Tuesday, June 28. 2005
The Village Voice published the latest Jazz Consumer Guide today. This is the fifth column in the series, appearing a year plus/minus a week after the first. The lineup for this JCG is as follows:
When I started this column over a year ago I was worried about not getting enough material to review, but increasingly the problem is how to handle the surfeit. I have no doubt that I could do this six times per year, but the Voice has doubts about the space, and we inevitably run into scheduling conflicts leading to delays. This column was all but done back in April before I had to crunch down on the jazz labels piece, but even so it was finished and edited by the end of May. The next one, which you aren't likely to see until September or October, is mostly set now -- except for Pick Hits and Duds, always the hard items to settle on. Given the surfeit of good records, and the squeeze on space and dealines, the big thing that's happened is that the Honorable Mentions list has started to creep up on my long-established grade curve.
Readers familiar with my record database and my year-in-progress lists will note that the top six Honorable Mentions this month have been graded A-. I pushed these records out as HM this time figuring that it would be better to do so now than to wait until I can find A-list space for them. One consequence is that the bottom half or more of my B+ list is falling short of the HM list. Another is that I opportunistically weed out items I can review elsewhere -- mostly reissues at Recycled Goods -- or items Francis Davis writes about in the Voice. For instance, the next RG will have reviews of two rock-jazz fringe (not fusion) comps that I had originally planned on working into JCG: Annette Peacock, My Mama Never Taught Me How to Cook (Castle), and James Chance, Sax Education (Tiger Style).
To give you an idea what my backlog looks like, the following records have been graded A- or better and not CG'ed to date -- some will (perhaps as HMs), and some won't. (Many of the reissues have already appeared in RG, or soon will.)
The backlogged B+ list is even longer and more problematic. Reissues will be noted in RG but probably dropped here. The bottom half is very unlikely to show up in a future JCG, although I have no doubt that these are good records that many people would find quite the treat. (Order is very rough; my bottom HM this time, Fred Hess, was ranked somewhere near Jarrett and Lloyd.)
It would take three columns to work off these two backlog lists, and there are many more unrated records in the queue. And of course many more records are coming down the pike. I'm trying to capture as much of this information as I can. But in many cases I'm running into a time squeeze as well as a space squeeze. I try not to make snap judgments, which are more likely to reflect prejudices than considered views, but many times the good records that sneak up on you lose out because they don't get the chance. That's one of the inevitable pitfalls in tryin to cast a wide net. (Another is that no net is ever wide enough.)
Within the next week or so I'll go back through these lists and flush out about half of the titles, moving the notes to the notebook. Progress on sucking the notes out of the notebook, cleaning them up, and posting them on Terminal Zone is so slow it hardly deserves mentioning, but I still expect that much of this will wind up there eventually. I'm also toying with the idea of doing a "Jazz CG Notebook" column where I can note some of the more interesting bits of the overflow.
At the moment, I'm closing out July's Recycled Goods column. The June column has a whole section on Atavistic's Unheard Music Series, which also figures in this Jazz CG (Dudek, Wallin, Berlin Djungle, Sun Ra). The July column will include a complete rundown of Verve's Free America series, as well as the Peacock and Chase comps, plus much more.
I recently got a letter from a reader complaining about how he has to go back to the pre-'70s period to find good jazz. Actually, there's a vast amount of good jazz produced these days -- more than the c. 1960 peak, probably a lot more. The idea behind the CG column format is to help you find good and interesting music without boring you stiff with a lot of redundant words. I think it's working.
Saturday, June 25. 2005
Karl Rove has managed to make the Democrats look foolish again. All he had to do was to make a Big Lie speech, where he said: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." The facts were that the Democrats were second to no one in their 9/11 bloodthirst. (I was in New York at the time, and had to cringe every time Hillary Clinton or Charles Schumer came on the tube.) Ever since Rove's speech offended Democrats have clamored to set the record straight: they were, after all, second to no one in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden's head. (And, by the way, just where is that missing head?)
The problem with that response is that it just reminds us how wrong the Democrats were -- in particular, how their all-but-unanimous votes for the Afghanistan war resolution and the PATRIOT ACT gave Bush a blank check that rode all the way to Baghdad. The tragic idea that the proper response to 9/11 was war was vouchsafed by the lack of any serious opposition among the Democratic political class. This was bad thinking both as analysis and as program. The main analytic failures were: not isolating and limiting the impulse toward revenge; accepting the war metaphor even though their was no conventional enemy; refusing to consider how past American policies contributed to the motivations of the attackers. The programmatic failure was in not anticipating how the Bush administration would take advantage of their submission. The Republicans, after all, didn't merely prepare for war after 9/11 -- they prepared for missile defense systems, for drilling oil in Alaska, for tort reform, for tax breaks for the rich and giveaways to their corporate sponsors, and most of all for reŰlection in 2004. Democrats gave them all that because the Democrats didn't have a clue what they wanted or what they were risking -- they just reacted to events, much as now they're reacting to pseudo-events like Rove's speech.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Richard Durbin was bullied into making a tearful apology for a comment he made about America's treatment of detainees in Guatanamo. The original quote was: "If I read this [report on Guantanamo] to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners." There is a problem with this quote, but it's not the association of the U.S. with reviled regimes of the past -- it's that this quote suggests that Durbin wasn't aware of what the CIA and the School for the Americas have been doing for decades now. There should be no surprises here: give government the power to abduct and detain anyone it sees as an enemy, with no oversight and no legal recourse, that that government will tend to act like any other unaccountable dictatorship you care to mention -- even the unmentionables.
The media loves these he said/he said controversies, most likely because they're so easy to cover. But the Democrats invariably lose out because they don't have an echo chamber like the right does.
Thursday, June 23. 2005
Book: Aaron Glantz, How America Lost Iraq (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005).
There must be dozens of ways to write this book. Glantz is a radio journalist for Pacifica, so his particular tactic was to interview a variety of Iraqis, gauging their reactions to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Glantz made his way to Baghdad shortly after the official war ended, and has been in and out of Iraq, including a couple of trips through Kurdistan, from then until things got too hot in the summer of 2004. By then he had seen enough. His early interviews tended to dwell on Saddam Hussein's crimes, reflecting popular gratitude for deposing the tyrant. But over the year the U.S. managed to wear out its welcome, with the sieges of Fallujah and Najaf and the Abu Ghraib torture revelations capping the story, but the lack of electricity, clean water, the gas lines, the lack of security and the inability of most Iraqis to see reconstruction progress are the constant backdrops.
This isn't a very sophisticated analysis, but its one dimension is fundamental. I suspect that the "gratitude" was always meant to flatter the invaders, but Glantz takes it at face value and sticks to the surface. The book also doesn't cover much ground. For the most part, Glantz was sequestered in Baghdad, finding it hard to get out or even get around. In many cases, when news beaks out in other towns we find him interviewing Sunnis or Shia in Baghdad to get their reactions. I don't think he ever made it as far as Mosul or Basra, but he did get into Fallujah before and after the siege, and got close to Najaf on one occasion -- coming back with a hoary story of Sadrist sheiks executed by Americans in Hilla. Still, his immobililty is itself proof of how far we've lost touch with the realities in Iraq, and how far anyone is from bridging them.
Where the title misleads is the word "how" -- that America lost is clear from the public opinion shifts, especially those who were initially favorable to the US. But most of America's missteps noted in the book weren't likely to have been deliberate policies -- the lack of security, the inability to reconstruct the electric grid, the callous recreation of Saddam's Abu Graib torture chambers. The real story of how all that happened remains to be told, and it's going to take a lot of digging to get down to the real dirt. But Glantz's conclusion -- not just that America lost but that its continuing presence in Iraq only makes matters worse for almost all Iraqis -- is amply supported.
Tom Engelhardt just came out with a piece on the withdrawal debate. In it he cites a list of "paralyzing fantasies" that are commonly offered as excuses why the U.S. cannot pick up and leave Iraq:
The problem with these future calamities is that they've already occurred, and the reason they've occurred is the Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq. Moreover, they seem to be gaining ground steadily, and nothing the U.S. does offers any promise to turn this juggernaut around. The main problem the U.S. faces is that the resistance has achieved enough popular momentum that the fight will continue at least until the core demand of the resistance is achieved: that the U.S. exit and leave Iraq in Iraqi hands. Once the U.S. leaves, maybe the resistance will fight on in a civil war, or maybe the resistance will make some sort of truce with Iraq's other factions. But until the U.S. leaves it is the one faction in Iraq that will continue to motivate the resistance. If you like Vietnam analogies, one that's easy to grasp is that had we not pulled out of Vietnam in the '70s we'd still be fighting there today. Sure, it's hard to imagine what the country would have looked like after another 30 years of war, but after 35 years of fighting the Japanese, the French, and the Americans, is there any reason to think that the Vietnamese were going to give up if we'd just been a little tougher?
The most key mistake that the U.S. made was in not welcoming all Iraqis into an open tent based on guaranteed human and civil rights to all. Democracy as we know it has less to do with majority rule than with limitating government's ability to oppress minorities and individuals. Iraq was a powder keg of resentments and injustices which the U.S. did nothing to defuse and much to ignite. The U.S. was never in a good position to do right by Iraq: in part because the U.S. had done so much in the past to pick at and take advantage of internal divisions, in part because the U.S. has shown no real interest in justice, peace or democracy anywhere in the Middle East (most clearly in Palestine/Israel). But America had worse problems in Iraq than a bad track record -- it had George W. Bush, who has no scruples about scamming a political system for ideological and personal gain. Bush gambled big in Iraq. He wanted war because he was drunk with American military might, and he has responded to every failure in the only way befitting that might, by escalating the war. Now if he backs down he loses all that he fought for: the myth of American invincibility. On the other hand, that's just one more paralyzing fantasy. We're stuck with one more painful instance of Bush's inability to learn from his mistakes, because he's unable to admit them.
It's easy to go back and see other paths that could have been taken viz. Iraq, but each day that passes makes it all the harder to get back to them. Juan Cole has a scheme for handing the mess over the the U.N., conveniently ignoring the fact that the U.N.'s stock in Iraq has done been poisoned, and that the U.N. itself is really not a peacekeeping (let alone peacemaking) organization. But Cole's biggest problem is, as it's always been, that he feels that Iraq is a problem for the world to solve -- first by getting rid of Saddam Hussein, now by getting rid of the U.S. occupation. I think it's much more the case that Iraq is a problem that the world has created, especially through the endless interference of foreign powers with their own agendas. It's critically important that we learn to let Iraq be -- to let Iraqis sort out their own problems, free of foreign interest or intrigue. This may lead to a bloodbath or to a set of reasonable compromises -- we can't choose which, although we can choose (as we have) to implement the bloodbath option.
I have my own hypothetical plan for a sensible U.S. withdrawal: Back off to neighboring bases (mostly in Kuwait) while issuing a threat to destroy any militia that tries to advance from its natural base, and also a threat against any neighboring country that tries to interfere in Iraq, e.g. by supporting any faction. This limits the U.S. role to the only thing we're competent at -- blowing things up -- but it also means that the U.S. can take no sides. The idea here is that if no faction in Iraq can win, the best option for them is to negotiate a shared state. Once they do that, they can invite in the U.N. (or anyone else) in a non-threatening role to help out. And if they don't sort their differences out, they'll just have a failed warlord state (like Afghanistan).
Of course, my idea is fantasy too. Bush wouldn't do anything like this because he's still drunk on America's military might. He doesn't learn from his mistakes because he refuses to acknowledge them. Or perhaps because he's so narrowly concerned with his own political machine and so blasÚ about everyone else's tragedies that he doesn't recognize them as anything more than minor annoyances -- like awkward questions at a press conference. Nor is he alone in these delusions. I caught a few minutes of Fox News the other night when Mort Kondracke declared that "we" had won in Iraq. The absurd idea that the neocons are working in tandem with Osama Bin Laden is liable to wind up passing Occam's Razor.
Tuesday, June 21. 2005
I've spent much of the last week here writing about Israel with occasional breaks for short notes about avant-garde jazz. So I haven't been paying a lot of attention to day-to-day news, but yesterday the air conditioner bit the dust, so right now I'm trying not to overheat. Some news I recall noticing lately:
Monday, June 20. 2005
Tom Engelhardt has a quote from Russ Baker about meetings that writer Mickey Herskowitz had with George W. Bush back in 1999:
This actually isn't a very original idea. I've read that one of the arguments that Margaret Thatcher used on George H.W. Bush to convince him to go to war with Iraq over Kuwait was to point out how much political favor she had won in the Falklands war. But then that was a much better definition of "successful if modest" than either the Gulf War or the current debacle in Iraq. The idea that a politician would throw a country into war to bolster his polls is monstrous but not all that far fetched. It's inconceivable that Bush and his handlers don't have the polling data. They've seen it work, as when George H.W. Bush's favorable polls surged up to 90% with Gulf War I, and they've seen the risks, as with the same Bush's re-election loss in 1992.
I don't recall the exact quote, but during the 2004 election campaign Kevin Phillips made a comment to Bill Moyers, something to the effect that every President or President's party has lost in elections following the end of a war associated with the President. The corrollary to this was that keeping a war going tends to be worth more politically than ending it. Again, the former Bush is a prime example, and one close to home. So what are the chances that this Bush administration, remembering the political failures of the previous one, and having to face up to the obvious truth that Gulf War II is far from a success, decided to exacerbate the war in order to keep Bush positioned as Commander in Chief (supposedly his strong suit) and to keep the rest of his atrocious record off center stage? This is the sort of question nobody raises because it suggests nothing but monstrous cynicism. Still, it would be blind not to wonder just how domestic political considerations have warped occupation in Iraq. After all, the only hearts and minds that really mattered to Bush in 2004 were the voters he needed for reŰlection.
Ray McGovern got a lot of flack recently because he opined that the reasons Bush invaded Iraq were O-I-L -- an acronym of Oil, Israel, and Logistics (American bases, all the better to invade you with). The part he got flack for, of course, was Israel, but really none of those components explain much. Oil was certainly on the warmongers' minds, but in a free trade world it's just a commodity, for sale to whoever wants to buy. The usual assumption -- that Bush did this for cheaper oil -- was ill-fated if not downright looney. Oil supply was slashed by the war, so prices rose -- perhaps not a bad result for Bush's oilmen, but not one to brag about. (By driving the price of crude oil toward $60/barrel we've more than doubled the value of the oil companies' privately held reserves -- quite a windfall.)
Israel approved the war, but didn't need it. The main thing Sharon gets out of it is that it keeps the American people in an anti-Arab frame of mind, and keeps the Bush administration too busy to worry about its lame Road Map commitments. Israel is, however, an indirect cause in one important respect: the neocons who pushed this war are without exception tremendous fans of Israel. In particular, they love the way Israel throws its weight around, with no concern for international niceties. They want the US to act more like Israel -- to be unashamed of its power, to pursue self-interest unabashedly. The bases, of course, are just part of the baggage that goes with globally domineering power -- hardly a cause in their own right.
Still, all this O-I-L is way too ideological for Bush. The core competency of the Bush possee is their skill at pushing buttons -- specifically the ones that drive Americans to the right. Bush was born and bred to serve the rich, and he learned well how to sell that program to enough of the not-so-rich that he could win elections (close enough, anyhow). But aside from a few kneejerk reactions the only thing he believes in is saying whatever it takes to keep his juggernaut rolling. It makes much sense that he should have started and manipulated this war for reasons of naked political ambition; no other reason makes much if any sense. Still, the poignant (and pathetic) part of the Herskowitz quote is about how passing his program would make him a successful president. The program itself is his biggest problem: when everything you try to do is wrong the worst thing that can possibly happen is to get your way. Bush's successes should eventually be his downfall, as indeed his spendid little war demonstrates.
Friday, June 10. 2005
Haven't done a news item in a while, so most of this isn't fresh. Most, in fact, is rotten to the core, but here goes:
Tuesday, June 7. 2005
Movie: Crash. The overworked metaphor, that Los Angeles is so alienating that crash their cars, or really more than their cars, just for human contact. The instant identification that race provides is every bit as distancing as driving in metalloid shells, and the inevitable crashes there at least as damaging. As a piece of writing, this impresses: a set of arbitrarily interrelated characters, more than a dozen in combos of two to four, crash, regroup, then crash again. Each gets a shot of humiliation, and a shot at redemption, but not necessarily in that order. As withering as the denouements are the grace is gratifying, proving not merely that what goes around comes around, but that it doesn't necessarily have to. But as a movie this isn't especially sharp or slick -- to dark, the lights too bleary, the cold and snow unconvincing. But that doesn't ruin the movie -- any writing that sticks so closely in mind can't be dismissed so easily. A-
Movie: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Afterwards I went back and started to reread the book, just to refresh myself on what came from where, and what got left out. Since this only covers one of the five books, and since they no doubt mean to leave room for the rest of the franchise, the movie leaves out much, but since the books as a whole are so jumbled most of what it leaves out wasn't there in the first place. Actually, the movie cheats and borrows ahead, which is part of why it makes more sense than the first book, and also why it flows better. This helps -- at least it helps make up for the inevitable loss of the unvisual conceptualizing that was the main charm of the books. Aside from the matter of Zaphod Beeblebrox's two heads the visualizations are marvelous -- especially the planet factory, which gives a new and even more disturbing meaning to creationism. If it seems odd that I can't get away from the subject of the books here, it's partly because these are damn near the only novels I've ever read -- it's an angle I never have the opportunity to explore -- but more so because the books were signposts for how I learned to think about life, the universe, and everything: only a small matter of faith prevents me from elevating them to biblical status, but then the main point of them is that even a small matter of faith is a terrible thing to indulge oneself in. A
Movie: Kingdom of God. This one sent me back to the books too -- the encyclopedia, at least. Most of what I knew about the Crusades was Geoffrey Barraclough's theory that the Pope pushed them to try to divert the Normans away from wrecking Europe. But that would have been more like the First Crusade, which wasn't a pretty picture no matter what angle you viewed it from. What Ridley Scott actually focuses on is the fall of Jerusalem before the start of the Third Crusade, roughly 100 years after the Crusaders' initial triumph. That gives us a more moderate, more enlightened Crusader kingdom which is ultimately lost due to the arrogance of incoming Europeans -- I guess you could call them the neocons, the guys who think the enemy is evil and compromise is shameful. Various pieces of history get knocked around to clean up the story -- princess Sibylla makes out the best for the rewrite -- which unsurprisingly doesn't help clarify things. Some prominence is given to Saladin, who evidently has his own neocons to deal with, but that mostly underscores the commercial impossibility of trying to tell this or any story from the other side. Still, it's an awkward story, and the frequent bloodbaths just make it all the drearier. B
Monday, June 6. 2005
The twentieth installment of my Recycled Goods came out this weekend. Ten paragraph-sized reviews, forty five brief notes. One nice thing about this one is that it covers a bit of most of what I've been trying to cover. World music is still underrepresented. Country and blues are unlikely ever to recover to the levels of earlier columns, but the Charlie Poole box is important, and Yazoo has continued their second generation best-ofs. Hip hop is up, although the old music requirement gets fuzzy there with the remakes and remixes. One thing I like about this column is that I get to change the rules.
The total number of records covered by Recycled Goods is now up to 741 -- cf. the Artist Index. I have a little more than two months of backlog on the shelf, which not surprisingly trends toward jazz. One big chunk of jazz records was Atavistic's Unheard Music Series. I've been getting new ones for the last year or so, and buy old ones when I find them, but I kept holding them back, thinking they're more interesting as a series than individually. The new "In Series" section is one way to deal with that. Next time I plan to do the same thing with Verve's Free America series. I have a couple of other series that may be dealt with the same way, or not: they are samplers from major players. Series are a very common thing in the reissues world. Some, like Universal's "20th Century Masters," are easily recycled packaging offered up as brand names. On the other hand, when a series does deserve to be taken as a whole, "In Series" is a useful way of grouping.
Back on a regular schedule these days. A couple of months of backlog in the queue. I haven't been searching far and wide lately, but there are some interesting records coming up in the next couple of issues.
Wednesday, June 1. 2005
I've been meaning to write something about this past season of the TV show 24 ever since I got roped into watching it. It would be a gross exaggeration to pretend that this series represents anyone's current thinking on terrorism, much less that it's likely to have any real lasting cultural, much less political, impact. For one thing, it's ridiculous. And it's not ridiculous is any useful or even particularly amusing way, as in satire. It's ridiculous in the sense that its deep assumptions about its subject have no connection to the real world. This is, of course, true about much fiction, and for all I know it may also be true about most contemporary television programming, but that's beside the point. The ridiculous in popular art is rarely a problem in general, because most of the time we have enough grounding to sort out what is real and what is ridiculous. But when it comes to terrorism most people are at a disadvantage, because what they believe to be the reality of terrorism is as ridiculous as 24.
The show is based on the schema that a team of terrorists can execute a complete series of terror plots, normally building to a climax, over a 24-hour period, and that a team of counterrorists can respond to those events quickly enough to thwart at least the climax event. This schema is in many ways a side-effect of a core concept, which is that the action takes place in real time (with dead spots conveniently spaced for commercials, of course). Real time is an intimation of reality, but by forcing everything to fit in real time everything reduces to action, suspense, momentum. The model isn't derived from literature, where writers usually strive to tie their threads together to attain a coherent story; rather, 24 is a mere video game, where the good guy (Jack Bauer) chases the bad guy (Marwan Habib) through a fast-paced gauntlet, which many side-characters suddenly smashing and vanishing on the sidelines while the rest look completely dumbfounded. In the end the viewer is dumbfounded as well, but the producers are hoping that the sense of exhaustion will predominate. 24 hours is, after all, a long goddam day.
The most obvious problem with all of this is that terrorists never work that way. Terror events occur all of a sudden, then they're done. To suggest the menace of scale, terrorists try to coordinate multiple events, but serializing them takes risks and requires resources often beyond their abilities. 24 tries to get beyond this limit by allocating stupendous resources to the terrorists -- way beyond anything that has ever been hinted at in an alien environment such as the U.S. -- and even there the serialization is their undoing. (So-called terrorists in Iraq can afford to attack frequently because they operate on their own home turf.) But the only way 24 can fill up 24 hours of terror is by vastly inflating the terrorists' resources while at the same time not giving them enough brains to manage their risks.
On the other hand, in order to keep the game going the counterterrorists also have to be allocated ridiculously superior powers -- the list is too long to get into, but my favorite is the ability to get to or from any point in greater Los Angeles in 20 minutes tops. The biggest timesaver is no doubt CTU's ability to decrypt entire hard disks in seconds then instanly identify the one critical clue that keeps them in the game. Even more remarkable is how Jack Bauer is able to get viable information in seconds from suspects he has just shot. But lest these super powers tip the odds excessively in favor of the counterterrorists they also have some exceptional handicaps: in particular, the whole management structure from three presidents down to CTU management are vain, credulous, scheming morons. (The whole Chinese consulate thread is Exhibit A here.)
Like I said, the problem with all this isn't just that it's ridiculous. The problem is that these ridiculous things reflect misconceptions that most of us have about terrorism, counterterrorism and the government. We assume, for instance, that terrorists are much more numerous, powerful, well funded, deeply ensconced, and above all nihilistic than they are. We assume that the counterterrorists' tactics, especially torture but also pervasive surveillance and massive databases, are effective means of fighting terror. But we also assume that noble public servants like Jack Bauer are kept from doing their jobs by incompetent and perfidious politicians and bureaucrats and interfering do-gooders like the "Amnesty Global" lawyer who springs one suspect. The politicians are so fickle that Bauer, after saving his country, has to fake his own death and go underground in order to avoid extradition to China.
Other threads resonate less because they don't register with our cultivated paranoias. Foremost among these is the fact that nearly all of Marwan's schemes involved hijacking dubious technology that the government bought and paid for. Wouldn't the threat of terrorism be much reduced if we didn't have those nuclear plants subject to cyber attack? Or those nuclear bombs circulating through rural Iowa? And what about the thread of the big defense contractor that employed Marwan and covered up for him? Doesn't that say something about our greed-is-good economic ideology? There's also an interesting lesson here on management philosophy: time and again we see managers, both politicians and bureaucrats, whose main qualification for the job seems to be that they can make firm decisions based on a near-absolute lack of valid information. We might also take a look at the effects of nepotism and fucking around on the job here since the writers bothered to put so much of it into the show: is this a case of cultivating clan loyalties, or is it just that everyone here is so estranged from normal life that the only people they can relate to are each other?
The problem with heavy questions is that they take time to sort out. More often than not, I found myself wondering how characters would come to understand what had happened on this fateful day over the following weeks and months. That we'll never know because nobody involved with 24 cares about understanding -- all they crave is action. And in 24 that's all they ever get.