Monday, September 29, 2008

author, author!!

by Adam Begley September 29, 2008
Of all the extraordinary items in the selection from Norman Mailer’s correspondence served up in the Oct. 6 issue of The New Yorker, perhaps the most astonishing is the letter Mailer wrote to Don DeLillo in 1988, when Libra (Penguin, $15), Mr. DeLillo’s novel about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, had just been published. Mailer, who was 65 at the time, and writing to a younger, less famous novelist, is generous, accurate, revealing, insightful, characteristically feisty and very nearly humble, all in 200-odd words:
“What a terrific book. I have to tell you that I read it against the grain. I’ve got an awfully long novel going on the CIA, and of course it overlapped just enough that I kept saying, ‘this son of a bitch is playing my music,’ but I was impressed, damned impressed, which I very rarely am. I think we keep ourselves writing by allowing the core of our vanity never to be scratched if we can help it, but I didn’t get away scot-free this time. Wonderful virtuoso stuff all over the place, and, what is more, I think you’re fulfilling the task we’ve just about all forgotten, which is that we’re here to change the American obsessions—those black holes in space—into mantras that we can live with. What you’ve given us is a comprehensible, believable, vision of what Oswald was like, and what Ruby was like, one that could conceivably have happened. Whether history will find you more wrong than right is hardly to the point: what counts is that you brought life back to a place in our imagination that has been surviving all these years like scorched earth, that is, just about. It’s so rare when novel writing offers us this deep purpose and I swear, Don, I salute you for it.”

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Thomas Jefferson's Love Affair — With Wine
by Sandy Hausman
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Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson became enchanted with French wines during his ambassadorship in France.
Historians are renovating the wine cellar in Jefferson's home, Monticello, outside Charlottesville, Va. AP
Weekend Edition Sunday, September 28, 2008 · Thomas Jefferson was the nation's third president, our first ambassador to France, an inventor and master gardener. He may also have been America's first wine connoisseur — something historians are learning more about as they renovate Jefferson's wine cellar.
It's been hot in central Virginia this summer, but historians at Monticello have kept cool in the wine cellar, trying to figure out how it would have looked when Jefferson lived there.
"This two-layer thick, iron-strapped, fortified, double-locked door is a good indication of the value of what was being housed in here," says architectural historian Justin Sarafin, who was inspecting a door as thousands of visitors trooped by overhead. He says the 220-square-foot room contained a commodity Jefferson treasured.
In the early days, Jefferson drank what most Englishmen enjoyed: heavy, sweet wines like port and sherry. But Gabriele Rausse, who came to Monticello from Italy to tend its modern-day vineyard, says Jefferson's tastes began to change during the Revolutionary War. That's when he came in contact with German mercenaries known as Hessians who fought for the British and were being held prisoner near his home.
The Hessians introduced Jefferson to German wine and gave him cases of it to take with him during his ambassadorship in France, Rausse said. But it was when Jefferson discovered French wines that he became enchanted.
When he returned to the United States, Jefferson ordered bottles of wine directly from the finest French vineyards, Rausse said.
Ordering bottles was unusual in a time when most wine traveled in wooden casks. Even though bottles could break in transit, they were still safer from middlemen who might water down the contents of a wooden cask or from sailors who might get thirsty during the long trans-Atlantic voyage.
Sarafin's team found broken, green glass under the floor of Jefferson's wine cellar. And Rausse found further evidence of the statesman's preference in a letter Jefferson wrote advising a friend on how to buy wine. "Don't go to the middleman," the letter states, according to Rausse. "Go straight to the manufacturer. He will always give you the right product. The middleman is going to take advantage of you."
Jefferson made Scuppernong wine from homegrown native grapes, but he tried and failed over and over again to grow his own European wine grapes. He wasn't alone, says Peter Hatch, Monticello's director of gardens and grounds.
"The whole story of grape-growing in eastern North America is the story of one catastrophe and failure after another," Hatch says. Native insects and diseases might have killed the vines imported from Europe, or the vines might have dried up during weeks of transit.
Whatever the reason, grapes do grow at Monticello today, and when the cellar opens next spring, visitors can sign up for special wine-tasting tours.
Sandy Hausman reports for member station WVTF in Charlottesville, Va.
Related NPR Stories
Sep. 22, 2008'Monticello' Tells Untold Story Of Sally Hemings

Saturday, September 27, 2008


A divisive message
By Adrian Walker
Globe Columnist / September 26, 2008

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When Senator Dianne Wilkerson and her supporters held their community meeting at Prince Hall Grand Lodge Tuesday night, the message to emerge could not have been clearer: This is our seat, and you have to make sure we keep it. There wasn't any doubt who was meant by "we," and the definition excludes quite a bit of the Second Suffolk District.
The audience of about 350 was almost all black and Latino, mirroring the results of the primary election. Wilkerson, of course, lost to challenger Sonia Chang-Díaz, pending the result of a recount. If the result does not change she will proceed as a write-in, or sticker candidate.
"This is not for the faint of heart," she said. "But if you're ready, I'm ready."
Wilkerson has been criticized for deciding not to accept the verdict of the primary voters, as though running as a write-in is an underhanded approach to maintaining one's seat. I think voters can make up their own minds how much importance they want to attach to the Democratic primary.
More troubling, though, is the casual acceptance of a campaign that has split so neatly along racial lines. Rather than appealing for unity, Wilkerson has opted for a message that splits blacks and Latinos from everyone else.
Joyce Ferriabough-Bolling, Wilkerson's longtime consultant, contends that Wilkerson has no choice but to appeal to her core voters. "I think in her heart she is disappointed that it has broken down along racial lines," Ferriabough-Bolling said. "She has worked hard to reach out. But she is bolstered by the strong support of people in her community."
Any sticker candidate has to be considered an underdog, and Wilkerson is no exception. Having already lost her party's primary is only one of her problems. Raising money, never her strength, will be another.
And the institutional support she enjoyed in the primary is melting.
Governor Deval Patrick has made it clear that he will not work against the party's nominee. Mayor Thomas M. Menino, through a spokeswoman, said yesterday his organization is committed to other races, namely the presidential election and the campaign against Question 1, a ballot initiative to repeal the state income tax.
Wilkerson beat Chang-Díaz two years ago as a sticker candidate, but neither appeared on the ballot in that race. This is different. That isn't to say Wilkerson couldn't win, but the difficulties should not be underestimated.
This race has become a window into the tortured politics of people of color in Boston, in which METCO executive director Jean McGuire can say with a straight face that people of color will be unrepresented in the State House if Wilkerson loses, as if Chang-Díaz somehow doesn't count. How is she not a person of color?
Wilkerson makes a point of saying, rightly, that she does not own the seat. But she is, in fact, treating it as something that has been stolen from her. When her advisers rail about polling places being moved with inadequate notice, the idea being planted is that the power structure doesn't want Roxbury to vote. Never mind that the Election Department is the province of the mayor, who supported Wilkerson.
In this kind of battle, it's the emotions that matter.
Politicians always claim that they are running, or keep running, out of an outpouring of public support. There is no question that Wilkerson's supporters want her to hang on. But the idea that only a black person can represent the district is becoming a harder sell as the district, and the city, change.
Boston isn't just black and white anymore, and neither is its politics.
The idea of a primary is to unite behind a nominee, but this has served only to divide.
In the cold world of seeking power, unity sometimes gets reduced to a slogan. Winning is the only objective, by any means necessary.
Political diversity is supposed to be about more than this.
Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

a 'manchurian candidate'?

Nation's Sydney Schanberg Reports on McCain POW 'Cover-Up'
by Matt Haber September 26, 2008
Senator John McCain isn't shy when it comes to talking about his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. The first word in his Republican National Convention biographical film is "P.O.W." In an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in late August, he answered a playful question about how many houses he owns by saying, "Could I just mention to you, Jay, at a moment of seriousness, I spent five and half years in a prison cell. I didn't have a house. I didn't have a kitchen table. I didn't have a table. I didn't have a chair."
Senator McCain isn't the only one interested in his experiences. In the October Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg discusses how Senator McCain's imprisonment shaped his views in his cover story about the candidate. Also this month, Men's Vogue's features The Greatest Story Never Told, about Senator McCain and his cell mate, George "Bud" Day, by Corey Seymour.
But of all the stories of Senator McCain's POW experience, the one that might prove most controversial is in the Sept. 17th edition of The Nation. Veteran investigative journalist Sydney Schanberg offers a report about how Senator McCain, while constantly reminding voters of his experience as a POW, has gone to great lengths to hide details of other prisoners' lives—and deaths—in Vietnam. (A longer version of the story, complete with documents, can be found at The Nation Institute's Web site.)
Mr. Schanberg, whose experience covering the Khmer Rouge's destruction of Cambodia for The New York Times in the '70s formed the basis for the movie The Killing Fields, writes:
John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn't return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero people would logically imagine to be a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books.
The longer "director's cut" version is well worth printing out for a long, thorough read.

Friday, September 26, 2008

avant de partir:Spike Lee est dans la salle!

Par Axel Ardes, à Paris
Spike Lee est à la FNAC de Paris mardi 9 septembre pour faire la promotion de son dernier film, «Miracle à Santa Ana». Une bonne occasion pour parler à ce réalisateur décapant. Et puis, comme je dois me préparer à la couverture de l’élection américaine pour le Bondyblog et pour ce blog, en association avec la radio «Le mouv», c’est le moment ou jamais d'une plongée en avant-première dans le bain américain et de savoir aussi ce que pense le réalisateur de l’élection américaine.
Le matin même, j’ai donc vu «Miracle à Santa Anna». N'étant pas critique de cinéma, je laisse le soin à ceux dont c'est le métier de dire ce qu'ils en pensent en détails. Pour ma part, je l'ai trouvé excellent. Le réalisateur arrive enfin. Deux interviewers attitrés assis à ses côtés, commencent à l’interroger. L’un en français, l’autre fait office de traducteur. Questions convenues sur l’origine de ce film. Et sur «Inside man», son film juste avant «Miracle à Santa Anna». La ruade du réalisateur est immédiate. «J’ai fait 23 films dans ma carrière, je ne vais pas faire à chaque fois du "Do the right thing" ou du "Malcom X"».
Dans la salle, le public est aux anges. Les questions un peu longues des interviewers autorisés, irritent visiblement le public. Spike tout à sa rebuffade se met donc le public dans sa poche. Preuve qu’il est très à l’aise avec les spectateurs, il propose finalement au bout d’une demi-heure de laisser les personnes dans la salle pouvoir lui poser leurs questions. Un «Ah» de satsifaction résonne dans la salle. Vrai que jusque-là, on s’emmerdait comme des rats morts . «On veut le voir, lui parler» me dira quelqu’un peu de temps après. Quelqu’un en vient à lui poser alors une question sur l’élection américaine. Sa réponse en vidéo:
Spike Lee à Parisenvoyé par Bondy_Blog
Puis, chance des chances, son attachée de presse me permet de lui poser trois questions à la fin des signatures d’autographes. Je suis tout à ma joie de pouvoir lui parler. Mais là, le trac, ou l’impréparation, me cloue sur place. Moi, d’habitude si bavard ou disert dans la langue de Shakespeare, je me mets à bafouiller, à chercher mes mots comme un lycéen passant son bac d’anglais. Spike Lee s’impatiente et semble perturbé par mon accent français qui revient à grande vitesse tant je me sens ridicule par mes fautes de débutants. Conclusion : si le réalisateur a été très disponible pour son public, j’ai appris une chose, c’est que je vais devoir rebosser mon anglais à grande vitesse parce que je suis aux USA dans seulement UN jour...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

drafting again the moments

by jeffery mcnary

there was no warning
…you’ve been there a while
wrapped in plain, simple clothes
your basic credo of imitation
rallying from your pores

i arrived scrambling
awed by a rough tide
fragile, needy, seeking
a shower and certainty,
a grin
and clutching a new found look
and blanket of promise

we meshed briefly…your tides
my spastic wandering
my sorry existentialism
your spotty gardens
with dark weight
we were anything but

you angered
like a soldier…cool and sudden
with storms breaking and snapping
filthy and vile
in the morning air
absent a winged entry, on ocassion,
i'd have left you then

who are you to be loved
was it ever in your cards?

bruised, my options reclaimed…
decidedly vengeful in a close-up engagement
we slurred fool-like
into bad fashion
and the linear
my art saw a violent time
i needed to do that

early on i caught your jetties and waters
if not your needs, your good days
your scary nights
near and
seductive above the waves
out of touch and beyond the news of causalities
on both sides

you clumsy girl
launching childlike
into laughter…holding court
demanding victims
seeking sacrifice…
cold and full of advice

how far we’ve come
...and gone

radiant in late spring
disfigured in summer
aglow again in autumn
my workmanship honed in spite
of our minor celebrations

you weren't extinct when the crowds
you twinkled on
hell and gosh and full of cynicism
on the arm of a pick-up truck for life, paltry

too far from Cambridge
too far from st. germaine des pres…petit vineyard
a’capella anarchy knows no better

that status remains visible
from the coast line
the island
the un-cuba
your fingers about my ankles

i am a writer now
there is no otherwise
it is my cadence and discourse
and you are maintained in my annotations
a stop
by the asylum

and somewhat embarrassed and contrite
i will get off now stranger
and go where i go

sly paris

by jeffery mcnary
it's way past the metaphor
en pointe
it's seine rolling
it's bunches of all things
it's couples and bells there pealing...
paris recreats
like a kept sassy bitch awash
in glory of another elsewhere
with crisp diction
...the affairs of the and seranade?

no, it's past that...way past that
in flats filled

with 'trane and monk
the leathered magus embraced
the scene,
cock in hand,
finding baldwin frying bacon
frying robespierre in the finale
finding my maniacal lover soaked
and skipping along the boulevards
to and
from redemption
from rationale
estranged from time

paris...salutes dead kings in clouds
of stone and gargoyle,

"quand on a dieu dans l'me...on cuve ca sans cri",
the boys say... swore off fantasy, oui?
and in the fullness of those days i heard you say,
"be good."

paris touches...yes?
it giggles
and rolls
melts en glace's strangers wink and wave
to the appauding crowd
one must be mad to ever, ever leave you


by jeffery mcnary

saturday's note holds long
wearing a tasteful, simple boa
and crisp
it's chimes are playful glance
painted fresh and launched
into a new passion
seamless, scented charmed
between mystery
and answer

its sketched images
while they come together
this day
reaching for
the undaunted that
large eyed aria,
saturday explores
a voice
a pearl
a sweetness of things
... gently tugging secrets,
... gentlywhispering ahh,
sanctions richly in its wake
darting and teasing
keeping the beat
through square and market
with occasional glimpses
of the festive and remarkable
...candle light
coming 'round for more