R.I.P. Ingmar Bergman, Bill Walsh and Tom Snyder

3angels.jpgA more unlikely threesome to make that celestial voyage together, one could not imagine. Except I can imagine Bergman and Walsh doing interviews on Snyder’s old “Tomorrow” show.

Snyder was an underrated journalist. He was an easily-parodied personality, but he hit the most important mark: He asked questions that elicited interesting answers. Compare that with Charlie Rose, who has an enviable spot on PBS, can book the most interesting and informed guests — and will not shut up about himself. Rose gets more respect from TV critics, but Snyder’s show was more informative.

Of course, like everyone in LA for a certain duration, we remember that at one time, KNBC, Channel 4, featured Snyder, Tom Brokaw, Pat Sajak and Bryant Gumble, all on the same local broadcast.

Of Walsh and Bergman I have less to say because so many others will say it better. They were confirmed in their respective genius by prodigious achievements over their entire careers. Walsh remade football. Bergman remade the movies. Both were cerebral in a business where thinkers were suspect. But despite their highly abstract thinking prowess, both provided fans with moments that made you gasp and gave you chills. Few movies hit me as hard as “Cries and Whispers.” Few moments made me happier than Montana-to-Clark in the closing moments of the NFC championship game in 1981.

It’s a big day in the history of the 20th Century, which the 21st Century relentlessly digests.

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Bold Wankers

The Iraq war is a failure. The surge is a failure. General Petraeus? Impressive man, but a failure. If we pulled our forces out now, or as soon as possible, things in Iraq would improve. Meanwhile, that would free up resources to fight terrorists, who are in a lot of other places, but not Iraq.

That’s what we’re supposed to think unless we’re part of the dwindling-yet-vast right wing conspiracy. It is no longer a position. It is an orthodoxy.

So how bold was it for two liberal think-tankers, Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack, to publish this op-ed in the New York Times today? And to title it “A War We Just Might Win.”

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with. Continue reading

Swimming In It

There’s a beach near Portuguese Bend in Palos Verdes where you can feel like you’re swimming off Baja California’s miles and miles of unoccupied coast. If you overlook the few clifftop houses, you can feel completely alone there, especially when you’re bobbing around in the blue surf.

I hiked to this beach Sunday. It is covered with weathered stones, some as big as melons, and the rocks continue almost to the surfline, except at low tide, which exposes a stretch of coarse, brown sand. When I was thinking about my swim, I could see the sand, but by the time I got there, the tide had come up, erasing the swimmable section of the beach.

Now the surf was sucking against the rocks, meaning if I wanted to swim, I’d have to deal with the possibility of stubbing my feet against them. But the water looked so inviting! The whole weekend had been a hot and sticky one, running around on various family obligations, wiping sweat out of my eyes, toweling sweat out of my hair. To spend a few minutes in that surf would be such an antidote.

So I went in. I kept my sandals on, and went in. It was everything I wanted it to be: the water a soothing temperature; the setting sun turning the cliffs into golden monuments . I was alone, and it was quiet except for the sounds of water.

Then I thought about Jeremy Blake, the artist who apparently killed himself in despair over his longtime girlfriend Theresa Duncan’s suicide; the sad, baffling story that has generated so much writing across the blogosphere and in the mainstream press during the past week. So much writing about it, but as Bob Dylan would say, “Nothing is revealed.”

Blake killed himself, apparently, by walking into the ocean at New York’s Rockaway Beach. Just took off all his clothes and walked out into the surf, at night. To die.

How does somebody do that? How does someone swim to their own death?

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New Civil Libertarians?

Radar working overtime, I’ve noticed that the trials of Lewis Libby, Conrad Black and the Duke University lacrosse players have generated new recruits to the cause of civil liberties — a cause that used to be embraced by liberals and the news media, but has been an orphan lately for all save those incarcerated at Gitmo. Well, seeing a political hero like Libby and a business hero like Black fall into the grasp of federal prosecutors has awakened the right wing to the need for due process — and the government’s faltering observance of it.

Best recent example is writer Mark Steyn’s blog post of last week reflecting on the Black trial:

Here’s just a random half-dozen reforms the US justice system would benefit from:

1) An end to the near universal reliance on plea bargains, a feature unknown to most other countries in the Common Law tradition. This assures that a convicted man is doubly penalized, first for the crime and second for insisting on his right to trial by jury. The principal casualty of this plea-coppers’ parade is justice itself: for when two men commit the same act but the first is jailed for the rest of his life and dies in prison while the second does six months of golf therapy and community theatre on a British Columbia farm and then resumes his business career, the one thing that can be said with certainty is that such an outcome is unjust.

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Listening to Maria McKee, the Willard Grant Conspiracy and Nick Lowe

So I came back from the Maria McKee/Willard Grant Conspiracy concert at McCabe’s week before last with three CDs:

And since then, I’ve picked up another one I’d like to talk about, too: Nick Lowe’s “At My Age.”

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Breezin’ Along with the Breeze

south-bay-scene-for-blog.jpgI have been trying to keep in mind Tony Soprano’s sixth-season admonition, “‘Remember When’ is the lowest form of conversation.”

I’m in my fifties now, I’ve seen a lot of things here in my little world, and I find history both pleasurable and important. But I also think change is good, new things excite me and as a father of an incoming high-school senior, the future is far more important to me now than the past. For me, too. It has to be. What I once thought of as my life has ended abruptly, twice, with no turning back. This is a condition of everyone’s existence. Sometimes this truth is hidden, but it’s there.

I remember floating on a water taxi in Venice early one foggy morning, seeing these ornate palaces emerge from the opaque dampness, one-by-one like a procession of ghosts. Whoever built these gilded homes never imagined that mighty Venice would ever lose its grip on the world of commerce. But it did. When the end came — in the form of Napoleon’s armies — Venice didn’t even put up a fight. They wanted to save the palaces to remind them and future generations of how rich and powerful and glorious they were, once. So, in exchange for no bombardment, Venetians handed over the keys to the invader. And now the whole place is sinking.

Someday they’ll say of Venice: “Remember when?”

Curiously, I thought of all that when I came across LA Observed‘s link to a post on Life on the Edge, a San Pedro blog. The post is about the Daily Breeze, the supposed newspaper of record for my part of Los Angeles, the South Bay and Harbor areas. When longtime owner Copley News sold it to Dean Singleton’s Los Angeles Newspaper Group a year or two ago, it was inevitable that we would read about the Breeze’s descent into the lower depths of journalism. LANG’s a cheapo-cheopo organization, proudly so. They buy up newspapers in a region, they consolidate as much of the operation as they can, and then they cut cut cut.

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