Marginal Footnotes

Zoellick Quits
May 30, 2006, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Politics, Uncategorized

As expected.  Steve Clemons sees a fight brewing between Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice over his successor.  Shocking news there.  


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Eureka Street
May 30, 2006, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Literary, Uncategorized

'It is at these times that you feel you are in the presence of something greater than yourself.  And you are.  For as you look around the perimeter of your illuminated vision, you can see the buildings and streets in which a dark hundred thousand, a million, ten million stories as vivid and complex as your own reside.  It doesn't get more divine than that.
   And the sleepy murmurings of half a million people combine to make an influential form of noise, a consensual music.  Hear it and weep.  There is little more to learn on the earth than that which a deserted city at four in the morning can show and tell.  Those nights, those cities are the centre, the fulcrum, the very wheel upon which you turn.
   Sleeping cities and sleeping citizens alike wait upon events, they attend upon narrative. They are stopped in station.  They soon move on, they soon start again.
   And as the darkness begins to curl around its edges, the city shifts and stumbles in its slumber.  Soon it will wake.  In this city, as in all cities, the morning is an assault.  The people wake and dress themselves as though arming themselves for their day.  From all the small windows of all the small houses on the small streets of this little city, men and women have looked out on first-light Belfast and readied themselves to do battle with this place.
   But for now they are still abed.  Like Jake they lie, their stories only temporarily suspended.  They are marvellous in their beds.  They are epic, these citizens, they are tender and murderable.
   In Belfast, in all cities, it is always present tense and all the streets are Poetry Streets'.
[Robert McLiam Wilson. Eureka Street. London: Vintage, 1998. 216-17.]

Do yourself a favor and read this novel.


Ghost Rider
May 29, 2006, 6:34 pm
Filed under: Films, Uncategorized

Although we thought it impossible, it appears that Nicholas Cage has sunk to a new low entirely.  Let the mockery begin.

It's highly likely that the Brazilian version is better:


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Martin McGuinness: British Spy?
May 29, 2006, 3:06 pm
Filed under: International, Random, Uncategorized

As some of you may know, I live in Belfast.  So, this morning while I'm making a cup of coffee, I notice that the Irish News has run a front page story on allegations from a former British intelligence officer that Martin McGuinness, chief negotiator for Sinn Fein and former IRA second-in-command during the 1972 Bloody Sunday event in Derry, is in fact a British spy.  McGuinness has variously called the charge 'nonsense' and 'rubbish'.   Few on either side of the sectarian divide seem to believe the allegations. 

In any event, it's an interesting piece of what has become a much wider story in Northern Ireland.  Just some of the basics:

–Back in 2003 there were reports that a man named Freddie Scappaticci, an official in the Provisional IRA, was in fact a British agent.  A former British intelligence official and agent handler named Martin Ingram exposed Scappaticci, and later wrote a book about 'Stakeknife', his codename.  Scappaticci is now in hiding.  Incidentally, he happened to be the man in the IRA who went after suspected informants. According to a massive article in The Atlantic Monthly (subs. required), Scappaticci worked for a British intelligence group called the ‘Force Research Unit. Through the FRU, Scappaticci served a host of agencies, among them MI5, a paramilitary police unit called Special Branch, and army intelligence. Eventually he became one of the most important spies in Britain's history, working his way toward the IRA's heart’.     

–Following the 1998 Belfast Agreement which set up a devolved consociational government in the North, the Stormont assembly variously functioned and ceased to function until it was finally closed for the last time in the midst of a spy scandal allegedly involving the IRA.  This particular intrigue, which came to be known as 'Stormontgate', was said to have involved an IRA spy-ring based in the Northern Ireland Parliament.  Investigations led to Sinn Fein Chief of Staff Denis Donaldson, his son and another man, all of whom were arrested.  Donaldson allegedly ran the intelligence operations of the IRA.  

–This December I was getting my hair cut and read an article that all charges against these men had been dropped.  The British government explained that it was 'no longer in the public interest to pursue' the case.

–About a week after the charges were dropped, the front page of pretty much every newspaper on the rack carried a story that Donaldson was in fact a British double-agent, and had been so for some twenty years.

–Subsequent to this, in April 2006, Donaldson was shot to death at a cottage in Donegal.  It seems he was tortured before he was killed. Obits here and here.  

–Now Martin Ingram, the spy handler who exposed Stakeknife, is alleging the McGuinness is a British spy. 

Who knows where this will go.  At the moment there's wholesale skepticism from pretty much everyone–McGuinness' republican credentials are impeccable.  But, so were Donaldson's.  


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Frank Rich Calls for Gore Run
May 29, 2006, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Elections, Environmental, Gore Marginalia, Media, Politics, Uncategorized

But stops short of endorsing him.  I typically think Rich is hysterical and in the main makes liberals look a tad unstable, but since I'm not a TimesSelect subscriber, I can't read the article.  But Editor and Publisher is saying that he's calling for a Gore candidacy to challenge Hillary Clinton, who he considers weak because of her position on the war.  Rich seems to be prodding Gore to take up a campaign if for no other reason than to use the national stage to draw attention to some of the issues he cares about.

Gore says he's happy now with the campaign he's running, but what's he going to be saying when the hype from the movie dies down, the interview requests stop rolling in, and the major media profiles cease? 


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Reed, Sleazetastic
May 29, 2006, 1:50 pm
Filed under: Elections, Politics, Uncategorized

Just another reason the defeat Ralph Reed for the Lt. Gov. position in Georgia: according to the Post, Reed, the so-called 'right hand of God', in 1999 invoked the name of Jesus Christ himself to rally conservatives to oppose legislation that would have subjected the Northern Mariana Islands to federal wage and labor laws.  This despite the fact that

'A year earlier, the Department of the Interior — which oversees federal policy toward the U.S. territory — presented a very different picture of life for Chinese workers on the islands. An Interior report found that Chinese women were subject to forced abortions and that women and children were subject to forced prostitution in the local sex-tourism industry'.

Jack Abramoff, as you know, was the lobbyist for the Islands on this issue.  This is really about as sleazy as it gets, no?


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Talk About Missing It
May 28, 2006, 4:57 pm
Filed under: Literary, Media, Random, Uncategorized

I haven't read Benjamin Kunkel's debut Novel, Indecision, and maybe one day I'll get around to it even though I'm fairly sick of the genre.  But I did read Michiko Kakutani's (two posts on Kakutani in one day!) review of the novel back in August, where she assumes the voice of Holden Caufield to render her critique.  It seemed to me then that the review was anything but 'laudatory'.  In fact I thought it was criminally sarcastic (i.e. not funny).  So I was surprised to read in Michael Kimmel's article on 'lad lit' (the male version of 'chick Lit', how clever) in The Chronicle of Higher Education that Kakutani's review was in fact 'laudatory'.  Thinking I was insanely dense, I revisited the review.  I've pondered.  I've considered.  And I'm nearly positive that I'm not the one who missed the (bad) joke.  

But this is not all Kimmel misses, since his article is so misinformed that it boders on incoherent.  Somehow, it was Helen Fielding who invented 'chick lit' (Jane Austen, anyone?) and Nick Hornby who 'provides the touchstone texts' of 'lad lit' (along with Jay McInerney in America).  Where is Eggers in this formulation?  How are the 'lads' of contemporary texts (other than being aesthetically inferior) really any different from the Stephen Dedalus of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?  It is Stephen (and Holden Caufield) who haunts all books of this sort.  All are modern incarnations of the same 'enduring' type.

[Let's just bracket off for a moment the general problem of Kimmel's uncritical acceptance of demarcatory (derogatory) terms such as 'chick lit'.]    

Anyway, it appears that Kimmel's prevailing criterion for the 'enduring novel' is that it be romantic rather than cynical.  Setting aside that I have no idea what this means since the term itself is beyond problematic (does he mean they should be sentimental; embrace Wordsworthian transcendence; pivot on asinine coincidences; suggest an easily-discernable ethical reading of the Nussbaumian sort?), Kimmel achieves a singularly new low in critical standard-setting:

'And that may be guy lit's biggest problem: Its readers are unlikely to resemble the guys the books are ostensibly about. As long as the antiheroes stay stuck, and the transformative trajectory is either insincere, as in Kunkel's Indecision, or nonexistent, as in Smith's Love Monkey, these writers will miss their largest potential audience. For it is women who buy the most books, and what women seem to want is for men to be capable of changing (and to know that a woman's love can change them)'.

(a) Kimmel ought to perhaps ask what it is about the modern condition which requires the anti-hero, stasis, and skepticism; (b) he obviously needs to make more friends.  There are lots of 'lads' stuck in a post-post-modern lethargy who will relate fine with these types of texts (as if that matters, critically); (c) good writers don't write to sell books to specific audiences.  Also, this claim is internally contradicatory with the one identified in subpoint a, in which Kimmel calls for a certain universality out of a particularity (an actual aesthetic concept, though I doubt he knows this).  Writing for women who 'seem to want' whatever is both ridiculously misogynistic in its presumption about women and in general a terrible point of departure for any writer.

It isn't until I reach the end of the article that I see the problem: Kimmel is a sociologist (not that there's anything wrong with that).  His piece is ill-informed because he doesn't know anything about literature; it proposes asinine literary criteria because he has no interest in literature. And now I'm the stupid one for wasting my time with this rant.


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