Lauren Bacall, 1924-2014

13 08 2014

I think I was in high school when I became enamored of Lauren Bacall. I have no idea why.

It might have been that she was starring on Broadway then, and I was into all things theater; it might have been. . . geez, really, that’s all I got.

I mean, I hadn’t seen any of her movies at that point—didn’t for years—and was hardly a film aficionado. The only other thing I can think of is that I read the book Real Women Bring Flowers, and there were a number of choice Bacall (or, perhaps, screenwriter) quotes sprinkled throughout the text.

In any case, I read her first autobiography, By Myself, and promptly decided she was a dame worth admiring. I knew she was called Betty by friends, that she held her chin low in that first scene with Bogart to keep it from quivering, almost married Sinatra, and didn’t see the physical resemblance so often pointed out to her between her first (Bogart) and second (Jason Robards) husbands.

What was admirable about any of that, or anything else that she wrote or said or did? I honestly can’t say. Maybe because she did seem honest, forthright, that she was beautiful and strong and smart and never hid any of it. She was who she was.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

To a teenager who wasn’t at all sure of herself or her place anywhere, that you could simply be seemed astonishing.

And worth admiring, then and now.





This is not America/Ain’t that America

13 08 2014

Or should it be the Nick Cave song: “One more man gone” ?

The police kill an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, then try to lock down the town.

Ryan J. Reilly, HuffPo

Reilly and another reporter, Wesley Moore (of the Washington Post), were arrested for not vacating a McDonalds; they were later released.

So many others have so much more, and better, to say. I’ll note simply the insanity of militarizing the police in order to protect the police.

As if, in a polity, the police aren’t there to protect the citizens. As if we were a police state, where the point of the police is to protect the police. As if. . . .

In any case, #Ferguson gives the latest; Greg Howard goes long.

Whitney Curtis/NY Times

This is us.





An army of me

12 08 2014

I’d really like to see a woman president, I would.

And I have a certain admiration for Hillary Clinton, I do.

But if asked if I would support her over other, to-be-determined, Democratic candidates, I would not.

The thinking behind this interview is a big reason why.





Free free, set them free

12 08 2014

People break.

We break because of who we are and what we are and the things we do and the things done to us, intentionally, unintentionally, and no matter how hard we do and don’t try to break.

I’ve gone over this before, so I won’t belabor the point: any politics worth its salt has to take account of how humans are, and how humans are is fragile.

We’re not just that, of course—we’re also jerks! and brave and beautiful and inconstant and mean and weird weird weird—but our fragility is a basic part of our condition as humans, and no amount of bluffing or, so far, technology, can undo the fact that we are and will be undone.

So even if a libertarian moment has arrived (I have my doubts), I gotta wonder where it’s gonna go from here—“acerbic sideline critics”, after all, don’t usually perform center stage.

More to the point, libertarianism seeks a clean line through politics, government and society; however admirable such cleanness may be, that line can only, like us, break down when dealing with the inevitable messes of human life.





Everybody knows the fight was fixed, 5

11 08 2014

What was that joke? I’ll believe that a corporation is a person when one goes to jail?

(Okay, that’s not the exact joke, but you get the idea.)

As ever, the reverse (or inverse, or converse—tough to tell), also works: a person with the wealth of a corporation will be treated like one: pay a fine, and walk away.

Of course, one could argue this is only fair: only the very wealthy could have engaged in the kinds of criminal activity of which Bernie Ecclestone was accused.

 





All things weird and wonderful, 43

8 08 2014

We humans are a strange lot, given all too often to the unwonderful.

Scott Eric Kaufman, who writes for both Lawyers, Guns & Money and Raw Story (as well as his own blog, Acephalous), happens to attract the kind of folks who engage him in all kinds of weird and some kinds of wonderful conversations (see, for example, here, here, here, here. here, here, and here—and there are more, including the one where he asks for it.)

The following (setup: he’s buying a bunch of tuna for his elderly finicky cat) is one which he says “may be the greatest conversation I’ve ever had“:

POLITE DRUNK MAN: You don’t eat all them cans, now?

SEK: Wasn’t planning on it.

POLITE DRUNK MAN: TV say they full of Menicillin.

SEK: Mercury?

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Menicillin, bad for the children, real bad.

SEK: I promise not to share it with any kids.

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Menicillin’s terrible, make ‘em have miscarriages.

SEK: The kids?

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Ain’t even get a chance to be kids, they born miscarried, or with arms.

SEK: I’ll keep that in mind.

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Dead babies with arms, that’s what Menicillin do. Best watch out.

SEK: I will, promise.

This. . . well, this is weird wonder gold.





Summersongs: Romeo Void

7 08 2014

Had enough of the angry money posts? How about biting sex posts?

Biting sex. . . hmmm, I see how that could be taken a couple of different ways. In any case, the “biting” refers to the attitude of Deborah Iyall toward sexy sexytimes and the occasional aftermath.

I first thought “A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)” would be the summersong, but after a night out with C & K, thought that maybe “Never Say Never”

Whatever. It’s Romeo Void, and even tho’ Iyall tells the girl that old man would “be warm in your coat”, why be literal about the coat-wearing and the presumably cold weather?

It’s about the beat and the attitude—and the backup boys singing temporary temporary in the chorus.

Do pop songs even use sax anymore? And, yeah, those Eighties video production values. . . .

I might like you better if we slept together
I might like you better if we slept together
I might like you better if we slept together

How can you not sing along to that?





Everybody knows that the Plague is coming, 4

6 08 2014

File under: why would anyone be surprised?

First up: Professor John Ashton, the president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, who writes:

“In both cases [Aids and Ebola], it seems that the involvement of powerless minority groups has contributed to a tardiness of response and a failure to mobilise an adequately resourced international medical response.”

and World Health Organization director general Dr Margaret Chan:

“We must respond to this emergency as if it was in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster. We must also tackle the scandal of the unwillingness of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research [on] treatments and vaccines, something they refuse to do because the numbers involved are, in their terms, so small and don’t justify the investment. This is the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of a moral and social framework.”

Second, Allan Sloan, who is surprised enough to be outraged that American companies would park their “incorporation” overseas so as to avoid taxes:

Inverters don’t hesitate to take advantage of the great things that make America America: our deep financial markets, our democracy and rule of law, our military might, our intellectual and physical infrastructure, our national research programs, all the terrific places our country offers for employees and their families to live. But inverters do hesitate — totally — when it’s time to ante up their fair share of financial support of our system.

Profit-seeking companies seeking to maximize their profits?! Who ever heard of such a thing?

And those who don’t invert?

Wall Street is delivering a thumbs down to Walgreens’ announcement of a $15.3 billion plan to complete its acquisition of Europe-based Alliance Boots and decision not to pursue potential major tax savings by shifting its headquarters overseas.

Bad capitalists!

Since all is not gloomy, allow for a bit of intellectual-property absurdity:

Wikimedia, the US-based organisation behind Wikipedia, has refused a photographer’s repeated requests to remove one of his images which is used online without his permission, claiming that because a monkey pressed the shutter button it should own the copyright.

Cheeky monkey*!

David Slater/Caters—and monkey!

*Actually, a crested black macaque

~~~

h/t to a coupla’ folks at The Stranger: Charles Mudede, and Ansel Herz  (twice!)





Everybody knows the deal is rotten, 3

5 08 2014

How wonderful that French and American cultural institutions are expanding into the United Arab Emirates. How wonderful for the Emiratis to visit the Louvre and the Guggenheim or enroll at NYU without needing a passport.

Ibrahim has the sort of intelligence that crackles around him in sly, sarcastic sparks. He is smart in a way so obvious that he tries to hide it from his bosses by speaking in broken English. He knows five languages, loves poetry, and dreams of getting a master’s degree.

Isn’t it marvelous that a man so obviously intelligent and cultured is laboring to bring such cultural riches to the boss who calls him a donkey?

I mean, how fantastic is it that Ibrahim had someplace to go after being chased out of his own country after the NGO for whom he translated couldn’t be bothered to protect him because he wasn’t a real employee? That he was able to pay someone over $700 in order to work in a place that does, in fact, treat him exactly as a laborer?

And shouldn’t we celebrate when

In 2007, up to 30,000 Arabtec workers went on strike in Dubai. Men building Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, put down their tools. The strike had been coordinated with mobile phones to protest low wages and poor living conditions. Police arrested 4,000 strikers. At the end of ten days, Arabtec promised a pay raise. Managing Director Riad Kamal told Reuters that the impact on the company’s profits would be less than 1 percent.

Arabtec could pay more without any pain to themselves! Win win!

Of course, not everyone was so happy: After 3000 men went on strike for  pay raise from $176 to $217 a month,

The police arrested 70 men they claimed were ringleaders. “Their presence in the country is dangerous,” Colonel Mohammed al Murr, director of the Dubai Police’s General Department of Legal and Disciplinary Control, told the National, a state-owned newspaper.

After this, Bangladeshi workers, who were alleged to have helped organize the strikes, were banned for an indefinite period from seeking UAE visas.

I could go on and on and on and on, but you get the point. Conditions are so terrible in these men’s home countries that they pay to work under terrible conditions.

And the neoliberal sings Ain’t capitalism grand! Isn’t it wonderful that these surplus can be put to good use for 200 bucks a month! Isn’t it wonderful that the Louvre and the Gugg and NYU get to extend their brands and the Emiratis—the citizens, not the vast majority of migrant laborers—get to enjoy these brands!

Isn’t it wonderful that a man who speaks five languages and  loves poetry arrived to find only that he wanted to leave?

~~~

Okay, there is one truly wonderful thing: the workers are fighting back. They are, damn-near-literally, at the point where they have nothing to lose but their chains.

“Capital is global and derives its velocity from replicating the same model everywhere. Gulf Labor is arguing for a global, humane, and fair standard of labor and migration regulations to accompany, and slow down, global capital,” said Naeem Mohaiemen, a New York–based Bangladeshi artist who is a member of Gulf Labor. “The implications can be staggering. If Saadiyat implemented world-standard labor and migration rights, that could become a precedent for implementing the same standards in the entire region. Then people would ask, what about migrant labor in Malaysia? In Texas? And so on…”

Which is precisely why capital fights so hard against labor.

~~~

Extensive quotes from Molly Crapapple’s Slaves of Happiness Island, in Vice
h/t Jen Graves, The Stranger





This is the end

4 08 2014
Image credit: Chronicling America

Image credit: Chronicling America

A war begins, and so begins the end of the European medieval period.

The medieval era had, of course, been ending for some time: Luther’s declaration, the wars of religion, the Thirty Years War and the Treaty of Westphalia, the scientific revolution—all of these tore the present away from the past and thrust its people into a new world, literally and figuratively.

Reactionaries bemoaned this newness and sought to wrench their world back; Enlightenment philosophes celebrated the demise of the old and considered the wrenching mere birth pangs for the unbounded future. Ordinary people went about their business, adjusting to spread of literacy and the advancement of capital, managing, as always, what the world presented to them.

Modernity arrived at different times in different throughout its 4-century advance: the Dutch and the Scots were the vanguard, France thrashed violently between the old and the new, Spaniards retreated, and the German-speaking peoples went in all directions in their various lands.

It is the long holdout of those German-speaking peoples and the empires they proclaimed which carried the medieval into the modern era; the Kaiser and the Emperor were the last holdouts.

And thus the war, begun by these medieval powers, brought them to their end.