Posts from August 2003

As if Baghdad did not have enough troubles

As if Baghdad did not have enough troubles
: Now it has to contend with Lycraed bikers.

Salam Pax, bound

Salam Pax, bound
: Tom Coates got hold of an advance copy of Salam Pax’ book, set to be released in the U.S. in October, says Amazon (but on Sept. 5 in Britain, says Amazon there).

Coates says that in present tense, he found Salam’s weblog “essentially unreadable,” but he decrees that in hindsight, it is “an abiding – albeit small – artefact of life on the ground during the second war in Iraq.”

He also says — and I agree with this — that because Salam was a witness from there, not here, he helped us listen to new perspectives. The same can be said of Iranian weblogs, I’d say.

: I wonder whether Salam’s 15 minutes are long since over. I wonder whether his book will sell now, so many months after the war. The reason I wonder is that the buzz about him has subsided greatly recently, partly because he has had less to say online, partly because he is no longer the only witness there.

May caption contests abound

May caption contests abound
: Bush drops his dog.

Winning the peace

Winning the peace
: Gene at Harry’s place (darn, that’s confusing) points us to John McCain’s Washington Post op-ed today criticizing our postwar progress in Iraq:

A recent visit to Iraq convinced me of several things. We were right to go to war to liberate Iraq. The Iraqi people welcome their liberation from tyranny. A free Iraq could transform the Middle East. And failure to make the necessary political and financial commitment to build the new Iraq could endanger American leadership in the world, empower our enemies and condemn Iraqis to renewed tyranny.

If we are to avoid a debate over who “lost” Iraq, we must act urgently to transform our military success into political victory….

We do not have time to spare. If we do not meaningfully improve services and security in Iraq over the next few months, it may be too late. We will risk an irreversible loss of Iraqi confidence and reinforce the efforts of extremists who seek our defeat and threaten Iraq’s democratic future….

Iraq must be important to us because it is so important to our enemies. That’s why they are opposing us so fiercely, and why we must win.

He is all the more correct, of course, after the terrorist bombings in Iraq, which I’ll bet come from al-Queda et al. As Tom Friedman said today:

o one can say with any certainty who was behind the bombings at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and the Shiite holy place in Najaf, but here is what you can say about them: They are incredibly sick and incredibly smart.

With one bomb at the U.N. office, they sent a warning to every country that is considering joining the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq: Even the U.N. is not safe here, so your troops surely won’t be. They also stoked some vicious finger-pointing within the Western alliance. And with the bomb Friday in Najaf, they may have threatened the most pleasant surprise about post-Saddam Hussein Iraq: the absence of bloodletting between the three main ethnic groups


: Perry de Havilland escapes to Bratislava and reports:

I had always thought that Amsterdam and Zagreb were locked in mortal combat to see which had the most beautiful women per square kilometer but now I realize that those two august cities were just battling it out for second place. I do not think I have ever seen as many extraordinarily attractive young ladies in my life. Bratislava is, to use the technical term, seething with babes.

: A further report here.

The soundtrack of our lives

The soundtrack of our lives
: Adam Curry is pushing for an audio RSS.

The memorial

The memorial
: The NY Times has a substantial — but ultimately unsatisfying — package on the 9.11 memorial in Sunday’s Arts & Leisure section.

In the lead essay, Michael Kimmelman contemplates — without finding conclusion — the use of names in memorials.

The competition guidelines for the memorial at ground zero require that the design “recognize each individual who was a victim” on Sept. 11, 2001, and on Feb. 26, 1993, when the World Trade Center was first attacked. It’s a safe bet that many of the 5,200 submissions interpret that as some kind of list of names. By aesthetic and social consensus, names are today a kind of reflexive memorial impulse, lists of names having come almost automatically to connote “memorial,” just as minimalism has come to be the presumptive sculptural style for memorial design, the monumental blank slate onto which the names can be inscribed.

I can’t say anything about my own proposed memorial, for we’re forbidden by the rules of the anonymous competition from revealing our plans to the media, but I did address the issue of names because it’s clear to me that the names are not enough. Just listing the names marks only the deaths of victims, not their lives. The memorial must to do more. I have my humble suggestion. There are other, better solutions, I am sure.

: More in the package:

: Herbert Muschamp writes a story that is at first antiseptic, then twee, then borderline offensive as he describes the current design in distant, aesthetic terms and then criticizes a pamphlet calling for a Museum of Freedom at the site:

Throughout the ground zero design process, many New Yorkers have felt “powerful and powerless at the same time.” They have spoken, but with little conviction that they are being heard. Should I have a turn at such a mouthpiece, this is what I would say:

Not everyone saw the twin towers as symbols of freedom. For some, they represented the Kafkaesque mental enslavement of government bureaucracy and dull office routine. For others, they stood for Rockefeller power: for oil, that is to say, and the bizarre things we do to satisfy our need for it.

NOT everyone thinks that the United States is ideally poised at this moment to point fingers at “places that lack basic human freedoms.” …

Ideally, I would like to voice such opinions without being branded a traitor, a pro-terrorist, or a person opposed to freedom.

That all-caps “NOT” is a typographical accident online — that’s where a drop cap appears in print — but it is like a political Freudian slip, revealing Muschamp’s real point and the point I found offensive.

: A story on the “culture derby” erupting downtown.

: James Sanders says New York has an aversion to memorials and he explains why.

: A story on those who would rebuild the Twin Towers.

: A profile of David Childs, who’s designing the Freedom Tower.

: And a story that reports little but speculates much on the process of selecting the memorial.

: It’s an impressive, ambitious lot of stories. But ultimately, it’s soulless, bloodless, like a parody of Arts & Leisure stories where art imitates art and never life.

The package treats New York as an unfinished sculpture in a dehumidified, silent, white museum, not a place where people live, a place that now must remember both its horror and its heroes. That’s what this memorial is about, not aesthetics or politics or culture or architecture. It is about life and death.

: After reading the Times, go read Michele and see how a person with a beating heart is affected by the place, without a memorial.

It’s not a campaign, it’s a spa

It’s not a campaign, it’s a spa
: Arianna Huffington presents her handy seven rules of campaigning:

  1. Absolutely no alcohol. Not even a sip of wine from somebody else’s glass.
  2. No carbs. Although I must admit I broke down on the airplane and had a bag of pretzels. But it was a really tiny bag.
  3. Absolutely no high heels.
  4. Drink lots and lots and lots of water. And when you think you’ve drunk enough, drink another bottle
    4a. Make sure you have a well-trained advance person who always knows where the closest bathroom is.
  5. Keep plenty of blotting tissue handy for dealing with shiny patches in-between interviews. Especially if, like me, you have Greek olive oily skin – it’s great for wrinkles, but bad for TV.
  6. An ample supply of caf