ArtSunday

Writers of slender acquaintance: Karel Capek

Our houses and machines will be in ruins, our systems will collapse, and the names of our great will fall away like dry leaves. Only you, love, will blossom on this rubbish heap and commit the seed of life to the winds.” – Karel Capek

Karel Capek (image courtesy Wikimedia)

The Czech writer Karel Capek, in terms of being a writer of slender acquaintance, falls somewhere between Rudyard Kipling, a Nobelist remembered now only for children’s stories and Rhian Roberts, a Welsh writer of great promise who published a few short stories and then disappeared. While he is often (erroneously) credited with having coined the word for a creation that may haunt the 21st century,  was nominated for the Nobel Prize numerous times, and even has literary awards named for him, Capek is not widely read now.

He should be. His central themes – the ability of technology to overwhelm and destroy humanity, the dangers of rampant consumerism, corporatism run amok, the evils of authoritarianism of both left and right political persuasions – will resonate powerfully with contemporary readers. Given that Capek died in 1938, his prescience about the power of these forces in our lives makes him a writer who should be widely read and discussed. Continue reading

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Father of Muslim soldier’s message to DNC is powerful, but laced with manipulation and irony

Remind me – Khizr Khan’s son died in which war, again?

The headline and video couldn’t be much more compelling.

WATCH: Muslim Father Of Fallen Soldier Tells Trump ‘You Have Sacrificed Nothing’

The soldier’s father, Khizr Khan, could not be more right about Donald Trump, a narcissist of the first order, and maybe even a sociopath, who has spent his life serving nothing but his own insatiable, infantile id. Continue reading

CATEGORY: ArtsLiterature

Writers of slender acquaintance: Lauro De Bosis

Award-winning Italian writer lost his life protesting the fascism of Benito Mussolini.

Lauro De Bosis (image courtesy Wikimedia)

“Every regime in the world, even the Afghan and Turk, allows its citizens a certain amount of liberty. Fascism alone, in self-defense, is obliged to annihilate thought.” – Lauro De Bosis

This week’s writer of slender acquaintance is less a mysterious one like Rhian Roberts and more a tragic one like – well, like many artists who oppose and are destroyed by repressive regimes. As I mentioned last week, I am meandering through a massive collection of short stories called A World of Great Stories. As I made my way through the Italian section (and came across one of the worst edited “story” selections I have read so far in this volume – and that’s saying something – an excerpt called “The Travelers” from Ignazio Silone’s The Seed Beneath the Snow), I encountered De Bosis and a piece (it’s not really a story, it’s a heartfelt autobiographical essay about and against Mussolini and Italian Fascism) he wrote before his last flight (De Bosis was an amateur aviator). Continue reading

What’s a little martial law between friends?

Wait, isn’t that what they’re asking for?

Cleveland Police Calling for Open Carry Ban at RNC After Baton Rouge Shootings

This just gets touchier and more complex as the hours roll by. I feel like I’m watching a tennis match. I’m seriously gonna get a crick in my neck at this rate.

Martial law, simplified: when the government suspends ordinary law for the sake of keeping things orderly and peaceful during the kinds of extreme circumstances the government claims warrant their entirely reasonable reaction.

Look out. We’re gonna get martial law! Continue reading

Donald Trump

New Yorker starts analysis of Trump with, “honestly…”

What have we learned about that?

Well, actually, the headline is just a hair away from that, “Being honest about Trump.” I think it qualifies, though. So would WSJ in this piece, I think.

For all of my complaints about Glopnik’s article, I love his description of the center:

“While the habits of hatred get the better of the right, the habits of self-approval through the fiction of being above it all contaminate the center.”

One has to love this much naive honesty. The problem with their fiction is that they’ve believed their own PR just a bit too much. Continue reading

Cui bono: how did Berrien County, Michigan hit the headlines?

Horse race reportage, part umpteen. Special Edition: Not Election Coverage

I first spotted this tragic news at BBC, when there wasn’t yet anything world newsworthy about it, even from their own coverage perspective. One might notice the author was in such a rush to post they didn’t even bother to finish writing it first. The telltale error of haste that reveals the race to the bottom should embarrass an author not yet qualified to have their own byline.

Rule 1 of race to the bottom reporting: Be sure to include factoids that do not advance the non-story even a little, and don’t bother to edit it when done. Continue reading

ArtSunday

Writers of slender acquaintance: Rudyard Kipling

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Another in the series I began last week about writers who have become neglected. This week’s choice is one whose literary reputation has been as high, as low, and as controversial as any writer in the history of literature. Rudyard Kipling has been revered – and reviled – by authors as diverse as Jorge Luis Borges, R.K. Narayan, and George Orwell – who noted that Kipling:

…sold out to the British governing class, not financially but emotionally. This warped his political judgement, for the British ruling class were not what he imagined, and it led him into abysses of folly and snobbery, but he gained a corresponding advantage from having at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like.

For those who know Kipling – and that’s almost everyone – only for “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” or The Jungle Book or Kim – Kipling is a dimly remembered writer of exciting stories for young readers. But he was a complicated figure who produced a wide range of work with interesting themes. Continue reading

#blacklivesmatter versus #alllivesmatter

White man ISO white people to explain something to me

I have yet to take a strong stand on this whole #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter and #bluelivesmatter and #enoughwiththehashtagsmatter issue, and I’m fairly certain it’s a privilege thing that I, as a cisgendered white hetero man in farm country, have this luxury. I can’t help that. Continue reading

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Chilcot is out, and it’s devastating

photo-op-0011 So, after seven years and lots of pounds, the Chilcot report on “lessons to be learned” from Iraq has finally been published. It tells us nothing we didn’t already know, frankly, and takes away the rationale for the ongoing denial we have continued to see among Blairites over the years, although god knows they’re still trying. I could write a long post on this. Or I could just let The Independent summarize in seven sentences,which they have done, and which admirably seems to sum up the entire enterprise. Continue reading

CATEGORY: UnitedStates

Another Fourth, another episode of blissful national blindness

No red, white, and blue adorn my flagpole. No patriotic bunting arches over my front door. No fireworks await their flaming demise. I no longer enjoy the nation’s formal parting from Great Britain (which was on July 2, anyway).

2f45d-free_wallpaper_patriotic_eagle_american_flag_background-1-1024x768I suppose, at one time, July Fourth carried great meaning to all Americans. After all, because of the acts of the Continental Congress and subsequent versions of it, I can (and do) criticize my government without fear or favor. I can own a weapon. My home and person cannot be searched or seized without cause. I am not obligated to incriminate myself. I can practice the religion of my choice — or decide not to — without government coercion. I can peaceably assemble with others to protest almost any damn thing I want to. I can vote to select who will govern me. And Congress cannot prevent me from owning a press in which I tell others what I see and what I know and what I feel.

I love my country because of the ideals inherent in the Constitution and especially in the Bill of Rights.

But lately, I have come to dislike this overwrought holiday. Continue reading

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#Brexit: when the walls started coming up again all over Europe

brexit‘Everything I know about the world has changed. Things are going to get very dark and very ugly. There will be fear and suspicion and it will not end.’

I remember where I was on 11 September 2001. I remember how it felt. I remember what I thought.

There were a group of us gathered in the boardroom at Deloitte in Cape Town. It was the first meeting of the newly-established board that would govern the non-profit organisation I ran, Business Beat.

I remember ANC member of parliament Ben Turok emphatically telling me that I shouldn’t ‘dabble’, but should take things seriously. It was an odd, and oddly uninformed, rebuke considering that even by that date, I’d spent eight years working in South Africa’s townships to help undo the economic damage caused by Apartheid.

A secretary interrupted and had a brief, nervous conversation with our chair. He immediately, softly, said, ‘An airplane has just flown into the World Trade Centre in New York. I think we should cancel today’s meeting.’ Continue reading

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Don’t panic: a #brexplanation

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image courtesy of the guardian

First, remember that the non-binding referendum is non-binding. The United Kingdom, unequaled in terms of global power and influence, unparalleled in her commitment to justice, and unbound to this referendum, which diminishes her majesty in hideous fashion, remains loyal to the European Union. For all the bleach blond rhetoric, for all the false promises to fund the National Health with nonexistent dues paid to the European Union, a non-binding referendum REMAINS non-binding. Continue reading

Can we just repeal the Fourth Amendment?

We’re not really using it anyway

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

DUI checkpoints. Stop and frisk. Racial profiling. Total Information Awareness. CIA. NSA. AT&T. Surveillance state. Cheek swabs. No-knock warrants. Civil forfeiture. More civil forfeiture. Border searches, subpoenas instead of warrants, metadata, facial recognition, medical records. Expanded background checks. Continue reading

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Sometimes a gun is just a gun

il_340x270-731368759_4lvuJust because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you. – Kurt Cobain

Did you know that in Russia it is legal to own a handgun but not a rifle? If you are a gangster and you want to shoot someone at point blank range, to rob them or to exact revenge or to terrorize their fellow citizens, the government has no problem with that. It’s the medium to long range shooting that falls under regulation. As it happens, rifles are necessary to overthrow a government. Continue reading

Kalamazoo Gals

Kalamazoo Gals: Gibson Guitars, what are you thinking…?

What the hell, Gibson? Perhaps a short course in, oh, “How the Internet works” would not be a bad idea, perhaps…?

I have had a long love affair with Gibson guitars.

Gibson EB3 bass with slotted tuners (image courtesy Low End Bass Shop)

My first “good” guitar was a Gibson Melody Maker that I adored and sold, breaking my musician’s heart,  to a music store in Greensboro, NC. I needed the money for grad school. Real life sucks sometimes.

Years later I had to sell both my first “good” amp, a Gibson Lancer, and my best loved bass guitar, a Gibson EB3 with slot neck tuners (like the one pictured at right) to the musician and guitar dealer Sam Moss, in Winston-Salem, NC. Again, money woes forced my decision.

Sam (bless his heart and RIP) and I both cried.  Revisiting old woes is never a good idea, btw. To Sam’s credit, he later sold me a wonderful USA made Fender JP bass that I still own and a Fender bass amp (which I gave my son Josh) for much less than market value. Stars in his crown, if I get a vote. Support local music, ya’ll.

None of this is to the point, perhaps. I should get to the point, shouldn’t I? Ah, patience, children…. Continue reading

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2016: so far a bleak year, fettered by anger

anger_quoteI began 2016, the year in which I turned 70 years old, so damn angry.

More than sufficient reasons exist for all that anger. I, like many of you, am unwillingly steeped daily in the raw, heavily mediated sewage of billionaire-induced partisan politics; increasing and intolerable economic inequities; a deeply flawed educational system; conflicts in law, society, and government spawned by religion-fueled hostility; assaults on racial and ethnic sensibilities; the slow, agonizing death of democracy; and the decades-old rise of greed-driven, power-hungry oligarchy.

That’s just the background noise obscuring intelligent discursive signal about so many more problems — local, national, global — that the billions of us ruled by oligarchical forces sense are beyond our control or, often, our comprehension. Continue reading

Donald Trump

Who’d work for President Trump? Guess. Go ahead, guess.

Imagine Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Really.

Journalists and pundits have been too busy covering this election cycle like a boxing match (detailing debate punches and counterpunches and little else) and fawning over Trump as “The Donald.”

Donald-Trump-snake-oilSo the Big Questions (important but too boring in the Twitterverse in which horse-race polls and debate body blows are captured) just don’t get asked. Thus the Answers Needed never enter the mind of the electorate.

Who’d want to work for President Trump? Presidents need the Senate’s advice and consent on nearly 1,400 presidential appointments. Chief among them, of course, are the members of the president’s cabinet.

Who would Trump ask to serve as heads of State, Defense, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Justice, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs?

How would he select them? Would any be women? Or African-Americans? Or Hispanics? Or descendants of immigrants, legal or otherwise? Would he actually listen to the advice offered by Cabinet members?
Continue reading

CATEGORY: CrimeCorruption

Stop the rape epidemic, part 2

We have a problem. No doubt about it. Women were raped in Cologne, Germany and the police tried to sweep it under the rug. It’s the same problem we’ve been having forever, in the colleges, in the military, and in society at large. Now we’re paying attention to it because the rapists are foreigners. When men of a different race or different religion act the same way our men act, suddenly it’s a problem. Because the violence wasn’t hidden in a fraternity house, because the violence wasn’t facilitated by quaaludes, suddenly it’s a problem. Not to go all feminist on y’all, but I warned you about this.

Continue reading