Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Naipul's Wisdom

VV.S. Naipaul’s new book, Magic Seeds, is out, and Michiko Kakutani, not surprisingly, skewers it. The best quote:

Mr. Naipaul has frequently written about his impatience with
third-world revolutionaries in thrall to borrowed ideologies and radical chic Westerners with round-trip tickets to troubled lands, and he tries to attach to Willie's story a cut-and-dried moral about these sorts of people. "It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world," he has Willie think at the end of the novel. "That's where the mischief starts. That's where everything starts unraveling."

James Atlas, in his NYTBR review, admires Naipaul, but at best is ambiguous about the novel. Maybe Naipaul has had enough, Atlas quotes him:

''I have no faith in the survival of the novel. It is almost over. The world has
changed and people do not have the time to give that a book requires.''

Let’s hope not. Life is much more enjoyable with novels around. Of course, there are too many bad ones.

However, the key quote is:

At the heart of Naipaul's experience of the world is a cruel dividedness -- prophetic, as it would turn out. His travel writing anticipates our post-9/11 world. ''Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief,'' he has written. ''It makes imperial demands. A convert's worldview alters. His holy places are in Arab lands.'' There is no place in such a worldview for modernized society. ''The convert has to turn away from everything that is his''

It sounds like Naipaul latest is far from his best, but he is clearly a wise man for our age. And a look back at his early fiction and nonfiction would serve us well.

Iran Watch

There is continued skepticism on Iran’s commitment to freeze development of its nuclear weapons program. A hawkish Christian Lowe’s in The Weekly Standard says:

Iran's history of waging war through terrorist proxy forces, its decrepit military, the growing strength of the United States in the region, and lessons learned from a host of regimes who developed covert nuclear programs lead to the suspicion that Iran will likely forge ahead with its nuclear weapons program despite its recent pledge not to. In the August 2004 edition of the U.S. Army War College's professional journal, Parameters, Richard Russell contends that Iran's mullahs believe that the path to security is paved with the bomb.

Russell--a professor of Near-East and South-Asian security studies at Washington's National Defense University and an adjunct professor of security studies at Georgetown University--believes that a confrontation with Iran is more than likely.

"The good news is that assertive multilateral diplomacy still has some running room for negotiating a stall or derailment of Iran's nuclear weapons program," Russell writes in his article titled Iran in Iraq's Shadow: Dealing with Tehran's Nuclear Weapons Bid. "The bad news is that the prospects are dim for achieving this end without the resort to force over the coming years."

Surprisingly, The Nation is featuring an informative article on the Iran hostage crisis. Though it is pro-engagement, I think the author, Reza Aslan, would be against military action. However, it takes jabs at Nixon, Carter, for supporting the Shah (in retrospect possibly a mistake, but as part of a Cold War equation in made some sense), and Reagan for cutting deals with the Islamic fundamentalist. More importantly it ends with a brief discussion of how many student revolutionaries from 1979 have shifted away from tenets of the imams:

For most Iranians, however, and particularly for most of those who planned, took part in or supported the attack on the US Embassy, there is no debate. November 4 is an albatross slung around their necks, a bitter reminder of a revolution gone awry and a seemingly permanent obstacle that stands in the way of pursuing a rapprochement with the United States that nearly every Iranian--conservative or reformist--desperately desires.

I hope there is some truth to this and that we can find a way to quickly work with them on the “regime change” Michael Leeden suggested, but this not going to happen if we keep waiting around for the EU and the UN to finish its paper pushing. We need to take action and take it now. The negotiations are more than likely a stall tactic and are only bolstering the conservatives in Iraq:

"The Islamic republic has not renounced the nuclear fuel cycle, will never renounce it and will use it," top national security official and nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani told a news conference.

"We have proved that, in an international institution, we are capable of isolating the United States. And that is a great victory," he added.

I hope the Europeans negotiators realize that talk like this from theocratic Islamic fundamentalists seeking a nuke is not in the free world’s best interest. It’s time to take a much more aggressive stance against Iran and to support those with in Iran who want democracy.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Red State/Blue State at Risk

I am officially calling a moratorium on the use of the red state/blue state dichotomy (not that anyone will listen). It has been a fun and useful analytical crutch. But how did we descend from the Federalist Papers to political discussion as an exercise in paint-by-numbers? Enough already – that was so five minutes ago. How about pink and yellow and the other colors in the Risk spectrum? Risk should become the new 30-second crutch. For a fun Risk anecdote (thanks to blogger Lips Brother) check out the Corner at National Review.

Iran, The Next Big Crisis

Despite the apparent agreement struck with Iran over uranium enrichment, I am skeptical of Iran’s real commitment to end their nuclear weapons research. The conservatives in Iran have consolidated their power and basically quashed the burgeoning movements for democracy and liberalization. The Iranian government at the very least is endorsing the recruitment of suicide bombers to attack US troops in Iraq. And don’t forget the estimated $100 million a year they give annually to Hezbollah. But what can be done? In a recent column David Ignatius suggests following David Kay’s suggestions:

Inspections by themselves are never a solution," Kay says. There will always be "inspection ambiguity," as there was in Iraq. And Kay thinks it would be a mistake to take the threat of military action off the table, as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw seemed to do in a recent statement.

Kay argues that recent diplomatic efforts by Britain, France and Germany -- which won a pledge by Iran to temporarily stop enriching uranium -- should be seen as a "temporary bridge" for a serious negotiation that must include the United States. The European diplomacy is important, he says, not as an end in itself but because "it opens a window to start a strategic discussion with Iran about its future."

Considering Iran’s commitment to repressive government, Islamic fundamentalism, and terrorism, I am not convinced that even this aggressive diplomatic approach will be enough. Michael Ledeen at the National Review, not surprisingly, also thinks this. He suggests:

[R]egime change is the best way to deal with the nuclear threat and the best way to advance our cause in the war against the terror masters. We have a real chance to remove the terror regime in Tehran without any military action, but rather through political means, by supporting the Iranian democratic opposition. According to the regime itself, upwards of 70 percent of Iranians oppose the regime, want freedom, and look to us for political support. I believe they, like the Yugoslavs who opposed Milosevic and like the Ukrainians now demonstrating for freedom, are entitled to the support of the free world.

I am all for this option, nebulous as it is. But how exactly do we go about supporting Iranian democratic opposition? And how long will it take? Will we be able to ensure that the Iranians get the freedom they deserve before some Iranian supported terrorist group gets the ultimate weapon?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Starbucks, Kinky Friedman, and the Quote of the Day

Reading today's New York Times Book Review, I came across this gem in Kinky Friedman's review of Jimmy Buffet's new novel:

"Yet even Melville couldn't have predicted that his character Starbuck would lend his name to a giant corporate necklace that would one day seek to strangle America."

Please, Kinky. The plebeians ain't buying it, well in fact they are -- by the gallons. This anti-Starbucks mentality is a real pet peeve. Starbucks was a small business that became a success, provides decent wages and benefits, something unusual in jobs like these, and has provided work, caffeine, and a place to hang out for countless wanna-be bohemians, would-be radicals, and starving musicians. Starbucks has provided gourmet coffee to many American who before the invasion of the green aprons thought a good cup of joe was pre-ground Folgers. In addition, it has opened up a whole market that was once limited to a few urban enclaves--I guess the Sartre imitators don't want to share with the soccer moms. Many small and medium markets now have mom-and-pop coffee shops, and most cities also have independently owned coffee houses and chains, businesses that wouldn't have existed in the pre-Starbucks world. I am all for supporting small, independently owned business, but Starbucks was once just that and they made good by providing folks something they want. I guess for Kinky and friends it is better to wallow in obscurity than be successful.

The ironic thing is that Kinky's quote is buried in a review that praises Buffet's book and Treasure Island because they are entertainment that appeals to the masses. I guess it's OK for his coke-snorting buddy (yes, this is referenced in the review) to succeed by repeating a tired formula of dumbed-down pop music, but not for a company that works hard and provides a superior product to a large number of people. I guess this is "what comes of too much pills and liquor." Besides, Kinky, there is always 7-11.

Yehuda Amichai, part 2

I have been thinking more about the last two lines of Amichai's poem History:

A foreign language passes by in the street
like three angels from long, long ago.

And I am struck by how complex and how powerful this simple sentence is. The languages connect back to events in Amichai's life, to major events in History--WWII, Israeli independence and the resulting turmoil in the Middle East. He was a Jew born in Germany, who spoke Hebrew. So this language could be German with all the implications that tongue holds for a Jewish person who lived during and after WWII and the Holocaust. But for a native German, Hebrew is also a foreign language and comes with the implications of being a stranger in your native country as well as in your adopted country (Amichai immigrated to Palestine in 1935, where Arabic was spoken.) And Arabic has all the implications of the conflicts, violence, and turmoil that have characterized the 60-year relationship between Israel and the Arab world, which Amichai participated in as a soldier. And the ancient angels muddy the waters by bringing 3000 years of biblical history into the mix. Are they the angels of Sodom, precursors to destruction? Are they related to the Angel of Death, a precursor to Moses leading the Jews to the promised land? No matter how hard we try we, like the speaker in Amichai's poem, can not escape the violate mix created by the intersection of German, Hebrew and Arabic, nor the religions they represent.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Yehuda Amichai, Poet of the Day, 11/28

In the middle of these geopolitical musings, it’s good to be reminded that there is more to history than big theories, bigger pictures, and sweeping arcs that seem to have little to do with the day to day. So I turn to one of my favorite poets, Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000). Amichai knew all too well the consequences of history and politics. Born in Germany, his family immigrated to then Palestine in 1935. He fought with the British in WWII, fought in the Israeli War of Independence, and served in the Army in 1953 and 1973. Though his experiences in the grand schemes are never far from his work, his best poetry is often the most intimate. This is evident in a beautiful small poem with a grandiose title:


A man all alone in an empty room

practices on a drum. That, too, is history.

His wife irons a flag for the holiday
and his son cries out in his dream.

A man discovers his name in a phone book
and is terrified.

A great man subdues his desire,
and his desire dies.

A wise man sees the future,
but the future sees him and yearns

to go back to the womb.

A man who is content with his lot weeps
into a sophisticated network of pipes, nicely concealed.

A foreign language passes by in the street
like three angels from long, long ago.

--Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai (University of California Press, p. 156), trans. Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell

Yet, even here the individual, the man practicing his drum, can not escape the sophisticated, yet concealed, network--the historical, the political, the biblical, which quietly appear in the last two lines. Amichai is acknowledging that history can be a private, often lonely, matter, but we can never quite escape its powerful sweep as it pushes humanity towad some unknown end.

Just this past Sunday, the New York Times published a few “inspired scraps” that were found in Amichai's archives, which were bequeathed to Yale. Here is one particularly nice piece:

I would like to accept human creations,
even intricate ones
like a great love or a complex machine,
as natural things, like a rock, like a flower.

His “human creations” are easy to accept because his poetry, like all great poetry, is as natural as life itself.

Reasons for Iraq...

The Saudi problem? For an interesting geopolitical/strategic take on Iraq, check out Frank Devine's column in The Australian.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Saudi Elections: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

After years of autocratic rule, our allies, the Saudis, are finally holding some limited elections at the municipal level -- it's a start. However, male prisoners can vote, but all females can not (nor can they run as candidates). And folks think there are problems in Iraq. At least in Iraq, we are looking at full scale national elections in which men and women can vote. Instead of bashing our efforts in Iraq, my fellow travelers on the left, if they are really interested in helping Arabic people escape oppression, should start focusing on theocratic Saudi Arabia.

Is Russia Threatening Freedom Again?

Current events in Ukraine suggests this is the case. Plus other steps taken by Putin are troubling. Russia should become a major foreign policy issue in Bush's second term. If Putin keeps pushing Russia toward a more authoritarian and centralized state, it could be a major blow to the cause of democracy and freedom.

Liberal Hawks: Keep These Rare Birds in Flight

Have the liberal hawks clipped their wings? Tim Cavanaugh at Reason Online thinks so, but at least both Christopher Hitchens and Thomas Friedman in their post-election missives have stuck to their guns (so to speak). And yes there have been mistakes in Iraq--for a good summary read Larry Diamond's recent piece in Foreign Affairs. But in a situation like this and compared to past efforts to free people from tyranny we are making decent progress. If the liberal hawks are felling apprehensive, it wouldn't hurt to read conservative hawk Victor Hanson for some well-reasoned historical context on Iraq. A good example is:

At its richest, most populous stage in its history, the United States, after reeling from a devastating blow to its financial and military nerve centers, in less than three years toppled the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, implemented elections in Afghanistan and scheduled them in Iraq, prevented another 9/11-like attack — and so far has tragically lost about 1,100 in combat in a war against a virulent fascism that is antithetical to every aspect of Western liberty. Our grandfathers would have considered all this a miraculous military achievement. We call it a quagmire, deride our leaders as liars and traitors, and often doubted that our Marines — the greatest street-fighting besiegers in the history of warfare, who stormed Manila, Seoul, Hue, and Panama City — could take Fallujah last April.

When Paul Berman wrote his excellent book Terror and Liberalism and his piece in Dissent , his anti-totalitarian, anti-fascists, pro-democracy, pro-freedom reasons for fighting in Iraq were right on, and despite the problems since they are still right on. The liberal hawks shouldn't abandon the cause just because things got messy. Lincoln didn't after Shiloh and FDR didn't after the loses at Iwo Jima and countless other battles that resulted in over 400,000 American lives. All the world's people deserve freedom, and to give up because achieving freedom is not always easy (it rarely is) would be wrong.

Moderate Muslims

The Bush administration needs to do a better job of reaching out to moderate Muslims throughout the world. If we are truly interested in establishing a democracy in Iraq and other countries in the Arab world and reducing the threat of terrorism, we need establish relationships with moderate Muslims and support their efforts. In addition, it might help if our media focused a little more on these groups. I just read an interesting story from an African news source about attempts to reign in illegimate imans and their irrational, and often deadly, fatwas that got little coverage here. Here is a key quote:

''Islam has taken the face of an aggressive personality. We are to blame for all this because there are certain groups that have an extreme attitude towards Islam andthose at the other end who are extremely liberal,'' said Dr. Abdulmonim Bellah, a renowned Islamic scholar. ''The moderate Muslims, who are in the mainstream, are not being heard. All this is because Muslims are not following Islam's original principles.''

We need to be doing what we can to make sure that these moderate Muslims are heard.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Quote of the Day, Nov. 25th, Thomas Friedman

I want to take time on this Thanksgiving to thank God I live in a country where, despite so much rampant selfishness, the public schools still manage to produce young men and women ready to voluntarily risk their lives in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to spread the opportunity of freedom and to protect my own. And I want to thank them for doing this, even though on so many days in so many ways we really don't deserve them.

--Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 11/25/04

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

CD of the Day, Nov. 24th

Recorded 3 years before his landmark Kind of Blue (the bestselling jazz album of all time), Miles Davis’ ‘ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT would be a seminal work for most artists, but for a master like Davis it counts as transitional. After a monumental last session that finished his contractual obligations to Prestige (a session that produce four great albums), this was Davis’ first album with his new label, Columbia. Featuring a classic quintet made of Davis, John Coltrane on tenor; Red Garland, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums, Miles is still experimenting with traditional bop, developing what would be come hard bop, but he hadn’t yet fully discovered the beautiful modality that characterized his breakthrough, Kind of Blue. Yet you can hear the origins, especially in Davis’ beautiful interpretation of Monk’s classic, ‘Round Midnight. On the album’s second track the quintet reworks Charlie Parker’s bop classic Ah-Leu-Cha and lays the foundation for many hard bop cuts that follow. On the third track, they tackle Cole Porter’s great standard, All of You, and again you can hear in Davis’ plaintive opening solo and in Contrane’s solo not only great balladering, but the tonal qualities that would be explored and expanded on Kind of Blue. In this album of standards (there is not one original by a quintet member), Davis paid tribute to the past while once again creating the future. A classic. Every jazz collection should include this disc.

An Uncomfortable Silence: The Murder of Theo van Gogh

The murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh should be a wake up call to Europe and to our own lefties and artistic community. In his controversial short, titled Submission, van Gogh (the great grandson of Vincent van Gogh's brother and greatest patron) attacks the harsh treatment of women that is found in some fundamentalist Islamic thought -- something most feminist on the left should cheer. Yet, his brutal death at the hand's of an Islamic fundamentalists seems to have garnered no outrage from the usually vocal pseudo-moralists in Hollywood, who strut on to their oversized soap box at the thought of a film portraying Islamic terrorist, yet remain stunningly quiet when a fellow filmmaker is killed for protesting violence against women. The lefties seemed to have taken no notice as well. An online search of The Nation resulted in one article and it blames the death on “the messianic clash-of-civilizations rhetoric coming from the White House.” Unbelievable, I just don’t get this. How can the left think that a democratically-elected president that has helped free one country from a fundamentalist theocracy and another from a Stalin-worshipping thug is the second-coming of Hitler (there is plenty to criticize Bush for, but let’s be real), yet not say a word about a filmmaker, yes a filmmaker associated with anti-immigration elements in Europe, that was killed by a religious fundamentalist because he was promoting women’s rights? How did the left get so far off track? Secular Europe, lefties, Hollywood, and the rest of the artistic community should realize they and our cherished freedom of expression would not survive in the world envisioned by Osama and his ilk.

Moral Sanity: Victor Davis Hanson does it again...

Victor Davis Hanson is one of our best military historians and columnists (published regularly in National Review and the San Francisco Chronicle). If you want to get a fresh perspective on the War in Iraq -- one that shuns the whining usually found in the press -- then I would suggest reading his columns (as well as his books). With clear-headed wisdom and clean prose, Hanson uses his vast knowledge of history to put our current conflict into context. His latest column skewers three current myths about the Iraq War that have morphed into conventional wisdom. Here is a choice quote referring to the over-used Pottery Barn Rule:

In truth, it was the wrong metaphor even before becoming hackneyed. The Pottery Barn image doesn't work for a variety of reasons. First, Saddam's Iraq was not a pristine, upscale shop. It was, rather, a trash heap of broken shards — its power, water, sewage, and garbage all fractured and scattered in pieces; its people both brutalized and often brutalizers as a result of three decades of institutionalized mass murder; its leadership a choice between Soviet-era killers and Dark Age jihadists.

Blog of the Day, AndrewSullivan.com

Former New Republic editor, non-leftist homosexual thinker, and South Park Republican Andrew Sullivan has one of the more interesting political blogs on the web. It serves as a day-by-day, blow-by-blow commentary on our nation's pundocracy and current political debates, as well as the author's sleep disorders (hmm). Well worth a visit.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Thomas Friedman, Postcards from Iraq

New York Times' Pultizer prize-winning columnist and author of From Beirut to Jerusalem (National Book Award-winner for nonfiction in 1989) and The Lexus and the Olive Tree, writes an interesting column in today's New York Times about his recent visit to Iraq and what he learned about what makes the U.S. unique and about some of the positive occurrences in Iraq:


Like Christopher Hitchens, Friedman is another of those rare birds--a liberal hawk. Though maybe more moderate than Hitchens, they share an interest in spreading democracy and more liberal ideas in the world and to the intransigent Middle East in particular.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Daily Dose

To get your daily fix of the newest poetry culled from recent books and journals, visit:

Poetry Daily.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Ales Debeljak, Poet of the Day, Nov. 19


Where a flock of starlings should fly--only the emptiness
of air breaks open. Barrels of oil have been burning for a long time.
Hardly an image of paradise, it's true. But not yet hell. Old men
sing lamentations under the ruins of the brick arcades. It's enough

that one solitary child listens to them from a foreign land. The echo
of a ballad gives him strength. Heavy, dark birds glide through
sleep, and in their unbridled lust boys discover light. A razor blade
slices across a young face and tenderness now seems heroic. They say

a draft of a sonnet can't be squeezed out of memory's decay.
Well, perhaps. But that would be a bitter image. I can only say:
silence interest me less that the imperfect passion of a word,

from which a seed explodes into flower. Channeling the delirious
vows of a stranger, the century's bodies and souls, into the aqueduct
of language: I know in my blood that this is not in vain.

--Ales Debeljak, The City & The Child (White Pine Press), p. 25, tr. by Christopher Merrill and the author

Debeljak, born in 1961 in Slovenia (part of Yugoslavia at the time), is one of the leading Central European poets and thinkers of his generation. He has a degree in comparative lit and an M.A. in cultural studies from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia and a Ph.D. in Social Thought from Syracuse University. He has published several books of poems and essays in his native Slovenia, and three of his poetry collections have been translated into English: Dictionary of Silence (Lumen Books), Anxious Moments (White Pine Press), The City & The Child (White Pine Press).

In the tradition of such European poets as Rilke and Celan, Debeljak's poetry is characterized by a luminous quietness that pushes against the surreal while still remaining grounded in the real, the "archipelago of stains on the wall." He captures perfectly the anxiety of our times as we navigate the shadowy world of the self, the troubled nation state, and the growing merging and globalization of the world's cultures. A poet we should all be listening to, and a poet who should one day be a candidate for the Nobel Prize.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

GOEST, by Cole Swenson

Though I am thrilled that Jean Valentine won the National Book Award for Poetry, the other finalists deserve attention as well. GOEST (Alice James Books), by Cole Swensen, was a particularly wonderful volume – intense, experimental, beautiful. Like Valentine, Swensen explores the invisible, the white spaces (both in her language and the placement of her language on the page). She draws upon science, the visual arts, the invention of objects in order to vent, to expose to the air the “living windows”. I leave you with the first section of a poem titled Five Landscapes:


I’m on a train, watching landscapes streaming by, thinking
of the single equation that lets time turn physical,
equivocal, almost equable on a train

where a window is speed, vertile, vertige. It will be

one of those beautiful equations, almost visible, almost green. There

in the field a hundred people, a festival, a lake, a summer, a
hundred thousand fields, a woman
places her hand on the small of a man’s back in the middle of the crowd
and leaves it.

CD of the Day, Nov. 18th

Pianist Andrew Hill’s POINT OF DEPARTURE (Blue Note, recorded March 21, 1964) is one of the all time great jazz recordings. Hill’s abstract, yet lyrical, compositions deftly weave the avant-garde with bop to produce some of the most engaging, intelligent, and beautiful jazz of the 1960’s (and this decade provides a lot of competition). He is backed by a great set of players who complement Hill’s wonderful performance: the great Eric Dolphy on reeds, tenor sax legend Joe Henderson, Kenny Dorhman on trumpet, Richard Davis on bass, and Miles Davis’ great drummer Tony Williams. For anyone who has wanted to start exploring the avant-garde side of jazz this is a great place to start. Hill has managed to do the almost impossible, create accessible, yet abstract, music. A great album, I highly recommend it.

To hear some clips, visit:


To learn more about Andrew Hill, visit his web site at:


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Jean Valentine wins Nataional Book Award

Congratulations to Jean Valentine, a former teacher of mine and the person who introduced me to my wife, on winning the National Book Award for Poetry.

Valentine’s poetry takes the lyric to the highest order and explores the realms of the invisible that are formed by loss and the knowledge gained by experiencing loss and life.


Almost two years now I’ve been sleeping,
a hand on a table that was in a kitchen.

Five or six times you have come by
the window; as if I’d been on a bus

sleeping through the Northwest, waking up,
seeing old villages pass in your face,


A doctor and his wife, a doctor too, are in the kitchen
area, wide awake. We notice things
differently: a child’s handprint in a clay plate, a geranium, aluminum
balconies rail to rail, the car horns of a wedding,

blurs of children in white. Life shots
of other children. Fire to paper; black

faces, judge faces, Asian faces; flat
earth your face fern coal

--Jean Valentine, Door in the Mountain, p. 103

To learn more about Jean Valentine, you can visit her web site at:


CD of the Day, Nov. 17th

Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis’ and Johnny Griffin’s THE TENOR SCENE, recorded live at Minton’s Playhouse on Jan. 6th, 1961, is a hard-driving classic. These two great tenor men loved playing and it shows on this album. They are having a great time blowing hard and fast. This is just good ole’ playing—nothing fancy (except that you can tell they have great skill and technique), just some great straight-ahead jazz.

To hear some sample climps, visit:


Quote of the Day, Nov. 17

“The scenes of this field would have cured anybody of war. Mangled bodies, dead, dying, in every conceivable shape, without heads, legs;...I still feel the horrid nature of this war, and the piles of dead Gentlemen & wounded & maimed makes me more anxious than ever for some hope of an End, but I know such a thing cannot be for a long, long time.”

--Gen. William T. Sherman in a letter to his wife, describing the horror he saw during the Battle of Shiloh, where the Union Army alone suffered 10,000 casualties on the first day of fighting.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A Rare Bird

Here's a link to an interesting article, Bush's Secularist Triumph, from my favorite unaffiliated radical and iconoclast Christopher Hitchens:


Here is a sample quote:

So here is what I want to say on the absolutely crucial matter of secularism. Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolationof the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda?Suicide murderers in Palestine—disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO—described as the victims of "despair." The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization. The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as "insurgents" or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do).

Hitch lays out a controversial argument that the real threat to liberal ideas and democracy is not George Bush, but Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.

Strange Liberation

Trumpet player Dave Douglas's most recent release is witty and beautiful—at times reminiscent of Miles Davis's IN A SILENT WAY. Douglas leads his sextet (which includes Bill Frisell, guitar; Chris Potter, tenor sax, bass clarinet; Uri Caine, Fender Rhodes; James Genus, acoustic and electric bass; Clarence Penn; drums percussion) through an agile blend of acoustic and electric jazz. A Single Sky & the title track, Strange Liberation are subtle beauties, Skeeter-ism is a postmodern, ironic, humorous take on a nourish movie soundtrack, with Douglas showing some amazing chops. Currently, my favorite tracks are Mountains From The Train—a wonderful lyrical piece, and Rock of Billy—pure, postmodern, hard-driving, hard bop. STRANGE LIBERATION is a great album, and if you want to check out the latest in jazz, you can’t go wrong starting with this CD.

To hear some sample clips, go to:


To learn more about Dave Douglas, visit his web site:


CD of the Day, Nov. 16

This morning I’ve been listening to Bags meets Wes!, featuring the great vibes player Milt “Bags” Jackson and guitarist, Wes Montgomery, plus a great rhythm section: Wynton Kelly, piano, Sam Jones, bass, and Philly Joe Jones, drums. It was recorded in 1961 and released by Riverside. Very nice interplay between Jackson on vibes and Wes on guitar. Great listening and well worth checking out.

Quote of the Day #2

If it is true that moral pretensions at restraint are the ultimate brakes on the murderous Western way of war, it is also accurate to suggest that such ethical restrictions erode considerably when the enemy employs suicide bombers.

--Victor Davis Hanson, Ripples of Battle, p. 46

Hanson is specifically discussing the Japanese Kamikaze and other suicide attacks during the Battle of Okinawa, but he is also discussing how suicide attacks effect us generally.

Quote of the Day # 1

The imperfect is our paradise.
Note, that in this bitterness, delight,
Since, the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

--Wallace Stevens, The Poems of Our Climate