Monday, March 31, 2008

Milius & Coppola: Primordial Instincts

"Kurtz: It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies.

I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.

And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that.

If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us."

-John Milius & Francis Ford Coppola (APOCALYPSE NOW, 1979)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Large Hadron Collider: Earth Eater

Two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.

The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.

But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Although it sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years — namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.  The lawsuit, filed March 21 in Federal District Court, in Honolulu, seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting CERN from proceeding with the accelerator until it has produced a safety report and an environmental assessment. It names the federal Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the National Science Foundation and CERN as defendants.

According to a spokesman for the Justice Department, which is representing the Department of Energy, a scheduling meeting has been set for June 16.  Why should CERN, an organization of European nations based in Switzerland, even show up in a Hawaiian courtroom?

In an interview, Mr. Wagner said, “I don’t know if they’re going to show up.” CERN would have to voluntarily submit to the court’s jurisdiction, he said, adding that he and Mr. Sancho could have sued in France or Switzerland, but to save expenses they had added CERN to the docket here. He claimed that a restraining order on Fermilab and the Energy Department, which helps to supply and maintain the accelerator’s massive superconducting magnets, would shut down the project anyway.

James Gillies, head of communications at CERN, said the laboratory as of yet had no comment on the suit. “It’s hard to see how a district court in Hawaii has jurisdiction over an intergovernmental organization in Europe,” Mr. Gillies said.  “There is nothing new to suggest that the L.H.C. is unsafe,” he said, adding that its safety had been confirmed by two reports, with a third on the way, and would be the subject of a discussion during an open house at the lab on April 6.

“Scientifically, we’re not hiding away,” he said.  But Mr. Wagner is not mollified. “They’ve got a lot of propaganda saying it’s safe,” he said in an interview, “but basically it’s propaganda.”

In an e-mail message, Mr. Wagner called the CERN safety review “fundamentally flawed” and said it had been initiated too late. The review process violates the European Commission’s standards for adhering to the “Precautionary Principle,” he wrote, “and has not been done by ‘arms length’ scientists.”

Physicists in and out of CERN say a variety of studies, including an official CERN report in 2003, have concluded there is no problem. But just to be sure, last year the anonymous Safety Assessment Group was set up to do the review again.

“The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots,” said Michelangelo Mangano, a CERN theorist who said he was part of the group. The others prefer to remain anonymous, Mr. Mangano said, for various reasons. Their report was due in January.

Doomsday fears have a long, if not distinguished, pedigree in the history of physics. At Los Alamos before the first nuclear bomb was tested, Emil Konopinski was given the job of calculating whether or not the explosion would set the atmosphere on fire.

The Large Hadron Collider is designed to fire up protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts before banging them together. Nothing, indeed, will happen in the CERN collider that does not happen 100,000 times a day from cosmic rays in the atmosphere, said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a particle theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

What is different, physicists admit, is that the fragments from cosmic rays will go shooting harmlessly through the Earth at nearly the speed of light, but anything created when the beams meet head-on in the collider will be born at rest relative to the laboratory and so will stick around and thus could create havoc.

The new worries are about black holes, which, according to some variants of string theory, could appear at the collider. That possibility, though a long shot, has been widely ballyhooed in many papers and popular articles in the last few years, but would they be dangerous?  According to a paper by the cosmologist Stephen Hawking in 1974, they would rapidly evaporate in a poof of radiation and elementary particles, and thus pose no threat. No one, though, has seen a black hole evaporate.

As a result, Mr. Wagner and Mr. Sancho contend in their complaint, black holes could really be stable, and a micro black hole created by the collider could grow, eventually swallowing the Earth.

But William Unruh, of the University of British Columbia, whose paper exploring the limits of Dr. Hawking’s radiation process was referenced on Mr. Wagner’s Web site, said they had missed his point. “Maybe physics really is so weird as to not have black holes evaporate,” he said. “But it would really, really have to be weird.”

Lisa Randall, a Harvard physicist whose work helped fuel the speculation about black holes at the collider, pointed out in a paper last year that black holes would probably not be produced at the collider after all, although other effects of so-called quantum gravity might appear.

As part of the safety assessment report, Dr. Mangano and Steve Giddings of the University of California, Santa Barbara, have been working intensely for the last few months on a paper exploring all the possibilities of these fearsome black holes. They think there are no problems but are reluctant to talk about their findings until they have been peer reviewed, Dr. Mangano said.

Dr. Arkani-Hamed said concerning worries about the death of the Earth or universe, “Neither has any merit.” He pointed out that because of the dice-throwing nature of quantum physics, there was some probability of almost anything happening. There is some minuscule probability, he said, “the Large Hadron Collider might make dragons that might eat us up.”

-Dennis Overbye (Asking a Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More, New York Times, 3.29.08)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The State of Humankind: 24/7

"Ladies & Gentlemen:

I have been alone in a room for almost 24 hours with 6 TVs, a laptop and two radios, listening to and watching and reading only political shows and pundits and blogs, sometimes monitoring four or five things at the same time. Just to see if it can be done.

I'll tell you it can be, but I cannot tell you how horrible it is. It rattles the very center of your being. If you care about the state of humankind, it fills you with despair. We are as a people bleak and hostile and suspicious, filled with senseless partisanship and willing to believe anything and everything about anyone. We are full of ourselves and we hate. And we do it 24-7.

Would you be willing, as a sign of compassion and empathy, to do the unthinkable and broadcast right now, as a Valentine to me, 20 seconds of blessed dead air?

Complete silence. Just read my text and then say...nothing. Twenty seconds.

Just to show it can be done. I SEND IT IN.

It turns out, no, it can't be done."

-Gene Weingarten (Excerpt from "Cruel & Unusual Punishment", Washington Post

Friday, March 28, 2008

Juanita Johnson-Bailey, Ph.D. Mammy Or Conscious Black Woman?

"I have been called a Mammy so much over these last few weeks as I've voiced 
my support for Senator Clinton that I have started sending out this 
response to my Black girlfriends who call me a race traitor. 

Mammy or Conscious Black Woman? 
I do question Black women who think of me as a race traitor for being a 
Clinton supporter, especially those who can’t discuss either candidate’s 
platform. I wonder how they can blindly choose race loyalty over their 
racial and gender interests. Here are my thoughts. I don't feel like a Mammy to Senator Clinton, as Melissa Harris- Lacewell of 
Princeton claimed in her op-ed piece, Mammy Goes to Washington, of Black 
women who support Clinton. What I am is the invisible unheard Black woman 
voter who is trampled in the media dash to simplify racial politics. I 
can't give my loyalty to any person who takes my vote for granted and won’t 
bring me and my issues out in the light of day. Here are my thoughts:

1. Senator Clinton is not new to me or to Blacks. She worked with Marian 
Wright Eldeman back in the 70s for children's rights (esp. Black children). 
She was involved in the inception of One America, The President's 
Commission on Race headed by John Hope Franklin. 

2. Senator Clinton has been in the fight to open the doors for more women 
and Blacks. Senator Clinton has a Black woman campaign manager. She 
campaigned for Obama when he 1st ran for Senate. She still keeps a picture 
of Obama and his family from that campaign on her desk. Her office was the 
1st place that Senator Obama visited when he was newly elected. He thought 
so highly of her that he asked her to be his mentor. She mentored him 
during his first year in the Senate. 

3. Unlike most other First ladies who were just attached, Senator Clinton 
had an office in the West Wing and has actually worked on initiatives for 
people of color and women. She has traveled the world representing the U.S. 
and actually broken bread with international dignitaries like Bhutto. 

4. Clinton has also disagreed with her spouse. She supported gays in the 
military, no questions asked. I’m clear that I’m not electing Bill Clinton. 
I’m clear that Senator Clinton does not get all of my issues. But I’m also 
clear that she is not ignoring them and taking me for granted in an effort 
to appeases the masses. 

5. Senator Clinton has spoken out on race, while Senator Obama said has 
tried to ingratiate himself to those who believe in the power of a 
colorblind society. Obama has said that class was more in play than race in 
the Jena 6 incidents; he has said that Blacks are 90% on the way to 
equality; and Obama has said that the federal government’s incompetence 
during Katrina was colorblind. 
 A Black man who believes such things may share the dailiness of being Black 
in America with me, but he and I have certainly interpreted these 
experiences differently. A Black man who believes such things cannot take 
my support for granted. I cannot give him a pass on these issues because 
of the color of his skin. 

6. Black women colleagues, professors, have given me their singular reasons 
for voting for Obama. They have stated respectively: I’m voting for him 
because he’s Black; I’m voting for him because I want to see Michelle Obama 
as the 1st lady; I’m voting for him because I don’t like the way the 
Clintons have criticized him; I’m voting for Obama because she’s too 
intense, too serious; I’m voting for him because he’s a good speaker and 
excites the crowd; I’m voting against her because she cried, a White 
woman’s tactic to get her way. Surely there are good reasons to vote for 
Obama. The ones listed are not among them. 

7. My White colleagues who serve with me on diversity committees have 
reasoned their Obama vote thusly: he’s the 1st national Black 
leader/politician that doesn’t make me feel guilty; Obama sees beyond race 
and has gone beyond race; voting for Obama absolves me of my last vestiges 
of White guilt. I find these reasons for choosing heartwarming easily 
digestible Blackness offensive. 

8. I ask the question that Tavis Smiley asked Senator Kennedy, "Why is it 
that all these powerful White men have lined up behind Obama and most of 
the Black Caucus is lined up behind Senator Clinton?"

9. I ask further, "Do powerful White men come bearing gifts wanting nothing 
in return?" The Kennedy that I most respect because he has been in the 
trenches is Robert Kennedy's son, who is supporting Senator Clinton and 
worked for her in CA. But that didn't make the news either. 

10. I think we, as Black people are too uncritical of our own. We are so 
desperate to see a good Black man we can believe in after the likes of O J, 
Uncle Clarence, and Marion Barry. Yes Obama is squeaky clean, but only a 
few years on the national scene and he's ready to go? 

11. I don't buy the Kennedy comparison. Obama is no President Kennedy -- 
who by the way had many more years on the national scene when he decided to 
run. And I remember the real Kennedy who was pulled kicking and screaming 
into Civil Rights by Martin Luther King, Jr., not the Kennedy of the myth. 
I also remember the Southern, flawed, Johnson who had the political clout 
to twist arms to make Civil Rights a reality. But Johnson only did so 
because he had no choice, because King was a master strategist, and because 
even Johnson believed the time had come. I lived this history and won’t 
have it reinterpreted for me. 

In closing, I feel like a woman who has been where Clinton has been, 
abandoned by women who in their heart of hearts, can't quite live their 
self-love because they were so socialized into loving and caring for 
everyone else before themselves, especially men. And I’ve been someplace 
that Senator Clinton has not been. I’ve been called names, especially by my 
Sistahs, who feel like I’m choosing a White woman over a Black man. I love 
Black men. I have loved the same one for 37 years. And I'm not afraid of 
Black men with power. I also live with this same Black man who has power, a 
CEO. If this were not a time of crisis and 10 years down the road, I might 
consider the Obama bandwagon, but not today. I don’t feel like a Black woman who is choosing gender over race. I feel 
like a Black woman with an awareness of just how much gender matters. I 
still know that women make 71 cents to the $1.00 that men make when we have 
the same education and experience and that we make even less if we’re Black 
women. I know that it is women who are raped, assaulted, and not equally 
protected by the courts in the workplace and regarding domestic matters. I 
know that it is women’s pain that the press exploits and it is women who 
the press derides if we are too powerful and out of our place. 

No debate, the Clinton camp has made steps that have been scrutinized and 
over-analyzed and interpreted and they have not been given the benefit of 
the doubt-- something they mistakenly believed that they had earned from 
the Black community. Yes I see the racism, unintentional or not, in some of 
the things said by Clinton supporters during this primary season. But I can 
also see the hidden codes coming from the other side too. I see codes that 
play on my Black pain and oppression. Oprah used hidden codes to play on 
our pain when she asked, "Where would I be if I had listened to people 
(Whites) when they told me that it was not my time/turn?” I won’t apply TV 
mis/standards or Oprah’s life experience to mine. I like to compare apples 
with apples. If I remember correctly people said the same of John Edwards 
his first time out -- that he was not ready and that it was not his time 
and it was not considered racist, just a critique. 

In these times of crisis, I choose experience over inspiration. Nobody 
wants red states and blue states; everybody wants hope; but I want that and 
more. It's like a choice between the high school girl who is the class good 
girl, the valedictorian, the person who has worked so hard for the class 
over four years of high school. She's done most things right. And then a 
new boy moves to town. He looks good, he's popular, he has less baggage, 
and he speaks better. He says appealing things. She gives too much detail 
and she is sort of boring. What the heck? Let's vote for him. 

Well I've been in this situation in the workplace -- passed over by less 
qualified men, Black and White, perceived as more personable. And there 
were so many good reasons -- she seems radical, she talks too much, she 
seems mean, people don't really like her, she’s probably a feminist, and 
she's a “B”. Sound familiar? And even though it is now packaged 
differently, I still recognize it and it hurts me as a woman. 

I don't feel like a Mammy to Senator Clinton. If you want to talk female 
stereotypes, I don’t want be a mistress to Obama -- never mentioned, but 
taken for granted. I feel that I am making an informed choice. I choose the 
mentor over the protégé. I choose to be an empowered, conscious, and 
informed modern Black woman, not one who is having her pain played on by 
people who have not demonstrated that they hear me or value me – just 
people who want my vote and expect it or else."

-Juanita Johnson-Bailey, Ph.D (Professor of Lifelong Education, Administration Policy and Women's Studies, Princeton University, March 2008)

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville not Thomas Edison: Sound, Glorious Sound

For more than a century, since he captured the spoken words “Mary had a little lamb” on a sheet of tinfoil, Thomas Edison has been considered the father of recorded sound. But researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison’s invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades.

The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable — converted from squiggles on paper to sound — by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.


“This is a historic find, the earliest known recording of sound,” said Samuel Brylawski, the former head of the recorded-sound division of the Library of Congress, who is not affiliated with the research group but who was familiar with its findings. The audio excavation could give a new primacy to the phonautograph, once considered a curio, and its inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter and tinkerer who went to his grave convinced that credit for his breakthroughs had been improperly bestowed on Edison.

Scott’s 1860 phonautogram was made 17 years before Edison received a patent for the phonograph and 28 years before an Edison associate captured a snippet of a Handel oratorio on a wax cylinder, a recording that until now was widely regarded by experts as the oldest that could be played back.

Mr. Giovannoni’s presentation on Friday will showcase additional Scott phonautograms discovered in Paris, including recordings made in 1853 and 1854. Those first experiments included attempts to capture the sounds of a human voice and a guitar, but Scott’s machine was at that time imperfectly calibrated.

“We got the early phonautograms to squawk, that’s about it,” Mr. Giovannoni said.

But the April 1860 phonautogram is more than a squawk. On a digital copy of the recording provided to The New York Times, the anonymous vocalist, probably female, can be heard against a hissing, crackling background din. The voice, muffled but audible, sings, “Au clair de la lune, Pierrot répondit” in a lilting 11-note melody — a ghostly tune, drifting out of the sonic murk.

The hunt for this audio holy grail was begun in the fall by Mr. Giovannoni and three associates: Patrick Feaster, an expert in the history of the phonograph who teaches at Indiana University, and Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey, owners of Archeophone Records, a label specializing in early sound recordings. They had collaborated on the Archeophone album “Actionable Offenses,” a collection of obscene 19th-century records that received two Grammy nominations. When Mr. Giovannoni raised the possibility of compiling an anthology of the world’s oldest recorded sounds, Mr. Feaster suggested they go digging for Scott’s phonautograms.

Historians have long been aware of Scott’s work. But the American researchers believe they are the first to make a concerted search for Scott’s phonautograms or attempt to play them back.

In December Mr. Giovannoni and a research assistant traveled to a patent office in Paris, the Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle. There he found recordings from 1857 and 1859 that were included by Scott in his phonautograph patent application. Mr. Giovannoni said that he worked with the archive staff there to make high-resolution, preservation-grade digital scans of these recordings.

A trail of clues, including a cryptic reference in Scott’s writings to phonautogram deposits made at “the Academy,” led the researchers to another Paris institution, the French Academy of Sciences, where several more of Scott’s recordings were stored. Mr. Giovannoni said that his eureka moment came when he laid eyes on the April 1860 phonautogram, an immaculately preserved sheet of rag paper 9 inches by 25 inches.

“It was pristine,” Mr. Giovannoni said. “The sound waves were remarkably clear and clean.”

His scans were sent to the Lawrence Berkeley lab, where they were converted into sound by the scientists Carl Haber and Earl Cornell. They used a technology developed several years ago in collaboration with the Library of Congress, in which high-resolution “maps” of grooved records are played on a computer using a digital stylus. The 1860 phonautogram was separated into 16 tracks, which Mr. Giovannoni, Mr. Feaster and Mr. Martin meticulously stitched back together, making adjustments for variations in the speed of Scott’s hand-cranked recording.

Listeners are now left to ponder the oddity of hearing a recording made before the idea of audio playback was even imagined.

“There is a yawning epistemic gap between us and Léon Scott, because he thought that the way one gets to the truth of sound is by looking at it,” said Jonathan Sterne, a professor at McGill University in Montreal and the author of “The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction.”

Scott is in many ways an unlikely hero of recorded sound. Born in Paris in 1817, he was a man of letters, not a scientist, who worked in the printing trade and as a librarian. He published a book on the history of shorthand, and evidently viewed sound recording as an extension of stenography. In a self-published memoir in 1878, he railed against Edison for “appropriating” his methods and misconstruing the purpose of recording technology. The goal, Scott argued, was not sound reproduction, but “writing speech, which is what the word phonograph means.”

In fact, Edison arrived at his advances on his own. There is no evidence that Edison drew on knowledge of Scott’s work to create his phonograph, and he retains the distinction of being the first to reproduce sound.

“Edison is not diminished whatsoever by this discovery,” Mr. Giovannoni said.

Paul Israel, director of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., praised the discovery as a “tremendous achievement,” but called Edison’s phonograph a more significant technological feat.

“What made Edison different from Scott was that he was trying to reproduce sound and he succeeded,” Mr. Israel said.

But history is finally catching up with Scott.

Mr. Sterne, the McGill professor, said: “We are in a period that is more similar to the 1860s than the 1880s. With computers, there is an unprecedented visualization of sound.”

The acclaim Scott sought may turn out to have been assured by the very sonic reproduction he disdained. And it took a group of American researchers to rescue Scott’s work from the musty vaults of his home city. In his memoir, Scott scorned his American rival Edison and made brazen appeals to French nationalism. “What are the rights of the discoverer versus the improver?” he wrote less than a year before his death in 1879. “Come, Parisians, don’t let them take our prize.”
-Jody Rosen (EXCERPT: New York Times,3.27.08)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dialogue Exercise: Do You Love Me?

x: "That was great."
o: "You're an animal."
x: "Sure."
o: "In about a half hour."
x: "Have you told him yet?"
o: "No."
x: "Are you going to?"
o: "I have something else in mind. Something that could
benefit us both."
x: "What?"
o: "Do you love me?
x: "You know I do."
o: "How much?"
x: "Come on. What are you driving at?"
o: "Answer the question. How much?
x: "Okay, okay. More than anyone, ever.
o: "He's worth a great deal of money, you know."
x: "Yeah, so."
o "You could pay off Tony--all of it.
x: "Come on baby, I owe him eighty grand.
o: "Done. Then we could go away together."
x: "Where?"
o: "You always wanted to go to Tahiti."
x: "You're an evil little girl."
o: "Sometimes."
x: "I see. And you want me to help you."
o: "Yes."
x: "How?"
o: "However you see fit? You're a smart guy."
x: "It's too risky, baby."
o: "He's afraid of the water."
x: "You've got it all planned out."
o: "I'm a good actress.
x: "Let me think about it.
o: "I need to know now. I can find someone else."
x: "Alright, alright. Tell me the plan.
o: "So, you'll do it?"
x: "Yeah."
o: "Kiss me."


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On Edward Bernays: Our Irrational Fears & Desires

Exploration of the use of psychoanalytic techniques on the masses which Edward Bernays (a.k.a., The Father of Spin) "invented".

Bernays stated: "Human beings could not be trusted to make rational decisions ( if not put under control, the public would overthrow governments: i.e. Bolshevik Revolution etc.) Therefore, mass democracy was wrong and intolerable-the belief that human beings could be trusted to consistently behave rationally. Democratic theorist, Walter Lippman argued that if humans were driven by unconscious and irrational forces and feelings then it was necessary to re-think democracy. What was needed was a new elite who could manage the "bewildered herd". This could be done thru psychological techniques that would control the unconscious feelings and desires of the masses-looking toward psychological science to instill social control.

Bernays himself had a superiority complex, quoted as saying, " the masses are stupid." We will mold the public into a passive consumer, not an active Democracy. This was the ultimate goal of the early Public Relations architects.

Psychological techniques used on the "bewildered herd": What's so interesting about psychological manipulation is...the obvious hypocrisy. Mentally ill people were thrown into insane asylums, were considered insane for merely requiring psychological care. For the better half of the 20th Century, "therapy" of any sort was taboo in American society. Psychological care meant outcast. Consider this: isn't it interesting that the very idea of psychoanalysis/psychology was considered reserved for the socially undesirables, mentally unstable outcasts, but these very techniques were used by these men to control society as a whole. In other words, Public Relations architects like Edward Bernays and Walter Lippman made the very techniques they used on the masses appear socially undesirable to the masses. What better way of keeping the public from knowing how they were being manipulated than by blackballing the very techniques being used on them? In no way should we become a fully conscious individual-this would signal Revolution. -VioletPlanet

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pierre Tristam: When America Can't Handle The Truth

"The word, attributed to the late writer Saul Bellow, is “angelization” — willfully putting someone beyond blame. Angelizing America is the common tongue of all national politicians, the oath candidates implicitly take when running for president. It’s what the most sentimental people on Earth expect. It’s what enables a country that committed its share of atrocities in the past and is committing more than its share of moral degradations today to look itself in the mirror and see something exceptional looking back, rather than just another empire trampling down its march of folly, as the great historian Barbara Tuchman called it. Angelizing America is the unspoken, self-evident pledge of allegiance. Someone didn’t tell the Obamas.

First, there was Michelle Obama: “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change.”

Then there was Barack Obama’s spiritual adviser, the fascinating Jeremiah Wright — not the outright lies about Wright’s black separatism, which is bunk (although to most classically illiberal whites any black who adopts the fervor of Emersonian self-sufficiency is suddenly a separatist), but this, from a 2003 sermon: “The government gives (blacks) the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”

Then there was Obama himself, insolently ripping the halo off the romanticized iconography of race in America and returning the matter to the reality of a job undone. That he did so in a 37-minute speech more powerfully essential than anything the incumbent nullity has managed in seven years was bound to inflame those commentators — Shelby Steele, William Kristol, Kathleen Parker, any lips that move at the Fox network — who’ve been outdoing themselves to dig up hollowness at Obama’s core. What they’re digging up instead is his disarming arsenal, an ability to face up to national blights without, like Wright, stopping at the diagnosis.

Obama offers a path to conciliation. The path begins with a willfulness exactly opposite angelization. It begins more along the lines of where a truth commission might begin. That’s Obama’s problem. It’s doubtful whether this country can, in its lethargy for social justice at home and its trances for wars abroad, HANDLE THE TRUTH."

-Pierre Tristam (Published March 25, 2008- Daytona Beach News-Journal ) EXCERPT

Monday, March 24, 2008

Judy Garland: Tried Like Hell

"I wanted to believe. I tried my damnedest to believe in the rainbow that I tried to get over and I couldn't...SO WHAT!"

-Judy Garland ( on audio tape and drunker than hell from her unpublished autobiography for Random House Publishing, 1960s).


Paddy Chayefsky: Madness, Virulent Madness

"Max Schumacher: You need me. You need me badly. Because I'm your last contact with human reality. I love you. And that painful, decaying love is the only thing between you and the shrieking nothingness you live the rest of the day.

Diana Christensen: Then, don't leave me.

Max Schumacher: It's too late, Diana. There's nothing left in you that I can live with. You're one of Howard's humanoids. If I stay with you, I'll be destroyed. Like Howard Beale was destroyed. Like Laureen Hobbs was destroyed. Like everything you and the institution of television touch is destroyed. You're television incarnate, Diana: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays.

You're madness, Diana. Virulent madness. And everything you touch dies with you. But not me. Not as long as I can feel pleasure, and pain... and love.

[Kisses her]

Max Schumacher: And it's a happy ending: Wayward husband comes to his senses, returns to his wife, with whom he has established a long and sustaining love. Heartless young woman left alone in her arctic desolation. Music up with a swell; final commercial. And here are a few scenes from next week's show."

-Paddy Chayefsky, Screenwriter- NETWORK (1976)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

On Susan Sontag: What We've Wrought Upon Our World

"In her rage and gloom and growing despair, she concluded that "the truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean Algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone — its ideologies and inventions — which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself."
- Steve Wasserman, Los Angeles Times, 2004 Obit for Susan Sontag

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gore Vidal Speaks Seriously Ill Of The Dead

I can recall that day in the 1930s when a “news” (sic) magazine appeared in Washington, D.C.; it was called Newsweek: meant to be a counterbalance to Time Magazine’s uncontrollable malice. In due course the two became sadly alike as Vincent Astor morphed into Henry Luce: Was it something in the water? I once asked Henry Luce why he called Time a news magazine when it was simply Uncle Harry’s means of venting his rage (this was 1960 or so) at liberals, and “degenerate art” like the plays of Tennessee Williams-he had no answer. At Newsweek Vincent Astor was far too stupid to answer any such complaint. Now here we are in the Newsweek of 2008, and it’s still lousy. There have been a few decent writers in between that were less nutty than today’s Newsweek hacks.

But why is Newsweek currently lousy? Here’s an example provided by an editor who keeps a sharp eye on their crimes. He sent me their recent obituary of William F. Buckley, a hero to those who feared democracies.

Buckley bridled at bullies [we are assured]. But one of the rare times he lost his temper was debating Gore Vidal, who “got under his skin,” says son Chris. When Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi,” Buckley responded, “Now listen, you queer, you stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.” But usually his public manners were genteel [I think they mean gentile]. With “Firing Line” guests who seemed nervous or over their heads, Buckley was gentle. Behind the scenes, he could show remarkable kindness. In 1980, a rising conservative star, Congressman Bob Bauman, was soliciting a 16-year-old [male] for oral sex. Bauman had been a gay-basher, and he instantly became a pariah. The next day, knowing what lay ahead for the disgraced congressman, Buckley quietly gave him an envelope containing $10,000. “He was a knightly man,” says Chris.

Unknown to them and everyone else who might read that publication, my views on many matters do not conform to the tired hacks who’ve taken over Newsweek, a magazine that has convinced itself that Bobby Kennedy Sr. was a great liberal. They love throwing about misunderstood terms like liberal and conservative that seldom suit their superficial, not to mention malicious, standards. Recently, their words of mourning for the fallen “genteel” paladin were incredible. As my editor friend knew that I seldom read the wilder attacks on me, he deconstructs Newsweek’s obituary of Buckley:

Parenthetically, I should note that, back in 1968, ABC TV had asked me and Buckley to “debate” each other at the Democratic and Republican conventions. Although Buckley was often drunk and out of control, he was always a spontaneous liar on any subject that his dizzy brain might extrude. When we were in Chicago during the Republican convention, the Chicago police decided it would be fun to attack the young co-ed demonstrators in Grant Park, not far from our studio. It was one of the worst displays of police brutality I’ve ever seen, and so I said on air; he liked what the police had done; in no time, the whole country was as shocked as I, but not Buckley. On air he was hissing like a cobra against the young people in Grant Park because, he said, they were egging on the Viet Cong to kill American Marines. They were not, of course. Buckley was a world-class American liar on the far right who would tell any lie he thought he could get away with. Years of ass-kissing famous people in the press and elsewhere had given him, he felt, a sort of license to libelously slander those hated liberals who, from time to time, smoked him out as I did in Chicago, when I defended the young people in Grant Park by denying that they were Nazis and that the only “pro- or crypto-Nazi” I could think of was himself. He sued me and got nowhere. He sued Esquire, in which our words appeared. By then the coming right-wing surge was in view. And so Esquire cravenly agreed to settle with him for a few paragraphs worth of free advertising for his weird little magazine The National Review, hardly the great victory he claimed.

Now, to Newsweek’s obituary of this late dishonorable American in which my editor-friend assures me that his brain-dead son Christopher had a hand: “Buckley bridled at bullies.” And who was the bully in context? Myself. He was also an expert at changing indefensible contexts. Buckley maintained that I supported revolutionaries who favored murdering U.S. Marines. Yet all the talk of Nazis etc. was started by Buckley. There was no lie he would not tell to get back at those who defeated him in debate.

The current editors at Newsweek appear to have listened eagerly to his son Christopher, who is guiding them to a benign view of what had been a most hysterical queen (WFB), much admired by a media that takes everyone at his own evaluation of himself as they did with Capote, who told them that he was a great writer like Proust (pronounced Prowst) and the hacks ate it up.

The correct assessment of any reputation today is so far from plausible reality that it might be a good thing if the hacks of a magazine like Newsweek steered clear of characterizing those disliked by the advertisers; hence his creepy son’s depiction of me as a “bully” when I was simply attending to one, and then-o, joy!- Buckley called me a “queer” and actually threatened me with physical violence, so great was his testosterone level. Next, the loyal son, suspecting that the pejorative use of “queer” is politically incorrect in mag-land, Christopher rambles into a story about his father’s kindness to a Mr. Bauman who had lost his seat in Congress after the congressman had been caught while soliciting Oral Sex from a 16-year-old male (note how prurient Newsweek’s prose is, in describing undesirable people). Chris weeps into his computer as he describes how Dad gave the poor sinner of the flesh an envelope containing $10,000 (I bet?) in cash adding, mysteriously, “He was a knightly man”: Who was-the cocksucker recipient of Buckley’s charity? Or his admirer, Mr. Buckley himself?-Bauman was very right wing, it is said. RIP WFB-in hell.

The unique mess that our republic is in can be, in part, attributed to a corrupt press whose roots are in mendacious news (sic) magazines like Time and Newsweek, aided by tabloids that manufacture fictional stories about actual people. This mingling of opinion and fiction has undone a media never devoted to truth. Hence, the ease with which the Republican smear-machine goes into action when they realize that yet again the party’s permanent unpopularity with the American people will cause them defeat unless they smear individually those who question the junk that the media has put into so many heads. Anyone who says “We gotta fight ‘em over there or we’re gonna have to fight ‘em over here.” This absurdity has been pronounced by every Republican seeking high office. The habit of lying is now a national style that started with “news” magazines that was further developed by pathological liars that proved to be “good” Entertainment on TV. But a diet of poison that has done none of us any good.

I speak ex cathedra now, ad urbe et orbe, with a warning that no society so marinated in falsity can long survive in a real world. -Gore Vidal Copyright © 2008 Truthdig, L.L.C.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dinner With Andy Warhol

Date: Fall of 1985
Place: New York City
Restaurant: NOBU- 57th and 6th Ave
Cuisine: Japanese
Courses: 8

The Introduction:

The back of his fried blonde head sat three rows in front of me. I felt…important.

She and I were dressed to the nines that night. We had just seen a bad fashion show at the institute and had walked outside. I was in the midst of hailing a cab when I felt three gentle taps on my shoulder. I turned around and he softly said, “Would you girls like to have dinner with us tonight?” I stared at his waxen pocked-marked complexion and two-toned owl-eyed sunglasses, which obliterated his eyes for about 5 seconds before coolly replying, “Yes.” He took my arm and said, “You and she will ride with me and the others will follow.” The others were Jean-Michel Basquiat, his latest smacked out protégé, Eric Goode, the owner of AREA and Elizabeth Saks of 5th Ave.

The Cab Ride:

We sat in the back seat. He insisted on the middle position and soon began an onslaught of questions:

“What’s your name?”

“Where are you from?”

“Ohio!” I’m from the Midwest too. Pittsburgh. Terrible place. Have you ever been there?”

“What do you do? Do you go to school? “What School? What do you study?”

Before we could barely answer, he would interject little compliments:

“Oh, that’s super!” “You’re Super!”…”Super”
“Oh, you’re beautiful!” “You’re beautiful” …Beautiful.”

“Michelle, who’s your favorite Movie Star?”

“Marilyn! I met Marilyn. Tragic. You have a great voice, you know. It sounds a lot like hers did.”

I said nothing. My heart was pounding.

“It’s true. Her voice was much deeper in real life. That little girl voice was only for her films.”

His voice was surprisingly soft with a slight snake-edged undertone.

I suddenly felt like I was being conned.

The Restaurant:

The owner—an excitable middle-aged Japanese man greeted us at the door. Immediately, he asked Andy for his autograph. Andy signed the book and said, “You both should sign it too.” but never handed us the book.

We waited in the lobby while the private dining room was being prepared. The other party soon arrived and blandly introduced themselves. Basquiat mumbled a hello and said nothing else the entire evening. The other two giggled and necked in the corner. Andy mentioned he was going to make a new movie.

No one responded.

We were ushered into a beautiful dining room—no chairs. Cushions. No shoes permitted. Two Geisha Girls waited at either side of a huge cherry wood table. I sat at the end opposite Andy and beside Basquiat who immediately produced a Tupperware container full of pot and put it beside him.

The owner ecstatically announced we were going to experience a traditional Japanese meal served in traditional Japanese style. He grandly stated that he would introduce each course as it was served.

An awkward silence.

Andy simply nodded and asked me what I wanted to drink.

“Ah a martini! I love a girl who can guzzle gasoline.”

He smiled at me. Ordered a Coke and began to gossip:

“Do you know Nikki Haskell?”

“Yes” (I lied)

“What do you think of her?”

“She’s great.”

“Oh, really? I think she’s terrible. Oh, you girls are super! Jean Michel, we should put her in our next film!”

Basquiat said nothing. The other two snickered. My friend looked like someone stuck a poll up her ass and I…ordered another martini.

To change the subject, I asked him about the past. I mentioned that I had read the book, EDIE and wondered how factual it really was.

He simply said, “Edie who?”


Dinner was served.

I don’t remember any more conversations probably because there were none. I do remember having difficulty eating my blowfish. Andy barely ate anything. Basquiat never smoked any of his pot nor offered it to anyone else. Elizabeth Saks and Eric Goode played footsy under the table with Basquiat. My friend continued to look uncomfortable and I ordered yet…another martini.

Andy paid the check, knelt at my feet and asked if he could help me put my black riding boots on. My hand on his shoulder, I let him do most of the work. He was tender and took his time. I wondered…

The owner offered to drive us downtown to AREA. We piled into his Mercedes limo. Andy sat in the front. We drove in silence. Said Thank yous and curt Goodbyes before entering the club.

That was the last we saw of them.

-VioletPlanet ( Image: -Unknown, Andy Warhol & Edie Sedgwick at a cocktail party, 1960s).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

H.L. Mencken: Clear And Honest Thinking

The Creed:

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.

I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...
I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.
I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...
I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.
I believe in the reality of progress.

But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

Mencken On Liberty and Government

"The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself. Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable."

"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair."

"Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under."

"Good government is that which delivers the citizen from being done out of his life and property too arbitrarily and violently, one that relieves him sufficiently from the barbaric business of guarding them to enable him to engage in gentler, more dignified, and more agreeable undertakings."

"Law and its instrument, government, are necessary to the peace and safety of all of us, but all of us, unless we live the lives of mud turtles, frequently find them arrayed against us."

"A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man. In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker."

"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office."

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

"The true bureaucrat is a man of really remarkable talents. He writes a kind of English that is unknown elsewhere in the world, and an almost infinite capacity for forming complicated and unworkable rules."

"Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, criminal, grasping, and unintelligent."

"The natural tendency of every government is to grow steadily worse-that is, to grow more satisfactory to those who constitute it and less satisfactory to those who support it."

- Henry Louis Mencken ( Journalist 1880-1956)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack Obama: A More Perfect Union? I Don't Think So...

"A More Perfect Union"-Barack Obama Speech: Great speech BUT...Obama's Martin Luther King so aptly stated...It's merely an idealistic dream but will never fully become a  reality. Another great speech for the text/history books.

Anyone with any semblance of decency, education and empathy knows this and wishes it could become a reality. Thank MLK for inspiring him and whoever  inspired MLK and whoever inspired that person and the person before’s common sense for many of us...but unfortunately this Utopia will never come to pass. You cannot undo 200 plus years of anger, resentment and racist history. You work around it like the American Indians have. You produce, you make money and carve your little niche out in society and live prosperously. You pay your taxes and acquire more stuff to oil the machine. When you make money, pay taxes (feed the corporations that own our government), you are more accepted than you were before...before you were destroyed/ enslaved/ ridiculed by the white men that control whether or not, you will be matter what color  you are.  Case Example: The Jewish Americans-their ancestors figured this out centuries ago and although a minority, they do quite well oiling the machine... but not without looking over their shoulders and not without shedding the blood of others in the name of organized religion as was... and is done to them.

The only way to change this country is to extinct ourselves. Start over. No history. Blank.

Another issue which still irks me about this speech:

Obama has been a member of this popular church for 20 years (since 1987) and heard HIS Minister repeatedly preach hatred towards the "devil white male" establishment (in front of his two young children no less)  without questioning him personally? Furthermore, why didn't Obama reveal his close relationship with HIS Minister at the beginning of his campaign?  This lack of candor leads me to believe this suddenly heralded speech to be quite manipulative (not to mention, given under duress). Re: this excerpt:

"Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way.  But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick etc..."

No excuse for this...and once's a speech. The reality is...the powers that be will not allow such sweeping change as long as  organized religion and history as it has played out EXISTS.  History has proven this repeatedly through the barrel of a gun resulting in the deaths of any truly progressive leader who dares to change an ingrained, tightly controlled  and above all profitable system for those who created it. -VioletPlanet