Roaming Charges: We Who Are About to Get Shot, Salute You

The great Christopher Lee in I, Monster.

My number had finally been called. Well, texted. No one calls anymore, except sexy robotic voices trying to sell me extended warranties for my car and electric toothbrush. On Monday, I was scheduled for my second dose of Pfizer’s COVID elixir, a strange brew which one friend pungently described as “a mixture of germs, animal parts, formaldehyde and pus.” Yum. My appointment with destiny: High noon at the convention center in Portland, shrouded in tear gas or not. My only choice: right arm or left.

I didn’t sleep much the night before. Did I mention I have a palpable fear of needles? I spent an hour online filling out the pre-check-in, which allegedly was meant to speed my way through the maze at the convention center, where they were mass-jabbing people at the rate of 1,100 an hour. The rest of the night I spent worrying about the much-dreaded side effects of the Second Shot. (The most prevalent side-effect of the vaccines is almost certainly the creeping anxiety about the side-effects.)

On Monday morning, I suffered a minor panic attack searching for my vaccine card, which I’d stashed away two weeks earlier so as not to lose it prior to today’s main event, without having the foresight to put a post-it note on the fridge reminding me precisely where that secure hiding place was. After some frantic scrambling, it came to me: Ah, yes, inside the copy of Dubliners in the back of the sock drawer! I was halfway to Portland before I remembered that I had forgotten the most vital document of all.

The series of probing personal questions I’d answered the previous night, including queries about my medical but also financial history, sexual identification and religious affiliation, questions which it didn’t strike me the Medicalized-for-Profit State had any business asking, had been digitally rendered into a QR code that I needed to print out and bring to the vaccination center. This document wasn’t a vaccine passport, but a passport to the vaccine, which had to be scanned at each security station and again at the “insertion point.”

Some shot-averse people fear Bill Gates. They believe that the “vaccine” contains a micro-micro-chip that enters the bloodstream and begins transmitting vital data back to the servers at whatever the soon-to-be-divorced couple is calling their foundation these days. I wasn’t much concerned about that. First, my body no longer yields data that would be of much value to anyone. Second, Bill Gates has never used chips that worked. Instead, I felt like I’d already been virtually chipped. How much of my life had been encoded on that black-and-white QR pattern, which looked as if it had been designed by Yves Klein on an off night?  I couldn’t help thinking the essential data documenting my existence was being sent to entities much more sinister than Gates: hackers, robocallers and insurance companies.

When I arrived at the Convention Center (which Portland old-timers (ie, people who have lived here longer than five years) have long referred to as the Palais de Gaultier, because the twin glass cones outside the hulking post-modernist structure resemble the spiky bra Jean-Paul designed for Madonna during the Blonde Ambition Tour), it was clear that the vibe of the place had changed.  Three weeks earlier, the cavernous building had a community atmosphere. The way stations were helmed by welcoming volunteers, the jabbing was done by retired physicians, the recovery rooms monitored by local nurses.

Now the building resembled an armed camp. Those of us about to be shot were herded into serpentine lines by burly figures in uniform and combat boots, their severe eyes scanning our faces from behind camouflaged masks. The festive spirit of April had been replaced by May’s military gloom.

The National Guard had taken over the operation and few of them looked glad to be here, as if helping to save what’s left of the Republic from a killer pandemic was beneath their calling and that they’d rather be searching the border for migrant “caravans” or making some of the last raids on peasant villages in Kandahar before the big show leaves Afghanistan.

There was something deeply unsettling about the entire scene and it flashed into my head that the Guard had taken over not for reasons of efficiency, but to instill popular fear about what a national health care system might look like if it fell into the wrong hands. The vaccination program in the US has been one of the most successful government operations in decades and one that the moneyed interests are desperate not to see replicated.

My dystopian reverie was interrupted first by raised voices in the line behind me, then by the sound of charging boots as two national guard soldiers rushed into the line, rudely breaching social distancing rules. I turned around and watched as the guard troops interrogated a thickly-muscled man in his 40s, wearing a John Deere cap and a cheap cloth mask draped beneath his unshaven chin. In a sick parody of George Floyd, the man kept repeating in a faux-shrill voice, “I can’t breathe! I can’t b-br-br-r-r-eathe!!” People began taking out their cellphones to record the drama. “No filming in here,” yelled one of the soldiers. “Read the fucking sign!”

I read it. The sign said, “No photographs in the vaccination hall. Use the selfie stations.” Selfie stations? A nurse later told me that they’d had to ban photos inside the jabbing zone because the vaccinators and the vaccinated were being trolled and doxed by anti-vaxxers, who’d tracked them down from images posted to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Of course, all of the selfie stations had corporate sponsors, so who knows what the real story was.

Here was an intriguing dilemma. A COVID skeptic was in line to get vaccinated but had forced a confrontation over mask wearing. As a matter of public health, this epidemiological renegade was exactly the kind of person you didn’t want wandering the streets, malls and bars unvaccinated. In the end, I don’t know what happened to him. The guard troops escorted him out of line. I hope that his tantrum was rewarded with a hot shot of J&J, instead of detention in a black site for COVID deniers.

Almost everyone in line was white. There were more black people administering shots than receiving them. I noticed few Hispanics and even fewer Native People, perhaps because my appointment was on a weekday afternoon, when it’s nearly impossible for minorities to get off work, even to get a shot that might save their lives. There was no getting around the fact that the demographics of the vaccination line were an even whiter version of already alabaster-white Portland.

But as if in tribute to the city’s hard-won reputation as an anarchist jurisdiction, the masks were mostly black, including my own, featuring an image of John Lennon that I’d designed myself using a photo from one of the Plastic Ono gigs.

When I finally reached the center of the labyrinth, I arrived at Station 9, where a buzzcut medic in battle fatigues asked, “Who’s that on your mask, David Bowie?” He said it with what I took to be a homophobic sneer.

Bowie?  Suddenly, I had a new fear. Could these medics be trusted to tell the difference between the vial of Pfizer I was meant to get and the J&J that had a chance–infinitesimal as it might be–of sending killer blood clots racing into my lungs?

“Which arm?” the medic inquired sternly.

“Doesn’t matter, I’m not pitching today,” I replied, a little nervously.

“Sit down,” he commanded. “And take off that hat.”

Take off my hat? Was he going for a head shot?

“The Orioles are, in theory at least, a professional baseball team,” I snapped, pedantically. “It’s a cap not a hat.”

The medic grunted, then rubbed my skin with a swab of ethyl chloride, a little more vigorously than seemed strictly necessary. I turned away, wincing as the needle arced toward my arm, hoping it would land more accurately than one of the Pentagon’s typical drone strikes.

Did I mention my fear of needles?

I’ve had severe allergies most of my life. Sore throats and earaches during the winter months, snotty nose and cacophonous sneezing all summer. When I was about 10, I recall asking my pediatrician, “What exactly am I allergic to?” “Everything from the dust to the air, son. And cats, stay away from cats and anyone who has them.”  In other words, I was probably the most likely person in the convention center that day to keel over in an anaphylactic spasm five minutes after being injected.

Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, the treatment for extreme allergies such as mine was a regimen of injections. I never knew the ingredients of the concoction, whether those too contained germs, animal parts, formaldehyde and pus. But from the age of 7 until I was 16, I grudgingly made weekly visits to the doctor to get poked in the thigh with a long and ominous hypodermic needle. On at least three visits, the needle snapped off in one of my anterior quadriceps and had to be removed with a scalpel and medical tweezers. I’ve hated and feared needles ever since. Indeed, my fear of needles was always the main inhibition to experimenting with heroin in a quest to play “Let’s Get Lost” with authenticity.

“Move along,” the medic growled. “You’re done.”

The needle had gone in and out, but I didn’t feel the injection for another 12 hours, when my arm began to throb. A few hours later came the headache. Then a slight fever, which persisted through the next day. On Tuesday night, I began to gets chills and then to sweat profusely. The sweat soaked the sheet, the blanket, the mattress. It was a cold sweat, how I imagined withdrawals would feel. Going cold turkey for a few hours, minus the cramps and the cravings.

I slid out of my saturated bed on Wednesday morning feeling fresh. Or as fresh as usual at my age. My system had been re-booted, the bloodstream realigned; my body newly fortified by anti-bodies, like some Manichaean organic machine, ready to re-enter the world immune to all the traumas it might inflict. Like Alex at the end of Clockwork Orange, I felt “cured.”  Ore at least 85% cured, until some mutant variant arrives to crash the system again. Or some damned cat.

***

+ Nearly 20 years ago, US special forces captured Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn (AKA, Abu Zubaydah) and named him a senior leader of Al Qaeda. In one of its early uses of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the CIA tortured him until he became catatonic. But it turns out that Husayn wasn’t who the figure they thought he was and 15 years ago they admitted as much. But that didn’t matter. He’s still locked up in a cage, though his lawyers are making one more desperate legal move to free him

+ Speaking of Gitmo try your hand at deciphering this mish-mash from Tony Blinken on when (or if) Biden will move to shutter the US torture prison: Decipher this mish-mash… “We believe that it should be [closed,] that’s certainly a goal, but it’s something that we’ll bring some focus to in the months ahead.”

+ In Obama time, Hillary and Biden were always at odds over Afghanistan. He wanted to withdraw, she wanted to escalate. And she still can’t drop the drone, warning of “huge consequences” from US troop withdrawals. Once a forever warrior, forever a forever warrior.

+ C’mon, man, don’t you have better things to do, like keeping Biden from compromising with the likes of Cheney on the infrastructure bill…?

+ As a party, the Democrats function as a kind of one-stop political concession stand

+ Pandemic Profiteers: Pfizer announced this week that its vaccine has generated $3.5 billion in revenue in the first three months of 2021.

+ According to a new study by William Hartung and Liela Riazi at the Center for International Policy, the executives at the top Pentagon contractors banked at least $276.5 million in compensation packages last year. And under Biden’s $753 billion Pentagon spending plan, they’ll probably bank even more next year…

+ Arundhati Roy on Modi, and COVID’s accelerating toll on the people of India:

“Modi the magician takes a bow for saving humanity by containing the coronavirus effectively. Now that it turns out that he has not contained it, can we complain about being viewed as though we are radioactive? That other countries’ borders are being closed to us and flights are being cancelled? That we’re being sealed in with our virus and our prime minister, along with all the sickness, the anti-science, the hatred and the idiocy that he, his party and its brand of politics represent?”

+ When the Right takes power, they use it until they lose it…In the past week, 28 new anti-abortion restrictions were signed into law in seven states, the highest in a single week in the past decade.

+ The hunt for the Bamboo Ballots….

+ In ruling in a FOIA case seeking the Office Legal Council’s memo regarding whether Trump could be indicted for obstructing the Mueller investigation, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Bill Barr’s Justice Department lied to her, when it claimed the memo was “predecisional”. After the Justice Department reluctantly showed her the memo in camera, it became clear that the memo was actually strategic arguments for Barr kill any prosecution of Trump, which he had already decided to do. It was not predecisional as DOJ lawyers had claimed in a sworn affidavit. Unfortunately, under FOIA the only sanction for lying about the status of requested documents is the release of the documents, which of course is a powerful incentive to lie, obfuscate, hide and delay with impunity.

+ Why “Santorum” is still Latin for Asshole: “We came here and created a blank slate. We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native Americans but candidly there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture…”

+ Yes, Marjorie, America is “on top of the world” the way Derek Chauvin was on top of George Floyd…

+ How “socialism” came to America…

+ The return of Old Sparky? The South Carolina house of delegates just voted to legalize executions by firing squad and electric chair.

+ Meanwhile, DNA testing from a 1993 killing in Arkansas has revealed the genetic material in the case came from a male other than Ledell Lee, the inmate who despite his claims of innocent was executed for the murder in 2017.

+ The people who tend to fetishize US history the most obsessively know almost nothing about it…Case in point, Justin Lafferty, the Tennessee legislator who claimed that the Constitutional agreement under which three-fifths of a state’s enslaved people counted toward its population was adopted for “for the purpose of ending slavery.” In fact, it was meant to empower the slave-owning states.

+ The German philosopher Hans Jürgen Wendel, coeditor of the works of Mortiz Schlick, a leader of the so-called Vienna Circle of philosophers, has joined the neofacist Alternative for Germany Party (AfD),  prompting this denunciation from Wendel’s own co-editor, Friedrich Stadler and the philosopher Martin Kusch, head of the Vienna Circle Institute:

As has been widely reported in the German media, the current co-editor of the Moritz Schlick Gesamtausgabe, prof. em. Hans Jürgen Wendel, has joined the German far-right AfD party, and given interviews in support of the AfD. This action completely contradicts the life and work of Moritz Schlick and the philosophy of the Vienna Circle generally. The Institute Vienna Circle and the Vienna Circle Society are committed, in their objectives and principles, to the values of the historical Vienna Circle. Together with the Moritz Schlick Forschungsstelle at the University of Rostock and the Springer Verlag Wiesbaden, we are aiming to reorganize the editing of Schlick’s works.

Schlick, who was murdered in 1936, would have abhorred any association with fascists, neo-, proto- or crypto-.

+ Speaking of fascism, Tucker Carlson has a brother. His name is Buckley. Buckley Carlson. I’m not making this up.

+ So Bill and Melinda Gates are splitting  because, according to their joint press release, they “no longer believe we can grow together as a couple.” Grow? What does that mean for all the agricultural land Bill’s been snapping up?

+ Move over George Soros, there’s another European billionaire showering the Democrats with money…

+ The debate over Free Will goes lethal: I got a death threat, therefore I am…(Even though there was nothing in my power to keep me from getting a death threat and nothing my correspondent could do to keep from sending it.)

+ The Biden climate plan looks a lot like the Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump nuclear plan

+ We all know that Greater Yellowstone is the largest block of unroaded landscape in the lower 48, right? This map, however, may require us to redefine our notion of what “large” “block” “unroaded” and “landscape” really means…

+ The average temperatures in US over last three decades reached record highs, prompting NOAA to issue new “normals“…

+ A new study from Rhodian concludes that for the first time China’s greenhouse gas emissions have exceeded the combined total from other “developed” nations. In sum, we’re fucked: “Based on our newly updated preliminary estimates for 2019, global emissions—including emissions of all six Kyoto gases, inclusive of land-use and forests and international bunkers—reached 52 gigatons of CO2-equivalent in 2019, a 11.4% increase over the past decade. China alone contributed over 27% of total global emissions, far exceeding the US—the second highest emitter—which contributed 11% of the global total. For the first time, India edged out the EU-27 for third place, coming in at 6.6% of global emissions.”

+ Alaska is losing its glaciers faster than any place in the world,  accounting for about a quarter of global mass loss, more than twice the share of other areas including the Greenland periphery and the Himalayas.

+ The Sierra Nevada snowpack is down to a mere 15% of average to date. The situation in the Southern Sierra is even more grim, where the snowpack is only 9% of the average. The cause: Far below-normal snowfall during the winter and record snowmelt rates in the Sierra over the last two months. The fire season is going to be really ugly in Cali again this summer.

+ A new study out of UC-Santa Barbara suggests that nearly 20% of the planet’s groundwater wells are facing imminent failure, a calamity that would deprive billions of people of fresh water.

+ A Beyond Meat-commissioned Life Cycle Assessment found that the Beyond Burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 46% less energy, 99% less water, and 93% less land use than a burger made from U.S. beef.

+ Ecologist Suzanne Symard has documented the social life of trees, which learn, remember and communicate across vast tracts of forest.

+ A study of 11 county jails in the three biggest systems in the US — Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago — conducted by the online site Grist found that people residing within or surrounding eight of these facilities are in the 90th percentile or higher for pollution-related cancer risk, respiratory hazards, and diesel pollution exposure. Nine of the jails are located closer to toxic wastewater than at least 97 percent of the country, and all 11 are in the 90th percentile or higher for proximity to hazardous waste.

Michael Redgrave, Giorgia Moll and Audie Murphy in The Quiet American (1958).

+ When first Humphrey Bogart, then Montgomery Cliff pulled out of the 1958 film of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, the studio cast World War 2 icon Audie Murphy in the role of Pyle, this caused Lawrence Olivier to back out and the role of the sour, opium-smoking British journalist Fowler went to Michael Redgrave. (He’s good.) At the peak of the McCarthy era, this would have been a brave film to make. But Murphy refused to have his name attached to a movie that was in any way critical of US involvement in Indochina, so the script was rewritten by director Joseph Mankiewicz and CIA man Edward Lansdale, giving the still lingering impression that Lansdale was the model for Pyle. Greene repeatedly said this was nonsense and that the character of Pyle was largely based on an American economic advisor (assumed to be CIA) named Leo Hochstetter, who had  harangued Greene about the virtues of the so-called “Third Force” on a long car ride from Hue to Saigon. But the Lansdale myth took root, in part because Lansdale himself kept propagating it. So Greene’s anti-war novel was turned into a pro-intervention movie that paved the way for the US entry into Vietnam.

+ This wasn’t the first time Audie Murphy appeared in a Hollywood travesty of an anti-war novel. He played Henry Fleming in John Huston’s mangled version of Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, where MGM slashed Huston’s two-hour film down to a mere 69 minutes, excising the heart of film, and destroying the cut footage so that it could never be restored. (See Lilian Ross’ account in her book Picture, one of the best inside views of how the Hollywood studio system worked in the 1950s.) Murphy functioned as a one-man Hays Code for the censorship of anti-war movies.

+ In the Mankiewicz/Lansdale version, the role of Phuong, the young Vietnamese woman caught between Pyle, Fowler and the war for the independence of her country, is played incredulously by the Italian actress Giorgia Moll. I’ve long wondered whether the CIA didn’t codename the Phoenix Program–its covert (to Americans at least) torture and assassination operation, which resulted in the deaths of 30,000 Vietnamese–after Phuong, as an ironic rebuke to Greene and his bitter novel: the Phoenix (Phuong) in a land where “nothing is fabulous and nothing rises from its ashes…a [Phoenix] which is sometimes invisible, like peace.” Of course, that would mean crediting the CIA with a sense of irony, even a malicious one, which seems far-fetched.

+ Joseph Losey’s film Accident is basically Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? set in Oxford and filmed in lurid technicolor. The script was by Harold Pinter from a novel by the son of Oswald Mosley and Pinter has a very funniy cameo as a TV producer. Unlike his Nazi father and step-mother Diana Mitford, Nicholas Mosley was something of a Leftie, who wrote a scathing biography of the man whose marital union with Mitford was conducted in the house of Josef Goebbels with Hitler as the guest of honor. In fact, almost everyone associated with the film was a socialist: the director Joseph Losey, who had been blacklisted in Hollywood, Pinter, Dirk Bogarde and Stanley Baker. (As figures of beauty and objects of desire, the film also features a young Michael York, Jacqueline Sassard and Delphine Seyrig, previously seen being enigmatically chased around the chateau in Last Year at Marienbad) The amount of drinking in the film is truly olympian, making Burton and Taylor’s quaffing seem almost amateurish. And then after being fully lubricated they get behind the wheel with consequences that give rise to the title of the movie. “Is it true, all aristocrats really want to die?” Bogarde asks his blue-blooded student Michael York, after playing a surrealistic variation on rugby called “Tradition” during a soiree at a baronial estate, where the “ball” is a leather object fashioned to look like a giant turd. They won’t be making films like this any more for the simple reason that the principle characters are either professors or students in the philosophy department and as we know all of those extraneous precincts of learning are currently slated for extinction.

+ Losey was blacklisted and ultimately felt it as a kind of liberation from the shackles of the Hollywood system, a lesson he might have picked up in less politically fraught way from Jean Renoir, if he’d run into the French master in the late 40s. In 1941, Renoir fled fled Nazi-occupied France to lend his enormous talents and humane sensibilities to Hollywood. Renoir drank with Faulkner, whose novels he’d admired from afar, and used the table talk to help fashion The Southern. He watched with bewildered amusement, I think, as Fritz Lang botched two remakes of his own films, Human Desire (La Bete Humaine) and Scarlet Street (La Chienne), while he crafted in these constrained conditions one of his best movies, Diary of a Chamber Maid. Then he heard David O. Selznick, the most self-destructive producer in town, deprecate him by saying, “He’s good, but he’s not one of us,” which is about the time Jean must’ve said to himself, “Fuck this place” or maybe just “Baise ça!” and left for India, where, without a single Hollywood star on the bill, he made that lustrous film of Rumer Godden’s novel, The River. Renoir returned to France to shoot his late-career masterpieces, but, ironically, died in Los Angeles, a town which sells fantasies but never understood or appreciated one of the greatest magicians who ever turned tricks with light, shadows and sounds on its backlots.

+ So I watched Mr. Arkadin last weekend. Or maybe it was Confidential Report. I’m not sure. I’d seen a film by this name before, but not *this* film. This film was told in flashbacks. The film I saw 20 years ago was a straightforward, if confusing, narrative. One film was a naturalistic noir, the other a kind of cubist pastiche. Linking them is a masked ball where the guests are wearing giant plaster of Paris heads in the shape of figures from Goya’s nightmare period, a clue to where this is headed. There are apparently five more of these “films,” all of them with footage shot and scripted by Orson Welles. But once again Welles walked away before the footage reached the editing room, as he had done with Ambersons and would do again with Touch of Evil. So the film was cut and assembled by seven different editors, into seven very different films, for seven very different schemes of making money from it. The pattern was one of self-destruction or boredom. Or both. Welles called the fate of Mr. Arkadin his greatest tragedy. But the tragedy, if it was a tragedy, was self-inflicted. Or perhaps it was the gift that keeps giving new versions just when we think we’ve decoded the last one. There’s still, apparently, another film that opens with a close up of Milly’s nude body on the beach, a knife in its back. But that cut seems to have disappeared, like Arkadin himself from the plane that keeps flying across Spain without him. Oh, yes, there is also a novel, published in French shortly after the release of the Confidential Report version of the film. The author of the novel is Orson Welles. Welles claimed he didn’t write it. Who’s ready for F is for Fake?

+ Alfred Hitchcock apparently had one recurring dream for most of his adult life: that his penis was made of crystal and that his wife Alma kept trying to smash it with a hammer. Does this explain why so many of his male characters are on the run, often from women they believe (fantasize?) are out to get them? Too bad he didn’t ask Dali to render this dream for the famous sequence in Spellbound.

+ Alma wouldn’t have been the only woman in Alfred’s orbit who might’ve wanted to take an emasculatory whack at his little MacGuffin. There’s Tippi Hedren, who Hitchcock groped and mauled during the filming of The Birds and Marnie and the brilliant Madeleine Carroll, the original “Hitchcock Blonde,” who the director exposed himself in front of on the set of The Secret Agent, as a “motivational technique.”

+ Cockburn could have a gruff exterior at times but he was really a very generous person. He liked giving presents. (He also liked receiving them. And you were more likely to get if you gave.) Our house is filled with Cockburniana, from trinkets to a hand-painted photograph of James Joyce walking along the Quai Voltaire in Paris. On Sunday, the grandkid was eating with “‘Xander’s spoon,” a salt spoon he’d picked up in Ireland. This morning, stunned by the aftershocks from Pfizer jab number two yesterday, I was hazily flipping through one of my favorite Cockburn presents, an anthology of essays and reviews from Cahiers du Cinema, and came across their 1959 list of the greatest films ever made. The braintrust included Bazin, Truffaut, Rivette, Godard, Chabrol and Rohmer. No women as far as I can tell, Varda not yet having gained admittance to the boy’s club. They really were a perverse lot, as you can tell from this list…

1. Sunrise, Murnau, 1927
2. Rules of the Game, Renoir, 1939
3. Viaggio en Italia, Rossellini, 1956
4. Ivan the Terrible, Eisenstein, 1945/58
5. Birth of a Nation, Griffith, 1915
6. Mr. Arkadin, Welles, 1956
7. Ordet, Dreyer, 1955
8. Ugetsu Monogatari, Mizoguchi, 1953
9. L’Atalante, Vigo, 1934
10. The Wedding March, Von Stroheim, 1927
11. Under Capricorn (!), Hitchcock, 1949
12. Monsieur Verdoux, Chaplin, 1947

+ The first thing that struck me was, what no Frank Tashlin films? The other thing was that even if the list was constrained to pre-1959 films, how many of these would that same group of critics have on the list say 10 years later? The Renoir and Mizoguchi, certainly, and perhaps the Vigo? But given their professed love for American genre films, where’s Hawks, Ray, Ford, and Sturges?

+ So, it led me to think about my own list of the 12 best pre-1960 films, which is, of course, an impossible assignment. In my Pfizer hangover this is what I came up with…(It likely would have been different under the influence of Moderna.)

1. Rules of the Game, Renoir (1939)
2. Citizen Kane, Welles (1941)
3. Tokyo Story, Ozu (1953)
4. Notorious, Hitchcock (1946)
5. Smiles of a Summer Night, Bergman (1955)
6. Red River, Hawks (1948)
7. Sullivan’s Travels, Sturges (1941)
8. Sansho the Bailiff, Mizoguchi (1954)
9. Some Like It Hot, Wilder (1959)
10. A Man Escaped, Bresson (1956)
11. Rome: Open City, Rossellini (1945)
12. The Third Man, Reed (1949)

+ Here’s a belated May Day anecdote: Alex’s cockatiel, Percy, used to whistle the Internationale, often during radio interviews, and he once broke into a very robust version during an interview with Sputnik. Percy’s trilling irritated the host, who demanded that Alex silence the bird, who was one of Alex’s closet companions on Earth at the time. Bad move, Mr. Radio Host. Alex erupted into rant saying the interviewer’s failure to recognize the Internationale and hum along was all the evidence you needed that Putin’s Russia had fully embraced neoliberalism. The interview never aired because Alex went what we used to call the “full-Cockburn” on the poor guy, who, of course, fully deserved the avalanche of invective he was buried in.

+ Geoffrey Keezer: “I miss playing with UK musicians, not least because they use phrases like ‘penultimate semiquaver’.”

+ On trying to play drums for Rickie Lee Jones

+ In an despicable effort to smear him for his homosexuality, Tennessee Republicans have probably helped to dramatically boost record sales for country musician TJ Osborne

+ I don’t know what’s more disturbing: that a million people watched this before I did or that it shows David Sanborn playing sax with Sonic Youth on a cover of The Stooges’ “I Wanna be Your Dog”…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

Jackpot: How the Super Rich Really Live
Michael Mechanic
(Simon and Schuster)

The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock: an Anatomy of the Master of Suspense
Edward White
(WW Norton)

Silicon Values: The Future of Free Speech Under Surveillance Capitalism
Jillian C. York
(Verso)

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

Black to the Future
Sons of Kemet
(Impulse!)

UnEasy
Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh and Tyshawn Sorey
(ECM)

Second Line
Dawn Richard
(Merge)

He Had Read a Lot of Books

“I was a correspondent. I thought in headlines. ‘American official murdered in Saigon.’ Working on a newspaper one does not learn the way to break bad news, and even now I had to think of my paper and to ask her, ‘Do you mind stopping at the cable office?’ I left her in the street and sent my wire and came back to her. It was only a gesture: I knew too well that the French correspondents would already be informed, or if Vidot had played fair (which was possible), then the censors would hold my telegram till the French had filed theirs. My papers would get the news first under a Paris date-line.  Not that Pyle was very important. It wouldn’t have done to cable the details of his true career, that before he died he had been responsible for at least fifty deaths, for it would have damaged Anglo-American relations, the Minister would have been upset. The minister had great respect for Pyle–Pyle had taken a good degree in–well, one of those subjects Americans can take degrees in: perhaps public relations or theatrecraft, perhaps even Far Eastern studies. (He had read a lot of books.)” (Graham Greene, The Quiet American)

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent books are Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution and The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (with Joshua Frank) He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

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