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July 05, 2007


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JJ Commoner

I have long wished I could be Lewis Lapham, in another life. You just have to respect the fellow ... after all, he could bark in tune or just as loudly as all the other rich, privileged people he grew up with, the class he belongs to ..

But no, he chooses to poke fun and serious criticism at the same time. When, exactly, did he go insane ?

But if one is going to go insane, his particular type of insanity is the kind I can subscribe to.

O Lucky Man

What a maroon. Like I said before, it's hard to believe anyone could edit together sound and picture this poorly unless one intended to. Sheer chance would rescue the naif.

(And before you get your knickers in a twist, wait to see the whole pic - or at least the last 2/3.)


The Lapham equestrian class - do you sense in his work a living tradition of the Fool? Almost but not quite. Carnival? Almost, not quite. A fine critical mind and irony of the most urbane sort, satire too, some. I read him with great pleasure and some impatience. Satire as he writes it is refined, learned, elegant, an advertisement in a way of superiority to the less cultured now in power. Not likely he can rally the cubicle workers, or the waitresses.

Every one of the men with a “former” in their title now occupies a position in a major law firm, a powerful consulting concern, a private equity bank, or a major university. And some of them regularly travel back to Washington, as James Baker recently did as co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group.

Though our list included both those who consider themselves Democrats and those who identify as Republicans, we noticed little real difference in their general outlook on policy matters. And interestingly, they all made the same claim: There is no such thing as a ruling class in America.

The family backgrounds of our interview subjects varied widely. Significant inherited wealth or a famous political lineage was the exception, not the rule. It began to seem to us as if the only true requirement for ruling-class entrance was the ability to serve the status quo well and faithfully.

OLM, you are criticizing Kirby? I like what he writes at your "maroon" link, the above quote is from it. Reading between the lines, we didn't get Candidia, just Joe, only the servants of the ruling class are represented. Wealthy by mortal standards, but servants nonetheless, and if they step out of line; well, you heard about what they did to Fitts.

I liked the clip too, though I'm not thinking of the technical elements. I think I'd have to see the whole thing to decide if the style detracts of enhances.


Candidia is the principle served, the ethos, the "deep grammar," the shared set of assumptions. You have to know which end is up. Up, how to rise, is what these players teach us.

O Lucky Man

Well, try to find out who John Kirby is. For a filmmaker, the absence of detail is conspicuous. See if you can find a picture of him with Lewis Lapham or the film's producer, Libby Handros. One that is captioned, identifying him, I mean. He is described in one review as a "first-time director". Nothing wrong with that. What else? Nothing. Anything wrong with that? No. But it invites speculation.

So I speculate that John Kirby is...

...this man, John J. Kirby, Jr., retired partner, Latham & Watkins, LLP, and purported namesake to the popular Nintendo character, Kirby.

  • MA, Oxford University, 1967

  • LLB, University of Virginia, 1966

  • BA, Oxford University, 1964

  • BA, Fordham University, 1961
  • Consider...

    - John J. Kirby, Jr. retired from Partnership June 30, 2007.
    - The "maroon" article was published June 1, 2007, just 29 days earlier.

    - John J. Kirby, Jr.'s practice was based in New York.
    - Rhode Island (where the "maroon" article was published) is also on the east coast.

    Coincidence? Probably.

    I'm sorry, John J. Kirby, Jr., if my speculations led me far afield. I apologize and withdraw them in advance.

    Blame John Kirby, the director maroon. He won't tell us who he is.

    O Lucky Man

    Gerry, my criticism of the film's editing is less technical, more visceral. The rhythm is odd, very odd, but consistent - almost like a lawyer edited it.

    p.s. Your point about "reading between the lines" is well taken.

    p.p.s. Phil, as usual, incites excites makes me think.


    May have his own reasons. Oxford would be a good background for insights into social class, and you can find passionate egalitarians there, too, behind the gated walls.

    JJ Commoner

    I like watching British television's "Inspector Morse".

    The episodes almost always take place in Oxford and involve an aristocratic moneyed old man or woman, money, a murder, attempts to cover up and eureka moments of inspection / detection genius that remind us that character, virtue, money and privilege are fragile things.

    Morse is an interesting and complex character to assess from a social and political viewpoint. In sharp juxtaposition to the Welsh (altered to northern in the TV series) working class background of his assistant, Lewis (named for another rival clue-writer, Mrs. B. Lewis), Morse is ostensibly the embodiment of white, male, upper-middle-class Englishness, with a set of prejudices and assumptions to match. He is, for example, frequently portrayed in the act of patronising women characters to the extent that some feminist critics have argued that Morse is a misogynist.[2]

    Morse's relationships with authority, the establishment, bastions of power and the status quo are markedly ambiguous.


    Dash Hammett played on similar themes in the American context. Who dunnit? Usually the banker, or the heiress.

    O Lucky Man

    Dr. Err-in-Reich was pulled out of Denny's to appear on Moyers this week.

    BTW, I must revise my opinion of The American Ruling Class (having now seen the first 1/3.) We are in good hands. Ahoy.


    Blogged the link.

    John Kirby

    Dear O Lucky Man!, et. al.,

    It is I! JOHN KIRBY! And let me first say that I am relieved to see that you revised your opinion after having watched the beginning of the film... though I am sad to report that unless you saw it on the Sundance Channel, you saw an unmixed, un- color corrected or in any essential final film. Was Howard Zinn in the version you saw? If you bought a DVD in Canada, we are going to be offering a rough-for-fine swap very soon.

    Funny enough, the man you suspected to be me is in fact my father. In my callow and beardless youth I used to call him a "servant of the ruling class". Many attorneys, of course, are.

    I do think that, notwithstanding what my piece in the Providence Journal implies, we did get some bona-fide oligarchs in the film-- certainly Jimmy Baker was, and no doubt still is.

    Out of curiosity, did any of you genuinely literate folks happen to catch the "Mighty Wulitzer" refrence? It's probably inside baseball to anyone who isin't a US intellignce buff... it refers to the boast that Frank Wisner of the CIA made about his propaganda machine (he would "play his Mighty Wurlitzer, and the world's press would dance the tune"), though in our film we use it as a metaphor for the nocturnal careerist philospohy that propels today's Ivy-League graduates out the pearly gates...

    Making this film was tough. Not only were we trying to come up with a new genre (the "dramatic-documentary-musical") with non-actors, we were besought with financing issues, ideological hedging, and even one sociopathic lead (hint: it wasn't Lewis Lapham). The next time around, in "To the Health of the State! A Champagne Toast to War" we will have hopefully ironed out some kinks, goosed the satire, and made even more clear where and how US power abides...

    The premise is we're trapped in a WWII-era propaganda film, everything is black and white, or at best shades of gray... in order to restore light and color to the world, Lewis and a filmmaker companion will have to search out the history of American warfare and its planned and hoped for domestic reprecussions... but the question will arise: Is war a force that gives us meaning? Whither science, philosophy, art (including anti-war films) without War?

    Thanks so much for the thoughful writing, all, and please check in at the website (theamericanrulingclass.org) for news or to recieve a DVD email notification (we're starting production in the fall)...


    John Kirby
    (director, The American Ruling Class


    John, thank you so much for noticing the conversation here and dropping by. I will add the america ruling class site to the resource list. Yes, the mighty wurlitzer is now a familiar phrase when talking about the orchestrated punditry of the talking heads. Lewis Lapham is a credit to the ruling class as it ought to be. I do hope your work wins an ever growing audience. Michael Moore is no Lewis Lapham. Thanks!

    O Lucky Man

    (Dispatch: 2am, out of vicodin, sucking tainted candies to dull the pain...)

    Your average person would think the final dropped paren a mere typo - due to a weak next-to-right-pinky finger, perhaps. But how appropriate, really, that The American Ruling Class not be parenned in. Oh, this "Kirby" is a cagey one, he is. He knows on which end his paren is uttered, and the secrets to egress...

    Mazel Tov!


    A ruling class that rules with wisdom, taste, courage, and by example, at the head of the cavalry waving a saber, and returns at war's end with his men to his village, where he reverts to judge and squire is not my highest ideal, but is sure better than where we have gotten ourselves today in America.

    Cackety Dishwitz

    John, I first saw the film on videotape, the Sundance version, I think. Some wise guy had copied your film over this one and stuck it back in the rack.

    So, as it turns out, I watched your film without detriment to my DHS file AND got my money back on return. A double delight!

    It will be interesting to see over which modern classic the hooligans will record your next film, eh? Who says there's no "interaction" in "meat space". It's a veritable square dance!


    I'm pretty sure JJ didn't get the Wurlitzer reference. He's a squeezebox man, I think.


    JJ used to be a organ grinder, but his monkey up and died. He used to entertain at Ruling Class events, but without the monkey he is just another busker.

    John Kirby

    I think you guys are all marvelously cracked, especially OLM... For your own security, I along with the mainframes under Fort Meade will be observing you from now on (as if they weren't already! They probably check in on you guys just to stick a toe in the zeittgieist...)

    Speaking of "Zeitgeist", have any of you seen it online? The intro or 'overture' is too long and precious, unless perhpas you're tripping on tainted candy, but I have to say overall it's well worth watching, from the first chapter on the anthropology of religon onwards into the deconstruction of 9/11... here's the link:



    John Kirby
    director, The American Ruling Class)


    I spent two hours I should have been doing something else watching this this morning. Enjoy is not the word I would think of. Great stuff.

    Un Autre Singe

    Dunno who you are or why you seem to want to pick on JJ, Horslink, but speaking as a close friend of his I am willing to bet that he gets the Wurlitzer point / reference.


    I am sure he does, of course. We have discussed it often.


    I wouldn't fade that, Monsieur Singe. We've sung on many a midnite choir together (goosed by a host of pipe-ed beasts  ;-)

    O Lucky Man

    I was thinking on this religion tack (what with Kirby dropping the Z-bom and all) and I'm wondering if any of you chaps or chapettes know the line(s) on expressing doubt about one's faith.

    I mean, if one has doubt, and one doesn't express it, one is lying, correct?

    For how long would a church prefer that one continue attending and tithing and so forth while still in doubt? Indefinitely? Or, after a period of adult time, say five years, would the church prefer that one withdraw so as not to continue building up this giant load of lie-sin, dangerous to one's salvation in itself, perhaps?

    O Lucky Man

    Let's define "doubt" as being obliged by honesty to answer the questions "Do you believe?" or "Do you have faith?" with a "No."


    The forms suffice, methinks. Belief or unbelief pass in waves. Pascal wavers, Saints waver. But the forms suffice. We had democracy, but we have elections and the parade on the Fourth of July. You are welcome to your honest doubts, but pay your taxes, defer to authority, and supervise those you are set to monitor, discipline, or jail.


    Of course the forms suffice, for the faithless. Doubt is opposed to belief whereas faith conquers doubt. Belief is a tool of the puppet masters, and not much use for thinking and exploration.

    Un Autre Singe

    I think one must have an initial set of beliefs against which (or with which) to think and explore ... no ? I think it's usually called a mental model.

    It's hard (but not impossible) to be scientific in one's approach to everything, all the time.


    I'd like Barbara Ehrenreich to write a first-person narrative in which she gets angry at her inability to pay her bills, falls into a drunken brawl with her more mainstream sister, and kills her with a pepper grinder.


    Or better yet in which she rants about the death tax, and why it must be repealed.

    O Lucky Man

    Comprehensive overview at Pascal's Wager. Ol' Blaise tore 'em up pretty good. Home schooled, too.


    Pascal's wager applies in many realms of life. "Either my posts are read or they are not read by government goons. If they are not read and I am upbeat and inofffensive I have lost nothing. If they are read and I am indiscreet, I have lost all. Therefore I will blog discreetly." Same argument for giving to inoffensive causes, etc. As God once supervised even our inmost thoughts, now we must all assume that our every communication is monitored and added to a vast file about us. A paranoid delusion? Could be. Or it might be so. Another Pascalian Wager.

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