Monday, October 23, 2017

Theta Beta DPRK

embassy of North Korea in Addis Ababa (photo: Laika ac)
An article in the Times "Hosting Proms and Selling Cows: North Korean Embassies Scrounge for Cash,"NYT, 10/7/17), quotes one Marcus Noland, executive vice president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics thusly, “My late father-in-law was an ambassador and he told me that in India, years ago, it was known within the diplomatic corps that if you wanted to buy beef, you could knock on the back door of the North Korean Embassy in Delhi. They ran an abattoir in the basement.” Of course most people like to get meat from a butcher and if you’re going to have a social event like a wedding or a wake, you’re likely to go to one of those banquet halls like Leonard's Palazzo out in Great Neck which have a lot of experience and can supply you with DJ’s and a wide assortment of buffet options--or simply a nearby funeral home. But a local embassy of North Korea is certainly off the beaten track. Talk about inner sanctums and oedipal chambers, these proxies of the secretive North Korean State, which, according to the Times, depend on a creative entrepreneurial spirit to survive, are about as far as you can go. Let’s say you ‘re having a 70th birthday, why not put a deposit on the North Korean Embassy in Sofia, which has “gilded halls” and offers fireworks displays which are facilitated due to the embassy’s “diplomatic immunity.” Affluent Manhattan families are always trying to outdo each other in coming up with lavish bar mitzvahs or graduation parties, but it's unlikely any Dalton parents have yet tried to arrange an affair at the North Korean mission to the U.N.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Support the Harvey Weinstein Legal Defense Fund!

Has the thought perhaps occurred to you that life is short and that you should take action, put your money where your mouth is and stand up for the things you believe in? Have you thought about getting that old card table out of your basement storage locker, taking it over to Union Square, standing a plastic bucket on it and putting a magic marker to a piece of oak tag advertising "The Harvey Weinstein Legal Defense Fund?" Union Square has a venerable history when it comes to protest and you wouldn’t be the first person to be advocating for an unpopular cause. Back during the First World War in the days of the famous Oliver Wendell Holmes decision about “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater” (Schenck vs. United States), anarchists, isolationists and free-thinkers tried to persuade young men not to enlist in the Great War. The Weinstein scandal has elicited an outcry from women in both film and fashion ("Harvey Weinstein’s Fall Opens the Floodgates in Hollywood,"NYT, 10/16/17), but that shouldn’t dissuade you. It’s heroic to buck to the tide. You’ll begin to think of yourself as David vs. Goliath. If nothing else your donating time and money to Weinstein, will be a vote in favor of the increasing minority of those who support the rights of movie moguls to take advantage of aspiring actresses.

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Notorious (1946) recently revived as part of Village East’s Hitchcocktober Festival is no Vertigo (1958) or North By Northwest (1959). Though it’s set in Rio, it partakes of none of the director’s signature explorations of place. There's no crop duster or bell tower scene; though it's got espionage, there’s no equivalent of the suspenseful triumph of good over evil on the face of Mount Rushmore. Actually Notorious is more a love story than a thriller with the suspense deriving from the testing of love. Alicia (Ingrid Bergman), the daughter of a convicted spy tests the love of the American agent, Devlin (Cary Grant). The German criminal, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains), tests Alicia and Sebastian’s mother (Leopoldine Konstantin) tests her son. The story is really the Boys From Brazil, to the extent that it deals with escaped Nazis in Latin America, and a Wagnerian Liebestod haunts the film from the beginning in the form of alcoholism that almost gets Alicia and Devlin killed in a wild car ride. Later, it takes the form of Alicia’s poisoning which also recalls Romeo and Juliet. In both cases toxins cloud the perceptions of Hitchcock’s heroine and turn the world upside down. But the movie is fundamentally an open and shut case, very much like the door that shuts behind the doomed Sebastian in the finale.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Weathermen II

Do you ever wonder what happens to weathermen and women? There was the case of the legendary ABC weatherman Tex Antoine, who got booted off the air when he commented, "With rape so predominant in the news today, it is well to remember the words of Confucius: 'if rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.'" Do they go on to lead lives of quiet desperation? You wonder about the field of weather or meteorology itself, something which like the very world it forecasts is prone to its ups and downs and its stormy days-- something which has been underscored by the Category 4 hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma which have recently devastated Puerto Rico, the Texas coast and Florida. No one says that weather people (or for that matter anyone reporting on catastrophes) are schadenfreudians. But traumatic events are their bread and butter and you can't help but notice the saliva on the edges of the mouth of these Cassandras when a storm is about to strike. Global warming has of course added an urgency to a profession which many including viewers of the daily weather reports on the evening news once took for granted. It’s nice to be blond and dashing like CBS’s Lonnie Quinn, who looks like a surf boarder. However, weathermen and women are a little like athletes, who when they reach a certain age no longer are going to be able to step up to the plate, Roger Federer notwithstanding. Are rookies recruited at meteorological conventions? Then there’s The Weather Channel, which is a world unto itself. The Weather Channel is like The Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, when it comes to weather matters. If you're a Weather Channel reporter and you make it to the Broadway of weather reporting, which is a local network affiliate of CBS, ABC or NBC (or even become a superstar like Chad Myers of CNN), you have a broader audience it may be necessary to talk down to. Oh, yes you may still discuss low pressure systems off Bermuda or high pressure ones over the Great Lakes or reveal the name of that hurricane brewing in the Bahamas. However, cloud formations are another matter, and you’re not going to be shooting off so easily about El Nino when your news anchor passes the ball, asking you for the five day forecast. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Weathermen (Not the Radical Group)

Weathermen are becoming like superheroes. Ever since Katrina devastated New Orleans and Sandy left a path of destruction on the East Coast, people have become more and more attached to both their local weather anchors and to The Weather Channel. Global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps is certainly playing a major role in the increased frequency of climate and environmentally related disasters and  a little bit of the Stockholm Syndrome where the victim becomes attached to his persecutor may be playing a role in increasing the importance of the weathermen in our lives. It used to be that weathermen were the low men on the television totem pole, but now they have become larger than life personalities. Al Roker, the weather reporter on the Today show has become a major personality, who has increasingly begun to take on the aura of one of the five star generals, like Patton, MacArthur and Eisenhower, who led the allies to victory in World War II and the local CBS station in New York has created a cult figure in the debonair Lonnie Quinn, a handsome blond who looks like he could have been one of the Beach Boys and who is a source of solace to many of those fearful of the effects of hurricanes building force in the Bahamas or low pressure fronts building over the Great Lakes and threatening the East Coast with Winter Storm Warnings as the cold season begins. Dylan famously sang, “You don’t need a weatherman/ To know which way the wind blows.” But to quote another Dylan line, “times they are a changin’”and now with El Nino and other threats you do need a weatherman, and not the radical kind, to figure out where the next gust will be coming from.