Friday, September 12, 2003
9/11 and the MediaI didn't see any 9/11 television coverage, but Matthew Yglesias reports from his new slot at The American Prospect that the media made no effort to dispel the notion that Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. Instead, willingly or not, the media concretizes that notion by conflating Iraq-related stories with their memorial coverage on Iraq.
More dubiously, Yglesias notes, the media didn't feature any Democrats in their coverage on memorial services. Hey, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is probably the most recognizable person in the chamber, so why doesn't a news station sic a camera on her? (After all, you might catch a bonus glimpse of Bill...) Howard Dean is certainly cover-worthy, so where was he on September 11th?
But where Yglesias only hints lay the most interesting concerns in the story: How is it that the media doesn't expose President Bush's decision to hold the Republican National Convention in New York City at a very late date (September) for what it is: politicizing September 11th. My guess is the media is wary of criticizing the Bush administration on such a sensitive topic, fearing a backlash, even if the point of the criticism is to expose blatant insensitivity. Either that, or the media considers its audience too stupid to recognize the usury. The trick is, the masses are only stupid insofar as the media declines to inform them...
...well, us. It's hard to remember to include yourself when you're criticizing the masses.
The only TV I caught yesterday, or really all week, was Buffy reruns. I confess: I've become a Buffy fiend. I make my shame public in tiny font in order to purge myself of the guilt.
posted by kriston at 1:09 PM........
What That Guy SaidCourtesy of Sue and Not U, who interrupted her marvelous medieval history jag with an apt line from Kingsley Amis, from his novel, Lucky Jim, on the state of the hangover:
He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as loking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.I feel that way and for that reason on most of the seven mornings I face each week, and today's hangover dealt me a harsher blow than any has since my indecent exposure in Milan back in 'o1, so I'm sharing her pain. Courage, Sue. Courage.
Too bad my hangovers aren't so productive as Kingsley's.
posted by kriston at 12:19 PM........
September 12Probably as early as today, two years ago, amidst the grief and uncertainty—and with a certain guilt for straying from more emotional feelings—people everywhere began speculating about how the September 11 attacks would be memorialized, and whether or not the WTC's twin towers would be rebuilt. Two years later, the second question at least has been answered, and a decade from now Ground Zero will finally be completely restored, based on the blueprints of Daniel Libeskind.
But the debate felt fresh again yesterday after reading this NYT story about a memorial/WTC area design submitted by Ellsworth Kelly. Kelly wrote to critic Herbert Muschamp, sending him the collage that I've pictured to the right (copyright and courtesy of the New York Times, of course). The design is what it appears to be: A patch of earth in Manhattan.
It's of course too late to revision the rebuilding of the WTC, and this idea would've never reached the table, but if only for the sake of argument, you ought to hear him out:
The mound he has imagined for ground zero would rise perhaps 30 feet. In a telephone conversation, Mr. Kelly suggested that plantings could change, as would the colors. In autumn, a crop of wheat would yield a blazing red and orange dome.Imagine: wheat growing in Lower Manhattan? [Could wheat grow in Lower Manhattan?] It's a fascinating proposal, and just rings to the core of Americana. Corn growing in NYC—that's as bold, provocative, and flippant as anything that is vividly American, as wild as the original World Trade Center towers were. Yet nothing could be more somber than amber waves of grain, a field large enough that you might wander in and find some relative calm in the rustling.
Patriotic resonance aside, the concept is consistent with the artist's minimalist take. (Minimalism itself is a unique part of American heritage, as Muschamp points out.) Kelly's philosophy is one that would lend itself well to a memorial. I dug around* and found this statement in "Notes of 1969," an essay of sorts by Kelly: "I felt that everything is beautiful but that which man tries intentionally to make beautiful, that the work of an ordinary bricklayer is more valid than the artwork of all but a few artists." Ellsworth Kelly endorses a "Pre-Renaissance, European type art" and its "anonymous stone work, the object quality of the artifacts, the fact that the work was more important than the artist's personality."
In the article, Herbert Muschamp wisely links Kelly to the earth artforms that are Kelly's inspiration. He also puts forth Kelly's collage concept in terms of simplicity and complexity; in this case, it's a simplicity beyond that which any given park brings to the complexity of an urban environment. It is not a space defined by its lack of concrete, but a simple form that will reverberate with historical connotation. The simplicity that rings from the Egyptian pyramids, or the Pre-Columbian Indians' earthmounds, or Stonehenge. It is certainly a simplicity that seems to be evading Daniel Libeskind:
Since Libeskind's design was selected on March 1 to replace the two massive towers destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, control over the design and the site have endangered the project. A confusing jumble of Sept. 11 victims' organizations, insurers, city and state officials and the owner of the World Trade Center lease continue to debate Libeskind's design.Don't get me wrong, I like Libeskind's design. I think it will help to restore NYC's place as the cosmopolitan head at the global architectural table—and it's not intended to address the functions of a memorial, which will come later. But what makes Kelly's design so inviting to me is its purity, a notion you don't often find in abundance in public-commissioned art and architecture, or, for that matter, in public gestures. Kelly's design seems to very much resemble and commemorate the pure feelings of hatred, sympathy, regret, and grief that surrounded the catastrophy.
* Stiles, Kristine and Selz, Peter, editors. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art - A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.
posted by kriston at 9:40 AM........
A Black DayJohnny Cash, the Man in Black, is dead at the age of 71. For three generations of men in my family, he was the only topic we could all agree on.
Do yourself a favor and read the obituary—Cash lived a life.
posted by kriston at 9:19 AM........
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
The Proof is in the PuddingLike everyone else I have some conflicted opinions about Harvey Milk High School. A queer segregated school feels like a step backward for liberalism, and for gay and straight students alike. Still, after seeing these pictures of Fred Phelps's group of anti-gay, anti-American demonstrators on the first day of classes, it becomes entirely obvious why such a school exists. I still don't think socially segregated schools are a good progressive band-aid for society as a whole, but it's tough to not be white, straight, and male, so I can hardly blame the kids wanting to retreat. I'm glad there were supporters there on the first day as well.
Link courtesy of Off the Kuff. Bonus: Some history on Harvey Milk and the White Night Riot and the related origins of the "Twinkie defense."
You've probably already heard of Fred Phelps's site, which I won't link to, but I suggest checking out God Hates Fred Phelps for the balance.
posted by kriston at 10:00 AM........
Special Session 3: Session HarderGov. Perry has called a third session, and so redistricting seems imminent, regardless of the fact that the Republicans don't have a working map on the table. But now it really doesn't matter how long it takes to put that map together:
Perry, frustrated as the Democrats prevailed during the regular session and two summer special sessions, called the third special session Tuesday and added a new twist by allowing lawmakers to postpone the March 2 primaries if needed to put a new map into place.Simply put, lawmakers won't be holding elections until the Justice Department approves a redistricted map, meaning that the impending deadline for submitting a map to get such approval by March 2 no longer applies. A tyranny of the majority at work. I imagine that the Senate tradition that permitted the Democrats to block debate are up for the block as well.
I wonder if Republicans will even introduce a map for debate that keeps Lloyd Doggett's district intact.
posted by kriston at 9:28 AM........
Al Sharpton Will Fight YouFun Democratic presidential debate tonight: Interruptions from Lyndon LaRouche supporters during Sen. Joe Lieberman's and Sen. Bob Graham's speeches were met with a threat from Al Sharpton, who suggested that some boys from his Youth Action Network could settle the crowd. (Everyone was speculating it was LaRouche supporters, anyway, including the Not Geniuses.)
The best part was when the debaters were asked their favorite songs. Normally you'd expect certain answers from a bunch of sixty year-old men: Manhattan Transfer, perhaps the Oakridge Boys, maybe Tennessee Ernie Ford, or Linda Ronstadt, etc. But since this is politics, most of the candidates gave answers with the appropriate political ring to it—I was waiting for someone to say the Star-Spangled Banner so I could destroy everything around me. These guys were absolutely stunned to field a question so raw, so maverick, about their persons, and sweat trickled across the board. Surprisingly, no one (but maybe Dean, and, well, the black candidates) recovered fully enough to remember that this was a debate hosted by the Black Congressional Caucuses; Lieberman looked like he was expecting sincere swells of nostalgic applause for his Fleetwood Mac answer. Not that they're expected to pander, but, come on, John Cougar Mellancamp?
G.p always tries to bring you the scene behind the scenes, and that's why we've uncovered this exclusive: the favorite songs they don't want you to know about:
That took fully longer than I'm willing to admit to.
posted by kriston at 8:39 AM........
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Are you ready for some policy?In a NYT editorial, David Brooks nails my opinion on Bush's Sunday night address to the nation. (Full disclosure: I didn't see it on television, but read it in the newspaper the next day.) Cutting to the quick:
The decision to go to the U.N. is not the most important policy revision Bush executed. The coming U.N. debate will give a lot of second-tier powers the chance to preen about sending troops they don't have and making contributions they can't afford, but nobody should fool themselves into thinking it is in any way crucial to the region. Powell has estimated there may be a mere 10,000 to 15,000 additional international troops. Some technocrats from the Sorbonne may supplement the ones from Johns Hopkins, but the U.N. offensive is a long journey for only a modest reward.A couple of things on this: I think Brooks is right about UN involvement being the least important policy redirection, so it's curious to me that conservatives are so up in arms over it, or, conversely, that liberals would care about it so much. At this point any major allotment of troops in Iraq will be American. Even our European allies who are contributing without a UN mandate (namely, the Brits) are supplying an order of magnitude fewer troops than the US, and other UN nations are not going to put forth as many troops as the British, I imagine. What the UN can supply are much-needed military police, but if what Brooks indicates is true—that US civilian administrators want to transfer authority to Iraqis much quicker than previously planned, I'd think that the US gamble is that in an Iraq under real Iraqi leadership, MPs won't be so neccessary. That's only my speculation, so don't quote Brooks over it.
Secondly, where are those "oh-so-sullen" fiscal conservatives? Kidnapped, killed, locked in the White House basement? I figure that the 'Out of Iraq' motions will come from two camps, the ideological left (Kucinich) and the pocketbook Republicans. So far there's been no complaining from the right about the costs of Iraq, and little complaining about the tremendous deficit spending. I think the fiscal conservative is a myth.
MORE: Kevin Drum has notes on that Iraqi budget that ought to set off alarms for fiscal conservatives: $221 billion over 15 months, he estimates.
Bush ought to just stick to asking us if we're ready for football.
posted by kriston at 12:09 PM........
HomecomingThe Texas Ten are coming home, ending the Democratic defensive against Republican redistricting efforts for the state's Congressional representation. Charles Kuffner explains that the shell game over representation in West Texas between TX Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland), US Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Lubbock), US Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-Abilene), and TX Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) has delayed the map approval process and the start of the third special session. While it's just bizarre, as Kuffner notes, that TX Republicans didn't make an effort during this off-time to put together a map that Republicans could agree on, this stump is just a momentary block. DeLay, Perry, and Dewhurst will get their map if it's only a matter of shaping up the bench.
It's all Bad News Bears for Texas, and for the nation as well—maybe some good will come of the Texas Ten's efforts to nationalize the fight. GOP machine-building continues....
In fact, they're launching Terminators in California. Oh... shut up.
posted by kriston at 11:54 AM........