Standard Operating Procedure

Looking up at Grand Central

I used to take friends and tourists for walks up in the windows of Grand Central. Remember that?

I was kind of surprised there were only about 25 people in attendance at a 7 pm showing of Errol Morris’s new documentary, Standard Operating Procedure the other day. Walking by some of the lines for the Tribeca Film Festival where close to a hundred new documentaries are being screened might provide an answer or maybe it’s because no one really cares about intangibles like the recoverability of America’s standing in the world. As some would like to put it, what’s there to recover from [besides …]? As has been pointed out, the real horror of Abu Gharaib is what’s not pictured. How a dead body from the interrogation rooms would show up, (pictures taken, “look ma, a dead guy!”) and then how he was ghosted away the next day. No names of superiors are mentioned and CIA names are obviously on a “you don’t wanna know or we’d have to kill you” basis. Most of the soldiers interviewed were made scapegoats and part of a dog-and-pony show for anyone wanting to dig deeper. Punished mostly for taking pictures.

Clicking on mainstream reviews of movies like Rendition, The Kingdom, and Syriana, one finds a genuine bias against these pretty believable efforts to make some fictionalized sense of real events. Small wonder they flopped at the box office but seem to be doing alright in DVD incarnation with their 3-4 star ratings amongst Netflix subscribers. Typical crits include “morality is too black and white in these films,” “thin character development,” and “sheer Hollywood grandstanding.” Realism aside, the freeway car bombing scene and subsequent apartment house shoot-outs in The Kingdom are top-notch action filmmaking. These cry-me-a-river entertainment journalism clearinghouses are the same ones with news arms that rely on soundbite journalism, some even going out of their way to publish “we’re not about soundbites” stories. Thin character development, doncha think? Sheer no-spin-zone grandstanding. Stop pulling news out of your ass and report on the issues. Get out of bed with the War Pigs. [Sheer lazy MCHuge grandstanding finish.]

Deep Thought

Old Penn Station
New Penn Station
Penn Station, old and relatively newish

Shooting Penn Station today ain’t like it used to be.  Shooting public institutions and structures in general isn’t as fun as it used to be either. Some people look at you with alarm if you’re carrying a camera in places like Penn Station.

Nick Cave is on Fresh Air!

Redrum. I Mean Red Room.

Redrum, still at that bar

My nephew won a Battle of the Bands contest in Eureka, California. That’s pretty great when you hear someone play and you think, “That’s nice. Keep practicing.” And he does and wins a Battle of the Bands just like in the movies six months later.

The quality of blogging at This Recording has been prolifically surreal. I can’t think of a better way to spend your Sunday evening than clicking on all the links posted there in the last week. Or just look at the pictures and say, “Holy mackerel, that’s funny.”

The Great Communicator’s Communicator

Plugged in at Beauty Bar
Manicures at Beauty Bar
Friday Happy Hour Blogging

An exchange with a friend about Peggy Noonan’s column in the WSJ prompted me to dig out a few of the responses amongst the reality-based crowd. Firedoglake calls out her invocation of Henry Ford, an avowed anti-Semite honored by the Hitler regime in 1936. Media Matters notes Obama wrote a whole book on what he thinks about America. In 2006, Glenn Greenwald outed the Nooners for her slimy hypocrisy and what’s wrong in general with other pundits like Thomas pie-in-the-face Friedman.

Plus what’s with the whole smarmy “everyone is sick of standing in lines at airports” line? If you read some of the comments, even wingnuts are perfectly happy showing up a little earlier for safety’s sake.

PS: Yes, Beauty Bar has $10 manicures with a drink coupon during happy hour!

The (Latin) South Shall Rise Again

Union Square, 9 pm

Sometimes you think about something and then a few days later, a story appears that corroborates your thoughts. Synchronicity. It’s true that Naomi Klein has also written on The Iraq Effect on Latin America in The Shock Doctrine. Regardless of what you think of socialism, this is the first time since Spanish imperialism that Latin America is able to pursue its own agenda, free of the U.S./Euro/China/NAFTA axis, largely thanks to U.S. entanglement in the Middle East. “East is east and West is West…” I always wondered why Kipling left out the North and South. Bring on the brujeria!

Geopolitical intrigue aside, I also enjoy the odd hilarious flame war leaking into the internets. Dude, go wax your chest again.

Stuff on Shelves, Fire Escapes

Empty supermarket
Empty supermarket
Empty supermarkets can be spooky

I’d rather buy groceries at these older places with the faulty ceilings than the over-packaged gourmet markets. Be your own galloping gourmet.

Cleaning cleaning cleaning. Spring spring spring. Giving the politics and linking a rest as I get my house in order. I handwashed my Mexican blanket and one of my comforters in the tub and they’re drying on the fire escape. Is that legal? I’d bet the contract says it’s not. At least they match the building.

If It’s Spring, We Can Cozy Up With Them

Identify this flower, feel good for a minute.

A friend loaned me a camera! Haven’t used it yet… this is still old stuff.

Just some links to follow up on yesterday’s weirdness… Wolcott on Men Evolving Badly. I know what he’s on about but I am Superman, Underdog, and Spiderman all rolled into one. Just because I don’t blog about that part of my life doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Gosh, I know who Ayn Rand is.

I usually like Michael Pollan’s writing a lot but in the Sunday Times, he wastes a lot of space excusing poor leadership and encouraging us all to plant our own vegetable gardens because it’ll feel good. I’ll be looking at more of the green coverage coming out these days but the Me Decade was the 80s. This needs to be the Earth Century.

Hillary Clinton used to be very impressive. She just ran a horrible campaign.

The Next Feminist Platform

A fountain in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Riding a fish is funner than birthing one.

Feminism isn’t a topic I’ll post about much but I find the idea of Orgasmic Birth fascinating. Any wedge that puts a dent in the conventional Biblican wisdom, here specifically Genesis 3:16 –(“…I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…”) — now that’s a good kick in the pants. Further irony lies in OB’s strong foundation in new age type spirituality and things like water birth, yoga, meditation, the “spiritual diet,” and ye, even Robert Bly stylee Male Energy. Contrast that with the criticism of Islamic attitudes towards women (not uncalled for) and you can see a clear modern-day evolutionary arc of human spirituality. Any anthropologists out there wanna discuss this?

I’ll almost be surprised if ABC follows through with broadcasting a special about this on 20/20 on May 16. If they do, it’s because of the sexy title and you know they’re going to have a C-section specialist crowing that a C-section is the safest, most pain-free way to have a baby and how could there be anything better than Modern American Medicine? Snort.

On a tangential note, just now, Martha Nussbaum was on Bill Moyers’ show talking about “Freedom of Conscience” and how the right doesn’t get it. This OB thing is going to be heavily ridiculed by the establishment thought police.

(Full disclosure: My upstairs neighbor, who I respect very much, is a doula specializing in water birth and also a talented birth photographer. And I read Feministing once in a while. I suppose that makes me a sensitive new age terrorist.)

Celebrity Endorsements
Obama sports a much vaster and cooler list of celebrity endorsements than Clinton does. Huffpo rightly puts this stuff in their Entertainment section but why not also list McCain’s celeb endorsements? Maybe because he’s only got four although I’d wager conservatives consume more celebrity gossip than others do.

Music Is a Fuzzy Cathedral

Riverside Church
Riverside Church – fuzzy mode

I lost my camera a couple days ago but I’ll post some rejects.

Eighth Blackbird performed at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall last night. Playing a piece written for them called “Double Sextet” — hence written for 12 musicians — 8bb actually play against a recording of themselves playing the other half of the piece. Neat. All the naysayers who don’t like new music should really see a Steve Reich piece performed live. This rehearsal video of Music for 18 Musicians only begins to convey what it’s like.

The other half of the program, also a New York premiere, was a piece by Bang on a Can. Not as satisfying as the Reich piece and difficult to digest in its variety, it’s still a blast seeing serious musicians having some serious fun, even making their choreographed moves look completely unpremeditated. Ouch, using too many big words.

For an interesting flipside, my friend and I snuck into the main hall to hear Asha Bhosle perform for the Indian glitterati and other fans. Believed to have recorded / sung some 12,000 songs, you could say she’s the Sinatra of India although I don’t think ol Blue Eyes, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett combined could touch that number. Anyway, hearing the Bollywood twist on the pop music form after 8bb was like going to hear Olivia Newton-John after a Slayer show. Sugar cookies after jalapeno poppers. I could go on…

Mi Bicicleta, El Futuro

poppin a wheelie
poppin a wheelie

Link to Brooklyn Vegan day… Bring on the spring/summer free shows! Mission of Burma playing NYU Saturday. We got your Gossip on Letterman. I confess: sometimes I wish I lived in Brooklyn, but I live on the Upper West Side.

As the job I’m on winds down, I turn to career thoughts. More website design, more soup-to-nuts design, more plug-ins and widgets, more traffic, more music, more photos, more freelancing. My services are for sale. My photos are for sale: 8 x 10 hi-res prints, anything from my blogs. Hit me up if interested — before I put them all on Photoshelter. More vacation.

Torture Through the Centuries; The Concise Wingnut

buffet from above

Walk on the ice cubes, not the hot coals

Want to know more about torture? I know that you do. Condi apparently discussed whether detainees should be beat, slapped, sleep-deprived, water-boarded, all the above. McCain’s own accounting is that he broke and falsely admitted to war crimes to make it stop. And yet he has recently flip-flopped on his advocacy. Torture is mostly useless for information-gathering. At best, the threat of it and knowing that it happens is a fear tactic used by tyrants to keep the hoi polloi in line. We’re no better than “our enemies” if we do it. I’ll take the soft cushions please.

My favorite wingnut watchdog has a big piece up at the Village Voice on the conservative blogosphere.