27 April 2012

The Foggy Bottom

They say it's impossible to determine what's true, half-true, bullshit, or outright false during battle (especially after the fact) due to what's called the 'fog of war.' And that as often as not the purveyors often themselves don't fully know the truth values of their statements.

Be that as it may, many are the number who use this fugue state of facts to hide their mendacity or as an excuse for their evil doing.

Be prepared for more of the same. On Monday, Jose Rodriguez's book Hard Measures will be coming out. The former chief of CIA clandestine operations is purportedly going to offer up his justification for the use of torture and near-torture during the Bush-era 'war on terror.'

Former VP Dick 'Darth' Cheney [aka 'Shooter'] has been the most vocal proponent of that thing which everybody in the world except those who stand to be convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity for using it calls torture. The defense? 'Cause it works.

Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats have effectively shot down that utilitarian defense, having found a "lack of evidence" that "enhanced interrogations" played any "material role" in producing counter-terrorism "breakthroughs". [Pay attention to those terms in quotes; that's where all the wiggle room is.]

My sense is that we will never get to the bottom of this murk and that Dick Cheney's [pig's] heart will cease ticking before he's brought to anything resembling justice. He will most likely go to his grave believing he was right and his actions honorable and patriotic and justified—however delusionally. And that is the American shame of the 21st Century.

26 April 2012

Garden Porn

Most Spring blooms have passed—earlier this year than ever. Things are settling into their Summer greens. Stroll with me now through my secret garden as evening rolls around. [Click pics for slideshow; hover mouse for text.]

23 April 2012

'Up' with Reality TV

Great news! The 'Up' Series returns.

The perhaps original 'Reality' TV show was a show aired on the BBC and ITV in 1964 profiling the lives of 14 British seven year old boys and girls. It was called 'Seven Up!' Seven years later, when they were 14, Granada produced a sequel, '7 Plus Seven,' which followed up on the group as teenagers. Despite changing circumstances and some drop outs, the series has repeated every seven years ('21 Up!,' '28 Up!,' ... '40 Up!'), directed, since the second installment in 1970 by Michael Apted. Here in the U.S., we've been able to follow it in repertory movie theaters and on PBS.

The news is that '56 Up' is set to be released in a few weeks, in May. I am so excited! This is m-m-m-my generation. The first one I saw, I believe, was '21 Up', and I've been hooked ever since. It's an unparalleled look at the lives of these British folks as they grew up negotiating the enormous changes that marked the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st Centuries, like many of us. Remarkable. Touching. Insightful. For the humanist and voyeur in us all.

You can find clips from the series on the YouTubes starting, say, here.

[Also, birthday celebrations today include Shakespeare and Nabokov.]

19 April 2012

It's a Gass, Gass, Gass

William Gass, "Pulitzer: The People's Prize," in Finding a Form (originally in The NYTBR):
"…the Pulitzer Prize in fiction takes dead aim at mediocrity and almost never misses; the prize is simply not given to work of the first rank, rarely even to the second…" (3)
"Any award-giving outfit…is doomed by its cumbersome committee structure to make mistakes, to pass the masters by in silence and applaud the apprentices, the mimics, the hacks, or to honor one of those agile surfers who ride every fresh wave." (5)
 "…the fact is that good taste and sensible judgment are rare, and excellence itself is threatening, innovation an outrage." (6)
"When missing exceeds chance, as in this case; when a record of failure approaches perfection; then we can begin to wonder whether it is really missing the mark at all; whether the Pulitzer, not by design but through its inherent nature, is being given to those it wishes, quite precisely, to award, and is nourishing, if not the multitude, at least those numbers among the cultivated whose shallow roots need just this sort of gentle drizzle." (7)
"The Pulitzer has perceived an important truth about our complex culture: Serious literature is not important to it; however, the myth that it matters must be maintained. Ceremony is essential, although Mammon is the god that's served. …Literature, which is written in isolation and read in silence, receives as its share less than 3 percent of the funds available to the National Endowment for the Arts. …And if you point to the discrepancy between the acknowledged importance of our literature to our culture and the pitiful public support it gets, and decry the injustice of it, you will receive the same response I always have: Those addressed, like a cat, will not follow the direction of your gesture, but will be just curious enough to sniff nervously for a moment the end of your admonitory finger." (10)
"The Pulitzer does not give glory to its choices; its choices give celebrity to it; and that is precisely why it is the best-known and, to the public, the most prestigious prize…" (10)
"What the public wants, as the Pulitzer sees it…, is an exciting story with a timely theme, although it may have historical setting. The material should be handled simply and delivered in terms of sharp contrasts in order that the problems the novel raises can be decisively resolved. Ideally, it should be written in a style that is as invisible as Ralph Ellison's invisible man, so that the reader can let go of the words and grasp the situation the way one might the wheel of the family car. And since most of the consumers of fiction are women…, it won't hurt to fulfill a few of their longings, to grant, now and then, unconsciously an unconscious wish. Because we have a large, affluent, mildly educated middle class that has fundamentally the same tastes as the popular culture it grew up with, yet with pretensions to something more, something higher, something better suited to its half-opened eyes and spongy mind, there is a large industry or artists, academics, critics, and publicists eager to serve it—lean cuisine, if that's the thing—and the Pulitzer is ready with its rewards.
"No, this prize for fiction is not disgraced by its banal and hokey choices. It is the critics and customers who have chosen and acclaimed them, who have bought the books and thought about them and called them literature and tried to stick them like gum on the pillars of our culture. It is they who have earned the opprobrium of this honor." (12)

18 April 2012

Antebellum Lady

A few weeks back I ran a 5K race in a small town about an hour's drive east of ATL (first in my age group, thank you very much for asking, a PR even, on a flat course, cool, cloudy day): Madison, Georgia, reputedly one of the only towns spared by Gen. Sherman on his post-Civil War victory torch parade through the South. This, from Wikipedia:
"While many believe that Sherman spared the town because it was too beautiful to burn during his March to The Sea, the truth is that Madison was home to pro-Union Senator Joshua Hill. Hill had ties with General Sherman's brother at West Point, so his sparing the town was more political than appreciation of its beauty."
It's a lovely town, worth a strolling visit if you're ever in the area if you can get past the fact that the wealth that created this—apparently typical—town was created on the backs of persons who were owned like livestock.

(Hover text in places, for those of you who do)



From "The Meh Gatsby"?

13 April 2012

The Quality of Light

[Scroll over pics for further info or click on pics for slideshow.]
"Walk a mile in my shoes..."
One of these days, Wisdoc. To the dunes!
Whitest sand on the planet
Wind-blown tangle
Inside the tangle
Stay off the dunes
Salt Marsh & Estuary
"In the pines, in the pines..."
Keeping those tootsies dry
Dense, no bushwhacking
More dune-age
Saw Palmetto
Into the woods
Keep an eye out for 'gators, Jakey
"I see a little silhouetto of a 'Doc..."
Bald Eagle!
Subtle, lovely colors
Result of controlled burning
Dunescape as the sun goes down
Beach! Bee-ahtch
No dogs allowed!
"Under the boardwalk..."
"Don't let your son go down on me..."
"Well, the night time..."
"...is the right time."
Bluffs of Seagrove Beach. Emerald coast, white sand
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