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Again, the New York Times censoring system eludes my understanding.  Yesterday, replying to the nearly always inane Thomas Friedman, whom rather hilariously the far-right commentors imagine to be “librul,” I was again not printed, though being fast off the start line.   The avalanche of critics mostly said in varying forms much the same thing I did, though there were a minority which agreed with never-doubting Thomas.  What I wrote was this:

There is no question that Arabic and Muslim cultures must address their own problems, genuinely and deeply, if the matter of jihadist terrorism is to be meaningfully dealt with as well as their own internal problems; correspondingly there is no question that American policies, attitudes and actions with respect to those same cultures needs to be genuinely addressed and changed as well. America must look honestly in its own mirror, regarding our long-term militarist behaviors, our imperialist economic tendencies, our policy of bedding down with whichever corrupt crooked dictator does our bidding whatever the costs to their own society. It must look at the reality that 5% of humanity consuming 25% of the material global wealth is certain to inspire resentments and its consequent behaviors. These steps of self-criticism are the corollary of lecturing to others about what they should do. Mr Friedman might start with himself, his sprawling home, his out-of-balance with the rest of America (except 1%) wealth. Can we really expect him to do so? Does he not mirror “official” America?

As one correspondent here has suggested, perhaps the Times has a limit (though I note that there are a number of regulars who appear like clockwork, similarly fast off the publishing gun, who seem to get print when I get axed), or some other “reason” that explains it. It doesn’t seem to be the content as other excoriate doubtless Thomas in much harsher words (though not mentioning his house, wealth). Go figger.

On the same day, responding to an Op-Ed by Thomas Kean and John Farmer, I wrote this, which was printed:

It is the nature of bureaucracies to be filled with seat-warmers, people who do not want to ruffle any feathers by sticking their necks out. Safe and sound is the by-word. Small wonder such people fail time and again to do the obvious common-sense thing. Anyone who has had passing business with an American Embassy or Consular Office should know this well, never mind the mindlessness of other governmental agencies. Mr Kean’s own 9/11 Commission demonstrated this well, with a report which failed to deal with the collapse of WTC building 7, and myriad other factors that pointed the wrong way – towards an inside job – for the commissioners. We will get the bureaucracies that function well the same day we get a genuine investigation of 9/11, by non-insiders of the corporate-governmental nexus which runs the US of A. To say, evidently never.

So, whatever it is that triggers the censorship button, it certainly isn’t very consistent.

Street by our house, Seoul Jan. 5 2010

Of late, thanks to the winter break and a cold snowy weather – I’ve read the most snow Seoul has had since records were kept – we’ve been a bit locked in.   A week or so ago I told Marcella that I hoped we’d get a real snow this winter, as the last two had light falls, but nothing meaningful.  We had a wonderful snow storm here, a little over a foot in less than a day.  And its been staying very cold, so it’s sticking around.  While still hunkered down getting Swimming in Nebraska actually completed (almost there), have also been taking the time to see some films in our little bedroom cinema – projected to wall, about 5 feet across.   Films seen are an eclectic mess of catching up, old films and relatively new.  Two Hitchcock’s, North by Northwest and Strangers on a Train.  I thought they were both ridiculous, stagey, over-written, sneeringly acted.  Dropped my estimation of him a good bit.  Then saw Herzog’s Grizzly Man, mentioned earlier, and last night Fitzcarraldo.  A truly awful film with horrible acting, horrible scripting, very pedestrian directing/camera.  This film seems mostly known for his off-screen tale of his own crazy heroism in actually pushing the boat over a mountain (not to mention maltreatment of local Indians).   Herzog seems to get a pass for the great pile of truly bad films he’s made via his self-mythologizing, and his occasional good one.   Also saw Fellini’s Orchestra Rehearsal, a silly and shallow caricature of some Italian behavior patterns, a very light entertainment.  And last night looked at Bresson’s second film, Les dames de Bois Boulogne (1944). A rather contrived melodrama of revenge, it only showed hints of his films to come – a bit in the form of the acting, and a bit in the redemptive conclusion – bad turns into good.  I’m afraid I’m a really lousy film watcher, getting more pain than pleasure most of the time.

Enough of kvetching.  Some time ago – 4 years? – at the Woods Hole (Cape Cod) festival I was on a jury for short films, and saw a film, Escape Velocity, a very nicely done kind of self-portrait done in animation technique using Photoshop. The maker was Scott Ligon.   I did my part to see that it got a prize, and since I’ve stayed in touch with Scott who’s now in Cleveland.  He’s got a new book on digital art techniques for Photoshop animation, and he’s sent me some advance stuff and it looks like its going to be very good.  If you’re interested in doing this kind of work, I’d seriously suggest you check it out.  He seems to cover a lot of turf, but not just the usual humdrum of technique, but also matters of aesthetics – not as a sequence of rules, but as creative possibilities.  The book is due out in March, but you can check out some of it on-line.

And while we’re at this, a note that my friend Nathaniel Dorsky will be having screenings of his decidedly celluloid work – and very wonderful –  as follows.  I’ll put up another reminder at a closer date:

Pacific Film Archive Feb 23, and NY MoMA April 12th (two unseen new films plus) and Centre Pompidou May 5 and 12.

Sarabande by Nathaniel Dorsky

One Comment

  1. I post often on the NYT website, usually in the humor section but almost as often in the news or political commentary section.

    I’ve noticed the same results with my material, a random sort of go/no-go that has lead me to make copies of my submissions and then re-post those exact same pieces that were for whatever reason not used, only to have it pass the cut and show up on-line.

    The only conclusion I’ve been able to come to is that the position of “censor” is passed off every hour or so to another employee who may or may not agree with their predecessor.


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