• In Defense of Theorizing

    Under the star of a globalized capitalism the entire earth oozes blood.  What seems so smooth, so firm, so reliable and so supportive of our wishes — the glossy, pleasurable carnival of daily life — is the crust of a barely-healed scab; our steps must be swift and light, lest blood and pus seep through […]

  • The Next Greed Revolution

    “Green-minded activists failed to move the broader public not because they were wrong about the problems, but because the solutions they offered were unappealing to most people.” — Alex Steffen, “The Next Green Revolution,” Wired Magazine, May 2006 — It’s about time you woke up to the good news, Jimmy!  If we can just unleash the […]

  • The Man from the Middle Ages

    Some people knew exactly what to think about the letter Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent to U.S. President George W. Bush.  Since they had already pegged Ahmadinejad as a Holocaust-denying, Israel-threatening, nuke-hungry lunatic, it was no stretch to see the letter as exactly the sort of thing a Holocaust-denying, Israel-threatening, nuke-hungry lunatic would write, even […]

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  • The End of Genocide

    In an age dominated by brute force and overwhelming military power — in other words, any age at all — it is hard to remember that the simplest addition to our vocabulary can change the world.  This was what Raphael Lemkin accomplished in 1944, when in a study on the Nazi occupation of Europe he […]

  • The Architecture of Dreamworld 4: What Are Dreams Made of?

    Michael Steinberg, “The Architecture of Dreamworld 1: Like a Sex Machine” (31 October 2005); “The Architecture of Dreamworld 2: The Disarming Reflex” (17 November 2005); “The Architecture of Dreamworld 3: Going Postal” (28 December 2005) There’s probably no way to make critical generalizations about popular culture without sounding like a curmudgeon.  As I look over […]

  • Great Target, Bad Aim: Robert Greenwald’s Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices

    Thanks to Michael Moore, the growth of a moderately-aroused left-liberal public since the invasion of Iraq, and the low manufacturing costs of DVDs, the politically-conscious documentary film has reemerged in the United States.  A central figure in this movement has been the seasoned producer-director Robert Greenwald.  Formerly known for TV epics like Flatbed Annie and […]

  • Say Anything

    A short time ago, Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein wrote a column starting, “I don’t support our troops.” It was a well-reasoned piece by most standards, though Stein unthinkingly repeats the urban legend about “peaceniks” spitting on troops returning from Vietnam. For his honesty, he received a hundred “hate e-mails” on his (unpublished) personal […]

  • Pom Poko

    In the past few years, Hayao Miyazaki has finally achieved recognition in the United States as a great filmmaker. Thanks to a deal between his Studio Ghibli and Disney, all of his films will be available in new, uncut English language DVDs; the New York premiere of his latest work, Howl’s Moving Castle, was the […]

  • The Architecture of Dreamworld 3: Going Postal

    Michael Steinberg, “The Architecture of Dreamworld 1: Like a Sex Machine” (31 October 2005); “The Architecture of Dreamworld 2: The Disarming Reflex” (17 November 2005) Hollywood has been declining for all of its history. The experts were writing off the medium in 1918. Audiences were probably grumbling that they no longer made films the way […]

  • The Architecture of Dreamworld 2: The Disarming Reflex

    For fourteen years or so I lived with the most beautiful cat in the world. That, at any rate, was the way most people treated her. On pleasant days our cat would walk no further than the sidewalk. She would wait there all day, and almost every passer-by would stop, coo, exclaim at her wondrous […]

  • The Architecture of Dreamworld: Like a Sex Machine

    That “Sex Machine” ever got approved for air play is testimony to the stupidity of radio censors. It’s little more than James Brown, the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business (one of several), encouraging his penis to labor just as hard: Stay on the scene Like a sex machine. In case you miss the point, the […]

  • No Rules, Just Right?

    As I was driving through Ithaca, New York, on the weekend of the Grassroots Folk Festival, a guy with long curly hair and a beard — the sort of ‘sixties revenant common in college towns — strode into traffic on a red light.  I stopped my car, momentarily annoyed, and he grinned and flashed me […]

  • Another of Monday’s Untold Stories: the Self-Organized “UFPJ Shuttle”

    For many of the 374 people who offered themselves for arrest at the White House on Monday, September 26, getting out of the Park Police headquarters meant warm greetings, a ride to the Metro or a close-by staging area in a waiting car, a little food and water, a chance to make phone calls, and […]

  • Saving the Future

    Though in my university days I was no more of a party person than I am now, I had friends with other tastes. Visiting one on a morning many years ago, I found him blearily looking for traces of furniture amid the mess he and some others had generated through a long night. “I feel […]

  • Padilla v Hanft: A Very Dangerous Decision

    Today’s decision in Padilla v Hanft is bad news, though exactly how bad it is will depend on what the Supreme Court does with it — and who’s on that court. The long and the short of it is that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of the government to hold even […]

  • Britain to World: Shut Up

    I have often wondered about the legal and moral issues involved in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Armed resistance is permitted against an occupier, and there’s no rule requiring that attackers have a getaway planned. I’m not in favor of attacking civilians, of course — in fact, I find it hard to support attacking anyone. But as […]

  • The Other Side of the Coin

    The classicist Walter Burkert has argued that all cultures start in blood — the binding guilt of shared murder, periodically reenacted in ritual sacrifice. This is the kind of generalization that seems made to be refuted, and certainly one would like to be able to do so; but the identification of blood sacrifice with the […]

  • Judge of Character

    Nothing offend American voters more than the imputation that their vote is ideologically motivated. Anything that smacks of partisanship is rejected out of hand. “I don’t vote for the party,” they’ll insist.  “I vote for the person.” Then why, one wonders, is the American electorate such a lousy judge of character?  Why is inflexibility taken […]

  • Against Deferred Gratification

    Every now and then I see a slogan that’s credited to Ben Cohen, of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream: “If it’s not fun, why do it?” It seems like the worst part of the sixties in seven words — the mindless hedonism and self-involvement that made the counter-culture such fertile terrain for commodification. We serious […]