Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...
31 August, 2007
Keep Those Wraps
Alderwoman Brenda Konkel has a post called "Mixed Messages" at her blog today about the now infamous "beer bus", i.e. – a Metro bus with a full wrap add for Miller Genuine Draft. Ms. Konkel observed:
While the UW is so focused on the drinking habits of UW Students and how to change the culture of drinking on campus; the City is talking about limiting alcohol licenses downtown; the public and periphery alders are up in arms about the drag on police resources we have in the downtown area due to drinking on campus; and the police are warning students to be careful when drinking late night because Kelly Nolans[sic] killer is still on the lose[sic]; at the same time we have this "beer bus" circulating around downtown sending a much different message.
What message is the ad relaying? Obviously for Ms. Konkel, who was (gasp!) drinking beer at the time she made her observation, the ad means "go out and drink until you puke". If you follow the "beer bus" link above, you can read about Kevin Hinckley who apparently thinks public spaces should be sterilized for that perennial favorite of moral crusaders everywhere – to protect the children. In objecting to ads for De Jope Bingo Hall, Hinckley said, "We don't need 'a little bit of Vegas' in Madison. This is where we raise children, not a place where we gamble." I hate to break this to Mr. Hinckley but gambling and child raising are not mutually exclusive. He would apparently be surprised to find that there are, in fact, families in Las Vegas. The city has a population of nearly 500,000 men, women, and children who are parts of – you guessed it – families. Just ask Heather Skyler.
Ads for beer appear on billboards as well as on another vehicle called a beer truck. These trucks can be seen parked near taverns, restaurants, and other facilities that serve suds in full view of children! OH MY FUCK! We are truly a depraved society if we let these trucks with their caustic ads for beer on the outside idle on our city streets in plain view. I mean, how else would a youth get the idea that intoxicating beverages exist? What, do you think there's such a thing as peer pressure? The situation with the bus is a mere ad on the outside but, to make matters worse, with the trucks, children on the street might find themselves in close proximity to and see actual beer! Imagine the young mind of a child that sees a barrel being hauled across the sidewalk. It is truly ruined forever.
We now have a mini-temperance movement here in Madison which is being fed by the likes of Mr. Hinckley who apparently can't walk around in public without finding a million things that strike fear into him. One of Hinckley's co-whiners is Susan De Vos was quoted as saying, "If kids are seeing alcohol and gambling and whatever being advertized on busses, that's contrary to the idea that people have of what the community stands for." Well, speaking as a community member, I don't think our community stands for wiping out everything in public that would let kids on to the fact that the world really isn't like a Disney movie. It is not a mixed message to tell children that there are foods adults can consume and activities in which adults can engage that they cannot.
I noted earlier this month that Marcus' Westgate Theatre showed Pirates of the Caribbean 3 with Spanish subtitles and Spider-Man 3 dubbed in Spanish and with English subtitles. Channel 3000 reports that the theatre chain "will begin showing movies in Spanish at theaters in southeastern Wisconsin, according to company officials." While I don't know for certain, I would imagine that this move was made, not only to appeal to the growing Latino population here in Madison, but also as a bit of counter-programming against Sundance 608. The shiny new art house not only gave Westgate competition for films, but it also moved in just down the road. Westgate must have felt pressure and seems to be adjusting.
Well, tomorrow they will delve into an area that Sundance has, so far, been unwilling to go – revivals. To that end, a Looney Toons Festival begins tomorrow. Quite frankly, it appeals to me more blatantly than anything that will be at Sundance next week. (Though I do want to catch No End in Sight and Gypsy Caravan looks to be interesting.) I suspect that seeing "What's Opera Doc?" on the big screen where it was meant to be seen would be a joy beyond words. Thankfully, Sicko will no longer be at Sundance but Waitress shall remain. Hasn't it been playing there since the theatre opened back in May?
Moving towards campus, the UW Cinematheque has announced its fall season. The legendary Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi will be featured along with post-1968 films by Jean-Luc Godard. Hail Mary, a favorite of mine, will be among them. Also look for a 6-film jaunt through the history of Russian science fiction cinema.
I read this morning that Oliver Stone has has cast Bruce Willis for his next project, a film about the My Lai Massacre. I'm a fan of Oliver Stone though I must admit that his post-U-Turn films have left me a bit cold. Neither Any Given Sunday nor Alexander really grabbed me and I've not yet seen World Trade Center. Concomitant to my waning interest in Stone's films was the dissolution of his working relationship with his long-time cinematographer Bob Richardson.
Together they made some truly great cinema with engaging plots told with spectacular technical prowess. The cramped radio booth in Talk Radio was enlarged with a perpetually moving camera; harsh lighting, use of varying film stocks, and more camera movement (and editing too) helped make JFK, Natural Born Killers, and Nixon feasts for the eyes as well as heart and brain. I just got hooked on those stories and how the cinematography, editing, and sound all colluded to tell them. Just thinking of his work makes me want to dust off my Super8 cameras and start shooting.
Another one of my favorite cinematographers is Janusz Kaminski who is now Steven Spielberg's DP.
They first collaborated on Schindler's List and I count that along with Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, and Minority Report as among their best work. The use of color – mainly washing it out – and Kaminski's tinkering with shutters has created some of the most visceral storytelling ever, in my humble opinion. He is currently shooting the fourth Indian Jones film but recently returned to his native Poland to shoot and direct Hania. His directorial debut, Lost Souls, wasn't great but I am still looking forward to his second go at it.
Darius Khondji is also one of my favorite cinematographers. He shot Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children before making his American debut with Se7en. This was followed by gorgeous work in Stealing Beauty and Evita before he returned to his trademark browns and grays in Alien: Resurrection.
Later this year will see the release of Funny Games, a remake of a film of the same name which is being directed by Michael Haneke, who also helmed the 1997 original. (Haneke's last film was Caché.) It will be interesting to see Khondji's return to horror/thriller as well as how the same director will remake his own work for the Hollywood moneymen.
A new addition to my list of favorite DPs is Emmanuel Lubezki. He shot Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow in the late 1990s and then had the amazing trifecta of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, The New World, and Children of Men in the middle of this decade. I need to start viewing his back catalog.
Lastly I want to make a nod to Joel Ransom. I saw his name pop up a week or two ago when I watched the first episode of ABC's Masters of Science Fiction. Ransom worked on The X-Files for a spell where he caught the attention of me and my film-geek friends. He stayed in television and went on to the Band of Brothers mini-series and the Battlestar Galactica TV movie for the Sci-Fi Channel. (Don't laugh – Vittorio Storaro shot their Dune mini-series.) Well, Ransom has finally made the move to the big screen with the fantasy epic The Dark is Rising.
Do you, dear reader, have favorite directors of photography?
We Cheeseheads love to flaunt our great natural expanses, our great beer, and, of course, our tasty cheeses. But tales of life here in the Dairyland go beyond Ole and Lena all the way to Harvey and Edwin:
Police stopped a truck in Abbotsford recently and found Harvey Miller, 43, was steering the truck. Miller has no legs.
Officers said that Edwin Marzinske, 55, was operating the gas pedals and brake.
The police report said Miller admitted he was too drunk to drive, but argued he wasn't actually operating the truck because he couldn't push the gas pedal.
Beer drinkers down in Chitown now have a new brew - Half Acre Lager. It is the product of Half Acre Beer Company of Chicago and started shipping last week.
But as this article in the Chicago Reader points out, the beer is contract brewed by Sand Creek up in Black River Falls. First we gave them places to go and things to do during the summer and now we brew their beer. Cofounder Gabriel Magliaro notes that "opening a brewery in the city of Chicago is notoriously difficult and notoriously expensive". I suppose there are a lot of city officials to pay off. If you should find yourself in Bucktown or Wicker Park, stop in at the following locations to sample: Jerry’s, Pint, the Charleston, the Always Open convenience store at Milwaukee and Wabansia, and the 7-Eleven on Damen across from the park. If you're a Cheesehead visiting Chitown, it allows you to drink local and support a Wisconsin brewer all at the same time.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned. Now, does anyone really think the Dems will actually try to get someone in their who is concerned more with applying the laws of our land than towing party lines? Personally I think we're gonna get stuck with more of the same.
Congratulations to Dane101 for having been voted Best Local-Content Blog in this year's Isthmus poll. I'll submit a memo to the beer desk anon. Now if the Breakfast Links could stop adhering to the "if it bleeds, it leads" thing. The section is turning into the front page of the WSJ/TCT.
Upon getting home from work this evening, I immediately began cooking. It was time to do something with some of the goodies from the garden. One obvious tasty treat to make would be pico de gallo.
Tomatoes. We've got tomatoes. My pico ended up with the trifecta of cherry, Roma, and beefsteak toms. On the pepper side I had picked green Bells and Hungarian wax(?) and several ended up on the chopping block. Lastly there was that red onion which I had bought at Lapacek's Orchard. To finish it off, I put in lots of garlic, lime juice, and no cilantro because I didn't have any despite thinking that I did. It turned out rather colorfully and it sits in the refrigerator as the marriage of the flavors is consummated.
With that being done, I set out to recreate yet another medieval recipe – Apply Fretoure. Here is the original:
Take whete floure, Ale 3est, Safroun, & Salt, & bete alle to-gederys as þikke as þou schuldyst make oþer bature in fleyssche tyme; & þan take fayre Applys, & kut hem in maner of Fretourys, & wete hem in þe bature vp on downne, & frye hem in fayre Oyle, & caste hem in a dyssche; & caste Sugre þer-on, & serue forth.
I'm not sure of the date but hails from sometime in the first half of the 15th century and is, as you can see, an English recipe.
To start, heat a bit of beer (Viking Weathertop Wheat, in this case) so it's just warm and add your yeast. Just look at the wee yeasties in their bath!
Here's the beer and saffron. Bruise the saffron in a small amount of hot beer.
Throw all your beer in a bowl along with flour, salt, and sugar. Mix it up and you've have a smooth, wonderfully aromatic batter. Let it rise for a spell.
With the batter doing its thing, I reached into our magic pantry and grabbed the first bag of apples I saw – Zestars. Dip your apple bits in it, and fry. I cut my fruit into bite-size chunks – finger food.
I topped them off with powdered sugar & cinnamon.
They were really tasty! I called The Dulcinea, who was out with a friend, to tell her just how good they were. The batter fried up nice'n'crispy yet fluffy and the flavors of the apples melded incredibly well with the saffron.
The recipe was certainly not 100% authentic. Fried in vegetable oil? Perhaps next time I'll use a mixture of oil and lard. The Zestars are a very new variety of apple as they were developed, methinks, in the early 1990s. Lastly, a wheat beer most certainly wouldn't have been used. Hops was introduced to England around the same time this recipe was transcribed so it's likely that an ale flavored with herbs was used. As Wikipedia notes:
In the past, other plants have been used for similar purposes; for instance, Glechoma hederacea. Combinations of various aromatic herbs, berries, and even ingredients like wormwood would be combined into a mixture known as gruit and used as hops are now used.
The recipe notes that the batter is the same as that made on meat days ("in fleyssche tyme") so these fritters were likely meant to be eaten during Lent or, at least, on Fridays. Being a godless heathen, I say they're good anytime.
Earlier this week I spent some time out in the garden getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and picking vegetables. Peppers are not something that we're short on.
Somehow we (i.e. - Stevie) neglected to plant any jalapenos or cayennes ergo any plans for making jelly or hot sauce from the fruits of the garden are lost. However, we do have a couple habenera plants and, despite the fact that they're drowning now, they did enjoy the hot temperatures earlier this month.
So what does one do with lots of habeneras? Make jerk paste, of course!
I cried and sniffled the whole way through. Chopping the onion with my shiny, new, and highly sharp knife got the waterworks going first. (And I managed to cut myself too!) Then I cleaned the chilies. With a lack of latex gloves and against my better judgment, I did so with bare hands. Even though the process took place under a stream of cold water, the toxic capsaicin vapors still penetrated my nasal cavity. Uff da! My hands burned well into the next day forcing me to use tissue paper for handling my tender parts when using the commode. I crushed the allspice berries with my mortar & pestle (thanks, grandma!) and added the result along with goodly doses of thyme, molasses, salt, freshly ground black pepper, etc. The result?
Some got thrown in the freezer while the jar is in the frig. I suspect this stuff can adequately substitute for paint stripper and, if Rachel Carson were still around, she'd no doubt inveigh against it. So it should be tasty.
I think tonight I'll plunder the garden a bit more, if I don't drown. We've got 80 tons of cherry tomatoes so they're not going to get canned. Perhaps I'll whip up a batch of pico de gallo of the gods. I am also keen on making some medieval apple fritters. The recipe isn't overly specific and calls for a batter just like any one would make "in fleyssche tyme", i.e. - on days when folks we're allowed to eat meat. I found some unpasteurized beer in the form of Viking's Weathertop Wheat which I think will do the trick. If my plan goes according to plan, I'll be changing employers soon and will attempt to use up my vacation time before I bail. I'd like to drag The Dulcinea up nort and visit the brewery, amongst other pleasures.
People who know me know that I prefer carpeting to tile but this rug has got to go.
It's 7.5'x9.5' and made of 100% wool. Bought in 1985. Needs a cleaning but otherwise in good condition. It's nice and soft and warm and in a style which has no appeal to me. Any locals looking to accent their Midwestern home in a Southwestern style?
You may remember the story about drunken astronauts that appeared in the news last month which brought up mental images of the space shuttle being manned by a bunch of lushes who were all tanked up. Well, James Oberg has a few things to say about this.
My drives to and from work have had a shadow fall over them recently. It started when I began listening to the audiobook of Chalmers Johnson's Nemesis in my car. On one hand, it's an utterly fascinating look at our government and various elements of our foreign policy since the end of World War II. On the other, it is a chronicle of horror with, among other things, the CIA acting as a tentacle of the Executive Branch with a secret budget and no oversight. I am currently in media res of the sorry story of how two Marines and a sailor abducted, beat and raped a twelve-year-old girl on the island of Okinawa where we have no less than 37 military bases. Prior to this, Johnson gave overviews of the Roman and British empires, a look at the CIA including an in-depth explanation of my country's role in the overthrow of Chilean president Salvador Allende in 1973, and lots of discussion about the concentration of executive power & the military-industrial complex. Every morning and afternoon I feel like Kevin Kostner's Jim Garrison being lectured to by Mr. X.
It's not that Johnson is L. Fletcher Prouty but the reader has my rapt attention as I listen and I find the words enlightening, if sad and angering as well. There is a lot of history and arguments in Nemesis to which I cannot do justice and, besides, I'm not even three quarters of the way through it. The broadest lesson is that America is an empire. Different from those of Rome and Britain, but an empire nonetheless. Johnson sites the Pentagon's Base Structure Report which lists 737 military bases scattered across every continent on the globe in some 130 countries. He cites this and continues to note what's missing from the report before giving his own tally of 1000+ bases. Our military budget is similarly scrutinized and assigned a total of somewhere around $750,000,000,000. That's a lot of zeroes. With 1000+ bases as part of a total military budget of three quarters of a trillion dollars, the suitability of the word "empire" can be in little doubt.
It was bad enough to listen to accounts of the CIA as a rogue arm of the presidency and a description of the military-industrial complex, but perhaps the worst blow came as I heard about the military bases that are currently in and the ones we're building in Iraq. By "we" I mean American taxpayers essentially giving corporate welfare to one subsidiary of Haliburton or another. And then there's the Orwellian misuse of language when the military refers to these outposts as "enduring" instead of "permanent". It made me realize that the question "When are we going to get out of Iraq?" is fraught with ambiguities despite it being rather straightforward on it face. To the average American citizen, the question no doubt conjures up images of our fighting men & women and all of their equipment being loaded onto C-130s and transport ships which take off or leave port. On the other hand, I highly suspect that the question to our politicos and captains of industry means something a bit different. I think that, to these people, "getting out of Iraq" means handing over the routine duties of law enforcement over to the Iraqis and sending the majority of our troops home while the 3 or 4 bases that the Pentagon wants to keep come hell or high water are populated by the remaining troops. In the political sense, getting out of Iraq means retreating to our multi-billion dollar bases, not actually leaving the borders of the country. Our embassy there is to be the biggest one in the world and we're spending billions of dollars to build military bases there that are to endure. Strictly speaking, we're not going to leave Iraq. Even if the Iraqis stood up tomorrow and took over all policing duties and assembled as army for national defense and drove out all the terrorists – we'd still have a presence there. Even if the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shiites miraculously all found a way to live in harmony, we'd still have our military bases there. To average Joes and Janes, getting out of Iraq is about leaving. By contrast, to those in power, it is about what we leave behind.
There is an ongoing intra-lefty debate about the lesser of two evils. Just mention the name of Ralph Nader when you're in a room of lefties and you'll see what I mean. Nader asserts that there's no real differences between the two major parties in this country. While progressives might agree, your more garden variety liberal is likely to take issue with this. A common retort is to point out abortion. Dems are generally pro-choice while Republicans are generally in favor of having Roe v Wade overturned. The point is taken but I would note that most liberals who refute Nader's statement look to domestic policies when arguing in opposition. Listening to Nemesis and attempting to take a broader view which is inclusive of our foreign policy, I think that Nader is, at least partially, redeemed. Presidents of both parties have eagerly used the power of the CIA for decidedly undemocratic purposes; and no President nor seemingly any Congressperson of either party has ever tried to restrain our country's militarism or the military industrial complex of the past 60 years. Eisenhower's warning has gone unheeded.
I'm not advocating that those on the left side of the political spectrum ought to stop voting for Democrats. But I do think we should consider Johnson's warnings and what one can draw from them: merely putting a Dem in the White House in 2008 doesn't mean that all American troops will be brought home or that America will cede its authority on the world stage. Even anti-war Congresspeople fight tooth and nail to keep the military bases in their districts from closing. My roommate Stevie blames Nader and advocates for progressive candidates on the local level. While having them serve on our school boards, in our state legislatures, etc. is certainly a good thing, conceding to the lesser of two evils in national offices is to concede to militarism, which is, according to Johnson, why the terrorists hate us.
Bill Moyers hosted a conversation last week with Martin E. Marty, a historian and the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. I found him to be quite interesting and also quite infuriating. I took great exception to the following comments:
I've been invited several times to debate one of the new school of atheists…And as you and every listener has to know that these four or five all say that if you just get rid of all religion the world would be benign and peaceful.
Well-- my question is how do you explain Mao and Stalin and Lennon and all of the great totalitarians, all of whom set out to get rid of God and religion and killed several hundred million people. I'm not defending the religious record. There's horrible stuff out there.
And I make a lot of my living in my noisy books about describing that. But you're not going to get rid of religion. You can't suppress this impulse.
I have a lot of issues with these remarks. Firstly is the bit about the new school of atheists. People like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett are, I would argue, very old school atheists. As Preston Jones has noted, Hitchens (and this applies more or less to all these guys) didn't come up with anything new in his jeremiad. True but irrelevant. Nearly 2,300 years ago Epicurus wrote:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
Over two millennia later, Bertrand Russell published his classic Why I Am Not a Christian. There is no new school for atheists because they reiterate arguments that adherents of religion are unable to counter. If there is anything new to be had, it's an attitude that they're not going to be relegated to being a tolerated minority by the religious majority. These men stand on the shoulders of giants, as it were, and to casually dismiss them is to dismiss centuries of criticisms and arguments.
The second bit with which I take issue is the notion that Messrs. Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett promote the notion that, if religion were to disappear, we'd suddenly find ourselves in some prelapsarian paradise. This is complete and utter bullshit. Either Marty hasn't bothered to listen to the Four Musketeers or he told on a bold-faced lie. He is either intellectually lazy or just a liar. Dawkins' essay "Time to Stand Up" refutes Marty's ludicrous and quite plainly stupid assertion/lie. Here are some excerpts:
How can I say that religion is to blame? Do I really imagine that, when a terrorist kills, he is motivated by a theological disagreement with his victim? Do I really think the Northern Ireland pub bomber says to himself "Take that, Tridentine Transubstantiationist bastards!" Of course I don't think anything of the kind. Theology is the last thing on the minds of such people. They are not killing because of religion itself, but because of political grievances, often justified.
My point is not that religion itself is the motivation for wars, murders and terrorist attacks, but that religion is the principal label, and the most dangerous one, by which a "they" as opposed to a "we" can be identified at all. I am not even claiming that religion is the only label by which we identify the victims of our prejudice. There's also skin color, language, and social class.
The human psyche has two great sicknesses: the urge to carry vendetta across generations, and the tendency to fasten group labels on people rather than see them as individuals. Abrahamic religion gives strong sanction to both--and mixes explosively with both.
Religion has a most potent ability to exacerbate problems and to give focus to our darker sides. Of course the dissipation of religion won't make everything OK but the removal of religion is like the removal of a tank of gasoline being poured on a fire.
What about those godless cretins like Stalin? As Dawkins has said on many occasions, it was not his atheism which was the cause of his evil. No one is claiming that to be godless automatically makes one morally perfect. And even Marty admits that religion doesn't exactly have the best track record. Here's Hitchens' take:
Hitler never abandoned Christianity and recommends Catholicism quite highly in “Mein Kampf.” Fascism, as distinct from National Socialism, was in effect a Catholic movement.
For hundreds of years, millions of Russians had been told the head of state should be a man close to God, the czar, who was head of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as absolute despot. If you’re Stalin, you shouldn’t be in the dictatorship business if you can’t exploit the pool of servility and docility that’s ready-made for you. The task of atheists is to raise people above that level of servility and credulity. No society has gone the way of gulags or concentration camps by following the path of Spinoza and Einstein and Jefferson and Thomas Paine.
People of faith regularly claim that atheism is responsible for some of the most appalling crimes of the 20th century. Although it is true that the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were irreligious to varying degrees, they were not especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements were little more than litanies of delusion--delusions about race, economics, national identity, the march of history or the moral dangers of intellectualism. In many respects, religion was directly culpable even here. Consider the Holocaust: The anti-Semitism that built the Nazi crematoria brick by brick was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity. For centuries, religious Germans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continued presence among the faithful. While the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominately secular way, the religious demonization of the Jews of Europe continued. (The Vatican itself perpetuated the blood libel in its newspapers as late as 1914.)
Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields are not examples of what happens when people become too critical of unjustified beliefs; to the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of not thinking critically enough about specific secular ideologies. Needless to say, a rational argument against religious faith is not an argument for the blind embrace of atheism as a dogma. The problem that the atheist exposes is none other than the problem of dogma itself--of which every religion has more than its fair share. There is no society in recorded history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.
Marty also says that the religious impulse cannot be suppressed. Well, certain European countries are doing a pretty good job - Sweden, Denmark, France, and Holland, for example. And, when he talks about all the thousands of folks in Africa and Latin America becoming Christians everyday, one must ask – why is it that people of wealthier/more educated nations seem to be able suppress the religious impulse in such numbers while people in poorer nations seemingly cannot? I don't think any of the Four Musketeers believe that religion is going to be eradicated; certainly not anytime soon. Hitchens remarks as much often. He accepts that there will always be religious adherents but he wants them to support secular society by leaving their beliefs at home and to stop imposing them onto him. Sam Harris has said numerous times that his goal is to open a dialogue and to remove the stigma on criticism of religion. He wants to pull it down from its privileged perch so it can be discussed openly instead of the religious always being given the benefit of the doubt and undue deference. Similarly, Dennett wants religion to be thought of as something within the purview of science, not some enigma in a society which would castigate those who sought to scrutinize it. And Dawkins is keen on spreading science & reason and to get people to dispel myths about evolution such as the canard that humans evolved from apes.
The last thing I want to say about Marty's comments pertains to his refusal to debate any of these folks. I think he mistaken implies that any such debate would be about the existence of Yahweh. Debates with any of the FM generally aren't about dissecting the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God, they are about the pervasiveness of religion and the effects of it. They argue about practical matters and for a secular state knowing full well that religion will be, if I may say, an albatross around the neck of humanity for some time to come.
I don't know if Marty is just lazy or whether he intentionally lied. Either way it's a disgrace and a shame.
Democracy certainly has its drawbacks. Ergo we have a republic with ruling power divided amongst three branches of government including a bicameral legislature. But this isn't enough for someone named Philip Atkinson who advocated dictatorship. His piece was posted last week at the website of Family Security Matters but has since been taken down. Indeed, just about every mention of him has been wiped. Fortunately, there is the Google cache so you can still read Atkinson's advocacy for making George Bush into Caesar. Here are some choice excerpts:
The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead. Then there would be little risk or expense and no American army would be left exposed. But if he did this, his cowardly electorate would have instantly ended his term of office, if not his freedom or his life.
If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestiege while terrifying American enemies.
He could then follow Caesar's example and use his newfound popularity with the military to wield military power to become the first permanent president of America, and end the civil chaos caused by the continually squabbling Congress and the out-of-control Supreme Court.
Well, it turns out that "Family Security Matters (FSM) is a front group for the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a conservative Washington think tank "committed to the time-tested philosophy of promoting international peace through American strength." (The phone number listed on the FSM website is answered by the CSP.)
So now we are led to the Center for Security Policy, and who's connected to that group?
Dick Cheney, Vice President of the U.S. under George W. Bush, was an early member of Center's Board of Advisors (which is now called the National Security Advisory Council).
Twenty-two CSP advisers -- including additional Reagan-era remnants like Elliott Abrams, Ken deGraffenreid, Paula Dobriansky, Sven Kraemer, Robert Joseph, Robert Andrews and J.D. Crouch -- have reoccupied key positions in the national security establishment, as have other true believers of more recent vintage."
And don't forget Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, and Frank Gaffney.
I sincerely hope it was all a joke. But considering that Atkinson had several pieces up at the webpage, I am not so sure. I may blather on about my severe dislike of the Bush administration, but at least I don't call for ridding our country of democracy.
Getting rid of democracy was also on the mind of Dubya's grandpappy, Prescott. The BBC broadcasted a documentary about an attempted coup in 1933.
Document uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by right-wing American businessmen.
The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.
Some of the wealthiest men in America approached Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, beloved of many World War I veterans, many of them embittered by the government's treatment of them. Prescott Bush's group asked Butler to lead 500,000 veterans in a take-over of Washington and the White House. Butler refused and recounted the affair to the congressional committee. His account was corroborated in part by a number of witnesses, and the committee concluded that the plot was real. But the names of wealthy backers of the plot were blacked out in the committee's records, and nobody was prosecuted. According to the BBC, President Roosevelt cut a deal. He refrained from prosecuting some of the wealthiest men in America for treason. They agreed to end Wall Street's opposition to the New Deal.
We didn't prosecute treason then and we can't even impeach now. Between reading these two items and listening to the audiobook of Chalmers Johnson's Nemesis, I am beginning to understand why Richard Hofstadter had to write that essay of his.
I hope to write more about Johnson's book but I am not even halfway through it yet. But what disturbs me is, as he notes, that we have 700+ military installations of various ilks around the world and a total "defense" budget of somewhere near three quarters of a trillion dollars. And remember how Gen. Tommy Franks said that he didn't think the Constitution could survive another large-scale terrorist attack? James Madison said much which explains why there's that bit in the Third Amendment about quartering soldiers – it's about standing armies. A couple choice quotes:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.... [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and ... degeneracy of manners and of morals.... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.
I'm not paranoid but I do plead for eternal vigilance. Oliver Stone is bound to gain credibility again if this stuff keeps up.
Were my father still alive, he would have turned 70 today. Despite our rocky relationship, I find that I miss him. There are times when those days immediately after his death trapped in Louisiana at the mercy of Teamsters and the South's slow pace seem like just yesterday. Other times they seem so far away. The same goes for memories of my youth. On occasion it doesn’t feel like it was so long ago that my dad, then aged 49, took advantage of IBM's early retirement plan and said farewell to Chicago and the workaday world. While there are certainly things from this time that I often would rather forget, one thing my parents generally and my father specifically did that I cannot let loose from my mind was that they reinforced in me a notion that being smart is laudable and a love of learning, even for its own sake, is virtuous. I am, I think, reasonably smart but, if the latter is true, then I can stake a claim to a large chunk of virtue.
During my childhood, the old man was a voracious reader and, while his library wasn’t exceptionally voluminous, it was substantial in other ways. During the last few years of my father's life, he began giving his books to my brother and me. It seemed he was giving up on one of the great joys in his life. He always claimed that he couldn’t read any longer due to failing eyesight which I never understood. For one thing, his ocular problems were nothing that glasses couldn't correct and secondly, there are large print books available. Hell, there were audiobooks ready and waiting for him. He never took to them, however, and I saw him reading many a time even after he'd emptied out his library having pleaded bad vision. My father's library had more books on World War II than was probably safe and my brother caught the history bug early. Ergo, when my dad began dispensing books, those tomes ended up with him. I, on the other hand, got all 54 volumes of the Great Books of the Western World and its 10-volume introductory set.
Now, lest this post fall any deeper into overwrought sentimentality, I will say that I bring all of this up for a reason. It's my blog and my father has been on my mind but it's really a post at Dane101 that caught my attention and inspired all of this. The post is called "State GOP would tune out one of Wisconsin's greatest resources" by Jesse Russell. It's part encomium for Wisconsin Public Radio and part lament at the prospect of its loss. The potential budget cuts which would herald the end of WPR are explained by Bill Lueders of Isthmus here. It's part of a larger scheme by Republicans in the State Assembly to shortchange our public university system. WPR, along with WPT, the UW School of Workers, the UW-Madison Havens Center, and the Wisconsin Humanities Council are all satellites of the UW and are all looking at their funding drying up. Also on the financial chopping block is the UW Law School because Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Green Bay) thinks the state already has too many lawyers and they "excess" ones are filing too many frivolous lawsuits. I don't know that there are too many lawyers here in Wisconsin and, besides, why not take action against those who file frivolous lawsuits instead of beheading an institution of learning? All of this is part of a larger realm where our university system is held in low regard by various lawmakers. I've seen some of them on the WPT program Here and Now and their remarks always frame the UW as a financial drain. The Democrats on the program are only marginally better as they tend to take the opposite tact and advertise the UW as a generator of revenue with both sides being in opposition to our universities as institutions of learning. Why are the notions of an education having value beyond income and having an educated public so often ignored?
Reading Lueders' piece served to reinforce my preconceived notion that anti-intellectualism is prevalent here in Wisconsin and the country at-large. I first read John Erskine's "The Moral Obligation To Be Intelligent" when I was a teen and I found it in on my dad's bookshelf in one of the volumes of the introductory set to the GBotWW. In it, Erskine argues against our Anglo-Saxon inheritance where intelligence is equated with evil and for our Greek forbears who gave us "assurance that sin and misery are the fruit of ignorance and that to know is to achieve virtue". The former holds that "stupidity is first cousin to moral conduct" and I am severely tempted to assert that certain Republican assemblymen hold this dictum to be true or, at the very least, the folks who elected them do. This is not something which I can prove but my experience of living outside of Eau Claire for three and a half years does little to dissuade me. While the multiple teachers' strikes in Chicago when I lived there spawned animosity, I was not prepared for the derision poured upon teachers when I found myself a resident of Wisconsin. Saying that folks disliked teachers is like saying Packers fans dislike the Bears. For me, that most parents didn’t care one iota about education was obvious from the way kids on the sports teams were venerated while those of us on academic teams were ignored; it was apparent in the sheer ignorance of some of their kids and the pride that the kids took in it. I could go on for pages but let me just give two examples.
The first is a short ditty. I am a junior sitting in my American History class. The girl in the adjoining row asked me one day – in all earnestness – why we celebrate the 4th of July. My second example came when I was a senior and our physics class was grading the exams of the remedial physical science class. There was a question akin to "Gravity is: a) a breakfast cereal b) a model of a car c) a force which pulls objects to the ground". That's not verbatim but it was written in such a way that the right answer stood out from the rest. One guy got this wrong. He also left true/false questions blank. His writing looked like that of an 8-year old. And these weren't just the odd exceptions to an otherwise studious group of kids. While not the rule, these kinds of things happened very frequently.
It is tempting for me to conclude that, if most Wisconsin residents valued education instead of venerating athletes, we wouldn't be having these debates. But I'm reluctant to wholly endorse it. Americans tend to be ambivalent about learned folk. We are quick to cite the view of an expert's take on an issue if it suits our purpose. Unfortunately we are just as quick to denounce experts as being out of touch with reality when their views conflict with our own. UW philosophy professor Lester Hunt, however, has no problem with endorsing the view. In a post where he tossed around the idea of privatizing our university system, he commented:
On the other hand, state universities are supported by all the taxpayers, who are forced to do so. Many of them don't understand universities, don't give a damn about them, and in some cases would be hostile to the very idea, if it were correctly explained to them.
While it may be the case that the United States has always had an anti-intellectual bent, is seems that the situation has come to its apotheosis over the past few years. Christopher Hitchens observed that in 1800 "electors were offered a choice between the president of the American Philosophical Society and the founder of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences." Today we would be lucky have even the most junior member of any such organization as president. Such a person would, of course, be denounced from many quarters as an "elite", which is now a pejorative term. Todd Gitlin quotes Baynard R. Hall who wrote of the nascent state of Indiana in 1843: "We always preferred an ignorant bad man to a talented one, and hence attempts were usually made to ruin the moral character of a smart candidate; since unhappily smartness and wickedness were supposed to be generally coupled, and incompetence and goodness." The popular vote of the 2000 presidential election notwithstanding (and even it was a very close race), doesn't this still ring true today?
I introduced The Dulcinea to torrenting last night so there are obviously people out there who still don't know what it is. Anyway, if you are one these folks, then know that you can watch Richard Dawkins' latest TV program, The Enemies of Reason up at Google Video. (Thanks to P.Z. Myers for pointing this out.)
I've seen it and it's wonderful. While the program is unlikely to persuade people who read their horoscopes everyday and take it seriously, hopefully it can ignite conversations about Dawkins' assertion that mystics, seers, and the like contribute to a general ignorance amongst the population of science and a rejection of reason and logic. He quite rightly points out how people who believe in astrology, ESP, and the like are more than happy to take advantage of the fruits of science and reason when it suits them and to turn their backs when it doesn't. It says quite a bit on how the human psyche works. Here's the part about astrology:
You'd think people would have stopped allowing themselves to be in front of the camera with him by now.
I was at Woodman's last night looking for unpasteurized beer to cook with and I realized that it's been ages since I've written about beer. There are lots of flavors out that have escaped mention here and I've got reviews of brews just lying around waiting to be typed up. But I do have some words about beer today.
So I missed the Great Taste of the Midwest and all the great beers to be found there. Luckily my counterpart at Dane101, Doug, was able to attend and he documented the whole thing here. Also at Dane101, editor Jesse Russell collected various impressions and recollections of the event and put them all in one place for easy reading.
The folks at Isthmus too got into the act with Robin Shepard's piece. Shepard even got the cover this week with "Beer Here!", a look at the area's breweries and brewpubs. Unfortunately the article is about as bland as a Budweiser but it does a yeoman's job of listing area breweries with an accompanying factoid or two. The assertion that Madison is a haven for quaffers is quite correct, though. We have a country ton of locally brewed beers to enjoy here in Madison. I am reminded of this every time I visit friends in Chicago who only have one brewery - Goose Island - in which to invest a little hometown pride. (And, in a bid for wider distribution, it sold part of itself to Anheuser-Busch.)
Being a beer lover myself, I appreciated Shepard's article and it being the cover story. However, there were a couple omissions. Berghoff-Huber was omitted. While Huber may not be a microbrewer's microbrewery, it's a regional that makes pretty good beer. I like to think of them as the Leinenkugel's of the southern half of Wisconsin. Huber and Huber Bock played a big role in my college days while Berghoff and Augsberger (I believe they owned the name at the time) were steps up from the usual swill when I couldn't afford Garten Brau, a.k.a. – Capital.
In the sidebar piece "Brewers without breweries", four companies whose beer is contract brewed by another brewery are mentioned – Cross Plains, Fauerbach, Hausmann, and Furthermore. How did Blucreek get left out? It's a small company here in Madison that has Sand Creek Brewing, I believe, up in Black River Falls brew their stuff. They have a fine AltBier and I like their Herbal Ale as well.
Whether these were omitted because of the author's tastes or perhaps constraints on space, I don't know. But they deserve to be a part of any look at the local brewing scene.
At the same page is another podcast - Stories from Southwestern Wisconsin.
The CSUMC also had another podcast last spring which got off to a good start and then suddenly died. It was Wisconsin Englishes and was about the dialects of our fair state. I wrote about a presentation given on Wisconsin English last spring.
My mention of Richard Dawkins' new 2-part documentary, The Enemies of Reason has gotten a country ton of hits since I posted it 3 days ago. In fact, it's moved into #22 of my all-time most-viewed pages list.
Well, the torrent is now available. I'm seeding it as I type.
After heading out from Lapacek's and vainly trying to find Eplegaarden, we then discovered it wasn't open anyway. So it was off to Antojitos el Toril for dinner. It had been a while since we'd eaten there and I was hungry as a lone apple just didn't cut it. I have written about it previously and am pleased to say that I still love the joint.
We started off with horchatas all around and were served some chips and salsas.
Our drinks proved a necessary palliative as the reddish-brown salsa is on the hot side. M. had put some on a chip but it proved too much for his 8-year old palate. I thought he was going to start balling but he braved the heat like a man.
Antojitos el Toril is an unassuming place. The furnishings are of a typical diner and there's the constant blare of the TV which alternated between a futbol match and a Mel Gibson movie dubbed into Spanish. There was a couple seated behind us and a gentleman sitting out in the other room in front of the counter. The guy was nursing a bottle of Corona while occasionally nodding off into siestaland. I think he had been out front with another gentleman putzing around with a motorcycle when we came in. I love AeT because it's not pretentious and foodies don't come here looking for a culinary experience as opposed to a meal. The joint is a restaurant and, while I don't exactly have my finger on the pulse of Madison's Latino community, it also seems to have become a hang-out.
Whenever I eat there, I am transported back to my youth and the home of my childhood friend Lalo Valdez. The Valdez family moved to Chicago when I was 5 or 6 and they lived across the alley and down the block from me. Mrs. V would make tortillas from scratch and the aromas from her kitchen were absolutely marvelous. She had 4 kids and a husband to feed so there was rarely a time when she didn't have something working on the stove. You could smell her cooking in the backyard. Mr. V was a great guy too. He put up with a bunch of little kids running around when he was trying to relax after work. Most evenings he sat at the kitchen table and ate pickled chili peppers. He would offer us punks a pepper to try and I remember well the first time I took him up on it. Man, I ran out the door screaming as Mr. V just laughed. And so, when I walk into Antojitos el Toril and I smell those aromas and I hear the Spanish being spoken, it really takes me back in time. It feels like home to me.
My waxing nostalgic aside, let's move onto the food. M got himself a chicken burrito.
I personally think that 8 is plenty old enough to grab a burrito in your hands and start gnawing on it. But M eschewed this approach and hacked at it with is fork turning it into mush. I tried a bit of the chicken filling after he had finished and it was tasty. The D had ordered pazole.
Pazole is a mild soup with pork and hominy that's seasoned with, amongst other things, chile. It was fantastic. With it comes a plate of fried tortillas, lime wedges, radish slices, and lettuce. After trying it, I longed for cooler weather when a hearty bowl of soup is the ultimate defense against the chill outside.
For my part, I went with the carnitas.
I'd had them there previously but I don't care. A plateful of pork is always a slice of heaven. While the meat was a bit dry, it was still pretty tasty. My horchata was soon drained as I had gleefully doused various sections of my plate with habanera hot sauce and got my mouth a-burnin'.
In a just world, there would be no Pedro's, Pasqual's, or Chipotle; Mexicali Rose would remain in the Dells to thrust its bland fare onto the unadventurous tourists; and one Tex Tubb's Taco Palace would be enough. But that's not the case. I cannot urge folks enough to check out Antojitos el Toril or any of the other small Mexican restaurants here in Madison where it's about good food and not about being seen or indulging in the blandest, most homogenized simulacrum of Mexican food that a focus group can imagine.
I love August. Temperatures more to my liking won't being until next month but it's the beginning of harvest time. Corn is picked – the sweetest of the sweet. The kind of stuff you'd kill for during the long winter months when the corn you find tastes like wilted cardboard. You've got a small window on blueberries and you know fresh raspberries & cranberries will be coming your way anon. Squash is available and all manner of gourds ready themselves for your pleasure. I have been listening to an audiobook by Anthony Bourdain wherein he travels the world and eats. He goes to a few fancy restaurants but most of his tales are about hanging out with the salt of the earth. The biggest refrain of the book is the word "fresh". He says it a million times over the course of five CDs. Bourdain visits folks who live near their food sources so vegetables are picked that morning and a pig is slaughtered for dinner that night. Pursuant to this and a previous post of mine, The Dulcinea, M., and myself hopped in the car yesterday and zipped up to Poynette for a visit to Lapacek's Orchard.
We were greeted by a big, shaggy dog whose fur was filled with the detritus you get from living outside - dirt, leaves, and probably a few bugs. He didn't seem to mind, though. A woman, presumably Mrs. Lapacek, was walking towards us from the house behind us yelling at the dog. I think his name was Mitch, if memory serves. She needn't have worried because Mitch was very friendly and, as I rustled around the trunk, I extended a hand and scratched behind his ears. It was a beautiful day and the orchard was nestled in the gently rolling hills east of town. We wandered inside and, much to my dismay, discovered that it wasn't a pick-your-own joint. They had only been open a couple days and a mere handful of varieties were available as it was still early in the season. The proprietors were a young couple and, just like Mitch, both of them were extremely friendly. Mrs. Lapacek greeted us cheerfully a second time and almost immediately directed us to some baskets where we were given free samples. M got a William's Pride, The D a Paulared, and I ended up with a Zestar. Mein apfel war sehr scharf! Juicy, tart, and just plain tasty. The Paulared was much sweeter. A bag of them was $3.50 but the Zestars were twice as much. They're very popular and go quickly, we were told. Mrs. L was very helpful and offered suggestions to match varieties to how it was going to be eaten. "These are good for eating," she said, "while these are great for applesauce." My mind kept getting distracted with visions of my kitchen where I stood there rolling out dough for apple pies and watching as my apple fritter batter rose from the ale I had put into it.
There was also some corn for sale as well as several flavors of chilies, squash, and some of the finest looking red onions you'll ever lay your eyes on. These puppies were big and shiny and I knew that there were tomatoes and chilies in our garden just waiting to meet that onion in a big bowl of pico de gallo where the marriage of their flavors could be consummated. An adjoining room had gifts such as clothing, jewelry, and bric-à-brac of all sorts. Through a set of glass doors in the back was the apple sorting room with Mr. L and another older gentleman who were at work. They were being helped by someone you'll see in a moment. Through a window next to them some curious-looking heads bobbed and weaved in and out of view. What were these creatures?
They had emus! Two of them.
I don't have a good photo of their feet but they were enormously long with vicious-looking claws. Best not to get into a dust-up with one of these birds. They poked their heads through the bars of the fence and generally just looked around at the strange creatures before them. M occasionally walked perilously close to the fence and I readied my camera for a Fox-like When Emus Attack! moment. Alas, it never arrived.
Back inside, I asked the Mrs. L about the Wolf River apples that I had read about. "Do they really get to be a pound apiece?" I asked eagerly. "Are the legends of one apple per pie really true?" Indeed they were, she assured me. In fact, she seemed slightly surprised that I had never heard of them before. They would be ready around the 15th of next month as would other varieties, cider, and, if memory serves, some cows to distract the attention of the kids. The older gentleman wandered in from the sorting room and I chatted him up a bit as well. These people knew apples and I was extremely jealous because I am woefully ignorant of them but I'm slowly learning. (I wonder what the older hippies types at the Willy Street Co-op would think if they found out that some of their favorite apples weren't around when Johnny Appleseed was doing his thing. Instead they might just be biting into an apple developed across the Mississippi at the University of Minnesota during their lifetimes.) I was also shown to a sign-up sheet for their electronic mailing list so I gleefully have them my e-mail addy. In about a month my inbox will have a message stating that Wolf River apples are available and I'll be trekking north once more.
Before we left with bags of apples, an onion, some chili relish from a place in Baraboo with the delightful prog rock name Hawkwind, and a couple other odds and ends, I grabbed this photo:
That's the youngest Lapacek. She was interminably cute sitting there watch her father sort apples as the emus peered in through the windows with Mitch resting on the cool concrete floor.
Despite not having been able to pick some myself, the trip was well worth it. The proprietors were extremely friendly, I got to see some emus, and then drive away with a bounty.
The Lapaceks reminded me of that Frontline documentary The Farmer's Wife. Agriculture is Wisconsin's biggest industry and politicos have been on the television talking about ag bills and farm subsidies lately. Listening to Herb Kohl talk is annoying enough but it's made worse when you come away not knowing anything more than you did when you started. I recently watched an interview with him and came away no smarter when it came to farm bills than I was before watching it. They're still a mystery to me. There's a lot of talk about saving family farms but it's all-too rare to actually hear the farmers themselves saying it. I am totally in favor of helping family farms and preventing their lands from becoming subdivisions. And so it was just nice to actually go to a family farm and meet the folks who live and work there. Yet I am forced to wonder if Lapacek's Orchard will still be around when that little girl grows up.
Last night I took my friend Pete to see Werner Herzog's latest film, Resuce Dawn. When he came over to my house, I was pleased to discover that he'd finally taken my advice and rented Incident at Loch Ness, a hilarious send-up of Herzog, his obsessions, and his relationship with Klaus Kinski. Pete and I have similar tastes in film, though they diverge at times. But when a Kurosawa film is making the rounds again or when there's a new Herzog film to be had, you can bet your life we'll be seen in a theatre together. We had gone to Herzog's Grizzly Man together and now it was once again time to honor our ritual.
Christian Bale plays Dieter Dengler, the German immigrant turned pilot who is shot down in 1966 over Laos. Bale may not have the onscreen presence of Kinski, but his more subtle decent into mental crisis is no less harrowing. The film begins aboard an aircraft carrier with the pilots being informed of their top secret mission to hit targets in Laos. This scene with the guys in their flight suits listening to their commanding officer certainly brought Top Gun to mind. But this association serves as misdirection as any rah-rah go-America jingoism dissipates. It isn't long before the first sortie is airborne and Dengler finds himself shot down just as quickly. The shot of Dengler scrambling into the woods as he is pursued is a wonderful long shot of the downed plane burning in a beautiful field of tall grass and dwarfed by the mountains. You begin to feel things shifting as nature closes in when you see Dengler's tiny figure being swallowed by the grass. In another scene, he stands on a high rocky protuberance hoping to catch sight of a rescue plane. This picture of a solitary figure set against a vast natural backdrop is pure Herzog.
He is captured and eventually brought before the provincial governor (played by François Chau who LOST fans will recognize as the star of the DHARMA orientation films) who asks him to sign a confessional statement renouncing his and the U.S. government's actions. He refuses citing his love of country – "I love America because America gave me wings." A P.O.W. camp becomes his home and there Dengler meets a helicopter pilot named Duane, played by Steve Zahn, and Gene from Eugene, a contractor masterfully portrayed by Jeremy Davies. Along with them are other non-Americans who, along with Gene and Duane, were part of Air America. After two years of internment, they have long hair, beards, and bicker amongst themselves like an old married couple. Scraggily yet loveable.
Their captors range from the brutal man nicknamed Little Hitler to another man who is a dwarf and given the playful moniker of Jumbo. Jumbo is fairly kind to the prisoners and unknowingly abets them in their bid to escape. Dengler is slowly revealed to be something less than the all-American persona we've witnessed thus far. His headstrong desire to escape and maintain a positive attitude at the prospects are at the fore but there are little things that clue you in to what's really happening inside his mind. Hints of mania alternate with a sense of earnestness that just isn't normal and this gentle unraveling is testament to Bale's acting ability.
Things really get moving when the prisoners escape with Dengler and Duane heading off by themselves into a classic Herzogland. The jungle is unremitting in its indifference to their plight. They peacefully float down a river and only escape being hurled over a waterfall at the last minute only to find their momentary relief tempered by the need to remove leeches from their skin. Our heroes find an abandoned village and take up residence. U.S. helicopters are heard in the distance but no amount of waving and screaming garners their attention so Dengler sets the village on fire. This gets the attention of those in the helicopters but, instead of rescue, they open fire on Dengler as he desperately flails his arms in the air. The defiant pair is now looking more ragged than ever and futility seems to have set in. One last bit of hope rises as they stumble upon a small village but are accosted by machete-wielding villagers. Dengler and Duane are on bended knees begging for help in what is probably the film's most intense scene.
Dengler, reduced to eating a snake raw, finally finds rescue. He is shuffled off to a military hospital where he recuperates. There's a little light humor here as he is kidnapped by his comrades and brought back to his carrier. The feel-good homecoming is perhaps a bit too Hollywood but Herzog pokes some holes in it. When asked, "Was it your faith in God and country that kept you going?", Dengler remains silent "You have to believe in something," intones his interlocutor. When he finally does manage a reply, it is "I believe I need a steak". His fellow crewmember won't let up and solicits advice to which he is given the cryptic "Empty that which is full. Fill that which is empty. If it itches, scratch it.".
While it is tempting to cast Rescue Dawn as Herzog-lite, the film is really the obsessive Werner Herzog we all know and love. There may be recognizable American faces and a "happy" ending, but every bit of "standard" storytelling is tempered by the director's obsession with turning madness into a virtue when a person is confronted by the cold disinterest of the universe. Rescue Dawn is bookended by scenes that veer a bit too close to cliché but at least you can see in them elements beneath the surface which belie the typical Hollywood spiel. The protagonist has been inalterably changed and not necessarily for the better. As for the meat of the movie, it is classic Herzog. Nature is cruel and uncaring and, when faced with this inexorable fact of life, Dengler can only retreat towards primal instinct while his humanity fades to madness. Jeremy Davies deserves great credit as Gene. Duane is able to muster the strength to carry on with Dengler's help. Gene, however, never really had any strength to begin with. When we first meet him, he's already lost it. It's like when we're introduced to Dennis Hopper's character in Apocalypse Now for the first time. Gene got pushed to the edge a long time ago and only a shell remains. In a way, the 3 lead characters all present gradations of the process of losing it with Dengler and Gene being at either side.
Peter Zeitlinger's cinematography captures the beauty of the locations to great effect while never letting us forget that it's the characters that are centerstage. It's the posture of their emaciated bodies set against a backdrop which is important along with capturing the looks in their eyes. I also greatly appreciated the judicious use of music in the film. The score by Klaus Badelt was notable for the times when it was absent, such as the chase scene immediately after Dengler's plane crashes, as well as the times when it's a slow burn that broods over the psyches of the characters. The band Popol Vuh has contributed to the soundtracks of many Herzog films and they are found here too.
Apocalypse Now also featured a decent into madness during the Vietnam War but Herzog's vision here is less grandiose and surreal and more intimate and realistic. Perhaps the Conquistador of the Useless has streamlined things and no longer feels the need to really haul a steamship across mountains for the camera. (And maybe the off-screen tensions have eased as well.) But Herzog still feels obliged to explore how people move steamships inside their heads and it is still compelling cinema.
I recently wrote about such folks and now those of us here in the States should get their torrent clients ready as Richard Dawkins has a new TV show ready to air - The Enemies of Reason:
Is it rational that the dead can communicate with the living and give sound advice on how they should live their lives? What about sticking pins into your body to free the flow of Chi energy and cure your illness? Or the bending of spoons using your mind alone? Is that rational? Richard Dawkins doesn’t think so, and feels it is his duty to expose those areas of belief that exist without scientific proof, yet manage to hold the nation under their spell. He will take on the world’s leading proponents in their field of expertise, meet the victims who have used them and expose the history of the movements – from the charlatans who have milked these practices to the experiments and testing that have failed to produce conclusive results.
It airs on Monday in the UK so, by the time you get home from work that day, it should be available for download.
The Times had a write-up of the show and the following scene sounds amusing.
When Dawkins consulted a medium who has appeared on daytime television and charges £50 for instant phone readings she said she could hear or see his father “on the other side”.
He did his best not to look surprised as she continued: “I’m aware of your father stood right behind you. “On a spiritual level he wasn’t the most openest man with his thoughts and his feelings. Ummm, I kind of want to say that I do love you and I do care – but that wouldn’t have been his character.” (Or that of many middle-class father figures of his generation, a sceptic might have said.)
But Dawkins let her continue. “I’m aware that you don’t have you dad’s photograph out” – it was true, he didn’t – “so I’m a little bit concerned why. So I’m going to ask you: why don’t you have it out?” Dawkins had a bombshell ready: “Well, he might be aware that I don’t have it out because he comes to the house about once a week.” “Oh, he’s still here,” she said, adding after a few seconds: “I don’t feel it’s working.”
“Is that because you thought my father is dead and discovered that he’s still alive?”
“No, nothing to do with that. I don’t know.”
She commented later: “As a clairvoyant you’re only as good as the client.”
When was the last time there were so many films by Germans here in Madison? (Not counting festivals, mind you.) Die Große Stille (Into Great Silence) has returned to Sundance where it is accompanied by Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn. I may be seeing Herzog's latest this evening with a friend whose birthday was earlier this week. Rob Thomas of The Capital Times interviewed Herzog recently and you can read what he had to say here. To complete this Teutonic trifecta is Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives of Others) over at the cheap seats of Market Square.
Sean over at Dane101 has the movie round-up for the week so I won't repeat much of what he said. However, I do want to mention the Found Footage Festival which is at the Orpheum tonight and that sci-fi/fantasy/Neil Gaiman types will be pleased to know that Stardust opens today.
One thing Sean neglected to mention was that Westgate will be showing Pirates of the Caribbean 3 with Spanish subtitles and Spider-Man 3 dubbed in Spanish and with English subtitles. (Why the subtitles?) I don't know how many Latinos read Dane101 but I think it deserved a mention as they're part of our community as well. Anyway, I'm unsure if the folks at Westgate are feeling the pinch from Sundance or whether it's just business as usual in trying to enter a different market. I'm hoping The Dulcinea, who is learning Spanish, will take me to one of the showings. She can learn a new language and I'll get to see a film for free.
The Latino community in Madison seems to really be making its presence felt. Shops & restaurants, a Spanish-language radio station and publications, films in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles, and it has apparently wrestled Hispanic Fest from politically correct hands and made it their own. With the ubiquity of cable, Madison is spared that period when Spanish language channels sprout up with all those cheesy soap operas. Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for the Wisconsin Los Lobos to appear. I want to hear a band which mixes norteño with polka, blues, and rock.
If Jesse Russell is reading this – have you considered finding someone to write at Dane101 in Spanish for the Latino community?
Rothschild is the editor of the magazine The Progressive which is located right here in Madison. The room at The Overture Center was sparsely populated at first but filled up at 7:30 approached. Allen Ruff from Rainbow Bookstore was there selling copies of You Have No Rights as the crowd found its way to their seats. There were people young and old but mostly old. This disparity in the ages of the attendees is common from my experience. There is a healthy smattering of senior citizens who want to go to their graves informed and involved. The majority of the audience were middle-aged folks – people who probably rioted here at the UW against the Vietnam War. They have been political since their college years and continue to be so. The paucity of younger adults, however, was striking. There was a handful there scattered as they were around the room. You'd think the people that are going to toil under the effects of the government policies & decisions of the last six years the longest would have a keen interest. Perhaps this is because Rothschild just doesn't have the reputation and movie star charisma of a Michael Moore.
My observation aside, I personally enjoy hearing Rothschild speak immensely. He and I are in agreement politically most of the time and he is a godless heathen like myself. In fact, I enjoy Rothschild's work so much that The Dulcinea has taken to referring to him as my boyfriend. His book is basically a best-of compilation of stories from his "McCarthyism Watch" column which collects stories of civil rights abrogations. I've only glanced at the book and don't have it with me but Marc Eisen of Isthmus wrote a piece in anticipation of the event and listed a few of the 82 stories in the book. To wit:
* Stephen Downs being arrested for trespassing at the mall when he wears a tee shirt that says "Peace on Earth" on one side and "Give Peace a Chance" on the other. * Laura Berg, a nurse at an Albuquerque veterans hospital, being investigated and accused of sedition by the Veterans Administration after she writes a letter to the editor accusing the Bush administration of criminal negligence for its Iraqi war. * Frank Van Den Bosch of Platteville being arrested for disorderly conduct when he unfurls a sign saying "FUGW" when the Bush campaign caravan rolls through town. * U.S. rowing champion Aquil Abdullah being repeatedly detained, questioned and searched at airports because he happens to be a black man with a Muslim-sounding name. * Members of Peace Action Milwaukee being barred from flying to a demonstration against the School of the Americas because some of their names pop up on the mysterious law-enforcement "watch list."
There's also the story of Renee Jensen in West Virginia who put a sign up in her yard reading "Mr. Bush: You're fired". This prompted a visit by the Secret Service. Or take Marc Schultz who was reported to the FBI because he stood in a line at a coffee shop reading an article critical of Fox News.
It's hardly surprising that people trying to exercise their right of free speech at, say, a Bush rally are arrested. But what is surprising to me and even more profoundly disturbing are stories like Mr. Schultz's. It's one thing for a guy donning a black trench coat and sunglasses to bully people with slogans on t-shirts – those in power like to bully those who are not. But it's absolutely chilling to read about someone being reported to the authorities by a member of their community. What must be going through your mind to call the police or the FBI when you see someone in line for a latte reading criticism of Fox News? Who did this? How did this person feel threatened?
When John Nichols of The Cap Times editorialized in favor of the book, it elicited comments which basically said that, because Rothschild was allowed to publish the book and not get sent to Gitmo, then there's no problem. Either the most extreme bad thing happens or all is well with no middle ground, no shades of gray pointing in one direction or the other. How does one acquire this mindset?
Just as Bill Lueders published his account of being on-air with Ann Althouse, I was finishing up listening to the audiobook of John Dean's Concervatives Without Conscience. In it, Dean examines the history of conservatism in this country and contrasts his Goldwater conservatism with the flavor(s) now prevailing here. He uses the research of Bob Altemeyer, specifically his research into right-wing authoritarianism. Both the negative comments directed at Nichols and Althouse's incredulity that someone would actually want to wait for evidence seemed to me authoritarian in nature – both submission and aggression. Likewise for some of the examples in Rothschild's book. 9/11 induced fear into people and the Bush administration stepped up as a father figure, of sorts, to allay those fears. Authoritarian types will tend to go along with whatever the Bush administration says because it is attempting to do away with certain fears. And they heap derision on those who would be critical of the father figure.
I am certainly not giving Dean nor Altemeyer their due and I highly recommend reading their works. It is difficult for me to read the incidents in You Have No Rights and not think that authoritarian figures are at work.
Last weekend I sang "Cup of Wonder" by Jethro Tull to myself several times. I grilled some most excellent corn that The Dulcinea had bought and the song contains the line "lie in August's welcome corn". I really must get one of those corn de-cobbers as I'd like to try my hand at canning the stuff. Thinking about corn being in season reminded me that apples too are beginning to tempt us to pick them. I am looking forward to heading out to one (or more) of the many apple orchards around Madison. I've got a number of medieval recipes that I'd like to try that involve apples including: apple muse, a pie of grene apples, Blaunderellys (baked apples), apple cream, Fruays, Tartys in Apples, or Fretoure. Fretoure are apple fritters and you make them with ale. (Unpasteurized, please – I want that batter to rise a bit.)
The problem is that I'd love to be able to make these dishes with apples that were actually around back then. Cortlands? Developed in New York and first put on sale in 1915. McInoshes? Take off, Hoser. They're Canadian from c. 1800. Granny Smiths? These puppies originated in Australia in the mid-19th century. The University of Minnesota was busy last century developing new varieties – Zestars, Honeycrisps, Regents, Honeygolds, Haralsons, and Firesides.
This is not to say that Wisconsin is without apples to call its own. I know of two. Firstly is the Bonnie Best which originated in Cooksville, a town that is just south of Stoughton. The second is the Wolf River variety which was found c. 1880. These puppies are huge and can get up to one pound in weight. Legend has it that you can make a pie from a single Wolf River apple and I intend to test the veracity of this.
However, where I might find any medieval varieties such as the Edelborsdorfer, Costard, Pearmain, Nonpareil, or White Joaneting is beyond me at this point. The Royal Russet is an old variety which remains fairly common by which I mean not impossible to find.
While I'm on the topic of apples, the Steve's Liquor at Mineral Point and Junction Roads is having a cider tasting next Thursday the 16th from 4-6. It will feature ciders from ÆppelTreow Winery.
Camille Paglia has a rather distressing piece up at Salon today called "Art movies: R.I.P.". Not only does she pronounce art film dead, but also rock music and she takes some nasty & unwarranted swipes at a few prominent atheists.
Ms. Paglia's views the world through Dionysian-tinted glasses. She wants to see a world of sexual liberation and equality adorned by art whose taproot is religion, even if she rejects the tenets of its supernaturalism. It's a passion-at-all-costs philosophy where our Apollonian sides are to be chained by our natural energies, imagination, and romanticist pursuits. By way of slander she writes:
As a professed atheist, I detest the current crop of snide manifestos against religion written by professional cynics, flâneurs and imaginatively crimped and culturally challenged scientists. The narrow mental world they project is very grim indeed -- and fatal to future art…My pagan brand of atheism is predicated on worship of both nature and art. I want the great world religions taught in every school.
Just as one decodes "American Pie", I'll give this a go and suggest that here she's attacking Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins specifically and, no doubt, others such as Daniel Dennett. While I can't recall if Sam Harris has espoused this, Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dennett have all said they are quite in favor of teaching the great world religions in school. Hitchens takes it upon himself to do the teaching since schools don’t do so while Dennett made his position clear at the TED Conference earlier this year and you can watch his presentation at this page. These people want religion to be studied – that's the entire argument behind Dennett's last book, in fact. They want people to know the history of the great religions; they want religion to be seen as genuine topics for inquiry and studied; they want religion to be looked at and treated as another genuine part of the human experience. What they don't want is for religion to be privileged or for kids to be indoctrinated with the notion that Yahweh actually exists whereas Zeus and Thor don't; they don't want science to be displaced by religion; they don't want the religious to impose their views upon the non-religious nor for public policy to be predicated upon a goofy, irrational belief that a fictional deity actually exists.
As far as I can tell from reading their works and interviews, none of these folks deny the profound influence of religion on art and the humanities at large. To say that Dawkins is "culturally challenged" is patently ridiculous. I don't doubt for a second that he knows next to nothing about the latest pop music acts or hit TV shows. But, if you listen to an interview which isn't just a collection of sound bites that are sure to be controversial, you will almost indubitably hear him extol his tremendous love for music and poetry. Hitchens: "I couldn't do without devotional music and architecture and poetry I must say. I've never thought it was eradicable, or that anyone should try [to eradicate it]..." I can't see what's so narrow about their mental worlds nor what is so expansive about religion. Besides, these authors do not expect their books to eradicate religion but rather see their screeds as an attempt to push religion out of the public sphere and into the private where no artist would be deprived of religious contemplation to inspire their work. And being non-religious didn't keep Percy Shelly, Mark Twain, or Ernest Hemingway from being creative. Paglia builds up a straw man and then tears him down thusly avoiding any of the arguments that the above gentlemen present.
This self-described "pagan atheist" is now 60 years old – a crone. But instead of dispensing wisdom here, she just bloviates about how things were better in her beloved Age of Aquarius in the 1960s & 70s. She goes on about seeing films by Bergman, Antonioni, and Truffaut but has all of two sentences about art film today. Seriously, all she can say about it is "But art movies are gone, gone with the wind." and "Now, in contrast, aspiring young filmmakers are stampeded toward simplistic rejection of religion based on liberal bromides (sexism, homophobia, etc.)." That's all. She never bothers to talk about any contemporary makers of art films or their films themselves. Ms. Paglia has apparently watched every art film in the whole of the world and, not having found the proper reverence for the "cosmic vision" (whatever that is) of religion in this corpus, pronounces it dead. Art films may not pack the houses like it did when Paglia was in college – after all, nudity can now be found in mainstream domestic movies – but it is still very much alive. Do you miss Antonioni? Then watch Battle in Heaven (Batalla en el cielo) by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas. Lynch, Sokurov, von Trier, and many others keep making art films. The problem is that, unless the films appeal to her sensibilities about religion as artistic inspiration, then they're worthless; unless the art film scene mirrors that of her beloved college days, it is dead.
From film she moves on to rock music which, for her, is also dead:
Rock music, which exploded in the artistic renaissance of the '60s and '70s, seems to have exhausted its formulas, At the moment, hip-hop and disco-derived dance music enjoy far greater prestige everywhere.… It's no coincidence that the geriatric Rolling Stones are still going strong: Their style is grounded in African-American rhythm and blues…"
Again we have the old fart mentality – "Everything was better in my day!" No, the reason why The Stones are "still going strong" is because Baby Boomers like you have no qualms with paying $500 for a nosebleed seat at their concerts. I say this as a Stones fan as well as someone who enjoys their latter-day albums. While not groundbreaking, Voodoo Lounge is a great album. Hip-hop and disco-derived dance music have far greater prestige everywhere? What does this mean? The much ballyhooed festivals – SXSW, Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, etc. - feature mainly rock bands. The highest grossing touring acts this year include Rod Stewart, The Police, Kenney Chesney, Roger Water, and Eric Clapton. Hip-hop album sales are declining. Some are pronouncing it dead for a myriad of reasons including that the main consumers of it are kids from the "bland white middle class" which Paglia derides later in her article. Music blogs = indie rock blogs.
Is there any hasty generalization that Ms. Paglia won't use? Rock is still very much alive and well.
Paglia trots out the tired argument that folks like Dave Marsh, Simon Frith, and Lester Bangs used as the foundation of rock criticism back in Ms. Paglia's salad days. She points to a video of Naomi Mather doing Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning" and then declares:
In general, aspiring young performers emerging from the bland white middle class in America seem to be having trouble expressing or controlling emotion, with its myriad of subtle gradations. Unless they hail from the gospel-rich South, they lack direct experience of the vocal authority and operatic dynamics that most young African-Americans automatically absorb from church.
Marsh, et al promoted the notion that rock music had a "genuineness" to it because its taproot was folk music, most prominently, the blues (i.e. – "black music"). For them, rock becomes dislocated when it eschews its blues roots and looks towards music such as Western art music (i.e. – "white music"). For them, having blues roots allows rock musicians to adopt a process which allows feelings & emotions to be directly transcribed into music without mediation. By looking towards other sources for inspiration, this process of transcription is mediated and thusly the result is not "pure". Simply and crudely put, black music appeals to the foot while white music appeals to the head. The upshot of this way of thinking is to posit with black people a certain simplicity with rhythm being favored and white people being scorned for getting all complicated by favoring melody.
Paglia merely dresses this old argument (which is potentially girded by racism) in new clothes by shifting things to locale and, unsurprisingly, the influence of religion, which she seeks to protect and place on a pedestal. Despite the sleight of hand, her conclusions are the same – white people make "inauthentic" music while blacks make music that is "genuine". "Rock will be spectacularly reborn by a faithful return to roots," she says. Same bullshit, different clothes.
Apparently there just aren't enough rockers in tight leather pants ala Jim Morrison leading faux bacchanalias in concert halls these days for her.