Cat Walks | Soul of the City | Creative Loafing Charlotte
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Cat Walks 

Or, I'm being followed by a goon's shadow

I knew it would be a strange week when -- on the day Creative Loafing hit the streets with a cover story about the US government turning away a growing number of foreign artists -- the feds sent Yusuf Islam packing. Somehow, Islam -- aka 70s superstar Cat Stevens -- showed up on a homeland security no-fly list for having suspected ties to terrorists. This was despite the fact that he had attended a meeting of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives earlier this year.

Kneejerk reactions weren't confined to rightwing government watchdogs, however. By last Wednesday evening, Stevens/Islam had become an instant cause celebre and hero to defenders of freedom of expression, who swamped government phone lines and email boxes, not to mention leftie websites and blogs, with condemnations of the feds' heavy-handed approach.

An especially rich irony was at work, but hardly anyone noticed. Americans' historical memory generally being shorter than a gnat's, few seemed to recall that in the late 1980s, Islam was attacked by free speech supporters after he expressed support for Ayatollah Khomeini's death warrant against author Salman Rushdie. I remember Yusuf/Cat saying something to the effect of, "Hey, it says right there in the Koran -- if you blaspheme, you're toast." Later, he told British television that rather than go to a demonstration where Rushdie would be burned in effigy, "I would have hoped that it'd be the real thing." An uproar ensued, radio stations quit playing Cat Stevens songs, and Natalie Merchant's band, 10,000 Maniacs, removed their cover version of Stevens' "Peace Train" from subsequent pressings of their In My Tribe album.

So, quick recap of this latest Absurdity Fest: A famous Muslim convert who had spoken to a White House group earlier in the year, and whose views are socially conservative, was kept out of the US by the conservative Bush administration. Afterward, progressives, who had vilified Yusuf Islam years ago as an enemy of free speech, raised hell about his deportation and started the process of turning him into an icon of creative freedom. You can't make up that kind of stuff.

Resurrection City: A developer and a minister announced plans to purchase part of the land formerly occupied by Jim and Tammy Bakker's PTL Club and Heritage USA complex. The pair wants to increase the number of houses on the property and bring back the Christian ambience of yesteryear. We could not confirm a widespread rumor that the new owners plan to build an exclusive Christian gated community named JerusaCroft, aimed at keeping Christian homeowners safe and secure from people who look and/or think like Jesus.

Will Critique For Food: Will someone please give this guy something to do?! The one thing CATS did right in its buildup to launching Charlotte's light rail system was hiring Pallas Lombardi, one of the country's most able and imaginative arts administrators, to oversee the selection of art for the system's stations. She was no doubt thrilled last week when Mayor Suit-and-Smile showed up at an exhibit of proposed CATS artwork and began offering his unsolicited critiques (see editorial cartoon by Jim Hunt on page 18). Seems that McCrory doesn't think some of the proposed works are actually art; His Fratness noted that he prefers artwork that doubles as practical fixtures, such as benches or water fountains. According to Richard Maschal's report in the Observer, the mayor "said he wasn't necessarily impressed with nationally known artists. Most he didn't recognize."

McCrory said that since he'll be the one to get irate calls from displeased citizens, he doesn't intend to hold back on providing "feedback." In plainspeak, that translates to: "I'm loyal to the Philistine moneybags at whose whim I serve as mayor, and I'll represent their second-rate artistic impressions whether those who know better like it or not." Which is understandable, after all -- being "world class" is one thing, but who wants to resemble faggy cities like Boston or Paris with art everywhere you look? All those sculptures and colors must make it pretty hard to keep your focus on the bottom line.

You can see the "My Place, My Choice, My Ride, My Story" exhibit on proposed public art for CATS' south corridor at Spirit Square's Middleton-McMillan Gallery, through Oct. 23. It's free. A public forum on the art will take place Oct. 13, 6-7:30pm at Spirit Square.

Quote of the Week: "Some basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida" -- Former President Jimmy Carter, Washington Post, Sept. 27. The Carter Center has monitored more than 50 elections worldwide.

Item: Iranian leaders last week told the UN it could take its demand that Iran halt its uranium enrichment program and shove it down a missile silo; they further noted that they have, in fact, begun converting tons of raw uranium.

US Reaction: So what?

Eventual Cost: Who knows?

Item: In March 2003, Saddam Hussein, successfully contained by UN sanctions and inspections, sat in the middle of a WMD-free, impoverished country.

US Reaction: Military invasion.

Cost: $200 billion and counting; over 7,000 American casualties; 10-30K Iraqis killed.

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