December 2008

I refuse to take a side in the conflict currently boiling over once more in Israel. There are too many chauvinists, revanchists, and fools on each side of the line to make any kind of objective judgement.

I will only say this, as a card-carrying member of the Industry:

Let journalists do their damn job.

There can be no peace without understanding, and no understanding without dialogue. And we can’t have a rational dialogue if we don’t have the right information, if we don’t know the right questions to ask.

There are a few brave souls in the Industry who are willing to be blown to bits in any corner of the world, just to make sure Bobbie in Boston and Pierre in Paris get the facts – which they can then rant about on their blogs.

When you systematically suppress their ability to do so, we have a problem.


UPDATE: Kevin posted this article in the comments, and I think it deserves a full read.

We should of course remember that issues of free speech, and flow of information in the Territories, are as tedious, complex and distressing as any other part of the protracted conflict in that region.

And as Kevin points out, for decades much of the war has been waged in the media, which Israel can certainly not ignore.

But there is simply no excuse – zero – for this:

Israel first imposed the ban on reporters going to Gaza on Nov. 4 when its military broke the cease-fire with Hamas by sending forces in to destroy a tunnel. Since then, Israel has opened the border for reporters for only a few days.

Israeli officials argue that the closure is meant to protect its staff at the border crossing from being exposed to unnecessary risks of rocket fire. But that argument holds little weight because the Israeli workers have been routinely staffing the border crossing to allow UN officials and Palestinians in need of emergency care in-and-out of Israel.

Today, the FPA issued a a new statement of protest, calling the Israeli ban “unprecedented.”

“Never before have journalists been prevented from doing their work in this way,” the FPA said in the statement. “We believe that it is vital that journalists be allowed to find out for themselves what is going on in Gaza.”


Okay, this bad boy is going right to the top of my post-Christmas list.

Of course at 48″ x 48″ x 88″, the thing may end up being bigger than our actual apartment in Florence

Popeye is fair game in the UK.

Piggybacking on Jesse’s last post, I came across this Ann Applebaum piece in today’s WaPo on great American speeches and the way in which the especially good orators tended to build on the rhetoric of their predecessors.

I think this is mostly true, with a few historical exceptions. One that comes to mind is Jesse Jackson’s 1984 speech at Tendley Baptist. This is one of my favorite speeches of all time, as it delivers everything you would expect from Jesse Jackson in his prime. But more than that, it really is a remarkable example of a speech delivered in a freer form than those we tend to remember. The timely pauses – just as important as any of the words delivered – allow the listener to fill in the blanks with their own wisdom and summations (a common and effective speech technique). I often juxtapose this speech in my mind with Robert Kennedy’s Indianapolis message on the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.–brief, eloquent and brilliant, however, leaving little for the human mind to imagine. And why should it? At that point in time, Kennedy’s audience needed to be guided, to be comforted in such a tragic and terrible time in American history. Piecing together his own notes on the plane, Kennedy used Aeschylus to weave a calm and steady word of hope for the audience.

The Jackson speech is entirely different. Meant to mobilize and energize, this speech is filled with pockets of air intended to be sucked up by the eager listener:

20+ years of scandal and tabloid attention have sullied and fogged our memories on Jesse Jackson. Rightfully so, perhaps. But Jackson was a powerhouse in his time, albeit brief. The voter registration and mobilization he did in his respective ’84 and ’88 presidential bids further ensconced African-Americans firmly in the hands of the Democratic Party.

And it’s interesting, that in 1984, Jesse Jackson offered this ‘choice.’ That same year, President-elect Obama, fresh out of Columbia University, was working an entry level job for a multinational corporate consulting firm in New York City. The choice he would soon make – to leave the position for his community organizing position in Chicago – would become the subject of campaign ads and radio hit spots years later.

So, seeing Jesse Jackson in tears on the night of November 4 certainly feels like a culmination of sorts. There’s a lot of Jackson in Obama’s rhetoric, and without Jesse Jackson there arguably is no President-elect Obama today. His admonition to the audience, “don’t stop at the mayor’s office, go higher,” seems precient and fulfilling in light of the events of 2008.

Jackson would lose the nomination in both years, and much like Al Smith before him, it would’ve been easy to give up and assume that “we” would never achieve the highest office in the land. Jackson did not, and his tears must’ve felt pretty joyous on that night in Grant Park.

1. Seeing TV on the Radio at Stubb’s in Austin:

2. Moderating a Q&A with Danny Boyle after a screening of Slumdog Millionaire.

3. The wordless first 30 minutes of WALL-E.

4. Discovering Achewood.

5. Jesse Jackson crying at Grant Park in Chicago during Barack Obama’s acceptance speech.

And a bonus, Grandmaster Flash’s 1988 Jesse Jackson campaign song, “Jesse”.

I need new sites/blogs to read. Not necessarily political (in fact, perhaps preferably not).

Any good suggestions?

devils-lake1Figure it’s time to add a little personal touch. I took this pic of my lovely lady at Devil’s Lake State Park, just outside my hometown of Baraboo, WI. It was my first return to the place of my birth in 15 years, and the whole three-day swing was nothing short of magic.

It’s hard to translate onto pixels the beauty of a place like Devil’s Lake. Like much of Wisconsin, the earth here was carved by retreating glaciers at the end of the last ice age. The landscape is desolate, rugged, striking in much the same way I think an arid, semi-desert plain is beautiful: full of soul and unforgiving.

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