22 January 2006


Below (with my annotations) excerpts from a feature article from the LA Times about Bernard Henri Levy who's book American Vertigo: Traveling in the Footsteps of Tocqueville arrives in stores this week.
While rolling west near Battle Creek, Mich., on Interstate 94, the French celebrity intellectual stopped to relieve himself at the roadside. A state highway patrolman zoomed up with lights flashing and a culture clash ensued: Parisians accept public urination even in nice neighborhoods, while Americans see it as an activity confined to drunks, vagrants and madmen.
Frenchmen and their need to pee on everything. They should all be fixed, then perhaps they wouldn't need to mark territory with such fervor. (earning the name European (You are a peein', indeed), one wall at a time)
"One of the things that makes Lévy so interesting is that he's a philosopher who seeks to address a broad audience," Will Murphy, the book's editor at Random House, said by telephone from New York. "We don't have an equivalent figure in the U.S…. He deserves to be better known here. An author like that is good for the intellectual conversation here."
Translation: those rubes in the fly-over states don't know what's good for them, if they'd just listen to more Europeans they'd stop voting for those evil Republicans.
LÉVY has no patience for anti-Americanism. His book blasts President Bush but paints often-sympathetic portraits of neoconservative Washington intellectuals, Air Force cadets, Border Patrol agents and other figures whom foreigners tend to demonize. Although Lévy's friends and political soul mates are mainly on the left, he scolds much of the "progressive" intellectual elite for being "in a profound coma."

"I tried to deconstruct clichés fed by France about America but also by America about itself," he said. "Sometimes, talking to the intellectuals of the East Coast, I was stunned by their blindness toward their own country…. This idea that America is on the verge of fascism, for example. I think there are fascists in America, there are bad guys. There is a right-wing America, but America is not on the verge of fascism."
If I wasn't sputtering with rage, I'd be able to think of something to say, but I am flabbergasted at the complete asshattery of these comments. This is so far from aintwrongness that I may have to call the antonym for aintwrongness, henrilevyness. Glad to know we aren't on the 'verge of fascism', to even entertain the thought is about as intelligent as expecting a frenchman to be familiar with a bar of soap. Other than the recognition of the stupidity, ossification, and utter lack of ideas of East Coast intellectuals, he's an idiot.
His interview list reads like a highbrow, high-powered and predominantly male Rolodex: billionaire philanthropist George Soros, former Pentagon advisor Richard Perle, Norman Mailer, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Woody Allen, Warren Beatty.

The author also landed a campaign-plane interview with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) just before the presidential election. But the nominee's staff feared anti-French backlash so much that an exasperated Lévy got access only after insisting that his story would not appear until after the vote.
Evidently Ward Churchill, Sen. Dick Durbin, George Clooney, Michael Moore, Howard Dean, or Cornell West were unavailable. (At least he tried to talk to a representative sample of American political thought, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (bet you are wondering about now how long I'll keep up the dot dot gag) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Parker and Stone when talking about the vomit scene in Team America mention their theory that a joke held for a short time funny, held for an excruciatingly long time, comedy gold) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . or not) (phew!)

The capper to this article, (in the LA Times) is a slam at Los Angeles, one the interviewer probably agrees with. (our local paper is full of East Coast snobs who hate being in L.A., it suffuses everything they write about our community)
And he dutifully did Los Angeles. He had an eminent guide, historian Kevin Starr, for Olvera Street. He visited a weight-loss clinic, though he believes the obesity epidemic is no worse in the United States than in France. He strolled what he calls the "grotesque" CityWalk in Universal Studios. He talked politics with Sharon Stone at her Beverly Hills mansion.

As much as the disciple of Tocqueville admires America, however, the affection falters in Los Angeles. He does not get Los Angeles. He calls the city "illegible and unintelligible."

"The definition of a monster according to Aristotle is too much substance and not enough form," Lévy said. "That's exactly the case of Los Angeles. It may be a European point of view. I say it with all the prudence of someone perhaps with a traditional idea of a city…. I don't say I hated it, but I was lost. 'Lost in Translation.' Perhaps it's the city of the future. But without me."
There is no 'perhaps' about it. Los Angeles IS the future, Paris is a dead, rotting, stinking, heap of the past. Los Angeles in its glorious sprawl, hundreds of languages, crazed patchwork of neighborhoods, and hustlers vitality rules the Pacific Rim and the future. All the problems of today and tomorrow will be expressed, and solved, right here in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is where dreamers and doers go. Paris is where intellectuals go when they want to engage in a protracted circle jerk. I'll take Orpheus over Onan any day.

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