Friday, August 31, 2012

HERE ARE SOME POSTERS THAT REFUTE SIMPLY AND CLEARLY REPUBLICAN LIES ABOUT OUR PRESIDENT'S POLICIES AND THEIR OUTCOME WHEN IT COMES TO THE DEBT AND THE SIZE OF THE GOVERNMENT (AND A SAD BUT TRUE HUMOROUS EXTRA)



EMBLEMATIC OF THIS MOMENT IN OUR POLITICS

Clint Eastwood's imitation of an aging drunken stand-up comedian was pretty accurate. But he gave the lie to rightwing Republicans pretending, or trying to convince themselves, let alone the rest of us, that they don't have any prejudice or disrespect or disdain or contempt for our president. Implying that our too courteous and considerate president tells his opponents to go f@#k themselves, when the only time that has been recorded in our history it came from Dick Cheney's mouth because a Democrat stood up to his bullying is disingenuous to say the least.

The onslaught of lies continued on this last night of the Republican convention epitomized by Eastwood's sometimes incoherent act and Romney's coherent but lying act. The easiest way to demonstrate what the Republicans are doing, and might pull off because so many people fall prey to Carl Rove's version of the old Nazi "big lie" technique is to quote Juan Cole's list of the top ten lies in Paul Ryan's speech:


  1. "Ryan blamed the US credit rating downgrade on President Obama. But it was caused by the Republican Congress's threat not to raise the debt ceiling. That is, the fault for the credit rating downgrade from AAA to AA belongs with... Paul Ryan.

  2. Ryan continues to claim that President Obama said business owners did not build their own businesses. Obama said that business owners benefit from government infrastructure and programs, which they did not build. No small business owner has built an inter-state highway or bridge, but those are the means whereby their goods get to market. Ryan's (and the GOP's) talking point in this regard is a typical Karl Rove Big Lie, and among an informed electorate it ought to discredit them.

  3. Ryan depicted Obamacare as virtually a turn to Soviet-style totalitarianism, as incompatible with liberal freedoms for the individual. But the logical conclusion is that Ryan's running mate, Mitt Romney, turned Massachusetts into a Gulag.

  4. Ryan slammed President Obama for not implementing the deficit-cutting measures recommended by the Simpson-Bowles commission. But he himself voted against Simpson-Bowles.

  5. Ryan keeps attacking Prsident Obama's stimulus program now. But in 2002 when then President George W. Bush proposed stimulus spending, Ryan supported it. "What we're trying to accomplish today with the passage of this third stimulus package is to create jobs and help the unemployed," Ryan told MSNBC in 2002. Ryan says that the stimulus had not positive effects, while economists say it saved or created millions of jobs and pulled the US out of a near-Depression.

  6. Even more embarrassing, in 2010, Ryan asked for $20 million in stimulus money from Obama for companies in his district, then repeatedly denied requesting stimulus funds. He finally admitted he had done so, but continues to slam the stimulus program as a failure (even though the economy pulled out of a Depression as a result of it).

  7. Ryan slammed President Obama for the closure of an auto plant that closed in late 2008 under George W. Bush. Ryan's running mate, Mitt Romney, opposed Obama's actual auto bailout, which was a great success and returned Detroit to profitability.

  8. Paul Ryan charges that Barack Obama has 'stolen' $700 billion from medicare for his Obamacare. In fact, these expense reductions do not cut Medicare benefits, and, moreover,Romney and Ryan supported these reductions! The difference is that they would give the savings to the affluent, whereas Obama uses them to cover the presently uninsured.

  9. Ryan continues to push his longstanding plans for a steal-from-the-elderly-and-give-to-the-rich medicare plan, which President Obama warned would cost ordinary recipients over $6000 a year extra. Politifact checked and rated Obama's charge as correct, though they noted that the figures referred to CBO analyses of Ryan's last plan, not his 'new' one, which hasn't been subjected to similar analysis. Ryan certainly recently put forward a plan that would cost ordinary people that much extra.

  10. Ryan neglected to note that under the tax plan he favors, Gov. Mitt Romney would pay less than 1% in annual federal taxes, highlighting Romney's already low rate compared to ordinary Americans (slightly lower than Ryan's own!) and putting the spotlight back where Ryan's appointment was supposed to misdirect it."



Thursday, August 30, 2012

TOO PREDICTABLE TO SAY MUCH

I've been a political junkie since I was a kid, working for my old man who, besides being a small business owner (home repairs), was part of what was called "the Democratic machine" of Essex County  New Jersey. I've been watching the presidential nomination conventions every year ever since we got our first TV.

But this is the first year I've been tuning out. I watched snippets of Ann Romney's speech last night and a few others, and a good portion of Paul Ryan's tonight, as well as others. But pretty much every word they said was so predictable and so predictably untrue (except for the bromides, like we're for freedom or we love America etc.) and the obvious disgust, even venom felt toward our president seemed to me unprecedented.

Mocking the opposition, even getting snide about the opposition, is classic presidential politics in my experience. But obvious outright lies projecting and promoting the idea that the president is beneath contempt, the epitome of evil and deliberately trying to undermine our union and society and well being etc. etc. etc. No, that's descended to a new level.

Every speaker got elements of that justification for contempt for our democratically elected president into their speeches somewhere somehow, and some that's all they did (I learned later from watching analysis and The Daily Show and Colbert and reruns etc.). Like the chairman of the Republicans, who illustrated exactly the point I'm making when he answered a question about running ads and making speeches that tell lies about Obama's record by dismissing "fact checkers" as irrelevant and then went on to give a speech full of lies.

Ryan is the poster boy for this, including lies even about his home town and home state (as well as about Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts). The reality is though, that certainly Republicans themselves buy into the lies and like the chairman of their party dismiss facts as irrelevant to the story they're trying to convince voters about. And unfortunately so do a lot of others, like so-called "independents" who don't fact check and pick up their information from the media that gives equal weight to facts and fiction in their coverage because they want a horse race and one that's exciting and dramatic and close enough to keep people interested for the duration.

If the Republicans were not successful in getting laws demanding picture i.d. to vote in a majority of states now, that will repress the vote, for example in Pennsylvania by as much as 9%, enough to turn that blue state red, and if the media actually talked facts and not opinions etc. Obama would be reelected by a landslide. Just the media making it clear that the economy does not need to be "turned around"—that's what Obama did, turn around an economy speeding into the abyss of another Great Depression. The economy needs to grow faster, but it IS heading in the right direction, thanks to Obama and the Democrats in Congress whose attempts to make it grow faster have been thwarted every step of the way by an obstructionist Republican party that declared on the first day of Obama's administration that their top priority was making sure he failed!

But that's not reality. What's happening is the Republicans have more money, especially the undisclosed donor kind that can run nasty lying ads in more states and more times than the Dems, and they have their own media as well as the mainstream media cowed by their insistence that any questioning of their lies only proves their "liberal" bias, etc. and many voters will stay home out of disappointment in what they believe are Obama's failures because they have bought into the message of the rightwing lies in their ads and media repetition of those lies, or not be able to vote because Republicans have managed to get voter i.d. laws passed that mostly will keep the poor and the elderly from being able to vote.  There's a very good chance Romney/Ryan can "win" this as a result.

Plus a lot of folks are just tired, probably feel battered by the relentlessness of the rightwing Republican machine's repetitive propaganda (and maybe of the Democrats failure to transcend these attacks) and have lost interest in the whole political process. Which will only help the Republicans. But if we want to avoid an even worse future than the one we have ended up with after Bush/Cheney moved the country further to the right than Reagan who moved it further right than Nixon, etc. we've got to buoy each other up with enthusiasm and encouragement to not just vote but to get the message out to anyone we encounter or can reach through any means.

Here's to rising to the occasion.

[In the meantime, to the poster I shared in my last post as a rejoinder to the right's idea that anyone can become wealthy if they work hard enough and a comment on the first night of the Republican convention, here's another poster to share as a rejoinder to the second night:]

Monday, August 27, 2012

THE STORY

I'm concerned about the election. As scientists and others who study the mind have made clear, and we all knew anyway, humans think in terms of "story"—i.e. we interpret reality as a story, our lives as stories, problems and the solutions to them as stories, etc.

Any good politician, let alone leader, let alone success at almost anything, knows that the story is paramount. Clinton got that, so did Reagan. Carter did in his campaign for president than seemed to abandon using "story" to get his perspective and goals and policies, most of which were good and would have made our country better had he been able to achieve them all including a second term. But he totally lost control of the story and the result was the idea that he was ineffectual, when actually his achievements made the world a better place and if we had followed where he was trying to lead in terms of energy and the environment we could have avoided all kinds of problems that came up under Reagan's policies, etc.

Obama had a great story, embodied it in the convention speech that got him first noticed and honed it some in his 2008 campaign, but then let the Republicans, the rightwing Republicans (which is sort of redundant now) distort and transform his story and he didn't seem to see the damage it was doing or have the inclination to counter it.

Yes, he's campaigning well with the story of the Republicans wanting to make life even easier for the wealthy but harder for the rest of us, but he needs to bring his single mother and his Kansas grandparents and the WWII service etc. and Michelle's father's illness and the sacrifice of her parents sleeping on the couch to give their kids the bedrooms, etc. to the table in every speech and every talking point.

Otherwise he will continue to be too easily defined by snide birther jokes and not so subtle race-card playing with references to how he wants to give welfare money to people for not working etc. or even more threatening to his campaign, he'll be defined by the distortions and contortions and outright lying in the rightwing Republican propaganda movie OBAMA 2016.

Not to mention the media loves an easy story they think their audience will go for like Paul Ryan is a "big idea" guy who is willing to face the tough choices, yeah sure, if they don't effect him and his fellow wealthy and only harms the rest of us.

Most of "the media" is so corporate controlled and obedient to their corporate masters it's difficult to get any story out that doesn't support corporate agendas. Most of the media also falls for a simple easy to understand story, and the rightwing Republican media experts seem to understand that better than Obama's or most Democratic politicians.

Now that it looks like Romney/Ryan will have much more money to spend on TV advertising, and has been doing that in recent weeks and will do even more in the little more than two months until the election, their story will be seen and heard by more voters more often than Obama's. It's a pretty dicey situation for those of us informed enough to know that a Romney/Ryan victory would be more disastrous than the Bush/Cheney one was. And that's saying something.

STREET LEAGUE

Spent the afternoon and early evening at a skateboarding competition at The Prudential Center in Newark with my youngest son, oldest son, grandson, and two friends of my youngest. Wonderful mix in the cheering crowd and among the competitors. Witnessed some feats of balance and footwork and aerodynamics and creating works of art out of body and board manufacturing illusions of suspended animation and impossible physics and grace as well as noble failures and mishaps.

Entertaining and delightful. I'm grateful to my boys for sharing their love of this unique individual sport and art and helping me to appreciate it as well. Only wish it had been around when I was a kid.  Can't wait for the Olympics to catch up to it. Though my boys think it would spoil the purity of its street cred. If you ever get a chance to watch some great skateboarders, take it.

Here's a link to a video of one trick in slo mo so you can see how difficult it is (after the commercial, then the first try and major mishap that would have put me in the hospital—that's concrete he's landing on—second try beautiful).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

WHY I LOVE MELODY GARDOT

Thanks to JenW for sending the links for these two YouTube videos of behind the scenes for two Melody Gardot recordings.

The first is with some old(er) jazz masters in which the "newcomer" not only holds her own but from my perspective even threw them a little. The second is more recent of Melody doing her version of "La Vie En Rose" which'll make you want to dig the recording without the behind-the-scenes- interruptions.

If you don't smile during the first with delight at the depth of her talent, or find your eyes filling up during the second, well, then you're just not a sentimental old Irishman I guess [or maybe just haven't had brain surgery, as in my case, or severe brain trauma as in Gardot's] [but you have to listen and watch them both all the way through too] [and the Hancock one first].






Thursday, August 23, 2012

THE CAMPAIGN

Caught this flick because my fourteen-year-old and two of his friends wanted to see it. The first theater we went to was sold out, so the teenagers were hip to the audience's expectations I guess. The second and much cheaper theater in a nearby more working-class and working poor town we went to had plenty of seats.

The teens liked it initially. They found the typical (for contemporary Hollywood movies) gross out humor funny, while I found it obvious and forced and unhinged from any attempt at a story with a point that the moviemakers seemed to be making. Which was: politicians are controlled by big corporate money, in this plot's case, a corporation owned by two brothers seemingly based on or at least inferring the Koch brothers.

The only problem was it did what I see as the usual lazy thinking, or lazy political analyzing, and blamed both parties, and not even equally because the only decent and honest and mostly principled politician is the one Zach Galifianakis plays as an almost simpering Tea Party type idealist but without the ominous influence on our politics and government.

I remember reading an interview with Galifianakis and his co-star Will Ferrell (who plays the womanizing do-anything-to-win Democratic candidate as a combination of Anthony Weiner/John Edwards/and every childishly narcissistic idiot comic character Ferrell's played in previous films but with the usual saving grace of course that redeems the character(s) and the movie(s) at the end despite the previous almost entire movie's over-the-top self-centered immaturity) in which they said they didn't want to look like they were just bashing Republicans so they made Ferrell's Democrat look even worse at times.

It's true that both parties have politicians who behave badly and hypocritically, especially in their personal lives, but it is not true that a pair of gazillionaires like the Koch brothers back Democratic politicians just as easily as Republican ones as long as they do their corporate bidding. The Koch brothers have an ideology, as do many of the big money Republican Party backers, like Seth Adelson, an ideology that goes beyond just maximizing profits and into the realm of making it impossible for the government to ever threaten maximum profits no matter how many people suffer as a result.

As I've written and been writing since the election of 1968 in which I backed a third party candidate and watched Nixon get elected and cause more death and destruction, let alone damage to our politics and government, than any Democrat ever could (and the same happen when a third party candidate, Nader, helped Bush/Cheney steal the election in 2000 with the help of the rightwing members of a Supreme Court that stopped Florida's recount, a ruling that went against everything they previously professed to believe in unquestionably, namely states rights) it has been clear to me and to anyone who has read the internal documents of Republican Party leaders and tacticians that the right understands that its minority base can only win elections if enough people either don't bother to vote or vote for a third party candidate.

So it is to the right's advantage if it can convince most voters that both parties are equally to blame for whatever voters are disappointed about. Because then those voters will either sit out an election or vote for a third party candidate (as was the case in '68 and 2000—an exception being Ross Perot's third party candidacy from the right that helped get Bill Clinton elected).

But there are distinct differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. Yes they both are influenced by corporate money. But most Democrats much less so than most Republicans. Just read up on which gazzilionaires are supporting which party and why. The Koch brothers support the Republicans because they want their oil and other energy corporations to be free to pollute and exploit and etc. without government regulations interfering no matter what the cost to the environment and our health and welfare etc.

Not much of a movie review I know, but I found the movie terrible, though I did laugh at some of the comic bits and do admire Zach Galifianakis's acting and comic chops for the most part. But I must admit, this was the first time I found him to be inconsistent in his character development and portrayal (and not just him but the director: e.g. his brother and his father have accents from different places than each other as well as from his character).  In the end, it seemed to be a movie made to convince juvenile sensibilities that all politicians can be bought and sold except for the most naive and inexperienced, ala some of the Tea Partyers who, of course, are more responsible for the crisis in our politics and governing in the past two years and the impending greater crisis over the deficit and debt than any politician, even some of the Republicans owned by corporate greed!  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

TO ROME WITH LOVE

I've been catching up on seeing movies while they're still in theaters, and the latest was Woody Allen's latest.  Most people like some Woody Allen movies. And some people like most Woody Allen movies. There's a few who don't like any Woody Allen movies, and from conversations I've had they're people who are still mad at him for his personal life and actually haven't seen a Woody Allen movie in decades.

But I'm the only person I've ever known who has never seen a Woody Allen movie I didn't like. Some are better than others, and a lot of his most recent have been some of his best. But even the ones that aren't so good are still always uniquely Woody Allen movies in ways that brings me movie watching pleasure even if for some in inconsistent doses, as was the case with TO ROME WITH LOVE.

I saw it with a friend who liked TO ROME WITH LOVE a lot but hadn't dug Woody's previous flick, his most commercially successful in decades, if not his alltime most commercially succesful: MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. But for me that movie was a masterpiece with every scene working perfectly while TO ROME WITH LOVE seemed hit and miss as it went along.

It's an amazing cast, and there are some great performance moments, including every moment Penelope Cruz is onscreen, and ditto for Ellen Page. I was happy to see Woody playing a role himself and the incomparable Judy Davis as his wife. But their scenes sometimes seemed like schtick and almost out of place with the rest of the movie, and at other times had me laughing out loud.

As is often the case in Woody's flicks, especially MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and now TO ROME WITH LOVE, there's an element of fantasy that is in many ways original but evocative of classic movie fantasy tropes. But where it worked for me in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is sometimes didn't in TO ROME WITH LOVE. This is true mainly in the out and out fantasy subplot that involves Alec Baldwin as an actual character but one who can interrupt his scenes with commentary like Marshall McLuhan in ANNIE HALL.

Alec's one of our greatest film actors (and an old friend) and the storyline his character's a part of is classic Woody (nebisshy guy, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is in a relationship with an attractive woman—the incomparable Greta Gerwig who brings her indie penchant for an almost anti-Hollywood realism to her character—and falls for a seductress not half as substantial etc.). But despite the great acting by all involved—especially Ellen Page playing the seductress—it was hit and miss with some terrific bits and some surprisingly tired ones.

And though this also is often the case in Woody's flicks, it usually can be justified somehow, but not Eisenberg's in TO ROME WITH LOVE, and that is that Woody's characters almost always live in apartments that only the wealthy could afford even when they're artists or students. Like Eisenberg's character in TO ROME WITH LOVE. He's a student studying to become an architect but he lives like someone who has already made a good living at it. In Woody's defense, a lot of the movie is meant to be absurd in the service of making sometimes obvious points (though nonetheless not usually made in other films).

Like the subplot that's been getting the most attention, in which Roberto Benigni plays another nebbishy character, one who women don't notice and whose opinions no one cares about, and all that is reversed when he suddenly becomes famous. I wasn't sure what Woody's ultimate point was in this storyline, but it seemed to be that celebrity has its downsides (which we of course all know by now) but it's still better than being a poor nobody (though no one in the movies seemed poor).

That's refreshingly honest in a way, and well played by Benigni, and may be the most fun part of the film, that and Penelope Cruz's scenes. Anyway, in the end, it's worth watching because it's Woody and he's always trying something other filmmakers don't, and because so much of the acting is outstanding despite the hit and miss aspect of the screenplay. But like I said above, I've never seen a Woody Allen movie I didn't like on some level.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

RUBY SPARKS

Another great indie movie. Heard and read mixed reviews of this one, but I found it thoroughly engaging. Directed by the husband and wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris—who were responsible for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and before that a lot of great music videos—and starring the real life couple Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, RUBY SPARKS has a lot of the same charm and upbeat though quirky satisfaction of their former work, but it also has some unexpected intensity not quite as easy to surrender to.

Dano plays a writer, an uneducated or self educated prodigy who is now a decade past his early triumph and facing a writers block that the entire story is about his overcoming. It's a romantic fantasy that despite the usual movie writer cliches (rapid typing of entire pages that seem to need no rewriting etc.) worked for this writer. And its the best work Dano's done, for my taste, since I first noticed him in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.

The acting is all terrific and Zoe Kazan is a revelation. Playing the usual indie movie irresistible oddball sweetheart etc. she is brave enough to play against what has become a contemporary stereotype in ways that made her performance refreshing and yep, irresistible, at least for me. And Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas in smaller roles knock it out of the park as they usually do.

Someone who's work I was unfamiliar with, Chris Messina, managed to play the sidekick (in this case brother of Dano's lead character) role with some originality. All in all a satisfying evening at the movies. Worth seeing, is my verdict. 

[Oh, and PS: Zoe Kazan wrote the movie too, which is really admirable. Sort of an "American" version of Julie Delpy, only more like Woody Allen. Anyway, impressive and I will definitely make sure I catch anything else she writes.]   

Saturday, August 18, 2012

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"At a time when poverty is increasing, when public parks and public libraries are being closed and when public schools are shrinking their offerings and their hours, when the nation's debt is immense, and when the 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together - Romney's 13 percent is shameful." —Robert Reich (On Romney's paying 13% in federal taxes)

[PS: This more recent commentary by Reich makes the Romney/Ryan lies even more obvious.]

Friday, August 17, 2012

MY NEW HEROES: PUSSY RIOT

I'm sure you heard about PUSSY RIOT getting two years in prison for singing an anti-Putin (Russia's de facto dictator) song in an Orthodox Russian cathedral.
According to The Huffington Post report on it (one of the rare Huff Post stories with some substance) the judge cited them for doing "devilish dances" in a church! Talk about the New Dark Ages, or the return of oligarchies and dictators! This is what the USA would look like if rightwing fundamentalist Christians had full control of our government and courts etc.

Along with Ai Wei Wei in China and all dissidents being imprisoned or having been imprisoned for acts of art and truthfulness about those in power, the PUSSY RIOT trio deserve to be lauded and defended through writing campaigns and demonstrations of support, etc.  Long live PUSSY RIOT!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

You've probably already heard about this little indie flick that was a hit at Sundance. With good reason. Unlike most indie films this one isn't about young urban or suburban quirky young couples. It's about a Southern coastal community of misfits (and basically alcoholics) threatened by rising water and how they respond.

It's also about a little girl who had never acted before and basically is the reason for the movie. She's the lead character and in that role hits more emotional notes than most seasoned actors only wish they could. Her performance is worth the price of admission.

There's a fantasy element since the story is from the perspective of what appears to be an eight or nine year old, and for a low budget little movie the fantasy elements are done more with sets and angles and camerawork than CGI etc. So besides being perfectly cast [with almost all local non-professionals, another of which is the man who plays the father perfectly, a local baker it turns out who never acted before] it's also beautifully shot.

There's a few scenes that made me laugh, or at least smile, and a few that made my eyes water, but most scenes just made me sit back and enjoy being engaged by pretty original film making. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

LYNDALL GORDON'S LIVES LIKE LOADED GUNS


I've been meaning to read this book ever since I first read about it when it came out two years ago. I finally picked up a paperback copy recently and have had to force myself to stop reading it so I can have a life outside the world of Emily Dickinson and her family and friends and misinterpreters, or as Gordon's subtitle puts it: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds.

Maybe you have to care about Emily Dickinson or love her poetry or be a history buff—especially of the 19th century (and the early 20th as well in this book's case)—to be as engrossed as I've been in LIVES LIKE LOADED GUNS since I started reading it.

But I don't think so. In fact, it reads like a terrific mystery, one that it seems to solve with well researched and well reasoned examinations of the various myths and interpretations of Dickinson's poetry and life.

I had my own version, deduced from various biographies and my reading of her poems. I taught it to college students back in the early '70s. It was based partly on the new wave of feminists' reinterpretation of the lives of women, especially historical figures like Dickinson. Gordon proves me wrong as well as some of the most noted experts, let alone Dickinson's family members.

Not only does LIVES LIKE LOADED GUNS dispel the more contemporary interpretations of Dickinson's life (that replaced the earlier equally misguided ones) but she lays bare an impressive array of evidence resolving all the big questions about Dickinson's secrecy, and seemingly self-enforced solitude, and love life, and love objects and self awareness, until everything you thought you knew about "the nun of Amherst" you discover you had wrong.

And Gordon does this with such great timing in revealing the story that I couldn't help thinking what a great movie this would make. One of those period biographical films the Brits specialize in, but much more gritty and sensual and dramatic (even operatic) and revealingly, even shockingly, raw in ways that would make "reality" TV shows seem tame.

I loved it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE BERKSHIRES

Perfect really. Bright blue sky with white rolling clouds over the lush green hills and mountains. The soulful, sensuous landscape of my deepest memories, or maybe fantasies. Real today though.

And time spent with my daughter and granddaughter and their impressive creative energy and output. And with my older son and younger and grandson. My progeny. For which I am thankful every day, as I am for every day, this one especially.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

CAN YOU DIG IT?

The quality of the video isn't great, but the vibe transcends that to deliver the perfect antidote to these troubled times from an earlier even more troubled time (1970 to be exact). Hey, it made me smile.

Friday, August 10, 2012

THE GOOD NEWS

The good news out of the recent terrorist attack on those US Sikhs is reading and hearing and watching interviews with and stories about Sikhs and their religion.

I don't know about anyone else but it sounds like the kind of religion that even those of us who are pretty much over organized religion could dig. Especially the idea that the place where the gunman did his horrible deed had four doors for each direction of the compass and always open to anyone, Sikh or not, "American" or not, and that they are taught not just that everyone is equal but that everyone is worthy of respect.

I don't know, if I was younger and still searching for a spiritual path (I have my own now) I certainly would have liked to have spent some time getting to know and understand the Sikh religion. And in fact, I'm going to find their holy book and read it and let you know what I discover there.

It's sad that it took a tragedy to get me to pay closer attention to what Sikhs are about (I have a good old friend who converted and is a Sikh but he lives in L.A. and we never talked a lot about their belief system and practices beyond his dedication to yoga). But the silver lining is that hopefully more of my fellow citizens will now take the time to learn more about the Sikhs and what they believe and practice and maybe even see an example of a religion that is based on tolerance and acceptance and equality and love and be inspired.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I-NEED-A-BREAK LIST [OF FAVORITE NOVELLAS]

With Republicans pushing through "voter i.d." laws to combat "voter fraud" which has been proven to be almost nonexistent (The Daily Show worked it out to .7 cases per state per year based on the facts) and the media not pointing out the on-the-record admission from top Republicans that either there is no real "voter fraud" or that the i.d. laws will get Romney and other Republicans elected and that's what they're for, and with last month being the hottest July in history and Romney and other Republicans still denying global warming or that humans have anything to do with it, and studies showing corporate (Monsanto) altered food creating infertility and stunted growth and all kinds of other Frankenstein-ish monstrous effects in animals...

I thought I'd take a break from the news and force myself to make a list as a distraction.

As those of you who know me or have been reading this blog for a while know, all my life I made lists in my head all day long, and over the years I posted many here. In fact for many years the "list" category in the archive down to the right was always way more than anything else. That's no longer the case because after brain surgery I no longer have the urge to make lists, and even when I try to force myself to make one I lose interest after only one or two items.

But after writing a post the other day on a novel I read that seemed like a novella because it read so fast it made it seem short, I thought I would try and write a list of my favorite short novels, or novellas, by looking on my bookshelves, because trying to do it as I used to pre-brain op wasn't getting me anywhere. [Unfortunately one whole bookcase is in a corner behind my youngest's drum set, so I'm sure I'm leaving off some good ones I can't see without moving his entire drum set which I ain't doing today.] So, here 'tis (and a pretty short list in the end):

TRACY'S TIGER by William Saroyan
THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL by William Carlos Williams
PORTRAIT OF JENNIE by Robert Nathan
TRISTESSA by Jack Kerouac
PRATER VIOLET by Christopher Isherwood
FREAKS by Doug Lang
THE STREET by Aram Saroyan
GOODBYE COLUMBUS by Philip Roth
BY NIGHT IN CHILE by Roberto Bolano
OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck

[Kate Chopin's THE AWAKENING has been called a novella and it's one of my favorite books but judging by the number of pages in my copy it's longer than the others listed here, as is Jean Toomer's CANE, another alltime favorite.]

[And then there's long short stories in story collections that some see as novellas, like James Joyce's "The Dead" from DUBLINERS and Terence Winch's title story from CONTENDERS.]

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

ONE OF MY FAVORITE MARILYN PHOTOS

The anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death has created a lot of articles and books and even yet another documentary. But to honor her memory I chose this photo, one of my favorites: 
Ella often told the story of how MM got her into a white club that didn't want her to perform because she wasn't white, the Magambo I think. Marilyn was a class act in a time when it was difficult for some to see anything but a sex symbol and a "dumb blonde" etc. Hopefully, she is resting in the peace she well deserved.

[Here's a great version of the story I just googled (duh) and found.]

Monday, August 6, 2012

IRONIC? NO, JUST DUMB

So the Sikhs in this country have been getting flack from rightwingers since 9/11 because they mistake the turbans and beards for "Muslim" and don't know that the Sikh religion considers everyone equal, no matter religion or not, or gender, or ethnicity etc.

But the rightwingers are usually steeped in, if not still following, the fundamentalist "Christian" tenet that doesn't consider all equal or celebrate "a loving God" that Sikhs are supposed to but instead insists that unless you "accept Jesus as your personal savior" you're going to hell where you will be tortured unimaginably for all eternity!

Now obviously not all those who call themselves "Christians" are always that intolerant, but basically the idea that only those who accept Jesus are saved is pretty universal these days in the dominant Christian churches and communities. And just as obviously not all Sikhs practice total tolerance and acceptance of others, but as in the community that was so viciously attacked yesterday most Sikhs living in this country put up with all kinds of rightwing fools who mistake them for "Muslim" and then feel they have the right to attack them whether through bullying or vandalism or threats etc. or as in this case and others, murder.

Which kind of community would you prefer being a part of? One that says if you don't believe what we believe you're eternally damned and "the other" or one that welcomes all into their midst and preaches that we are all equal in God's eyes no matter what we believe or look like or where we come from etc.

THIS SAYS IT ALL


Saturday, August 4, 2012

THREE QUICK THOUGHTS

1. How can you not help falling in love with the Olympic Gold medal winner "Gabby" Douglas and her and her family's story? And how incredible to go from total obscurity to one of the most famous people in the world overnight! But how sad it is that so many others who spent the last four years working for and yearning for the same result go home empty handed and unknown and unrewarded or feeling that way unless they have the maturity or wisdom or spiritual awareness to appreciate the experience and accept the reality as a gift rather than a punishment.

2. And sort of related: listening to an interview with the author of yet another book on what makes "successful" people "successful" and hearing that it's all about the rich and famous it occurs to me that a much better project would be to explore what makes happy people happy, whether rich and famous or not.

3. And yet still related if you can see it: no one I have noticed in the media is pointing out that the new jobs numbers that got so much attention today don't have to be seen through the prism of the president's perspective that more jobs were created in the last month than economists expected which is great given the incredible hole the Bush/Cheney regime dug in terms of jobs lost from their economic collapse, or from the right's attempt to spin the tenth of a percent rise in unemployment claims as a failure for Obama. It's much simpler than that. if you ignore government jobs lost, because of cuts, which are what the right is always clamoring for and became necessary due to the economic downturn, then the unemployment rate would be steadily dropping. In other words, enough non-government jobs were created to spur the recovery, but unfortunately too many government jobs were lost to lower the unemployment rate.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

WILLIAM TREVOR'S LOVE AND SUMMER

I've always admired William Trevor's writing, but mostly through short stories I've read. An Irish writer who is such a precise stylist that not a word seems misplaced, I could read him just for the writing. But I found the few stories I've read a little too good at creating the feeling of constriction and repression in Irish society of the past, so while I enjoyed his style I felt a little depressed by his subject matter.


But I'd never read any of his novels, until I found one on the sales rack at my local bookstore (yes, I know how lucky I am to have a "local" bookstore). Trevor's an Irish writer who often sets his fiction (at least in my limited experience) in the Ireland of the past, pre-Celtic Tiger and collapse. LOVE AND SUMMER is set in mid-20th Century Ireland, in the countryside, and I have to say since the day I began reading it last week to today, when I finished it, I haven't enjoyed a novel this much in a while.

His characters are so finely drawn and compelling I couldn't stop the compulsion to keep reading to find out what happens to them. And despite their limitations and the limitations of the time and place where they exist, I read it with a certainty that this time I wouldn't be left feeling let down by the bleak perspective of the characters themselves. Instead, I felt my spirit lifted by the possibilities, no matter how limited or unlikely, and I wasn't disappointed.


There's a blurb on the back of the paperback I bought that quotes a Los Angeles Times review that says in part: "no author alive is more respectful of his characters or efficient at fleshing them out." I'm convinced that is true after reading LOVE AND SUMMER. It's a fairly fast and easy read, though some Irish expressions and idiomatic "English" might cause some readers, unfamiliar with some Irish ways of using the language we share, to have to figure out from the context what's being talked about. But it won't be much of an effort, and this book was so satisfying it's worth any effort. Though for myself, I found reading it effortless and unexpectedly uplifting.