The River

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Matt Taibbi on "Fahrenheit 9/11", lousy media

Have I mentioned lately that this New York Press columnist is really good?


I've been around journalists my entire life, since I was a little kid, and I haven't met more than five in three-plus decades who wouldn't literally shit from shame before daring to say that their job had anything to do with truth or informing the public. Everyone in the commercial media, and that includes Hitchens, knows what his real job is: feeding the monkey. We are professional space-fillers, frivolously tossing content-pebbles in an ever-widening canyon of demand, cranking out one silly pack-mule after another for toothpaste and sneaker ads to ride on straight into the brains of the stupefied public.


If even one reporter had stood up during a pre-Iraq Bush press conference last year and shouted, "Bullshit!" it might have made a difference.

If even one network, instead of cheerily re-broadcasting Pentagon-generated aerial bomb footage, had risked its access to the government by saying to the Bush administration, "We're not covering the war unless we can shoot anything we want, without restrictions," that might have made a difference. It might have made this war look like what it is—pointless death and carnage that would have scared away every advertiser in the country—rather than a big fucking football game that you can sell Coke and Pepsi and Scott's Fertilizer to.

Where are the articles about the cowardice of those people? Hitchens in his piece accuses Moore of errors by omission: How come he isn't writing about the CNN producers who every day show us gung-ho Army desert rats instead of legless malcontents in the early stages of a lifelong morphine addiction?

Yeah, well, we don't write about those people, because they're just doing their jobs, whatever that means. For some reason, we in the media can forgive that. We just can't forgive it when someone does our jobs for us. Say what you want about Moore, but he picked himself up and did something, something approximating the role journalism is supposed to play.


"Fire Water Burn" featured in "Fahrenheit 9/11"

Soldiers, we're told in Moore's new anti-war film, listen to "Fire Water Burn" by the Bloodhound Gang while in combat. The kids have figured out how to use their high-tech warfighting gizmos to have it piped into their helmets.

Here's the Bloodhound Gang's take on the whole thing, from their website:

Michael Moore kicks ass. He's the master of delivering a compelling point in an entertaining manner. So, when he asked us to use "Fire Water Burn" in "Fahrenheit 9/11," we not only said "fucks yeah" but waived our normal fee. Anyone that pisses people off while making them laugh is okay in our book. Because of all the furor over the movie as of late, several media outlets asked us for a statement. So here's what we sent them:

As long as our troops aren't illegally downloading our songs, we could care less if we're killing machine bed music. We would rather the Bloodhound Gang be "The Soundtrack To War" than Creed. Now that would be embarrassing. Our president is a clown, so Michael Moore invited the whole world to laugh at him. We're proud to be a part of that.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"Fahrenheit 9/11" makes movie history

There's something happening here...

"Fahrenheit 9/11" was the number one movie in America over the weekend, taking in $21.8 million (update: $23.9 million) while playing in just 868 theaters. Its closest competitors, “White Chicks” and “Dodgeball”, were available on 2,726 screens and 3,020 screens, respectively. Across the country, the lines were long and the theaters filled to capacity for Moore’s documentary.

Already, it’s the highest grossing feature-length documentary in history, surpassing Moore’s previous effort, “Bowling for Columbine.”

Is it the controversy? The marketing campaign? Is it the clever title?

Or is it the fact that when it comes to 9/11 and the (phony) war on terror, and when it comes to President Bush, people know there’s something off. People know they aren’t getting the whole truth, ergo controversy, ergo interest.

Look at the movie poster with Moore holding hands with Bush. Moore is looking at you like, “heh, WE know what the hell is going on.” And Bush looks like he’s watching pink elephants fly through the air. The tag line at the top plays it perfectly: “Controversy…What Controversy?”

Yeah, it’s the controversy. There’s always controversy, right? Doesn’t matter who is President, he’s going to protect his power, and his powerful constituency, through lies. But damn, these people are beyond the pale, says "Fahrenheit 9/11." There’s bad government, and then there’s extremism, there’s absolute contempt for the American people and for democracy.

The film notes the subservient collusion of the Democrats over the past few years, but it ends with a sensible call to send the neocons packing in November. F-f-ffool me once,…uh…fool me twice….Won’t get fooled again, Bush stammers in the last shot. It’s a great way to end the film, comments reader Bill Connolly -- “both at the humor level and also at the 'get your ass out of the theatre and do something about this' level.”

Yeah, rock the vote. Get Bush out of there. And maybe, if we're lucky, we'll "Keep on Rockin in the Free World," as Neil Young sings over the closing credits.

There's colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin' their feet
People sleepin' in their shoes
But there's a warnin' sign
on the road ahead
There's a lot of people sayin'
we'd be better off dead
Don't feel like Satan,
but I am to them (well, not "you," mostly the government, and "them" is a relatively small number of crazies, not a billion Muslims, although with what Bush is doing the number can only grow. Anyway, mainly this song mocks the cold and violent actions of "free world," or mostly American, government both toward others and its own people. You know, as Ghandi said, Western civilization would be a good idea. But there's hope in the chorus too -- "keep on rockin." ..uh, sorry, g'head and listen for youself -- ed.)
So I try to forget it,
any way I can.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away,
and she's gone to get a hit
She hates her life,
and what she's done to it
There's one more kid
that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love,
never get to be cool.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.

We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
We got department stores
and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes
for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people,
says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn,
got roads to drive.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.

UPDATE: "Spider-Man 2" likely to knock "Fahrenheit 9/11" out of top slot this weekend. Moore unfazed: "We look forward to joining Spider-Man in bringing truth and justice to all America," he said.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Takin it to the streets

Here’s the funny thing about Fahrenheit 9/11: I really admire Michael Moore’s restraint.

No, seriously. I mean, you have to consider the source – this weblog writer. I’m watching world events through a very interesting filter, the progressive internet. It’s not that I have blinders, or tunnel vision (although I am human. I admit it); I look at and John Robb and Glenn Reynolds.

But the point is, I’m rather removed. I haven’t talked to a single soldier who’s been to Iraq. Nor have I sat down to discuss politics with a parent who has a child in the military. Michael Moore has. He’s taken his camera and his sense of the common man, and woman, to talk to these people. He’s gone to Washington, and he’s been to the poor areas of his hometown, Flint, Michigan (parts of post-invasion Iraq look just like Flint, one youth notes). The last time I was in a really poor part of town was probably ten years ago, when I took a wrong turn.

In other words, from where I sit, it’s pretty ugly but it’s also mostly in my head, from which I tend to project a sometimes undisciplined imagination. The title of Bill Connolly’s site sort of sums it up: thoughts on the eve of the apocalypse.

Not that Moore is completely restrained. And a good thing too; if he were, his film would likely be lifeless. It isn’t.

Moore can’t help using his sense of humor to make fun of the Bushies, cutting and pasting their faces onto 50s era TV cowboys to name one egregious, but funny, example. And much has already been made (in many a movie review, isn’t it interesting how they all say the same thing?) about the “unfair” shots of Bush goofing for the camera a bit before he announces war on Iraq, or Paul Wolfowitz slicking his hair back with spit. And the filmmaker can’t help showing some clips in contexts designed for maximum embarrassment, but I think Moore has a point to make here, beyond derision. I think he wants the audience to see these people as, well, people. To see beyond the media-created myths and personas.

Indeed, he seems to say, these people are not only flawed, like the rest of us, they’re actually quite weird, quite disconnected from what we might term “everyday reality.” Not like the rest of us. How are they different? Well, it so happens they have enormous power. And, it further so happens, they have a will to use it, to kill people for the sake of business schemes.

I would point out how skillful Moore is in revealing the machinations behind these schemes, if it weren’t so bloody easy. Many a blogger has done so. This movie is every anguished, well argued, brilliantly analyzed, outraged and dumbstruck-at-the-duplicity post rolled into a two-hour documentary.

No, it’s not hard labor to reveal these truths. All you have to do is take them at their word. And notice how their words change with circumstances. You show Condaleeza Rice and Colin Powell declaring in pre-September 11 2001 that Saddam poses no threat to his neighbors, let alone the United States. You show post 9/11 Rumsfeld saying we know where Saddam’s WDM are, around Tikrit and to the north, south, east and west (yes, that is what he says).

You show Bush. You show a boatload of President Bush, because by doing so you reveal a severe disconnect from reality. The unsettling footage of Bush sitting in an elementary school classroom for seven minutes, in full knowledge that the largest attack ever on American soil is in progress, is one example that’s startled many a viewer and reviewer. You show Bush repeating the same “war on terra” phrases over and over until he begins to look like a shifty used car salesman.

You also show another reality altogether, the one behind the marketing, the one the media refuses to show you. You air a clip of this candid assessment from Bush: of course the Iraqis are unhappy, they’re occupied. Or one of him musing at the attractiveness of a dictatorship. At what appears to be a fundraising event, you show him addressing the audience as the haves, and the have mores (this gets a laugh). “Some call you the elite,” he says. “I call you my base.”

Later, we see a meeting of such “base supporters,” a meeting of businessmen interested in capitalizing on the rush of opportunities, post invasion. Once the oil flows, says one, there’s going to be a lot of money thrown around. There will be government contracts that can be subcontracted out at a fraction of the cost. Not a lot of talk here about liberation or freedom. But Moore doesn’t say that. He just shows you what’s going on.

The overriding impression, born out in the movie poster of Moore holding a folder full of “confidential” material, is that he wants to give you the information that’s been withheld. He’s not going to level every conspiracy theory in the book or draw a nefarious conclusion from every fact, but he does have a point of view. It’s rooted in populism, concern for the plight of the common person. Take a look and see what you think, the film says.

So Moore can show you the truth behind my bald profiteering accusation several paragraphs up, that the Iraq invasion is a businessman’s venture for those who aren’t too concerned with the whole bombing families, neighborhoods, kids etc. aspect. These people don’t appear bloodthirsty, not when they’re blandly commenting that invading Iraq is “good for business but bad for the people,” because they don’t seem to realize, or care, what type of violence is behind their “opportunities.” But that’s really one of the major points – we can’t have people thinking about what the bogus “war on terra” entails, for it would endanger the ability to carry it out. Why else would the FBI be concerned with a small, keenly aware peace group, and why else would Moore reveal their infiltration of the organization?

And what are you to think about instead? Your life is in danger! The possibility that Al Qaeda might bomb your neighborhood Wal Mart, or randomly stab you with a poison pen, like in a James Bond film, says a newsreader. Moore has a good time poking fun at all the suspicious goosing of public opinion, the ridiculous airport procedures, the lack of serious “homeland” security.

There’s quite a balancing act going on in the film between humor and pathos, corrupt leaders and common citizens, the poor and the powerful. “From the corridors of power to the streets of small town America” the trailer intones. That’s true, and it’s a gut wrenching trip, past the rah, rah to the acres of unnecessary anguish caused by, yes, the felling of the twin towers, but also by the Administration’s response, inexplicable and unexplained as it is for Michael Moore and by extension the average man and woman on the streets of America.

Moore wonders about the whole Saudi connection and the fact that most of the hijackers were Saudis. And he deals with the Bush’s extensive ties to Saudi money, and the hiss-inducing backwardness of that regime, but, as some progressives have groused, nowhere does he suggest we should be invading that country.

Rather, the film is a strong anti-war statement, because as it gathers momentum, it turns to Iraq, the suffering of wounded soldiers, and, particularly, the suffering of a mother who lost her son to the war. It looks, too, at the suffering of Iraqis, particularly a mother wailing her grief and her anger after a bombing. Why? she asks plaintively. There is no militia here.

In visiting extensively with Lila Lipscomb, the mother of a young man killed when his Blackhawk was shot down over the sands of a country with the second largest oil reserves in the world, Moore really brings war down to a basic truth: the ability of leaders to direct others’ sons and daughters to kill and to die. And all we ask of these leaders, he says, is that they never send our troops into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. And, for Moore and millions of others, that case has not been made. Instead, we’ve seen countless lies designed to spread fear.

It’s all in the movie, quite a tour from 2000 to the present, from the theft of the Presidency to the exploitation of the American people to the Orwellian visions of war without end.

But it’s the suffering of the mothers that is beyond anything I could write condemning the Administration and the war. It is a hard thing to see.

I hope many an information-starved American does see it, though. Sure, the film is polemical. Sure, it’s Michael Moore and all the baggage he now carries, but it’s undeniably powerful. It’s “clearly in my voice,” Moore said in a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival. “My voice, my vision, and the way I see things. My sense of humor."

More than that, I’ve no doubt it’s one from the heart. I can’t help but applaud.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Consider the alternatives

Found a great interview today, courtesy of BuzzFlash, with Robert Kane Pappas, director and producer of the documentary "Orwell Rolls in His Grave." Really a must read.

An excerpt:

BuzzFlash: And Fox knows how to use modern technology to be graphically attractive, visually enticing.

Robert Kane Pappas: They’re brilliant technicians. They know how to move images on the screen and use music. They’re as good as or better than CNN, NBC, they’re tops in that field. There are a lot of very talented editors and graphics people working at Fox.

BuzzFlash: The most basic political technique of the right wing and the Republican party is character assassination. We’ve seen a shift perhaps from the discussion of politics into a dissection of personality. We saw that tellingly, of course, in the Clinton administration, with "Slick Willie" and so forth. Then we saw The New York Times and Washington Post adopt the Republican party attack on Al Gore -- that somehow he was a liar -- without really seriously questioning the massive deception and lies of the Bush campaign in 2000. They have started up with John Kerry, following the Republican line, saying he’s a waffler.

Robert Kane Pappas: If you wrote or sold a product so deceptively, you’d be in jail or out of business.

BuzzFlash: What is it about television? Most of the right wing commentators attack personality and character more than they even attack public policy.

Robert Kane Pappas: But it’s a technique. Some of this is real dark science. I remember in the run-up to the 2000 election, after the first debate -- and I believe it could have been planned because it was worked out so quickly -- one of the networks put together a montage of close ups of Al Gore expressing impatience with Bush’s answers -- exhaling. They strung together these two- and three-second clips. And within hours, on all the news shows the debate centered on Al Gore’s expressions, not the substance of the debate. They were able to absolutely change the discussion from what these guys were talking about, to a discussion about Al Gore’s facial expressions, giving Bush a complete free ride. Bush was barely coherent in the first debate, but it was all about Al Gore. That shows the amazing power of video.

The same thing happened with Dean, when he exhorted his followers following the Iowa Caucuses.


Fitting that I should run across this today, when Michael Moore's documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11", opens in more than 850 theaters across the U.S. We seem to be going through some sort of documentary renaissance.

"Control Room" (about Al Jazeera during the Iraq invasion) and "Supersize Me" (about the evils of fast food) are playing right now in Atlanta. Coming soon is "The Agronomist", a Jonathan Demme-directed film about Haitian national hero Jean Dominique, the journalist and freedom fighter who owned and operated Haiti's only free radio station, and was assassinated in 2000.

Also due out soon is "The Corporation", which examines the power businesses gained when the Fourteenth Amendment was used to designate them "persons." From the link above: "The filmmakers show four examples of corporations at work -- including garment sweatshops in Honduras and Indonesia -- to demonstrate that this ”legal person” is inherently amoral, callous and deceitful. The corporation, the film points out, ignores any social and legal standards to get its way, and does not suffer from guilt while mimicking the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism."

There's also a short documentary by Indymedia featuring journalist Amy Goodman of the Democracy Now! radio show called "Independent Media in a Time of War" (independent from "the corporation"). You can read the transcript online. Here's an interesting bit:

AMY GOODMAN: Why is it if they have these retired generals on the payroll, they don't have peace activists and peace leaders also on the payroll? So let's have the same number of reporters embedded with Iraqi families, let's have reporters embedded in the peace movement all over the world, and maybe then we'll get some accurate picture of what's going on. Aaron Brown had some interesting comments. He said "no", because these generals are analysts. He said he admits they came late to the peace movement. But once the war started those voices are irrelevant because then the war is on.

AARON BROWN: It's just not the relevant question right now.


AARON BROWN: Because it's over. It's on. It's being done.

AMY GOODMAN: I asked him, well how would the Vietnam War have ended then? And do you think we would have seen the most famous picture from the Vietnam War, that picture of the little girl with the Napalm burning all over her? Would we have seen that picture that helped end the war? And he said, "well, of course". I said, "how?". We're seeing these romanticized pictures of soldiers against sunsets and the planes on those aircraft carriers that the embedded photographers are getting at the sunrise hour.

The Newsday reporter who did this profile today asked about my engaging in advocacy in journalism. And I said, "the establishment reporters are my model".

NBC: Revolutionary coverage, the power of NBC news.

AMY GOODMAN: Think about Dan Rather the night that the bombs started falling on Iraq. He said, "Good Morning Baghdad"

DAN RATHER: CBS news has been told...

AMY GOODMAN: And Tom Brokaw said "we don't want to destroy the infrastructure of Iraq because we're going to own it in a few days.

TOM BROKAW: Shock and awe...

AMY GOODMAN: And Peter Jennings was interviewing Chris Cuomo who is a reporter for ABC and he was out on the street, where we were, Times Square, thousands of people in the freezing rain who had come out to protest the war. They had all sorts of signs that were sopping wet and people were trying to keep the umbrellas up and the police charged a part of the crowd. Jennings said to Cuomo "what are they doing out there, what are they saying?" And he said, "well they have these signs that say no blood for oil but when you ask them what that means they seem very confused. I don't think they know why they're out here." I guess they got caught in a traffic jam. Why not have Peter Jennings, instead of asking someone who clearly doesn't understand why they're out there, invite one of them into the studio? And have a discussion like he does with the generals.

NEWS CLIP: It's captivating to watch this technology at work.

AMY GOODMAN: Why don't they also put doctors on the payroll. That way you can have the general talking about the bomb that Lockheed Martin made and the kind of plane that drops it and whether it was precision guided or not. And then you can have the doctor talking about the effect of the bomb. Not for or against the war, just how a cluster bomb enters your skin and what it means when your foot is blown off, if you're lucky and you're not killed. So why not have doctors and generals at least. But this is just to show how low the media has gone.


What else? How about "Waiting for Martin", which professes to be fighting the humour deficit in Canada, as well as the pro-business, cost-cutting agenda of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, and is said to be inspired by Michael Moore's "Roger and Me."

The Palme d'Or awarded at Cannes to "Fahrenheit 9/11" should inspire a few more filmmakers and accelerate what seems to be a trend. Hopefully. The suppression of information by mass media is forcing it into other outlets. In addition to the new documentaries, we've also seen a flood of non-fiction books exposing the Bush administration. There's also this phenomenon called "blogs."

UPDATE: One more (via American Samizdat): "Thirst", about the rush to privatize water. From the link (an Alternet story):

The grab for corporate control of water is indeed already here in our own backyards. But the conflict over water supplies perhaps most familiar to news-savvy audiences is the place where Thirst goes first: to Cochabamba, Bolivia. After the country auctions off the water system of its third-largest city to U.S.-based Bechtel Corporation in 1999, residents experience water price hikes of 30-300%, and the situation eventually erupts in a cross-class protest that makes headline news worldwide.

By April 2000, the government responds to civil unrest by declaring martial law. Shortly thereafter, Victor Hugo Daza, a 17-year-old peaceful protester, is shot dead in the streets by a government sniper.

Daza's death doesn't quell dissent the way it was intended to. In fact, protests heat up to the point that water consortium execs beat a hasty retreat, and Cochabamba's water system gets handed over to a community-run utility. In an unlikely turn of events, the citizens actually get what they want; water gets treated like a human right, not as the last frontier of the commercialization and privatization of earth's natural resources.

"They're on the defensive in the global South," Kaufman explains. "In many ways, they're ahead of us responding to what's in the near future for all of us."

In point of fact, American cities and towns are the new staging ground for rapid and strategic power plays over who controls water supply. In 2004, 85% of U.S. municipal water systems are publicly owned, with a shocking 15% already in the hands of corporations. Unbeknownst to most residents, municipal governments are being heavily courted in the here and now to turn over control of their water supply to multinational companies like Suez Water, whose U.S. subsidiary took control of Atlanta's water in 1999.

Atlanta? Hey, I don't remember seeing this in the AJC!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Just the facts

U.S. approves $447 Billion defense bill.
UPDATE: Senate approves $416 billion for Pentagon. Earlier report was for the House's action on the bill.

How it compares with other countries.

In case any readers wonder why wacky leftist worry about the military-industrial complex (and its unholly alliance with the oil/energy industry executives in the White House).

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Hank if you Love Bukowski

Writing is the only edge we get against the Bullshit. I'm glad it's there. -- Charles Bukowski 3-11-84, San Pedro

Went to see the documentary Bukowski: Born into This Saturday night. A hot muggy night in the deep South. The wife went with me. She and I were both reading Bukowski back in the ‘80s, before we met. We used to have a running joke about his writing, a phrase we’d insert at the appropriately ironic moment. One of us would mention something about Buk in a reverent way, or read one of his poems, and the other would add: “And then I rolled over and wiped off on the sheet.”

As a gesture to father’s day weekend, the wife suggested we go to my favorite barbecue joint, Fat Matt’s. The place has soul. When we were first dating, when we were both working at a bookstore, I’d get free tickets to Braves games from a clerk whose husband was a sportswriter covering the team. We’d leave work, head to Fat Matt’s for dinner and then go on to the ball game. Great seats too, behind home plate, some 20 or 30 rows up.

Small, divey and dedicated to free live blues, Fat Matt’s feeds more than just my gut. Except for a new paint job on its wooden deck, it hasn’t changed a bit in 20 plus years. It’s sort of the Bukowski of restaurants. Nothing extraneous or phony. Completely comfortable with what it is. After some ribs, white bread and baked beans for me and a chopped sandwich, coleslaw and chips for Leigh, we went on to the Midtown arthouse where the movie had opened the night before.

We were early, so we hit the ice cream stand nearby for a strawberry milkshake – one straw, two mouths. It being a muggy night, we decided to wait for show time in the lobby. It being an independent theater, they had no problem with our bringing the milkshake in.

We sat in the large, open lobby area and read movie flyers and the alternative weekly. And people watched, trying to guess which movie the eclectic patrons were going to see – Supersize Me? The Control Room? Coffee and Cigarettes? Finally, we went into our theater. There were only 5-10 people in there, and I think it never got above 25. Sad. The paper had given it a good review (although I got the impression the reviewer didn’t like Buk). Still, where were the fans of this original American artist?

Missing out, I can only surmise. The film is a treat, a gift from one fan to another. Lots of footage of Bukowski, or "Hank" to his friends. You ride along with him in his Volkswagen, you’re invited into his apartment, shown the typer where it all happens, taken along for a tour of Buk’s childhood home, given a seat in the audience at readings. You get a lot of his life story firsthand. And he talks just like he writes. As in any biographical documentary, there are lots of interviews with people in his life, and with high-profile admirers like Tom Waits, Bono and Sean Penn. Loads of stories.

One of my favorites from early in the film comes from Taylor Hackford, a director who was going to do a film on Buk that would include his flying to San Francisco for a reading. It was the early 70s and he was newly discovered by a large audience. For the first time, hundreds of people had turned out for a reading. Hackford says Buk was nervous, and he drank the whole time, and basically behaved like an ass. Later Bukowski wrote about the experience in his alternative weekly column, Notes of a Dirty Old Man. He made everyone else out to be the “villains.” The film never got produced, but Hackford says he called Bukowski and said he’d read the piece and it wasn’t like that at all. And he had it all on film. And Bukowski told him, you can do whatever you want with the film, but in my stuff, I’m the hero.

Ain’t it the truth. That’s what I love about his work. Henry Chinaski is the hero, faced with the deadening mass conformity of modern life, an outsider who never fit the needed machinery. A man who stands defiant. A sane man in a mad world. Yet what really comes through in the film is his humility, a very human and unpretentious humility. A humility that finally, I think, allowed him the stamina and the focus and the discipline to support himself in lousy jobs and to write, and keep writing, and never stop, never give up. At one point, he says it was the regular beatings he received from him father from age 6 through 11 or 12 (until he took it with no response whatsoever, spooking his father into quitting), that formed the basis for his writing -- he beat any pretension out of me, he says. And he learned to deal with pain that had no reason.

When we came out of the theater, it had cooled considerably. The patio section of the trendy restaurant next door was full and buzzing with conversation. The air was so soft, it felt like you could swim in it. On the drive home, I kept the windows down, let the air work its magic. The city sparkled.

We’d gotten to know a great American. He’d been born in Germany but lived his life in Los Angeles, California. He was working class, and he kept sane by writing. A fellow named John Martin believed in him, started Black Sparrow to publish him. After his death in 1994 at age 73, another John, Dullaghan, connected to his writing as so many around the world had. He dedicated seven years of his own life to put together a film tribute to him.

When we got home, my wife graciously agreed to ferry our babysitter, her mother, to her house 20 minutes across town. I sat outside and had a beer.

Friday, June 18, 2004


The documentary "Bukowski: Born Into This" opens today.

Here is a nice, short piece by the director, John Dullaghan, who became hooked after reading "Post Office."

He relates, "I started reading and collecting Bukowsk's books. Soon, I encountered all kinds of people, such as bookseller Red Stodolsky, who knew Bukowski personally. Hearing their incredible stories, I realized somebody had to collect them. At first, I thought of doing so in a book. I contacted Linda Bukowski who, somewhat amazingly, agreed to work with me. She also suggested I do a documentary. Why the hell not?"

It was a labor of love, some seven years in the making, assembling about 30 hours of Bukowski footage, conducting more than 150 interviews. To say I'm anxious to see this one would be an understatement.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


Saw two turtles trying to cross the road this morning, one at the beginning of my commute and one at the end. Very odd. Later, when flipping through the dictionary to get to "topology" landed on the page with a picture of a tortoise and its definition. Hmmm.

Decided Google might provide some clues. Found a page from someone who'd developed an app called Tortoise CVS. Checked out the "Goals" page, which I liked, and found this unrelated but to me interesting graphic:

Sign spotted at Kakum National Park, Ghana

I went further. I looked up "tortoise symbol" and found that, "In the Himalayan Buddhist astrological context, the tortoise is considered an aspect of Manjushri.

Manjushri is a bodhisattva associated with Vairochana (Tibetan: nangpar nangdze,) the Buddha Resplendent, who is like the sun in glory at its zenith [highest position.] He is the patron bodhisattva of the Kadampa (ie. Gelugpa) denomination, famous for its students of the written word -- scholars or geshes.

His Name
The Sanskrit name Manju-shri is variously interpreted to mean "wonderfully auspicious," or "sweetly glorious." However, in Tibetan his name Jampel-yang (contracted to Jamyang) means "gentle friend." In Chinese, he is called Wen Shu Shi Li; in Japanese, Monju.

Western Buddhist Review, Part 3 of A. Tribe's "Cult of Manjusri"

Another epithet is Vakishvara (Lord of Speech) and it is this aspect of Manjusri that associates him with a great historical teacher known as Manjughosha (the sweet-voiced.)

Manjushri is viewed both as a historical bodhisattva, and as an emanation of Vairochana, ("Berotsana," Tibetan: nangpar nangdze, Jap.: Dainichi Nyorai) the primordial white Buddha that is compared to the sun -- his nature is "everywhere-pervading." He manifests as a bodhisattva to provoke investigation into such topics as Emptiness (or, void-ness,) free will, and the nature of the self.

Paul Harrison's Manjushri and the Cult of the Celestial Bodhisattvas

When the primordial buddha Vairochana vowed to emanate throughout the universe as the princely and ever-youthful, bodhisattva of Wisdom, his purpose was to lead beings in an inquiry whereby they could discover the true nature of reality. For that reason, he is usually depicted displaying the two tools essential to that investigation: in his right hand he wields the double-edged sword of logic or analytic discrimination and in his left, the Prajnaparamita Sutra, the text of the teaching on Emptiness. This teaching is fundamental to all forms of Buddhism and for that reason it is often called "Mother of All Buddhas." It is cushioned on the lotus of Compassion.

Manjushri's sword of discriminating wisdom is tipped with flames to show that it severs all notions of duality. It can cut away delusion, aversion and longing, to reveal understanding, equanimity and compassion.

The tortoise has much to do with writing, investigation, scholarship, teaching. Interesting. I tend to think of "slow but steady and determined." Could be "wonderfully auspicious." As long as it doesn't portend a fate such as that of Aeschylus (525-456 BCE), the famous playwright of ancient Greece, who "is said to have been killed by a tortoise which hit him on the head having fallen from the talons of an eagle flying overhead." Perhaps he wasn't getting it, re: turtle wisdom.

Anyway, I hope the turtles made it to the other side.

Thursday, June 03, 2004


found on The Smirking Chimp regarding the article 'He just f---s California': Enron traders caught on tape:

Ever wonder what the need for all this theivery?
Think about it. It's not just plain old capitalist greed. Oh, maybe for some. But the big fish KNOW some things we don't care to examine. We are heading for times SOON when food and water and shelter (e.g heat)... the basics, will be essentials of a by-gone era. They know they are going to need to build mega million dollar fortresses to protect their personal resources - resources that mean the difference between the folks who live and the folks who die. They don't intend to let a bunch of middle class and poor peons be the winners of this game. Two words. Peak oil.

And don't miss the comments by Billy Random over there too. A snippet:

anyway, fascinatingly, the enron scam hits... bush responds by smirking 'california should have made more power plants' and that those nasty tewwowist trees can be dealt with by opening national forests to loggers.... cool little scam, no?

entirely in character... nothing really changes scam to scam... set-up the distraction... make the hit, keep your tight circle of racketeers and conspirators mega rich and very quiet...

and start up the kill machine... here and abroad...

meanwhile keep everyone distracted with faux news and posturing... control the press... easy! someone on your cabinet has a kid... make him head of FCC! hahahahahhahaa

steal everything and quickly call someone a traitor if they say, 'don't!" or disagree...

fire the shock and awe guns when u need a diversion... or make a snuff vid and put it into the press cycle to stop the bad press of the torture scandals...

and move on...

Oh, and have you been reading Xymphora? He or she cuts through the political bs in short, no-nonsense posts. More snippage:

We're supposed to believe that Chalabi told the station chief of a very important office of "one of the most sophisticated" intelligence agencies in the Middle East that his code had been compromised, and the station chief reported the conversation to head office using the same code?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Resource War, pure and simple

The View from Hubert's Peak, The American Assembler

The only certain beneficiaries of this coming economic chaos will be the big five oil corporations and their corrupt partners: the Nigerian generals, Saudi princes, Russian kleptocrats, and their ilk. Crude oil truly will become black gold.

The rising value of an increasingly scarce resource is a form of monopoly rent, and a future permanent crude-oil regime of $50 per barrel (or higher) would transfer at least $1 trillion per decade from consumers to oil producers. In plain English, this would be the greatest robbery by a rentier elite in world history. Someday, Enron may seem like the equivalent of a liquor store hold-up by comparison.

The oilmen in the White House, of course, have the best view of the lush terrain on the far side of Hubbert’s peak. No wonder, then, that a map of the ‘war against terrorism’ corresponds with such uncanny accuracy to the geography of oil fields and proposed pipelines. From Kazakhstan to Ecuador, American combat boots are sticky with oil.


Diebold Variations

Great Diebold parody posters here.