Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Reporter - Part 5: October 20, 1955

The first thing one might notice about this edition of The Reporter is that the cover art has no connection to the banner headline. The small print beneath the headline reads “The Troubles on Israel’s Frontiers", which accounts for the cover art.

"The Turning Point” in the presidency of Dwight David Eisenhower is explained by the opening paragraph of the title editorial by Max Ascoli:

What happened to the President and to the nation on that Saturday, September 24, can perhaps best be defined by the common-law term “act of God,” taken in its most literal religious sense. On that day a Power infinitely beyond our calculations stunned us all by affecting the beat of one man’s heart.

That is to say, Ike had a heart attack. The second paragraph goes on to say:

It turned out to be no more than a gentle warning both to the President and to the people, but it has been enough to convey the notion that while the Presidency of Dwight Eisenhower may well run through its full course, it will surely not be continued into a second term.

Well, so much for that article. As we know, Ike not only finished his first term—weak ticker, or not—but he did run again, in 1956, and win. And he finished that term, too.

The following (and related) article, by Sidney Hyman, entitled “The Founding Fathers and Presidential Disability” goes on at great length concerning what should be done if Ike’s heart snapped again, disabling him without killing him outright. Constitutionally, who gets to make the call that the POTUS is mentally or physically unable to do the job? This had come up before; both Woodrow Wilson and FDR come to mind in that respect, and Eisenhower’s heart attack had raised the issue again. (But not that interestingly.)

As for Israel’s border crisis. The map of Israel embedded in the text of the article, coupled with hindsight, describes it pretty well:

We’ll just let that picture be worth a thousand words, remember what geography the Israelis acquired in subsequent wars, and move on.

The letters to the editor section includes missives concerning the article on modern jazz (that I criticized in Part 4) by two prominent writers on the subject—Nat Hentoff and Whitney Balliett—both of whom pretty much agreed with what I had to say about it.

Our common thread, Sidney Alexander, pans Norman Mailer’s new novel The Deer Park. I have to agree that The Deer Park is a piece of shit by Mailerian standards. The title of Alexander’s review is “Not Even Good Pornography”. While this leads one to wonder just what kind of pornography Alexander preferred, back in the day, I also found it amusing that a novel like The Deer Park could be considered quasi-pornographic. There’s worse on primetime TV in this day and age.

The final article from this issue that I’ll mention is a travelogue about Haiti by Sabine Gova. In the final sections of the piece, the author gets onto the topic of most probable interest to Americans—voodoo and (gasp!) zombies. She has met a talkative native named Justin Villefonte in the dining room of the pension at which she is staying. He turns out to be a lawyer, educated at the Sorbonne. He has (we learn) enemies among the houngans—the voodoo priests—a situation about which he will speak only guardedly. At one point in the discussion he offers this:
"I want to make known that we Africans have solutions to offer where the white scientists are still guessing. Psychiatric solutions, psychological solutions, even medical perhaps…they are in the hands of the houngans. It’s the houngans who know more about the so-called wonder drugs than the entire scientific world." Now, here come the zombies.
He tells her of “the use of substances which do not kill but produce a cataleptic state” and of “the burying of a person treated with such a drug” whom the houngan later disinters to exist as “a mere robot without thought or will.” Villefonte hopes to make such things available to modern medicine. Thus, he has earned the wrath of the powerful houngan priestly cult.
Hm. ...whom the houngan later disinters... Can you dig it? X


Anonymous said...

Of course, I'm enjoying the running commentary on the magazine. That was a golden age for magazines, from the early 1800s (many of Dickens's major works started off as serializations in such reading fare) to sometime in the early 1970s. After that, television, our current education system, and the advent of "blockbuster" Lucas-Spielberg-Cameron films totally destroyed our once great printed art form.

I would be curious as to the state of this magazine's copyright status, as I would love to read actual articles on your blog as JPEG links. How ironic that the greatest works are now getting so old they are "free" to the public in the sense of public domain, while the new, glitzy garbage at Borders and Barnes and Noble costs too many hard-to-earn-these-days dollars.

As for Haiti, I think the current state of that nation and the sorry condition of its citizens speaks to the so-called ""power" of houndoun. Just another excuse for black folk to get wasted and stone in the name of Jesus, Allah, or whatever the hell they worship on the other side of the Dominican border. You know by now that you won't find any sympathy for me for any sort of animism. The difference between Haitian rural "spiritual" beliefs and Al Sharpton is, to my mind, only a matter of decrepit degree not kind. I guess the travelogue piece spoke to the burgeoning, post-Richard Wright "Negritude" movement as well as the embryonic strains of "radical chic" among the coffee house set.

Speaking of African dictatorships and jazz scores, saw a wonderful French, left-wing, anti-war, screwball comedy yesterday (and no that description of the movie is exact, not facetious)

Not exactly Godard or Truffaut, but still ranks above "Iron Lung Man 2" or "Twilight 3: The Skinny Dipping," or whatever the hell is playing at the average movieplex these days.


Rodak said...

Ah, Madscribe. I just gotta love that voodoo that you do so well.
The Haiti piece actually has some pretty good substance to it. I just focused on the voodoo part for its amusement factor (as did the author, I think.) This mag is a pretty dense item. It's only possible to skim the surface of its contents in a blog post.

Rodak said...

The comments here keep disappearing and reappearing. Right now, they're gone again. Easy come, easy go, I guess...

Rodak said...

Now they're back. Read 'em and weep.

SINVILLE said...

Sorry, I think, I was the one playing magician! I am presuming that I deleted the comments. Technology, ain't it fun!

Rodak said...

Like a barrel of monkeys, as they say.