Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Nobel Literature Chief Bashes American Literature
STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Bad news for American writers hoping for a Nobel Prize next week: the top member of the award jury believes the United States is too insular and ignorant to compete with Europe when it comes to great writing.
Counters the head of the U.S. National Book Foundation: "Put him in touch with me, and I'll send him a reading list."
As the Swedish Academy enters final deliberations for this year's award, permanent secretary Horace Engdahl said it's no coincidence that most winners are European.
"Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world ... not the United States," he told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday.
A poet has died.
Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 02:26:50 PM PDT
This is a very quick diary to announce the passing of Hayden Carruth. Some of you may know of him; most will not unfortunately. Poetry doesn't seem to have the hold on the imagination that other art forms do.
Oregon Literary Review co-hosts First Wednesdays, a series of readings, performances and wine-tasting at the Blackbird Wine Shop, 3519 NE 44th off Fremont, 7-9pm. Readers and performers interested in participating should contact Julie Mae Madsen at email@example.com with an expression of interest and sample work.
The readers/performers for October 1 are Craig Lesley, Primus St. John and Diana Abu-Jaber.
Craig Lesley is the author of 4 novels and a memoir, along with numerous other works. He has received three Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Awards, the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Novel, and an Oregon Book Award. He has been the recipient of several national fellowships and holds a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Whitman College. Currently the Senior Writer-in-Residence at Portland State University, Craig lives with his wife and two daughters in Portland, Oregon. Both Storm Riders and The Sky Fisherman were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
When Professor Primus St. John joined the PSU faculty in 1973 he already enjoyed a national reputation as a fine poet. Since then he has published several collections of his poems, edited two anthologies, helped create the NEA-funded Poets in the Schools Program, won the Western States Book Award for Poetry (2000), and the Oregon Book Award for Poetry (1990). In 2000 he was a finalist for poetry for both the Oregon Book Award and the PEN West Award. Professor St. John has participated in countless readings and taught hundreds of students to write creatively and think critically. Currently he is completing a collection of new poems based on historical and Caribbean themes where he continues his examination of people, their circumstances, and how they deal with those circumstances.
Diana Abu-Jaber's latest novel, Origin, was named one of the best books of the year by the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and won the 2008 Florida Book Award.
Her memoir, The Language of Baklava, won the Northwest Booksellers' Award. Her novel, Crescent, won the PEN Center Award for Literary fiction and the American Book Award. Her first novel, Arabian Jazz won the Oregon Book award.
She teaches at Portland State University and divides her time between Portland and Miami, Florida.
Attack Won’t Stop Publication of Book
By SARAH LYALL; Compiled by Dave Itzkoff
Published: September 29, 2008
Martin Rynja, the British publisher whose house was attacked over the weekend, is going ahead with plans to publish “The Jewel of Medina,” a novel about the early life of A’isha, a wife of the Prophet Muhammad. The book’s original American publisher, Random House, canceled publication after being warned that the novel might inflame Muslim extremists. (It has since been bought by another American publisher, Beaufort Books, and is to be published in 15 countries.) A firebomb was apparently pushed through the mail slot of the home of Mr. Rynja, the publisher of Gibson Square in London, this weekend. (His home is also the headquarters of Gibson Square.) He did not respond to messages, but Natasha Kern, the agent who represents Sherry Jones, the author of “The Jewel of Medina,” said Mr. Rynja was “fine and uninjured.” She added, “He is planning to go ahead with the book, as are other publishers worldwide, despite this shocking attack.”
The people who have been running our government for the past eight years have nothing but contempt for government. They believe only in politics and ideology, in that order. First, win elections by any means necessary. Second, once in a position to act in the public good, govern with the ideological conviction that government is either irrelevant or harmful to the public interest.
You can draw a straight line between firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons and turning a blind eye to the ruinous excesses of Wall Street. What's impartial justice against the possibility of gaining political advantage? Why shackle the hallowed free market with government oversight?
And, if you want to draw the line a little further, who cares if the prospective vice president appears to know nothing about anything?
Monday, September 29, 2008
Q: What is the role of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to war and it doesn't have to stand for that. I believe that what Congress is going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I think it was an unfair attack on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans and trade we've got to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic countries. His mission, if it is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do things better.
How much is the economy going to crash before it gets turned around? Down 777 on Wall Street in a day is incredible. Lots of retired folks have lots of retirement plans tied up there. At one moment, watching the news, I saw the DOW drop steadily right before my eyes, a balloon with a leak. I turned off the TV.
Obama has to take charge somehow, and not let McCain use these topsy-turvy times to get back into the race. A bold new plan is needed, clearly putting the middle class first and making the greedy fat cats pay.
I got the heebie jeebies.
But I start the new term with a battery charge, projects in progress or at the ready, and optimism for a fruitful fall season.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I like Obama saying today that if elected, he will immediately review the bill in detail to see if it needs amendments, i.e. to take more personal charge of it.
A solid production, as we've come to expect from Portland Opera in recent years, at least since the arrival of the artistic director from the Met. I especially liked the duet between the lover's father and heroine, beautiful music sung by the two strongest singers in the cast.
So much great music for one opera!
A full two-tiered opera season begins with a Portland Opera matinee today and in two weeks the first Live Met High-Def Saturday opera (and there are about a dozen!).
I created the video and Finale files in which I'll create the Autumn Video Tone Poem. This is going to be a good challenge. I'll learn a lot about where I am in my music studies.
Some rewriting input from the beach to do in the splay.
This Wednesday is First Wednesday, making the first week of school even busier.
One economist today said if nothing is done, and quickly, stocks will fall 3000 to 4000 points in a day. This beings to wipe out a ton of retirement funds, including ours. Is he right? Who the hell knows? Is the cure going to be worse than the disease? Who the hell knows? The fearful politicians seem to be focusing on managing Wall Street's fear. Whatever happened to "we have nothing to fear but fear itself"?
Saturday, September 27, 2008
She’s out of her league.
By Kathleen Parker
It was fun while it lasted.
Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.
No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I’ve been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I’ve also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted.
Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there. Here’s but one example of many from her interview with Hannity: “Well, there is a danger in allowing some obsessive partisanship to get into the issue that we’re talking about today. And that’s something that John McCain, too, his track record, proving that he can work both sides of the aisle, he can surpass the partisanship that must be surpassed to deal with an issue like this.”
When Couric pointed to polls showing that the financial crisis had boosted Obama’s numbers, Palin blustered wordily: “I’m not looking at poll numbers. What I think Americans at the end of the day are going to be able to go back and look at track records and see who’s more apt to be talking about solutions and wishing for and hoping for solutions for some opportunity to change, and who’s actually done it?”
If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.
If Palin were a man, we’d all be guffawing, just as we do every time Joe Biden tickles the back of his throat with his toes. But because she’s a woman — and the first ever on a Republican presidential ticket — we are reluctant to say what is painfully true.
What to do?
McCain can’t repudiate his choice for running mate. He not only risks the wrath of the GOP’s unforgiving base, but he invites others to second-guess his executive decision-making ability. Barack Obama faces the same problem with Biden.
Only Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.
Do it for your country.
Lots of speculation that McC may drop her. I doubt it. A little too late for that, although earlier I suggested it. Family needs and all that. But I think he's stuck with her now, is too proud to admit his mistake.
CBS Poll: Obama Boosted Most By Debate... NYT Editorial: Obama Dominated Economic Discussions, McCain Sounded Like "A Tinny Echo Of The 20th Century"... WaPo Analysis: No Knockout Punch... Time's Mark Halperin: Obama Clearly Better... CNN Poll: Obama Had The Edge... George Will: Mild Leg Up To Obama... George Stephanopoulos: Overall Winner Is Obama... WSJ Editorial: McCain Won On Foreign Policy, Obama On Domestic Issues... Time's Joe Klein: Narrow Win For Obama... WaPo's Tom Shales: McCain Too Nasty, Obama Too Nice... LA Times Editorial: Too Close To Call...
Friday, September 26, 2008
WED. At Sailor Jack's Motel in Lincoln City, our usual getaway at the coast. We like it because it's dog friendly, on the beach, reasonably priced.
Raining, raining. No problem. Read, a nap.
THUR. Melville had the ocean right. Proximity to it changes your perspective, reminds you of the scale of things and how small you are. Yet, of course, from another point of view, just as legitimate, you are everything in the sense that your very awareness of the ocean or anything else is a consequence of consciousness. Does the tree fall in the forest without you there? Yes and no, depending what you mean by the question.
Watch, stumbled upon, a charming film last night, "Inventing the Abbotts," made me want to read the novel. Nicely crafted coming of age story.
The main "work" I want to accomplish here is checking my syllabus so I can get it printed upon return. Also brought script pages and novel pages to work on if I get that ambitious, plus a couple of books.
I could live in motels. Moreso motels than hotels, but I could live in both. Let the maid clean up, eat all my meals out. I read Nabakov lived in a hotel. I can see the advantages. If money were no object, and it actually wouldn't take that much, I could live in a van and motels, just aimlessly wandering around and using Internet cafes and owning nothing that wouldn't fit in the van. H. needs more than I do in this regard so the life of a vagabond is unlikely -- unless I outlive her, which could only happen by accident or one of those jabs by the gods. She doesn't everything "right," i.e. healthy, and I do the opposite much of the time.
I'm glad I'm working on the new novel. It's serious, in a way screenplays aren't (because I'm trying to sell them, which immediately makes it writing outside-in, not inside-out), which means writing something my agent feels comfortable with, a collaboration; but the novel is pure inside-out, and I need this kind of project in my life, even if it has no future whatever except a place on the shelf of my archive. I keep the faith. One day someone will find it and react more or less the way the guy reacted when he found my essay in the basement of a library and was inspired to write a book on the same theme. That's the best kind of feedback. "The proper response to poetry is not criticism but poetry." (Brown)
I'm also glad I'm tackling the video tone poem. My first real test as a composer/arranger, something that will be only a few minutes long. See how far I'm come in my studies and how far I still have to go. A video chamber opera being the far away goal out there. Will I live long enough to get this done? We shall see what we shall see. Hope so.
I don't think I've written better characters than are in the Army, Cold War novel. All based on real people. But they can't carry the book alone. I need to find the right story for them all to hang on, and man it's been a bitch finding it. I have a new idea I'll try in the splay ... I want to get it done this fall.
I am eager to return to the classroom. Gives me a structure, a place I have to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and this is good. Also is "social", which working in my basement office definitely is not.
I had a teacher who used to read Melville's oceanic passages from "Moby Dick" to us. J. Robert Trevor, or Bob as I came to know him a friend after being a teacher, and a very early supporter of my writing. I took a class from him after the Army, before UCLA, when I was lost and uncertain what to major in. He moved me in the direction of English. One of the best things he did is read to us to open the class. NO DISCUSSION! He just said, Listen carefully. And he'd read a poem or a passage from prose ... and then we'd move on to whatever we were studying. I remember once he called on me to explicate a cummings poem and when I was done, he said, I can't do any better than that. It was my first encouragement of my critical faculties in literature.
I visited Bob when he became Vice President of a community college in Kansas City. I stayed with him when I was flown out to the Univ of Mo after winning a playwriting contest. Later I stayed with him in Honolulu, a great visit. He died shortly thereafter.
Of the several unforgettable teachers I've had, Bob Trevor tops the list.
LATER. Oliver Stone's new film "W" comes out soon. I'm a great fan of his "Nixon" but I can't imagine that his study of Bush will be as powerful as his study of Nixon. Nixon was a tragic figure, his own worst enemy. From what I gather, Bush is just a good old boy. "W" surely must be a dark comedy at best. The current tragic figure, of course, is McCain. Tragic figures are their own worst enemies. Nixon's flaw was paranoia. McCain's is ambition.
LATER. Starting to hear the tone poem in my head. Hearing a cello, bass and muted trumpet. Eager to get it down. Hope it's still in my head when I get home!
LATER. 930a.m., soon to go out for breakfast, then hanging out or whatever. My leg is better but I don't want to overdo it and make it worse, as I have in the past ... a tough call, how much to walk? Watched a little news, McCain trying to position himself as savior of the economy, pretty pathetic. Letterman had a great rap against McCain for cancelling. And Obama says, well, I can multitask, and the Pres should be able to!
LATER. Breakfast at The Pines, a ritual here. Then a scenic drive up the coast. We got lost in a maze of dead end streets in Neskowin, finally found our way out. Took the back way to Pacific City, nice beach, let the dog run. Then home.
LATER. So many potentially extraordinary books will be written about the 2008 primaries and campaign. I expect to be gone by the time the best get written but I should be able to read some of the earliest interpretations. Obama's rise, Hillary blowing it, McCain's flip flop, Palin's strange history. Great drama and hidden realities galore.
THUR. Junk in the brain dept. Woke up with song lyrics in my head, which is not unusual. What is is that the lyrics are from 1967 or 1968, one of the songs I wrote during my folk singing period, words forgotten for 30+ years. One of those Dylanesque things everyone was writing at the time, this one in the melodic variation of a talking blues that Dylan was so good at (Subterranean Homesick Blues etc), one verse being this:
I like you for yourself and all the dust upon your shelf
and all of yesterday's ideas that fill your head
It takes all kinds to make a world and that includes both your and me
as well as all the living and the dead
We're different, I don't mind
I'm trying to be kind
It's been done
How remarkable that these 40 year old lyrics could have been written today! A little depressing actually.
Has there ever been a more unlearned, undisciplined, unethical ticket than McC/P in American politics? I can't think of any. With all the thoughtful conservatives jumping ship, a close race can only be explaned by two isms ... racism against O, and classism against intellectuals. In a sense, the election is a barometer of the spritual health of the country, the closer the race, the sicker we are. I can understand people who don't want to vote for O. I don't understand people who vote for McC unless they are racists, classist, or stupid. He is too erratic, untrustworthy, and his running mate too fringe wacko. I can understand not voting, voting for a 3rd party, or voting for O without enthusiasm as the lesser of two evils. But enthusiasm for erratic lying manipulative dishonesty and disgrace? Sad. Very sad.
LATER. Alice in Wonderland. That's what the campaign is. Someone is going to claim the Earth is flat any moment now.
Worked on the splay in progress this morning, a good boost of energy because I like it. Will try and finish a draft ASAP.
We'll be heading out within the hour, taking a scenic leisurely trip home. Maybe lunch in Depot Bay, a cafe H wants to check out. Then maybe back roads home, no hurry.
This has been an excellent trip. A battery charge. Better, a reconnection for us, too damn busy most of the time to do just hang out. So it's fun and energizing and connecting at the same time.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
In its heyday during the 1960s, Grove Press was famous for publishing books nobody else would touch. The Grove list included writers like Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, William S. Burroughs, Che Guevara and Malcolm X, and the books, with their distinctive black-and-white covers, were reliably ahead of their time and often fascinated by sex. The same was, and is, true of Grove’s maverick publisher, Barney Rosset, who loved highbrow literature but also brought out a very profitable line of Victorian spanking porn.
On Nov. 19 Mr. Rosset will receive a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in honor of his many contributions to American publishing, especially his groundbreaking legal battles to print uncensored versions of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer.” He is also the subject of “Obscene,” a documentary by Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O’Connor, which opens on Friday at Cinema Village.
I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.
This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.
Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.
Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson
Don't you love the Internet's ability to fast move satire and commentary?
A protest is scheduled at Wall Street, Thursday 5pm (I assume ET). I don't protest much any more (been there, done that, and general cynicism), but I'd like to be at this one.
When poor and homeless people ask the government for help, they're told that low-income housing and living wage jobs are not a government priority because this country is built on "personal responsibility" and people need to "make better decisions."
When giant banking corporations are on the brink of total collapse because they have made a systematic series of bad business decisions - because they can - the government gives them a trillion dollars. The Administration even wants to include multi-million dollar "golden parachutes" for the corporate executives who MADE those bad decisions.
Where is the "personal responsibility" for the rich? Why is democracy and freedom confused with the free market when we talk about the poor but the rich get State sponsored corporate bail outs and tax breaks?
Why is it that when WE demand health care, education, housing, and real jobs, the government is too cash-strapped to help out - but they've got trillions of dollars for unjust wars and corporate communism?"
Why the Norwegian Bank Crisis of 1988 is Important!
During a lunchtime discussion, a European at our company pointed out that Norway had faced a banking crisis similar to ours twenty years ago; but that they had survived it at minimal cost.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
- Video. I gave my actors an Oct 1 deadline for their script pages. Next week, then, I'll get serious about the mockumentary script. I want a usable draft by the 15th so I can schedule the shoot. Because of schedules, this will be spread over several months, I expect. Meanwhile, I have a short video I want to do, something different, a tone poem to Autumn, for which I'd write the music. I'll be using mostly stock footage -- New England and all that.
- Prose. Continuing to move ahead in the new novel. Also polishing the prose along the way, which is the most fun. A novel is such a huge project, it's hard to hold it all in mind the way I can hold a feature screenplay in mind. And rhetoric is everything. But this project already is as much fun as challenge, a good addition to my fall list of projects.
- Scripts. Two in progress, want to finish both before the end of the year. A comedy. The Cold War story.
- Life. I don't know what kind of financial mess Obama is going to inherit if he gets elected -- and he damn well better -- but I don't trust the Bush administration to fix this. I wish we could fast forward to January and let an Obama administration tackle it. At least Congress is not letting Bush and his clan rewrite the Constitution, not yet anyway. I'm glad to see resistance to the requested blank check. I think we need bold creative solutions, like Kucinich suggested. I'd like to see more ideas like that.
- We're getting away for a few days, to the coast, as we usually do just before school starts. My class starts next week. Summer is over.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement announcing a plan for a new Ownership Society:
“The Wall Street financial disaster is an opportunity to create a genuine ownership society. If Congress invests $700 billion in the market, then the American people must get something of real value for their investment.
“Simply purchasing bad debt, "cash for trash" and not receiving anything of value or giving $700 billion and not having a commensurate equity interest in Wall Street firms is unacceptable. No "cash for trash".
“Since the bailout will cost each and every American about $2,300, tomorrow I will offer legislation to create a United States Mutual Trust Fund, which will take control of $700 billion in stock assets, at market value and not higher, convert those assets to shares, and distribute $2,300 worth of shares to new individual savings accounts in the name of each and every American.”
Kucinich arrived at the $2,300 figure by dividing the cost of the bailout ($700 billion) by the US population (over 300 million).
Asserting that the plan would allow Mr. Paulson to act with “absolute impunity,” Senator Dodd said, “After reading this proposal, I can only conclude that it is not only our economy that is at risk, Mr. Secretary, but our Constitution, as well.”
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my outrage at the level to which John McCain and his ill-advised advisers were willing to stoop to get him elected president. The selection of Sarah Palin has only served to distract both presidential candidates from addressing the real issues. I am insulted as a women and as an American at the desperation of John McCain and his use of “Country First” as a campaign slogan. Clearly, this selection of Sarah Palin has everything to do with John McCain and his last possible chance to be elected. It is sad to see how far he has fallen in 8 years.
I have nothing to say about Sarah Palin that hasn’t already been said other than to ask what kind of America she believes in that she would even consider—given her lack of experience and questionable governing policies—the offer to run as McCain’s VP choice.
-Kathleen S., 60, Charlotte, NC
As an independent, I chose in the last election to vote for President Bush. It was a choice that I now regret. I say this to say, I'm not a long-term anti-Republican but there is nothing about the Bush administration that I would like to see continued; and McCain's candidacy has been so patently political (all strategy, no substance) that I can't take him seriously as a candidate. I saw little to support in him before he announced his running mate. The selection of Palin only served to destroy any hint of respect I ever had for the man. Palin is clearly the most unqualified, vapid and dangerous woman in politics. If she's the best that the Republican party can come up with as a potential VP and a (God help us) back up should something happen to McCain, I truly feel sorry for you (well no, not really). The real question is, did Palin really think that women would be so dense as to that herself a dog with lipstick was a good thing? Are we supposed to be so blind that we don't realize that the Republicans are running the foulest campaign I have seen in my lifetime as a distraction to the fact that both McCain and Palin are just not right for the Oval Office?
-Lois W., Orland Hills, IL
As an independent voter not affiliated with either party, I am saddened and offended by McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his VP. Sad because I think they might actually win (though it baffles me), offended because the choice is so patronizing. I accept that the choice of a woman for the VP spot was a smart strategic move for McCain, and that's just politics, but her? The first woman to get this close to the presidency should be someone who is actually qualified, not a political pawn who was chosen over more qualified women because of her celebrity style. Palin is on the wrong side of every issue that is important to me as a woman. The fact that she IS a woman does nothing to endear me, it only magnifies her ultra socially conservative positions all the more so. McCain has most certainly lost my vote.
-Jennifer C., 38, Potomac, MD
I am a 73-year-old retired social worker who registers as an Independent. However, McCain's pick of an inexperienced and arrogant women to be his Vice President clarified for me that my only choice is Obama. Ms. Palin frightens me both for my country and for my grandchildren who might have to reap the results of her so-called value-laden policies should she, God forbid, ever ascend to the Presidency.
-Jane B., 73
Monday, September 22, 2008
Half way through watching this DVD by Brian Flemming, I was thinking to myself, This is brilliant, perhaps the most important and challenging documentary I've seen in ages. Then everything changes and by the end, I find myself disappointed.
The first half challenges the existence of the historical Jesus. This is a major contention and, while I'm no scholar of the period, the evidence presented certainly needs to be challenged if misleading. At this point, the documentary is compelling and thought-provoking.
Then it turns personal: Flemming, the narrative voice, appears on camera and identifies himself as a former Christian fundamentalist, who was taught in a fundamentalist school. This alone should not be cause for alarm and might even make the documentary strong because more personal. But Flemming changes the focus, moving away from the fascinating thesis that there was no historical Jesus to a clumsy confrontation with the head of his old school. He sets the man up, arriving under misleading pretenses -- an "end justifies the means" technique used by Michael Moore (which is why I am no fan) -- in order to get the man to look stupid on camera. It's overkill -- and it weakens Flemming's work.
If Flemming had stayed with and continued to develop his original thesis, I might be saying this is a brilliant documentary. All I can say is that it's interesting, and the first half is especially worth watching, as are numerous interviews. But this could have been so much more if Flemming could have kept the anger about his schooling off camera.
The Democrats and some Republicans are insisting on revisions that make this bailout plan less than the dictatorship of the Treasury that was offered. But the worst may be yet to come.
What communicates authority, or the lack thereof, is rhetorical style. Language, tone, point of view. "Call me Ishmael." No ifs or buts about it. "...all that David Copperfield kind of crap." No ifs or buts about it. Take charge. Don't kiss the reader's ass.
This is writing inside-out, writing as art. Not all writing comes from this source. Not even most. Most writing we read is writing outside-in, writing in the world of commerce, meeting the expectations of genre, reader, commercial context. Kissing the publisher's ass.
The best writing doesn't kiss anyone's ass. It's propelled by authority from an author, in command, arrogant, my way or the highway. Surely the most extreme example of this is Joyce's Finnegans Wake. My way or the highway.
This is the precise challenge of the new work. Finding the right tone, in authority, arrogant, you come with me my way or screw you, who the fuck needs you, you're just a reader. But if you dare, if you dare come along, well, you are in for one hell of a ride.
The Performing Self, one writer called a study of contemporary writers back in the sixties. He was right on. Writing as performance. Writing as self.
This is going to be fun.
I am losing respect for the American public. The fact the we even have above 30% of the population still thinking of voting for a party that has run this country to the ground economically, socially and militarily really makes me think that they really do not care for their country. All they care for is to get revenge at some perceived culture war humiliation they suffered at some point in their lifetime...
I am actually beginning to believe that John McCain may actually win this election. And not because Obama (and the rest of us) isn't working his butt off to win this thing, but because the Democrats lost the culture wars a long time ago. The fact that a lot of Americans still want to identify with someone who they can go hunting with and have a beer with, as opposed to wanting someone who can run this country in a competent manner, is very telling of what a nation we have become. Maybe that is Obama's biggest miscalculation. That he believes in the fundamental decency of the American people. I can't see any decency in wanting to vote for a party that misled its people into harming a nation that never attacked us. And if its populace still have no regrets about it, then we really do deserve the GOP to plunder and loot this country.
And it's just not Republicans who I despise. There are all those Reagan Democrats who were willing to vote for Hillary but not for Obama that I despise too. Its unbelievable to me that now all of a sudden they see Hillary's values reflection in McCain and Palin.
Here Mr. Galal, 24, drinks beer almost every night and considers a young Russian prostitute his girlfriend. But he also makes it to work every morning, not something he could say when he lived back in Egypt. Everything is up to him, everything: what meals he eats, whether he goes to the mosque or a bar, who his friends are.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
It's interesting to compare this to my continuing struggles with the Cold War novel, many drafts over many years, with much I like -- characters, setting, rhetoric -- but always stopped dead in its tracks at the moment I admit I have no story. Hence my new approach, to write it as a screenplay, in which story matters most. I believe in a novel the story does not matter most in the end -- it's the way the story is told, that bundle of style, tone, voice, point of view, that communicates the story. "It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it," says my favorite literary critic, Jimminy Cricket. This is a judgment of the end product. But the process works a bit differently, and if you don't have a clear story, or create one along the way, the stone wall inevitably appears and you're stopped in your tracks.
This new story came to me whole. Almost never happens. Very rare indeed. But there it was, suddenly in my head, and I can see how it comes from all the brooding I've been doing about aging, dying, empowerment, the things I brood about these days. I found a story that deals with all of this with dark humor and economy. And, of technical challenge to me, the story includes a device I've never used before: a Greek god is a character. That's the way I see it. A reader may believe it's a loony character who just believes he's a Greek god. But I take him at his word.
This book is too literary to be commercial. No problem. If done right, it will have a proud place on the shelf of my archive. Moreover, it should be a hoot to write. Dark comedy is always fun.
Man, how quickly my entire work schedule can change! I've learned not to ignore these gifts from the gods. In the past, they've turned out just fine.
In about 45 seconds, I outlined the entire story on half a sheet of paper. Beginning, middle, end, it's all there. Darkly comic. A touch of surrealism. Tone would be everything, so it's a challenge, not a slam dunk. Should I write it?
To a degree, while not derivative, this story is inspired in strategy by one of my favorite short novels, Saul Bellow's Seize the Day. The same compact tight focus. In mine, all the action happens in one day.
Something else to brood about.
p.s. I'm going to start it and see how difficult it is for me to find the right tone. If it's a struggle, I may put it aside, but if the right voice leaps into the language, I'm sure I'll be off and running.
"I suppose the McCain campaign's hope is that when there's a big crisis, people will go for age and experience," said Will. "The question is, who in this crisis looked more presidential, calm and un-flustered? It wasn't John McCain who, as usual, substituting vehemence for coherence, said 'let's fire somebody.' And picked one of the most experienced and conservative people in the administration, Chris Cox, and for no apparent reason... It was un-presidential behavior by a presidential candidate....John McCain showed his personality this week," said the writer and pundit, "and made some of us fearful."
Indeed, the entire panel found the "new McCain" frightening, as I do. Being scared of Palin was bad enough. But McCain is losing it, which is really scary. The panel pointed out that the issue of age again is on the table: maybe McCain is getting senile. Which leaves us Palin. May the gods save us. Or the kids.
TO MY SPAMMERS
While I appreciate your concern
for the size of my penis
and my lack of a PhD
and my considerable debt
and formidible girth
and shabby love life
and therefore offer remedies
for all these and more
penile extenders and viagra
no-test no-interview degrees
loans, casinos and lotteries
diet pills and ancient herbs
lovely young women
from Russia and Thailand
to marry me
to sit on my face
to be naughty beyond imagination
while I appreciate everything
you are trying to do for me
let me take this moment
to offer compensation
may you contact the genital crabs
and the doctor give you this cure
shaving half your pubic hair
soaking the other side with gasoline
putting a match to it
so that all those critters race
to the other side
so the doctor can stab
each one dead
with an ice pick
I have complicated views of alcohol and its use and misuse. I am, of course, an "alcoholic" by any accepted definition of the term but I don't call myself this because I don't accept so many of the tenets of traditional treatment. I call myself "a retired drinker." Of course, I'm not blind, and obviously the abuse of alcohol is a major social problem. But this problem is not being approached right, in my view, and even is aggravated by the monopoly of 12-step AA programs in the treatment industry.
The first mistake of the 12-step program is its first step: that the "alcoholic" is powerless over alcohol. Therefore, you need help from a Greater Power to stop alcohol abuse.
This phrasing of the problem is misleading. Is one powerless over gravity? Of course. Does that mean you have to call on a Greater Power not to jump off a building since gravity then will take care of business? Of course not.
The emphasis of treatment should be to EMPOWER the abusive drinker, not its opposite. Look, there's this gene you have, it's going to raise hell once you start drinking, but you are in total control here because you don't have to have the first drink, or how many it is before you lose control, just as you don't have to jump off the building to enter the control of gravity. Your choice. Your choice. You act freely, and there are consequences from your actions. This, not powerlessness, not praying to a Greater Power, should be the emphasis.
Here's how much the 12-step Religion controls the treatment industry. In treatment at the VA, my own counselor gave me a book, saying he would deny giving me the book if anyone found out! It was a book critical of AA, that looked at alcohol more scientifically (Under the Influence). Moreover, in treatment my job assignment was in the medical library, where I learned that the European view of these matters is very, very different and more science-based. Despite its mumbo-jumbo to the contrary, AA 12-step programs are Christian-based. Don't believe it? Try getting an AA group to do a Hindu chant/prayer rather than the Lord's Prayer!
But I object to much more than this. Alcohol is a drug, and like all mind-altering drugs, it has spiritual uses. Spiritual uses. Another way in which I was a trouble-maker in treatment was by my refusal to say all my drinking experience was destructive. That's ridiculous. A very small portion of the experience was destructive to anyone or anything besides my own physical body. On the contrary, many of the most enjoyable, insightful and spiritual experiences of my life included alcohol. I will not deny the truth of my experience.
I think alcohol should be used as a drug of enlightenment, not a party drug. I think its use should be taught and this includes education about the dangers of the drug when over used -- that is, the key is getting the right ingestion and then stopping. I think there should be a Dionysian approach to alcohol.
Fat chance, of course.
I quit because a doctor asked me a very simple question. How long do you want to live? This was 15 years ago, and I wanted to live longer. However, if somehow I had survived and the question was asked me today, my answer would be different. I wouldn't quit today, I'd hang it up. I'd think about and prepare my ritual of departure. 15 years ago I wanted to live as long as I could. Today, while I have no death wish or desire to commit suicide, I'm ready whenever the gods say its time. There's nothing critical to do here that I haven't already done. I don't have any kids or grandkids to watch grow up. I've outlived my closest friends. I feel blessed with the life I've had, and it seems there are better odds at things getting worse than better, both personally and in the world at large, so what's the point going out of my way to hang around? I don't see any. So if the alcohol question came up today, I'd say, well, doc, thanks for the info, guess I'll have a going away party and see what's around the bend, if anything.
If I'm still writing this blog at the time, I'll let you know when the party starts.
You can't replace shared experience like this. You can't replace how well you get to know someone and they you. With this background, a good deal of communication becomes non-verbal. Dick and I, with the same sense of humor, and a sense of the absurdity of life in our culture, used to crack up together as if rehearsed over the smallest, most subtle moment of cultural absurdity. People around us thought we were nuts, or perhaps enjoying a pass out of the asylum. Laughing with Dick is something I miss terribly.
Ger and I were closer "professionally" because Ger had been an actor in SF before deciding to make a living as a banker. We talked a lot about theater at the time, the 80s, when my career was at its most visible peak of success. We had similar theater tastes and enjoyed sharing what we liked and didn't like on the current scene. There was more of the latter than the former.
But much more than camaraderie is missed when you lose a close friend. Dick's loss, which came first, was lessened because I still had Ger to hang with. Interestingly, Dick and Ger couldn't get along, but Ger kindly listened to my laments and grief after Dick died. But when Ger passed, there was no one else -- and that's when I felt the loss of friendship the most. It's a feeling of being alone on the journey. That's how I define the new period of my life: okay, now I'm alone for the duration. Sure, I have friends and acquaintances, I have a wife, but I don't have those long shared experiences on which so much non-verbal communication is built, I don't have the strong sense of not being alone on this journey through life's puzzle. As an existentialist, I've always believed in the fundamental condition of loneliness in the human condition but it was tempered considerably, in terms of living this experience, by the shared minds of Dick and Ger, who agreed with this existential assessment, and by sharing it somewhat negated it. But the compromise is gone now.
What we lose when we lose close friends is a bridge over the abyss.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
A blank check of power. To the Secretary of the Treasury. Are you kidding me?
Sometimes in the stress and urgency of crises, the most dangerous and terrible laws can be passed. This might be one of those times.
James Crumley died Wednesday in Missoula. I love his novel The Last Good Kiss. From NYT today:
James Crumley, a critically acclaimed crime novelist whose drug-infused, alcohol-soaked, profanity-laced, breathtakingly violent books swept the hard-boiled detective from the Raymond Chandler era into an amoral, utterly dissolute, apocalyptic post-Vietnam universe, died on Wednesday in Missoula, Mont. He was 68 and lived in Missoula.
No single cause of death had been identified, his family said. Mr. Crumley had been in declining health with kidney, vascular and other problems in recent years.
If Mr. Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson had collaborated to produce a literary offspring, Mr. Crumley would unquestionably have been the result. In just seven private eye novels he carved out a genre that might properly be called gonzo gumshoe, set mostly in the back alleys, seedy bars and wild, forbidding countryside of Montana.
Mr. Crumley had two private eyes. The first, Milton Chester Milodragovitch, known as Milo, is a multiply divorced, hard-drinking, cocaine-snorting womanizer. Introduced in “The Wrong Case” (Random House, 1975), he reappeared in “Dancing Bear” (Random House, 1983) and “The Final Country” (Mysterious Press, 2001).
The second, C. W. Sughrue (“ ‘Shoog’ as in sugar, honey,” the detective explains, “and ‘rue’ as in rue the goddamned day”), is a former Vietnam War criminal and hard-drinking, cocaine-snorting womanizer. Introduced in “The Last Good Kiss” (Random House, 1978), he also starred in “The Mexican Tree Duck” (Mysterious Press, 1993) and “The Right Madness” (Viking, 2005).
Milo and Sughrue tackle a case together in Mr. Crumley’s 1996 novel, “Bordersnakes,” published by Mysterious Press.
For readers who found it hard to tell the two detectives apart, Mr. Crumley offered a reliable guide: “Milo’s first impulse is to help you,” he told The Dallas Morning News in 2001. “Sughrue’s is to shoot you in the foot.”
We had the honor at the review of publishing A Story and A Poem.
Is it too much to ask that Alaska's governor speak for herself, directly to Alaskans, about her actions as Alaska's governor?
Palin's official press secretary, Bill McAllister, paid by the state of Alaska, didn't even know the McCain staffers were meeting the press to defend his boss.
Is the McCain campaign telling Alaskans that Alaska's governor can't handle her own defense in front of her own Alaska constituents?
An economic Katrina is shattering the confidence of hardworking, middle-class Americans. The war that should never have been in Iraq is dragging on too long. At a time of huge challenge, the candidate with the intelligence, temperament and judgment to lead our nation to a better place is Sen. Barack Obama.
Obama should be the next president of the United States because he is the most qualified change agent. Obama is a little young, but also brilliant. If he sometimes seems brainy and professorial, that's OK. We need the leader of the free world to think things through, carefully. We have seen the sorry results of shooting from the hip.
On numerous other issues, from media consolidation to health care, Obama has the stronger take. He makes up for a thin résumé with integrity, judgment and fresh ideas. Obama can get America moving forward again.
A big deal here in the NW.
A major step in PSU's new drive is today's game at Pullman against Washington State, a Pac-10 team. Nationally televised! PSU comes away with almost a quarter million dollars for this, which (according to a news article) almost pays for the team's entire travel budget this season. If I were younger, I'd have driven to Pullman to see the game with my Godson Brad, who lives in nearby Moscow, Idaho. But I can't drive more than a few hundred miles at a stretch any more. When at UCLA, I used to drive to Medford to see my folks in one long session, 800 miles, leave after my Friday morning class and get there in the wee hours. Ah, youth!
I think "Ah youth and beauty!" is the title of one of John Cheever's better short stories. Something like that.
I'd like to see college sports get a more intra-mural feel and the pros bankroll their own minor leagues. Never happen -- but the way to start it, if a college prez were so bold, would be to get rid of all athletic scholarships.
US filmmaker Woody Allen, best known for such comedy classics as "Annie Hall," says it will be no laughing matter if Barack Obama fails to win the race for the White House.
"It would be a disgrace and a humiliation if Barack Obama does not win," he told Spanish journalists at the ongoing 56th San Sebastian film festival, where his latest film "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is being screened.
"It would be a very, very terrible thing for the United States in many, many ways," he said.
Democratic hopeful Obama, Allen said, is "so much better" than Republican rival John McCain, and "represents a huge step upward from (the) incompetence and misjudgement" of the Bush administration.
"It would be a terrible thing if the American public was not moved to vote for him, that they actually preferred more of the same."
It's also a terrible thing that a McCain victory is possible, that the race is this close. I think the elephant in the room is twofold: racism and classism (based on formal education). But I hope "the kids" are going to save our ass.