Friday, October 20, 2017

Tarantino / Weinstein

Quentin Tarantino

I think I walked out on Django — more predictable QT revenge porn, one great blast of fantastic violence purging or compensating for all evil, Nazism, slavery, what have you — and if not I certainly meant to. But I like, have viewed and reviewed, many Tarantino films, even if they too often lately reduce to Kill Them All.

But my respect for Tarantino as a man was bolstered immeasurably by his comments about Harvey Weinstein. In  a NY Times piece he is quoted as saying, about failure to act on what he kept hearing about Weinstein, even from Mira Sorvino, his lover at one point:

“I wish I had taken responsibility for what I heard . . . If I had done the work I should have done then, I would have had to not work with him.”

He added:
“What I did was marginalize the incidents. . . Anything I say now will sound like a crappy excuse.”

Not as crappy as dodges or inadvertent and peculiar comments by Ben Affleck and Woody Allen.

I think it's particularly brave for Tarantino to aver that if he really knew then what he fully knows now, he wouldn't have been able to work with Weinstein. It's brave because Weinstein produced, touted and promoted Tarantino, propelling him to the celebrity status he occupies today.

One question I have, and haven't heard addressed: Would Tarantino and films by other of Weinstein’s bravos, have seen the light of day minus Weinstein’s hi-powered, bullying tactics?

Monday, October 16, 2017


There's no doubt that Harvey Weinstein's behavior was heinous and punishable. It's good that he's being reduced to zero, and let that be a lesson to others.

And then there are the onlookers, the buddies who knew and stood by. I'm sorry to think Ben Affleck may be one of them.

They should be confronted, too, here as in every case where passive onlooking is a form of complicity.

But this being the United States let's remember there's always a danger of overcorrection, in this case political correctness run amok.

Political correctness, or some impulse drawing from it,  can be seen when protestors try to deny viewers the right to see Dana Schutz's painting of Emmett Till, and even the right of a white artist to conceive of and execute such an image.

That's the kind of overcorrection for racism that corrects for nothing and is sick in its own right.

In a piece for The Forward, Cathy Young writes

McCarthyism was not a good response to the real problem of communist espionage and infiltration. Sexual McCarthyism . . . is not a good response to the real problem of sexual predators.

The comparison to McCarthyism may be questionable but this being America it's worth considering.

Friday, October 13, 2017

10,000 year old Scotch

10,000 year old Scotch
So after a fulfilling week as president, in which he kicked the supports out from under the Affordable Care Act, raised the chances of military confrontation with Iran, insulted Puerto Rico, and groped Rose McGowan — no, this just in, that was the other (chazar) pig in the news — Trump heads out to a golf course for some much deserved R&R

On the way out, he takes a call from Stephen Bannon, who's gushing.

- Mr. President, I thought you were slowing down but no, you're ruining things faster than I thought possible. The fact that you're old and fat and, let's face it, stupid doesn't bother you at all.

- No! Stupid doesn't bother me. Without tons of stupid, where would I be?

You watch, Bannon. After a bit of golf, just a bit, many steaks and some shots from my private barrel of 10,000 year old Scotch, I'll be back to bust more stuff up. Did you think I forgot about that Korean pudge ball, that cock-eyed dumpling? You wait, I'm going to turn him into kim chi.

- Surprised you know about that Korean delicacy. I thought you were strictly a steak, potatoes, and Melania type of guy.

- Let's lay off the Melania stuff, ok? She's American sure, unlike most everyone in Havana. . .

- You mean San Juan. . .

- Yeah San Juan. But she also speaks Slavilckian. It's a strange tongue, and those people they have moods, they get moodlyy. You ever been around a Slavookian in a moodle?

- No Mr. President, but I'm sure you can handle it. And if you can save me a taste of that 10,000 year old Scotch, I'd be much obliged.

- Can't promise about the Scotch. It's rare. But ruination is sure my thing. And I am just getting the hang of it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

This is a man?

Ecce homo is an old Latin phrase generally translated as "Behold, this is a man." This generally leads to philosophical exposition on the human condition.

Yiddish has a version with a somewhat different slant:

Oich mir a mensch.

This, loosely, translated, means: You kidding, this is human?

The Yiddish came to mind today when my dental hygienist, a fluent Yiddishist, and I were bantering about Trump.

Another Yiddish phrase strikes me as apt: A shtick fleish mit eaigen — A piece of meat with eyes.

"A shtick fleish mit eagen" doesn't only cover walking dead types, zombies and the like; it also refers to moral and mental  absolute zero nothings like Trump who, if I believed in such things, I might construe as a consummate construction of the Devil, something the Teyvl (Yid. for Devil) has sent into our world in order to cause maximum harm.

If so, this Satan ex machina is off to a good start.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Chomsky in the Age of Trump

Chomsky has a piece in The Nation. I'm not going to quote or allude to it because Chomsky to my mind is often too black and white, too Manichean.  

The title of the Chomsky piece, is "Noam Chomsky Diagnoses the Trump Era: The president has abetted the collapse of a decaying system; Chomsky explains how."

Decaying system, collapse.

These were the kinds of things victims of the Nazi regime often said about it, cheering themselves on, hoping that after Hitler something better would come.

Perhaps it did, though most of them, and many millions of others, weren't around to see it.

Chomsky may have mattered to me more once upon a time but now just bit of him is somewhat more than I need.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Age of the Strong Man

There is such a thing as global weather, though no one can predict it, neither Marx, nor Lenin, nor Che Guevara. Not Hegel, not Woodrow Wilson, and certainly not Gorbachev.

Global weather is as difficult to predict as the meteorological version. And yet there is such a thing. Everyone alive in 1968 felt it; it was as if history were coming to an epitome. Many were stunned by the counter thrust —Reagan, Thatcher, Deng Xiaoping.

These days we throw around words like "fascism" to explain current politics but maybe we need to peer beneath such ideological categories and recognize that this, above all, the age of the strong man.

The evidence is too abundant. One of those things you either ignore or explain away if you can.

In the United States there is the populist, anti-democratic Trump, of course.

In Russia, there is wildly popular, anti-democratic Putin.

In China, Xi Jinping is, as the LA Times described him, "on the cusp of gaining power unseen since Mao Tse-tung."

The US, Russia, China — the three great powers. What global mood do they reflect or collaborate to fashion?

On a smaller scale there is of course Turkey's Erdogen. And though I don't mean to complicate the issue beyond reckoning, Netanyahu is on this scale, too, Netanyahu as Israel's seemingly eternal, eternally crushing  potentate.

It's the age of the strong man. Whatever can be done for democracy must reckon with that brute fact.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Ashbery 7/28/1927 - 9/3/2017

John Asbery
7/28/1927 - 9/3/2017

I've been reading and contending with John Ashbery since his early book Rivers and Mountains (1966). I resisted him, and still do, while learning to enjoy him, within measure. His poems frustrate the hunger for settled, discursive meanings — ideas, things to extract, chew on and discuss. He is an artist of the anti-idea. Meaning for his poetic practice was a sort of tyrant — best to skirt and never mention.

Though Walter Benjamin and John Ashbery couldn't be further apart intellectually, Benjamin echoed, or prefigured, this unspoken goal of Ashbery's when he wrote: "Children, when thinking up stories, are stage managers, who do not allow themselves to be censored by meaning."

There are times when, despite all Ashbery does to defend against it, meaning does come coalescing through the artifices.

As, I think, in the following, badly camouflaged and therefore all the more lovely love poem:

"A Blessing in Disguise," by John Ashbery

Yes, they are alive and can have those colors,
But I, in my soul, am alive too.
I feel I must sing and dance, to tell
Of this in a way, that knowing you may be drawn to me.

And I sing amid despair and isolation
Of the chance to know you, to sing of me
Which are you. You see,
You hold me up to the light in a way

I should never have expected, or suspected, perhaps
Because you always tell me I am you,
And right. The great spruces loom.
I am yours to die with, to desire.

I cannot ever think of me, I desire you
For a room in which the chairs ever
Have their backs turned to the light
Inflicted on the stone and paths, the real trees

That seem to shine at me through a lattice toward you.
If the wild light of this January day is true
I pledge me to be truthful unto you
Whom I cannot ever stop remembering.

Remembering to forgive. Remember to pass beyond you into the day
On the wings of the secret you will never know.
Taking me from myself, in the path
Which the pastel girth of the day has assigned to me.

I prefer "you" in the plural, I want "you,"
You must come to me, all golden and pale
Like the dew and the air.

And then I start getting this feeling of exaltation.