Tag Archives: Literature

Ayn Rand SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me first begin with how I was exposed to Ayn Rand. I am in high school and awhile back my teacher was doing a course on homelessness. In a ‘prompt’ that she gave me as to what are the causes of homelessness, I answered CAPITALISM. A week later I was astonished to get back my paper with a Zero. I showed this to many people all of whom agreed that it was in no way deserving of a zero. My dad and I took this question as to why I had gotten a zero on  my paper to the teacher. I wasn’t expecting much but even after one hour of asking my English teacher why I had gotten a zero on my paper she had no reasonable answer other than that I had not followed the ‘format’ correctly, even though I had a previous organizational sheet on which I based my writing on following her format. she ended by saying I was a horrible writer;  we gave up trying to get to through to such a numbskull.

I didn’t quite understand why she had given me a zero until a couple months later, and so began my experience with Ayn Rand. My teacher took us to get the book. As I read the summary I knew it would be some sort of method for her and d-11 to push their politics on students;  however I had no previous knowledge of who Ayn Rand was.  The next day in class she gave us a powerpoint on the background of Ayn Rand and what the book Anthem was about. It was filled with negative comments on communism including that communism supposedly takes away knowledge, individuality and free expression.   As I was assigned to read more and more of Ayn Rand I realized how horrible of a writer she was. I started to listen to Ayn Rand’s interviews. I then understood that  they were forcing me to read a writer who didn’t believe in helping anyone, because she was a racist, a nationalist and a pure evil witch. These interviews can be found on <youtube> and <bluecorncomics> among many other articles revealing Ayn Rand to be a racist.

The more and more I read into the book the more i was infuriated at the pure ridiculousness and hypocrisy of it.  In the ending chapters it is written by Ayn Rand that

“The word WE is the lime poured over me, which sets and hardens to stone, crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages. What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and the impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?”

As i read this I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, throw up, or rip the book apart . I was sickened by how when I had expressed my “free speech” I was given a ZERO; by how I had to read an author who believes being selfish is  a virtue. And by how every day, whenever I went to class instead of being taught English literature I got the teachers Right Wing, anti-communist politics thrown into my face. Each time a question on the book was asked I didn’t hear an opinion on whether the book was good or bad i only heard questions on how communism takes away individuality and how  Ayn Rand is right on what her idea of what communism is? I said the teacher was expressing personal opinion and the whole class started to yell at me to shut up. I got so alienated and depressed after they  said that communism makes robots, and brain dead people  even though I couldn’t find more brain dead robots as hard as I looked than the ones that were sitting right next to me.

I couldn’t take the class anymore as it was an insult to who I was, what I believed in, and all the people I respected were continually insulted and lied about. I started skipping the class after my dad not only talked at a school board meeting but also to my assistant principal, in both cases we were given the cold shoulder and treated horribly rude. I decided to go to the class again and deal with it. As I read the quote given above in that class and as I looked around i became terrified of being like them. I was torn between staying and swallowing my believes and to be JUST LIKE THOSE SHEEP or to get up and leave. The overwhelming fear of being lost into them made me get up and walk out of the class. Later that day the assistant principal took me out of a class and made me feel like an outsider, like a weird person that needed to be put in a psychiatric hospital. I complained that I was being pushed politics in a public school and his response was that no other students felt like I did. When I told him that the teacher had given me a zero and was now failing me out of the course, who had said I was a horrible writer; he said He didn’t believe me and that I was wrong. He told me that if I was to walk out again I would have to deal with the consequences even though he wouldn’t deal with a teacher pushing politics.   He smiled as I cried for being  looked at as being an idiot and a weirdo kid ; it took me about two hours to get with it. We continued to try to get me switched out of the class, which finally we did only to find that Ayn Rand was being taught in that course too and  in all English classes for that matter.

I realize I will probably never get them to change, to respect students, parents and INDIVIDUALITY. But this  continuing fight which is probably the hardest I’ve ever had to fight proved to me that I would stand up for myself against a herd of flesh eating zombies, that I would NEVER BE LIKE THEM . And I felt pride in knowing I stood up to being brainwashed by  anti communist right wingers.

Stubby the tractor warns animal pals: move out now, Stubby’s ready to plow

 
1963 Whitman Tell-a-tale book by Marion Borden, illustrated by Art SeidenMy new favorite children’s book is a 1963 story by Marion Borden, about a little red tractor named Stubby who delays plowing the meadow until all of his wild animal friends have resettled to safety. It’s a comprehensive list, considering the reading level, of the biodiversity displaced by agriculture. How unwitting is the portrayal of man’s clueless arrogance? It’s suggested by the story’s presentation of farming as inherently natural as Manifest Destiny.

“Listen, all! Move out now! Stubby’s here, ready to plow!”

Mr. Rabbit poped out of his burrow. “Thank you, Stubby. I’ll tell my family,” he said.

And Mr. Rabbit, and his wife and four bunnies, seek another meadow in which to burrow.

The gentle relocation is joined by a woodchuck, a pair of song sparrows, a butterfly, two meadow mice, a chipmunk, a grass snake, grasshoppers, crickets, a grass spider, a long parade of ants, a box turtle, and a toad. But when Mrs. Meadowlark tells Stubby that her four babies have yet to learn to fly, the tractor delays his duties until they do.

Naturally Farmer Turnipseed fails to understand Stubby’s hesitation. He has the tractor checked for malfunctions. Fortunately the little meadowlarks grow strong enough to fly before the farmer becomes angry, and work resumes on the farm.

You wonder if children asked in 1963 whether all farmers have tractors as considerate as Stubby. Or whether man need depend on technology to show a requisite respect for nature.

Banned books: the subversive dystopia

Eugene Zamiatin, We; Jack London, The Iron Heel; Ambrose Bierce, Can Such Things Be?; Aldous Huxley, Brave New World; Ayn Rand, Anthem; Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here; George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four; Norbert Weiner, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society; David Karp, One; Frederick Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants; Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, Player Piano; Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451; Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange; Harlan Ellison, The Glass Teat; Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale.Banned Books, p.2–
I put a lot of faith in an internet resilient enough to remain an unrestricted archive of crowd-sourced human knowledge, even more I hope public data will eventually permeate the proprietary, but continued access to subversive literature I have little doubt will meet the full brunt of digital book burners. If there’s any text not to download unto your Kindle, as an easily vaporized or expurgate-able file, it’s one of these classic oft-censored, perpetually-offense-giving titles. These are the dystopian novels and science fictions which paint a bleak picture of the society we are engineering.

As pictured, here are some notoriously subversive dystopian novels, (as differentiated from commercial drivel which reinforces mainstream dogma, such as Lord of the Flies, or Hunger Games)

Atwood, Margaret, THE HANDMAID’S TALE
Bierce, Ambrose, CAN SUCH THINGS BE?
Bradbury, Ray, FAHRENHEIT 451
Burgess, Anthony, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Ellison, Harlan, THE GLASS TEAT
Huxley, Aldous, BRAVE NEW WORLD
Karp, David, ONE
Lewis, Sinclair, IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE
London, Jack, THE IRON HEEL
Orwell, George, NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR
Pohl, Frederick, & C.M. Kornbluth, THE SPACE MERCHANTS
Rand, Ayn, ANTHEM
Vonnegut, Kurt, PLAYER PIANO
Wiener, Norbert, THE HUMAN USE OF OTHER BEINGS
Zamiatin, Eugene, WE

Haven’t heard of many of these? Curious, don’t you think?

Mark Twain: Oh Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them!
 
“With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

“O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;

“help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead;

“help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain;

“help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;

“help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief;

“help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it

“— for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord,

“blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

“We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.

“Amen.”

-from Mark Twain’s The War Prayer

Wolfman is a man’s werewolf, no Olalla

Poor wolf man, he’s the bastard of the horror big three. Dracula and Frankenstein have antecedents in folklore but bloomed on the quills of novelists. The werewolf traces back to the Greek, yet no one will pull him from the doghouse, not that Hollywood doesn’t keep trying. Whenever I see the cinematic transformation of man to beast, from An American Werewolf in London to the latest Wolfman offering, I can’t help but recall the terrifying hairification of Jerry Lewis in the Nutty Professor, RLS painting itself a spoof of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, regarded as the most literary of inferences to lycanthropy. But Robert Louis Stevenson wrote another short story seldom cited as a werewolf tale. Curious, because I think it holds the key to the man- wolf allure, when it’s not gay teen cheese. In his 1887 Olalla, RLS described the entrancing menace and tormented fate of the lupine-afflicted without mentioning the word.

Of course Stevenson’s angle separated man less from beast.

…the sudden disclosure of her eyes disturbed me. They were unusually large, the iris golden like Felipe’s, but the pupil at that moment so distended that they seemed almost black; and what affected me was not so much their size as (what was perhaps its consequence) the singular insignificance of their regard. A look more blankly stupid I have never met. My eyes dropped before it even as I spoke, and I went on my way upstairs to my own room, at once baffled and embarrassed. Yet, when I came there and saw the face of the portrait, I was again reminded of the miracle of family descent. My hostess was, indeed, both older and fuller in person; her eyes were of a different colour; her face, besides, was not only free from the ill-significance that offended and attracted me in the painting; it was devoid of either good or bad – a moral blank expressing literally naught. And yet there was a likeness, not so much speaking as immanent, not so much in any particular feature as upon the whole. It should seem, I thought, as if when the master set his signature to that grave canvas, he had not only caught the image of one smiling and false-eyed woman, but stamped the essential quality of a race.

Augusten Burroughs is so self-amused

Augusten Burroughs author of Running with ScissorsI was recently subjected to a road trip audio book disgorged from an auteur who shares the eminent surname of Burroughs. But unlike Wyeth the younger who had the advantage of genes, this literal-bastard is of no relations and has to defraud us with a bone through his gilded celebrity cage. It gives me the willies to consider that admirers of Running With Scissors think it’s a creative bone.

I can’t remember now which episode of Possible Side Effects finally drove me to seek the solitude of my own headphones. Had it something to do with a dog? Alcohol? Airline travel? It will come to me, although I’ll be better off hoping it doesn’t. Burroughs’ insipid presumption that not a single footstep will be uninteresting to his readers, reminds me of the Power Rangers school of storytelling. What happens, the end.

There’s an absolute pattern to scribes who emerge as recovered substance abusers, one day at a time. Every day brings the agonist to an end, whether a story happened or not. It’s enough that Burroughs emerged sober, Go bless him. Well-wishers cheer his recovery on, but that doesn’t make his daily travails units of a serial.

Most of the scenarios it seemed revolved around Augusten Burroughs being recognized from his author’s photograph on the back cover of his book. He’s so famous! It does rile me when an obvious twit has a following who hold his twiticisms aloft where he can then point to them and journal again about that.

Of course the hives I felt were vindicated when I learned that like memorist-entrepreneur and twelve-step-denier James Frey, Augusten Burroughs was caught recounting lies. In burroughs’ case, by his own psychiatrist! And had to redefine Running With Scissors as not a memoir after all.

Actually I have no doubt that what Burroughs writes is memoir, he tweets as many times as he pulls open the refrigerator door. Queer Eye For The Bored Guy presumes readers can’t decorate their imagination.

Richard Brautigan was my favorite Beatle

Richard Brautigan recorded on Apple RecordsYou know you’re a Post- Baby Boomer when you had to learn that Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds was not an Elton John song. I remember being told by a nanny that you liked either the Monkeys or the Beatles. They broke up before I began listening to pop music. John became an activist, Paul was determined to return to commercial sounds, and George and Ringo faded to slackerdom, having ever only composed While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Octopus’s Garden between them, so I thought. I knew only the Beatles Red and White anthologies.

Barbara Bach and Got My Heart Set on You redeemed Ringo Starr fairly enough, and later I came to appreciate George Harrison. Actually later I heard Ravi Shankar liken Harrison’s exertions on the sitar to a monkey handling a violin, and we come full circle.

But before that was Handmade Films, Harrison’s project to finance Monty Python adventures, and something I’ve just come upon, recordings of my favorite post-beat writer Richard Brautigan. Someone at Apple Records, and I like to imagine it was George, approached RB about putting his poems on vinyl. Someone in the production process knew what to add to the poetry to please his fans. The tracks recorded Brautigan taking off his clothes, answering the phone, and brushing his teeth. I knew of the recordings, I didn’t know it was on Apple.

I came upon Richard Brautigan late too. In 1986 I read The Springhill Mine Disaster, and In Watermelon Sugar, and was pleased enough to imagine one day meeting him. It wasn’t until I was standing in the reference shelves of Penrose Library several years later, that I read a jacket liner which referenced Brautigan in the past tense. I was profoundly shattered that he lived no more, and I am still confused that a voice so lyrically optimistic could choose to commit suicide. I collected all his books but eventually lost a curiosity to read them.

Brautigan wrote: “All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds.”

He took his life two years before I encountered The Confederate General and Trout Fishing. There is something uniformly post-mortem about my generation.

Richard Brautigan is considered a beat writer, although he came on the scene a decade later. Which oddly leads me to mention my favorite of his, The Abortion.

Can I get an inflatable Ted Haggard Sex Doll anywhere?

Ted HaggardA lot of us have literally fallen in love with Ted Haggard, and now that he is immersed in sin he seems even sexier! So that brings me to the question of where can one go to get an inflatable Ted Haggard Sex Doll? Don’t worry, I won’t molest it if I find one, I strictly want him around for a platonic relationship based on Christ.

Now you might think that my desire to have this doll, Ted, is quite sick, but there may be places that will begin to help men like me out? For example, if we enter into Book 22, we might find that obsessive sexual attraction to Ted might still not make oneself incapable of being accepted inside the big tent of Love. The doors are being widened by the Obama Era and that’s a good thing for those being torn apart by their own sinful lusts!

At Book 22, where ‘intimacy products for married couples’ are being sold, I saw no inflatable dolls at all for sell. But inflatable sex dolls are the type of ‘intimacy product’ that do bring levity and joy to married couples daily! It will only be a matter of short time before the arousability factor of these dolls becomes better know to Christians! So why not have one with the likeness of sinful bad boy, Ted Haggard?

Sure, stick with an inflatable Pope doll or Franklin Graham one if you desire, but for me, it’s Ted all the way! I just can’t help it…. since I’m kind of a Christian Nympho and still love God, and some of God’s products still love me. Can I get an inflatable Ted Haggard Sex Doll anywhere?

The poetry of kick-the-can in the rain

Refrigerator magnet poetryI hate random stream of consciousness when you can tell the author thinks they’re building to something. It’s so, so tedious. Such was my reaction to officially-described poet Elizabeth Alexander, who recited a piece she composed for the inauguration of the First Black American President. I’ll just note Alexander is a professor at Yale, the alma matter of Bush, Kerry, et al the Skull and Bones secret society.

If there’s anything that makes me crankier than war criminals being hugged, saluted, and wished a bon voyage, it’s applause for crappy poetry.

The awful result begins with noise –a cacophony which Alexander captures with brute mimicry. When she describes uniforms as common as tires and hems, of course I’m going to object. Why not add Coca-cola while you’re pandering to product placement?

Repairing done, Alexander moves on to people of disparate means “trying to make music.” Maybe a tenured African-American studies professor wouldn’t know, no one tries to make music. It doesn’t even take a non-musician to make music, without having to try. Obviously you’re confusing music with poetry.

It may be that Alexander’s challenge was corrupted by the insincerity of the “we have overcome” moment, where a half-black man’s ascent to figurehead is taken as penultimate achievement of the underground railroad. It comforts me to see artistes fall flat when they dip their quills in propaganda.

Here’s the whole drippy thing. Hate the ambiguously half phrase.

Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.

North Pole-tergeists from Christmas Passed

A highlight of the Christmas season every year is gathering my big family together under one roof — my children, my parents, five siblings and their spouses, and twelve (thirteen by year’s end!) nieces and nephews. Everyone is married now, save me and the kids, but I can recall many holidays when new boy- or girlfriends were part of the celebration.

Tales of our past houseguests poke edgewise into at least one family conversation every year. Each of these dear departed-from-us souls has left behind fond memories, and I imagine that we’ve provided them with a few stories as well. Like how my sisters and I share a secret language of syllables and partial thoughts that no one can follow, not even our mother. Or how all three of my brothers-in-law swill too much grog every year and end up running naked through whatever neighborhood we’re in, losing wallets and shoes and sustaining minor injuries in the imponderable annual ritual.

It’s no wonder that the poor dears rarely returned the following year. It isn’t that we didn’t want to bring them into the fold; we did, and we tried. “Once when Joey was in first grade and I was in fifth, she went to a different school than the rest of us because we’d just moved back here from Topeka and there wasn’t room at DR so I walked her to school and one of our friends, whose parents were Irish. . .” But with stories flying and a lifetime of shared experiences providing the framework, the new loves found themselves smack in the middle of what must’ve seemed to be a verbal maelstrom.

Occasionally my younger brother Andy would attempt interaction through the use of punnery. I know this was a friendly overture to our visitors because the entire family, so far as I can tell, despises puns, mostly because of him. When I was in high school, 11-year-old Andy — redheaded, bespectacled, buck-toothed Andy — would hang about ten feet away from my friends and interject punny witticisms whenever he could. My friends laughed (laughed!) at his horrid intrusions which would incense me. “Mom! Andy is bugging us! He’s telling stupid jokes again!” My mom would admonish him, much too kindly to satisfy me, “Andy, sweetie, leave the big girls alone, and stop making puns. People hate puns.”

Punnitry, for those who’ve been spared the exposure, is largely the trick of compacting two or more ideas within a single word or expression. It’s wordplay at its most punitive. To wit: Punnery is a rewording experience, especially around Christmas time. That’s when people exchange hellos and good buys with each other, the time of year when every girl wants her past forgotten and her presents remembered, the time of year when mothers have to separate the men from the toys.

Yes, that kind of punnishment.

Studies have shown a correlation between punderstanding and sound intellect, so the dumb jokes aren’t really so dumb. Puns are found in many of Shakespeare’s plays and in the Bible, more proof that they appeal to the lofty among us. Still, I loathe puns, which must be evidence that I’m not particularly clever, or so the punnits would have me believe.

We won’t have any Christmas visitors this year so there will surely be a shortage of dumb jokes around the table. To take the heat off poor punmeister Andy (who, by the way, outgrew his youthful awkwardness and is not annoying in the slightest), I’m going to surprise my family with a few holiday puns of my own. I won’t trouble you with the three pages I’ve amassed so far but, trust me, much pun will be had this year. Enough to satisfy everyone for years and years to come, I can only hope.

So, Meretricious to all! And don’t forget that There’s No Plate Like Chrome for the Hollandaise!

 

Staging Homer for Generation Simpson

Odyssey by Derek WalcottTHE ODYSSEY,
A STAGE VERSION-
Greek myth would be no more complicated than JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien, or GRG Lucas, but I suspect that to impress Homer unto modern audiences might have the disagreeable consequence of educating them.

This weekend Colorado College students staged Derek Walcott’s 1992 The Odyssey in the South Theater of the Cornerstone Arts Building. And performed it brilliantly. Every role, every effect, executed with vitality and aplomb.

Except for the Jamaican nursemaid and Aussie shepherd, the CC actors dropped Walcott’s New World islander accents, but their production honored his post imperialism critique.

My favorite sequence depicted Cyclops as an all-seeing 1984 distillation of mortal man’s inclination toward totalitarianism. The Circe episode is nagging me for further reflection, if I’m to imagine that Walcott would not succumb to the traditional Siren/Mermaid/Nymph misogyny.

If you can’t shake the admonition that rational man’s chief torment is woman, you need look for no literary antecedent before Homer.

Obviously, not all that is Greek is instructional, but wouldn’t it serve our education nicely if, instead of the insipid nuances of fictional worlds imagined by scribes steeped in the decay of Western Civilization, our children could commit to their memories the literary plots –no less compelling– which form the building blocks to a greater appreciation of all art?

We told the kids that the Odyssey was Western Civilization’s first sequel. Of course, the Iliad was a lot to have to recap. Not surprisingly, their experience was “the most random ever.” But while I lamented my missed advance opportunity to have brought them up to speed on the gods and heroes of antiquity, our eleven year old noted, of the lines spoken by the mysterious personages: “Everything they said was always about something else!”

Poetry!

OF FURTHER INTEREST:
Creolizing Homer for the stage: Walcott’s The Odyssey, by Robert D. Hamner, Twentieth Century Literature, Fall, 2001

Playing With Europe: Derek Walcott’s Retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, by Irene Martyniuk, Callaloo 28.1, 2005

TWILIGHT vampires resemble predators of the less mystical sexual variety

stephanie meyer dreams of Babe the PigTWILIGHT- For those parents who have unwittingly encouraged their daughters to delve into Twilight, where our episodic fascination with Dracula lore is adapted for the young adult romance genre, be forewarned that author Stephenie Meyer may have fogged her rose-colored glasses with romantic nostalgia from her Mormon upbringing: old older men, arranged marriages, and, if you’ll pardon the dropped pretense, date rape.
 
DESPOILER ALERT.
Better you than your child?

Old fashioned matchmaking
First, Meyer’s teenage vampires are generations-old men, stuck reliving their teens, repeating high school to prey on each successive year of students. Matthew McConnaughey played it, minus fangs, in Dazed and Confused: “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”

Off campus, some of the undead “imprint” on newborns. Want that explained? Meyer’s succubus babies are born fully-conscious, if that’s any excuse, but elders are able to perceive them as soul-partners, and claim dibs to pair with them later. When they are of consumable age, I presume.

Perhaps you find these details to be inconsequential “vampire” technicalities protected by Meyer’s un-poetic license. There’s a zinger in the fourth book which you may find less palatable.

Vampire sex
Because your tween-ager should know to make the distinction?

In book four, Bella marries the 117-year-old high school hold-back Edward Cullen, and finally he consents to consummate their marriage. He’s been withholding his afflictions for fear that vampire sex would kill her. By the way, that’s the romantic dynamic of the first three books, in case you wonder what’s titillating your acts-beyond-her-age young reader.

Typical of respectable novels, and the romance genre too perhaps, the sex scene is glossed over. Bella disrobes and joins Edward for a midnight swim, where he “leads her to deeper waters.” The narrative returns as the sun rises the next morning.

Classy enough for this lowbrow storytelling, except that Meyer earns no credit for obscuring the steamy bits, because the exact details are lost on her post-coital heroine as well. A fog of amnesia covers Bella as she spends the morning trying to reconstruct what exactly happened to her. With only her bruises for clues.

Meyer describes Bella waking feeling as if her skeletal-structure has been crushed like a wishbone, “but in a good way.” Bella discovers that she’s covered in bruises which grow still darker in severity, obscured by a dusting of feathers. Nevermind the injuries apparently, why the feathers? Her ravisher reveals he had to bite “one or two pillows” to keep himself from eviscerating her. For this act of consideration, Bella, and the readers, find Edward all the more endearing. Since vampires kill humans, how sweet that Edward merely vampire-man-handled her.

Bella survived the Twilight climax, and although she doesn’t remember the act, she’s feeling sexually satisfied. I’m open to the possibility that a gender gap might be confusing me. About what is Bella all aglow, if she doesn’t recollect what happened? Conquest? Having hosted a smashing party? I’ll tell you what I think has quenched Bella’s desire, if the Mormon motif is any indication. She’s fulfilled her biological drive. Not to possess Edward, but to become pregnant. In Meyer’s grandiose predestined sense, Bella is triumphant in having attained motherhood.

Do these themes fly over the heads of her impressionable readers? Why put them there.

The scene reads to me like waking from a date-rape drug, although the experience might more likely describe a young Mormon girl coming out of the state of shock induced by the violence of her older experienced polygamist husband rapist. At the least, how she might cope with having endured the brutality of a sexual drive unmatched by her own, and beyond her comprehension.

Men are not to blame, they are but slaves to their monstrous sexual urges. Obviously this is where Meyer looks for humanity in her vampires. Your daughter’s assignment? Assure her presumptive taker that she’s up for the worst he can unleash. She can favor the monster who feigns leniency.

Four books versus two
You may not have to worry about your child reaching the S&M sex, pregnancy, and monstrous-birth scene of Book Four. There’s a good hope that your young sophisticate will tire of Meyer’s underwhelming literary skill before the end of the first tome. There’s an even more likely chance that books three and four will bore her into maturity. Even Meyer’s fans hate the vacuity of those stretches.

Apparently the fourth volume was written as the original sequel, but was rewritten later to make room for the two filler episodes. They upped the Twilight movie take by fifty percent. Every fan is saying you appreciate the movie the most if you’ve read all the material.

What a great publishing scheme! The movie tickets are eight dollars, but the requisite quartet box set, sets you back $100. Ravaging the innocence of America’s tweens? Priceless.
Edward Cullen Robert Pattinson
Twilight the Movie
The biggest anxiety I heard expressed about the movie, was not if it could do the books justice, but whether the character of Edward could possibly live up to his physical perfection in the novel. Judging from audience reviews, film Edward was an exact match, which means Meyer left no room for a reader’s imagination. Is that what young-adult fiction is about?

Stephenie Meyer’s dream crush, as cast in Twilight the Movie, resembles the fittingly abusive Stanley of A Streetcar Named Desire, literally Marlon Brando’s brooding stage turn as the violent husband, wearing an Elvis wig, on lithium, as viewed through a camera lens smeared with Vaseline, probably also a polygamist staple.

How about just a bite?
You might be thinking, what’s wrong with just the first book? Can’t a girl luxuriate in the hyper-romantic swoon over the opening story?

I don’t know. I’ve often been perplexed about the teen Goth living death fixation, nihilism and teen suicide. I suspect they get fuel from mall rat romantics like Stephenie Meyer.

You be the judge. I was able to wrestle a few minutes with our household copy, to see that Meyer opens with this quote:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Genesis 2:17

Does that equate vampirism with the forbidden fruit of knowledge? Meyer followed Dan Brown’s example to find a biblical passage to provide coded authority. More proof that insipid writing multiplies with inbred fiction authors.

In the spirit of taking guidance from a quotation, I entreat you to sample the preface of Twilight, because the Amazon Look Inside sample astutely skips it. If you’ve already read Twilight, please slap yourself on the cheek and try to extricate yourself enough to look at these paragraphs one by one.

Here it is, adulteration entirely courtesy of Meyer. Even if she was twelve when she wrote this, I hope your daughter can show more acuity than she.

PREFACE

I’d never given much thought to how I would die — though I’d had reason enough in the last few months — but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly back at me.

Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something.

I knew that if I’d never gone to Forks, I wouldn’t be facing death now. But, terrified as I was, I couldn’t bring myself to regret the decision. When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it’s not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end.

The hunter smiled in a friendly way as he sauntered forward to kill me.

I bet Stephenie Meyer cannot even gag herself with a spoon.

Let me ever be a Wet Wit!

“”I am full of holy joy and free booze,” said Cobbler. I feel moved to sing. It is very wrong to resist an impulse to sing; to hold back a natural evacuation of joy is as injurious as to hold back any other natural issue. It makes a man spiritually costive, and plugs him up with hard, caked, thwarted merriment. This, in the course of time, poisons his whole system and is likely to turn him into that most detestable of beings, a Dry Wit. God grant that I may never be a Dry Wit. Let me ever be a Wet Wit! Let me pour forth what mirth I have until I am utterly empty — a Nit Wit.”
—from Tempest-Tost, by Robertson Davies, who died on this day in 1995

Ship of Fools and other Liberals

theodore kaczynskiSUNY Binghamton student Tim LaPietra coaxed Ted Kaczynski to write a parable for the Autumn 1999 issue of the campus publication OFF! Predictably, the peer review of SHIP OF FOOLS was snarky, e.g. Watership Dim and Rime of the Ancient Unibomber, but no match for Kaczynski’s send up.

Ship of Fools

Once upon a time, the captain and the mates of a ship grew so vain of their seamanship, so full of hubris and so impressed with themselves, that they went mad. They turned the ship north and sailed until they met with icebergs and dangerous floes, and they kept sailing north into more and more perilous waters, solely in order to give themselves opportunities to perform ever-more-brilliant feats of seamanship.

As the ship reached higher and higher latitudes, the passengers and crew became increasingly uncomfortable. They began quarreling among themselves and complaining of the conditions under which they lived.

“Shiver me timbers,” said an able seaman, “if this ain’t the worst voyage I’ve ever been on. The deck is slick with ice; when I’m on lookout the wind cuts through me jacket like a knife; every time I reef the foresail I blamed-near freeze me fingers; and all I get for it is a miserable five shillings a month!”

“You think you have it bad!” said a lady passenger. “I can’t sleep at night for the cold. Ladies on this ship don’t get as many blankets as the men. It isn’t fair!”

A Mexican sailor chimed in: “¡Chingado! I’m only getting half the wages of the Anglo seamen. We need plenty of food to keep us warm in this climate, and I’m not getting my share; the Anglos get more. And the worst of it is that the mates always give me orders in English instead of Spanish.”

“I have more reason to complain than anybody,” said an American Indian sailor. “If the palefaces hadn’t robbed me of my ancestral lands, I wouldn’t even be on this ship, here among the icebergs and arctic winds. I would just be paddling a canoe on a nice, placid lake. I deserve compensation. At the very least, the captain should let me run a crap game so that I can make some money.”

The bosun spoke up: “Yesterday the first mate called me a ‘fruit’ just because I suck cocks. I have a right to suck cocks without being called names for it!”

It’s not only humans who are mistreated on this ship,” interjected an animal-lover among the passengers, her voice quivering with indignation. “Why, last week I saw the second mate kick the ship’s dog twice!”

One of the passengers was a college professor. Wringing his hands he exclaimed, “All this is just awful! It’s immoral! It’s racism, sexism, speciesism, homophobia, and exploitation of the working class! It’s discrimination! We must have social justice: Equal wages for the Mexican sailor, higher wages for all sailors, compensation for the Indian, equal blankets for the ladies, a guaranteed right to suck cocks, and no more kicking the dog!”

“Yes, yes!” shouted the passengers. “Aye-aye!” shouted the crew. “It’s discrimination! We have to demand our rights!” The cabin boy cleared his throat.

“Ahem. You all have good reasons to complain. But it seems to me that what we really have to do is get this ship turned around and headed back south, because if we keep going north we’re sure to be wrecked sooner or later, and then your wages, your blankets, and your right to suck cocks won’t do you any good, because we’ll all drown.”

But no one paid any attention to him, because he was only the cabin boy.

The captain and the mates, from their station on the poop deck, had been watching and listening.

Now they smiled and winked at one another, and at a gesture from the captain the third mate came down from the poop deck, sauntered over to where the passengers and crew were gathered, and shouldered his way in amongst them. He put a very serious expression on his face and spoke thusly:

“We officers have to admit that some really inexcusable things have been happening on this ship. We hadn’t realized how bad the situation was until we heard your complaints. We are men of good will and want to do right by you. But – well – the captain is rather conservative and set in his ways, and may have to be prodded a bit before he’ll make any substantial changes. My personal opinion is that if you protest vigorously – but always peacefully and without violating any of the ship’s rules – you would shake the captain out of his inertia and force him to address the problems of which you so justly complain.”

Having said this, the third mate headed back toward the poop deck. As he went, the passengers and crew called after him, “Moderate! Reformer! Goody-liberal! Captain’s stooge!” But they nevertheless did as he said. They gathered in a body before the poop deck, shouted insults at the officers, and demanded their rights: “I want higher wages and better working conditions,” cried the able seaman.

“Equal blankets for women,” cried the lady passenger. “I want to receive my orders in Spanish,” cried the Mexican sailor. “I want the right to run a crap game,” cried the Indian sailor. “I don’t want to be called a fruit,” cried the bosun. “No more kicking the dog,” cried the animal lover. “Revolution now,” cried the professor.

The captain and the mates huddled together and conferred for several minutes, winking, nodding and smiling at one another all the while. Then the captain stepped to the front of the poop deck and, with a great show of benevolence, announced that the able seaman’s wages would be raised to six shillings a month; the Mexican sailor’s wages would be raised to two-thirds the wages of an Anglo seaman, and the order to reef the foresail would be given in Spanish; lady passengers would receive one more blanket; the Indian sailor would be allowed to run a crap game on Saturday nights; the bosun wouldn’t be called a fruit as long as he kept his cocksucking strictly private; and the dog wouldn’t be kicked unless he did something really naughty, such as stealing food from the galley.

The passengers and crew celebrated these concessions as a great victory, but the next morning, they were again feeling dissatisfied.

“Six shillings a month is a pittance, and I still freeze me fingers when I reef the foresail,” grumbled the able seaman. “I’m still not getting the same wages as the Anglos, or enough food for this climate,” said the Mexican sailor. “We women still don’t have enough blankets to keep us warm,” said the lady passenger. The other crewmen and passengers voiced similar complaints, and the professor egged them on.

When they were done, the cabin boy spoke up – louder this time so that the others could not easily ignore him: “It’s really terrible that the dog gets kicked for stealing a bit of bread from the galley, and that women don’t have equal blankets, and that the able seaman gets his fingers frozen; and I don’t see why the bosun shouldn’t suck cocks if he wants to. But look how thick the icebergs are now, and how the wind blows harder and harder! We’ve got to turn this ship back toward the south, because if we keep going north we’ll be wrecked and drowned.”

“Oh yes,” said the bosun, “It’s just so awful that we keep heading north. But why should I have to keep cocksucking in the closet? Why should I be called a fruit? Ain’t I as good as everyone else?”

“Sailing north is terrible,” said the lady passenger. “But don’t you see? That’s exactly why women need more blankets to keep them warm. I demand equal blankets for women now!”

“It’s quite true,” said the professor, “that sailing to the north imposes great hardships on all of us. But changing course toward the south would be unrealistic. You can’t turn back the clock. We must find a mature way of dealing with the situation.”

“Look,” said the cabin boy, “If we let those four madmen up on the poop deck have their way, we’ll all be drowned. If we ever get the ship out of danger, then we can worry about working conditions, blankets for women, and the right to suck cocks. But first we’ve got to get this vessel turned around. If a few of us get together, make a plan, and show some courage, we can save ourselves. It wouldn’t take many of us – six or eight would do. We could charge the poop, chuck those lunatics overboard, and turn the ship to the south.”

The professor elevated his nose and said sternly, “I don’t believe in violence. It’s immoral.”

“It’s unethical ever to use violence,” said the bosun.

“I’m terrified of violence,” said the lady passenger.

The captain and the mates had been watching and listening all the while. At a signal from the captain, the third mate stepped down to the main deck. He went about among the passengers and crew, telling them that there were still many problems on the ship.

“We have made much progress,” he said, “But much remains to be done. Working conditions for the able seaman are still hard, the Mexican still isn’t getting the same wages as the Anglos, the women still don’t have quite as many blankets as the men, the Indian’s Saturday-night crap game is a paltry compensation for his lost lands, it’s unfair to the bosun that he has to keep his cocksucking in the closet, and the dog still gets kicked at times.

“I think the captain needs to be prodded again. It would help if you all would put on another protest – as long as it remains nonviolent.”

As the third mate walked back toward the stern, the passengers and the crew shouted insults after him, but they nevertheless did what he said and gathered in front of the poop deck for another protest. They ranted and raved and brandished their fists, and they even threw a rotten egg at the captain (which he skillfully dodged).

After hearing their complaints, the captain and the mates huddled for a conference, during which they winked and grinned broadly at one another. Then the captain stepped to the front of the poop deck and announced that the able seaman would be given gloves to keep his fingers warm, the Mexican sailor would receive wages equal to three-fourths the wages of an Anglo seaman, the women would receive yet another blanket, the Indian sailor could run a crap game on Saturday and Sunday nights, the bosun would be allowed to suck cocks publicly after dark, and no one could kick the dog without special permission from the captain.

The passengers and crew were ecstatic over this great revolutionary victory, but by the next morning they were again feeling dissatisfied and began grumbling about the same old hardships.

The cabin boy this time was getting angry.

“You damn fools!” he shouted. “Don’t you see what the captain and the mates are doing? They’re keeping you occupied with your trivial grievances about blankets and wages and the dog being kicked so that you won’t think about what is really wrong with this ship —- that it’s getting farther and farther to the north and we’re all going to be drowned. If just a few of you would come to your senses, get together, and charge the poop deck, we could turn this ship around and save ourselves.

But all you do is whine about petty little issues like working conditions and crap games and the right to suck cocks.”

The passengers and the crew were incensed.

“Petty!!” cried the Mexican, “Do you think it’s reasonable that I get only three-fourths the wages of an Anglo sailor? Is that petty?

“How can you call my grievance trivial? shouted the bosun. “Don’t you know how humiliating it is to be called a fruit?”

“Kicking the dog is not a ‘petty little issue!’” screamed the animal-lover.

“It’s heartless, cruel, and brutal!”

“Alright then,” answered the cabin boy. “These issues are not petty and trivial. Kicking the dog is cruel and brutal and it is humiliating to be called a fruit. But in comparison to our real problem – in comparison to the fact that the ship is still heading north – your grievances are petty and trivial, because if we don’t get this ship turned around soon, we’re all going to drown.”

“Fascist!” said the professor.

“Counterrevolutionary!” said the lady passenger. And all of the passengers and crew chimed in one after another, calling the cabin boy a fascist and a counterrevolutionary.

They pushed him away and went back to grumbling about wages, and about blankets for women, and about the right to suck cocks, and about how the dog was treated. The ship kept sailing north, and after a while it was crushed between two icebergs and everyone drowned.

The Scamble for Africa- Darfur, Intervention, and the USA

africaThose interested in Darfur might want to check this book, ‘The Scramble for Africa’, out some when it comes out? Especially with the Biden, Obama gang headed towards the White House soon. Certainly this is a timely release for this book.

*** Book of the Month for** **October 2008*

*THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA*

*Darfur — Intervention and the USA*

*Steven Fake and Kevin Funk*

*As massive human suffering continues to engulf the Darfur region of
Sudan, the crisis has garnered a rhetorical circus of saber-rattling and
hand wringing from Western politicians, media, and activists. Yet such
bluster has not halted the violence.*

*In a careful yet scathing indictment of this constellation of
holier-than-thou government leaders, corporate media outlets, and spoon-fed
NGOs, Steven Fake and Kevin Funk reveal the myriad ways in which the West
has failed Darfur.*

*Praise for Scramble for Africa:*

*”A devastating critique of the ‘humanitarian’ response of the United
States to the Darfur crisis. Well-researched, easy to read, and utterly
convincing, a crucial book for anyone concerned about achieving a morally
and politically acceptable U.S. foreign policy.”
–Richard Falk, Milbank Professor of Law Emeritus, Princeton University*

*”Sudan has been a nightmare for many. It still is. The outside world is
responsible as well. This book shows why. The authors avoid easy answers,
and provide a quality analysis with compelling arguments to revise Western
policies.”
–Jan Pronk, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of
Mission for the United Nations Mission in Sudan, 2004-06 *

*”Explosive, masterful, and impeccably fair. Consider it the thinking
person’s guide to Darfur.”
-John Ghazvinian, author of **Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil*

*STEVEN FAKE and KEVIN FUNK are activists and political commentators whose
writings have been published in such media as **Foreign Policy in Focus,
Common Dreams, CounterPunch, ZNet**, and **Black Commentator**.*

*344 pages, bibliography, index
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-55164-322-9 $19.99
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-55164-323-6 $39.99*

*For more information on **The Scramble For Africa**, our October Book of
the Month selection, including additional testimonials and Table of
Contents, see **http://www.blackrosebooks.net/darfur.htm*
* *

*The Scramble For Africa will be launched in the Boston area on October
28th. For more information see http://www.blackrosebooks.net/events.htm*

*To Order This Book, Call Toll Free 1-800-565-9523*

*Independent Publishing for Independent Minds*

*What others are saying about Scramble for Africa*

“Kevin Funk and Steven Fake have written a devastating critique of the
‘humanitarian’ response of the United States to the Darfur crisis, while
offering a genuine humane alternative that would lessen the ordeal, if not
bring it to an end. Well-researched, easy to read, and utterly convincing, a
crucial book for anyone concerned about achieving a morally and politically
acceptable U.S. foreign policy.”
*–Richard Falk, Milbank Professor of Law Emeritus, Princeton University, and
since 2002, Visiting Distinguished Professor, Global Studies, UCSB*

“Sudan has been a nightmare for many. It still is. The outside world is
responsible as well. This book shows why. The authors avoid easy answers,
and provide a quality analysis with compelling arguments to revise Western
policies.”
*–Jan Pronk, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of
Mission for the United Nations Mission in Sudan, 2004-06*

“At a time when everyone from George Clooney to George Bush is an instant
expert on Darfur, Kevin Funk and Steven Fake have given us what we so
urgently need: a clear, sober assessment of the conflict and how it fits
into the foreign policy of the United States. With neither fear nor favour,
they take us back stage, show us our blind spots, and come up with some
troubling conclusions. Explosive, masterful, and impeccably fair. Consider
it the thinking person’s guide to Darfur.”
*–John Ghazvinian, author of Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil*

“A commanding exposé of the duplicitous and damaging role played by US
leaders and others in a dark drama. Well-written, well focused, deeply
informed—an excellent corrective for the many who cannot tell the difference
between humanitarian assistance and imperial aggrandizement.”
*–Michael Parenti, author of ‘Contrary Notions’ and ‘Against Empire’*

“Elegantly written, erudite without being academic, and with a forceful yet
sensible political argument, Scramble for Africa is a must read for anyone
concerned with making sense of one of the most haunting crises of our time.”
*–Stephen Eric Bronner, Rutgers University*

“Scramble for Africa: Darfur Intervention and the USA is the book we’ve all
been waiting for. Clearly written, and scholarly without losing its
skeptical edge, this new work takes on the U.S. Government and the Save
Darfur coalition alike, offering a fresh analysis of Darfur in its larger
geopolitical context. Scramble for Africa belongs on every Darfur activist’s
bookshelf.”
*–David Morse, Darfur activist and journalist*

“So much of what has been written on Darfur is either expression of
humanitarian concern without awareness of the imperial context, or
denunciation of Western perfidy without appreciation of the horrible human
tragedy that has been unfolding. In this extremely well-documented study,
Steve Fake and Kevin Funk combine deep compassion with a keen critical
analysis to show how we might best support the suffering people of Darfur.
This is a book for all those interested in working for a more just world.”
*–Stephen R. Shalom, Professor of Political Science at William Paterson
University in New Jersey and author of, among other works, Imperial Alibis:
Rationalizing US Intervention After the Cold War*

“This extremely well-researched analysis reveals the real goals of US
foreign policy in one of the greatest horrors of our generation. The authors
have produced an essential book for analysts and activists everywhere,
together with a call to action which no-one should ignore.”
*–Mark Curtis, author, Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World*

“One of the few works to tackle honestly the vexing question of what is to
be done about Darfur. Cheerleaders for intervention and humanitarians who
persist in rosy fantasies about the U.S. role in the world have had no
trouble advocating “solutions,” but for others on the left the question has
been much more difficult. Not content, like so many, to simply wash their
hands of the question, the authors have constructed a deeply informed and
carefully reasoned argument that addresses seriously the possibilities for
constructive humanitarian interventions in an imperfect world vitiated by
great power interests and political posturing. For the cruise-missile left
and the hard-core anti-interventionist left alike, Darfur is not about
Darfur but about their own self-image; Fake and Funk rightly bring the focus
back to what is best for the people on the ground.”
*–Rahul Mahajan, activist and author of Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power
in Iraq and Beyond*

“At last there is a book on Darfur that places the conflict in the context
of the new ‘scramble for Africa,’ the contest between the old imperialism of
England and its successors, the US and China. Fake and Funk’s analysis
unmasks the propagandistic deploying of powerful language alleging
‘genocide’ and the ‘world’s worst humanitarian crisis’ in Sudan for its
political advantages to the US and its neglect of the suffering of Darfur’s
victims. When analyzing the politics of the ‘Save Darfur Coalition’ the
journalists-authors work with a scalpel in a refreshing and penetrating
analysis of why the Darfur conflict became the ’cause célèbre,’ when it
should have been the war in Iraq. Activists and astute observers of the
contemporary global political scene will find this scrupulously researched
volume a must read, virtually unique among available works on the subject.”
*–Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Professor of Anthropology, Rhode Island College,
veteran Sudan researcher*

“For those, like myself, who have long felt both revulsion and confusion by
the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and wished to know more, this is the
perfect handbook. …an objective, dispassionate, meticulously researched
account of the conflict… The authors of Scramble for Africa… startle us with
their documentation of the little known but equally sordid role our own
government has played in Sudan for the past thirty years – suggesting that
our present official “humanitarian concerns” are merely crocodile tears
masking another agenda.”
*–Timothy Kendall, Ph. D., Senior Research Scholar, Dept. of
African-American Studies, Northeastern University and Director of
Archaeological Mission, Jebel Barkal (Karima), Sudan, Sudan Dept. of
Antiquities and Museums (NCAM), Khartoum, Sudan*

“The Scramble for Africa stands against the muck of neo-liberal ideology,
taking us through the Darfur conflict, putting it into history and allowing
us to think of a non-imperialist way to bring peace to a tormented region.
Save Darfur, surely; but as much from Washington as Khartoum, as much from
fantasies of humanitarian intervention as the brutalities of
IMFundamentalism and Islamism.”
*–Vijay Prashad, author, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third
World*

“The Darfur conflict has proven to be intractable, at terrible cost to the
people of that region. There is a crying need for on-going international
activism based on a thorough analysis of Sudan and the role of the US, China
and other states. The Scramble for Africa by Kevin Funk and Steven Fake is a
well-researched, important and progressive contribution in this regard. It
should be widely read, from the White House to the grassroots.”
*–Laurie Nathan, research fellow at the London School of Economics and
member of the African Union mediation team for Darfur in 2005/6*

“This excellent book presents the basic information on the political and
military aspects of the conflict, examines the options from a clear and
transparent ethical position, and presents ways forward with a concern for
broad international implications and concern for the hundreds of thousands
of victims. It is is exactly what is needed and I hope it is very widely
read. I will recommend it to everyone.”
*–Justin Podur, writer and activist*

Shlomo Sand and shattering a national mythology

Shlomo SandShattering a ‘national mythology’ Shlomo Sand’s book is titled “When and How the Jewish People Was Invented?” and you probably will not find it stacked up on tables for sale in Barnes and Noble or Borders. I don’t expect it to be readily available for Colorado Springs librarian patrons either. Ask for it though.

The Haaretz interview:

Actually, most of your book does not deal with the invention of the Jewish people by modern Jewish nationalism, but rather with the question of where the Jews come from.

Sand: “My initial intention was to take certain kinds of modern historiographic materials and examine how they invented the ‘figment’ of the Jewish people. But when I began to confront the historiographic sources, I suddenly found contradictions. And then that urged me on: I started to work, without knowing where I would end up. I took primary sources and I tried to examine authors’ references in the ancient period – what they wrote about conversion.”

Experts on the history of the Jewish people say you are dealing with subjects about which you have no understanding and are basing yourself on works that you can’t read in the original.

“It is true that I am an historian of France and Europe, and not of the ancient period. I knew that the moment I would start dealing with early periods like these, I would be exposed to scathing criticism by historians who specialize in those areas. But I said to myself that I can’t stay just with modern historiographic material without examining the facts it describes. Had I not done this myself, it would have been necessary to have waited for an entire generation. Had I continued to deal with France, perhaps I would have been given chairs at the university and provincial glory. But I decided to relinquish the glory.”

Inventing the Diaspora

“After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people remained faithful to it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom” – thus states the preamble to the Israeli Declaration of Independence. This is also the quotation that opens the third chapter of Sand’s book, entitled “The Invention of the Diaspora.” Sand argues that the Jewish people’s exile from its land never happened.

“The supreme paradigm of exile was needed in order to construct a long-range memory in which an imagined and exiled nation-race was posited as the direct continuation of ‘the people of the Bible’ that preceded it,” Sand explains. Under the influence of other historians who have dealt with the same issue in recent years, he argues that the exile of the Jewish people is originally a Christian myth that depicted that event as divine punishment imposed on the Jews for having rejected the Christian gospel.

“I started looking in research studies about the exile from the land – a constitutive event in Jewish history, almost like the Holocaust. But to my astonishment I discovered that it has no literature. The reason is that no one exiled the people of the country. The Romans did not exile peoples and they could not have done so even if they had wanted to. They did not have trains and trucks to deport entire populations. That kind of logistics did not exist until the 20th century. From this, in effect, the whole book was born: in the realization that Judaic society was not dispersed and was not exiled.”

If the people was not exiled, are you saying that in fact the real descendants of the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah are the Palestinians?

“No population remains pure over a period of thousands of years. But the chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I are its descendents. The first Zionists, up until the Arab Revolt [1936-9], knew that there had been no exiling, and that the Palestinians were descended from the inhabitants of the land. They knew that farmers don’t leave until they are expelled. Even Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the second president of the State of Israel, wrote in 1929 that, ‘the vast majority of the peasant farmers do not have their origins in the Arab conquerors, but rather, before then, in the Jewish farmers who were numerous and a majority in the building of the land.'”

And how did millions of Jews appear around the Mediterranean Sea?

“The people did not spread, but the Jewish religion spread. Judaism was a converting religion. Contrary to popular opinion, in early Judaism there was a great thirst to convert others. The Hasmoneans were the first to begin to produce large numbers of Jews through mass conversion, under the influence of Hellenism. The conversions between the Hasmonean Revolt and Bar Kochba’s rebellion are what prepared the ground for the subsequent, wide-spread dissemination of Christianity. After the victory of Christianity in the fourth century, the momentum of conversion was stopped in the Christian world, and there was a steep drop in the number of Jews. Presumably many of the Jews who appeared around the Mediterranean became Christians. But then Judaism started to permeate other regions – pagan regions, for example, such as Yemen and North Africa. Had Judaism not continued to advance at that stage and had it not continued to convert people in the pagan world, we would have remained a completely marginal religion, if we survived at all.”

How did you come to the conclusion that the Jews of North Africa were originally Berbers who converted?

“I asked myself how such large Jewish communities appeared in Spain. And then I saw that Tariq ibn Ziyad, the supreme commander of the Muslims who conquered Spain, was a Berber, and most of his soldiers were Berbers. Dahia al-Kahina’s Jewish Berber kingdom had been defeated only 15 years earlier. And the truth is there are a number of Christian sources that say many of the conquerors of Spain were Jewish converts. The deep-rooted source of the large Jewish community in Spain was those Berber soldiers who converted to Judaism.”

Sand argues that the most crucial demographic addition to the Jewish population of the world came in the wake of the conversion of the kingdom of Khazaria – a huge empire that arose in the Middle Ages on the steppes along the Volga River, which at its height ruled over an area that stretched from the Georgia of today to Kiev. In the eighth century, the kings of the Khazars adopted the Jewish religion and made Hebrew the written language of the kingdom. From the 10th century the kingdom weakened; in the 13th century is was utterly defeated by Mongol invaders, and the fate of its Jewish inhabitants remains unclear.

Sand revives the hypothesis, which was already suggested by historians in the 19th and 20th centuries, according to which the Judaized Khazars constituted the main origins of the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.

“At the beginning of the 20th century there is a tremendous concentration of Jews in Eastern Europe – three million Jews in Poland alone,” he says. “The Zionist historiography claims that their origins are in the earlier Jewish community in Germany, but they do not succeed in explaining how a small number of Jews who came from Mainz and Worms could have founded the Yiddish people of Eastern Europe. The Jews of Eastern Europe are a mixture of Khazars and Slavs who were pushed eastward.”

If the Jews of Eastern Europe did not come from Germany, why did they speak Yiddish, which is a Germanic language?

“The Jews were a class of people dependent on the German bourgeoisie in the East, and thus they adopted German words. Here I base myself on the research of linguist Paul Wechsler of Tel Aviv University, who has demonstrated that there is no etymological connection between the German Jewish language of the Middle Ages and Yiddish. As far back as 1828, the Ribal (Rabbi Isaac Ber Levinson) said that the ancient language of the Jews was not Yiddish. Even Ben Zion Dinur, the father of Israeli historiography, was not hesitant about describing the Khazars as the origin of the Jews in Eastern Europe, and describes Khazaria as ‘the mother of the diasporas’ in Eastern Europe. But more or less since 1967, anyone who talks about the Khazars as the ancestors of the Jews of Eastern Europe is considered naive and moonstruck.”

Why do you think the idea of the Khazar origins is so threatening?

“It is clear that the fear is of an undermining of the historic right to the land. The revelation that the Jews are not from Judea would ostensibly knock the legitimacy for our being here out from under us. Since the beginning of the period of decolonization, settlers have no longer been able to say simply: ‘We came, we won and now we are here’ the way the Americans, the whites in South Africa and the Australians said. There is a very deep fear that doubt will be cast on our right to exist.”

Is there no justification for this fear?

“No. I don’t think that the historical myth of the exile and the wanderings is the source of the legitimization for me being here, and therefore I don’t mind believing that I am Khazar in my origins. I am not afraid of the undermining of our existence, because I think that the character of the State of Israel undermines it in a much more serious way. What would constitute the basis for our existence here is not mythological historical right, but rather would be for us to start to establish an open society here of all Israeli citizens.”

In effect you are saying that there is no such thing as a Jewish people.

“I don’t recognize an international people. I recognize ‘the Yiddish people’ that existed in Eastern Europe, which though it is not a nation can be seen as a Yiddishist civilization with a modern popular culture. I think that Jewish nationalism grew up in the context of this ‘Yiddish people.’ I also recognize the existence of an Israeli people, and do not deny its right to sovereignty. But Zionism and also Arab nationalism over the years are not prepared to recognize it.

“From the perspective of Zionism, this country does not belong to its citizens, but rather to the Jewish people. I recognize one definition of a nation: a group of people that wants to live in sovereignty over itself. But most of the Jews in the world have no desire to live in the State of Israel, even though nothing is preventing them from doing so. Therefore, they cannot be seen as a nation.”

What is so dangerous about Jews imagining that they belong to one people? Why is this bad?

“In the Israeli discourse about roots there is a degree of perversion. This is an ethnocentric, biological, genetic discourse. But Israel has no existence as a Jewish state: If Israel does not develop and become an open, multicultural society we will have a Kosovo in the Galilee. The consciousness concerning the right to this place must be more flexible and varied, and if I have contributed with my book to the likelihood that I and my children will be able to live with the others here in this country in a more egalitarian situation – I will have done my bit.

“We must begin to work hard to transform our place into an Israeli republic where ethnic origin, as well as faith, will not be relevant in the eyes of the law. Anyone who is acquainted with the young elites of the Israeli Arab community can see that they will not agree to live in a country that declares it is not theirs. If I were a Palestinian I would rebel against a state like that, but even as an Israeli I am rebelling against it.”

The question is whether for those conclusions you had to go as far as the Kingdom of the Khazars.

“I am not hiding the fact that it is very distressing for me to live in a society in which the nationalist principles that guide it are dangerous, and that this distress has served as a motive in my work. I am a citizen of this country, but I am also a historian and as a historian it is my duty to write history and examine texts. This is what I have done.”

If the myth of Zionism is one of the Jewish people that returned to its land from exile, what will be the myth of the country you envision?

“To my mind, a myth about the future is better than introverted mythologies of the past. For the Americans, and today for the Europeans as well, what justifies the existence of the nation is a future promise of an open, progressive and prosperous society. The Israeli materials do exist, but it is necessary to add, for example, pan-Israeli holidays. To decrease the number of memorial days a bit and to add days that are dedicated to the future. But also, for example, to add an hour in memory of the Nakba [literally, the “catastrophe” – the Palestinian term for what happened when Israel was established], between Memorial Day and Independence Day.”

Military fiction, publishing as product takes us further downhill to total cultural illiteracy

photoWhen Americans step inside the big chain publishers’ bookstores, Barnes and Noble and Borders, they are almost always under the delusion that they are inside real bookstores containing real books. Nothing could be farther from the truth though. We instead have merely entered into the realm of publishing as product.

What do I mean by ‘publishing as product’? The answer simply put is that publishing historically was an act of putting an art form in front of the art appreciating public. That art form was called literature and you had to read to get it. Publishing was never a pure process without politics, but far from it as politics was essential to what often got published, and what did not. But todays publishing world is far different than that of the past. What does the American literature reading public run into today?

Today’s publishing world has as much to do with art (literature) as McDonald’s has to do with cooking (culinary arts). Content inside the big publishing firms today is handled like a product, not an art that has high impact on politics and national culture. Conservative businessmen still limit what gets published and what does not, but the censorship involves not censuring and disallowing individual radical authors, but censoring and disallowing entire product lines. To cover up this censorship, a whole new group of alternative products have been developed to better hide the fact that real literature is no longer a product to be carried on the shelves.

As an avid book reader since I was a kid, I have been going into America’s bookstores for 1/2 a century which has allowed me to see this devolution in process on a continual basis. So let me name a few of the new publishing product lines that have displaced the old book shelves that once were partially inhabited, at least some, by novels in translation from other parts of the world.

Americans have always been an ethnocentric society and that has been always encouraged by conservative publishers who published mainly American authors. But where once stood Steinbeck and Zola, now stands shelves after shelves of books under other categories of products instead of just Fiction , all now directed to a population segmented by market research science laboratories. We now have Gay Literature, Christian Literature, and the latest grouping something called Military Literature. Further, one finds literature now very much separated into gender categories (Thanks, Oprah! See what you helped do?). Of course, as a remnant of the ’60s we have tiny sections of Black Fiction, Chicano Fiction, Native American Fiction, though not Black Fiction from elsewhere than the US, Latin American fiction from elsewhere than the US, or Native American fiction from say Guatemala or Peru.

We also have oodles of shelves with product lines directed to UFO believers, New Age dabblers, fascist talk show lovers, ‘self help’ addicts, and this new grouping identified for product line identity sales, the US military grunt fan club of all that is weaponry and war. Hence comes ‘Military Fiction’.

There is nothing really modern about this since Hollywood keyed in on this crowd since way back even before John Wayne. (Kids, if you don’t know who John Wayne is, then text message some Dude who might know and ask him?) What is new is to see this product line as marked out, pushed, and delineated as it is today. We shall all be corporately sliced and diced down to our very genes, it seems…

So who are the ‘writers’ for this new product line called Military Fiction? Here they are in Barnes and Nobles, War and Military Fiction division. Notice all those B&N sub-divisions of this hither before non-existent category of Fiction. Notice how they tossed in Vonnegut and Hemingway to make the new product line look less superficial than it really is?

Can you imagine this sort of thing in French, Italian, or German bookstores? They don’t have half their countries’ populations working for the military-security-industrial complex though. Personally, I can see a future reduction int he Christian Fiction and Christian Non-Fiction product lines, and and even larger spread of product items in the War and Military Fiction and Non-Fiction departments. Maybe even an ICE Fiction product line, too? And Private Military Contractor Fiction area?

Meanwhile, culturally, the US heads toward being a total illiterate wasteland in the publishing of real literature in the English language, especially in the translation of foreign authors of note. The worst of all this, is that almost all those entering into these warehouses of bookfood products think that they are part of the educated just by being there among the shelves of what??? … shelves of trash. All the books have been replaced by artificial-alterficial-superficial bookfood, or spam of lit. This delusion of education being sold at the bookfood warehouses is the phoniest product line of them all.

Oh, and that photo that led off this commentary? That is a promotion from a category of bookfood called ‘Women’s Military Fiction’, which is a combo of Romance, pseudo Feminism, and Pentagon Pro-war propaganda? Here is Lindsay McKinna’s website promo comments about her bookfood.

‘Lindsay McKenna (A.K.A. Eileen Nauman) is the best-selling author of Valkyrie and 75 fiction books in the last 20 years. Known as the “Top Gun of Women’s Military Fiction,” she created the sub-genre of military adventure/romance and covers a mainstream women’s market having sold over 10 million books worldwide.’

Who needs international literature in American bookstores when there is this sort of crap to sell? That’s why literature by authors from other countries just really is not there anymore. It has been replaced by bookfood spam.

the aftermath of a stressful day

It is the close of a busy and vexatious day — say half past five or six o’clock of a winter afternoon. I have had a cocktail or two, and am stretched out on a divan in front of a fire, smoking. At the edge of the divan, close enough for me to reach her with my hands, sits a woman not too young, but still good-looking and well dressed — above all, a woman with a soft, low-pitched, agreeable voice. As I snooze she talks – of anything, everything, all the things that women talk of: books, music, the play, men, other women. No politics. No business. No religion. No metaphysics. Nothing challenging and vexatious – but remember, she is intelligent; what she says is clearly expressed… Gradually I fall asleep — but only for an instant… then to sleep again — slowly and charmingly down that slippery hill of dreams. And then awake again, and then asleep again, and so on.
 
I ask you seriously: could anything be more unutterably beautiful?

H. L. Mencken

Whose turn is it on Afghanistan’s plains?

It was a hard lesson for the Soviets, and before them the Soldiers of the Queen. I think Kipling’s advice bears repeating as we consider that American casualties are on the rise in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the Forgotten Campaign of the GWOT, where we’re still taking a victory lap in a pool filling with crocodiles.

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
and the women come out to cut up what remains,
jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
and go to your gawd like a soldier.
    -Rudyard Kipling, The Young British Soldier

The Radical Novel Reconsidered

When I go into bookstores these days it makes me kind of sick. The problem is not merely that WalMart sized chains like Borders and Barnes and Ignoble only distribute trash in their outlet. No, the problem is much greater than that and consists of the reality that nothing of much worth has been published in many, many decades now. It’s hard to find much worth reading even in the independent bookstores out there.

Instead, we have rows upon rows of things like Occult and New Age, ‘Christian Fiction’, ghost written crap by politicians and media talking heads, etc. fluff to be found. No good English language literature, no translations of current foreign writers, no informed histories or current events, no nothing just know nothing stuff.

It was not always this way, since America was not always as dumbed down as it has gotten these days. American writers once had something to say, and some of their works once got published. That is not the case nowadays.

Professor Alan Wald some years ago tried to rehab and republish some of these works in a project called The Radical Novel Reconsidered. There was so little interest and knowledge amongst the American public, that many of these works were sadly never funded for republishing. But some were!

Here’s the easy way to locate them. Just go to Amazon dot com and punch in ‘radical Novel Reconsidered’ and you will draw up about 12 of these old radical novels at that site. Most of them can be bought used for $7 or less now, so check them out!

How sad that these great works of literature are now lost in our history, while oodles and oodles of trash dominates. We need a new effort to republish America’s great literature of the past, and until we get such it will be a depressing experience walking into the bookstores of our country.

Alas, our own ignorance and inability to read or know what is worth reading, has teamed up with corporate bottlenecks to publishing the works of good current writers, and now there just is little out there that is even worth reading. It can only change if we as a people can change?
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From Amazon dot com…

1. The Great Midland (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Alexander Saxton (Paperback – May 1, 1997)
Buy new: $22.00 Used & new from $7.15

2. To Make My Bread (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Grace Lumpkin (Paperback – Jan 1, 1996)
Buy new: $24.00 Used & new from $2.98

3. The World Above (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Abraham Polonsky (Paperback – Feb 1, 1999)
15 Used & new from $3.98

4. Burning Valley (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Phillip Bonosky (Paperback – Dec 1, 1997)
Buy new: $19.00 Used & new from $5.00

5. The Big Boxcar (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Alfred Maund (Paperback – Dec 1, 1998)
Buy new: $18.00 Used & new from $3.77

6. The People from Heaven (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by John Sanford (Paperback – Feb 1, 1996)
Buy new: $30.00 Used & new from $2.40

7. Moscow Yankee (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Myra Page (Paperback – Feb 1, 1996)
Buy new: $18.00 Used & new from $5.98

8. Pity Is Not Enough (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Josephine Herbst (Paperback – Jan 1, 1998)
16 Used & new from $2.99

9. Lamps at High Noon (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Jack S. Balch (Paperback – Oct 19, 2000)
Buy new: $19.95 Used & new from $12.00

10. A World to Win (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Jack Conroy (Paperback – Oct 19, 2000)
7 Used & new from $19.97

11. Tucker’s People (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Ira Wolfert, Angus Cameron, and Alan Filreis (Paperback – Jul 1, 1997)
Buy new: $20.00 Used & new from $6.60

12. Salome of the Tenements (Radical Novel Reconsidered) by Anzia Yezierska (Paperback – Jan 1, 1996)
Buy new: $22.00 Used & new from $4.00

Lighthouse at the end of the world

Lighthouse at the end of the world
While in Ushuaia, I took a boat ride through the Beagle Channel to faro del fin del mundo or, as it is more commonly known in our secret language — known to almost no Argentinians — lighthouse at the end of the world. This is the very same lighthouse around which Jules Verne spun his pirate tale The Lighthouse at the End of the World.
 
I imagine that Cape Horn, south of the Beagle Channel, probably boasts a lighthouse or two of its own. But, as with most things he wrote about, Jules was darn close to correct!
Lighthouse at the end of the world
Cormorants Tierra del FuegoUshusaia sealsBeagle Channel sealsFaro del fin del mundo

Bush accuses war critics of hectoring?

What do you suppose Bush’s wordsmiths had in mind to choose the arcane term “hectoring?” They’ve been quite astute at framing issues with novel usage like “surge” and other reinventions to frustrate our lexicography. (I’m having a flashback to another Jonathan Winters / Arsenic and Old Lace expropriation. I’ll think of it in a second.) We’re being led to infer that Bush knows his Homer, although we’re more likely to believe he saw the movie. Clearly he didn’t stay awake for long. Hector was the protector of Troy, and lent his name to the colloquialism for his constant criticism —in opposition to the war! Ultimately he died a valiant death, unlike a number of the warmongers.