"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson
A unique icon of the Sixties and the counterculture did himself in with a gun Sunday night.

Thompson on the death of Richard Nixon.

"If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin."

Thompson was one of those Sixties figures who achieved a mythos much larger and much more attractive than the mere man. Rolling Stone magazine published Thompson's obit for Nixon - Rolling Stone and Playboy exemplify what happened to the Sixites and American culture - and on the latest cover Johhny Depp (see above) is wearing a necklace with the picture of another Sixties figure whose myth and legend overshadowed the reality of the man, Che Guevara. And Benecio del Toro (see above) will be playing Guevara in an upcoming film directed by Steven Soderbergh.

From The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved:

"He grabbed my arm, urging me to have another, but I said I was overdue at the Press Club and hustled off to get my act together for the awful spectacle. At the airport newsstand I picked up a Courier-Journal and scanned the front page headlines: "Nixon Sends GI's into Cambodia to Hit Reds"... "B-52's Raid, then 20,000 GI's Advance 20 Miles"..."4,000 U.S. Troops Deployed Near Yale as Tension Grows Over Panther Protest." At the bottom of the page was a photo of Diane Crump, soon to become the first woman jockey ever to ride in the Kentucky Derby. The photographer had snapped her "stopping in the barn area to fondle her mount, Fathom." The rest of the paper was spotted with ugly war news and stories of "student unrest." There was no mention of any trouble brewing at university in Ohio called Kent State."

The Minor Fall, The Major Lift has links to two pieces by guys who knew Thompson most of his life, Tom Wolfe - who I can't stand - and Ralph Steadman.

Steadman retells the "Fuck the Pope" story:
Before Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas we tried to cover the America's Cup yacht race in Rhode Island for Scanlan's (who were just about to go bust and get on to Richard Nixon's blacklist) from a three-masted schooner. There was a rock band on board for distraction; booze and, for Hunter, whatever he was gobbling at the time. I was seasick and Hunter was fine. I asked him what he was taking and he gave me one. It was psilocybin [magic mushroom], a psychedelic hallucinogen, my first and only drug trip apart from Librium. I was the artist from England so I had a job to do. He handed me two spray-paint canisters. "What do I do with these?"

"You're the artist, Ralph. Do what you want, but you must do it on the side of one of those multimillion-dollar yachts, moored hardly 50 yards away from where we are."

"How about fuck the Pope?" I said, now seeing in my mind red snarling dogs attacking a musician singing at a piano dressed as a nun at a shore-bound bar. "Are you a Catholic, Ralph?"

"No," I replied, "it's just the first thing that came to mind."

So that was the plan and we made it to the boats and I stood up in the little dinghy with the spray cans and shook them as one does. They made a clicking sound and alerted a guard. "We must flee, Ralph! There'll be pigs everywhere. We have failed." He pulled fiercely on the oars and fell backwards with legs in the air. He righted himself and started rowing again. We made it back to our boat and while I was gabbling insanely, he was writing down all the gibberish that I uttered. I was now a basket case and we had to get back to shore and flee. Hunter shot off two distress flares into the harbour and we hailed a boat just coming in. The flares set fire to one of the boats, causing an emergency fire rescue as we got to dry land. There's more and I won't go on, but I guess that was the genesis of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Such a wild game was possible, but it needed all the genius and application of Hunter S Thompson to make it live.
One of my favorite bits from the book and film versions of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the scene where Thompson is out of his gourd in a casino:
The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the sixth Reich. The ground floor is full of gambling tables, like all the other casinos . . . but the place is about four stories high, in the style of a circus tent, and all manner of strange County-Fair/Polish Carnival madness is going on up in this space."
And then he wonders "What would Horatio Alger do in this situation?"

Hitchens's obit mentions Thompson's long-running feud with local police and the local authorities in his hometown of Aspen, a feud which he pursued "with absolutely Corsican persistence." This, along with his enormous talent and capacity to hate and not give a shit, exemplifies what so many young people found inspiring in Hunter Thompson and why miscreants across the country passed around his books and why he will be so missed.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Uninformed Content

Juan Cole:
Note that if there is a disagreement among the Shiite religious parties on who should be prime minister, they say they will take it to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who will resolve it. Sistani would certainly choose Jaafari, an old-time Dawa operative from Karbala close to the ayatollah.

Interestingly, Sistani would informally be playing a role here similar to that played by the monarch in the UK. Sistani as Elizabeth II. It certainly wasn't what Bush had been going for with this Iraq adventure.
Bush just wanted to remove Saddam, period.

the world is just God's ant farm

So says John Constantine in the new film starring Keanu Reeves. It's not a bad movie, but the style and tone have too much of that action-film bravura and cockiness, in a bad way.

JC has reason for taking such a jaundiced view. He has special powers which allow him to see the demons and angels which walk around in disguise, half in and half out of this "plane." Heaven and Hell have a superpower detente in effect and Constantine performs exorcisms to send demons back to Hell when they break the rules and cause too much mischief. He doesn't do this out of the goodness of his heart; he's trying to get into Heaven, or rather, attempting to avoid going to Hell.

As a teen, he was put in a psychiatric hospital because of his visions. He committed suicide and hence, went to hell, but was resuscitated and came back to life with the knowledge of where he'd end up after dying. That's not all: he's a chain smoker who has developed lung cancer and has at most a year to live.

Constantine soon discovers the demons are up to something more than mere mischief and finally uncovers a plot to bring the son of Satan fully into this world which he would then conquer and rule. Turns out the plan was devised by the rogue, androgynous angel Gabriel, played by Tilda Swinton. Evidently, Heaven's eternal tedium has driven her/him insane. Gabriel's jealous that God loves humanity so much that God will accept them into heaven no matter how bad they've been if they only repent in their hearts. He/She doesn't believe they deserve it and believes their noble qualities come out only in the face of terror and horror. Gabriel tells Constantine only the humans who survive the rule of Satan's son will truly deserve His love.

Well, by Gabriel's criteria the long-suffering people of Iran are deserving of God/Allah's love. According to the Times.
A bad economy means scarce jobs and low incomes, which in turn have led to emotional and social frustration among Iran's largely young population. As a result, different forms of fortunetelling and the desire to connect with the supernatural to seek help from a divinity are growing. Many of those seeking guidance are women.

Bookstores are filled with books on Chinese and Indian astrology and different forms of fortunetelling. Newspapers and journals have dedicated more space to horoscopes and articles about how to find a soul mate.

"These types of books have increased by at least five times since the beginning of the revolution," said Abolhassan Azarang, a researcher at Iran's Encyclopedia.

"Political and social deadlocks have forced a special class of society to turn to these kinds of beliefs," he added.

In December, the police arrested a woman accused of making a fortune by promising to solve the problems of more than 5,000 women by giving them spells. The woman, whose identity was not revealed, told her customers that she was clairvoyant and had learned the skill in India.

One of the complainants against her was a woman who had paid five million rials, about $630, in return for a spell that would magically put an end to her husband's marriage to a second wife.
Oh and Peter Stormare, a Coen brothers regular, played a good Devil, almost as good as De Niro in Angel Heart.