May 31, 2005

I'M SO GLAD

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Flower Arrangement and Photograph by Catherine King.

The world only moves forward.

Posted by Jerome at 12:30 PM | TrackBack

May 30, 2005

TAPS

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Flower Arrangement and Photography by Catherine King

Memory by Jerome du Bois

This song is Reality. Remember? Surely you remember?
--James Jones, From Here To Eternity

I was born in Lanikai, Oahu, Hawaii in 1949. My father, Alan van Fleet du Bois, fought relentlessly and with valor in the Pacific in World War II. He mustered out as a corporal in the United States Marines with five Purple Hearts --that's right, I've seen the scars --a Bronze Star, and two Silver Stars. If he hadn't lived, if he hadn't been brave beyond words or believing, I would not be here now, and I wouldn't be writing these words. Thanks again, Dad. I'm so proud of you. I wish I'd said that more when you were alive.

Before the War he was a sporting-goods manager, enjoying some early-morning golfing with some friends at the Oahu Country Club on Pearl Harbor Sunday when the Zero squadrons flew over their heads, rattling the golf clubs in the bags. What the hell was that? Heads tilted back, gloved hands shading eyes, seeking answers from the glorious, fateful blue sky.

He was really too old, in his early thirties, but like Queequeg who hit the spot of tar floating in the bay, he impressed the recruiters with his marksmanship. They let him in and trained him as a sniper. Just take a moment to consider the psychological implications of getting the drop on someone, over and over, and staying stable. My old man did. (After the war, he got a degree in psychology.)

He was a dead shot every time he lifted a pistol or a rifle or a shotgun, until he put them all down sixty years later due to macular degeneration. Fifteen years after the war ended, when I began asking about what went on, he didn't talk about it much --he told me a little, some really horrific things, but he also told me to read books about it, as he did. (By the end of his life, my father's WWII library reached nearly 2,000 volumes.)

He earned those medals by performing actions --sniping with uncanny accuracy, deep recon, clearing caves of the enemy with a flame-thrower, saving nearly a whole platoon, dragging wounded comrades to safety-- which even today chill my bones, and yet make me proud.

James Jones wrote From Here To Eternity in 1951, and Hollywood made a famous movie about it two years later, with Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, and Deborah Kerr. It was about soldiers in Hawaii, at Scofield Barracks on Oahu, before, during, and just after December 7, 1941. I never saw the original movie in the theater, but I read the book for the first time when I was twelve, and I reread it many times; and whenever the movie came on TV my brother and I would devour it, partly because there were hardly any movies about Hawaii. People who didn't grow up there then don't realize how provincial we felt, even after statehood. An exotic backwater. Let's go surfin now everybody's learnin how. Yeah Yeah Yeah.

We liked the movie all right --even as a kid I too easily felt Clift's pain as Robert E. Lee Prewitt, the bugler-boxer-- but there were two highlights we preferred, both about music. My brother, a year and a month older than me, who had not yet bothered to learn to read music but could pick up a song for his guitar after one or two listens, would pay close attention to "The Re-Enlistment Blues" scene. We had the words of the song from the frontispiece of the book, see, and the blues has a classic structure, so he could sing the song --but what about the mood? Well, after we saw the movie the first time, we sang it over and over, around our beach campfires, skinny little tanned sixth-grade ka'amainas, Caucasian, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, and poi-dog combinations, singing heartfelt as hardened soldiers. My friends. What did we know of war and pain? but we sang that twangy blues the way it spozed to be sung, ramshackle and funky. After forty years I say: my father fought for this, on Iwo Jima and Okinawa and other, forgotten hells, and saw many die before his eyes, for my friends and I to harmonize on that beach those nights, to try to feel what adults feel.

The fire crackled, warming the sand, the low tide lapped the beach, and as we sang about the fear and pain of those who stood for and laid it down for our lives, the moon itself laid down a golden band from the horizon to our feet, underlining the rightness of it all.

There's always been a zigzag of November melancholy in my soul, even as a kid --I don't know why, but the name of this blog is no accident-- so in the movie of From Here To Eternity I always waited for the "Taps" scene. I will let James Jones himself describe it.

He [Robert E. Lee Prewitt] looked at his watch and as the second hand touched the top stepped up and raised the bugle to the megaphone, and the nervousness dropped from him like a discarded blouse, and he was suddenly alone, gone away from the rest of them.

The first note was clear and absolutely certain. There was no question or stumbling in this bugle. It swept across the quadrangle positively, held just a fraction longer than most buglers hold it. Held long like the length of time, stretching away from weary day to weary day. Held long like thirty years. The second note was short, almost too short, abrupt. Cut short and too soon gone, like the minutes with a whore. Short like a ten minute break is short. And then the last note of the first phrase rose triumphantly high on an untouchable level of pride above rhythm, triumphantly high on an untouchable level of pride above the humiliations, the degradations.

He played it all that way, with a paused then hurried rhythm that no metronome could follow. There was no placid regimented tempo to this Taps. The notes rose high in the air and hung above the quadrangle. They vibrated there, caressingly, filled with an infinte sadness, an endless patience, a pointless pride, the requiem and epitaph of the common soldier, who smelled like a common soldier, as a women once had told him. They hovered like halos over the heads of the sleeping men in the darkened barracks, turning all grossness to the beauty that is the beauty of sympathy and understanding. Here we are , they said, you made us, dont close your eyes and shudder at it; this beauty, and this sorrow, of things as they are. This is the true song, the song of the ruck, not of battle heros; the song of the Stockade prisoners itchily sinking sweating under coats of grey rock dust; the song of the muckily KPs, of the men without women who collect the bloody menstrual rags of the officers' wives, who come to scour the Officers' Club-- after the parties are over. This is the song of the scum, the Aqua-Velva drinkers, the shameless ones who greedily drain the half filled glasses, some of them lipsticksmeared, that the party-ers can afford to leave unfinished.

This is the song of the men who have no place, played by a man who has never had a place, and can therefore play it. Listen to it. You know this song, remember? This is the song you close your ears to at night, so you can sleep. This is the song you drink five martinis every evening not to hear. This is the song of the Great Loneliness, that creeps in like the desert wind and dehydrates the soul. This is the song you'll listen to on the day you die. When you lay there in the bed and sweat it out, and know that all the doctors and nurses and weeping friends dont mean a thing and cant help you any, cant save you one small bitter taste of it, because you are the one thats dying and not them; when you wait for it to come and know that sleep will not evade it and martinis will not put it off and conversation will not evade it and hobbies will not help you to escape it; then you will hear this song and, remembering, recognize it. This song is Reality. Remember? Surely you remember?

"Day is done...

Gone the sun...

From-the-lake

From-the-hill

From-the-sky

Rest in peace

Sol jer brave

God is nigh..."


And as the last note quivered to prideful silence, and the bugler swung the megaphone for the traditional repeat, figures appeared in the lighted sallyport from inside of Choy's. "I told you it was Prewitt," a voice carried faintly across the quadrangle in the tone of a man who has won a bet. And then the repeat rose to join her quivering tearful sister. The clear proud notes reverberating back and forth across the silent quad. Men had come from the dayrooms to the porches to listen in the darkness, feeling in the darkness, feeling the sudden choking kinship bred of fear that supersedes all personal tastes. They stood in the darkness of the porches, listening, feeling suddenly very near the man beside them, who also was a soldier, who also must die. Then as silent as they had come, they filed back inside with lowered eyes, suddenly ashamed of their own emotion, and of seeing a man's naked soul.

These days some people whine if you call them a name, or question their blind certainty, or cast your shadow on something they got a special jones for. They ought to, but never will be, ashamed of themselves. They're lost.

My father came home from several hells without complaint. (He once had to set a friend's decapitated head, still in its helmet, aside, and pick up his carbine and resume the fighting.) He swallowed his pain, and for years afterward he suffered from migraines and bouts of malaria. He not only raised a family of three, he expanded Honolulu Sporting Goods from one store to five, and then, after we moved to Phoenix, he created the E. Blois du Bois Educational Foundation and ran it for thirty years, helping to educate thousands of Arizonans.

Today I remember and honor him, and the friends and comrades he left behind.

And today, Catherine and I stand for all the dead who stood for us, again.

Reader, before you leave, consider again my beloved wife's epigraphic photograph. Look closely: rising from black death, red blood, and purple pain, glorious ivory life climbs the green fuse ladder, bloom after bloom, to bask in the rays of the life-giving Sun.

The world only moves forward.

[James Jones excerpt courtesy of this website.]

Posted by Jerome at 01:00 AM | TrackBack

May 28, 2005

La Malinche De Los Estados Unitos De America

by Jerome du Bois

We received a long-winded comment on the Huevos posting from someone named Catherine Herrera, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Listen: she called us idiots first.) She gives no information about herself, but I googled around and tentatively conclude that she is either (1) nobody special, like us, or (2) an independent filmmaker from San Francisco who lived in Mexico for years and once made a film about Vincente Fox's election. If the latter, which is likely, then I further conclude that she is even more sinister than she is foolish. (She runs Malinche Productions.) Anyway, I'm going to assume it's the filmmaker, because she fits the profile.

I don't know why, if she's based in the Bay Area, she suddenly showed up in the comments now, way out here on the edge of the blogospheric galaxy. (Maybe that Sopa thang at the Paper Heart?) But that doesn't stop her from illogically blaming us two long-time Arizonans for many things, including the fact that "1/3 of your legislators haven't even graduated from college!"

So sorry, but this is a San Franciscan throwing stones, remember; and one who didn't graduate from either college or film school, according to her own report. She's probably angry because Arnold is on our side of the border security debate.

Anyway, I decided to fisk this Catherine Herrera's comment.

She begins:

I feel real sorry for the people who are suffering from the overwhelming crush of immigrants crossing over from Mexico and a hundred other countries.

We two are two of the people suffering from this crush, but she doesn't feel sorry for us. We each pay $700 per year so that illegal aliens can get health and welfare benefits for free. (My seriously diabetic adult stepson --50% Mexican and 100% legal-- pays the $700 and then gets whacked again whenever he has to go to the hospital, which is several times a year, with ever-rising hospital costs and overcrowding.) With $1400, we could probably finally have a honeymoon after five years. Two years ago, while bringing my 86-year-old mother home from the doctor, I rear-ended a vehicle who stopped too soon in front of me. Nobody was injured. It was driven by an illegal Mexican alien; his passenger, also a Mexican illegal, made a big deal in Spanish about his back. The cops came, took a report. (Which is when I learned they didn't have driver's licenses.) Later, these two pendejos never showed up in court. It cost us $4000 to fix the car. Do you feel sorry for us yet, Ms. Herrera? If so, shove your sympathy; we don't need it.

And you don't really want to get into the subject of "a hundred other countries" when you try to call yourself a "real patriot" at the end of your screed. Some of those countries want us --the US-- obliterated.

I know their concerns are real, should be heard and addressed. Unfortunately, people like you are making it all but impossible to hear their voices over the din of your own.

BEHOLD THE MIGHTY VOICE OF THE TEARS OF THINGS, SHATTERER OF WORLDS!

ALL ACROSS THE GALAXY OUR NAME IT DOES RESOUND!

DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT SAYIN' NUTHIN'!

Don't you have anything better to do with your time then [sic] spout out lies, hatred and fire?

First, you have no say in one minute of our time, now, then, anywhen. We are free, free, free at last. We don't tell you what to do with your precious moments. You obviously felt it was worth your time wasting ours to spout on and on your own damned self, didn't you? Because you're not helping the conversation we're trying to advance, you're hindering it. Second, you name not one lie. Third, our hatreds are well-documented. Which ones do you love? As for fire, watch your eyebrows.

Only insecure idiots that came to this land themselves must defend it with the vile [sic]that you do.

After rereading this sentence many times --she means "venom," I'm sure-- I still find it hard to understand --that she means it, I mean. Some of my ancestors struck out from Holland in a small ship into the darkness of the unknown future. Other parts of my family, like my wife Catherine King's, were lowland Scots-Irish who also set out on "insecure" ships with nothing but what they could carry. They all headed to the New World. And they made it.

They weren't idiots; they were saving their skins. They weren't insecure; they were certainly braver than you, who would rather bend over and kiss the ass of a criminal oligarch like Vincente Fox than stand up for the difficult truth. And we will certainly defend this land they helped to shape --to the death if need be, in a heartbeat. You tried to say it: venom. Well, there's a lot more substance and gumption to it, but --damn right. Beware. The snake's warning was written down long ago, and it's still in force: Don't Tread On Me. Lest ye get bit.

I don't hear you whining--

You don't hear us whining at all.

--about all the electricity being shipped effortless across the border from Mexico to the U.S.,

--which we pay for, I believe-- separately from the $13 billion the illegals sent to your buddy Vincente Kaching Fox last year so you can thank us later jerk--

--or all the trash you dump south--

When did we, my wife and I, do this? We recycle, anyway.

--and on Native American reservations--

Oh, you don't want to go there, either. Having lived or stayed on three different US reservations, one's eyes are opened to the myth of the ecologically sanitary Native American Indian. Some of them, being human beings, are slobs. And besides, what does that have to do with we two, who don't go near any reservations? And what's all this obsession with waste?

--or the dumping on Mexico of all that unneeded corn from 26,000 Iowa farmers, leading to the displacement of small subsistence farmers as prices drop down so far Mexicans are forced to migrate north to the U.S. for work --work, by the way, that business in the U.S. are happy to offer to the undocumented.

Now we know who the culprits are, those responsible for 11 million illegal Mexicans in the US: 26,000 Iowa farmers who did something with corn. I say we arrest them all! We know where to find them. They're in Iowa; how far can they go? By the way, we two have never been to Iowa, so how do we have any responsiblity for whatever happened?

And we, like most who want to close the border, completely agree that US businesses should not hire a single illegal. That's our position, has been, we've written about it before. You're not telling anybody anything they didn't already know. And I'll be glad to pay $8 for a head of lettuce until I get my own grown, which I've done before and can do again. Plus, there's plenty of other cheap greens to eat. If some US agribusine$$ goes down due to the shrinking head lettuce industry --well, pass the kleenex, buddy; you should have stood up for your country instead of indulging those who should (and could) build up their own, just to line your own pockets.

It's a sad day when you can spout the lies you do, when you can shout out your limited vision of such a complex issue and then tell yourself your [sic] some kind of better American than me.

Again with the lies. Which sentence have we written that contains a lie? Type it down and send it to us. Shouldn't be too complex for you. Comments are open.

Since we are sane and rational, we certainly admit to limited vision, which is why we are always reading, blogging, digging, questioning, so as to expand our vision. We know it's complex, but again, you're just yammering to hear your head rattle. And we suspect anyone who believes they have unlimited vision.

As for being better than you, we could care less for such comparisons. We have no idea who you are. Never heard of you. Why do you bother to measure yourself against us? We didn't bring it up. Are you feeling defensive? Did we touch a nerve?

I find that so hard to swallow coming from someone in a state where a 1/3 of your legislators haven't even graduated from college!

See note before the jump. Also, given what's been extruded from colleges in the last twenty years . . .

This whole conspiracy that you guys have devised in your head about reconquistadores taking over parts of the U.S. is just plain racist nonsensense, [sic] and an excuse to belittle and disparage people working to resolve this complex issue.

This whole notion that you have devised in your head that we are imagining MeCHA, Aztlan, Republica del Norte, and so on will come as a surprise to local activist Salvador Reza and ASU professor John Jota Leaños, for example, and a whole bunch of California Hispanics. What are you trying to do --there goes Elvez? We don't distract.

And we don't make excuses. We'll belittle stupidity the livelong day. There's really no excuse for people not to educate themselves, when the internet is available at every library.

You do our country a disservice by exisiting [sic]--

Whoa. Think about what you wrote. You just implicitly called for our deaths. You want to try, Ms. Herrera? Best do your homework on us first. (And, when delivering a wish for our obliteration, try to spell correctly. Jeebus. It's only polite. Idiota.)

step down from your racist perch and go back into the shadows where you belong, you shame us as Americans. Step back and let the real patriots clean up your dirty mess.

Ms. Herrera, we will proudly put everything we've created next to everything you've created, and let history judge who stands for this country and who does not.

We are just getting started stepping up, stepping forward, loudly, proudly, prolifically, in the light, always, in the light of truth.

Get out of our way.

Posted by Jerome at 03:15 PM | TrackBack

May 27, 2005

One Of My Heroes: Jeff "Skunk" Baxter

by Jerome du Bois

Finally some of the story comes out, one I've known hints of for years: a wonderful American Tale, about a musician whose heart and brain were more capacious than his music, and who stayed out of the channels, away from the abyss, and out of the long, gray, line; a man who got as hooked on his own curiosity about data-compression algorithms as he used to get hooked on his own guitar hooks.

Jeff Baxter, of Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers fame, author of some of the sweetest, fiercest licks ever, is a well-respected Pentagon and DoD consultant on terror tactics, asymmetrical warfare, and especially missile defense. Has been since the early Eighties.

From an article by Yochi J. Dreazen in the May 24, 2005, Wall Street Journal online:

One morning recently, a black government-issued sport-utility vehicle picked him up outside a Washington café as soon as he had finished breakfast and whisked him to a Pentagon agency for nearly 12 hours of meetings. That evening, he traveled to Ohio's Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for several days of briefings and meetings. He flew 230,000 miles last year, and makes a point of dissolving brightly colored packets of vitamin supplements into his drinks to stave off illness.

Mr. Baxter, who joined his first band when he was 11, began studying journalism at Boston University, but dropped out after a year in 1969 to begin working with Ultimate Spinach, a short-lived Boston psychedelic rock band. He moved to California a short time later and became one of the six original members of the avant-garde rock group Steely Dan. He quit the band in 1974 and joined the Doobie Brothers, helping to remake its sound into a commercially appealing mix of funk and jazzy pop. Mr. Baxter left the group in 1979 after a long tour in support of its most popular album, "Minute by Minute."

His defense work began in the 1980s, when it occurred to him that much of the hardware and software being developed for military use, like data-compression algorithms and large-capacity storage devices, could also be used for recording music. Mr. Baxter's next-door neighbor, a retired engineer who worked on the Pentagon's Sidewinder missile program, bought him a subscription to an aviation magazine, and he was soon reading a range of military-related publications.

Mr. Baxter began wondering whether existing military systems could be adapted to meet future threats they weren't designed to address, a heretical concept for most defense thinkers. In his spare time, he wrote a five-page paper on a primitive Tandy computer that proposed converting the military's Aegis program, a ship-based antiplane system, into a rudimentary missile-defense system.

On a whim, he gave the paper to a friend from California, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. To Mr. Baxter's surprise, the congressman took it seriously, and the idea proved to be prescient: Aegis missile-defense systems have done well in tests, and the Navy says it will equip at least one ship with the antimissile system by the end of the year.

"Skunk really blew my mind with that report," Mr. Rohrabacher says. "He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling."

As an undergraduate in the mid-Seventies, I once researched and wrote a speech about the trajectory of a MX missle from launch to impact, taking into account all known variables. I read deeply in journals like International Security. My conclusion? The damned thing was frighteningly inaccurate. So I'm glad Jeff Baxter's been on the job all along.

Getting hooked on your own curiosity --on the treasure within you-- is a lost art that needs to be recovered. It's an American art, I believe. And dedicating it to the good of humanity is the best offering ever, no matter the distant reward. Can you hear me, America? Jeff Baxter is America's Bell ringing. Listen!

I am glad for Jeff Baxter. I thank him for who he is. Godspeed, my man.

Posted by Jerome at 08:30 PM | TrackBack

ENCHANTED 03

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Captured by Catherine King May 27, 2005

Posted by Jerome at 04:40 AM | TrackBack

May 26, 2005

DEAR PRUDENCE

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Flower Arrangement and Photograph by Catherine King

Posted by Jerome at 04:39 PM | TrackBack

Who Died In The Newsweek Qu'ran Riots?

It's true even if it didn't happen.
--Ken Kesey / Chief Broom, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

by Jerome du Bois

I feel like I'm stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again, or trapped between duelling distorting mirrors. I've been looking for an answer to a question, and I've been getting the dodge and the slide all over the internet. The question is simple:

Who died in the Newsweek Qu'ran riots?

According to World Net Daily and Joseph Farah's G2Bulletin, nobody died (HT Robert Spencer / Jihad Watch):

Virtually every major news agency in the world has reported without verification that between 15 and 18 Afghanis were killed in the riots.

There's just one problem. There is no more evidence for these deaths than there is that a U.S. interrogator flushed a Quran down the toilet.

Not a single name of even one victim has been released. No details of the circumstances of the riots were released from any official sources – either U.S. or Afghan.

Who were these victims? Were they rioters killed by police or military forces? Were they innocent victims attacked by fanatics? Were they Afghanis? Were they relief workers?

G2B has examined every English-language news story about these deaths through Lexis Nexis. G2B has scoured the Internet, including foreign and non-English-language news sources for any details of these deaths. And G2B has queried both U.S. and Afghan official sources for any details about these alleged deaths.

That was posted May 25th. But Reuters reported back on May 12th, in the China Business Standard:

Police opened fire on protesters in an Afghanistan city during a second day of anti-American demonstrations that ended with four dead and dozens wounded.

The demonstrations Wednesday followed a report that American interrogators in the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had desecrated the Koran.

American troops stationed in the conservative Muslim city of Jalalabad were confined to base during the protest.

Government offices in Jalalabad were set on fire, shops looted, and United Nations buildings and diplomatic missions attacked as thousands took to the streets.

"Police had to open fire on the protesters,'' said provincial police chief Hazrat Ali.

"They were destroying the city.''

The province's health chief, Fazel Mohammad Ibrahimi, said that along with the four dead there were 52 demonstrators wounded.

Reuters had a convenient picture of W being burned in effigy in Jalalabad, but no pictures or video of any dead or wounded anywhere. Now, presumably, the G2B vacuum machine would have processed this information, did, and found it wanting. Maybe.

So who's right? Blogging and googling, the phrase "at least 15 people are dead" appears all over the place --even Mark Steyn just passed it on yesterday-- but the victims are apparently scattered all over the Eastern Hemisphere, from the Gaza Strip to the Java Sea. Fifteen people are fifteen people. Seventeen. Eighteen. Two dozen. Everybody counts or nobody counts.

Who died?

And how? And who killed who? We know for sure no Americans or Westerners have died; that certainly would have been reported. (Or would it?) But what about the rest of the unrest? Is it not important to know how many people or their names or how they died because these victims-in-limbo are brown, or their eyes are differently made, or they behave irrationally? No. They're human beings.

If nobody died, then an imaginary story led to imaginary deaths, in a world at war. All the more reason to hold everybody's feet to the fire of credibility.

That means everybody --bloggers as well, who in their zeal to slam the MSM have passed on the questionable information without so much as a by-your-leave, even though it was easy to see the conflicting reports in ledes all over the world for days. That doesn't reflect well on bloggers, who need to be the most self-critical of all pundits.

Which reminds me: some great bloggers have put together Media Slander, the only other place I've seen this story. Their take --Lies Beget More Lies-- asks some pertinent questions about media manipulation.

As for me, I find it entirely plausible that both the Qu'ran was treated like dung and that Afghan Muslims killed other Afghan Muslims about something that Americans did. Why? Because both have happened before, and because the Afghans not long ago allowed themselves to be both bullied and deluded, their women humilated, for years --for Islam and its book.

But there's also some evidence that the Afghan demonstrations had been planned in advance, organized against Karzai, timed to coincide with his US trip and return, and that the Newsweek story simply broke in the middle, thanks to Imran Khan in Pakistan.

Nobody should die for the sake of any book, not even if it was the last copy on Earth. Many Muslims seem to have a death grip on the Qu'ran. Unless they change their ways, it will be the bloody millstone which will drag them down into oblivion.

Posted by Jerome at 09:00 AM | TrackBack

May 24, 2005

ENCHANTED 02

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Captured by Catherine King May 24, 2005

Posted by Jerome at 08:33 PM | TrackBack

JAR 'O' JAM

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Flower Arrangement and Photograph by Catherine King

Posted by Jerome at 05:43 AM | TrackBack

May 23, 2005

Dr. Jasser Needs To Step Up Or Step Back

by Jerome du Bois

I am not interested in a dialogue with Muslims, moderate or otherwise, but I will examine and criticize the verbal behavior of any Muslim spokesperson who appears on the internet or in print, especially local ones. Hence my previous attentions paid to Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser. This will be the fourth, stemming from his latest posting on pluggedin, which is among the shortest, most irrelevant, and most insulting I've read yet about the Newsweek-Koran-murderous-Muslim debacle.

It is titled, inexplicably, "Dances With Wolves." Subhead: "Step One-Two, Step One-Two." (Don't ask me!) Here it is:

On the heels of the uproar regarding Newsweek's fabricated Koran desecration story one cannot avoid noting a convergence of campaign interests.

The radical Islamists loved the story that fit their own media standards and their own search for a reason to wreak havoc. The false reporting fit their standard for the unchecked Middle Eastern media who would stop at nothing to win over the Islamists' most effective enemy --moderate American Muslims.

Meanwhile, some in our own media, rush to derail the Bush administration and the war on terror by seeing only what they want to see regardless of the reality or the consequences.

That's it. That's all he has to say.

I think this guy has been looking in a distorting mirror, vastly exaggerating moderate Islam. He always talks big about talking truth to Islamist fanatics, but he rarely follows through. At least, I haven't read any of it.

the unchecked Middle Eastern media who would stop at nothing to win over the Islamists' most effective enemy --moderate American Muslims.

Most effective enemy? Who is he kidding? Would that be the fifty or so who showed up in Washington DC recently? Dr. Jasser's organization's website, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy --note the url: aifdemocracy.org-- issued this press release earlier this month:

May 12, 2005: AIFD PRESS RELEASE: Join us MAY 14, 2005 in our nation's capital with over 70 other organizations representing American Muslims and Middle Easterners of all backgrounds in a national MARCH AGAINST TERROR . The Rally will take place on Saturday, May 14, 2005 at 1 PM at Freedom Square in Washington, D.C.

Join us in our nation's Capital for a rally against terrorism and to support freedom and democracy in the Middle East and the Muslim world. This will be the first rally of its kind in Washington, D.C., that is led by Muslims and Middle Easterners and the second rally of its kind in America-- the first sponsored in Phoenix, Arizona by AIFD on April 25, 2004.

Seventy-one organizations at least, and less than that many people show up. Some must have been wearing several hats. And he continues to flog the one rally ever held so far, last year right here in Phoenix, which itself had a pitiful turnout. Why didn't AIFD do an anniversary one this last April 25th? Embarrassment?

But what really concerns me is how he, a medical doctor, doesn't even mention the word "murder," which is at the heart of this story.

The Saudis routinely shred Bibles, in front of their owners, and then imprison or kill the owners if they own a lot of Bibles. They'll smash crucifixes, too, in the blink of an eye. It's the same in Egypt. When Muslims took over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002, they not only stole all kinds of religious artifacts upon leaving, they also used the Bible for toilet paper. Did Christians kill Muslims over that desecration? No. Years ago the artists Tim Rollins and KOS drove a very long bolt through an eight-foot stack of Bibles. Nobody murdered anybody over it. The uproar over "Piss Christ" did not shed a drop of blood. Right here in the Valley, not long ago, some student "artist" painted Jesus as a puppet on strings. Nobody died over it. Jews are regularly referred to as a virus and a pestilence in mosques around the world. Those mosques remain unmolested by vengeful, murderous Jews. Yet here, a false story fanned into flames by a rich, cynical Pakistani cricket star, Imran Khan, creates a rage wherein Muslims kill --it's still unclear who killed who.

Why is M. Zuhdi Jasser speaking so lamely, so inanely in the face of such needless death? What was proven? What was upheld? What was solved? What were the reasons? No answer from the doctor.

What is the moderate Muslim position on the Qu'ran? He says nothing about it. Must I, an unbeliever, slip on latex gloves in the presence of the Qu'ran's owner, before handling a text that a significant number of its believers cannot even read, only "recite"? The answer is no. No single copy of such a book --a palimpsest, a kneaded loaf, not an inerrant narratiion-- no book-- whether Torah, Bible, New Testament, the Gita-- is worth a single human life, no matter if every letter is stamped in gold by a fiery hand.

There is an oath that begins, "First, do no harm."

And there is the arrested gesture that many call a sin of omission --the undeclared condemnation, the lowered eyes, the averted gaze, the pious, sealed lips.

But I read you, Dr. Jasser. I read you loud and clear.

Posted by Jerome at 04:20 PM | TrackBack

ENCHANTED 01

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Captured by Catherine King May 23, 2005.

Posted by Jerome at 07:30 AM | TrackBack

May 19, 2005

BUDS OF MAY

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Flower Arrangement and Photography by Catherine King.

Posted by Jerome at 07:45 AM | TrackBack

May 18, 2005

On Being A Leper And A Tar Baby

by Jerome du Bois

Rick Barrs, the editor of Phoenix New Times, sent us a two-line email response to our Amy Silverman / Phoenix Inferiority piece. Amy Silverman herself is presumably hiding behind his skirts. Big gazoona Michael Lacey, too, for that matter. And it was an email he sent us, not a public comment on the blog, which would have been more forthcoming. At any rate, we haven't heard from Ms. Silverman or the king of the pygmies yet, nor do we expect to. Barrs's note itself was a total surprise.

This is what Rick Barrs wrote:

Date: Tue, 17 May 2005 11:57:38 -0700
From: "Rick Barrs"
To:
Subject: Re: your cover story

thanks for the publicity, jerome. but does anybody -- save your embarrassed mom, perhaps -- read your little blog?

Ricky boy, you will learn what I can do with those two short lines, especially considering the piece you are responding to. (Actually, my first mental response was, "Rick, do you remember how Sonny Bono died?")

Before I go further, though, I should warn you to keep your filthy mouth away from any references to my mother, or any member of my family. We already know you're a boor with no class, no bottom, no standards, who thinks nothing of trashing the neighbors who suffer his presence in their midst (and he thanks me for the publicity). But this is between you and me.

Your first weakness, and admission of our significance, was sending an email in the first place. You just couldn't ignore us, could you? Why not, I wonder? It's that tar baby thang.

Then you answer your own question: you read our blog, man, and so does Amy Silverman, and Michael Lacey, and Michelle Laudig, and Joe Watson, and Benjamin Leatherman, and probably many others down there in your tiresome hive.

It's a good question, though.

Who reads our blog? I have only vague notions. Lots of our enemies in the downtown Phoenix art/culture crew, to be sure. So we have Artlink sycophants and submariners checking in. Maybe a dozen consistent, semi-anonymous boosters on the margins. And some who admire worthwhile ideas expressed in excellent sentences. We have regular readers from former Russian Federations, it seems, and those from Taiwan as well.

Neither Catherine nor I are gregarious, to say the least. We trust very few people. We have good reason for this mistrust. I won't bother to detail why. Take it or leave it. We don't strike up conversations, get schmoozy, or even want any kind of Kumbaya. We two are happy together.

We point to the truth --to truths-- to the best our ability, to defend the Western Way, and encourage others to do likewise. On their own.

Read the sidebar: When I hear the word community, I reach for my car keys. We mean it. In that light, then:

I had been brooding the last few days about our blog's place in the larger scheme of things, in Phoenix, in Arizona, and in the blogosphere. I was juggling the images of the leper and the tar baby. I think they both fit: our adversaries in this town can hardly afford to mentions us without intentionally misspelling our names, or the name of the blog, to outwit internet spiders. In the last two years, we have received exactly two mentions in the dead-tree press, neither one the NT. And yet, when we focus our critical attention on certain people, for good reasons, we seem to shoot to the top of search engine pages.

Rick here thinks that circulation matters. Maybe it does, for money. But for information, for focus, for answers . . . If a person Googles "Roosevelt Row," for example, our coverage is the top citation, with NT just below us. Now, I'm not sure how Google works, but that page sure looks like we trumped one of the two major newspapers in this town. Google "Phoenix Artist Storefront Pilot Program," our newest interest. Bing! Greg Esser? Cindy Dach? "Phil Jones Phoenix Arts?" We're on the first page. Kimber Lanning and Wayne Rainey, too. Same with John Spiak, Marilyn Zeitlin, Kathleen Vanesian, Ted Decker, Heather Lineberry, and Neal Lester. Also Dennita Sewell of the Phoenix Art Museum, and Christine Schild of the Scottsdale Unified School District.

If a person Googles the artists Beverly McIver and Mark Rubin-Toles, we're the top hit, even though we've only mentioned both of them occasionally in the last two years. Beatrice Moore, probably the most-written-about-as-underrated so-called artist in the last ten years in downtown Phoenix --bing! our stuff about her is right in your face --we two, who have been on the online writing scene only two years plus a few days. Glen Lineberry, Lisa Greve, Ed Rubacha (Greve's hubby), and Bentley Projects must truly regret screwing us over, because we're the top hit for them, too. People who want to know what they're about will inevitably come across our series on them. The evil that people do lingers after them, idnit?

"Tar baby sits and don't do nuffin."

From the beginning, as I continue to repeat, this blog is about two things: witnessing, and changing what is ignorable by whom. Now, Rick, I don't know how or where you seek your daily information, but I think you're behind lots of curves.

Our goal is not huge circulation, to blanket the world for the sake of the biggest wedge of advertising revenue:our purpose is to get the right eyes to the right words. That is all. To be unignorable. We write for thinkers and searchers. Search engines help because smart people use them and we use the right words to draw them. So sorry, but we're not interested in the five hundred thousand unreflective Valley souls who just want another jolt of stupid juice from your perpetually peurile rag. You serve, preserve and deserve only devolution, Ricky boy, as you knuckle-drag your way back into the cave.

We witness the best we can to the daily hellstorm around us, in these days of rebarbarization. When Theo van Gogh was murdered on Re-Election Day by a Muslim fanatic, it drove a knife into my heart, and I set it down at the time, for the time, for all time, and with updates --for witness. For now and later.

What were you doing in the days up to Election Day, Rick? Flogging "Democracy in America," for one thing, the anti-Bush art exhibition. (Google that, why don't you? You'll see our work is ahead of you there, too. Awww.)

What a mighty wind that was, eh? Thanks for helping with the Re-Election, by the way; you, the big gazoona, and your whole dingaling cohort. By the way, since you brought up my mother, is your mother proud of your work? I bet she bores the daylights out of the neighbors proudly proclaiming your achievements, reading aloud from "The Inferno" column, for example.

It's a little blog, Mr. Rick Barrs, but we have big, strong voices, and The Tears of Things is way ahead of you and your irrelevant, outdated, and shameful rag on so many cultural fronts. Oh, I know it's not your newspaper, and no loyalty enters here; it's just another gig for you. Denver next, or maybe Miami, or maybe management. Still . . . if you people had any huevos down there, Colorado City would have been shut down by now. Real newspapers used to influence policy. You clowns just write it all down, wave your hands in righteous indignation, and then hit the Merc Bar for yogatinis.

You're so afraid of us you can't even mention us, but we can poke at your puerility all the livelong day. So how powerful are you, really? Not you, nor the big gazoona, nor Amy Silverman, nor any of those so-called art writers sucking up to you down on Jefferson Street can afford to truly engage us in any kind of dialogue. But we do, of course, triple-dog-dare you to do just that. It may not be too late for you to grow a pair, Rick Barrs.

In the meantime, the leper's bell rings loudly in this city, and the tar baby keeps adding to his collection.

Posted by Jerome at 01:50 AM | TrackBack

May 13, 2005

But Enough About Phoenix, Let's Talk About The Pathetic Amy Silverman

[This is fourth in "The Pride of Phoenix" Series.]

by Jerome du Bois

Amy Silverman, the associate editor of Phoenix New Times, and a city native, enjoys boasting about her shallowness, self-loathing, and stupidity in her latest cover story, "Phoenix Has An Inferiority Complex." She also tosses out unsubstantiated generalities about the city's character in between sharing snippets of her pathetic autobiography. I couldn't figure out why this woman was in any way significant --and I use the term as a synecdoche. I suppose the angle is that she is Phoenix writ small. She is indeed small, and a lousy writer, but she doesn't stand for my city.

She doesn't have a classic inferiority complex, anyway. She has what my wife has termed a classic imposter complex --that is, she knows she hasn't earned her present position, doesn't deserve it, but will fight like hell to conceal these truths, and will simultaneously project her unworthiness upon the world, so that all may wallow. I will do my best to justify these claims below.

If Phoenix --cultural Phoenix, I assume they mean-- had an inferiority complex, it would be because of Amy Silverman and Kimber Lanning and Beatrice Moore and Michael Lacey and Sloane McFarland and the other players who have retarded progress and innovation, and who want to keep the scene as mediocre, debased, and inbred as they are, so they won't be threatened by real talent from outside their various complacent crews and claques.

As Ms. Silverman wanders through over 5600 words, I kept saying to myself, "I thought this article was about Phoenix." About 3600 of those words are about her, and they don't describe a pretty picture. I'll show you what I mean right after the jump, but here I want to bring right up front a quote from the editor of this filthy and worthless rag, Rick Barrs, at the end of Ms. Silverman's dreadful piece. Keep in mind, Mr. Barrs has been here less than three years; he came from LA.

When I got back to Phoenix, I told my boss Rick about my funny epiphany about the New Times building [that it was a converted elementary school]. "You've got to use that as the ending to your story," he said. I agreed.

"Yeah," Rick said, glancing around his office, which overlooks a beautiful patio with a pond stocked with bright orange fish, "this building is really great. Too bad this part of town is such a complete shithole."

Yeah, reader, you read it right. He's talking about Jefferson Street between 7th Street and 16th Street. This twit makes me sick. He blithely disrespects an entire dynamic, multigenerational and multiethnic neighborhood, which has more character and pride in its very gutters than he will ever bear in his heart. I hope the neighbors --those in Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe, various churches and BBQ joints, and Mexican party supply stores and car repair places and bridal boutiques, and those who live in the modest, neat homes surrounding his charming enclosure, all predating Mr. Barrs by decades-- I hope they read what Mr. Barrs says here. What an arrogant, privileged jerk. Miami calls, Rick; move on, why don't you, like Tony Ortega, and tear down somebody else's city?

And Ms. Silverman thinks it's just fine to put this remark on the record for all the world to see their shared insensitive, racist obtuseness, their hermetically-sealed colonial-enclave arrogance. You see what I mean by stupidity? She cannot see the offense. Who is her audience here? You, reader? Some tight-assed coterie of martini-swilling intellectual midgets? Certainly not me.

She has no problem with what he said. She thinks it's cool. Hence the shallowness: she and hubby, who sells T & A and sex-hook-ups and other stinky advertising for NT, will hop in their Lexus and get the hell out of the neighborhood, cruising happycool up to their safely-gated mcmansion somewhere up north, where they can kuddle with their kid.

Phoenix deserves better than these people. I'll show you some reasons why.

[This will be a skip-fisk, by the way; no word-for-word, or para-by-para, nitpicking.]

Ms. Silverman begins her article with clichés about several cities --"Austin rocks. Dallas shops."-- and then:

And Phoenix? Phoenix is slumped on the Barcalounger--

and there follow more clichés about Phoenix as a couch potato (with helpful distasteful photographs, of course, on every page; typical lowest-rent NT). Then:

But Phoenix is depressed.

She knows this how? No evidence provided, and none forthcoming.

I think the city's having a quarter-life crisis-- you know, that new trend--

More cliché personification about this made-up problem. Who says Phoenix is 25 years old, anyway? Why not fifty? Why not twelve? No explanation for this demarcation. It just fits her mental age, perhaps.

This first occurred to me about a year and a half ago, when urban-studies rock star Richard Florida came to town to talk about the creative class. New Times did a big long project on downtown Phoenix --why we've never had one, why we need one, what it will take to get one. After Florida left, everyone admitted they hadn't been able to make it all the way through the book, and we all agreed the guy was a real boor, but that he was onto something when he said that cities need more bookstores, coffee shops and art galleries.

Again the blithe admissions of shallowness and stupidity. Consider the context here, reader. The NT management sponsored, and Michael Lacey, Rick Barrs, and Amy Silverman created and oversaw, a multi-article project, an author visit, a public Q&A, even some working papers that bore fruit; and now, according to her --how come she speaks for "everybody"?-- all anybody got out of it was advice available anywhere. Nobody could finish the book, supposedly. Why? Thousands of others have managed. Plus she insults Mr. Florida without a blink. Is this the new snarkiness? No, it's not even that good; it's second-grade talk. And they all signed off on it, without bothering to read the book of the author they invited out here.

Now, I don't think Richard Florida has all the answers, but he sure is smarter than all three of these so-called editors put together. The amenities, he emphasizes (in the articles I've read, anyway), come after the creative people --engineers, TV production people, scientists, very-high-technicians, graphic designers, advertisers, customizers and other niche marketers-- have set the synergy. Anyone who has run or worked in an art gallery, bookstore, or coffee shop --I've done all three-- knows they are not magic magnets. Just because you're there doesn't mean anybody's coming.

Ms. Silverman lays out some lame examples of Phoenix's inferiority:

In the early '90s, a local artist made tee shirts with booming yellow suns and the slogan "Phoenix Is Boring." Reubens Accomplice, a local band, named an album Blame It On The Scenery.

Later in the article she writes,

MTV hasn't even filmed a season of The Real World here.

(This is a bad thing?) Then there's this:

And for years, I had Hunter S. Thompson's opinion of Phoenix pasted to a wall in my office:

"If there is, in fact, a heaven and a hell, all we know for sure is that hell will be a viscously overcrowded version of Phoenix-- a clean, well-lighted place full of sunshine and bromides and fast cars where almost everybody seems vaguely happy, except those who know in their hearts what is missing."

I find this excerpt telling in several ways. First, that anyone, especially someone who is supposed to be an editor, would take Hunter Thompson seriously enough to put his writing on the wall. Second, Thompson's sentence contains one key word: "bromide," because that's all it is. It says nothing. Substitute Las Vegas in the sentence; Austin; San Antonio; they all fit.

And what's missing? As if that cruel and blinkered toad of a man would ever have known anyway. She doesn't care and she doesn't provide an answer in the article. She just thinks it's cool to still quote a man who not long ago blew his brains out in such a way as to cause the maximum cruelty to his immediate family, some of whom were in nearby rooms. And she proudly shares this apparently inspirational snippet right there where her eyes could see it every day for years.

And she's the second-most influential person at that rag, by title anyway.

Onward. She writes:

No one wants to live in Phoenix.

Of course, that's not true. People are streaming in here like crazy. They're also streaming out, not as quickly, but they are. And I've always noticed that smart people seem to leave the fastest.

Those first four sentences are just filler, unsupported and therefore stupid, irrelevant, meaningless, and unedited. Give us some figures or leave the statements out. The last sentence conjures up for me the fantastic image of Amy Silverman, like the troll goddess of exodus, multiplied like a squinting avatar at all exits, checking everyone who's leaving town for their, you know, smartness level, and conveniently calculating it all for us peons: yep, jest as I thunk, the smart ones leave the fastest.

No. Wrong. I'm still here. Catherine's still here. And there are others. And we're just getting started.

The other day, I stood in Stinkweeds, Kimber Lanning's record shop in central Phoenix, and she told me about Dominick, a kid she knows from Peoria. He comes into the store once in a while. Recently, he told her he was just back from New York City, had a great time, saw Tim Berne, a really great jazz musician.

Really? Lanning said. Tim Berne was just at Modified Arts, the performance space/art gallery she runs downtown. She didn't see Dominick at that show.

Oh no, the kid replied. Why drive all the way across town to see a band?

Well, it beats flying across the country.

It's not like the kid went to New York just to see Tim Berne, but you get the point.

No, no, no, thickhead, that's just the point: you're trying to smuggle in all kinds of manure disguised as cachet.

The point of the passage being: Lanning is claiming that Dominick could have had a comparable experience in both Phoenix and New York City. This is absurd on the face of it, and doesn't even need argument.

Next follows a couple of curiously lame paragraphs about the arts districts. Thank the geeks for cut-and-paste:

Go downtown. I remember driving down Roosevelt Street late one night a few years ago, on my way home from someplace, and noticing twinkly white lights on the windows of a building I'd never noticed. Hmmmph, I thought. Looks like someone's opened something. Good luck. Turns out, that was Modified, Lanning's place. This time, it was actually joined by other art and performance spaces, and something's happening in the Roosevelt neighborhood. It's like watching a Polaroid picture develop.

Go over to Grand Avenue; you can actually park and spend a hunk of time, walking from gallery to gallery. There's even a place to get coffee. We all joke about how crappy most of the art for sale is, but that's changing, too. Artists from Phoenix are starting to get recognized in New York, but for the most part, they're still ignored here. Lanning swears she heard a statistic that on a given weekend, there are more shows here than in Seattle. I'm not sure I believe that, but there's a lot more going on than most people think.

For answer, I begin by referring the reader to our series on the sidebar for the true abysmal scene. Next, I note that this so-called reporter and editor makes no mention of either the new, huge, $200+ million ASU campus expansion in the Evans-Churchill area, which blankets and surrounds Roosevelt Row; or the just-approved distribution, on April 7th, of funds for the Phoenix Artist Storefront Pilot Program, $500,000+spread among galleries and "multi-use venues" all over downtown. Not worth mentioning from the only other newspaper of record in 200 miles. Not to mention the ongoing $1000 "mentor" grants. This is unprofessional.

Onward. Ms. Silverman writes:

When I decided to write this, I started--

Whoa. When I decided to write this. Amy Silverman could probably write a cover story any time she wanted, or perhaps it's in her contract, so many cover stories per year, but what she has written here is a new and curious social document, at least to me: a confession in which she reveals her self-humiliation and lack of standards, with no sense of shame, and no sense of irony. She hijacks the title subject and substitutes herself: "Amy Silverman Has An Impostor Complex."

--asking people, "Do you think Phoenix has an inferiority complex?" You can split the response down the middle. Half the people groaned. "Don't write a b***j** story," one colleague warned me. "Don't be a booster." the other half groaned, too. "Please don't write another negative story about this city," an academic type begged.

The truth is that this story is neither.

The truth is that this paragraph, and its kicker, is all made up, isn't it? Was it really half and half? If so, of how many people, from what cohorts, where? This is just fluffy set-up, a see-saw fabrication, not real writing or reporting. Plus she gets to put a nasty word in there. Waow.

Ms. Silverman is a nano-narcissist: the tiniest things are supposed to fascinate us as much as she.

You know, there's this house west of Seventh Street, just south of McDowell; I notice it from Seventh sometimes when I'm driving to lunch. Someone's put a ton of junk --lawn gnomes, statues, recently I noticed what looked like a wooden horse head-- in the front yard. I always think to myself, That looks like shit. But I have to stop and wonder, what would I think of that if I saw it in Chicago? I'd think, Cool! Why doesn't anyone do anything that original in Phoenix?

She offers no explanation why the tableau would be cooler in Chicago than Phoenix. And what's so fooking original about it, anyway? It's what Catherine calls "Hokey-Folky." Continuing:

Look, I won't pretend to be this city's biggest fan. Last month, I had a lunch appointment at the Arizona Center, and walking through that place was enough to make me want to slit my wrists --a mall that can't even sustain a Victoria's Secret.

I can hear her daughter crying, "Mommy, Mommy, don't slit your wrists over lingerie!" Sorry to be crude, but she was, wasn't she, and gratuitously? Just drawing a little attention to the rebarb here. And wasn't she just talking about the need for bookstores (one of which failed at Az Center), coffee shops, and art galleries? Continuing:

Driving to work the other day, I could not believe how gross the brown cloud was.

She writes this sentence without irony, as she cruises down from the tony burbs into the filth she helps create with her own driving.

Skip to:

The other day, I stopped for coffee at Lux, the über-cool coffee bar on Central Avenue, housed in a funky green slump-block building next to Passage, an artsy boutique, and Pane Bianco, pizza guy Chris Bianco's sandwich shop. The landlord, Sloane McFarland, another native, walked up with his kids. Like many of us, McFarland left Phoenix after school, ultimately landing right back here.

I asked him my question [does Phoenix have an inferiority complex].

He laughed. "No, but I think I used to have an inferiority complex," he said, as he disappeared into the coffee shop.

The baby-food green is at least two years out of date; it looks stale, and fungal. It does say volumes about Phoenix's promoters that these two places get mentioned over and over, once even in a food magazine --an astringent, twee coffee shop and a sandwich place! In a town full of fantastic restaurants, from Los Dos Molinos in the south to North in Kierland Commons up north, people keep dragging out these two limited venues. I drive by this Lux complex often, and I have a message for the husband of Amy Silverman's good friend Christa, by whom I mean Phil Gordon, mayor of Phoenix:

Phil, take your head out from between the stale cheeks of Lux and Pane Bianco and look northward to Central and Camelback, where Kimber Lanning is creating a kind of dead zone of anti-style (who calls anything Stinkweeds?) and cultivating an incipient population of sketchy folks. (I drive by there regularly as well.) The bus stop makes for much convenience. Go look, Phil. It's your neighborhood, man. Ours, too.

As for Sloane McFarland and inferiority . . . I think his latest project is a diner on Roosevelt so small that all seven patrons have to raise their forks in unison to eat. But then, a man is no bigger than his dreams.

What follows in the article is a lot of autobiography, to no apparent purpose except to expose the reader to Amy Silverman's completely unremarkable passage through life, with an emphasis on her own embarrassments. She tries to style it like That Girl, one of her favorite TV shows, but she can't pull it off:

I went to high school in the '80s [in Phoenix], the last time preppy was big. The Preppy Handbook was published, and I got my hands on a copy and memorized it. I was no dummy, I was president of the Speech and Debate club at school (quit laughing), but I had no idea this book was supposed to be a joke. This was my bible, all about people I knew nothing about, but wanted to be, people who vacationed at a place called Martha's Vineyard, drank cocktails and did not shop at Yellow Front. I poured Lauren cologne on everything I owned and came to school layered in my favorite outfit: a hot pink polo shirt, with a bright green polo over that, with a pale pink button-down Oxford shirt over that, khakis, pink espadrilles, a pale pink/hot pink/green striped grosgrain ribbon headband, a pink belt with green ladybugs embroidered on it and a purse with a button-on madras cover in matching hues.

My mom and her best friend started calling me Muffy Buffy, and not in a nice way.

Why share this? Why admit you were duped, if you really were, by a parodic book? And what does it have to do with Phoenix, anyway? There's more:

New York was onto me. I'll never forget my most cinematic moment, waiting to cross the street at Columbus Circle, so sick with a cold that I'd actually made a doctor' s appointment. It was cold and rainy, and I stood right at the edge of the street, eagerly waiting to cross, not noticing that for once, I wasn't crushed with other people. They were keeping a safe distance, which I realized only when a bus drove past, drenching me with dirty New York City gutter water. I stood there, blinking through the black gunk, and thought, "Maybe it's time to go home."

Anyhow, I'd failed the bartending class. So I finished school, packed up all my stuff and shipped it to Phoenix, vowing I'd stay a week or two, a month tops, before moving on to some place cool like Philadelphia, since I really liked the show thirtysomething, or maybe even back to D.C. (St. Elmo's Fire was an all-time favorite).

This woman makes moves in her life based on movies and TV shows. Earlier, she wrote:

From there [Claremont College, CA] I went to Washington, DC, even lived in London for a semester, but no place was quite right. I had seen When Harry Met Sally . . ., and I absolutely had to live in New York City.

And so I did. I applied to grad school not because I sought academic enlightenment but because it seemed like the easiest way to get to New York.

Two things struck me here: the easy travel, which indicates Mommy & Daddy's dime subsidized this American Princess; and the denigration of her own education. She tells us she failed the bartending class, and finished school, but we don't even know what her Master's Degree was about. And she just brushes it off. Well, she's honest about why she went to grad school, if you believe this tale. Maybe she minimizes her education because she completely bypassed academic enlightenment, which indeed shows.

So she comes back to Phoenix where she begins to create memories, sweet and charming local memories:

I moved to another apartment, and eventually to another job, at New Times, and I made some friends. One of them, Christa, was just the sort of girl you'd stumble on in D.C. or New York. She'd gone to my college, although we hadn't known each other there, and had come to Phoenix to work for Bruce Babbitt when he ran for president in the late '80s, and she just sort of stuck around after that, working political jobs. Christa loved to hate Phoenix as much as I did. But then she met a guy who really liked Phoenix. [Later she'll spring this on us: it's Phil Gordon himself!] They got engaged, and she refused a bridal shower (as well as a diamond -- and she got married in the rain on the carousel at Kiddie Land, with sneakers under her wedding dress), so a few of us took her out instead. We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Such Is Life, where the waiter found out Christa was engaged and gave her a rose, telling her, "Laaaaahhv him to death," which made us laugh. (So did the margaritas.) And somewhere along the way, we all decided that we were going to love Phoenix, too. Christa and I wrote "I [heart] Phoenix" on little slips of paper and shoved them in our wallets, like fortunes.

What a marvelous story. And that explains why Phoenix has an inferiority complex?

Then comes a passage, after she gets married, that stunned me:

. . . I had decided that being happy isn't about where you are, it's about who you are. Early one Tuesday morning in late summer, I was watching an ER rerun, feeding our three-month-old daughter Annabelle, when without explanation the show broke to an image of the second tower collapsing.

I was meant to come home, I thought. When my husband suggested--

Whoa whoa whoa! She goes on about some damn thing, but I'm still back at that line:

I was meant to come home.

Three thousand dead, horror everywhere, the world changing before her eyes --and this is the totality of her comments on 9/11/01. She's nearing forty, and she still thinks the sun shines out of her butt.

After a couple of paragraphs about her "polite" boss, Rick Barrs:

But back to me. [Did we ever leave? Do you ever take the camera off yourself?] How weird was it that here I thought I was over the whole hating-Phoenix thing, but really, I was no better than ever? I started to think about all the things I like about Phoenix. I like my house, which I always tell people reminds me of someplace else --like someplace in the Midwest, or back East-- with its screened porches and hardwood floors. I like the fact that we finally got an Anthropologie, and a Sephora. I like it when it gets all cloudy in the winter, just like San Diego in the summer. I like my drive-through Starbucks. I like the fact that the airport's really close, and that the cost of living's so low in Phoenix that I can visit my friends in other cities.

Uh-oh.

I'm exactly what Kimber Lanning hates. The other day, she went on and on about those flags someone's hung on light poles on Seventh Avenue that say "Melrose on 7th."

"It's inexcusable, because Melrose stopped being cool 10 years ago," she says, adding, "It's not the cool factor that I'm worried about. It's the whole idea that we're pretending to be something we're not."

Lanning ought to know. She's been pretending to be a real entrepreneur, art dealer, city booster, and drummer, for years now. She also ought to keep her mouth shut about signage and public presentation as well, given the grim facades of her two Phoenix venues. Yech.

So this is what the important people talk about.

Then the important editor got down to some real research to make "a concerted effort to [heart] Phoenix." She looks at a website about an architect named Ralph Haver. Goes on about him. Then the sunsets. Aren't they great, until hubby makes a joke about nuclear explosions. More about hubby, a one-man Phoenix fan club. Blah. Then:

It was time, I decided, to do some serious reporting. Turns out, Rick and I weren't the only ones putting the city on the couch. Everywhere I go, it seems, people are talking about how Phoenix feels about being Phoenix, particularly around the New Times water cooler.

And that's who she talks to, a couple of staff members. This is getting deep. But she reaches out to none other than Phil Gordon, the mayor, and this is their exchange:

So although I make it a rule never to write about Phil, I called Mayor Gordon to ask him what he thinks about our inferiority complex. He's lived here forever, he should totally get it. I still think he does, although my head was spinning by the time I hung up the phone.

So, I begin, does Phoenix have an inferiority complex?

"No!" is the immediate reply. "This is a great city, and the proof is in the numbers. People continue to come to Phoenix for a reason."

And then I have to admit that I zoned out for a few minutes. I came back around the time the mayor was talking about how this is one of the only cities in America where you can have your own backyard. He wound down with, "We're a western city that was a small town that now has become a major city and needs to take its place in line and be proud of its place and start to influence policy in this country."

She unashamedly admits zoning out. Isn't anything important to her except her little quirks, and telling us about them? And isn't it rude to ignore the mayor when he's answering your question?

She then calls three urban experts to get their opinions. Most of this is boilerplate, but Wellington "Duke" Reiter, the dean of the College of Architecture at ASU, said something particularly dumb:

"I've never lived in another place where there's doubt."

Right. All the other cities are full of shiny happy people. And then there's Joel Garreau, still flogging edge cities after all these years:

Edge cities like Phoenix, he says, are great at making money, but they're not so good at what he calls the "squishy" things --civilization, soul, identity, community.

Garreau is full of manure. How dare he call the bases of society "squishy"? Every one of those things, especially the first, are very hard won, and, once won, hard-edged. They are all here in Phoenix. They are the conditions for us making money. Ms. Silverman just wanted another byte bite to fill her inane article.

Of which we're done --I covered the end at the beginning-- so I myself will end by answering the question: No. No such complex.

But Phoenix has inferior cultural leaders. Besides those we've mentioned in our series, the management at the Phoenix New Times are prime culprits and have been for years. Fourteen years ago, when I covered art for them, I told them they needed to create a staff position for a professionally-trained arts writer, so that the professional art world would take both Phoenix and New Times more seriously. Someone who could dig, travel, schmooze. But they never have taken the plastic arts seriously. After all, look who they trot out to cover them: Amy Silverman, Benjamin Leatherman, some new clowns. If the reader can stand it, go check out the first couple of sentences of Douglas Towne's squib on the "Wet" Show at SMoCA. And then go read the first couple of sentences in Niki D'Andrea's tiny review of the the Rezurrection Gun Show. Filthy talk, eh? You're reading the future of art writing in Phoenix. Read it, as we say around here, and weep.

Posted by Jerome at 10:50 AM | TrackBack

May 11, 2005

Follow-Up On The Hispanic Boycott

by Jerome du Bois

It was a success.

It was a failure.

Meanwhile, I was and remain astounded that not one of the four Hispanics I mentioned below in my last post --Linda Valdez, George Diaz, Jr., Salvador Reza, and Linda Mazon Gutierrez-- has yet jumped on the story about the Mexican government wanting to sue Sgt Patrick Haab for violating seven illegal aliens's civil rights. The story broke May 7th, and even with boycott day, they've all had plenty of time to toss something off the cuff, their usual style. But nothing. Oh, well, all that preparation for the boycott, the boycott itself --maybe kicking it at the State House for a while-- then home to recoop; it was an easy story to miss. And tomorrow, after all, is another day.

We received one comment on the post below, from, as usual, someone with neither ovaries or cojones, who wrote:

Somos todos mojados

which I translate as "We are all immigrants." Typical category-smearing. I don't know how to say it in Spanish, but it runs,

We are all immigrants. The illegal ones are criminals.

Meanwhile, an illegal alien and criminal who worked for the mayor of Denver, John Hickenlooper, in one of his fast-food places, killed a Denver detective and headed back to Mexico.

I hope you bow your heads for Donald Young, you four pluggedin writers.

I wonder what any of you would do if you knew when and where his killer was crossing the border.

Harsh words, I know, but based on your writings --I wonder.

And before anybody calls me a racist, grow a brain, read the blog: I'm a Darwinian who subscribes to the Out-of-Africa theory. There is only one race, homo sapiens sapiens. Some of us are just smarter --mas sapiens-- and/or more civilized than others. Some of us have learned "property" and some of us are still learning "hands-off."

Which reminds me that we received a comment waaay back on April 5th, on Catherine's piece about the Scottsdale United School District's dhimmitude. it went like this:

Nice hate website you have. It belongs on display in the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles or DC, next to the Holocaust, slavery, and white supremacists exhibits. Your closed-mindedness, bigotry and intolerance is a prime example of why Americans are hated worldwide.

Of course, I could go on about the copy, but I won't bother. Our blog stands or falls on our tens of thousands of words over two years, and on our speaking up for the vulnerable and the voiceless, the broken living and the innocent dead.

But what cracked me up was the signature --the last three letters:

Anne Baker, PhD

All rise! No, wait, bow down! No, wait --who gives a damn? I am not impressed. (Her email return was yvegan@yahoo.com. Yahoo is right. Also bozo.) I snack on PhDs. Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, Camille Paglia --these people all have PhDs, but they sure don't sign their names that way. They don't need to.

PhD --in what? Piled higher and Deeper for what? Those letters used to mean something, including framing an argument, not just slinging out slanderous, unsubstantiated words like "bigotry" and "intolerance."

So, to return to the four Hispanics I was addressing above, should you decide to respond to my email alerts, please try to act like grown-ups and keep race out of it. As I tiresomely repeat, since 1996:

You gotta face your face when the race fad fades.

In the meantime, close the borders.

Posted by Jerome at 11:28 PM | TrackBack

May 10, 2005

To-Do List For Hispanics Who Are Home Boycotting Today

by Jerome du Bois

[These suggestions are addressed to Linda Valdez, George Diaz, Jr., Salvador Reza, and Linda Mazon Gutierrez, all of whom write for azcentral.com's pluggedin, and anybody else, especially those who advocate loose or open borders, as these four do.]

1.Write a letter of condolence to the widow of David March.

2.Then write a letter of outrage to the Mexican government demanding that they turn over his murderer, whom they know, to US authorities.

3.Write a letter of condolence to the family of Mary Nagle. (Horror story here.)

4. Write a note of apology to Sgt Patrick Haab --especially Mr. Diaz and Mrs. Valdez, for the lousy things you wrote about him.

5.Write a note of sympathy to Matthew Sharrar. And then append a thank-you note for his military service. Same for Sgt Haab, too, while you're at it.

6.Do something positive for Mexico.

That ought to keep you busy while you're not working today.

Posted by Jerome at 11:30 AM | TrackBack

VOTED MOST DELICATE

mostdelicate.jpg

Flower Arrangement and Photography by Catherine King

Posted by Jerome at 08:53 AM | TrackBack

May 09, 2005

Fernando Botero's Big Fat Ego

by Jerome du Bois

I don't write about art anymore, but I do write about artists, and I want to call attention to the overinflated self-importance, the corpulent, world-shadowing arrogance of Fernando Botero, who thinks he has weight to throw around.

I use the obvious clichés because he does, in his new series --wherein he channels Leon Golub-- on Abu Ghraib ("this great crime," he intoned over the phone from his Paris studio).

The NYT Times article by Juan Forero published Sunday (member site) is outrageous, horrific, and hilarious, sometimes all at once. For example, the beginning:

Fernando Botero, Latin America's best-known living artist, shocked the art world last year when he broke sharply from his usual depictions of small town life to reveal new works that depicted Colombia's war in horrific detail.

Now, Mr. Botero, 73, who lives in Paris and New York--

Okay, hold it. Botero is 73 years old. Colombia, his home country, has been in an increasingly brutal civil and drug war for 40-plus years, since he was Jesus's age. What took him so fooking long? Well, Forero writes later in the piece,

Mr. Botero explained that he had decided he could not stay silent over a conflict he called absurd.

Absurd? What does absurd have to do with it? That is a mere minor note amid the organized brutality and exploitation by powerful people of vulnerable ones --e.g., history.

I don't buy it. Maybe it's hard to hear your suffering people from New York and Paris and Rome and Hanover and Athens.

No, no, no. I don't understand, they say:

"These works are a result of the indignation that the violations in Iraq produced in me and the rest of the world," Mr. Botero said by telephone from his Paris studio.

the rest of the world?

Old man, take a look at your life: nobody with any real weight gives a damn what you paint or what you say or how goddamned indignant you are, even though

. . . last year, his paintings of Colombia's long guerrilla war, full of blood, agony and senseless violence, became a big draw in European galleries, surprising followers astonished by Mr. Botero's bold departure in substance, if not style.

(European galleries; I'm not surprised.) Botero thinks he actually has weight:

Now, he said, his indignation over war and brutality may turn up increasingly in his work.

"I rethought my idea of what to paint and that permitted me to do the war in Colombia, and now there's this," he said. "And if there's something else that compels me in the future, then I will do it."

Mr. Botero, citing the Impressionists and the many works of a favorite of his, Velasquez, said he had once thought that art should be inoffensive, since "it doesn't have the capacity to change anything."

But with time, and his growing outrage, Mr. Botero said he had become more cognizant that art could and should make a statement.

He pointed to the most famous antiwar painting of the 20th Century, Picasso's masterpiece that depicted the German bombing of Guernica, Spain. Had Picasso not produced "Guernica," Mr. Botero said, the town would have been another footnote in the Spanish Civil War.

Sure. Picasso raised his mighty hand and stopped the bombs in midair. All that bloodshed since the late 30s has just been a long red smear of a bad dream. And, of course, every person on the street know what the word "Guernica" refers to.

Botero, like many artists and their boosters, continues to inflate the importance of his calling, especially when he makes inane statements like

Mr. Botero said he had become more cognizant that art could and should make a statement.

No shit. But just as science cannot yet avert a single thunderbolt, art has not yet found the strength to have a direct impact on policy. The candid photos from Abu Ghraib, taken by nonartists to say the least, will endure far longer than Botero's bloats or Richard Serra's whiners.

"He said he read about Abu Ghraib in The New Yorker . . ."

Does anyone else but me find that hilarious? The account would be by the notoriously sterling character Seymour Hersh, the very definition of a five-sided confabulating comedian. By that time, of course, the story was two weeks old.

Calling himself an admirer of the United States --one of his sons lives in Miami-- Mr. Botero said he became incensed because he expected better of the American government.

So did we all, but again we need to deflate the bloviating. It wasn't the whole "American government," just a miniscule bunch of clowns even now being punished. And Mr. FatEgo has taken while to get incensed --quite a slow burn. We have been moving on.

But that's not enough for this guy. Why? I'll tell you why. There's a clue we almost passed over above --the income from the European galleries. This is about money and fame and keeping your name in the game. Yes, I read his disclaimer:

. . . the works being exhibited, and those he has continued to create on Abu Ghraib, were not for sale because it would not be proper to profit from such events.

Didn't "Guernica" get sold? This series is not for sale yet, but I predict it will be. This series is simply a career move by another fading circus act who should have folded his canvas and left the scene years ago. What incenses me is that this arrogant, complacent old man will tear into our fading pain, and rip off our healing scabs, merely to stay in the limelight just a few years longer.

Posted by Jerome at 01:00 PM | TrackBack