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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wire Reports

--for Godfrey Reggio and John Donne

6 a.m.
I was standing on the first tee at the KGA Golf Club in downtown Bangalore, in southern India, when my playing partner pointed at two shiny glass-and-steel buildings off in the distance, just behind the first green.

On a giant video screen, Nature imagery, manipulated in slow motion, double exposure or time lapse, juxtaposed with footage of humans' devastating environmental impact on the planet. A storm system was sitting out over the ocean. Myanmar’s social welfare minister said most of the town of Bogalay had been washed away, killing more than 10,000 people. 

The world was going to hell, there was no stability in sight and the global economy was roaring its approval.

9 a.m.
Before long, I had gained a sense of society's plasticity, fostering an illusion that I could destroy and remake the social order at will.

On a giant video screen, people were dancing in a cesspool around rings of fire engulfing the remains of corporate profiteers. “These are unbelievable periods of volatility, it's pretty stressful," said one corporate bond trader in Frankfurt. “There’s a black cloud of doom that seems to hang over the entire cast,” said an actress who worked on the film.

All around could be felt the disintegration of being that comes with the night. The static became audibly more noticeable than the music.

10 a.m.
Young Ukrainian models in flimsy lingerie sprayed champagne at a boisterous crowd of young Lebanese at a swanky beach resort south of Beirut. The United Nations warned of a looming catastrophe with disease rife among the hungry, exhausted population.


I can tell you without hesitation that the winds of change are sweeping across the continent of Africa,” said a government official who requested anonymity. “It’s good for the state, which has been concerned that there hasn’t been enough rain this season,” said one governor’s aide. 

The storm system, four times the size of Texas, resembled a hurricane, with spiral water-ice clouds and an eye. It lashed ancient Mayan ruins and headed for the modern oil installations of the Yucatan Peninsula.

2 p.m.

It became clear that the government was in trouble. I began to transmit digital images and text via my satellite phone. I told my accountant "Every gear in the system is grinding against the popular will, subverting the democratic mojo that we tell the rest of the world bleeds from our veins.” 

A small crowd cheered outside a stadium dazzlingly created in polygons with every event preceded by sweeping camera angles, and replays shown live on a giant video screen. At a quick glance, I thought I saw myself on a magazine cover. Fossilized into the screen, the terraced images of breast and buttock had ceased to carry any meaning.

I feel like a millionaire,” said one prizewinner showing a huge set of emeralds and diamonds, “but I never realized it would be so heavy.” Antelopes suffering from summer’s savage heat raced with parched throats toward the distant sky. Al-Jazeera television also showed it at that time, saying it was exclusive.

5 p.m.
All the rules created license to go to far greater extremes than had ever been allowed before. Every spigot was open and every indulgence slopped out for our gleeful wallowing. “Be collected. No more amazement,” I whispered, but the storm system continued to inch closer and closer.

Poll numbers started plummeting because of the violence, because of the missteps and trouble and challenges. The storm system was blamed for some six deaths in the Philippines as it crossed the island. Dozens of reporters fled or abandoned their work due to a climate of fear. Colors pulsed, the music pounded and images of majesty and beauty swirled across the screen at a whirlwind pace. An old woman said “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.” 

11 p.m.
The descent beckons as the ascent beckoned. The yachts moored in the Bay of Naples and the lagoon at Bora Bora sail under the flags of the same admiralty that posts squadrons off the shore of Nantucket and the Costa Brava

Looking up I saw myself on a giant video screen. 

In the grotesque, grinning photographs I clearly seemed to believe that what I was doing was routine and approved. The shadows of clouds were moving darkly along the unlit landscape. 

The world was going to hell, there was no stability in sight and the global economy was roaring its approval on a giant video screen. 

I returned to my hotel at midnight only to be told to leave again as waters were rising.



1. Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 2005.
1. Generic and Koyaanisqatsi
2. Generic
3. Unknown, Myanmar cyclone official toll: 22,464, UPI,
4. Naomi Klein, “Disaster Capitalism,” Harper’s,

1. Alfred McCoy, A Question of Torture, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2006, p 84.
2.“Greedtock ’99: Why we Rioted”
3. qu. by Jeremy Gaunt, Credit casualties mount global stocks tumble, Wed Aug 1, 2007,
5. Witold Gombrowicz, Pornografia, Alastair Hamilton, tr., p. 48.
6. Rob Williams,

1. Yara Bayoumy, Beach frolics eclipse politics in war weary Lebanon,
2. . Sahal Abdulle, “Somali Government, Insurgents Battle,” 4/24/07
3. Kenneth Kaunda, qu. By DeWayne Wickham, “Winds of change are sweeping across Africa,” USA Today, 10/27/2003,
Larry Jagan, Intrigue and illness in Myanmar's junta
4. Marisa Lagos, John Koopman, More Rain and Snow on Way,
5. Henry Fountain, Observatory,
6. Associated Press, Category 5 Hurricane Dean Slams Mexico, 8/21/2007

1. Dr. Ellis,
2. Generic and Farhad Manjoo, “Your Presidential Candidate: Hot or Not?”
4. Mad Bull, “Dis ones for the ladeez”
5. . J.G. Ballard, The atrocity exhibition
6. Adapted from Khin Nyein Aye Than, A Night Sparkling with Jewels and Candlelight.
7. Kalidasa, “Rtusamharam,” The Complete Works of Kalidasa, Chandra Rajan tr. Sahitya Akademi, p. 79
8. Associated Press, “Iraqis seek source of taunts, hanging video,” Baltimore Sun, 1/3/07, 8A

1. Philip Gourevitch, U.S. News and World Report, in an interview with Alex Kingsbury, 6/9/08
2. Thomas Frank. Why Misgovernment Was No Accident in Bush’s Washington,
3. Shakespeare, The Tempest
4. Adapted from
5. Ed Henry, CNN Sunday Morning, May 21, 2006.
8. Peter M. Bracke, “Across the Universe,”
9. Adapted from a Nightline interview w/ anonymous hurricane survivor

1.William Carlos Williams
2. Lewis Lapham, Estate Sale, Harper’s May 2008
3. Generic
4. Andrew Sullivan “The Horrors really are your America, Mr. Bush”,,29449-2209636,00.html
5. Greg Holt, “Sitting Bull Falls,”


Anonymous said...

The inherent honesty of such (paraphrased) sentiment as "Tough times don't last, tough people do" lifts me up!


Bo Anders Knutson said...

something tells me this armatur character's tougher than a $3 steak.