"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Keith Olbermann on Rudy Giuliani

Only in this America of the early 21st century could it be true that the man who was president during the worst attack on our nation and the man who was the mayor of the city in which that attack principally unfolded would not only be absolved of any and all blame for the unreadiness of their own governments, but, moreover, would thereafter be branded heroes of those attacks.

And now, that mayor — whose most profound municipal act in the wake of that nightmare was to suggest the postponement of the election to select his own successor — has gone even a step beyond these M.C. Escher constructions of history.

“If any Republican is elected president — and I think obviously I would be best at this — we will remain on offense and will anticipate what (the terrorists) will do and try to stop them before they do it.”

Insisting that the election of any Democrat would mean the country was “back ... on defense,” Mr. Giuliani continued: “But the question is how long will it take and how many casualties will we have. If we are on defense, we will have more losses and it will go on longer.”

He said this with no sense of irony, no sense of any personal shortcomings, no sense whatsoever.

It gets better. Go to Alternet.org for the video.

He'll Be President Some Day

Or in this case, Prime Minister. Boy Gets Toilet Seat Stuck on Head.

More Presidential News: Intelligence Not Linked to Wealth

Monday, April 23, 2007

Virginia Tech and Gun Control

I've been following the stories about the Virginia Tech tragedy. I find it appalling that the White House's first response was to affirm the "right to bear arms." I know the gun lobby is powerful, but that is beyond insensitive.

Here is the text of the Second Amendment:

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

It doesn't say anything about individuals keeping automatic weapons for personal reasons. That comes with interpretation. A militia was probably necessary when this country was a sparsely populated group of rural, farming colonies. Now, we have police forces, which are militias, in effect.

I find it sad that so many people oppose gun control here in the U.S. Our original Second Amendment right had nothing to do with individuals owning semi-automatic weapons. And it's distressing that some people want to live in a society where everyone carries a gun -- that that is their idea of safety. How unsafe they must feel in the world. Whereas human beings are fragile and faulty, and we react out of passion or stupidity as often as thoughtfulness and good judgment, therefore we need gun control. Putting guns out of reach would prevent many fatalities.

Suicide rates are strongly impacted by the presence of firearms in the home.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Literature should not disappear up its own asshole

Said Kurt Vonnegut in the Paris Review interview. He was talking about literature being written by people other than English majors, like himself, a chemistry then anthropology major. It's a great interview, and recommended reading as part of the continuing Vonnegut tribute.

He also said, "...we lack...a dependable mass of readers.

I propose that every person out of work be required to submit a book report before he or she gets his or her welfare check."

That works for me. I'd add that every working person be required to submit a book report bi-monthly or have their taxes doubled. Unless they have a note from their kid, saying, "My mom/dad was watching my baseball/soccer/football game/school play/music lessons/etc., and could not finish this book."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Vonnegut on the Daily Show

Click Here for video.

Kurt's list of liberal crap they had no time for:
Give us this day our daily bread. Oh sure.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Nobody better trespass against me. I'll tell you that.
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are the merciful. You mean we can't use torture?
Blessed are the peacemakers. Jane Fonda?
Love your enemies - Arabs?
Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. The hell I can't! Look at the Reverand Pat Robertson. And He is as happy as a pig in shit.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Turn Off Your TV Day

I propose a Turn-Off-Your-TV-Day in honor of Kurt Vonnegut, and all writers living dead and aspiring. Here is a quote,
"The first story I sold to the Saturday Evening Post, I came home from work, and I had an upright piano inside the front door, and on the music stand of the piano, with a candle on either side of it, was a check for $1,500. General Electric was then paying me $5,000 a year. I had a wife and two kids. My goodness, I thought, this is interesting. Then television, with no malice whatsoever--just a better buy for advertisers--knocked the magazines out of business."
Hear that? I doubt that our best efforts could bring back the golden age of magazines, but that quote should make aspiring writers squirm a little as they settle down to watch the Sopranos.

Let's pick a date.

Kurt Vonnegut is in Heaven

Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.

High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.

I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.
If people think nature is their friend, then they sure don't need an enemy.

In case you haven’t noticed, we…dehumanize our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class. Send ’em anywhere. Make ’em do anything. Piece of cake.

We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.

Everything you need to know about life is in "The Brothers Karamazov"

The Second World War absolutely had to be fought. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. But we never talk about the people we kill. This is never spoken of.

(Speaking at Isaac Asimov's funeral) Isaac is in heaven now, that was the funniest thing I could have said to a crowd of Humanists. God Forbid, Should I pass on sometime, may all of you say that Kurt is in Heaven too.

Cold Turkey
By Kurt Vonnegut (from In These Times)
Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream during the Second World War, when there was no peace.

But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America’s becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Savage Beasts: Not To Be Soothed

Violinist Joshua Bell participated in an experiment for the Washington Post. He agreed to play at a subway station during the morning rush hour to see how many people would stop to listen. Predictions varied, but Bell, who is one of the world's greatest violinists, did not expect to be all but ignored. Only a few people stopped to listen at all, and two of those had played the violin themselves. He made approximately $50.

Comments ranged from, he would have made more money playing in the park on nice day, to, the Washington Post illustrated its own point by speeding up the video so that you can't listen to the music, to, nobody notices much, anyway.

Here is my story: One evening, as I was walking uptown from a job in the Wall Street area, I saw a rainbow that stretched across the East River, framing the Brooklyn Bridge. It was dazzling. Of the thousand or so people streaming around me on the pavement, going home, only one other person stopped to look, and it turned out to be someone I knew.

I do think however, that if Bell played on the green in Woodstock, NY, near where I now live, not only would much of the town shut down to listen, but the local hand drummers would probably join in, as well as whoever else was hanging on the green that day and had their guitars.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Pet Food Recall and Human Food Safety

Does it need to be said, as the pet food recall continues, and now includes biscuits, that human food is subject to the same possibility of contamination? Another reason to buy locally grown, minimally processed food. Wheat gluten is not something you'd add to your food in your own kitchen, so why buy food that has added gluten? Yet I checked the two loaves of bread in the fridge and both had added gluten listed as ingredients. I read somewhere that Menu Foods used "human quality" gluten, meaning, that the same supplier could have sold the gluten that's in my bread.

It also makes you wonder what was going into pet food until now, that just wasn't detected. The cheap brands of pet food are something of a slow poison anyway, in my opinion, akin to feeding yourself a diet of very bad junk food. Dogs and cats get cancers and other diseases that are directly related to the garbage-like byproducts in the food we feed them -- feathers are a chicken "by-product" by the way.

At the very least, there should be procedures for testing pet food supplies for pets before animals start dying.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Used, New or The Next Big Thing?

Agent and blogger Nathan Bransford says, "Sure, it's all about the love of writing and all that, but when a publisher looks at the author's sales and decides whether or not to publish their next book, all those used book fans don't count toward the total."

I would like to state the following exceptions:

Buying used books supports my local library and new book sales. I get most of my used books at local library sales where the proceeds go to buy new books. I re-donate the books after I've read them, along with whatever books I've bought and decided not to keep.

Buying used books online enables me to buy far more books than I could at new prices. I prefer new books, who doesn't, but there I often go for less established authors. But not always.

I probably buy as many new books as I would otherwise. Used books are therefore a nice bonus.

Many of Nathan's commenters point out that they will buy a first novel used, and if they like it, buy the author's second novel new. He counters that publishers find it harder to sell a second novel, and that this makes it worse, and more likely that publishers will look for the "next big thing" instead.

Well, that's the problem isn't it, that they're looking for the next big thing while most of our literature was not the big thing. It came from the old tradition of nurturing writers, which incidentally, is the tradition most readers seem to be in harmony with, buying a book once we have grown fond of the author, not because we think that the secret to instant wealth and fame resides therein.

Looking exclusively for "the next big thing" will give us a literature that consists of Publishing's Greatest Hits from Jonathan Livingston Seagull to The DaVinci Code.

Nathan replies "One interesting thing to note is that Dan Brown is actually a case where his editor stuck with him and built his career, which paid off with THE DA VINCI CODE."

This is one of the blogs I read regularly -- nice to see Nathan reading and replying to comments.

How To Tell If You Are An Idiot

You read a science fiction novel, and decide to change your religion:
"I am dying to read it," said Sandra Adams, a 44-year-old office manager for the Los Angeles Unified School District. She said the Left Behind books inspired her to become a Christian last year. Since her conversion, Adams has shared the books with family and friends: "Somehow, God has blessed these books to reach people like me who would never touch the Bible. And I am so hungry for knowledge."
Dude! It's like the Bible rewritten for us, man!

The L.A. Times reports on the evangelical, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim Left Behind series of novels, co-authored by Moral Majority activist Tim LaHaye.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Otterly Adorable

They float around holding hands. They nap, wake, drift apart and then hold hands on the other side.