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Friday, September 13, 2002

F u n n i e s

Funnies come in different ways. Humor that defines the essence of story-telling and offers an instant compulsive stir; or the wit that comes at an expense, but may provide us with a grim gratification of attaining insight in man’s obscurities, proclivities and manipulations.


The P..Player

‘We were previewing Ninotchka, and Lubitsch took the writers along, too, in Long Beach. And they are outside the lobby there, a stack of cards, with the audience invited to put down their thoughts. So the picture starts playing, and it plays very well. Now Lubitsch takes the cards, a heap of the cards, doesn’t let anybody else touch them. We get into the big MGM limousine. We turn the lights up. Now so, he takes the preview cards and he starts reading. ‘Very good…’Brilliant’ …’ Twenty cards. But when he comes to the 21st card, he starts laughing as hard as I ever saw him laugh, and we say. ‘What is it?’ he keeps the card to himself, he does not let anybody even look. Then finally, he calms down a little and starts reading. And what he read was - I have the card - ‘Funniest picture I ever saw. So funny hat I peed in my girlfriend’s hand.’

‘There’s a very good joke about Marilyn Monroe when she married Arthur Miller. They were engaged then. He said, ‘I would like you to meet my mother, she would like to see you. So I thought we’d go to her little apartment in the Bronx, we’ll have a little dinner, and she’ll get to know you.’ And Marilyn said, ‘Wonderful, wonderful.’ So they go there, to that tiny little apartment. They’re having a good time, they get along great, and then Marilyn Monroe says she’s got to go to the W.C., the toilet. And she goes, and because the walls are thin, she turns on all the faucets so they would not hear it in the next room. Now she comes out and everything’s beautiful, kiss, kiss, kiss.
Next day, Arthur calls the mother and says, ‘She’s sweet, a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful girl, but she pisses like a horse.’

Billy Wilder in an interview with fellow director Cameron Crowe – Vanity fair Oct 1999


Cost cutting

‘The low point of the ‘American Way Of Death’ is Jessica’s Mitford account of a friend’s attempt to bury a relative without having to spend a fortune. When the friend asked for an inexpensive redwood coffin, the funeral home agreed at first. But the salesman called back to say that the deceased was too tall, and she had to buy a coffin that cost $100 more. When Mitford’s friend balked, the salesman responded, ‘Oh all right, we’ll use the redwood one, but we’ll have to cut off his feet.’

Source: NYT – Adam Cohen


Into the pit

ABC News has interviewed a woman who claims she was Saddam’s mistress in Baghdad for many years. In private, she says Saddam adores dining on gazelle from a herd that eats out of his hand intil he hand-picks the one to be slaughtered for his dinner. Prisoula Lampsos, 54 – a kively mannered Greek-born woman resembling a ruggedized Jeanne Moreau – says that in bed ‘he was tender, he was warm’, but uses Viagra. The woman was kept at the palace for thirty years until dissidents smuggled her out of the country.

Saddam’s obsession with body odor comes across in a soon-to-screen documentary fo footage shot in Baghdad two years ago by the French journalist Joel Soler. ‘It’s not appropriate for someone to attend a gathering or be with his children with hisbody odor trailing behind him emitting sweet or stinky smell mixed with perspiration, ‘Saddam says on camera. Saddam is compulsive about washing his hands. His extreme hygiene is partly ritualistic: Saddam reportedly likes being greeted with a kiss near the armpit. He fears germs violently – Iraqis must shower in front of his bodyguards before entering the Leader’s presence.

Source: IHT - Joseph Fritchett


First need

‘Someone in my circle of friends wondered if September 11th was the beginning of the end of the world. Human civilization now has a big jagged hole in the wall. What to do? For guidance, I turned to one of my mentors, Rabbi Tzvi Marx, who teaches in the Netherlands. He offered me a biblical analogy. ‘To some extent,’ Tzvi said, ‘We feel after 9/11 like we have experienced the flood of Noah – as if a flood has inundated our civilization and we are the survivors. What do we do the morning after?’
The story of Noah has a lot to offer. ‘What was the first thing Noah did when the flood waters receded and he got off the ark?’ Tzvi asked, ‘He planted a vine, made wine and got drunk,’ Noah’s first response to the flood’s devastation of humanity, and the challenge he now faced, was to numb himself to the world.’

Source: NYT – Thomas L.Friedman



‘The perception of America as the ‘Great Satan’ as repeatedly stated by the late Ayatollah Khomeini is exemplified by an article in a recent Arabic newspaper. In the article; a defense of polygamy, the writer argues that in the Western world polygamy is outlawed, but that this is contrary to human nature and needs. For 10 days a month during menstruation and for longer periods during pregnancy a woman is not available.
In the monogamous West, the deficiency is made up by promiscuity, prostitution and adultery; in Islam, by polygamy. Surely this, the writer argues, providing respectability for the woman and legitimacy for her children, is the better of the two.
This makes good sense, if one accepts the writer’s view of relations between men and women.’

Source: Washington Post - Bernard Lewis


posted by Walter at 9/13/2002

Thursday, September 12, 2002



Over the past day I wrote down single words and short sentences in 2 to 3 hour intervals. By the end of the day I recompiled them into a random order. The result can either be interpreted as an oracle; a wastebasket of the subliminal, or automatic writing. (-)


Make love
It’s any solution and a
Fanfare to the mind
Spill a
Little blood
A Pop work
Or The House

Of Alba

Guys in need
The Shell family

-A class that
In a heap-

Marvel at the
Unmasking of
Which involves
A motorboat
A Mimeograph
And intense cold

-Excel at
12 years old-

The Dodgers Coliseum
Javanese Dancers at play
The chauffeur
A Remake

-Pick your oranges
It’s all there-

That dress
A love instantaneous
In 10-minute bursts
Missing my lines


The son of that
He liked to
Play the Hero
But in the end

He was

We pay 215
65 a piece
Included that 111th
Give to the 51st
And the 52nd

In the deck of cards
The Diamond
Hold it at

Arm’s length

Leading men
Come at the expense
Of little figurines
But in the end
Will also

Be grilled

Reality is
The flimsy door
Between the
Living room
And the

When I see her
I will
Forgive her
Whether she be
The ghost
The Accolade

Or the Kiss

© Walter van Lotringen 2002


posted by Walter at 9/12/2002

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Father of all wars

To bomb or not to bomb, that’s the current question. I rounded up some of the facts and opinions involved. In the end it's just a matter of choice.


‘They’re a weak lot, some of them in Europe you know. They’re feeble’

-Baroness Thatcher-


-Your choice of war-

Yet even for this bloodstained century, the conflict that lasted from September 1980 to July 1988 staked out new ground in horror, including the first widespread use of chemical weapons by a government against its own citizens and a meticulously documented campaign of genocide against Iraqi Kurds.

In this, the most lethal war of the past fifty years, as many as 750,000 Iranian soldiers and perhaps a third that number of Iraqi troops died on the battlefield. The fighting also provided staggering evidence illustrating systematic disregard for what passes for the rules of warfare—and not just by the belligerents.

Countless waves of untrained Iranian boy-soldiers armed only with plastic keys purportedly guaranteeing entry to heaven blew themselves up by the tens of thousands clearing mine fields or died charging into artillery barrages worthy of Verdun or Stalingrad. Iraqi missiles crashed through the night to spread terror among Iranian city dwellers hundreds of miles from the front. Relentless Iraqi and Iranian shelling destroyed each other’s cities and towns near the international border.


-Your choice of agent-

T a b u n , or ethyl NN-dimethylphosphoramidocyanidate, otherwise known as GA, is such an agent. It is a liquid that evaporates only half as fast as mustard gas, but so powerful a poison is it that even short exposure to small concentrations of its vapour can result in almost immediate symptoms, felt first in the eyes (as a persistent contraction of the pupil) and chest (as a tightness or asthma-like constriction). If a lethal dosage has been taken up, either from inhalation of the vapour or by absorption of the liquid through the skin, a characteristic sequence of toxic manifestations ensues, some of great violence, including running nose, sweating, involuntary urination and defaecation, vomiting, twitching, convulsions, paralysis and unconsciousness.

M u s t a r d is bis (2-chloroethyl) sulphide, an oily liquid with a garlic-like smell. Even in warm weather it evaporates slowly enough for an area over which it has been scattered to remain dangerous for many hours, even days, yet fast enough for the imperceptible vapour that it gives off also to cause casualties. Both in vapour and in liquid form its effect is to burn any body-tissue which it touches. Taken into the body, it can act as systemic poison deadlier, weight for weight, than hydrogen cyanide Its burning effects are not normally apparent for some hours after exposure, whereupon they build up into the hideous picture of blindness, blistering and lung damage such as was displayed by the patients sent from Iran to hospitals in Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, FR Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.

Effectiveness of T a b u n

Because tabun acts much more rapidly than mustard, it could be thought capable of stopping massed infantry assaults on the move, at least when dropped in large air-burst bombs. In static situations, it would probably not, in warm weather, be significantly more effective than mustard gas as a weapon of attrition.


-Your choice of foe-

Udai Saddam Hussein, Saddam's eldest son and now 33, first became known abroad in 1988 in a scandal that was to lay a marker for things to come.

Udai had taken against Saddam's personal valet Kamal Hana Gegeo because of his role in acting as a go-between for Saddam's external affairs. In particular, Saddam had an affair with the daughter of an old Baghdad family called Samira Shahbander - who was eventually to become his second wife - and Udai was said to have been afraid that this union could threaten his own position as Saddam's eldest son by his first wife Sajida.

So Udai decided to take his revenge on Gegeo. Aged 24, he gatecrashed an official party held in honour of Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of the Egyptian president, who was visiting Baghdad. Pushing aside the official host Taha Muhieddin Maaruf - Iraq's Vice President and a generation older than himself in a culture where such things matter deeply - Udai and his bodyguards beat Gegeo to death with a heavy club in full view of the gathered guests.

The affair became a national scandal when Saddam put his son on trial for the murder, saying that even the president's son must face justice. Gegeo's family pleaded for a pardon for Udai, saying that he had been provoked beyond all endurance. Just the slightest bit of pressure, perhaps? There were all kinds of 'spontaneous' demonstrations for Udai and eventually Saddam was satisfied with exiling him to Switzerland.

He returned a year later to become head of the Iraqi Olympic Federation. He also runs a major television network in Iraq and a newspaper and is said to have an extensive business network.


-Your choice of exile-

Speaking as an American who lives in a country bombed day and night for 78 days in 1999 by Uncle Sam and the 18 NATO dwarfs, I can assure doubtful readers that bombs can really mess up a neighborhood. Walking down one of the main thoroughfares of Belgrade, one comes to an intersection at which cruise missiles turned three of the four corner buildings into burnt-out, collapsing houses of cards. Not to mention shattering windows for blocks around and the eardrums of newly born babies at a nearby hospital.

These were "military" targets - or at least military office buildings that had been presciently emptied before the missiles struck. But when the American flyboys - riding three to five miles up where no spoilsport Serbian artillery could hit them – couldn't find anything military to bomb, they had plenty of civilian targets to fall back on: sixty-six bridges - one with a civilian train crossing it as bombs fell - a TV station cheek-by-jowl with a children's theater and a Russian Orthodox Church, a convoy of Ethnic Albanian farmers and their families riding on tractors and trailers. Now, this was war - at least for those on the ground.

-Charles Alverson-

After an eclectic career ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Rolling Stone to the co-authorship of the film "Brazil,"Charles Alverson now lives in rural Yugoslavia and is not interested in bombing or being bombed, thank you,11827,268690,00.html


posted by Walter at 9/10/2002

Monday, September 09, 2002

On camera for life

Pay attention: you might be on camera without your consent. If by now you've become used to the ubiquitous use of photo- and videocameras in public space, be prepared for more serious privacy intrusions. A new guard of finely honed and cheap spying technology is set to intrude on your private life; and w i l l take prisoners. ..It may well be you. If by chance you've been entertained by pinhole cameras, or upskirt shots, wait till you've browsed through the webcatalogs of 'security' companies, that offer anything from 'nanny clocks' to cameras concealed in neckties.

- Picture this! -

-Tokyo- Since J-Phone Co., the Japanese Unit of Vodafone Group PLC of Britain, married a digital camera to a cell phone in late 2000, picture-messaging has become widespread in Japan, and has since shown a nasty underbelly.
As vast numbers of people become equipped with the ability to take shots anytime, anywhere, even anonymously, some people have used their photo phones for mischievous and even criminal intentions.

The most widely reported misuse so far: surreptitious shooting up women’s skirts in such places as train stations. The police have reported a sudden burst in arrests for this offense. First-time offenders generally face a fine of as much as $4,250 or six months in jail. In one widely reported case, the police said two junior high school students used camera phones to take pictures of another student naked and threatened to distribute them over the Internet.

‘One day, people may have to cover their face when walking the street.’ Says Masahide Maeda, professor of criminal law at Tokyo Metropolitan University.
Mobile network operators such as J-Phone, mindful of these dangers, have set up the phones so that releasing the shutter causes the phone to emit words like ‘Click’ or ‘Cheese!’.

-Source: IHT


-Nannies beware -

Our miniature covert video cameras come hidden inside of clocks, smoke detectors, lipstick holders, plants, silk ties, radios, etc. Also available are covert wireless hidden camera systems which can be moved from room to room. All of our covert video surveillance systems come plug and play ready. Plug any of our hidden cameras into your VCR and you have a quality concealed video surveillance system. We offer professional grade hidden cameras and law enforcement grade hidden camera systems.


- US First Amendment Handbook - Hidden Camera Statutes -

The laws of thirteen states expressly prohibit the unauthorized installation or use of cameras in private places. In Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Utah, installation or use of any device for photographing, observing or overhearing events or sounds in a private place without the permission of the people photographed or observed is against the law. A private place is one where a person may reasonably expect to be safe from unauthorized surveillance.

Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and South Dakota also prohibit trespassing on private property to conduct surveillance of people there. In most of these states, unauthorized installation or use of a hidden camera, or trespassing to install or use one, is a misdemeanor, punishable by fine. In Maine, the privacy violation is a Class D felony. In Michigan, unauthorized installation or use of a hidden camera is a felony, punishable by a $2,000 fine and up to two years in prison.


posted by Walter at 9/09/2002

Sunday, September 08, 2002

- A moveable feast -

I wrote this brash poem in a couple of hours: while en route to friends of mine: a Dutch couple, fellow artists from my artschool class of 1975. He a photographer, she a poet. Both of them moved to Belgium a couple of years ago, and settled into the Eastern Belgian province of Limburg. The area is thinly populated, mainly agricultural, rich with undulating landscapes; alternated by woodland and forests.

The tiny village they inhabit is named – Heks – meaning ‘Witch’. The atmosphere in their village harbors a potential conflict. Different social hierarchies are set on a collision course; Dutch artists determined to colonize the village, and at the other side uncompromising residents eager to oust them. In the backyard the Belgian aristocracy is lurking, personified by the Baron of Heks, owner of most of the village’ surrounding country.

My friends are sarcastic, dry-witted, and anarchistic tax evaders who love to crack mean jokes. They represent a class of cultural nomads who like to bash our (Dutch) entrenched beliefs and paradigms. Their jokes come at the minorities’ expense, but I have to admit that meeting them always packs a punch.

The poem describes the trials that they went through trying to rebuild a big farm into an artists’ enclave. As the venture gradually took shape the couple staged a big party for all of their friends. Doing so the farm became a veritable movie set: situated at the end of the village main street, it lit up like a ‘White Palace’ hamburger place.
As all of us gathered in the yard early in the evening, a torrential rainfall occurred as I had never witnessed before. As it wreaked havoc on the open-air event, the party was forced to spend the rest of the evening huddled together in the relative comfort of barren artist’ studios.

The tone of the poem reflects, the ecstatic moodframe of my friends, prior to their move to Heks. The title of the poem is derived from their email address.


- Habo Village -

Does wisdom only come with age?
I’m not young enough to know everything,
but have a notion that your customers will
soon be everywhere;
time is folly when you’re cheating age

Can oxygen turn the constant
and rapid changes of sex, drugs and reversed roles
into a statement less ordinary?
Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy
all united under a roofless five-star art compound?

We find ourselves more coherent; our words marked,
rhythm in our hearts abounds, the age of reason jettisoned
as a distant blur from our orange-spiked cocktails

Einstein never worried about what to wear, so do we
our head game is played to the max.
We observe ourselves as small, medium, and large
against a minute world

We are you: King Monkey, Reservoir Dogs, Milli Vanilli,
all in one.

© Walter van Lotringen 2000


posted by Walter at 9/08/2002