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Friday, November 6, 2009

What Jim Does



What do you say when they say “What do you do?” I say I play the
blues on my red kazoo. That I teach yoga to yahoos. That I have a ranch
in Australia where I breed blue suede kangaroos. I steal women’s shoes
and sell them to perverts over an 800 line. I do gardening with lasers.
I clean houses with plastic explosives. I’m on welfare. I’m on heroin.
I’m on parole. I teach the art of Ninja to ninnies. I’m a professional
identity designer. Nothing, I’m rich. Nothing, I’m emotionally crippled.
I’m a media mogul who moonlights as a Chippendale dancer. I manufacture
ladies lingerie for Frederick’s of Krakow. I play golf with beatniks.
I design then live in the cities of the future... which sometimes takes all
afternoon. I sell gizmos to gooks. I wholesale freeze-dried mail order
brides. I design Boy Kaddafi’s stage outfits and sometimes read him his
fan mail. What do I do? Well, I’m waiting for this think tank thing to
come through so I can get tanked and think of new ways to screw citizens
out of the dollar or two they’d like to use to buy brew but instead goes
to you know who. I loot shopping malls in radiation zones. I cruise
the art zoos looking for what’s new in mutations. I sell crack at the
United Nations. I don’t have just one occupation. I’m an amalgamation,
a confederation, a conspiracy and a conglomerate. I do what I have to do
because I’m a man... that’s spelled M – A – N. I don’t do anything,
I’m just a writer.

© Jim Gustafson Estate, 2009

My critical review of this piece is as follows:

No criticism.

- Rick

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You talkin' to me?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wall Street: Same Mistake Twice?

A year since the bankruptcy of Lehman Bros. plunged the U.S. into a massive financial crisis, Andrew Ross Sorkin of the NYTimes stated on Charlie Rose last night that to date, despite windstorms of rhetoric, no new regulatory restrictions have been imposed on Wall Street by the federal government and that hedge funds, money market funds, investment banks and other traders are venturing back into high-risk operations and the trading of newly fabricated and highly complex financial products, these activities said to be capable of producing a new crash as big as last year's, when trillions of dollars of personal savings were permanently lost and the economy as a whole came to close to plunging into a major depression.

This is a clear indication of the role gross irrationality plays in our national life. Addiction to the profit motive to the exclusion of all other values is like an addiction to crack, a pathology in which even the instinct for self-preservation is lost. As a wise person said: "Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Trouble With Artificial Economic Scarcity

Some of the hyper-rich, i.e. the upper 1 percent of the U.$. population that possesses 40 percent of the nation's wealth, as reported by Howard Zinn, are undoubtedly intelligent, hard-working, and, with the exception of their congenital blindness to the suffering artificial scarcity imposes on the working class, decent people, but as a whole the country club class can be classified as an enemy of rationality. It is not rational that the assets of this society are distributed in such a way that 47 million people have zero health insurance, resulting in an estimated 18,000 unnecessary deaths a year, according to press reports, and pushing the federal government toward bankruptcy. Wealth in this country needs to be redistributed via the tax code -- but that would require elected officials who are not funded by the hyper-rich, which is never going to happen without campaign finance reform that would enact public funding of all federal elections. Artificial scarcity exists to a large degree because of the enormous concentration of assets in that narrow, uppermost 1 percent, causing the rest of the members of society to fight among themselves in fierce competition for the remaining assets, this competition leading them to overlook the fact that the working class as a whole is being ripped off to an almost unbelievable extent.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Guideline for U.$. Foreign Policy

Coleman McCarthy: "You can fight fire with fire or you can fight fire with water."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Cause of Our Pain

"According to the Buddha, the cause of the angst in our lives is to be found in the patterns of clinging and aversion that dominate our minds and govern our actions. From moment to moment, we are driven by the desire to prolong or gain pleasurable experiences and the desire to get rid of or avoid pain. So enmeshed have we become in patterns of desire and avoidance that these patterns have assumed lives of their own and come to control our lives. We do not act in clear awareness, but under the control of often unconscious drives and emotions. Our actions, rather than satisfying our desires, often result in further frustration and antagonism."

The solution?

Zazen, as explained in the works of Alan Watts.

Zen, Peter Oldmeadow (Sydney: Lansdowne, 2001), p. 10.

Not to mention, for millions of Americans, the lack of medical insurance.

America, snap out of it!

- Rick

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Enormous Income Inequality in U.S.

H. Zinn writes that from 1944 to 1961 the distribution of wealth in the United States "had not changed much: the lowest fifth of the families received 5 percent of all the income; the highest fifth received 45 percent of all the income. In 1953, 1.6 percent of the adult population owned more than 80 percent of the corporate stock and nearly 90 percent of the corporate bonds. About 200 hundred giant corporations--one tenth of one percent of all corporations--controlled about 60 percent of the manufacturing wealth of the nation."

A People's History, pp. 441-42.

Barry repeatedly talked about income inequality during his campaign for the presidency, saying it was the greatest it has been since the Great Depression.

Haven't heard him use the phrase once since he took office.

On health care reform, I was surprised to see a clip of Ted Kennedy on TV roaring that health care was a right, not a privilege -- in 1978! The fundamental reason reform is needed was clearly articulated a long time ago. The power of the insurance and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists to strangle necessary public policy is astonishing.

To provide health care as a for-profit business is inhumane and vile. In a civilized society, health care is a universal, inalienable human right. If one loses one's health, "liberty and the pursuit of happiness" instantaneously evaporate, and in a not insignificant number of cases, God help us, "life" itself vanishes. Press reports indicate that the lack of universal health insurance in the U.S. causes more than 10,000 unnecessary deaths a year.

How Much Is Enough?

Have finished another draft of the screenplay COCKED & LOADED and have realized that I could go on rewriting this thing till the day I die. Henry James: "A work of art isn't finished, it is abandoned." Okay, but when? If I put it aside for a month and go back to it, I know I'll feel compelled to touch up all kinds of things. How much work is enough? Alexander Pope would let his poems "age" for four years before looking at them one final time prior publication, to help fight the writer's greatest fear--fear of embarrassment.

Currently rewriting second screenplay, THE MURDER PORTFOLIO.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Long Term View

In today's NYTimes, columnist/economics professor/Nobelist Paul Krugman writes:

"Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system."

Too terribly true. Public funding of all federal elections is indispensable.

Krugman, whose column appears on Mondays and Fridays, is a dyed in the wool liberal in the tradition of FDR, J.K. Galbraith and M. Harrington who is consistently enlightening on the healthcare debate, which the howler monkeys on the right are determined to ruin.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Unbelievable Lack of Social Progress

In Howard Zinn's outstanding A People's History of the United States [New York: Harper Collins, 1980 and subsequent editions], he reports that "By 1770, the top 1 percent of property owners [in pre-revolutionary Boston] owned 44 percent of the [city's] wealth." Further on he writes: "As a result of changes in the [U.S.] tax structure, by 1995 that richest 1 percent [of the total U.S. population] had gained over $1 trillion and now owned over 40 percent of the nation's wealth."

Pp. 49, 662.

Uh 1 percent of the population owns 40 percent of the country's total wealth? ? ? That sound fair?

Who produces the wealth?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Origin of WTO

More from The Sorrows of Empire, pp. (268-69):

"What began as a poorly conceived program of emergency measures for debtor countries early in the 1980s slowly matured into the hard orthodoxy of the 'Washington Consensus' in the 1990s. The U.S. government became determined to impose neoliberal economics on every country on earth. To do so, it unveiled its master plan, the 'Uruguay Round' of international trade negotiations (1968 to 1994), and its crown jewel, created on January 1, 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO). Acting in compliance with a seemingly innocent effort to create a common set of trade rules for all and to bring agriculture under such rules for the first time, 'many developing countries discovered that in signing on to the WTO, they had,' as Bello [i.e., Walden Bello of the University of the Phillipines] put it, 'signed away their right to development.' "

The IMF (International Monetary Fund) was created during WWII. The deliberations of these institutions, along with the World Bank, are totally secret.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lawrence Summers & Pollution

More from The Sorrows of Empire (p. 268):

"From 1991 to 1993, Lawrence Summers was the chief economist at the World Bank and the man who oversaw the tailoring of 'austerity measures' to each country that needed a loan. He decided exactly what a country had that Washington wanted to open up. On December 12, 1991, Summers became notorious for a leaked memo to senior officials of the bank encouraging polluting industries in the rich nations to relocate to the less developed countries. He wrote, 'I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage countries is impeccable and we should face up to that.' "

Nice. A true friend of humanity. What the hell was Barry thinking when he appointed him as a key economic advisor?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Globalization & History

More from Chalmers Johnson, in The Sorrows of Empire, (p. 263), on the fallacies of globalism, which always insists that a country lower or eliminate its tariff barriers to allow international trade:

"Leaving aside the former Soviet Union, the main developed countries -- Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan and the East Asian NICs [Newly Industrialized Countries] (South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore) -- all got rich in more or less the same way. Regardless of how they justified their policies, in actual practice they protected their domestic markets using high tariff walls and myriad 'non-tariff barriers' to trade. Britain, for example, did not accept free trade until the 1840s, long after it had become the world's leading industrial power. Between 1790 and 1940, the United States was probably the most highly protected economy on earth."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Imperialism Via Globalization

"Proponents of globalism, particularly American academic economists and political scientists, cling to it with religious fervor . . . . Many otherwise sober business and political leaders in the United States have been carried away by globalization's messianic claims. This phenomenon, too, is not new. Classical liberalism blinded no small number of Englishmen to the racism, genocide, and ruthless exploitation that accompanied the growth of the British Empire. As Hannah Arendt remarked about that earlier period of market worship: 'The fact that the "white man's burden" is either hypocrisy or racism has not prevented a few of the best Englishmen from shouldering the burden in earnest and making themselves the tragic and quixotic fools of imperialism.' It is critically important to understand that the doctrine of globalism is a kind of intellectual sedative that lulls and distracts its Third World victims while rich countries cripple them, ensuring that they will never be able to challenge the imperial powers. . . . THERE IS NO KNOWN CASE IN WHICH GLOBALIZATION HAS LED TO PROSPERITY IN ANY THIRD WORLD COUNTRY [emphasis supplied], and none of the world's twenty-four reasonably developed capitalist nations, regardless of their ideological explanations, got where they are by following any of the prescriptions contained in globalization doctrine. What globalization has produced, in the words of de Rivero, is not NICs (newly industrialized countries) but about 130 NNEs (nonviable national economies) or, even worse, UCEs (ungovernable chaotic entities). There is occasional evidence that this result is precisely what the authors of globalization intended. In 1841, the prominent German political economist Friedrich List (who had immigrated to America) wrote in his masterpiece, The National System of Political Economy, 'It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him.' Much of modern Anglo-American economics and all of the theory of globalization are attempts to disguise this kicking away of the ladder."

C. Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire, pp. 261-62.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Huge Concentration of Troops in Japan

"[T]he Spanish-American War [1898] first set us on our modern path of imperialism. Some of the bases we acquired at that time--Guantànamo Bay, Pearl Harbor, Guam--are still overseas military outposts or are on territories that we later directly annexed . . . . It was was not until World War II that our empire of bases achieved its global reach, and the United States still seems to regard its continuing occupation of the territory of its former Axis foes as something akin to a natural birthright. The Korean War, though ended in a stalemate, nonetheless projected us onto the Asian mainland . . . . According to the Pentagon's September 2001 Base Status Report, the United States has seventy-three bases in Japan. These bases house some 40,217 uniformed service personnel, plus 6,431 civilian employees of the Department of Defense and 42,653 dependents . . . . The Japanese government pays us some $4 billion per annum to help defray the costs . . . making Japan perhaps the only country that pays another country to carry out espionage against itself. The troops on these bases have no military functions. They have been held in reserve for deployment elsewhere in Asia--in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, the Philippines, East Timor, and other places--as the need (or opportunity) arises."

C. Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire, pp. 189, 202.

Monday, July 13, 2009

U.S. Military Empire & Public Awareness

In The Sorrows of Empire, Chalmers Johnson writes that U.S. military bases in Israel "are known simply as Sites 51, 53, and 54. Their specific locations are classified and highly sensitive. There is no mention of American military bases in Israel in any of the Department of Defense's official compilations . . . . [O]ur own nation is filled with military installations--there are 969 separate bases in the fifty states . . . . The modern American empire can only be perceived, and understood, by a close look at our basing policies, the specific way we garrison the earth. To trace the historical patterns of base acquisition and to explore our basing systems worldwide is to reveal the sinews of what has until very recently, for most Americans, been a largely hidden empire [pp. 153, 188]."

So that's 900 military installations in the U.S. and some 800 abroad [Blowback, p. 36].

One had no idea. This is a huge phenomenon. And one reads the NYTimes on a regular basis and watches the corporate media virtually every night.

Totally in the dark.

Thank God one's local community access TV station broadcast an interview with Chalmers Johnson. The extent to which the corporate media fail to deliver crucial information to the American public is astonishing.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"I don't know, sir, but I'll find out."

"Given that many of our bases around the world are secret, that some are camouflaged by flags of convenience, and that many consist of multiple distinct installations, how can anyone assess accurately the scope and value of our military empire? It is not easy. If the Secretary of Defense were to ask his closest aides with the highest security clearances how many bases abroad he had under his control, they would have to reply, using an old naval officers' cop-out, 'I don't know, sir, but I'll find out.' "

C. Johnson, Sorrows of Empire, p. 152-53.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mercenaries & U.S. Foreign Policy

"[T]he [estimated] revenues of the private military companies [i.e., mercenaries like Blackwater], which were at $55.6 billion in 1990, will rise to $202 billion by 2010. The companies even have their own industry trade group, the International Peace Operations Association--a name George Orwell would have cherished . . . . Much of this privatization of our armed forces is actually deeply disliked by uniformed professionals. As Colonel Bruce Grant notes, 'Privatization is a way of going around Congress [i.e., avoiding Congressional oversight] and not telling the public [about the nature of military operations being conducted by these firms]. Foreign policy is made by default by private military consultants motivated by bottom-line profits.' "

C. Johnson, Sorrows of Empire, pp. 141-42.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An American President Said That?

Bush Junior to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post:

"I'm the commander--see, I don't need to explain--I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

Sorrows of Empire, pp. 291-92.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An Empire of Military Bases

In Blowback: The Costs & Consequences of American Empire (New York: Henry Holt, 2000), Chalmers Johnson comments that "Globalization seems to boil down to the spread of poverty to every country but the United States" (p.214) and notes that "There are still today, ten years after the end of the Cold War, some eight hundred Department of Defense facilities located outside the United States, ranging from radio relay stations to major air bases (p.36)."

Shouldn't the number of American military bases located abroad have decreased as a result of the end of the Cold War?

Eisenhower's words ring ominously in one's ears.

U.S. Foreign Policy: Diplomacy or Gunfights?

In the Sorrows of Empire, Chalmers Johnson notes that "the Pentagon's budget is almost twenty times larger than the State Department's" (p. 137); that "Since 1991, the United States has been by far the largest single seller of munitions on the earth. From 1997 to 2001, it exported $44.82 billions in arms ...."(p. 133); that "The General Accounting Office has identified at least 185 black programs [i.e., covert operations abroad whose budgets are kept secret] and notes that they have increased eightfold during the 1981-1986 period. There is no authoritative total, but the GAO once estimated that $30 to $35 billion per year [!!!] was devoted to secret military and intelligence spending" (p.118); points out that by using depleted uranium [DU] ammunition "the military is deliberately flouting a 1996 United Nations resolution that classified DU ammunition as an illegal weapon of mass destruction" (p.101); and concludes that "One certain legacy of the war in Iraq is that American political and military leaders can no longer be believed or trusted" (p. 95).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Little Known Fact

"The United States is the sole country the old World Court [at the Hague] (which can try only nations, not individuals) ever condemned for terrorism--owing to the Reagan administration's covert action to destabilize and destroy the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in 1984."

Source: Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic (New York: Henry Holt, 2004), p. 75.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Colossal U.S. Failure in Afghanistan

Today's NYTimes online quotes U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Richard C. Holbrooke saying that the U.S. has "wasted hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars" on a failed program to eradicate the cultivation of the poppy crop in that country and that the program was being discontinued in favor of planned efforts to stop shipments of heroin out of the country and to encourage farmers to grow alternative crops.

Question: Umm, after say $1 million was wasted, why didn't the planners stop the program then? Or after the essentially colossal sum of $10 million was wasted? Or $50 million. It took the loss of the incomprehensible amount of "hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars" for the architects of this policy to determine that their program wasn't working?

What kind of management system is that? Who was running the program, the Three Stooges? A deeply dysfunctional feedback system was in play. What does this suggest about other U.S. foreign policy initiatives? A defective policy presupposes defective thinking.

Who's in charge?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Loose Change 2nd Edition (Full)

Pinter, Iraq, 9/11 and the Duty of Patriotism

As reported in the Guardian, December 7, 2005, Harold Pinter stated in his Nobel acceptance speech (the entirety of which may be found below via YouTube):

"The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law."

One was unaware of any coverage of this speech by U.S. corporate media at the time the speech was given.

As to the need for a truth commission independent of the U.S. government to establish precisely what happened on 9/11, see the documentaries: Zeitgeist, 9/11 Mysteries, In Plane Sight, and Loose Change (the last viewable immediately above).

One calls attention to the evidence presented by these videos to help guard against the possibility that the U.S. might devolve into a dictatorship embracing all that is despicable and dehumanized about fascism, a dictatorship being a state governed by a supreme leader who is above the law (cf. torture, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, suspension of due process and habeas corpus, private security forces, warrantless wiretapping, dissemination of misinformation via a complicit, weak-minded corporate media establishment, demagogic speeches), a fascist state one where the government engages in terrorism against its own citizens. It is the duty of U.S. patriots to call attention to abuses by government and disseminate information that will enable the average citizen to defend and uphold the U.S. Constitution. Complacency, or willful denial of incontrovertible evidence of government malfeasance, can lead only to ruin. The true patriot must be eternally vigilant and speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Capitalism & Crack

The subprime mortgage crisis shows what happens when psychological crack addicts, i.e., people who have surrendered their intellects to the insatiable demands of the profit motive, to the exclusion of almost all other values, including self-preservation, run the economy.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Arundhati Roy - We - 7 of 7

Arundhati Roy - We - 6 of 7

Arundhati Roy - We - 5 of 7

Arundhati Roy - We - 4 of 7

Arundhati Roy - We - 3 of 7

Arundhati Roy - We - 2 of 7

Arundhati Roy

First caught Ms. Roy on one's local cable-access TV channel.

Recommended without hesitation, reservation, or qualification. Excellent thinking, excellent music.

Arundhati Roy - We - 1 of 7

Talk by Naomi Wolf - The End of America


Overheard somewhere recently a comment that has stuck in mind:

"We can have separation of church and state but we cannot have separation of morality and state."

Why is the U.S. repeatedly resorting to criminality in its foreign policy? Why this determination to alienate the rest of the world? Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize speech on You Tube is recommended to interested readers without qualification, hesitation or reservation.

The right to dissent is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. The obligation to dissent is enshrined in the human conscience.

Education is the only road out of the ethical swamp into which this country has descended.

All hail the teaching profession!

The U.S. military has issued a statement saying reports of more than 140 civilian deaths as a result of this past Monday/Tuesday bombing raid in Farah Province in Afghanistan are "over-exaggerated"--without referring to any facts to support the claim--and that an investigation is underway.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Afghanistan: The Oil Factor

One is aware that the reason the U.S. military is in Afghanistan is to secure access to future oil supplies in Asia. Fine. Understandable idea. But it does not justify the killing of innocent people. An ends-justifies-the-means philosophy is the philosophy of the Nazis. We cannot prance through the world inflicting holocausts on innocent men, women and children. What the U.S. is doing is despicable, intolerable, irrational, self-defeating and--one says this without exaggerating--unforgivable. We must get out of Afghanistan immediately. If there are problems with respect to future supplies of oil, we'll deal with that then, acting responsibly and humanely and with honor.

Deeper Into the Abyss of Afghanistan

The New York Times reports today that (1) the United Nations has put the total number of Afghan casualties in 2008 at 2,000, and (2) that the governor of Farah Province has stated that the American bombing and strafing raid there this past Monday from 5 p.m. till midnight may have killed more than the 100 civilians originally reported.

A U.S. military spokesman said the deaths "may" have been the work of the Taliban.

Obama has dispatched an additional 20,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

What is it with the U.S. government's enchantment with blood baths on foreign soil?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Man With Message

The other night on one's wonderful and indispensable local cable-access TV station they broadcast a short documentary I guess you'd call it, no narration, showing a guy in a Speedo standing on the main corner in Central Square on a day when everyone was wearing coats and he's holding this sign on a stick that says on one side "Honk for Peace" and on the other "Honk for War" and he keeps switching it back and forth every so often and the honking is about the same for the one side as the other.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Contemporary Warfare

What is contemporary warfare? It is the mass murder of innocent human beings. It is unethical, obsolete, finished. Technology has made the weapons so deadly they cannot--in a humane world--be used. You go into Iraq and 90 percent of the victims are innocent people. This is so despicable it's almost incomprehensible, surreal, bizarre. So much for "smart" bombs. We're slaughtering people by the busload.

The U.S. is supposed to stand for something besides mass murder.

U.S. Out of Afghanistan Immediately

An AP dispatch of twenty minutes ago quoted Afghan officials stating that between 30 and 100 civilians were killed as a result of recent US bombing raids. This is murder. This is inexcusable. One's local cable-access TV station has reported that civilian deaths during WWI came to 10 percent of total casualties, 50 percent during WWII, 75 percent during the Vietnam War, and 90 percent in Iraq.

U.S. foreign policy is so far off the path of decency and rationality that one strikes one's forehead in disbelief.

Killing innocent human beings is beyond despicable, beyond contemptible--and what goes around comes around. To ignore the universal justice of "karma" is to walk off a cliff. The U.S. has gone over the edge.

To kill a single innocent person is inexcusable. In Iraq we've lost some 4,000 soldiers; the Iraqi government recently released an Iraqi casualty estimate of some 80,000. Is this a fair fight? Or is it unmitigated brutality and insanity?

I'm very disappointed by Obama's militaristic outlook on Afghanistan. We should pull out now. We've started another blood bath before we've even finished in Iraq.

It is immoral to kill innocent women and children. This is self-evident. I pray to God Obama realizes this and starts to pull our troops out immediately.

Peace is the answer, not permanent war.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chilling Words

Eszterhas quoting Paramount studio head B.P. Schulberg:

"We can't afford to alienate our movie audience by telling them the truth about themselves."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How to Handle a Trashing, etc., etc.

Playwright/screenwriter Harold Pinter: "As soon as he read my script Accident, the producer Sam Spiegel summoned me to his office. He began his commentary by saying: 'You call this a screenplay?' He then said, 'You can't make a movie out of this. Who are these people? I don't know anything about them. I don't know anything about their background. I don't know what they're doing. I don't understand what they're up to. I don't understand one thing. I think you have to seriously rethink the whole script.' I said, 'No, I'm not rethinking it. That's it.' " . . . . From the time screenwriters John Gregory Donne and Joan Didion began work on a script called Golden Girl until the time it was filmed as Up Close and Personal, they did twenty-seven drafts of the script over the course of six years . . . . Director Ken Russell to [legendary] screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky: "What's it to you whether you like the set or not? You're only the writer! . . . Take your turkey sandwiches and your script and your Sanka and stuff it up your ass and get on the next fucking plane back to New York and let me get on with the fucking film." . . . . A screenwriter and a director were on a trip scouting locations. The script called for "white houses dotting the hillsides." The hills they were looking at were perfect except for the fact that blue houses were dotting the hillside, not white ones. The director, a freak for authenticity, turned the location down because of the blue houses. The screenwriter took the script out of the director's hands, then crossed the word white out and replaced it with blue. The director approved the hillside. . . . Screenwriter Renny Harlan (Cliffhanger; Exorcist: The Beginning): "I don't want accidents, I want disasters. I don't want dirt, I want filth. I don't want a storm, I want a hurricane. I don't want fear, I want panic. I don't want suspense, I want terror. I don't want humor, I want hysteria." . . . . Novelist/screenwriter Raymond Chandler: "Eventually there will be a type of director who realizes that what is said and how it is said is more important than shooting it upside down through a glass of champagne."

Joe Eszterhas The Devil's Guide to Hollywood: The Screenwriter as God.

Severely and absolutely recommended.

Slugs, Snakes & Lemmings

Capitalism deifies self-inerest. The AIG men are today's gods and the worst thing about them is that I'm sure they don't think they've done anything wrong. Wall Street is a world of slugs and snakes and lemmings. I condemn all of them to continue to be what they are.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Writing Technique

More from The Devil's Guide to Hollywood:

Raymond Chandler: "Ideas are poison. The more you reason, the less you create."

Though Eszterhas notes: "Producer Ray Stark told screenwriter/novelist Jim Harrison that as a young agent one of his jobs was to get Raymond Chandler off the floor of his apartment, where he sometimes slept fully dressed in a drying pool of his own vomit."

Screenwriter Dan Harris (Imaginary Heroes): "My script is my head vomited up on paper."

Pp. 86, 147-8.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Getting Physical

More from The Devil's Guide to Hollywood for purposes of this on-going critical review:

Author Hunter S. Thomson: ' There is a ghastly political factor in doing any business with Hollywood. You can't get by without five or six personal staff people--and at least one personal astrologer. I have always hated astrologers, and I like to have sport with them. They are harmless quacks in the main, but some of them get ambitious and turn predatory, especially in Hollywood. In Venice Beach, I ran into a man who claimed to be Johnny Depp's astrologer .... I took his card and examined it carefully a moment as if I couldn't quite read the small print. But I knew he was lying, so I leaned toward him and slapped him sharply in the nuts. Not hard, but very quickly, using the back of my hand and my fingers like a bull whip, yet very discreetly. He let out a hiss and went limp, unable to speak or breathe."

P. 83

Friday, March 6, 2009

Story Conference

Eszterhas at a story conference with director Paul Verhoeven [Basic Instinct, et al.]:

I am the director, ja? You are the writer. You will do what I tell you to do.

If you use that tone of voice with me again, I'm going to come across this fucking table at you.

P. 59.

Noted In Passing

From Joe Eszterhas' The Devil's Guide to Hollywood:

"Screenwriter William Goldman [Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, etc.]: 'Directors--even though we all know from the media's portrayals of them that they are men and women of wisdom and artistic vision, masters of the subtle use of symbolism--are more often than not a bunch of insecure lying assholes."

New York: St. Martins, 2006, p. 51.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Printed Word

When I think of all the books I've read that have led to an absolute dead end, I have to wonder why I go on reading. As a wise person said: "If we knew what it was we were looking for, surely we would have found it long since."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Lemming Imperative

Greed is one cause of the US financial crisis. Another is the psychology of the upper classes, which is the psychology of lemmings. One neighborhood banker starts giving mortgages to anyone who walks into his bank wearing shoes, and boasts about it at a social gathering of his fellow and sister lemmings, and soon the banker across the street is doing the same thing, and then it spreads to the next town, and on and on across the country. Some would say competition is the underlying cause, but equally important is the lemming imperative. The a Wall Street investment banker decides to "securitize" a batch of the doomed sub-prime mortgages, creating a brand new investment instrument that some sucker get-rich-quick investor snaps up. The Wall Street "innovator" tells his fellow and sister lemmings about his "securitization" of sub-prime mortgages at one social function or another and soon they are doing the same thing themselves and the practice spreads and spreads. Because if the upper classes are anything, they are social animals. Business lunches and conventions and trade shows and charity balls and conferences and on and on, buzz, buzz, buzz, they all swap notes about what they're doing and all go home determined to be a mirror image of the people they've been socializing with. No matter that sub-prime mortgages are a profoundly stupid investment--if everyone else is doing it, I'm gonna do it too. From sea to shining sea, the lemmings squeal in delight at how interchangeable they are in their expensive suits and cars and houses.

And in their lack of anything approaching independent thinking.

And as to possessing a conscience, that's a non-issue.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Perfected Speech In Israel

The gifted and indefatigable Tsipi Keller has recently published two works of translation--Poets on the Edge: An Anthology of Contemporary Hebrew Poetry, and The Hymns of Job and Other Poems by Maya Bejerano, links below, the third a review. The anthology was years in the making and offers a deep plunge into the sea of verse Israeli poets have been creating out of nothing.

Recommended without hesitation, reservation or qualification.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Unknowability of Death

Quote of the day, adapted from a maxim of George Butler in David Markson's overwhelming The Last Novel: "Every man who lives knows he will die, but no man lives to know he's dead." Now let's break out the frozen daiquiris and celebrate this gorgeous maxim. And there's another I like from John Osborne: "To ask a practising writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost what it thinks about dogs." And there's another from someone else that was amusing, I can't remember who: ""He who writes for fools will always have a wide audiendce." And then Brahms leaving a party: "And if there's anyone here I forgot to insult, I apologize."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bonuses for Wall Street Slugs

Barry has called the bonuses the Wall Street tycoons awarded themselves "disgraceful" but what he should have done is appointed a commission to investigate whether these funds could be confiscated by the federal government--or just executed a signing statement and confiscated them himself. I mean these clowns screw-up on the job, screw the overall economy, and then they get a bonus? Absolutely not. That money should be confiscated by the federal government and used to help deal with the national economic emergency the Wall Street fuck-ups have created. Talk about skeevy people my God.

The fundamental purpose of blogs is to mystify an already deeply confused planet.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gargoyles for '09

Some merriment for the New Year from Th. Bernhard's Gargoyles:

Bernhard: "Whenever people talk they undercut one another. The art of conversation is the art of undercutting, and the art of the monologue is the most horrible kind of undercutting. I always think, the prince said, that my interlocutor is trying to push me down into his own abyss after I have just barely managed to escape from my own abyss. Your interlocutors try to push you into as many abysses as possible simulteously. All interlocutors are always mutually pushing one another into all abysses."