Shuttered L.A.

THE INCREASINGLY ubiquitous”sign” of the times.

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Eavesdropping: Kirn on Shepard in NYT

ON SOLITUDE: “He blows it again on a visit to this hometown He’s waylaid in a diner by an old partner in adolescent delinquency who recognizes him from his movie roles. Playing Judas to his younger self, he denies his own identity, ducking the sentimental moment. It’s a perverse but profound American urge: to achieve solitude through perpetual motion.” —
Walter Kirn on Sam Shepard in the NYT

Of Health Care and Nooses

FRANK RICH, as he so often does, connected the dots and articulated the unease and ugliness around the health care debate: Hate haltingly stenciled onto cardboard signs; lawmakers spat upon; nooses arriving in the daily mail bag. And so on. This weekend in his column, “The Rage Is Not About Health Care,” Rich went right to the heart of the roiling problem:

When L.B.J. scored his Medicare coup, there were the inevitable cries of “socialism” along with the ultimately empty rumblings of a boycott from the American Medical Association.
But there was nothing like this. To find a prototype of the overheated reaction to the health care bill, you have to look a year before Medicare to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both laws passed by similar majorities in Congress; the Civil Rights Act received even more votes in the Senate (73) than Medicare (70). But it was only the civil rights bill that made some Americans run off the rails. That’s because it was the one that signaled an inexorable and immutable change in the very identity of America, not just its governance
.”

Rich goes on to, point by point, explain that this shrill “debate” has less to do with health care and more to do with the measurable changes that have been occurring in our country every day, every hour, every moment — the numbers are changing, the face of the nation looks very different and will continue to. What we’re seeing, hearing and sadly what journalists are busy recording are a death rattle of sort; the horrible sputtering of the end of things — a “majority.” Writes Rich:

If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman –would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that [Barney] Frank, [John] Lewis and [Emanuel] Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.”

Post-race? No. Not in this census year.

photo caption: freedom riders, 1960

"He Woke Up Thinking" – Chatwin’s Notebooks

WE ARE all particular, I suppose, about not just the time, place or instrument we choose with which to write, but about the actual physical “place” we store the words. What feels like the best “receptacle.” I buy notebooks. All kinds. I’ve brought them home from London, Salvador, Bahia, Paris. I’ve purchased them them in Silver Lake, NYC, Seattle, Berkeley. Friends have handmade them for me out of pages that look like the Plan de Paris or the hard cardboard of Cuban cigar boxes. I’ve bought gorgeous ones imported from India and Italy. My favorite size tends to be 5×7 or a tad larger. I like to write in sketchbooks. I think it has to do with being able to have clear space as well as “fold” the covers back. Like running in a field. I do carry around a notebook (smallish) always — I could say that it comes from the reporting habit, but I can’t remember a time that didn’t. Strangely, so many of the fancy ones stand empty, while the plain five & dime versions get filled up quickly. Elizabeth Chatwin, wife of writer Bruce Chatwin, speaks here about “recording one’s impressions,” cameras, notebooks, etc. — her husband’s choice and why — and when and why he might put down his Leica and instead pick up a pen. How do we best get back to that image or memory, that moment of face: Photograph or words?