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Showing posts from October 22, 2006


Here’s a Halloween story for you all. From Histoire curieuse et pittoresque des sorcier, devins, magiciens, astrologues, voyants, revenants, etc., by Mathias de Giraldo Un pâtre du village de Blow, près de la ville de Kadam, en Bohème, apparut quelque temps. Il appelait certaines personnes, qui ne manquaient pas de venir dans la huitaine. Les paysans de Blow déterrerent ce pâtre et le réinhumererent avec un pieu qu’ils lui passerent à travers le corps. Cet homme, en cet état, se moquait de ceux qui lui faisaient subir ce traitement, et leur disait qu’il avaient bonne grace de lui donner ainsi un bâton pour se defender contre les chiens. La même nuit il se releva, et effraya par sa presence plusieurs personnes, et en suffoqua plus qu’il n’avait fait jusqu’alors. On le livra ensuite au bourreau, qui le mit sur une charrette pour le transporter hors du village et l’y brûler. Ce cadaver hurlait comme un furieux, et remuait les pieds et les mains comme un vivant, et losqu’on le perca de nou

marabout hideousness

"And the Iraqi says, "What do you mean this is a show?'" On April 18, 1999, in the NYT Magazine section, there was a brief article by Teller about Robert-Houdin’s trip to Algeria: “On Oct. 28, 60 burnoose-clad chieftains and their retinues arrived at Algiers's Bab Azoun Theater to see Houdin. The magician began with a few pleasant surprises: he produced cannonballs and bouquets from a hat; he threw coins into the air, which then appeared in a crystal box suspended above the audience; he filled an empty silver punch bowl with steaming coffee -- a great hit with the Arab java lovers. Having tantalized the audience with humor, Houdin began the psychological assault. He brought out a strongbox with a ring for a handle, and placed it on the floor. He asked for a muscular volunteer to come up onstage and lift the chest. A volunteer, a particularly burly man, did so easily. Then Houdin waved his wand at the volunteer and said, ''Voila! You are weaker than a woma

Lois Poitras

Lois Poitras decided to do something foolhardy, and went to Iraq with a camera, and hung out with an anti-occupation politician during the 2005 election. Contrast this with the home of Kraus and Shafer and Hitchens, Slate, which elected to get its Iraqi election news from correspondant Tamara Chalabi – that’s right, Ahmed’s daughter. How sick is that. And so contrarian! Giggles must have swept the Slate D.C. office – so naughty. Why, it is as funny as making a mousse out of congealed Iraqi blood! Well, Poitras didn’t do anything so chic and D.C., but spent time – plebe that she is – in the Adhamiyah section of Baghdad filming … “*Dr. Riyadh* … a Sunni political candidate and medical doctor who sees the effects of war daily. Dr. Riyadh opposes U.S. occupation and calls for civil resistance, while hoping for a democracy based on Islamic principles.” One of the … wait for it … bad guys, must be. Ungrateful for the killing fields which, as Chris Hitchens has pointed out, are just the pric

Bush, our vanity robot, speaks

Out of curiosity, LI counted the number of times President Bush said “I believe” in today’s press conference. It comes out to 21. As we have said until saying it makes us fucking sick and tired of saying it, Iraq is a vanity war, caused, in part, by the power seized by the executive branch during the cold war that has allowed any president to use U.S. troops as mercenaries to fulfill whatever odious desire he happens to shelter. President Bush is different than most in that he is more emotionally crippled than is even usually the case for a politician – and let’s face it, the skill set for a politician can be pretty much read in the face of a politician -- all the taloned love of self combined with the usual middle manager's enormous and servile fears. Thus, this war has been reduced, in the unimaginable claustrophobia of the oval office, to what Bush believes. The convergence of an anti-democratic structure and the pathologies of privilege meet and resonate in Bush’s credo, for wh

Comment on devient sorcier

That wonderful phrase comes from Robert-Houdin, the conjurer LI mentioned in the last post. Robert-Houdin is known to most Americans simply because Eric Weiss stole part of his name and added an ‘i’: Houdini. And even those who know that rarely know that Houdini wrote a book in which he supposedly “unmasked” his idol as a pilferer of other people’s tricks. Robert-Houdin has become one of those quiet sites of American-French rivalry – as the French know, Robert-Houdin’s house was lit by incandescent lightbulbs with a filament he invented decades before the Wizard of Menlo Park got around to experimenting on how much of an electrical charge the human hair follicle could take. His memoirs were once popular, and still are popular among magicians. They are also popularly debunked. As is, for example, the story of how Houdin got into the magic biz in the first place. Here it is. Houdin was a young man, away from home, an apprentice watchmaker, and son of a watchmaker. One day he got a bad ca

tricks as primitive as are the spectators before whom they are performed

They put a little light in his head – Metric Robert-Houdin, like Berlioz and Georges Sand, led his life as though it were a sold out engagement for a 19th century French audience – so it was natural that he would gravitate towards the memoir. In 1856, acceding to the demands of Colonel Neveu of the Political office, Houdin went to tour Algeria. The tour was not simply about showing French magic in the colonies to a bunch of poilus – it was about using that magic for political ends. Specifically, Houdin was the point man for the battle of white magic against black. “It is known that the majority of revolts which have to be suppressed in Algeria are excited by intriguers, who say they are inspired by the Prophet, and are regarded by the Arabs as envoys of God on earth to deliver them from the oppression of the Roumi (Christians). These false prophets and holy Marabouts, who are no more sorcerers than I am, and indeed even less so, still contrive to influence the fanaticism of their co-re