenerate hypocrisy that pushes the Palestinians to fight us so relentlessly. Our double standard that allows us to boast the highest military ethics, while the same military slays innocent children. This lack of ethics is bound to corrupt us.
My son Arik was murdered when he was a soldier by Palestinian fighters who believed in the ethical basis of their struggle against the occupation. My son Arik was not murdered because he was Jewish but because he is part of the nation that tyrannizes another nation, he was murdered by people who hate their tyrants.
I know these are concepts that are unpalatable, but I must voice them loud and clear, because they come from my heart – the heart of a father whose son did not get to live because his people were blinded by their addiction to power. As much as I would like to do so, I cannot say that the Palestinians are to blame for my son’s death. That would be the easy way out, but it is we, Israelis, who are to blame because of the Occupation. Anyone who refuses to heed this awful truth will eventually lead to our destruction.
The Palestinians cannot drive us away – they have long acknowledged our existence. They have been ready to make peace with us; it is we who are unwilling to make peace with them. It is we who insist on maintaining our control over them; it is we who escalate the situation in the region and feed the cycle of bloodshed. I regret to say it, but the blame is entirely ours.
I do not mean to absolve the Palestinians and by no means justify attacks against Israeli civilians. No attack against civilians can be condoned. But as an occupation force it is we who trample over human dignity, it is we who crush the liberty of Palestinians and it is we who push an entire nation into acts of despair and insanity.
I WAS HOME ALONE A LOT, growing up. My mother worked, but she would take me to the theatre to see all the movies. And the next day, all alone, I would act out the movie at home, playing all the roles. I saw The Lost Weekend at a very young age. Probably too young to see something like that. But I was very impressed with it. I didn't know what was going on, but the passion was interesting to me. Ray Milland won an Oscar for that. In it, there's a scene where he's looking for a liquor bottle. When he was drunk, he hid the bottle in the apartment. Now he's sober and he wants to find it. He knows it's somewhere, but he forgets. He looks for it and finally finds it. I used to do that scene. On occasion, when my dad used to visit me, he'd take me to his relatives in Harlem and say, "Show 'em the bottle scene." I'd act it out and they'd all laugh. And I'd be thinking, Why are they laughing? It's a very serious scene.
"You can go out in LA, if you have any type of fame and go to the right cafeteria, and you'll get some phone numbers and a rotation of casual sex partners. It was making me sadder and sadder.
I shared my life with a lot of drugs and bad girls. I was interested in fucking pretty girls whether or not they were nice people or read novels or knew who Winston Churchill was. If they had a good ass and did a bit of blow, that was good enough. Pardon my language, reader, if you read this." He interrupts his flow: "You can take that language out or, if you use it, say I apologize for it. It's just the way I speak. Anyway, I had a crisis of spirit at 36. Nothing was any fun."
He lights another cigarette, which he describes as his one remaining bad habit. "I'm given to depression. I'm very quickly lonely. That's why I found books a solace - but even they wear out. To fuck actresses or models, to go to the Versace show, to have Giorgio Armani invite me to Milan was meaningless. The drugs were tearing me apart and the people I found myself with were boring me."
I've been reading interviews with actors. Tom Sizemore's is on-line (via linkmachinego) but Al Pacino's isn't. Tom's interview isn't about acting. He talks about politics, and Hollywood, and show business, but not about the craft. He's a refreshingly frank person.
Reading Pacino's interview, you can tell that he is older than Sizemore. Al talks about acting, but his interview ends up being interesting for its universality, for Pacino's perspective on the parts of his life that are like ours -- where Sizemore's is interesting for its particularity, for details about him, and about things you didn't know and a world you don't inhabit.
MY BIG BREAKTHROUGH came when I was twenty-one. I was doing Creditors, a translation of an August Strindberg play.
The play takes place in Sweden at the turn of the century, and the character I played is named Adolf. It was the first time I had the opportunity to explore a world that I hadn't come in contact with -- and then to find myself actually inhabiting that role. It wasn't the literal thing of being Swedish but the feeling that I was connected to the metaphor. It was a transforming experience, tantamount to falling in love. It felt like I didn't need to do anything else but that. It was like discovering you could write. Suddenly you had an outlet. The concern was no longer whether you were going to get paid for it or whether you were going to be successful or famous.
I was homeless at the time. I would sometimes sleep at night in the theater where I performed. Sometimes Charlie [who directed the play] would put me up at his place. It was hard, but at that age you can sleep anywhere. At the time, I even thought it was cool. I was alive to what I was doing.
There's a time in your life when that happens to you if you're lucky enough to have it happen. Then it goes. You start to make a living. But, you know, from time to time I try to think about life back then ... and to stay in touch with it.
If you think about the world at all, you should think about how it allows for moments like that one.
There's a story about Simon and Garfunkel around 1967 or so, when they had just made it big. Art was still living with his parents in Queens, going to college. Paul was back from England where he'd gone to try and make it as a folk singer. They were in their twenties, still lower-middle class kids, doing the things they'd always done. One night they were sitting in Paul's car, a Sunbeam Alpine, doing nothing, smoking pot with the windows rolled down to let in the sound of crickets and passing cars. And on the radio came this song, the Sound of Silence. The two of them just sat there quietly, listening to their own voices come back at them through the speakers.
When it was over, the dj's voice announced: "Number one Record, the Sound of Silence, by Simon and Garfunkel." And Art turned to Paul in the quiet afterwards and said, "Man, those guys must be having so much fun!"
I WAS AT A STREET CARNIVAL when I was a kid and threw the ball and knocked down a couple of bottles, but they didn't give me the prize. To this day, I can't believe that they would do that. The injustice! I went back to the apartment and told my grandfather. And that look on his face, it comes back to me even now. It said: "You're not expecting me to go down six flights, walk five blocks, and try to prove to some guy at the carnival that you knocked down the bottles and should get the prize." I saw all that on his face. At the same time, he tried to tell me how sometimes this happens in life. And he was right. It happens in life.
Imagine being the grandfather, faced with young Al's report on the injustice of the world. What do you do? Maybe you ought to go down to the carnival, not to get the kid some stupid prize, but to teach him that justice matters, and that it requires effort to preserve it. Isn't that a valuable lesson?
Or maybe you do what Al's grandfather did, not just to teach the kid that sometimes life screws you, and you have to learn to deal with it, but also to teach him proportion. We're talking about a carnival prize here. Some things are worth fighting for, and some things aren't.
I'm not sure what I'd choose. My essential laziness makes me lean towards the second option. But I am still struck, days after first reading the interview, by how clearly Al Pacino remembers that incident and his grandfather's response. Decades have gone by, and he remembers.
Kids will notice how you behave -- things you might not even remember, they will be telling an interviewer from Esquire forty years later. That's a big incentive to do right, but you can't monitor your every conscious action. You have to hope that by the time you have kids you've developed good instincts.
At least as children get older they can question you and let you explain yourself. Phrases like "you'll thank me when you're older," and "I don't care what the other kids do," will come out of your mouth. So people tell me.
And by then ... well by then Al Pacino won't be anyone your kid has heard of, so you can't just show them the story below and make them understand.
MY MOTHER died before I made it. You know, here's what I really remember about my mother. We're on the top floor of our tenement. It's freezing out. I have to go to school the next day. I'm maybe ten years old. Down in the alleyway my friends are calling up to me. They want me to go travelling around with them at night and have some real fun. My mother wouldn't let me. I remember being so angry with her. "Why can't I go out like everyone else? What's wrong with me?" On and on I screamed at her. She endured my wrath. And she saved my life. Because those guys down in the alley -- none of them are around right now. I don't think about it that much. But it touches me now as I'm talking about it. She didn't want me out in the streets late at night. I had to do my homework. And I'm sitting here right now because of it. It's so simple, isn't it? But we forget, we just forget.
You may want to print out this blog post, though, or go buy the July issue of Esquire. Just in case.
you and me sunday-driving If you look Objectionable Content up on BlogTree, it tells you that Stephanie Says is this site's parent, the blog that made me want to start my own blog.
Son of Stephanie Says Objectionable Content hasn't quite lived up to the example of its parent. If you've read her, you'll know what I mean.
I'm wordy, analytical, and political. I mean, I'm proud of some of the analytical stuff, like the Net Ecology post, or the critique of occupation over on Protein Wisdom. But there's something braver and cooler and more honest about letting your blog be a person, a reflection of as much of you as possible.
A lot of personal blogs are snarky, angry, and sarcastic. But Stephanie's isn't about making her look good. It's about things that charm her, or worry her, or fascinate her, or make her feel insecure. And it's not about getting attention. It's like a person. It's just minding its own business, humming along thinking about stuff.
That's why Stephanie rocks. Like this:
Let me tell you about my first car.
I'm not a big-engine chick. I don't drool over guys in sports cars. I DO love those nifty "easy rider" choppers, but bikes are another story. I'm actually pretty indifferent to those gas-guzling pollution creating machines. If I didn't live in the boonies, I'd just take the bus, bike or walk. OK. You get my point. I'm not a car fanatic.
When I was 18, the Dynasty needed some work, and my parents wanted to get a newer car, so they told me I could have it if I was willing to pay for the repairs. I didn't hesitate. I mean, who would say no to your OWN car at 18? I got her fixed. New brakes, change the oil..put an airfrehsner on the mirror. She was mine.
At 230 000 kms, she was far from being a lean mean pick-up machine. The trunk was rusted, she has a funny humid-carpet smell. The little gas tank door kept getting stuck. In order to see the clock, you had to press on the radio slighlty and bash the dashboard right above it. For the next two years, she took me everywhere. To university, to work...to hockey games. You could fit my hockey sticks in the trunk if you calculated it just right. The shocks were dying. I'd bounce for miles whenever I hit a railroad track. The sound system was awesome, but the tape player kept eating my tapes away. I was able to recieve the AM oldies station perfectly.
Anytime I'd bring her to the car wash, I'd lose a part. A rubbery window thing here, a rusted muffler thing there. Hell, I even lost a whole hubcap once. She was getting old. When she hit 300 000 kms (on the same engine thank you very much...), I printed out a banner that said "HONK! I just turned 300 000 kms!". People honked in celebration as she roared on the highway. That V6 engine could fly. I washed her inside out and vaccumed her couch-like seats in celebration. I bought her a new air freshner. I didn't want her to die.
I didn't want to admit it, but I loved driving around in a grandaddy car. It was comfortable, it was fast, and I felt like nothing mattered when I was driving her. She didn't mind getting scrapped and bruised. I had taken her in cross country roads in the forest, on farm dirt roads, on 8 lane highways. She had seen it all.
Anytime I pass a Dynasty on the highway, especially grey ones, I always look at the trunk to see if it has the same rusted birthmark mine had. I know it's not her, because I heard the wrecker who bought it off of me turned her into a racing car. My baby: a racing car now. It makes me proud. I betcha she leaves those young wussy cars in the dust.