Monday, April 6, 2009

"Absolutely': The Mystic from Minnesota & Thank Goodness for That

From Newsweek: In an exclusive excerpt from a recent interview, Bob Dylan talks with author Bill Flanagan about Barack Obama, the ghosts of the Civil War and presidential autobiographies.

Bill Flanagan: You liked Barack Obama early on. Why was that?
Bob Dylan: I'd read his book and it intrigued me.

"Audacity of Hope"?No, it was called "Dreams [From] My Father."

What struck you about him?Well, a number of things. He's got an interesting background. He's like a fictional character, but he's real. First off, his mother was a Kansas girl. Never lived in Kansas, though, but with deep roots. You know, like Kansas bloody Kansas. John Brown the insurrectionist. Jesse James and Quantrill. Bushwhackers, guerillas. Wizard of Oz Kansas. I think Barack has Jefferson Davis back there in his ancestry someplace. And then his father. An African intellectual. Bantu, Masai, Griot-type heritage--cattle raiders, lion killers. I mean, it's just so incongruous that these two people would meet and fall in love. You kind of get past that, though. And then you're into his story. Like an odyssey, except in reverse....

There is a certain sensibility, but I'm not sure how that connects.It must be the Southern air. It's filled with rambling ghosts and disturbed spirits. They're all screaming and forlorning. It's like they are caught in some weird web--some purgatory between heaven and hell and they can't rest. They can't live, and they can't die. It's like they were cut off in their prime, wanting to tell somebody something. It's all over the place. There are war fields everywhere … a lot of times even in people's backyards.

Did you feel all the music Elvis must have heard?No, but I'll tell you what I did feel. I felt the ghosts from the bloody battle that Sherman fought against Forrest and drove him out. There's an eeriness to the town. A sadness that lingers. Elvis must have felt it too.

Are you a mystical person?Absolutely.

More here:

Dylan on Mysticism, Obama and the American South:

Dylan's new single (and another great tune, following last week's release of "Beyondf here lies nothin'": "Feel a Change Comin' on" from the New album "Together Through Life":

Beyond here lies nothin interactive lyrical portrait gallery:|bobdylancom|20090406

'Terremoto": Earthquake in Abruzzo, Italy

Viewing both the amazing artifacts and architecture of Rome, and the results of the destruction of Pompei this past December, one realizes that the Italian geology remains dynamic and changing, just as so much of its civilization has survived for millennia. "Terremoto", earthquakes, remain a reality in this lovely country, dotted with palm trees and lemon groves, so central in Europe and so close to the continent of Africa.

The earthquake in L'Aquila, Abruzzo region, has had a profound impact on the affected towns.

US Geological Survey Details on the Quake:
More local news on the event:


From Correire della Sera:

Numerous buildings destroyed and 40-50,000 people displaced. The earthquake, which registered 5.8 on Richter scale, occurred at 3.32 am and was felt all over central Italy

L’AQUILA – An earthquake that registered 5.8 on the Richter scale shook the Abruzzo region at 3.32 this morning. The epicentre was about 10 kilometres from L’Aquila and the tremor was felt distinctly all over central Italy from Romagna to Naples. Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has already proclaimed a state of emergency, mobilising the army and air force, and appointing Guido Bertolaso to manage operations. Mr Berlusconi has indicated that he will visit L’Aquila at once, as will the interior minister, Roberto Maroni. Mr Bertolaso, who is Italy’s civil defence supremo, is already in L’Aquila and said the “situation is dramatic, the worst tragedy since the start of the new millennium”.

THE POPE AND THE PRESIDENT – Benedict XVI and Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, have sent messages of solidarity to communities hit by the earthquake.

EARTHQUAKE DATA – The earthquake occurred 8.8 kilometres below ground level. Giulio Selvaggi, director of the earthquake centre at the national institute of geophysics and vulcanology (INGV), said that earthquakes like this are classed as “moderate, with an intensity 30 times lower than the one that devastated Irpinia in 1980”. Abruzzo has been the focus of a seismic swarm that became active on 16 January, causing hundreds of shocks, the most serious of which, with a magnitude of four, took place on 30 March.

CASUALTIES – The interim count of casualties is already dramatic and destined to rise: 100 deaths, hundreds of injured and thousands of people displaced. At least five children are among the victims. Hundreds of buildings collapsed completely or in part, and thousands more were damaged or left unsafe. There could be as many as 40-50,000 displaced persons. Rescue work is hampered by continuing aftershocks that could cause damaged buildings to collapse and by the total destruction of the prefecture, which should have coordinated the rescue effort. Only the four pillars at the prefecture’s entrance have been left standing. The buildings of the provincial and regional authorities also suffered severe damage.

NEARBY TOWNS – News of devastation is starting to come in from towns and villages around L’Aquila that were cut off until this morning. The situation is particularly desperate in towns like Onna, where 50% of homes have been destroyed, and Paganica. Rescue workers on the spot say the situation is “appalling” and reminiscent of the earthquake in Umbria. A number of buildings were damaged at Sulmona and Castel di Sangro but there are no reports of casualties. Meanwhile the courthouse at Avezzano has been declared unsafe.

RESCUE WORK – Early today, it was already clear that the situation in the regional capital was dramatic. In the middle of the morning, the sheet-covered corpses of victims extracted from the rubble still lay on the ground. Hundreds of people wandered the streets in a state of shock, many huddled in blankets and many more still wearing pyjamas. Those who abandoned their homes were directed to the football ground area, where a reception centre will be set up, but others, who have taken to the streets for fear of being trapped if aftershocks demolish their already damaged homes, are hampering rescuers’ efforts. Civil defence authorities have invited residents to keep the streets clear to allow rescue work to proceed. L’Aquila hospital, whose drinking water supply was cut off, began work under emergency conditions. Doctors were administering first aid in the open air outside the A&E department. Only one operating theatre was functioning, the others having been rendered unsafe. A field hospital is now on its way from the Marche region and the more seriously injured victims have been flown by helicopter to hospitals elsewhere in Abruzzo, in Rieti and in Rome. In the early hours of the day, there was chaos at L’Aquila hospital as ambulances and in private cars continued to ferry in casualties.

BUILDINGS DESTROYED AND DAMAGED – Early estimates by civil defence put the number of unsafe buildings at 10-15,000. Four complexes were razed to the ground: the student residence, one building in Via Sant’Andrea and two in Via XX Settembre. Various other buildings were damaged or partially demolished in other parts of L’Aquila and the Duca degli Abruzzi hotel was totally destroyed. Rescuers are attempting to reach a family of four trapped in a small house opposite the student residence. A woman of about 50 was recovered alive from the ruins of a three-storey building in Piazza della Repubblica and one youth was rescued alive from the student residence but another ten or so are thought to be still trapped. Rescuers are digging with their hands as mechanical diggers are unable to reach the site. One Greek student and about ten Israelis are missing, according to communiqués from the respective foreign ministries. Parts of the façade and apse of the church of Santa Maria del Suffragio in Piazza Duomo also collapsed.

DAMAGE ELSEWHERE – Falling cornices and other damage, but no casualties, were reported in the province of Pescara. A seriously damaged building was evacuated at Sora, in the province of Frosinone. Further damage was reported in the province of Rieti.

COMMUNICAITONS – The mobile phone and landline networks in the earthquake-hit areas are back in operation. Electricity supplies to 80% of the 15,000 premises that were cut off had been restored by 9 am. The main railway lines are all in operation and checks are under way on regional services. Checks are also being carried out on motorways, where some sections have been closed. Repairs are being carried out on the water supply network in the Teramo and Pescara areas.

AID – Offers of aid have flooded in from other regions of Italy, from other countries and from the European Commission. “At this time, we can say that the Italian machinery is perfectly able to deal with the emergency”, said civil defence executive, Agostino Miozzo. “If we encounter problems during operations, our friends will be ready to step in”.

APPEALS – The Abruzzo regional authority chair, Gianni Chiodi, launched an urgent appeal for blood donors. Italy’s chief of police, Antonio Manganelli, asked drivers “not to clog roads that from now own will be used by rescue convoys”.

English translation by Giles Watson

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo