Thursday, August 29, 2013

LBJ Syndrome

As of this writing, David Cameron, English PM, has, astonishingly, been shot down in parliament vis a vis his desire to join the U.S. in any sort of military strike against Syria.


Friday, August 23, 2013

word on the run

chasing that word
that got out

all over the out
to get it back in

should not
be confused with thinking

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Film review: The Attack

Originally appeared in

The friend with whom I saw Ziad Doueiri's compelling film, The Attack, said when we left that it was remarkable how little violence was actually portrayed. That may sound like a strange comment to make about a movie centered on a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that kills seventeen people, not counting the bomber, and leaves others maimed for life. Nor is that event entirely off-screen: some of its torn, bloodied victims are rushed directly to the hospital where Dr. Amin Jaafari, the film's main character, practices medicine.

Still, the observation about the lack of violence is correct. I was tempted to remark in reply that The Attack lacked the sort of big budget muscle that would have enabled it to show Tel Aviv blown to — digital — bits. But that, I know, is pure cynicism, bred by watching too many Hollywood movies that have nothing going for them but immensely expensive variations on the theme of blow-up.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Film Review: Elysium

First appeared in

Remember Neill Blomkamp's District 9, how original, how full of surprises it was — the Prawns, as they were derisively known, from outer space, and their shanty town? The movie seemed a clanky, improvised, by the seat of your pants kind of thing, low-to-no budget, and full of weird, politically incorrect reflections about racism, privilege, and power.

My point is that whatever distinguished District 9 and made it so special is entirely absent from Neill Blomkamp's blockbuster, Elysium. I'd rate Elysium a DON'T SEE, or a MUST MISS, unless you just can't get enough of guys in robotic exoskeletons whaling on each other, even if one happens to be Matt Damon. Me, I got bored pretty quick when I realized that kind of violence was really all that I was supposed to take home with me.

Review: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

First  appeared in

The responses, to date, to Reza Aslan's concise, suggestive study — "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" — have been of two kinds. There is, to start with, the Fox News kind of response, which, inflammatory and uninformed as it is, can still generate enough faux controversy to blunt attention to what might be deemed genuinely controversial about Aslan's book.

The Fox interchange, which immediately went viral on line, begins with Lauren Green, Fox's religion correspondent, challenging Aslan: "I want to be clear, you are a Muslim. So why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Jonathan Spence, blogged, revisited.

I am in the process of archiving interviews and other journalistic work I've done in this blog, in the course of which I sometimes actually take a little time to revisit what I'm posting into the blogosphere.

Ezra Pound once said: "You have an obligation to visit the great men of your time." I am no acolyte of Pound, far from, and not particularly keen to be reminded of him, but his dictum comes to mind because in the course of my interviewing I have had nothing less than the privilege of conversing with, in my view, some of the finest and most challenging writers and thinkers of our time.

Monday, August 5, 2013


they are
so it seems

 (their feet are made

have evolved 

for dragging)

     at least
     negotiating the basis
for negotiating
the basis
     clarifying the
     for sitting down
to iron out
     the basis
for storming out
while being forthright about
the basis
an international binational four power
absolutely no power


about a deal
to settle on
the basis
about the basics
- of um
what was it again!?

oh yeah

that basis

for giving up
and throwing a little war
then a little less war

for stomping out

shedding some blood
more or less blood

then getting back
to that basis
for defining the very base
of the basics


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Snowden in Moscow part 4

Edgar Snowden has left his transit zone at a Moscow airport. In that zone which was for him a no-transit zone he had been, according to Anatoly Kucherena, his lawyer, hunkering down with Russian classics. Kucherena had given him "Crime And Punishment" because Snowden "should know who Raskolnikov was"; selected volumes by Anton Chekhov “for dessert”; and tomes by early nineteenth century historian Nikolay Karamzin, author of a twelve-volume history of Russia, so that Snowden could get a grip on the country to which he has now made some sort of transit.

Susan Jacoby, Anthony Weiner: The Sexter & the Sextees . . .

I admire Susan Jacoby.

For reasons that perhaps have less to do with her copious writings than with sexism, she is not, so far as media is concerned, on the A-list of New Atheists, but is nevertheless a learned and passionate advocate of  secularism, and, more than her male peers — Hitchens, Dawkins et al — a chronicler of its authentic but embattled position in American history, from Thomas Paine on.