Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sad Times Ahead


After their meal, a woman has given her grandchild some money to get her a soda while she goes to the restroom. As she turns he hits the counter, gets a hamburger, then goes to the other side of the trashcans in view of the restroom door. He eats hurriedly.

The door opens and he ducks, waits until she pushes open the back door of the restaurant. He greedily stuffs the rest of the burger in his mouth as she walks to the car. He is still chewing as he goes to the counter to order a large soda and apple pie. At the drink bar he eats the pie as fast as possible. Grandma is waiting in the car, the window open.

He fills the soda cup, drinks it halfway down, refills, drinks it halfway down again. He is breathing heavily--he hasn't given himself much time to breathe for the past three minutes. He fills the cup to the top and, affecting sudden casualness, walks out the door to Grandma's open window, hands her the soda and her change, gets in the back seat.

He is perhaps nine years old.

Dream 08 June

I am interviewing for a job at a place that takes elderly intensive care patients during peak season. I place a saucer and an address book on a gurney in an empty conference room. As I walk over to where I would have my meeting I pass a receptionist. I make the mental note that I sure would like to have a job like hers if it didn't mean a cut in pay.

The place was laid out like a typical modern office building. In walking to where my interview is, I find a room in which there is a group of elderly patients in intensive-care wheeled bassinets, their heads turned to the side, mouths agape, busy with the gasping noises of sleep. An old man is among them, sitting in a wheelchair, his arms out and moving with the disturbing swing of a mobile. I walk into the middle of the group and listen to all of their snores as if it were music and the old crazy man were directing.. I can't help smiling, feeling oddly touched by this. I thread my way past the patients and find my saucer and address book on the gurney, which had been pushed to the back of the room.

Photo by Davo: Scottsdale, Arizona, 2004

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Quotes

Andre Gide:

"Many authors write rather good books today who could write different ones that would be just as good. I do not feel any secret relationship between them and their work, and they themselves do not interest me; they remain litterateurs and instead of listening to their demon (they have none), they listen to the public taste. They adapt themselves to what is, and, far from that bothering them, they do not recognize themselves as bothersome."
--31 Dec. 1929

"The only drama that really intereste me and that I should always be willing to depict anew is the debate of the individual with whatever keeps him from being authentic, with whatever is opposed to his integrity, to his integration. Most often, the obstacle is within him. And all the rest is merely accidental."
--03 July 1930

Saturday, July 26, 2008

24 August 2007

I am back, visiting my 8th grade classroom. The teacher and students are practicing for some school program. Afterwards I sit at the piano, which is very shinily, glossily black and has the extended keyboard of some Bosendorfers. The instrument is freshly, resonantly in tune, except for the bottom one-and-a-half octaves or so, the keys of which are brittle and loose. They are gilded like the top edge of old books and chaotically out of tune. These keys play their own music is what I say to myself.

Photo by Davo: inside the Holocaust Museum, Berlin, 2004

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Food-Based Discussion


I step up to the counter and order a Quarter Pounder meal "with mustard... hold it--is there already mustard on a Quarter Pounder?" The cashier turns immediately to the employee next to her and asks her the same question. The other employee, who seems to be some sort of shift leader gives her a look: "Yeah, he-LLO, and you should know that."

"Dont talk to me," my cashier says, "He's the one that asked. I didn't ask."
"Yes you did, cos you didn't know."
"I only asked because he did."
"In that case," I interject, "I won't have any extra mustard, since it's on there already." The cashier turns to me, not in the slightest bit flustered by this exchange so far. "You wouldn't have gotten any extra mustard anyway," she says.

The shift leader's mouth snaps open. "He certainly would, if that's what he asks for." The cashier turns to me, as if really letting me know, confidentially, how it is. "No you wouldn't. You know how stingy they are on fries and stuff. Like as if it comes outta their own pocket." She gives me the largest cup in the rack and goes to get my fries.

Once I sit down, I stay within earshot of the counter. The shift leader hangs around her with sidelong looks. A man orders his stuff to go. The cashier looks up from the keyboard of her register, smiles a bit, leans over confidentially, says cheerfully, "You aren't going anywhere."

--photo: Davo, detail of one of the many paintings entitled
Untitled, Indianapolis Museum of Art

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Location Sketch

"The Greeter" is back, hopped up on something, his speech coming in quick short bursts of as many words as possible crammed into one to two seconds of talking. He is complimenting the young man, nicknamed "Goldilocks" by the crew, on his new cornrow braids which, counter to his likely intent, make him look even more like a fourth-grade girl. "Your hair's god, man. It's tight," The Greeter says.

The cashier taking my order is getting cornrows, too; is about a third of the way, the little red rubberbands form a dotted line that arcs over her head, beginning just before her ear. I think of asking whether the entire crew is getting cornrows as a sort of solidarity thing.

An old woman with crapey skin, loose and puckered like a half-deflated balloon, comes in with her friend almost every day to get ice cream. About 20 licks in she has a coughing fit, the building hacking up of a gurgle from deep in her chest to the back of her throat. She licks again, swallows thickly. Her friend always pauses during these moments until she's done.

The employee with the whitish lipstick bordered by dark brown lipliner is glossing the quarry-tile floor with bleachwater. My flipflops hydroplane in spite of the sign admonishing me to watch my step. The place is busy: there are burgers all the way back to the restrooms, each burger the keystone to an arch formed by forearms propped on tables.

"Look!" the bilingual blue sign says: "Mira! The meal numbers have changed!" Dimes chime on the floor. The crapey lady's friend picks them up laboriously. They shuffle to the counter, get another cone each.

I can tell by the smell that they are cleaning off the grill. A smell of hot steel wool and pink soap, which combine with the fry grease and bleachwater in a way that smells, surprisingly, like grilling tuna steak, an actually appetizing smell.

The caffeine is making me jitter a bit. I twitch as if I've just been called up for karaoke, the blue screen's white squares counting down the time to when I should start singing. I drink Diet Coke till a dull ache starts in my chest, till my mouth is tired of the chemical bitterness of what's in the paper cup. Then what next? A walk through the traffic and trees and robins along the weed-choked 11th street curb to my buglighted porch, its clotted cobwebs, its alligator-varnished wood door.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Agrarian Updates

Well, to keep the afternoon from becoming a complete waste of time, a blog post.

The first wave of the garden is officially over, and I was a bit late on the second wave, so nothing new is up yet. The chard is everywhere,

The beets are going to be way way more beetness than I'll be able to handle,

And the tomatoes are within reach of engulfing my house.

The second crop of robins is coming along nicely, too--four of them, right outside my kitchen window. The parents are rather laissez-faire regarding me, and aren't particularly interested in divebombing me while I weed the veggies under the nest.

Give Me Your Shadow

I've worked all day on a semester plan for my Composition class, but fear it's all for naught. My class seems to be taken over by The Golem, Batman, The Student from Prague, Hermann Grosz, and the new video from Portishead for their song We Carry on, which I posted a few days ago. Oh, but I have so much more to read up on before I try it. Why am I not smarter?

Monday, July 21, 2008

What Most Hope For

"And maybe for poets of anger, writers of anger, it is that place which has been obliterated or denied us. A place of humaneness. A place of deep intelligence, of reverence for intelligence. The delectable mountain. The place of fellowship. Of music. Of art. Of loving. Not of banality, not of greed. Even though many in their lives may compromise, seeking for this or that prize, this or that honor, in their dream they long for the great and beautiful place.

"Henry James longed for the great and beautiful place. Henry Miller longed for it. I long for it. It's a noble place. And our argument against people like Reagan, like Bush, is that they not so much take it away from us, but that they never even imagined it...they're clueless, and it's this that we are furious about. That and their indifference."

Gerald Stern, interview for The Writer's Chronicle, March/April 2007.

Shop Talk

"The useful drafting that you do--as part of the discipline of all those choices in form, structure, diction, image, rhythm, and th rest--gets you to a new understandinf of the subject. Frost said 'no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.' Writing needs to be an act of discovery, a way of looking at the world and learning something. And sometimes, if you're willful and didactic as I am, you need to let yourself be surprised--let your peripheral vision do the work. You focus somewhere else. Or, say, lineation, or structure, or the clarity of a figure. [...]

"We think of drafting poems as having material at hand and looking for ways to structure that material, but there's no reason why the reverse can't happen--that is, devising an interesting structure which will invite or prompt material. And sometimes this other way can be less preemptive or overly determined, and can lead to fresher insights."

--Ellen Bryant Voight,
Interview for Sycamore Review, Spring 2004

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's Grinding Down the View--Herrmann Grosz and the new Expressionism

Portishead's brilliant new CD (aptly named Third) is out, and has been, for quite some time now. The latest video--

--which could be some sort of sleek ultra-sophisticate-bit of esoteric sterility (the sound of the track certainly begs to some extent for such a treatment) instead goes for retro pencil-and-paper narrative that mirrors the works of Grosz, a man out to skewer the corruption of Weimar Republic Germany and its slide into Nazism. It also mirrors the skewed cityscapes of Expressionist movies of the era, such as Caligari. Regarding the Portishead track, this certainly isn't the video I'd have imagined for such a machinistic--and to a great extent horrifying--track of such bleakness, but it certainly adds an important layer to it. It also fits into the Big Movie of the Moment, Batman, and its focus on those who simply want to watch the world burn. There was much of that in the Thirties, and is much of that in the Twenty-aughts.

A Series of Questions

"What do we serve, we who work in language? Is it not possible to imagine an aircraft carrier named Pushkin or a submarine named Dostoevsky or an interplanetary vehicle for a conquest of planets Gogol: Poor Gogol. He did not want this. He did not know. And we, do we now know how we will be used?

--Czeslaw Milosz

As a continuation of said sentiment regarding one's use to others...

"How do I know I have no friends? It's very easy: I discovered it the day I thought of killing myself to play a trick on them, in a way. But to punish whom? Some would be surprised, and no one would feel punished. I realized I had no friends: Besides, even if I had had, I shouldn't be any better off. If I had been able to commit suicide and then see their reaction, why then the game would have been worth the candle. But the earth is dark, cher ami, the coffin thick, the shroud opaque...Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death...But you kill yourself and what does it matter whether or not they believe you? You are not there to see their amazement and their contrition. In order to cease being a doubtful case, one has to cease being, that's all.
...Ah cheri,, how poor in invention men are! They always think one commits suicide for a reason. But it's quite possible to commit suicide for two reasons. That never occurs to them, no. So what's the good of dying intentionally, of sacrificing yourself to the idea that you want people to have of you? Once you are dead, they will take advantage of it to attribute idiotic or vulgar motives to your action. Martyrs, cher ami, must choose between being forgotten, mocked, or made use of. As for being understood, never!

--The Fall, Albert Camus, pg 75-76

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ten Years Ago this Week

In Pittsburgh, visiting Kristen. At a bookstore:

A charming little boy, perhaps 5, in the back of the literature section. A cat is on a chair in the corner. The boy wants to touch it, but isn't sure.
"You go play with him," I say to the cat.
"You like cats?" the child asks. I nod. "Do you have any pets?" I say.
"No," he says, "Once I had a goldfish in a bowl, but then Dad put chlorinator in the water and the fish went blind and died."

The child pets the cat lightly on the tail and the cat bats angrily, claws out. "Be sure to pet it the right way," I say. The boy tries again and the cat gets alarmingly close to biting the boy's hand. In a flash, the cat hits, claws out.

For a long second, the boy's hand is stuck to the cat's paw--the claws are under the skin. The child, frozen, can't pull back his hand. The cat can't retract his claws. The cat looks further inconvenienced by this. For that second the child looks at me as if expecting me to tell him what to do next, then I hear the skin give way with soft snapping sounds. The boy brings his hand far back, up to his shoulder; covers the wounded hand with his other.

I think the cat is in a bad mood. Maybe you should just leave it alone for now is what I manage to say after a few more seconds of the boy looking at me, his hand, covered, drawn back, the cat looking at me also, self-satisfied. The boy walks away slowly backwards, not saying anything, then runs down the aisle. The cat looks up at me with a smile and a blink. I kick it off the chair, without checking to see if the owner or anyone is behind me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy Meal?

At my neigh- borhood Mc Donalds (yeah, yeah, I said I wasn't gonna go there, that I was gonna eat better, etc--I popped in to sit and get free refills on my Diet Coke, so sue me):

A redheaded kid holds up two plastic transformer toys. Has them chase each other in air. then, with a violent spitting noise, enacts the direct hit of one by the other. The shots never miss, so there is no need to shoot more than once--a great wet spitting noise signals not only the firing of the weapon, but also a direct hit. But it isn't the shot that seems to hold the child's fascination. It is the moment after of continued flight, the robot/plane immediately after the irreversible event, the slo-mo arc down to the crushing impact on the salt-scattered tabletop. This sequence of events--the brief flight, the splat of the single shot, the slow continuation of flight sagging into impact--is repeated endlessly as his grandmother stares sullenly at her book.

Photo: Punksmoke, July 4

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gadget Hype.

After watching the news and reading various randomness from the Internet regarding the new iPhone, all I can say about this hubbub is: It's a phone. And the main question I ask regarding this now less-overpriced-doohicky is: Will it Blend?? See below.

Ah, I feel much better.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Further post on the Lameness that is Garfield

Oh, and to believe that in 7th grade I read Garfield books cover to cover. Thank God I never actually bought one. I made an earlier post regarding what folks are doing to this strip, and, as further illustration regarding the cultural touchstone that is the Garfield comic strip, we have Lasagnacat, a live-action enactment of selected Garfield comics over the extremely long course of the strip through history. I include one for your edification below:

And, of course, an obligatory scenario regarding compulsive eating of non-food items:

Today, I hope to finish up reading about Golems and move on to other things that have nothing to do with websurfing. And for all--this will be the one and only time I will ever have either Snoop Dogg or Limp Bizkit on my shizz. Fer Shurzzle.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Have Learned to Clip My Wings

I'm likely the last one to have seen this (and at two million views, that is at least partially accurate), but Royale de Luxe had a happening in London. The musical backing for "The Sultan's Elephant" is my favorite song of the last five minutes (as I've only heard it five minutes ago and love it), by Les Balayeurs du Desert. I thought I might share the video:

The song features a rather ghostly snippet of Blossom Dearie, singing "It Amazes Me" back in 1958.

Today, it's a toss-up between reading (the first story of Sycamore Review has me on a strange new track, that of the Golem, which moves on to Frankenstein) all day or cleaning the garage. I have a feeling that the garage is gonna lose out.

To close, here is the "elephant" part of "The Sultan's Elephant". This would have been really cool to see in person.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More Tech News--I See You, Do You See Me?

I just noticed that Google has a Maps feature called Street View that allows one to see, at street level view, the neighborhoods that one selects. I thought that this feature might be only for the main streets of major cities, but there is a panoramic view not only of my home city, but my entire neighborhood. It's cool, but kinda creepy.

By the look of my house, it was shot in Spring of last year, on a weekend, with rather warm temperatures. The trash cans are out, which means it's Sunday afternoon. I was home at the time--my car is in the driveway, my back door is open. My neighbor's wife is at work. The other neighbors' parents are visiting. So, in Google Street View, I am always at home, the grass is always dead, and the door is always open.

Various groups are complaining about the feature. I can see its helpfulness, but I am wondering what's next...

Wand'ring, Lonely as a Cloud...

A certain very famous poem is 200. To mark the occasion, we have a rapping squirrel:

Many thanks to Mr. Brian Burtt for sending this along!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Harry Crosby--The Sun is the Only Thing in Life that Does Not Disillusion

Harry Crosby is not a man whose name falls from the lips of many. He survived WWI; the experience threw him on a new life course. He spent much of his time (and quite a bit of money) in Paris and North Africa and his exploits are of the sort that just don't happen anymore, such as paying four cabbies, driving horse-drawn fiacres, to race, Ben-Hur style, down the Champs Elysees.

His life as banker back in New York bored him. He missed his loved wife-to-be, who remained in Europe. His marriage proposal to her was by telegram: "Enough of this hell. Sailing steerage Aquitania. Have engaged bridal suite for return trip. Say yes." A woman in first class befriended him, lowering a basket over the railing with "figs, bananas, and a bottle of Benedictine. Madonna of the Promenade Deck."

His diaries are quite interesting. May 22, 1923,back in New York: Bank banquet. A dismal affair. Poor people trying to enjoy themselves are more pathetic than rich people trying to have a good time [...], for the poor are utterly defenceless whereas the rich are sheltered by their cynicism. Utterly defenceless. Why. Because they come with illusions.

Paris held more for him. June 20, 1923: innumerable glasses of brandy, and home stark naked in a taxicab. On July 12, on seeing a woman at a cafe perhaps: ...and wouldn't it be fun to make love to a girl as corpulent? At any rate not in this weather.

He and his wife tramped about, dubbing themselves the "Vicomte and Vicomtesse Myopia," hiring someone to haul them to the Ritz in a vegetable cart while they sat high above, in evening dress, reclining on cabbages and carrots. They visited Italy, "in Pisa, the tower like a soul that has been hurt by love."

They read each other Wilde aloud: "Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people's lives alone, not interfering with them."

He founded, with some of his money, the Black Sun Press, the early publishers of writers such as Hart Crane (the beautiful edition of The Bridge is sitting on the general literature shelves in the Purdue library, though it is a rather rare book). His experiences in the War still haunted him, and things didn't end quite so well with Crosby, though they ended on his terms. The diaries are well worth reading as a document of expatriates of the Lost Generation and Paris of the Twenties.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Monticello: George Bush and the Declaration of Independence--another tardy indictment.

Bush showed up at Monticello on July 4th for a gimme patriotic appearance. The audience, overall what would be considered a favorable one, in light of the fact that he was speaking from Monticello after all, and to an audience of soon-to-be-sworn-in American Citizens and their families. The people in the chairs, however, weren't as carefully picked as the town-hall meetings and various appearances Bush has been used to speaking to in the past eight years, with all dissenters relegated to "free speech zones" well out of the way.

What I found interesting was his repeated reference to the Declaration of Independence, a reading of which I heard, in bed, on the radio the morning of his speech. As the second section of the Declaration--a series of offenses the British king made against the people of the Colonies, and therefore a list of reasons why America was justified in cutting ties with such a government--began, I rolled over and really started paying attention.

These were leveled against said British Monarch, and, as I was listening, the Declaration, in light of recent events, sounded almost subversive. Which, of course, it was, regarding the British perspective at the time. It certainly would have sounded so from the American perspective not long ago. I take the liberty of highlighting certain text:

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People; unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.

He has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

He has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

He has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislature.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond the Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule in these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Powers to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

He is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic Insurrections among us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

---in the above list, just how many strike very close to the current administration? Not all of them are red text. Bush certainly hasn't dissolved the House or Senate, but has certainly taken advantage of their inability to coalesce into an active entity.

Only those in a state of greatest subservience are in a state of great security. Those in a more secure such state are those in charge of such a subservient group.

--Photo: Davo, Archie McPhee's, 22 Dec '07

In the Bullpen...

For reasons even I don't know, I've suddenly turned to Anthony Trollope after the Paul Bowles novel. In spite of the strife and such of Barsetshire, the experience of reading Victorian novels is in my mind analogue to the image of a ship coursing steadily through a clear ocean. I'm not sure why. This also gives a sense of solace in the reading--with Dickens and Trollope and even Henry James (who is not Victorian), the reader gets a sort of momentum and plows through all those words to the end. It's a very different experience compared to reading the Germans or the Russians. I'm debating reading the Barsetshire sequence of novels (of which I have the first five of six), but, barring that or some other caprice, here's a partial list of what's going down for the rest of the summer:
Lucy Church Amiably--Gertrude Stein
The Making of Americans--Gertrude Stein (only 925 pages)
Pilate's Wife--H. D.
The Guiltless--Herrmann Broch
Complete Stories of Paul Bowles
The Spider's House--
Paul Bowles
Molloy--Samuel Beckett
Firebird--Mark Doty
...and the Masochist in me is inclined to throw Lawrence and Henry James in there, too. No Russians, only one German, and, to some extent surprisingly, no poetry.

In other news, I'm officially out of the hellhole methlab shitbox that was my grad apartment for my coursework years. Good riddance. Such quality folks were my neighbors that, in moving my stuff out of the apartment (I had little left--two tables, two lamps, and a chair), the chair was stolen right out of the yard while I was getting things together. And that was the main thing I wanted to keep. Neighbors, though home, refused to answer their door. Creeps.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Out-basket Thus Far...

I told myself I was going to get some reading done this summer, and that, at least is one of the few things I've been getting done. The finito stack, since the end of the semester:

Miss Lonelyhearts/The Day of the Locust--Nathanael West
Illness as Metaphor--Susan Sontag
Seven Nights--Jorge Luis Borges
The Shadow Line--Joseph Conrad
Demian--Hermann Hesse
The Jaguar Smile--Salman Rushdie
Kora and Ka/Mira-Mare--H. D.
Street of Crocodiles--Bruno Schwarz
Confessions of a Justified Sinner--James Hogg
A Night in the Forest--Blaise Cendrars
Bowl of Cherries--Millard Kaufman
Perfume--Patrick Suskind
Let it Come Down--Paul Bowles

I've been feeling rather muddle-headed this past week, rather like how one feels coming out of a bad cold or the flu--I'll see if I can scrape together the grey matter necessary for a more interesting post in the coming days.

--Photo: Davo, Indianapolis Zoo, Underwater Rocks with Spectators

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Christopher Hitchens and Waterboarding.

Christopher Hitchens hops on board and says what we all know to be true.

A Wednesday Fleur

...for all my fan(s).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes--A Tardy Gripe

Ok, now--is it just me, or are certain things just not holding water? Over the past 8 years we've seen various civil rights laws eroded all in the name of civic safety, only to see little outcome, save from said erosion of civil rights and liberties. Not long ago, we were being encouraged to buy nonperishables, duct tape, and Visqueen--by no one less than Cheney--in case of attack. Grocery stores complied with National need and were selling Ramen noodles at 20 for $1.00. I'll admit that I went ahead and bought two dollars worth, though I opted out on the Visqueen and duct tape part of the Cheney Terrorist Kit equation. Back then even, I wasn't seeing the logic of this whole thing. The Government is doing all they can to stop the no-doubt imminent threat of terrorist attack, but it is up to the Populace to protect themselves in case it actually did happen. Strong whiffs of Cold War America came wafting out of the National basement. If hundreds of people are entering the country illegally over borders--ostensibly for jobs that will pay them enough for them to send money down to their families, and these folks have been crossing for quite some time, that means that, if various operatives have been actively trying to get into the country--with radioactive material, mind you--to cause mayhem, they'd be crossing right now. If they hadn't crossed already. And for years, even after 9/11, the problem went unchecked.

This started me thinking, back around 2004, on whether the threat was quite as big as Cheney & Co. were saying it was. The WTC and Pentagon thing was pretty damned splashy, but were these nutso fundamentalists going to be doing the same thing country-wide? It seemed improbable. And as the years passed by, so many other chinks in the armor have made themselves evident. Good Ol' Boys in charge of things whey shouldn't be (Brownie and his tenure at FEMA), Air travel, fer godsakes (passengers going through all that crap while caterers and food personnel weren't even checked as they drove onto airport grounds), and now the biggie--food safety. Really, if hijacking an airplane is so much more difficult now, why would saboteurs/terrorists bother with that, when with the American food system we have untraceable ways to make grand numbers of the American populace sick or dead? Taking a cue from the unsolved Anthrax mess, people out to cause mayhem could easily look elsewhere. It wasn't long ago that it was impossible--for quite a while--to get a salad in this country, unless it was home-grown spinach and lettuce. And now, in spite of that mess, we have a similar hoo-hah with salmonella-ridden tomatoes (or is it tomatoes? We aren't quite sure) whose source can't be traced at all.

For all their focus on eroding civil liberties and wiretapping, you'd think the grand braintrust at Homeland Security (and those higher above) would have thought of this by now and made some sort of plan. Almost a decade after WTC, a simple, easily untraceable sabotaging of the food supply could easily do more damage than any flashy airplane kamikaze run. For all the repeated claims that they've got us covered, I see nothing but bungling here. Rather than simply going for civil liberties and constitutional contradictions (anyone remember Gonzalez and his Habeas Corpus argument?), what about accountability and oversight?