Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The politically correct guide to celebrating 9/11

Remember the victims of Sept. 11 

White House issues 9/11 observance guidelines

The White House has issued guidelines to government officials at home and abroad detailing how to commemorate the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and suggesting that references to Al Qaeda be minimized, The New York Times reported Tuesday. ...

The guidelines detail what the White House deems as important themes that must be discussed as well as the tone the observances should take. “A chief goal of our communications is to present a positive, forward-looking narrative,” the foreign guidelines state. ... For the statements and ceremonies, the White House is encouraging a common theme: resilience.

-- Politico, August 30

The White House
Office of the Narrative
Washington, D.C.

To: All government officials, at home and abroad
From: Philippe E. Forager, Chief Narrative Officer
Date: August 30, 2011
Subject: September 11 anniversary observance

His Serene Majesty Obama has tasked me with formulating a positive, uplifting tone for all public observances of September 11. You will follow these guidelines to the letter.

1. It has been determined at the highest levels that the phrase "man-caused disasters" is unnecessarily inflammatory, as it might create an image of deliberate action which could reflect unfairly on the Religion of Peace. Therefore, all references to the events of September 11, 2001, shall use the term "Resilience Stimulus," and correspondingly, all ceremonies to mark the anniversary shall be designated "Resilience Festivals."

2. The site in lower Manhattan, once unbecomingly known as Ground Zero, shall be designated "America's Shovel-Ready Project."

3. Now that the U.S. has eliminated terrorism and brought democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq, all references to Al-Qaeda and such are irrelevant and shall be avoided.

4. If it is necessary to refer to lives lost as a side effect of the Resilience Stimulus, it is imperative that the diversity of the victims be the major theme. Do not neglect to point out that members of the Religion of Peace were prominent in that day's toll, as well as in the failed early phases of the Afghanistan and Iraq war under George W. Bush.

5. Remind audiences of the racism and inequality that were the root causes of the events of the Resilience Stimulus. Reassure them that His Serene Majesty will announce a new program on the evening of September 11 to remove racists and unequals to locations where they can do no further harm, an effort that will bring all Americans together.

6. All photographs and videos of people jumping from the World Trade Center, the towers collapsing, etc. are prohibited. Such images are apt to raise emotions detrimental to diversity.

7. Any questions concerning the guidelines should be directed to my office, where a selected staff of diverse advisers will be available around the clock in the 48 hours preceding and during September 11.


Monday, August 29, 2011

The gold rush

A Gallup poll has found that more Americans think gold is the best long-term investment than anything else -- including stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Good news if you have gold in your portfolio? On the surface, yes. More believers might mean more buyers, which would push up the price. But, like everything else in the investment world, it's not so simple.


The question was abstract: "Which of the following do you think is the best long-term investment?" Those who chose gold as their favored investment didn't say they planned to buy gold. With the American economy in a wreck and horrid unemployment numbers, it's likely many of the respondents won't be able to.

Further, the contrarian take is that when any asset class gets wildly popular, it becomes correspondingly more dangerous. As Kid Dynamite puts it: "If you don't understand why crowd sentiment is a contrarian indicator, think about this oversimplification: when everyone is bullish, there's no one left to turn bullish." (Thanks, KD, for the link to Gallup.)

The metal has popped from about $275 at the end of 2001 to $1,773 at today's close. Bubble? Are we due for a reversion to the mean? It's anybody's guess, but gold went vertical in the early '80s before cratering, leaving a lot of disappointed latecomers to the game.


I currently find myself in the unusual situation of  agreeing with the conventional wisdom, which is that you should keep 5 to 10 percent of your liquid worth in gold. It can't go bankrupt and the metal itself can't have a scandal, although there are those who believe the ETFs that hold gold are only "paper" and if you want to be safe, you should hoard gold coins or bars. 

Too King Midas-y and apocalyptic for me. I'll take my chances with an ETF. I go with the ETF Securities Physical Swiss Gold fund (SGOL) rather than the more popular GLD. First, because it's based in Switzerland (although the gold bullion itself is stashed in London -- I wish it weren't, but there are few places in the world where large quantities of gold can be stored safely). Second, I figure if there's any messing around, it's more likely to happen in the bigger ETF.


Only 17 percent of the Americans questioned thought stocks would be best for the long term. That seems short sighted. Right now you can buy blue chip companies with a 4 or 5 percent dividend yield ... not too shabby when bonds pay you in Hershey's Kisses for tying up your money.

The useful WallStreetNewsNetwork -- useful enough that I'll forgive them for "bumping" the words in their name -- offers this table of "High Cash, No Debt, High Yield" stocks. You may have to zoom in to read it (control + in Firefox.) Or go to  WallStreetNewsNetwork and scroll down to the link to the table.

Note: I have been advised that my incorrect technique for pasting the table into the Blogger form caused the break with previous postings, and have therefore removed the table. You can still access it via the link above.

Disclaimer: I have no qualifications as an investment adviser and this is not advice. I have often been wrong. Always get a second opinion: your own.


Friday, August 26, 2011

A historic blog posting

DJ Barack-O warns his East Coast subjects to buckle their seat belts.
All indications point to this being a historic hurricane,” Obama said from his vacation getaway on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., which lies on Irene’s projected path and for which a hurricane watch is in effect.
Alas for the Colossus of the Mall ("I am King, King of Kings. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair") its official consecration will have to be postponed because of meteorological shenanigans. Poseidon is in an ill temper. His first trick, the earthquake, having failed to produce the proper reverence, he has whipped up Irene for his amusement.

These things pass, and in due course the Colossus -- oh, yes, and the "Mountain of Despair" St. Martin removed a sinful country from -- will receive its honors. I would bet money that the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Associated Press will all use the word "historic" in their reports on the event.

This "historic" handle is one of the Lazy Corrupt Media's (LCM's) favorite ploys nowadays. What was DJ Barack-O's election? Just ask any LCM newspaper writer or TV face worker. "Historic." "Historic." "Historic." "Historic." "Historic."

Of course, by definition it was historic. Everything that ever happened or will happen becomes part of the historical record. The sinking of the Lusitania made history too. But as the word is used now, it has ultra-positive connotations, except for the odd hurricane. I don't recall any newscasters on September 11 ten years ago saying, "Today, in a historic terrorist attack, the World Trade Center was leveled ... ."

Using "historic" in the sense of "wonderful, marvelous" is but one of the LCM's cute little tricks for slipping their Mickey Finn of bias into the public's drink. If the LCM fails in its all-out attempt to destroy the candidacy of Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann or whoever, the stories about his or her inauguration will not be graced with the word "historic."

I can see the opening lines already: "On a grim, cloudy day in Washington, amid protests from over 500 activist organizations kept at bay by security guards, the nation's 45th president took the oath of office today in an unhistoric ceremony."


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mall-ted MLK

I didn't know until the other day they were adding a sculpture of Martin Luther King to the National Mall in Washington, but ever since he was canonized it was only a matter of time. It's only another step in filling in the Mall's green space with buildings and monuments to one ethnic group and victim class after another. Ehh.

But this thing? As St. Martin was known to say, "Great God almighty!"


Even Stalin would have been embarrassed to put the equivalent in the middle of Moscow. The Chinese would shy from a monument to Mao on such a scale -- although, America being what it is today, its creation was outsourced to a Chinese sculptor.

If this photo gives an accurate impression of the relative size of St. Martin's colossal torso and the people you can barely make out in the lower right, ...

Excuse me, I've just been in an earthquake. Blimey O'Riley!

First one I've experienced since the 1980s. A very disconcerting business when walls and floors start quivering like Jell-O.

... Where was I? Oh, yes, the MLK Hulk. I've seen sculptures of Roman emperors that were less imposing. Only Constantine's statue, his cogitating bit now in the courtyard of the Capitoline Museum, might have measured up to MLK's.


Someone hand me the National Mall checklist, please. Let's see. Recent additions: National Museum of the American Indian -- check. National Museum of African History and Culture -- check. National Museum of African Art -- check. Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. Women in Vietnam Memorial.

I expect the Latino Museum deficit to be fixed shortly (unlike every other deficit in Washington) -- it's proposed to be installed in the old Arts and Industries building, formerly dedicated to American inventiveness.

Who's left? Oh, yes. Mark my words: a dozen years from now, the cracks in the Jefferson Memorial will be patched with duct tape, while the new LGBT Museum's opening ceremonies will feature Elton John on roller skates pounding away at a 50-foot be-glittered piano.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

To much

Is there anyone left, other than professional writers and editors, who knows the difference between "to" and "too"?

In the blogosphere, particularly in comments, "to" has become almost interchangeable with "too." When I first started noticing the error, I assumed it was just a typo, resulting from someone being in a hurry. But it has become far too -- yes, too -- common to be anything other than ignorance in most cases.

A dumbed down educational system and  a post-literate popular culture mean that words are learned by hearing them, in speech or on TV, rather than reading them. So naturally the difference between homophones is incomprehensible.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Because he says so, that's why

King Obama's love is here to stay.

Shortly before leaving for Martha's Versailles, King Barack 0.5 took care of a little transforming-America business that his ethnic colonizer troops had been nagging him about.

You will recall that he had a spot of bother trying to get the DREAM Act (don't you love those cynical acronyms?) passed. That was to turn the children of illegals into citizens once they completed two years of college, as though the United States needs a million more young people with half a degree. 

Hey, no problem, amigos. Congress won't pass the bill? He doesn't have to sign no stinkin' bill. He'll just DREAM Act America by executive order.
The Obama administration announced Thursday that it would launch a case-by-case review of illegal immigrants slated for deportation, in a move that could grant a reprieve to so-called DREAM Act beneficiaries and thousands of others. 
The DREAM Act is a proposal in Congress to give illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children a chance at legal status if they complete two years of college or military service. Though the bill has not passed, supporters and critics alike suggested Thursday's announcement could serve to unilaterally carry out its provisions.
King for a Day Obama has now decided illegals are to be deported by "priority." Translation: Only when there's no way around it, like when a border jumper kills people.

From the Washington Times:
Bowing to pressure from immigrant rights activists, the Obama administration said Thursday that it will halt deportation proceedings on a case-by-case basis against illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria, such as attending school, having family in the military or having primary responsible for other family members’ care. ...

The move won immediate praise from Hispanic activists and Democrats who had strenuously argued with the administration that it did have authority to take these actions, and said as long as Congress is deadlocked on the issue, it was up to Mr. Obama to act.
L’état, c’est lui.

We have become a sad parody of a republic.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Oh, no! Our "progressive" cities are too white!

Aaron M. Renn, an "independent writer on urban affairs based in the Midwest," looks at famously progressive U.S. cities and finds a tragic flaw: too many white people, not enough vibrancy.

He's probably right about the facts. The conclusions he draws put me in mind of Sydney Smith's anecdote about two Edinburgh women disputing from opposite balconies. They would never agree, Smith quipped, because they were "arguing from different premises." Renn and I would interpret the situation he cites rather differently.

He writes:
Why is it that progressivism in smaller metros is so often associated with low numbers of African Americans? Can you have a progressive city properly so-called with only a disproportionate handful of African Americans in it? In addition, why has no one called these cities on it? ...

Why move to the suburbs of your stodgy Midwest city to escape African Americans and get criticized for it when you can move to Portland and actually be praised as progressive, urban and hip? Many of the policies of Portland are not that dissimilar from those of upscale suburbs in their effects. Urban growth boundaries and other mechanisms raise land prices and render housing less affordable exactly the same as large lot zoning and building codes that mandate brick and other expensive materials do. They both contribute to reducing housing affordability for historically disadvantaged communities. Just like the most exclusive suburbs.
Renn has a fair point about progressives enjoying the relative prosperity and amenities usually associated with un-diversity while congratulating themselves on their inclusiveness.  Of course it's easier to make politically correct noises about African Americans and immigration when you are comfortably insulated from the real-world consequences of large non-Asian minority populations.

But he apparently believes that it's immoral for a city to have any zoning for quality of life. Minimum lot sizes and quality materials, that's raa-aa-aa-cist! No one should be allowed to live anywhere that isn't affordable for "historically disadvantaged communities"!

The other day I took a virtual tour of São Paulo, Brazil, on Google's Street View. Now there's a city Renn should be over the moon about. He can luxuriate in the sardine-like density. No racist building codes, lots of shanties held up by will power.
Imagine a large corporation with a workforce whose African American percentage far lagged its industry peers, sans any apparent concern, and without a credible action plan to remediate it. Would such a corporation be viewed as a progressive firm and employer? The answer is obvious. Yet the same situation in major cities yields a different answer. Curious.
He finds it curious. In the unlikely event he should read this, perhaps I can satisfy his curiosity. The Federal Superstate can beat corporations into hiring their quotas of minorities because to the corporations it's just a cost of doing business. They pass the cost on to the customer. But despite their best efforts, the federales haven't yet managed to force people to live with quotas of vibrancy. People are kind of fussy about their neighborhoods. Ridiculous, of course, but that's people for you.
If people really believe what they say about diversity being a source of strength, why not act like it? I believe that cities that start taking their African American and other minority communities seriously, seeing them as a pillar of civic growth, will reap big dividends and distinguish themselves in the marketplace. 

This trail has been blazed not by the “progressive” paragons but by places like Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. Atlanta, long known as one of America's premier African American cities, has boomed to become the capital of the New South. It should come as no surprise that good for African Americans has meant good for whites too.
 Well, different premises.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Big Brother is watching British children

Children in Lancashire, northern England, are being monitored for any hint that they might be influenced by "right-wing extremists."

From the Lancashire Telegraph (tip of the hat: Gates of Vienna):
Police said the ground-breaking counter-terrorism programme Channel, which has so far concentrated at Islamic extremism, has been widened to take account of the rise in right-wing extremism in the county. 

Parents, teachers, community leaders and police officers are referring children and young adults who they feel may be at risk of being radicalised by groups such as the English Defence League.
Multi-culturalism, the state religion, leads to totalitarianism. Since government-encouraged colonization by Muslims and other imports from dysfunctional societies is bound to create strife when native populations are displaced in their own country, the Leftist Politburo has no choice but to stamp out any sign of resistance. Children must be prevented from hearing anything but the Multi Cult party line.
Channel is a national safeguarding initiative for individuals considered vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremists. ...

Insp Bilal Mulla, Lancashire’s Channel co-ordinator, said: “Channel is not a tool for spying. [Perish the thought! Just a way of spotting potential deviationists.] It is making people understand there may be vulnerable people who are targeted by those with radical views who had a different agenda."
That "Insp," by the way, is an abbreviation for "Inspector." In other words, a high-ranking police officer whose job is to proactively stamp out thought crimes by labeling them "violent extremism."
Insp Mulla said he wanted to encourage people to refer any ‘signposts’ of right-wing or other types of extremism to his team. ...
“We put interventions in place, not investigations. [Why waste time on investigation -- assuming thought crimes are fair game for investigation -- when you can get on with 'interventions'?] If someone is not suited for the Channel project, we pass them on to other authorities such as Youth Offending, mental health practitioners, probation for example."
Righto, Inspector. You got your smartphone-enabled arson parsons and looters-in-waiting, but so what? Remember your mission! Have your plods (during the hour per shift when they're not doing paperwork) keeping an eye out for youngsters who might be exposed to Forbidden Thoughts about race and immigration. 

And I bow to your brilliance in turning any young person "at risk" of being influenced by the EDL over to the brain police -- sorry, I mean "mental health practitioners." Should you need any guidance, I'm sure you can find ex-KGB officers to act as advisers. In the Soviet Union, they got it down to a science, putting dissidents in mental wards for "treatment."
Community Cohesion Sgt Colin Dassow, who runs the courses, said: “Right-wing extremism is having a big influence on what we do.” 
Sergeant Dassow -- "Community Cohesion" sergeant! -- you said it. Can't have community cohesion while there's any free thought and free speech left in Lancashire.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Still wrong


The British commentariat is doing the post-mortems. You will not be surprised that they are irrelevant, politically correct exercises by mopes wearing Deep Thinker costumes. No, I'm not talking about leftists who blame the thuggery on too few government-funded youth clubs. I mean the whingers in the Daily Mail and The Telegraph, who imagine themselves fierce, out-front crusaders for traditional values. See here, here, and here. And if you want still more, here.

Don't feel like wasting several minutes of your lifetime on piffle? Good on you. I'll summarize. They're angry at the rioting class. They want the yoofs punished -- punished, do you hear? Lock 'em up or make 'em join the army (as if the army wants thousands of illiterate, shiftless welfare-coddled dummies to throw into battle).

These brave journos are taking a stand -- against gangs! Against battery and burglary! "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his ink with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition; and gentlemen in England now-a-bed shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that writ with us in the Daily Mail."

Okay, chaps, we get it. You don't like yobs. The welfare state has gone a little too far. Wow, have you ever crawled out on a limb. Hope you don't get the sack from the papers you write for.

Funny old thing, though, truth-tellers-to-the-world. I notice you don't say one single word about the  race replacement of the British population. Not a peep about the shattering of a way of life and the ethnic tribalization of your crowded little island thanks to your tin-whistle politicians and their globalist masters. Never mind human biodiversity, the only kind of diversity the establishments of the Western world don't cheer for -- don't even acknowledge; you're too cowardly to mention immigration or race.

Thank goodness the ignorant masses have you to explain it all to them. Congratulations for being too smart to listen to what they might explain to you.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.

Now that, for the moment, vandalism fever has subsided in the U.K., what has its political class learned? Just ask Prime Minister David Cameron. From The Telegraph:
David Cameron has promised to "restore a sense of morality" to Britain after this week's riots, announcing stronger police powers to ensure that offenders are caught and made to pay for their crimes."

David, David. Riot and looting are immoral, but they are not caused by the loss of "a sense of morality." People don't lose their morality like forgetting their car keys. The loss is itself a symptom of prior causes.

There are many factors, but they form a kind of constellation. How deep do you want to drill? 

Let's start with the loss of belief in God or any kind of transcendence among most white Britons. Old churches are empty or converted into restaurants. Other than among Muslims -- perhaps some Hindus? -- spirituality is "out." Life has no meaning except (depending on one's social and financial situation) booze, sex, and "fun," or economics. What's the point of conforming to norms of decent behavior associated with a God who's gone to ground?


Nothing to live for, nothing to respect. Music turns to loud, monotonous noise, art to the search for greater levels of the grotesque. Drink is not the curse, but the pastime, of the workless class. Why not? The state will give you your dole money regardless.

We could go on in this vein, but never mind. Prime Minister, you have been raised in a centralized political culture with an insanely exaggerated idea of what political diktats can accomplish, even imagining that you can "restore morality" by passing a few more laws. Or maybe you know what tosh you're speaking, and it's a bid to hitch a ride on the public sentiment of the moment.
Turning the deeper causes of the riots, Mr Cameron said that family breakdown and poor parenting had played significant role.

“In too many cases, the parents of these children – if they are still around – don’t care where their children are or who they are with, let alone what they are doing,” he said.“The potential consequences of neglect and immorality on this scale have been clear for too long, without enough action being taken.”
What action? According to what I read, my impression is that social workers in Britain are a law unto themselves, a bureaucratic police force, judge, and jury who can separate children from their parents for almost trivial reasons, but have a strange blind spot when it comes to horrendous actual child abuse.


Anyway, bad parenting is a politically safe target. Who's going to take a stand for rotten parenting?
Mr Cameron also announced new police powers to deal with disturbances, including greater discretion to order people to remove masks and other face coverings.
Greater discretion? Does a Bobby currently have to get a court order to tell a yob to remove his mask or hood?
Ministers are also reviewing dispersal powers. That could lead to police being given a “wider power of curfew,” he said.
Sorry, but that's different from having someone remove a mask. No one needs to stroll through a shopping mall wearing a mask (except some Muslim women, and you can bet no copper is going to ask them to bare their faces). A curfew is something else again. It limits an individual's ability to go where he wants to. Sure, there are situations when curfews are useful, or necessary, as a temporary measure. But they should be imposed by civil authority, not by police for their convenience.
A cross-Whitehall project on gang culture will report in October, drawing on the success of police forces in Glasgow and Boston in tackling gang culture.  
Is any study group, committee, or politician going to acknowledge that the mass importation of Third World people from tribal cultures plays a significant role in the disaster zone that modern Britain has become? That population replacement has been a cynical power play by the globalist Establishment to destroy a traditional, coherent society in the cause of enhanced control? That a polyglot, balkanized country is no country at all?

Of course not. There are things officials and academics mustn't say, even though they're obvious. So much easier to decry moral decay and parental neglect. Throw in a few more police powers to calm everybody down. Until the next time a materialistic culture that knows no Good, only goods, does what such cultures do.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The fires of darkness


I'm a little sorry for the facetious tone of yesterday's posting. That was before hell broke out in numerous locations around London and elsewhere last night. My intention yesterday was to make some kind of serious point through jesting. Today jokes about England's crisis die before they arise.

Well, what kind of serious point is to be made about this eruption of madness? It's hard to say. Certainly Britain's failed program of forced multiculturalism is involved, and many looters are black; but the photographs show white faces among the mob too. Anarchy? The word was coined in the 19th century, but the anarchists of that day had political goals, however crackpot. Today's lawlessness seems more like an end in itself, a pure negation of civilized norms.

An American visiting Britain can be surprised by how evident the social class distinctions are, even in this age of ideological egalitarianism. The strata are clearly visible in manners and audible in people's speech. Since the industrial revolution, the U.K. has had a working class with its own identity, and often at odds with the commercial class and the vestigial aristocracy. 

For a while it seemed as though the inequality was waning, with the extension of the vote in the 19th century Reform Acts and, especially, with the new power of the trade unions. The two worst periods of modern British history -- the world wars -- saw the putting aside, although not the elimination, of class antagonism.

What happened then? I think socialism changed Britain. Ever since an avowedly socialist government was elected after the last war, the country has been gradually shifting to the Left, although with periods of reaction that brought more American-style capitalism but didn't change the long-term trend toward the welfare state and centralization of power in Whitehall.

By the late 1970s a new class -- a no-class class, so to speak -- had come into being. It was beneath the working class, a nonworking class. It had absolutely no identification with (and hardly any knowledge of) British history or traditions. It was emptiness, squalor, the dole queue. "Punk," the music and the lifestyle, was part of its visible portion. The invisible part took place in dismal, graffiti-covered council flats, storage bins for the economically useless whose business was drugging, drinking, and breeding, with the cost billed to the state.

The Blitz, 2011

That was bad enough. And then, primarily after the Labour government took power in the '90s, was added mass Third World immigration. Most of what was left of the old civility crumbled as waves of colonization about which the people had never been consulted added another dimension to social division and dysfunction.

I have enjoyed my visits to England, with its fascinating remnants of a long history. I once had an English girlfriend, from Croydon in Surrey, where the mobs burned buildings last night. (I went with her to visit her family members in Croydon. That part of the London area wasn't exactly Knightsbridge, but it was middle class -- her brother worked at Lloyd's -- and I wouldn't have dreamed it would one day be the setting for Hieronymus Bosch-like scenes.)

I have no doubt there continue to be decent people throughout the country, many of whom feel pushed aside by a globalist government set on dividing and conquering the indigenes through Muslim immigration.

But I have sensed, especially in recent visits, something decayed and pathological in the vibes. While hardly alone, the U.K. is way out front in pushing everything that is "edgy," "transgressive," and repulsive. Beyond the glare of show business and the neon strip lighting of stores, a darkness of the soul seems to fill space, underfoot, around the corner. Just out of sight. Until now.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Sonata for loot and violince


I say. Bad form, chaps. This won't do. 

We English, despite our proverbial calm demeanour that got us through the Blitz and all that, aren't without feelings, what? One of your lads seems to have waved a gun in a friendly greeting to the police -- a rough lot, don't you know, egg-and-chips types -- perhaps squeezed off a vibrant round or two, and after some sort of jumble-up was left with his exit ticket collected.

Rum business, that.

Of course I understand that your lot has certain ways of working out grief that are different from ours. Wouldn't dream of trying to impose our value system, much of which goes back to the days when we were trading slaves and hanging pickpockets, on you who've brought so much colour and diversity into our hideously white society. Just a flea in your ear, what: your grieving process is likely to be misinterpreted by right-wing extremists.

Take this ignorant observation by the, er, Telegraph. (Naturally The Guardian is more understanding.)
As youths weighed down with bags and shoes stream out of a ransacked branch of JD Sports in Tottenham Hale retail park, the woman calmly inspects a new pair of white trainers. She even bends down to try one on. 
Ah, youth! Wasted on the young, they say. Not you lot, I'm glad to see. Some day, years from now, you'll look at those shoes and remember this day of mourning and shopping without all that petty bourgeois bit about paying.


Education is the key to sorting things out, who can deny it? Those lads who nicked the big screen TV, I'm sure they'll be regular watchers of the evening news and the annual BBC adaptations of Jane Austen.


Love that junk sculpture of the no. 82 London Transport bus. Work your feelings out in creativity! Always admired that about you multi cultures, your exuberance in the face of tragedy. So much better than our long-faced, ashes-to-ashes Church of England rituals.

Just one more thought. Keep it real, as you say in your wonderfully colourful brand of English. Work it out in your own neighbourhoods, I beg you. Here in Kensington, we have all these types who might not understand your ways and would get the wrong end of the stick. Hate to see you getting the other end, what?


Saturday, August 06, 2011

Let us now praise Stanley Kauffmann

It is almost as if designed. The last film of Claude Chabrol, who died in September, is such an apt example of his major gifts that it is almost as if he had planned a farewell. Inspector Bellamy ... is another of his mysteries in which the director seems at least as interested in the characters as he is in the mystery.

Chabrol said he wanted to pay homage to Georges Simenon, whose hundred-plus novels about Inspector Maigret are only a segment of his breathtaking output. ... A further impulse was the fact that Gérard Depardieu would be in the film -- his first with Chabrol -- and the director saw the present-day Depardieu as the epitome of the middle-aged Maigret: possibly a bit heavier, a bit slower, suggesting more understanding of criminals and greater hatred of crime.
That's from Stanley Kauffmann's review of Inspector Bellamy in The New Republic. Kauffmann has written about films at The New Republic for as long as I can remember; since, I think, the 1960s. He's the last of an old breed, writers who made a literary form out of movie criticism, just as others have done for book criticism. There was James Agee; there was Dwight Macdonald; Pauline Kael; and John Simon, who has retired from regular reviewing.

I usually disagree with the opinions in The New Republic, but from a literary standpoint it's way ahead of other political magazines with back-of-the-book arts coverage. And Kauffmann has earned his tenure. The average moviegoer has never heard of him, and probably most people who claim to take "the art of the cinema" seriously are only vaguely aware of him. (For one thing, he shames pseudo-sophisticates by his refusal to trade in academic jargon.) But his discussions of  films are almost unfailingly rewarding, regardless of whether you see, or have any interest in seeing, the film. I think he's the best movie critic now working, and always has been one of the best.


Respect for a film reviewer is not primarily a question of whether you agree with that reviewer's judgments. Pauline Kael wrote striking and original prose, although in my view she was often writing about a derivative movie in her mind rather than what was on the screen. John Simon has always been worth reading for his erudition and wit, but was a little harsh on anything less than a masterpiece, and given to gushing over the output of directors including Ingmar Bergman and Lina Wertmuller that varied in quality. As for Kauffmann, I probably trust his opinions as much as anyone's; but it's his perceptions and style that fit him out as distinguished.
Along the way, we can savor the clever little inventions by Chabrol to move his story along. For just one instance, Bellamy arrives at a woman's house and sees a watering can lying on the terrace floor. This leads to a blunt discovery. The whole sequence takes perhaps five seconds, but we can see that Chabrol searched beforehand for a means of revealing the fact without cliché.
He's a shrewd observer of the various arts that go into making a film, from cinematography to musical score to set design to editing to -- of course -- the director's overall vision. But he seems most in his element when he writes about acting. (He's also reviewed stage productions in New York, where the acting is what matters above all.)


The ordinary workaday movie reviewer for a newspaper or magazine commenting on a performance falls back on a handful of ready-made ideas: the actor was "miscast"; the two leads "lacked chemistry"; &c. Kauffmann is beyond that kind of piffle. He finds words that most of us couldn't about what makes a performance work, or not, or how.
One benefit that a really big film star provides is the assurance of embrace before we even see his or her new film. Depardieu himself knows that he doesn't have to begin, as most actors must, by winning the audience: that was done long ago. He can just enter and get right down to business, without implicit or explicit fanfare. What a warm dividend this kind of encounter is on the time we have invested in Depardieu.*
One of the toughest jobs for the movie reviewer is giving the reader a reasonable idea of what the film is about -- a certain minimum of description is unavoidable -- without giving a plot summary or being excessively detailed. That part gave me trouble when I was in the film reviewing racket. Kauffmann makes it seem easy, even though he doesn't have a lot of space to work in (he'll write about two or three movies in, I'd guess, no more than 1500 words). He has a facility for choice observations that say more in a sentence or two than most reviewers could in a dozen, even assuming they had equal insight:
Nothing Personal could not be more of a contrast to the Chabrol. It is a first film; it has a simple narrative with only two characters, though minor ones flit through occasionally; and we never learn their backgrounds or even their names. Finally, although every moment is realistic, the story is a fantasy -- it couldn't happen. Except that we see it happening.
How could anyone go to movies and write about them bi-weekly for over 40 years? Movie reviewing did my head in after a year or so in each of my stints. Of course, he gets to choose which movies he wants to see, and in New York has more and better options than most places. You'd think, nonetheless, it would become a deadly grind. But Stanley Kauffmann just sails on, with no apparent lack of enthusiasm and no decline of his consummate skill. I hope I'll still be reading his latest work years from now.


* I haven't seen Inspector Bellamy, but I thought of Kauffmann's words when I recently watched Depardieu in 36 Quai des Orfèvres, an absorbing if brutal crime movie. (The title is absurdly translated as 36th Precinct; Quai des Orfèvres is the location of Paris's police headquarters on the Ile de la Cité -- the name comes from the Middle Ages, when the quai was where workers in gold (or) did their trade. As for "Precinct," I think New York is the only city in the English-speaking world that uses the term for its police districts.)

Anyway, in the first shot where Depardieu appears, he dominates the scene -- and he hardly does a thing, just lights a cigarette. It's possible, as Kauffmann suggests, that we're primed to react to Depardieu and he can afford to underplay the moment. Still, not having seen him in a movie for some time, I was struck continually by how unobtrusively "right" his every expression and tone of voice was. I don't think I've appreciated his acting technique because it's never obvious. He just slips into a character like a perfectly fitting glove.


Monday, August 01, 2011

The political, pro-illegal clergy

We're here from God, to stop
immigration law enforcement.

I was dumbfounded to read this in an article from the Birmingham News, linked by
Leaders of the Episcopal, Methodist and Roman Catholic churches in Alabama filed a federal lawsuit this morning to stop enforcement of the state's new immigration law, which they say could strike at the core of their ability to worship.
Say again?

A law against illegal immigration could cripple the ability of Episcopalians, Methodists, and Catholics to worship? 

I thought that worship was something you could do any time and anywhere, but particularly in church.

Reading further clarified matters, sort of. First, the so-called journalist who wrote the story is sub-literate. The antecedent of "their" is not the church leaders; the pronoun has no antecedent in the paragraph. What it's trying to say is that these divines "have reason to fear that administering of religious sacraments, which are central to the Christian faith, to known undocumented persons may be criminalized under this law." So they're suing to stop enforcement of the will of the electorate.

Needless to say, there's nothing in the law to stop clergymen giving sacraments to illegals or forcing them to demand an ID before performing religious functions.

According to the linked story, "On June 9, Gov. Robert Bentley signed into law the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. That collection of new laws includes allowing local police to detain people suspected of being in the United States illegally, requiring public schools to inquire into immigration status of students, making it a crime for an illegal immigrant to seek work, and making it a crime to knowingly transport or harbor an illegal immigrant." 

Their Holinesses' claim is an absurd "slippery slope" argument. If words mean nothing, as Their Holinesses seem to believe, then anything can lead to anything. 

So the Right Reverends Larry, Moe, and Curly believe that national borders are un-Christian; that Alabama has no right to prevent colonies of lawbreakers on permanent holiday in the state, supported by taxpayers; that in order to "welcome all people to the altar" the welcomed must be allowed to stay in the country illegally. (I attended a mass at a cathedral in France; what an opportunity I missed! I should have gone to the authorities and argued that that entitled me to settle in Paris permanently should I wish to.)

The odds are that the ordinary people who make up the congregations of these churches are overwhelmingly in favor of the Alabama law. Do Larry, Moe, and Curly care? Of course not. Their alleged compassion is all for the illegals their church members are expected to support and compete with in the job market.

If fake spiritual leaders are going to indulge in political posturing, we can't start taxing church property fast enough.