Seeing and Believing
October 30, 2009
Are representations of the Prophet Muhammad permitted in Islam? To make or not to make images of the Prophet: that is the question I will try to answer. It is an unexpectedly burning question, as the newspapers regularly demonstrate. But both the answer to the question and the reasons for raising it require a broader introduction. There have been many times in recent years when one bemoaned the explosion of media that have provided public forums for so much incompetence and ignorance, not to speak of prejudice. Matters became worse after September 11, for two additional reasons.
J Street's Choice
October 28, 2009
Yesterday I appeared on a panel at J Street, where I debated Matthew Yglesias on what it means to be pro-Israel, as well as J Street's role in this debate.
J Street is having an identity crisis right in front of the cameras. For a year and a half it's been trumpeting that it's both "pro-Israel" and "pro-peace." Actually, that's how I would characterize myself. I am for a two-state solution and always have been. I was for a "Jewish state" and an "Arab state" ever since I was a kid. That's ultimately what nearly every Israeli prime minister has been for, too. And that's what Israel has been trying in different ways and in different circumstances to negotiate.
If I Were Barack Obama, The People I’d Be Most Tee’d Off About Would Be J Street. And Maybe He is.
October 26, 2009
Now, everybody who reads me knows that I am not a big supporter of administration policy on the Middle East. But, then, I am not a big supporter of its foreign policy almost anywhere. No, let me correct that. Not "almost anywhere." But "anywhere." That said, I don't believe that President Obama is trying to weaken the United States or its allies.
October 26, 2009
California is a mess, but I love it all the same--especially the Bay Area, where I lived for 15 years. I went to Berkeley in 1962--a refugee from Amherst College, which at that time was dominated by frat boys with high SAT scores. I didn't go to Berkeley to go to school, but to be a bus ride away from North Beach and the Jazz Workshop. In a broader sense, I went to California for the same reason that other émigrés had been going since the 1840s. I was knocking on the Golden Door. Immigrants from Europe had come to America seeking happiness and a break with their unhappy pasts.
Matters of Fact
October 24, 2009
Chris & Don: A Love Story (Zeitgeist) My Winnipeg (IFC) 19th Annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival In 1964 Christopher Isherwood published A Single Man, a novel about a homosexual man and his state of spirit after his lover dies. Now comes Chris & Don, a documentary film about Isherwood's lover and his state of spirit since Chris's death. The subtitle of the film is "A Love Story." The picture makes the worn term fresh, moving. The principal place is the couple's home in Santa Monica, where Don Bachardy still lives.
The Interested Man
October 22, 2009
When Irving Kristol joined the new magazine Commentary, he distinguished himself from the other editors--Clement Greenberg, part-time then, Robert Warshow, and me. First, he had an interest in politics, real politics, electoral politics, and not just the politics of left-wing anti-Stalinists, mulling over what was living and what was dead in Marxism, the fate of socialism, the future of capitalism, communist influence in the intellectual world--no mean issues, but hardly ones to affect who won and who lost an election.
The Moral Authority of Accusers: 1. The Fall of Human Rights Watch 2. The J Street Circle Jerk
October 21, 2009
Ours is an age when the moral authority of accusers is at its height. Also the moral authority of accusations. There was a time when accusations had to be proven. That requirement has long since passed. After all, why would anyone bear false witness? So everybody is a witness, especially those with phantasmagoric tales to tell, especially those who yearn to testify against liberal societies which have established and proven processes to alert their own demos about evil. There are many of these foul witnesses: some ideologues, some ideological liars, some resentful, some haters.
The Restless Medium
October 21, 2009
Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before By Michael Fried (Yale University Press, 409 pp., $55) I. Michael Fried,who shot to intellectual stardom in 1967 with an essay in Artforum called "Art and Objecthood," is an intimidating writer. He looks very closely. He has passionate feelings about what he sees. And he shapes his impressions into a theory that fits snugly with all the other theories he has ever had. Whatever his chosen subject--Diderot, Courbet, Manet, Kenneth Noland--he comes up with an interpretation that is as smoothly and tightly constructed as a stainless-steel box.