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June 1, 2004 - May 25, 2004

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


The Day After the Day After Tomorrow

Welcome to the wonderful world of ADDS.

THE FORGERS' DAY WEEKEND. There was so much to keep everyone busy over the long holiday weekend that no one remembered to post anything in this space. I suppose we owe an accounting.

Who could have known that in the space of a few days we'd be reliving all of World War II? The first hint was Krauthammer's review of the new WWII Memorial in Washington, DC. He didn't like it much. After reminding us of the great conflict's "transcendence of geography -- and class and ethnicity," he invokes the image of "the now-cliched platoon of the Polish millworker from Chicago, the Jewish kid from Brooklyn, the Appalachian woodsman and the Iowa farm boy bonding and fighting and dying for each other as a band of brothers." Then he turns to the memorial and its...

...gigantic soulless pillars, each mutely and meaninglessly representing a state or territory, that define this memorial. What in God's name were they thinking? Did not one commission that passed on this project ask: "Why states?"

But that is just the beginning of the banality. The monument is strewn with quotations inscribed in stone, meant to inspire. You descend into the parenthesis from street level and the first large stone panel on your right reads: "Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women . . . this was a people's war, and everyone was in it."

"Stepped up"? "Everyone was in it"? Is this the best we can do? Are we not embarrassed to put such pedestrian prose by the biblical cadences of the Gettysburg Address and the second inaugural speech carved in stone at the Lincoln Memorial just a few hundred yards down the Reflecting Pool?

What Charles forgot is that for most Americans, World War II happened in the movies. All one had to do was catch a few hours of the many runnings of "The Longest Day" to realize that everyone was in it, and this is just D-Day we're talking about. In the parts viewed by our little band of brothers, we saw John Wayne (of course), Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Robert Wagner, Eddy Albert, Stuart Whitman, Sean Connery, Red Buttons, Richard Burton, Paul Anka, Kenneth More, Richard Beymer, Ray Danton, Fabian, Jeffrey Hunter, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowell, Sal Mineo, Edmund O'Brien, Robert Ryan, George Segal, Rod Steiger, Richard Todd, and Tom Tryon. In the parts we missed because we had to run out and get hot dogs and hamburgers like everyone else, we almost certainly would have added more to the list -- Gary Cooper flanking the Atlantic Wall with his Kentucky long rifle, Humphrey Bogart steering his war-weary tank crew across the sands of Omaha Beach, and Erroll Flynn arriving in the nick of time at Sword Beach in his dive bomber.

And all that was just one movie. If you answered the call of duty over the rest of the weekend, you would also have witnessed "Above and Beyond" with Robert Taylor piloting the Enola Gay, "Action in the North Atlantic" with Humphrey Bogart leading a great merchant marine convoy to Britain, "Twelve O'Clock High" with Gregory Peck agonizing over the casualties of the Eighth Air Force, "In Harm's Way" with John Wayne leading the naval effort in the Pacific, "To Hell and Back" with Audie Murphy playing himself, "Torpedo Run" with Glenn Ford commanding a submarine in the Pacific, "Run Silent, Run Deep" with Clark Gable commanding another submarine in the Pacific, "Stalag 17" with William Holden cutting up rough in a German POW camp, "36 Hours" with James Garner as a POW trying to fool Rod Taylor into believing the invasion wouldn't be at Normandy, "Von Ryan's Express" with Frank Sinatra leading a daring POW escape in Germany, "Patton" with George C. Scott chewing up the French scenery something awful, "The Devil's Brigade" with William Holden assembling a deadly commando unit, and "The Dirty Dozen" with Lee Marvin assembling an even deadlier commando unit.

And if combat fatigue hadn't set in by then, you could have sat through a double feature of "A Bridge Too Far" and "The Great Escape," both featuring enormous casts. This means that the long list above has to be augmented with Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Hardy Kruger, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford, Maximillian Schell,.James Garner, Steve McQueen, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, and David McCallum.

Even the TV production companies were trying to serve. The mysteriously long-running show "JAG" time-travelled its whole cast back to Iwo Jima to participate in that epochal struggle, while A&E mounted the most physically demanding WWII movie in recent history, depicting Eisenhower's planning of the D-Day invasion despite the contributions of Montgomery, Patton, and de Gaulle. Those who tried to light up a smoke every time Tom Selleck fired up a Camel unfiltered are probably on a respirator by now. (It was actually an impressive production and, oddly, about the only time we can remember anyone playing "Ike" in more than a cameo role.)

All in all, we think Krauthammer is wrong to carp at the statement "everyone was in it." It's the truth. And all this celluloid represents a huge ongoing investment in the nation's World War II memorial. It's one thing to quibble about a few pillars that are insufficient to their task; it's another to consider the tremendous fleets of planes and ships and tanks and guns that have been deployed to make sure that Americans never forget the heroism of the Greatest Generation. In this context, it seems a little dense of Mr. Krauthammer to display such bewilderment about the centerpiece of the new memorial in DC:

And then, alas, the ultimate banality. The centerpiece of the monument is a low curved wall, closing the top of the parenthesis, as it were, straddling the central axis of the Mall and adorned with 4,000 gold stars.

The gold star, of course, was given to those who had lost a son in the war. Why 4,000 stars? To represent the more than 400,000 American dead: each star represents a hundred.

Why a hundred? Did they die in units of a hundred? Did they fight as centurions? The number is entirely arbitrary, a way to get the stars to fit the wall.

Of course, he may have been put off the scent by the seeming imitation of the Vietnam Memorial. A wall enumerating casualties. Hmmm. Derivative perhaps. But the stars are an interesting touch. Do they not remind us of the ongoing cinematic tribute to the fallen, all the starpower that Hollywood can muster pressed into service in the name of memory? It may well be that 4,000 stars have donned the uniform for this task. No doubt, each of them has stood in for hundreds, thousands of the real men and women who perished in the most sweeping conflict of all time. And it's not trivial or demeaning to point out that this is a tribute which continues and will continue for many years to come.

Tonight, for example, the excellent miniseries "Band of Brothers" resumes on the History Channel, and a new documentary promises us the truth about "The Lost Tanks of D-Day." If the weekend exhausted you, suck it up and get moving, soldier. This particular assignment is never done, and D-Day is less than a week away once more.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Madonna's Bland Ambition Tour

IMMATERIAL GIRL. Madonna colorless? This from Orla Healy of the New York Post:

Just over a decade ago, when the sassy provocateur created a firestorm by displaying her blond ambition in a pointy cone bra, it would have been insane to suggest she would mellow to the point of wearing buttoned-up army fatigues onstage.

But, you see, that was before Madonna discovered -- like Barbra Streisand, Sharon Stone, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, and Whoopi Goldberg -- that she was really this political scientist who needs to educate her public about wars and bushes and such. That's why her new "Re-Invention Tour" isn't so much a concert as a choreographed seminar on global affairs:

Instead of a sexy, flashy, fun-filled show, concertgoers Monday night got an endless dose of political and social commentary.

She sat in an electric chair and dances and sang against a backdrop of war images, President Bush and Saddam Hussein. The sound of detonating bombs punctuated the song "American Life."

Onstage, dancers dressed like soldiers did push-ups and calisthenics as helicopters swept in and infernos blazed on the video screens behind them.

And then she sang John Lennon's "Imagine," accompanied by a video of sick and injured children from around the world.

There was religion, too — plenty of it. Madonna's passion for fashion has clearly been usurped by her fetish for Kabbalah, as evidencd by the flashes of untranslated Hebrew text displayed in the background of her performance, which hits Madison Square Garden on June 16.

In a review in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, critic Robert Hillburn begged Madonna to "bring back the sex. Or at least something with flesh and blood, please."

We don't like to indulge in the game of 'I told you so' too often, but we saw this coming a long way back. Madonna has run out of things to do.

Madamma. Does anybody care anymore? Haven't we seen everything this diva has to show? And she hasn't just shown it—she's squeezed it, spread it, inflated it with silicon, masturbated with it on stage, given it away free to every straight Hispanic male in Newyork City, and then sung about it in some mediocre but over-produced video that every kid over the age of twelve has seen a hundred times. So now she has a baby and she's in love with motherhood. Who gives a flying f___?

-- Shuteye Nation 2000

How does the old saying go? Politics is the last refuge of a whore? Something like that anyway.

ANTIDOTE. Here's something more fun than Madonna in fatigues.

UPDATE. One thing we forgot to mention in our entry about Teddy Kennedy was his incredibly close friendship with the other senator from Massachusetts. So we're mentioning it now.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


The Wages of Liberalism

Serving your country party takes a toll

LEADERSHIP. It's hard to know how to respond to Ted Kennedy. The temptation is to laugh bitterly until the bad taste in your mouth makes you feel a little sick at your stomach. On the other hand, there's clearly still something dangerous about a man who evokes such fawning adulation from the objective minions of the media. And since -- hard as it is to believe -- he is a United States Senator, his penchant for blubbering treason while American troops are in the field is concerning. Yet any attempt to analyze his public pronouncements results in dizziness of the kind you experience when your foot tries to land on a step that isn't there. It's impossible to come to grips with a rationale, a philosophy, or a standard of basic decency that just doesn't exist. Teddy says what he says. Who can know what he means by it? Why bother? The moralist who seeks to shame a billygoat is only making a fool of himself. Gigantic as he has become, there isn't much to Ted Kennedy. Appetites. Bluster. Vindictiveness. A few million acquiescent sheep in his home state. And the eternal blind eye of the mainstream media. Fulminating is pointless, which means that laughter is probably the best of a poor lot of responses. Herewith our entry from Shuteye Nation 2000, where all the names have been changed in order to fool no one.

Teddy Schwartzenkennedy*. U.S. Senator from Machusetts and, formerly, the stupidest member of Ameria's most famous political family. Like everybody else in the family, he thought he was supposed to be Presdent of the United State, but he postponed doing it for awhile because he didn't want to get shot while he was still young enough to drink and have sex with anything in a skirt. By the time he decided to go ahead and be Presdent, the rules had changed and it wasn't enough to just be a Schwartzenkennedy—you also had to get the mass media's permission to run by convincing them you had a vision or something. What Teddy had was double vision, which didn't qualify at the time, and so he went back to drinking and screwing until he weighed four hundred pounds and girls started getting killed having sex with him... unless that was earlier in his career. Anyway, somebody made him stop drinking and screwing, and he turned over a new leaf by getting married and losing five pounds. Eventually he got so dignified that he didn't have a lot to say about the sex scandal and the perjury and the rest of it. But it's probably safe to assume he was more tolerant of the Presdent's private life than some of his senate colleagues.

*Originally, the 'schwartzen,' was silent, but it's gotten consistently louder over the years, until by now it's practically deafening.

Teddy still likes to go swimming, though. What a rack!

And we didn't mention Mary Jo Kopechne once. Oops.

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