Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, May 12, 2018


It seems that every country and region stakes a claim to its own flavor of noir. I discovered Mediterranean noir through Jean-Claude Izzo's Marseilles trilogy. Just finished the first two books, Total Chaos and Chourmo, which I read out of order because Chourmo was the only one on the shelf at the library when it caught my eye.

Protagonist Fabio Montale is native of Marseilles whose family came from Italy, a cop in the first book, former cop in the second. In his forties now, Montale grew up poor and got into criminal escapades with two pals as a young man before deciding that kind of life was a dead end. He listens to all sorts of music, with special fondness for jazz and blues. He also throws in stuff like these lines from a poem by Louis Brauquier that a young Arab girl with a crush on Montale recites for him:

The shadows and the mystery are gone, The spirit fled, and we are poor again; And only sin can give us back the earth, That makes our bodies move and sigh and strain.

I had never heard of Brauquier, a Marseilles poet. This verse is enough to want to know more about him.

The novels are set in the 1990s. Stories and characters are compelling. Much of it is driven by the social and political milieu. Marseilles in a city of immigrants. As a boy Montale was looked down on because he was a wop. Now it's Arabs and blacks who face resentment and discrimination. The intersection of organized crime and anti-immigrant groups, including the National Front, play into it, as does the dynamic of young immigrants living in a bleak present with dim prospects for the future. Montale attempts to live with integrity and honor in a city he loves that is filled with poverty, racism, and violence he hates. Izzo's account him and his city carries the ring of authenticity.

Izzo died of lung cancer in 2000 at the age of fifty-four. He described himself this way: "By birth, I am a pure Marsellais. That's to say I'm half Italian and half Spanish, with a touch of Arab blood." The Guardian ran a nice piece about Izzo in 2000, after his death: Douglas Johnson, Jean-Claude Izzo. Interesting guy.

Let's try keeping the rest of these entries brief. That would be a change, wouldn't it?

Rudy Giuliani, the gift to comedians that keeps on giving. As far as Giuliani knows, Michael Cohen is no longer the president's attorney. As far as he knows?

Here's another gem from the former NYC mayor and failed presidential candidate. "By the way, under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States.

They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office." PolitiFact points out that in fairness Giuliani did mention 9/11 at the beginning of the speech where he made this statement that runs a little bit afoul of what in normal parlance are known as facts. The PolitiFact piece cites multiple examples of attacks successful that occurred during those eight years before Obama assumed office.

Meantime, the president twitted disparagingly of the Obama administration's failure to secure the release of the three hostages held by North Korea. It seems two of those hostages were detained in 2017, in April and May of that year, months after Obama left office (fact-checked at Snopes). Hard to fault Obama for that. Not that it deterred his successor.

Speaking of Twitter, how in the name of Socrates, Plato, Renaissance humanists, Enlightenment philosophes, and the rest of our intellectual heritage has Twitter become an acceptable vehicle for the discussion of serious ideas and issues?

Recommended reading: Axios has a nice piece laying out the public case against Trump:

One thing is true of all major political scandals: What we know in the moment is but a tiny, obscured, partial view of the full story later revealed by investigators. Why it matters: That’s what makes the Trump-Russia drama all the more remarkable. Forget all we don’t know. The known facts that even Trump’s closest friends don’t deny tell a damning tale that would sink most leaders.

The list is daunting.

Keep the faith.


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