Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

July 31, 2007

In Praise of "In Praise of Editors" by Gary Kamiya

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 7:49 pm

One of the best pieces of writing about writing, one of the best pieces of writing I’ve come upon recently is Gary Kamiya’s recent essay in Salon called “In Praise of Editors”.

Kamiya’s piece can be found at:

http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2007/07/24/editing/index.html

It was was one of the best descriptions and defenses of the editor/writer relationship. particularly apropos in a blogging age where such relationships are often considered superfluous. And while he gave props to the heat-of-the moment unedited blog post, he also made real the value of working with someone who in various ways can make something you’ve written seem smarter than it started out to be.

It made me think of how lucky I’ve been how many great editors I’ve been able to work with. Dan Wolf the legendary founding editor of The Village Voice, my first editor. Harold Hayes the brilliant editor of Esquire in the last couple yearr of the golden age when that magazine was re-inventing magazine non fiction. Lewis Lapham the grand eminence of Harper’s, Michael Kinsley, also briefly at Harper’s. John Larsen at the much admired, much lamented New Times. Jane Amsterdam at the innovative Manhattan,inc. Tina Brown at Vanity Fairand <The New Yorker smart and demanding, Robert Vare at the Times magazine, The New Yorker and The Atlantic, an edtor with an impassioned belief in the unconventinal possibilities of non-fiction, great New York editor and character Peter Kaplan at The New York Observer.And (I’m not just saying this for obvious reasons) all the super-smart people I’ve worked with atSlate.

And my book editors, Jonathan Karp for Explaining Hitler and David Ebershoff for The Shakespeare Wars and two other books between them. I couldn’t have been more fortunate.

Of course the trouble with making such a list is that I’ve inevitably(probbly self destructively) left some, many, out–many many story editors as opposed to the mainly editors in chief I’ve named. To those I’ve not named–especially including all the hard working story editors–please accept my apologies. Just too many to name all of them who have been invaluable to my work. And all the gifted copyeditors, as well. Someone should write a companion piece to Kamiya’s about the copyeditor’s art. I’ll add names here as I walk down the street and it stirkes me “how could I have forgotten him or her?!”

I like the immediacy and freedom of blogging, don’t get me wrong. But read Kamiya’s piece for a beautifully written appreciation of the collaborative, synergistic meshing of minds that goes on between wrtiers and gifted editors. I wonder who his editor was on that piece?

July 30, 2007

"Beat Angels": Further Thoughts and Comments on Theresa and Jeremy

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:55 pm

Some tv show is playing Rickie Lee Jones’ ravishingly beautiful love song “Stewart’s Coat” over its final moments. I used to play that song over and over again, incessantly. It may be one of the most unbearably beautiful love songs I know–except maybe that other Rickie Lee Jones song–“Beat Angels”–on the same album (Flying Cowboys I think, or is it called Rodeo Girls? I can’t find it ready to hand). It reminds me that in some ways this is a tragic love story more (I think) than a murder mystery. or a tragic love story and a suicide mystery. But writing about Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake and the death of two people who seemed so much in love is nigh unto unbearable.

I thought maybe I’d exerpt in the main body of this blog some of the (mainly anonymous) comments that help paint a portrait of Theresa:

“She called self-destructiveness juvenile, petty, and dumb, and said it’s better to point one’s guns outward, and that doesn’t sound much like a suicidal mind…”

On the other hand:

“Theresa Duncan’s death should be assumed a suicide. She left a suicide note and evidence gathered in her apartment indicates that she overdosed on Tylenol PM. It is not unusual for the OME to investigate a death such as this with toxicology tests that take time
“What is surprising is that the police in New Jersey are not getting around to performing a DNA identification on the body that was found by a fisherman and thought to be Jeremy Blake’s. If they are treating Theresa’s death as worthy of criminal investigation, why are they not pursuing Jeremy’s with the same rigor?
“A comparison of these related deaths indicates an inconsistency in Medical Examiner procedures from state to state.”

The Tylenol PM detail is one that puzzles. Is it really possible? Asdie from toxicology questions it seems like such a uncharacteristically inelegant choice, not that any such choice is elegant.

And she was elegant as in her choice of literary reference as another commenter points out:

“One thing I noticed, however, is that I think Theresa’s last blog entry is on July 10th, the day she supposedly committed suicide. Accompanied by photos of a woman wearing a mask and a grey suit under the headline “Storytelling on the Staircase”, with “A Magic Story” typed very small in between the two photos of the woman (as if intended as a subliminal message between two frames of film), Ms. Duncan has only this quote by Reynolds Price:

“‘A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens–second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, from the small accounts of our day’s events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths….’

“Ultimately it is the terrible loss of two insightful and creative souls. The reports are as mysterious as they are unbelievable and sad. I am still hoping it is all somehow a hoax.”

Here’s another more critical commenter:

“Below is an excerpt from Theresa Duncan’s blog, which may well point to the reason for her suicide. I find her idea that the older generation (the baby boomers) needs to be swept aside to make room for the young to be pretty appalling; it’s certainly not becoming of a beautiful spirit. A provocative idea, but deeply flawed and downright mean. Yet it appears she was true to her ideas.

“‘Younger people were indeed born to kick my pigtailed ass, and if our terminally ailing democratic culture is swept along on their own sexy, slender thighed demands for freedom and money and sex and art and music that are all their own, then whoopeee!'”

I’d like to believe this wild theory, at least in the sense it implies that one of them is still alive:

“I find myself fascinated by this case, and particularly by Theresa Duncan’s beautiful prose, as well. I am inclined to think that this is a double suicide, but something that has stuck out to me to suggest otherwise is the fact that Theresa was making a film in NYC about a rock star who disappeared (was kidnapped by teenage girls), and whose fame only increased after his disappearance. Something about that echoes in the Jeremy Blake disappearance. What do you think? What is that eerie coincidence about?”

The implication is that Jeremy faked his death, I guess, and although I’ve yet to hear of any DNA verificationthat the body found off New Jersey was his, I tend to doubt an elaborate ruse.

And here’s an insight into Theresa’s youth from an ex who is also mystified that someone like her could kill herself:

“First, thanks for your curiosity and honesty in all this. I have more than a passing interest in the deaths of Theresa and Jeremy. I dated Theresa for about a year (before she met Jeremy), and in fact, I just learned from my sister that Jeremy Blake is the same Jeremy that was her best friend when they were both at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Knowing these two as we both did then, it makes little sense that this happened. Though it was so many years ago, the worst I could say about Theresa is that she was ungrounded, and unfocused; but certainly not depressed. She had far too much creative energy and a never ending quest to get to the truth of the world around her. I think in meeting Jeremy she indeed found her grounding and her focus and her place in the bigger picture. So then what was it that pushed her over the edge/ Did she find a “truth” she could reconcile with her own being? Did she lose Jeremy and her grounding? I have no idea? I have not seen her in some time, but we have many old friends in common. many of whom she met through me back when we were dating. I have not really had the chance to speak to many of these people, but if I do I’ll pass along whatever information might be of interest to you as you dig for her final truth. Thanks for this.”

And thanks to all of you for your contributions and I’m grateful for anyone else who can pass along “whatever information might be of interest.”

I think of the two of them now, to return to Rickie Lee Jones, as “Beat Angels”.

July 29, 2007

A Modest Proposal to Save Print Newspapers

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:02 am

Think of this as a modest proposal. It probably wouldn’t work, but it just might help. i have an idea for an ad campaign designed to save dying printed page newspapers.

I think it was inspired by watching my first episode of Mad Men the AMC hour long drama focussing on a 50’s ad agency trying to come up with new ways to promote Lucky Strike just as the cancer news turns really bad. And by the fact that I read blogs incessantly, write one too, but still love the feel of a newspaper in my hands, however inky.

I know, they’re probably dead anyway, that ‘s what everyone says. I myself shifted a column I’d been writing for The New York Observer a print weekly (though with website), to the all-digital Slate recently.

And if you read Romenesko’s Media News column it’s become like a slow motion funeral notice for the printed newspapers of America. Layoffs, losses on the hard-copy side, big investment in unfocussed digital plans.

And remarkably the newspaper industry seems to be going down without a fight. Hysterically flailing about trying to get hip with the 2.0 program when 2.0 is so 2001. Accepting without protest the superiority of the new, chasing trends rather than promoting its own virtues and heroes like all those brave war correspondents dead and alive.

Well here’s my idea. An ad campaign. About the sensuality of paper. the way the reading experience is enhanced when the sense of touch is engaged. the sexuality of textuality. Fondling the printed page as a turn on. A largely visual campaign showing men and women at various places they read papers, from Starbucks to bed enjoying the feel of it.

Okay there’s a little problem of inkiness and your hands getting dirty. But I can think of a way to turn that into a plus. A campaign with a slogan “the smartest way to get dirty”. OK, maybe that’s not going to fly.

But how about:”Paper: you can finger it.”

Alright, maybe a problem there too. Well I’m not a pro like the lead character in Mad Men who came up with the genius slogan for Lucky Strike tobacco: “It’s Toasted!” Yummy, right? (Please resist the snide response: “Newspapers: They’re Toast!”)

How about “Ink: An Aphrodisiac? Then Why Do We Read So Much in Bed”. With accompanying prurient scenarios of people getting busy or getting ready to, on a bed strewn with the Sunday papers, not uncommon I’m told.

Too risque? Not exactly a ‘modest” proposal in every sense of the word? I bet that some really brainy and creative ad people could come up with an ad campaign to make paper sexy, or at least sensually appealing. I think that’s its saving grace. Touching screens just ain’t sexy and don’t try to tell me you get off caressing your mouse, I don’t want to hear about it if you do. (although I have heard that you can download porn on the internet).

I’m open to suggestions from admen–or any readers–out there. I promise to pass on the best ones (with your permission of course) to the Newspaper Publishers Association.

Any takers?

July 28, 2007

Two or Three Things I Know About Her

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 2:22 pm

Some further preliminary, fragmentary remarks about the death of Theresa Duncan.

First of all thanks to those who have encouraged me to continue posting on the subject, but I must admit I’m uneasy or at least unused to doing “reporting” in this fashion. I’m more accustomed to getting out of the house and talking to people, not drawing any conclusions until I’d felt I’d done all the research. But two important previous obligations make doing that kind of research impossible for the moment.

On the other hand reporting-by-blogging has been a kind of revelation. People I would not ordinarily know about and might not have learned about from traditional reporting seem willing to confide things to my blog comments Many are anonymous and unconfirmable and I have a predisposition against posting such, but I will try over the next few posts to give more of sense of what people are saying. And aside from that since I knew Theresa Duncan only from her brilliant blog perhaps this method is somehow apropos.

In any case here are two or three things, general and particular I know. First opinion seems to be divided between those who think that Theresa either took her life or was driven to her death, or even murdered by harassment by various cults and mysterious adversaries the names and nature of which are apparent to anyone who reads several of her blog entries in the past two months of her life. On reflection I prefer to withhold judgment and not reproduce anonymous accusations without corroboration, but that’s the traditional reporter in me speaking.

On the other hand there are those who paint a picture of Theresa Duncan as brilliant but deeply troubled, possibly delusional in her suspicions. But as one commenter wrote in, the delusion of harassment is as real as harassment.

Then there is the matter of the suicide note. If she were being harassed why not name her nemeses in her last words, rather than leave a note described by the cops as suggesting a peaceful loving farewell?

I guess you could say she might be trying to protect Jeremy, her boyfriend who later seems to have killed himself over her death, but according to police his note didn’t mention any enemies either, and if not why not? I asked a NYPD spokesman what else was in the notes and have yet to receive any comment back although comment has been promised. I asked them if they were aware of. or investigating Theresa’s complaints of harassment but have yet to receive any comment although comment was promised.

I have tried to check out rumors that Theresa was upset at the way her first directing gig was going, but have yet to hear back from her agent.

I should mention that I have not found any evidence that Jeremy Blake himself had anything but an honorable role to play in her life. I learned that even though his death has not be confirmed his friends held a “Shiva service” for him, a term I’m not familiar with. I heard from well-informed art world gadfly (and friend of Theresa and Jeremy), Charlie Finch of (click on “magazine”) that Jeremy seemed like a stable type to him, someone solidifying a major position in the art world.

I also heard a chilling story I can’t verify that after Theresa’s death (which Jeremy discovered) he was indeed deeply upset and that a friend was staying with him until he (Jeremy) planned to fly to Theresa’s funeral in Michigan. But the friend had to work the day before the flight and that was the day Jeremy chose to walk into the waves. The whole thing just keeps getting sadder.

There is a lot more to say, this is just an interim report. I have to admit I’m at a loss to explain Theresa Duncan’s death and the more I re-read her blog and admire its remarkable elan vital, erudition and excitement about art, literature, love and life, the more mysterious her death appears.

I’ll keep posting more provisional, interim, fragmentary reports in the near future.

July 27, 2007

Jeremy Blake's Body Found?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 7:49 pm

I want to thank everyone who has written in Comments and I’m trying to make sense of the conflicting stories and would encourage those of you continue to send them in and I’ll try to do a fragmentary report soon. I’d be particularly interested if anyone knows whether there was trouble with the film Theresa Duncan was supposed to be directing in New York. A film about a rockstar who is kidnapped and becomes even more famous, I’m told. Was there trouble with the production in the days before Theresa died? (Many of the Comments have been anonymous and in this case I respect that, although it’s usually my policy not to publish anonymous stuff because it makes it difficult to verify the info.

Meanwhile though there is important news. The body of Theresa Duncan’s long time boyfriend Jeremy Blake, the rising star artist who apparently walked into the ocean off Rockaway Beach Queens and drowned, despondent over her death, may have been found. New Jersey authorities say a body was found by fishermen floating four miles off the Jersey Shore near Sea Girt.

The problem is they seem to be having trouble making a definitive i.d. and are asking for any doctors or dentists who might have records of Jeremy Blake to come forward.

I’m going to post the numbers that appeared in the recent LA Times story by Chris Lee and hope anyone with any useful information will make use of them:

“Anyone with information is asked to contact senior investigator Sandra Rodriguez of the Ocean County prosecutor’s office at (732) 929-2027, Ext. 2570, or Det. Clint Daniel of the Point Pleasant Beach Police Department at (732) 892-0500, Ext. 160. Detectives from the New York Police Department, which is assisting in the investigation, can be contacted at (212) 477-7809.”

July 24, 2007

Bulletin: Theresa Duncan Not Yet Ruled a Suicide

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 11:19 am

According to sources I checked with in the New York City Police Department and the City Medical Examiner’s Office, the death of Theresa Duncan (se posts below) which has been almost without exception called “a suicide” in the local papers has not yet been officially ruled a suicide.. It may well still be. To my knowledge no evidence has come to light suggesting murder or accidental death. But the authorities aren’t commenting , awaiting, for one thing, toxicology reports on Duncan they say may not be available for at least two weeks.

A verdict “on the cause and manner of her death” is still “pending investigation” is all a spokesman for the Medical Examiner said she was authorized to say.

Meanwhile the body of Theresa Duncan’s boyfriend, Jeremy Blake–who reportedly committed suicide in the waters off Rockaway Beach because he was “despondent” over Theresa’s death–has still not been found.

I have some more information on Jeremy Blake’s death and other aspects of the case that I am checking out and hope to post soon.

July 21, 2007

The Death of Theresa Duncan: News and Clues

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:24 pm

Before trying to draw any conclusions here, are some further facts that have come to light in the wake of artist/blogger Theresa Duncan’s still unexplained suicide (see post below) on July 10 and the apparent suicide of her boyfriend jeremy Blake eight days later.

–The Suicide Notes:

The New York Daily New reports that when her boyfriend found her dead in their East Village apartment on July 10 he found a note. In a report headlined–again ambiguously–“Artist lost in surf likely killed self”, the News tells us Jeremy Blake, Theresa’s boyfriend “had suffered a devastating blow just eight days earlier, when he found his girlfriend of 12 years, filmmaker Theresa Duncan, 40, dead in the bedroom of their East Village apartment”

Here’s the key fact The Times didn’t have: “A bottle of pills and alcohol were found near Duncan’s body inside the E. 11th St. apartment. She left a suicide note saying that she was at peace with her decision and loved Blake and her family deeply, sources said.”

“Sources said”: one assumes these are cops or detectives. But the News adds something more: “The city medical examiner is waiting for tissue and toxicology test results to determine the cause of Duncan’s death.”

Assuming by “determine the cause” they mean what kind of pills she used tokill herself, not whether she killed herself, that still doesn’t explain the real cause.

As for the boyfriend’s death or disappearance The News also has another fact The Times did not: “A woman called cops after she watched the 6-foot-2 Blake walk into the ocean in Rockaway Parkway about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday,” eight days after her death.

The fact that “a woman” called in the 911 report is important I once had a friend who, in a moment of deep despondency, parked his car by a dock, left his clothes and wallet in it, to make it appear like suicide. And then just took off, disappeared. Faked his suicide. Until he showed up at my apartment and I talked him into going back to his family.

When I first read of the boyfriends’s disappearance/suicide it occurred to me that he could have been the one who called in a 911 report of someone fitting his description leaving his clothes behind and walking into the ocean and leaving his wallet behind, he then could have, for any number of reasons, disappeared rather than died.

Now that seems less likely. Unless he had the help of a woman. Which is what makes the surfacing of one of his ex-girlfriends in the case a little troubling.

–Enter the ex-girlfriend. She appears in what seems to be the first report of Theresa’s death, on the LA Observed blog of Kevin Roderick on Thursday July 19th:

Possible news on Theresa Duncan *
Kevin Roderick
Writer, filmmaker and perfume aficionado Theresa Duncan has not posted at her Venice-based blog, The Wit of the Staircase, since July 10. She gave no indication of taking a break, and now an Internet discussion forum has posted an unconfirmed report that Duncan killed herself last week in New York City, where she was making a film. From the same report, her partner of many years, artist Jeremy Blake, is missing off New York’s Rockaway Beach, where a man was seen going into the ocean Tuesday night. The news comes from Anya McCoy, a Florida perfumer who says she spoke with an ex-girlfriend of Blake. I can find no recent news reports tonight on Duncan in New York or her hometown of Detroit, so I’ll stress again that none of this is confirmed.

Now on in the Sunday July 22 New York Post we learn something about the second suicide note, the one found withthe wallet and clothes of the boyfriend Jeremy Blake as he apparently walked into the sea to kill himself although the News reports a search including copters has not spotted a body yet:

“In the short note, Blake said he was ‘despondent’ over the July 10 pill overdose death of his filmmaker girlfriend…He wrote that he could not imagine living without her by his side.”

Well I wish the use of the word “despondent” didn’t raise a flag to me. If you’re truly despondent do you check out of life saying I’m really really “despondent”?

–The Sylvia Plath Connection

A commenter to the last post offered several possible new avenues to approach the case with , so I’m going to reprint it here. The connection to Theresa Duncan’s fairly recent post on the suicide of another 40 year old woman artist, a poet, and the poet’s connection to Sylvia Plath (follow the Boston Globelink) is certainly suggestive:

I had never heard of Theresa Duncan, but I have been reading her blog off and on all day. I posted this on my own blog…
http://dreamdogsart.typepad.com/art/

I also noticed this entry on “The Wit” about a 40-yr old brilliant poetry professor, Sarah Hannah, who recently committed suicide…

http://theresalduncan.typepad.com/witostaircase/2007/06/pink_unthinking.html

Did this death trigger something?

There are also reports calling her Blake’s ex-girlfriend….

http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Entertainment/2007/07/21/ny_artist_missing_after_apparent_suicide/6187/

And the News has this quote from “a friend of the couple who “said he had a hard time imagining the two committing suicide. ‘Suicide would never be on their to-do list,’ he said. ‘The narrrative of the wallet and the clothes under the boardwalk, it’s like somebody writing a cliche, it’s not them. It would be embarrassing to them. It seems too calculated for the most uncalculated people. I can see some teenager in Idaho who listens to Marilyn Manson doing this, but not them.”

Here by the way is Theresa’s haunting last post:

Monday, July 09, 2007
Goodnight, Children, We’re In The Arms Of The Great Lover

“Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
Of blankets….”

~Rupert Brooke, The Great Lover

See you in the a.m.

Monday, July 09, 2007 in The Wit Of The Staircase | Permalink

I should note more disturbing stuff has come up I’m trying to figure out how to evaluate.

Astonishing, Troubling Blogger Suicide: A Web-based Mystery?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:03 am

So I’m reading The Times at Starbucks this morning when I come upon a story that stops me dead. The headline Two Artists, One Suicide The Other Missing.

I knew one of them. Well I didn’t know her, personally, but I felt I knew her from two years of reading her blog The Wit of the Staircase.

Her name was Theresa Duncan and she was the intellectual glamour girl of the web. Brilliant, erudite, beautiful (she looked like Kate Moss who was, unsurprisingly one of her obsessions). I loved her blog I knew when my brain was weary with the conventionalities of news and politics on the Web, tired of immersion in my own work I could always find new intellectual and sensual stimulation in The Wit of the Staircase. And by sensual I don’t mean the glamour shots of Theresa, which she understandably had a weakness for, but that she was devoted to articulating her passions for sensual pleasures–her posts on perfumes for instance were sublime renderings of the wordless in words.

She had directed an admired short film A History of Glamour, she had a boyfriend, a rising star artist named Jeremy Blake, whom she often collaborated with and promoted. She seemed to have everything . And now they’re both dead.

Here’s The Times account of her suicide:

In a case that is reverberating in the art world, the New York Police Department said yesterday that a video-game designer and budding filmmaker committed suicide last week and that her companion, a rising art star, has been missing since Tuesday.

The police confirmed her suicide and his disappearance.

The filmmaker, Theresa Duncan, 40, who has also drawn attention for her writings on cultural topics, committed suicide in their East Village apartment on July 10, the police said. Her companion, Jeremy Blake, 35, a well-regarded artist known for digital animation that blurs the line between abstract painting and film, has been missing since his clothes were found on a beach in the Rockaways on Tuesday evening, they added.

Found with the clothes was a note that made reference to Ms. Duncan, the police said.

Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the police department, said that Mr. Blake was last seen taking off his clothes and then walking into the water at Beach 102nd Street on Tuesday. Police scuba teams have searched the waters off the beach since then, Mr. Browne added, but have not found a body.

Lance Kinz, a director of the Kinz, Tillou + Feigen gallery, which represented Mr. Blake, said that Mr. Blake and Ms. Duncan had been together for 12 years and were very close. The two collaborated, along with another artist, Karen Kilimnik, on “The History of Glamour,” a 1999 animated film that spoofed the fashion world. The short movie, which Ms. Duncan wrote and directed, was called “gentle” and “very funny” by Stephen Holden of The New York Times in 2001.

Mr. Kinz said that Mr. Blake told him he had discovered Ms. Duncan’s body after she committed suicide. He said he had spoken with Mr. Blake after her death and that, while devastated and grieving, “he seemed to be very much in control and to be coping with it.”

Mr. Blake, whose work has been shown at three Whitney biennials and at a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2005, is scheduled to have an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington in late October, partly in collaboration with Malcolm McLaren, the musician and designer.

Mr. Kinz said it is unclear whether that show, or another coming up at his gallery, in Chelsea, would open. “There’s some hope that maybe that wasn’t Jeremy going into the water,” he said, “but it’s presumed that he’s gone.”

Ms. Duncan, who was raised in Detroit, became a prominent video-game designer in the late 1990s, making sophisticated story-based CD-ROM games for young girls — an underserved population in a business largely aimed at adolescent boys. She and Mr. Blake had moved to Los Angeles but recently returned to New York, Mr. Kinz said, where she was working on writing and movie projects.

She also maintained a blog called “The Wit of the Staircase,” where she wrote energetically and at length on topics ranging from books to politics to Kate Moss. Her last entry, dated July 10, the day she died, includes a blurry photograph of a woman putting on a mask and quotes the novelist Reynolds Price: “A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens — second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter.”

She listed her interests at the site, theresalduncan.typepad.com, as “film, philology, Vietnam War memorabilia, rare and discontinued perfume, book collecting, philately, card and coin tricks, futurism, Napoleon Bonaparte, the history of electricity.”

Mr. Blake, whose work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and several other prominent institutions, began to make a name for himself in the late 1990s with dissolving photographic projections used to create the equivalent of geometric abstract paintings. He called his work “time-based painting.”

The 2005 exhibition in San Francisco was based around the San Jose mansion of Sarah Winchester, the widowed heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, who built a mazelike house with 160 rooms to confuse or ward off the ghosts of shooting victims she believed would haunt her.

In addition to work for galleries, Mr. Blake also created sequences of abstract art for the 2002 movie “Punch-Drunk Love,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who had seen Mr. Blake’s work in an earlier show in San Francisco while working on the film.

Roberta Smith, writing in The Times about a 2005 exhibition by Mr. Blake in New York, said that his work had “given the stream-of-consciousness narrative, so long a part of modern literature, a time-based visual equivalent” and that he was moving past predecessors like Ed Ruscha, William Eggleston and Raymond Pettibon into new artistic territory.

The mind reels. Why would she kill herself? Why had the boyfriend,
in control and coping” for a week aparrently drowned himself a week later. Note that the Times hold back from the suicide verdict on him and call him merely “missing”.

It didn’t seem to make sense. Was there something else missing aside from the boyfriend.

I was always fascinated by Theresa Duncan’s choice of “The Wit of the Staircase’ as the name of her blog.() especially by the mysterious spin she put on the phrase in the definition she put at the top of her blog:

“The Wit of the Staircase

“From the French phrase ‘esprit d’escalier,’ literally, it means ‘the wit of the staircase’, and usually refers to the perfect witty response you think up after the conversation or argument is ended. “Esprit d’escalier,” she replied. “Esprit d’escalier. The answer you cannot make, the pattern you cannot complete till afterwards it suddenly comes to you when it is too late.”

in the light of what appears to be a double suicide, it makes you wonder what she mean in her interpretation of “esprit d’escalier'” Not just the obvious, “Wish I’d said that” but “the answer you cannot make , the pattern you cannot complete til afterwards it suddenly comes to you when it is too late.”

Too late. The pattern doesn’t come to you til too late? What does that mean. Too late to save her life. But are there clues on her blog, or in her life to the mystery of her death? I am going to do some research and perhaps a series of posts, including close reading of her last month of posts to see if they offer any clues.

What was the “pattern you cannot complete until afterwards it suddenly comes to you when it is too late..” If anyone can add anything please let me know in the comments.

I don’t expect to solve the mystery. But at the very least I can pay tribute to a beautiful spirit.

.

July 17, 2007

Ron Paul and His Followers

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 7:52 am

I’m reproducing this comment to my last post (typically the abusive commenter timidly hides behind anonymity). I generally don’t post anonymous and/or abusive comments, but there are enough of them from Paul’s followers to make me even more convinced about the shrill little dog whistle they’re hearing. Here’s a particularly embarassing one:

I did hear Ron Paul was discriminatory. He wants to do away with neocons who are against American civil liberties. I guess that would be you. No wonder you don’t like Ron Paul. The question is, do you feel threatened enough to make up stories about Ron Paul, since he is your enemy

First there’s the ignorance and inaccuracy. Anyone who reads the post can see that I explicitly say I don’t find Ron Paul an anti-semite but rather likable. It’s certain of his less-than-brilliant followers–precisely like the one above–who are the stain on his campaign. Look at the lame attempt to make a joke about being “discriminatory”. And I should point out that although I’m a liberal internationalist and member of the ACLU, not a neo con, one has to wonder about just how metaphorical the commenter’s language is when he says Ron Paul wants to “do away” with neo cons.

Just what does “do away with” with mean? Is he speaking for Ron Paul? Is that the commenter’s view of “American civil liberties”, to “do away with” those who disagree with them? Which amendment of the Bill of Rights has that?

Is he perhaps betraying a subconscious wish to make “do away with” literally eliminationist? Sure doesn’t sound like an accidental slip. (nor does the venom in some of the other commenters’ remarks, bile not worth spreading).

Indeed, I think the comment above perfectly exemplifies the point I made about some not all of Ron Paul supporters.

You’ve certainly done Ron Paul proud.

July 14, 2007

Ron Paul May Not be An Anti Semite, but…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 1:40 pm

…some of his followers exhibit some disturbing tendencies.

Recently I was talking to someone about the way Paul supporters persist in thrusting themselves to the top of the heap in a certain on-line straw polls, making him seem to be the people’s choice when he’s in last place in most conventional polls. Reference was made to something I hadn’t read then, but now have: Ryan Sager ‘s story In The New York Sun which focusses mainly on some dubious comments on race that appeared in a news letter he used to publish. The Paul alibi: the words were written by an aide who was since fired and do not reflect Paul’s views. (and I guess he must have kept them hidden from Paul until springing them in the newsletter).

Giving him the benefit of the doubt on this leaves the anti semitic question. Sager cites one quote also apparently from the news letter

I found Andrew Sullivan’s judicious discussion of the question–which reprints Ron Paul’s views on the malign influence of the Israeli embassy in Washington–worth reprinting (old fashioned term for cutting and pasting not linking):

Here it is:

Ryan Sager, Ron Paul And Anti-Semitism
22 May 2007 09:38 pm
I should begin by saying that I have great respect for
Ryan Sager. He’s an energetic, careful, enterprising
young reporter and I admire his work a lot. That’s why
I was dismayed to read his off-the-cuff assertion that
Ron Paul was anti-Semitic based on an old, probably
ghost-written and pretty anodyne statement of disdain
for the Israel lobby in Washington. Paul made the
statement in the context of lambasting all such
lobbies. And it’s perfectly consonant with his general
isolationist views. Still, we all make quick judgments
in online journalism and Ryan has made an honorable
effort to review the issue and report some more. His
latest piece exonerates Paul to my mind. And I might
add I have and have always had no truck with
anti-Semitism of any kind. Longtime readers know very
well my admiration for the Jewish state and my
revulsion at anti-Semitic smears. Here’s Ryan’s post.
In the first paragraph, he writes:

Over at Reason’s Hit & Run blog, David Weigel got Ron
Paul to comment on the quote I took note of a little
while ago that “By far the most powerful lobby in
Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.”
I said that I considered this statement anti-Semitic
on its face; I still do.
But at the end of the piece, Ryan writes:
At the end of the day, do I still believe Ron Paul is
“an anti-Semite” as I said in my initial post? I think
that was an overly harsh assessment, and I apologize
for it. Nonetheless, I have emailed his campaign
spokesman to ask if he stands by the main quotation in
question here: “By far the most powerful lobby in
Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.”

…[Sager continues] I think it’s perfectly possible for a
politician to believe it is the Israeli lobby for
foreign policy reasons, without being anti-Semitic. No
doubt some anti-Semites are among that camp. But it
doesn’t follow that everyone in that camp is therefore
automatically anti-Semitic.

Now I think it’s true that “it’s perfectly possible for a politician to believe the Israeli lobby is the worst” of a “bad sort” for foreign policy reasons. And I’d give Ron Paul the benefit of the doubt in believing that’s the reason–pure foreign policy considerations–if that’s what he believed.

But I think a lot depends on the reasons you think the Israeli lobby is a particularly “bad sort”, the worst in fact. if the reasons betray a double standard where Israel’s right to exist and to seek to protect itself from genocidal opponents is somehow something sinister and Israel is held to impossibly self destructive standards where lobbying is somehow equivalent to Protocols of the Elders of Zion insidious secret control–that another thing.

It’s often a real but subtle matter distinguishing non anti-semitic anti-Israel sentiment and the anti-semitic kind, and to my mind I think Ron Paul is a likable eccentric, not a hater. Yet he 9and many of his followers) have credulous views that verge on black helicopter conspiracy tendencies about the New World Order, Giant Secret Trilateral Commission, New World Order, Skull and Bones, secret ruling council of Globalists, a world view that has a template in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and often an anti-semitic dog whistle appeal.

Listen for instance, to the spittle-flecked venom of some of the the Ron Paul supporters’ commenters on the Ryan Sager’s essay.

And now let’s look at some of the of the titles of the comments:

Dump The Israeli Parasites [158 words]

Sick of neo-con artists. [20 words]

Criticism of Israel does NOT = Anti-semitism [29 words

Anyone against giving $Billions to Israel hates jews? Ridiculous! [159 words]

Paul is right Jews have too much power in America [49 words]

Now let’s look at the langauge and tone of one of them, the “dump the Israeli parasites” commenter;

Dump The Israeli Parasites
Reader comment on : Ron Paul’s Race Problem
Submitted May 22, 2007 19:35

Paul wrote that lobbying groups who seek special favors are evil, and that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.”

That pretty much sums up the biggest problem in Washington — there couldn’t be a better reason to vote for Ron Paul as President in 2008. The Israeli lobby, the IRS and the Federal Reserve should be purged from America ASAP. And as for being anti-semetic — HA — that’s a laugh. Jews are not a race; they belong to a political agenda that masquerades as religion.

It’s time to take back our country from the criminals and join in America’s defense with Ron Paul.

So yes, it’s true that not all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic (or “semetic” as the illiterate writer of the “parasite ” post has it). But on the other hand some are. (another tip-off of those who are actually anti-semitic is that they are compulsively drawn to make the tiresomely obvious point about Semites referring to all people in the region, as if this were something immensely clever no one remarked on. As if then, what has come to be called> anti-semitism, however imprecisely, can’t be real because there’s a problem with the wording. Something they disprove with their own sad midget minded display of self-satisfaction, as if they’re fooling anyone.

It’s also true that other candidates have anti-Israel and anti-semitic followers who post comments that reflect varying degrees of venom and the candidates shouldn’t be held responsible.

But it can’t be denied that a number of Ron Paul’s followers have heard a dog whistle. Maybe it’s just rabid dogs, that hear that whistle, ones already infected with the disease, so to speak, of anti-semitism. One can’t blame Ron Paul for the dog whistle. (I think of squeaky miniature breeds, whistling to themselves.) But one is tempted to ask, “Who let the dogs out?”

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