Vintatge Buffalo Bill’s

I was hanging about on The Coffee-Stained Writer this evening, soaking up another wonderful treatise on the writing of poetry. She used an e e cummings poem as an example, which immediately reminded me of my all-time favorite poem of his – Buffalo Bill’s. That prompted me to do a search, which led to this:

How do you know when you’re a literature geek? When you come across a .jpeg image of the original published piece from the Dial, ca. 1920, in Wikipedia, and go “Squee! OMG, I don’t believe it!!11!!1!”

That’s how.

Ogods. Here comes a treatise on my favorite poets. And I have too much to do… so much stupid to smack down… argh. Must. Wait. Until. Later.

In the meantime, treat yourselves to some Robert Burns, W.H. Auden, Emily Dickinson, and Abu Nuwas. We’ll discuss this later, after the burning stupid.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Let’s all raise a glass to the DNC and hitting McCain where it hurts:


The McCain campaign doesn’t seem especially concerned about Democratic attacks that he’s running to give the nation a third Bush term. He doesn’t seem to care when people highlight his age. He shrugs off questions about his reputation as a hothead with a nasty temperament who flies off the handle on a regular basis. He couldn’t care less when he’s caught flip-flopping, abandoning long-held principles, or getting confused about the basics of public policy.

But bring up his line about leaving troops in Iraq for 100 years, and McCain goes completely apoplectic. It seems to be the one point of criticism that McCain and his campaign fear most.

[snip]

There’s simply no reason for Democrats to feel even the slightest bit hesitant about using this. Even in its full context, McCain has said, on multiple occasions, that he’s comfortable leaving U.S. troops in Iraq for a century or more. The only way that’s even possible is to establish permanent bases, which are opposed by both Iraqis and Americans, and which fuel anti-American violence. He said it, he meant it, and Democrats would be insane not to tell voters about it.

And yet, McCain and Republicans have, for several weeks, launched a coordinated, carefully-orchestrated campaign to get people — everyone, really — to stop using the words “McCain,” “Iraq,” and “100 years” in the same sentence. No one can do push-back as well as the Republican Machine, and these guys are intent on making it impossible to hit McCain where it hurts.

As such, I’m delighted the DNC is ignoring the push-back and poking the sore spot.

Can’t link to videos from our lovely work computers, alas, but if you drop by Carpetbagger’s place, you can see the ad in all its glory. And let’s all gleefully use “McCain,” “Iraq” and “100 years” in every sentence we can possibly think of.

Raise your glasses, now: “Here’s to St. McCain, who’s willing to keep our troops in Iraq for 100 years.”

McCain’s fuckwitted and completely divorced from reality views strike me as far more important than the hoo-ha over Obama’s blank lapels, but apparently, other people don’t think so:


In my heart of hearts, I don’t really believe there are any Americans who would base their presidential vote on flag pins and the Star Spangled Banner. People can and do back (or oppose) candidates for some pretty superficial reasons, but no one’s that dumb. My hunch is that voters, when it comes to Barack Obama, may decide they don’t like him for other reasons, and then rationalize backwards, coming up with pins and patriotism to justify a more personal animosity.

Nevertheless, thanks to email chains and the national media, Obama keeps hearing about this. At a town-hall meeting in Indiana, a woman told Obama that her mother wasn’t going to vote for him because he didn’t “address the flag.” Obama responded, “This is a phony issue, so let me address it right now.”

Can I just say how fucking ridiculous it is to base your vote on whether someone “addresses the flag” or not? It’s right up there with lackwits choosing our next glorious leader based on his or her beer-drinking credentials. And the media feeds this inanity. They create an issue out of it. It’s time for us to hit back.

Glasses up again, my darlings. “To Obama, who understands patriotism without pins. To campaigns with substance, and to a candidate who, unlike McCain, understands that we shouldn’t stay in Iraq for 100 years.”

I’d like to raise another toast to San Diego, which has apparently decided that Blackwater is an unwelcome addition to their beautiful city:


OTAY MESA – San Diego officials will challenge Blackwater Worldwide’s permit for an indoor military training facility in South County, saying the public didn’t know about the plan.

“Residents deserve to know when a facility like this is approved – before it is approved,” San Diego City Council President Scott Peters said.

[snip]

Brian Bonfiglio, a Blackwater vice president, said the opposition seems to originate from anti-war sentiment, not animosity toward the facility itself.


Good for them! And, as Digby wonderfully points out:


If that’s so, then we are seeing a major sea change. San Diego is a super military town. If it’s gone “anti-war” then you can pretty much guarantee that it’s over for the pro Iraq crowd.

I don’t know if it’s actually true that San Diego is anti-war, but I think it’s pretty clear that just about everybody is anti-Blackwater. This is an unAmerican company made up of war profiteers who have no loyalty to anyone but their own bottom line. The soldiers fighting over in Iraq on their third and fourth tours for peanuts certainly aren’t crazy about the preening jackasses who make their job more dangerous.

These mercenary “security” companies do not adhere to American law and they don’t answer to the American government. They are a very dangerous step toward a privatized military that answers to no one but its owners. The problem is that the rest of the world will hold Americans responsible for what they do and we will all pay the price.


Exactly. So, glasses up yet again: “Here’s to San Diego for giving Blackwater the boot, and may they also give the boot to John McCain’s 100-years-in-Iraq scheme.”

This is fun. Who’s raising the next round?

Hangover Discurso

I found some items in my Yahoo! News feed that are too tasty not to pass on.

You know the White House Correspondents’ “Let’s All Get Together and Wank Over Our Own Greatness” Dinner? Yeah, the dinner that Stephen Colbert delivered his masterful smackdown at two years ago? They still haven’t recovered, and that warms my heart:


The Scottish-born [Craig] Ferguson found middle ground between the tepid impersonations of last year’s entertainer, Rich Little, and the merciless satire that Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert delivered in
2006.


Heh. “Merciless satire.” I would’ve said “absolute fucking verbal slaughter,” but merciless satire works.

Craig wasn’t exactly kind, either, telling Bush he could “look for a job with more vacation time,” and remarking that it “takes longer than you think to pack up an entire dungeon” when noting that Cheney’s already started moving.

Bush proved once again that he’s not only a lame duck, but a lame-ass joker as well:


“Senator McCain’s not here,” Bush said of GOP nominee-in-waiting John McCain. “He probably wanted to distance himself from me a little bit. You know, he’s not alone. Jenna’s moving out too.”

Bush then referred to scandals that have dogged the campaigns of the two remaining Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, in explaining their absence: “Hillary Clinton couldn’t get in because of sniper fire and Senator Obama’s at church.”


Earth to Bush: you’re not fucking funny. You’re a pathetic little power-mad moron. Shut the fuck up.

The White House Press Corps handed each other little awards telling each other how wonderful they are. A few of those awards were even given for substantial reporting, such as the National Journal’s Alexis Simendinger’s breaking the RNC-White House email story. My own Seattle P-I had three reporters walked off with a Poe for their series “The Terrorism Trade-off.” It’s just too bad that there was so little substantial reporting to choose from.

On to election news. We have work to do, my darlings:


In 2004, Bush won 286 electoral votes to 251 for Kerry. This year’s Democratic nominee must triumph in all the states Kerry won, and pick up 19 more votes to prevail — or come up with another game plan to reach the magic number. McCain, for his part, must fend off Democratic challenges to hang on to the GOP advantage.


The AP article cites Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia as prime battlegrounds. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Oregon are listed as Republican opportunities. Wild-card states are Arkansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Montana, Kentucky, Arizona, Maine, New Jersey, Delaware, California, and Washington.

You know what to do.

Book Mania Redux

I’ll return to spanking the deserving in just a bit. Right now, I’m wearing my new “I’m Kissin’ the Muse” t-shirt, I’m listening to Turbo Ocho, and I’m just wanting to think about books and writing and everything.

Oh, and a word about Turbo Ocho: it’s not April 29th and I already own it! Ah ha ha! I’m listening to it right now! Woo-hoo! And it’s gorgeous, and if you’re not a Peacemakers fan, you really need to become one. Like, now. Amazon will let you pre-order.

Look. If a black metal chick can listen to southwestern rock, so can you.

I’m listening to my favorite band ever, so I might as well talk about my favorite author ever: Neil Gaiman, my darlings, hands-down. It’s a tough choice – he’s competing with Terry Pratchett, Connie Willis, Guy Gavriel Kay, Lynn Flewelling, Patrica A. McKillip, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Friedman, Susanna Clarke, Robert Holdstock, R.A. Salvatore, Warren Ellis, and my dear, departed Robert Jordan, among many others. But Gaiman wins.

He wrote Sandman.

If you’ve never read Sandman, you have two orders on Amazon to make. Get to it. Preludes and Nocturnes will start you off nicely.

And don’t give me any of that, “But Dana, it’s a comic book” shit, either. I tried that whine. Because I was a pretentious bitch who wouldn’t lower her nose far enough to see the pages of a comic, I missed out on many years of Sandman in my life. If it wasn’t for my friend Justin, who browbeat, cajoled, pleaded, and finally just shoved the thing in my hands and forced me to read a few pages, I’d still be Sandman-deprived, and that’s a horrible fate.

Sandman changed my life.

It took away my fear of death. You can’t fear death when Death is a cute, perky Gothic chick with a mile-wide smile.

It taught me the power of dreams.

It showed me the power of myth.

It made me aware of a lot of different kinds of people I’d never really noticed before, such as lesbians trying to have babies, and the plight of the transsexual when it comes to rituals that are for women only.

It gave me the greatest comeback ever to Descartes’s ridiculous “Cogito, ergo sum.” Yes, even better than the Descartes-walks-into-a-bar joke. And no, I won’t tell you what it is. Go read the series.

The language is phenominal. The art is astonishing. The scope of the stories is incredible. It won a fucking World Fantasy Award, all right? No comic book has ever won the World Fantasy Award, but Sandman’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream issue did. And it will be the last ever, because the fuckers went and changed the rules afterward. Even the fantasy world can’t escape pretentious bullshit, but for one sweet moment, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman shattered their pretentions and forced the snooty world to see that comic books could be every bit as “serious and important” as regular old prose.

It’s that incredible.

On the wall behind my bed, I have two prints of Dream from Sandman: The Dream Hunters, illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. One of them is signed by Gaiman. And one night, on the way to the bathroom after a bout of writer’s block, I stopped in front of that print and said jokingly, “Allow me to serve you in whatever capacity you wish, my lord.” I even gave a little bow. And that night, I learned you do not joke with the Dream King, because I hadn’t even finished peeing when a story idea slammed straight into my brain, and I hadn’t finished washing my hands before the thing was whole and complete in my mind. I wrote it in three hours. It’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written.

And no, it wasn’t fan fiction. Do shut up.

So that’s where my love affair with Neil Gaiman began. And it has never stopped. His short stories are wonderful. There’s one, Nicholas Was… that is only 102 words long, that remains my favorite Christmas story ever.

He wrote my favorite poem, “Locks.” I read it to my mother one night. It was the only way I could pay her back for all of the bedtime stories that led me to become a writer, and it was lovely.

He wrote my favorite essay, “Being An Experiment Upon Strictly Scientific Lines.” Funniest treatise on drinking and writing I’ve ever read. And I’ve got a DVD of him reading it in that – oh, to die for! – British accent. I nearly pee myself laughing every time I watch it. “Elephant spunk again?” ROTFLMAO!

I know, I know. If you haven’t read it, that’s not funny. So go read it.

I’ve read American Gods. Hallucinated it, too. I got so involved in the book that I forgot to eat for nearly thirty hours, and by the time the battle of the gods rolled around, my blood sugar had dropped so low that I experienced the battle in vivid sensory detail. Very strange and very fun.

I’m not about to try reading it drunk.

Neil Gaiman has not only been my favorite author, he’s been one of my compasses. I went to see him in Chicago in 2001, and I’ll never forget one of the things he said about writing: “Being contentious is what you should be doing. You should be shaking people up.” I try to remember that when the urge to tame down an element in a story in order not to offend anyone tries to overtake me. Writing safe, comfortable fiction is fine for them as likes it, but it doesn’t have impact, it doesn’t have passion, and it’s sure as shit not what I’m wanting to do as an author. Neil Gaiman gave me the two sentences I needed to free myself from fear. If I become a pioneer, it’s down to him. If I get burned at the stake, well, oops.

And he’s one of the nicest people in the universe. I’m not that nice. I wish I was. I hope I can treat my readers with half of the respect and caring that he treats his with, because if I can, I’ll have my fans feeling as warm and special and loved as they deserve.

When I met him, I said, “Neil, I just wanted to say thank you. You’ve never disappointed me.” I was having a rabid fangirl crisis, and it was the best I’d managed to come up with, slightly more original than the omigod you’re so awesome can i have your babies!!!11!1! schtick. But it was still silly.

Yet he leaned back in his chair and looked at me as if amazed by my profundity, and he said, “That’s the sweetest thing of you to say.” And damn it, he meant it. It was as if no one had ever told him how incredible he was before.

When you’ve won as many awards, achieved the fame and status he has, and can still treat every fan as if they’re the most special thing in the universe to you, well, you know you’ve got humility. He’s not into abasing himself, mind, he knows he’s good, it’s just that it’s never gone to his head. He still seems bemused by the fact people like his scribbles so much.

He’s an amazing writer, and an even more amazing human being. That’s why I love him so.

Now go read Sandman. And when you’re totally hooked on comics, as you will be, come back to me for some more. I’ve got a list will blow your mind.

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Plenty of red meat for us today, my darlings. Let us forgo bar food and dig in to some nice, juicy steaks (unless, of course, you plump for the vegetarian option).

You remember how a few days ago, I mentioned Tony Snow’s joining CNN? Yeah. That Tony Snow. Mr. “My Nose is Glued to Bush’s Buttocks” Snow. And I’m sure you’re all wondering how he’s doing.

Carpetbagger reports: Not too good.


Well, it appears that Snow is having a little trouble making the transition back to broadcasting, because CNN’s latest addition seems to think he’s still the White House press secretary.


Blitzer: What do you think about McCain’s decision yesterday? He was very forceful in making it clear he did not like the Bush administration’s handling of Katrina.

Snow: Of course he also doesn’t know a lot about what went on behind the scenes, but you would expect that. You’ve got somebody who’s running for a nomination. The president’s popularity ratings are low. He’s going to put a distance between himself and the president. Everybody hates what happened in Katrina, including the president.


I see, so Bush’s handling of Katrina was fine, and McCain is just making cheap criticism for crass electoral purposes.


Blitzer: Do you think he’ll be doing more distancing of himself on other issues?

Snow: I think he’ll do it when it’s easy. But on the other hand, there are things, like the war, where he’s agreed with the president…. Right now, Democrats have made it clear they don’t have any issue other than the fact they’re not George Bush. What McCain wants to be able to do is say, “Neither am I.”


Hmm. Democrats are running on their ideas regarding Iraq, healthcare, the economy, the environment, veterans’ issues, energy policy, foreign policy, and homeland security. They don’t, however, “have any issue other than the fact they’re not George Bush.” Why, this is the kind of insightful analysis you can only hear from CNN’s highly-paid political analysts — and any fourth-tier right-wing blog.


Oh, snap! Nice one, CB! Poor Tony’s balls must be stinging just about now. Oh, wait, he’s a conservative pundit: he doesn’t have balls. Never mind.

A funny coinkydink, here: I stopped watching CNN many years back when they stopped reporting the news and started spouting conservative bullshit along with all the sensational marlarkey I’ve come to expect from the glossy tabloids. This ain’t likely to win my viewership back.

Speaking of clueless media sorts, I found this fascinating:


We’ve all heard the expression, “90% of life is just showing up.” It seems to be the basis of an LA Times editorial today, praising John McCain’s week-long tour of small towns, urban areas, and other communities that have struggled economically for years. McCain appeared in impoverished areas in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Ohio, and the LAT thinks that’s just great — even if he doesn’t have any intention of actually helping the families who live there.


[I]nstead of promising truckloads of aid if he’s elected, McCain talked up his vision of a government that helps more by doing less.

It’s not a new message from the Arizona senator, who follows an unpredictable political muse but typically favors smaller government and less regulation.

Excuse me. So sorry for the interruption – I just had to wipe my drink off the screen.

Unpredictable political muse? What the fuck are you assclowns talking about? His political muse is completely fucking predictable! It tells him to follow conservative talking points – except when he’s lost a primary using those, so he should try to look Democratic in hopes of getting picked up as a VP. He’s absolutely fucking predictable.

In fact, let me predict it right here: his political muse will tell him to keep sailing Republicon, with only minor, safe criticisms of Bush to snooker the Bush-is-anathema crowd, until the media stops saying he’s a maverick. In that unlikely event, his muse will tell him to go do something mavericky but flip-flop on it later. Oh, and if the Democrats look to be winning, expect him to attempt to lock his nose onto their buttocks with the same glue Tony Snow’s been using for the Bush Administration.

That’s it. I’m sending my Muse to go beat the ever-loving shit out of his muse.

In election news, those who aren’t satisfied with the current field of candidates now have a fourth option:


Alan Keyes appears to have locked up the Constitution Party’s nomination for president.

[snip]

I really want to see Alan campaign hard, especially in states like Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Florida, New Mexico and New Hampshire. As you may know, Keyes is one of the great orators of our time, and he’s the genuine item: anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-public programs, anti-public schools, anti-civil liberties, anti-pretty much everything (except guns and Jesus – he’s very pro on those).

I never thought I’d say this, but I mean it sincerely: Give ‘em hell, Alan!


Everybody loves options! I especially love those options that siphon votes from McCain. So I’d just like to give Alan Keyes my blessing. Now, if we could just give him the Colbert Bump, we’d be set.

Update: It appears reports of Alan Keyes’s victory were greatly exaggerated. As Morbo says, “Darn! I knew I shouldn’t have trusted the MSM!” Chuck Baldwin has won the Constitution Party nomination. Who the fuck is Chuck? I have no idea. And if you ask me how many tugs on a dead dog’s dick I give, the answer is, “Very few indeed.”

Still, I think we should all let our die-hard conservative acquaintences know they have options.

Book Meme Mania

Book memes! I got these from John Lynch at Stranger Fruit, by way of PZ. And I’m gonna do them both. Just because I’m the kind of person who lurves literature. Actually, no. I love really good books and I hate pretentious fuckers who claim to love books but love prestige more.

Allow me to clarify: If you loved a classic because the story grabbed you, fantastic, you’re a person who lurves literature. If you’ve read every book on the classics list because that gives you snob value, you’re a pretentious fucker and you can bugger off.

So. Ones I’ve read in bold, ones I own but haven’t finished reading in italic, ones I’ve wanted to put through a chipper-shredder struck out.

These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New world
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
1984
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-five
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Hmm. 30. I must be an unlettered bumpkin, eh? Don’t tell that to the hundreds and hundreds of books now threatening to combine my apartment with the one immeditately below.

Let’s see how we do with cult books, then.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (1957-60)
A Rebours by JK Huysmans (1884)
Baby and Child Care by Dr Benjamin Spock (1946)
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf (1991)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (1993)
The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart (1971)
Chariots of the Gods: Was God An Astronaut? by Erich Von Däniken (1968 )
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1782)
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824)
Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health by L Ron Hubbard (1950
The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley (1954)
Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (1968 )
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973)
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (1943)
Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R Hofstadter (1979
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973)
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln (1982)
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948 )
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino (1979)
Iron John: a Book About Men by Robert Bly (1990)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and Russell Munson (1970)
The Magus by John Fowles (1966)
Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1962)
The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958 )
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
No Logo by Naomi Klein (2000)
On The Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson (1971)
The Outsider by Colin Wilson (1956)
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (1923)
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (1914)
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám tr by Edward FitzGerald (1859)
The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (1937)
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1922)
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774)
Story of O by Pauline Réage (1954)
The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)
The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda (1968 )
Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1
883-85)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values by Robert M Pirsig(1974)

Not much of a cultist, either, apparently. And what the fuck is To Kill a Mockingbird doing up there in the cult books? That wasn’t cult, that was social fucking justice, that was. It was the only assigned book all throughout high school that didn’t make me want to vomit. Well, I take that back. I loved A Tale of Two Cities, actually. Yes, I’m one of those awful people who doesn’t think Dickens is too verbose. But the rest of them – I mean, for fuck’s sake, couldn’t we have read something in freshman lit that blew fewer goats than The Oxbow Incident? Like, oh, say, Moby Dick? And if you knew, if you even suspected, how much I passionately loathe Moby Dick, you’ll know just how bad The Oxbow Incident is.

Other than the part where some dude gets shot and there’s a gory description of one of his buddies heating up a gun barrel and cauterizing the wound. That was entertaining.

A quick note: The Annotated Dracula was awesome. I got my recipe for paprika hendel from it.

One last book note here: you’ll remember me mentioning Mr. Vail last night. He’s the reason I read Siddhartha. We used to have a lot of chats after school when he was supervising study hall, and one day, he looked at me and said, “You should read Steppenwolf. You’re just like the main character.” And I suppose he was right. I was ill-suited for the town I was in. But that didn’t matter half so much as the fact that Herman Hesse is an incredible author and I enjoyed the whole book immensely, even while being baffled by it. That’s why I snapped up Siddhartha, and loved it even more.

See? I read a few things outside of SF and non-fiction. I even like some of it.

Educational Contraband

George at Decrepit Old Fool started my brain churning, right when I was ready to sleep:


It’s my contention that what’s missing from our politically-correct, NCLB-driven schools today is pretty much any possibility at all of ‘a little thrill in learning’. It happens, but good teachers have to wedge it into the cracks where they can.


Well, how can I go to bed after that? You throw that kind of fresh meat in front of me, I start to drool. It’s positively Pavlovian.

I remember being extremely annoyed at the sanitized pablum we got spoon-fed at school. Adults tend to plump for the sheltering of the kids. Kids tend to wonder just what the fuck adults are so afraid of, and whether they’re that bloody stupid. I think Kaden pointed up the fact quite nicely that teens will get their hands on contraband no matter how hard adults try to keep it out of their hands. They have their little methods. Even back in the day before the intertoobz, we had our ways and means of getting our hands on forbidden fruit. Newspapers, magazines, conversations, television, radio…. Let’s just say that no matter how sheltered your upbringing, by high school, you’d been exposed to at least a few ideas that were considered verboten for the under-18s, and being treated as if we hadn’t was irksome.

I blame the parents. And the do-gooders. And all of the other raging fuckwits who, with good intentions, try to ensure that kids basically learn nothing.

Our teachers had to be extremely careful with the contraband they brought in. Gods forbid they should show us anything outside of those stupid disinfected textbooks that so carefully excised anything remotely interesting. But contraband slipped in regardless.

My sixth grade teacher bucked the party line by telling us how incredible Germany was. I still remember him sitting on the corner of his desk, voice impassioned, as he shared a little bit of truth with us: it was incredible that a little country like Germany managed to almost conquer the world, not once, but twice. He waxed poetic in his admiration. On that day, we learned that turn-of-the-century Germany wasn’t a caricature, but a country full of brilliant people who, admittedly, had done some fucked-up things. He was the first person I’d ever heard who didn’t treat Germany as a pariah, but as an admirable foe. It made the whole thing much more exciting. Defeating a despicable enemy’s one thing, but defeating an enemy that’s a despicable genius, well, that’s awesome. That means you had to work for it, and I think all of us were a lot more proud of America.

And it made me think of the humanity of the enemy. They were people like us. They thought they were doing the right thing. They weren’t a bunch of cartoon bad guys. They were people. That was a critical message. When your enemy is considered nothing at all like you, when there’s nothing to respect, you don’t realize how fine the line is that divides you. You’re apt to blunder from hero to villain without ever realizing what you’ve done, because you’ve been led to believe it’s impossible for you to be the villain.

I think Bush & Co. could’ve used a Mr. Lynch in sixth grade. They’re so convinced of America’s innate rightness and the enemy’s wrongness that they believe anything we do is by default the right thing. Had Mr. Lynch gotten some of his contraband into their hands early on, they might be a little more prone to caution.

There wasn’t much contraband in grade school. There wasn’t much more in high school. I lived in an extremely conservative community that had more churches than people. We students had to stage a walk-out and a march for AIDS education. There was actually some magnificent doofus of a parent who got up in front of the school board and told him our kids didn’t need AIDS education because they weren’t having sex. All I can say is, if he was right, then my town had one hell of an immaculate conception problem.

But even in that atmosphere, there were some teachers who managed to sneak us some contraband.

My British and Western Literature teacher, Mr. Vail, told us openly as we moaned about Shakespeare that all we got to read was the boring bits. Of course we hated Shakespeare. He nudged us in the direction of the local bookstore, where the Complete Works were available, unabridged. And he used personal anecdotes to keep us interested. Nothing gets thirty high school students interested faster than their teacher standing at the front of the classroom and saying, “I must be a masochist.” We learned a new word and something about interpersonal relationships that day as we gave our studied advice on how he should deal with an emotional vampire of a girlfriend. No one pitched a politically-correct fit. We were having too much fun.

My favorite memory of him, though, is the day I dropped by his after-school study hall to discuss which Shakespeare play I should read for my extra credit paper. We got into a discussion about the censorship in our textbooks, and I’ll never forget him looking around for administrators as his hand crept to the bottom drawer of his desk. The expression on his face would have gotten him nailed. You know how people look when they’re about to break the rules and are relishing it? That look. He sneaked out a Complete Works of Shakespeare, flipped open to MacBeth, and said, “The stuff in that book is crap. They took out all of the good parts.” We then spent an instructive half-hour howling over the scene where MacDuff’s trying to gain entry to the castle, and the double entendre’s flying thick and fast:


MACDUFF Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed,
That you do lie so late?

Porter ‘Faith sir, we were carousing till the
second cock: and drink, sir, is a great
provoker of three things.

MACDUFF What three things does drink especially provoke?

Porter Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and
urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes;
it provokes the desire, but it takes
away the performance: therefore, much drink
may be said to be an equivocator with lechery:
it makes him, and it mars him; it sets
him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him,
and disheartens him; makes him stand to, and
not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him
in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.

It was that day I realized Shakespeare wasn’t a boring old fuddy-duddy, but someone with a wicked sense of humor. And because of that, I adore Shakespeare to this day.

There must have been something subversive about our literature department, because my American Literature teacher that year sneaked a whole week of Les Miserables in. “I know he’s French, but this is one of the greatest books ever written, and we’re going to do it,”
Mrs. Putman said. We’d come in to a quotation on the board that hit us like a sledgehammer:


Must we continue to lift our eyes toward heaven? Does the luminous point we discern there come from those being quenched? The ideal is terrible to see, thus lost in the depths – minute, isolated, imperceptible, shining, but surrounded by all those great black menaces monstrously amassed around it, yet no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds.


She had us hooked.

Imagine, if you will, a pole-axed American Lit class lined up around the classroom eagerly waiting for our copy of the original London cast recording of Les Miserables. We’re talking teenagers, obsessed by a French novel and a Broadway musical. The stores sold out of both the abridged and unabridged copies. A multitude of us went to see the musical. We were enthralled. We wept, we laughed, we lived it. And I think all of us took away some harsh lessons about society, about real desperation, good and evil, justice and injustice. 24601 was our favorite number.

The contraband worked. It didn’t work because it was subversive, necessarily, although the forbidden fruit aspect certainly made it more entertaining. No, contraband worked because we had teachers who trusted us to handle it. They expected us to be able to grasp tough concepts, appreciate things other adults thought we were too shallow to truly understand. They fed our minds some red meat. And we ate with gusto.

Talk about “a little thrill in learning.”

We don’t necessarily need better teachers, we need better smugglers. I’m not talking about smuggling religion in the guise of science, mind you. That doesn’t do anything except shut down minds. We need smugglers who can open them. We need Lynches and Vails and Putmans, teachers who aren’t afraid to present the world to their students, in all of its gore and glory.

Thought has very nearly been banished from the classroom. So has passion. Teachers need to be given a chance to sneak it back in.

But keep it as contraband. It wouldn’t be half as interesting otherwise.

I’ll Never Forgive

You’ll have to forgive the disjointed thoughts, my darlings. I’m sitting here with the afterglow of the Peacemakers concert still shimmering through me, I’ve had a glass of wine, and all I really want to do is feel good about the world.

I don’t.

I’m pissed off about that.

Let me ‘splain, or at least sum up. Before Bush and his Merry Band of Extraordinary Fuckwits came along, I was skipping happily right along the middle path. Sure, I was toward the left side of that path. Indeed, I was already an atheist (calling myself agnostic, of course, because I was reserving the right to believe in the first god or goddess who bothered to put in a personal appearance. Never happened). But I scorned politics. Disdained nasty arguments between folks with diametrically opposing views. I was too busy writing to give two shits about what was going on in the political arena, you see. I was too busy drinking the world.

And then 2006 rolled around, and one night, watching The Daily Show, I got extremely pissed.

I don’t even remember what the issue was. It was some fuckery of Bush’s, but there’s been so much of it that it all kind of blurs. But it flipped a switch. Things had been building all through Bush’s presidency, but there had been no catalyst until that moment. The transition from a-political to political animal was nearly instantaneous. I went from solid moderate to foaming-at-the-mouth liberal in a heartbeat.

I voted for the first time in my life in the 2006 elections. I was part of the reason Arizona ended up with Democrats where no Democrats had gone before – or at least, not often. My friends and I were glued to the election results that night. Even the moderates among us were all breathless, hoping for Democrats. And we went insane with glee when the results rolled in from around the country, and the Democrats trounced the Republicons.

I’ve never given up the hope from that night. Even though the Democratic majority couldn’t find their asses with both hands in the House, and were too slim for true power in the Senate, I knew we’d reached a turning point. It was just going to be a long climb back from the brink of disaster.

It takes a lot of effort to rescue a country from the hands of fanatics.

And make no mistake. Bush & Co. are fanatics. They are fundamentalists when it comes to executive authority. They fundamentally believe they have the right to turn this country into a dictatorship. They let the religious fundamentalists off the leash to wreak havoc. They’ve taken everything I ever loved and admired about my country and distorted it, dishonored it, cast it away.

Habeas corpus. Separation of church and state. Balance of powers. Rule of law. Decency. Moderation. Truth.

(Well, as much truth as politicians are capable of, anyway.)

They shoved me off my comfortable middle path and into a wilderness. They’ve made it impossible for me to ever go back to being an a-political being. They’ve done so much damage that I may not live long enough to see it set right. And I’ll never forgive them for it.

I’ll never forgive them for making me go to sleep worrying whether the Constitution will still be intact when I wake up.

I’ll never forgive them for making me fear that we’ve gone too far toward a theocracy to pull back.

I’ll never forgive them for making “secular” a curse rather than a blessing.

I’ll never forgive them for making a mockery of justice and law.

I’ll never forgive them for torturing other human beings.

I’ll never forgive them for making me ashamed to be an American.

And I’m a forgiving person, my darlings. I’ve forgiven some rather severe transgressions against me. I don’t hold many grudges. I’d rather make amends and find common cause, but there are some people so extreme that no common ground exists between you. I hadn’t believed that until Bush. And Mark Mathis, but he’s just a lying sack of shit who doesn’t have the power to fundamentally destroy everything I’ve ever loved and cherished. He’s nothing special. Bush, by virtue of having been handed the reins to this country not once but twice, has that power.

So I won’t forgive. And I’ll keep fighting. I’ll fight Bush and his ilk, and I’ll fight Mathis and his minions because the two are intimately related. Ignorant people don’t make good choices in the voting booth. People like Mathis enable that ignorance, and people like Bush thrive on it. My darlings, I love this country too much to let them get away with it.

I love you too much.

That’s right.

There are a lot of good people in this country. Good atheists and religious sorts and all shades in between, just doing their best to live decent lives, who sure as fuck didn’t deserve what’s happened to them over the last eight years. Bugger making the world safe for democracy. I’m just doing my little bit to try to make America safe for democracy. We’ll get to the rest of the world and making it safe for whichever form of government best suits the populace once we’ve got our own shit back under control.

And we can do this. We’ve just got to reach for a little bit more wisdom, and we have to get involved. No more happy middle roads slipping safely unseen through the political landscape. The good people got a little too quiet there and let the freaks take over. It would be wise not to let that happen again.

There will come a day when the extremists are safely corralled on the fringes again. Someday, I’ll go to bed with the certainty that I’m not going to wake up to another day of Orwellian nightmares, and you and I won’t be fighting this rear-guard action against overwhelming fuckery. We’ll be skirmishing, merely, putting out little brushfires here and there, nothing like what we’re having to deal with now.

I can’t wait for that day.

But even when it comes, I can’t forgive.

Not this much. Not this time.

Tremendous Fangirl

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. In Seattle. Awesome.

I just got back from the show. Roger’s grown a goatee – little bit jarring, him looking like Johnny Depp as Captain Jack. P.H. Naffah now has a head of hair – apparently, our “Let the ‘fro grow, bro!” chant a few shows back worked. And Stevie and Nick – I’ve never seen them more on.

Now I’m fucking homesick. The great thing about living in Arizona was getting to see them a half dozen times a year, including two trips to Mexico. I miss Mexico. I miss the Sea of Cortez, and hours of music with three thousand fans pressed around me, and fireworks, and tequila, and just the feeling of it all.

Other folks can have their religion. I have my Peacemakers. And I can tell you that there’s a spirit at those shows that beats anything I ever felt in a church. Life is given a meaning beyond words. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I come out of those shows renewed. And I’d yammer your ears off about it, but if you’ve never been, you won’t understand. So all I’m going to say is, when they’re in your town next, drop in. Get acquainted. I can’t promise you’ll get the same boost I do, but there’s no denying you’ll have a good time. I’ve never seen a band that makes a concert more fun.

I came away with the new Turbo Ocho CD, a gorgeous shirt made just for writers (I’m Kissing the Muse), and the most important thing of all: hope.

They always leave me with the hope that enough of us can come together, cross the divides and mingle, that the world will become a finer place. Some of us will never reach that common ground, love each other enough to let each other just be who we are, but enough of us will.

Roger talked about the lot of us moving down to Mexico. You know something? I can think of far worse fates than spending the rest of my life lazing around on the beach with a bunch of Peacemakers fans and a ton of good tequila.

Let’s go!

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Republicons would prefer to keep our elections dirty:


Rep. Rush Holt’s (D-N.J.) Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act seemed like the kind of bill that should sail through Congress. The legislation would help local governments pay for paper trails and audits for electronic voting machines, adding safeguards to potential recounts
and a layer of integrity to the election process.

Indeed, Holt’s bill was so obviously worthwhile, when it came for a vote in the House Administration Committee a few weeks ago, even House Republicans voted for it — unanimously.


Incredible! A change of heart! We could make America safe for democracy yet. But wait… it’s the Republicons we’re talking about here. I suspect there’s a fly in this ointment – ah-ha, there it is:


First, the White House announced its opposition. Soon after, the same House Republicans who’d voted for the bill in committee didn’t even want it to reach the House floor. (A spokesperson for Republicans on the Administration Committee said lawmakers didn’t realize how expensive it would be, and $685 million for reliable election results was apparently too high a price — though Holt insists it would actually cost far less.)


Shorter House Republicons: “Bu-bu-but Bush said he don’t like it, so we were obviously wrong! About face! Integrity in the election process bad! Somebody bring us a lame excuse so we can pretend we’re doing this for principle rather than power!”

Many Americans are finally beginning to understand just how fucking ridiculous these con artists are, but never fear – the Republicons can always rely on the 28-percenters. And a conservative-loaded Supreme Court who will pluck the ripe fruit of a contested election and hand it to them with nary a twinge of conscience.

And what happens when we in the reality-based community get upset about such nefarious things? What are we to do? Scalia has some advice:


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia usually shies away from media attention, but now that he has a book coming out, and interviews might help sell his new product, Scalia is opening up a bit. He chatted with “60 Minutes” and the discussion turned to “Bush v. Gore.”

Scalia’s message? Critics of the ruling should just “get over it.”

[snip]

It’s possible that I’m just petty. I have a hard time forgiving and forgetting. But every time I hear conservatives argue that we should “get over it,” I’m reminded of why I continue to harbor grudges.

Republicans threw the political world into turmoil in 1998 by launching an impeachment crusade against Bill Clinton. It was an absurd and painful exercise. Those of us who are still annoyed by the fight are supposed to “get over it.”

In 2000, Republicans orchestrated a massive fraud in Florida, and, with the help of the Supreme Court, delivered the presidency to the candidate who came in second. Those of us who harbor resentment are told we should “get over it.”

Bush failed to take the terrorist threat seriously before 9/11? “Get over it.” Bush launched a disastrous war? “Get over it.” Bush is rewarding Swiftboat liars who helped smear a war hero with a vicious lie? “Get over it.”

It’s not enough for the GOP and its allies to engage in offensive conduct; they also insist, after a short while, that we stop being bothered by it.


That’s right. We should just let go and, I’m sure, let God. This comes from the same group of assclowns who still obsess over Monica Lewinsky’s stained blue dress, mind. Apparently, obsession is supposed to be an exclusive priveledge of Republicon Party membership. And Dems, independents, and other assorted members of the reality-based community should just get over the rampant hypocrisy, law-breaking, lying, and spectacular fuck-ups.

We’ll get right on that.

Just as soon as McCain stops making spectacularly stupid claims about the debacle in Iraq:


The AP reports today that as a result of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s recent offensive against Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia, Sadr may “set aside his political ambitions” and restart “a full-scale fight against U.S.-led forces.” The violence would likely show potentially disastrous security implications” across the country.

But Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is happy with the outcome. In a blogger conference call today, he said the results in Basra and southern Iraq were a “pleasant turn of events” in his view. Sadr, McCain says, is now marginalized.


Whew! That’s great news – for a minute there, I was worried we might have a real horrific mess on our hands. But if McCain, who’s just got loads of experience being a POW and a total incompetent on Sunni/Shi’a differences, says Sadir is “marginalized,” it must be true, right? He’s our Expert. Right?


Sadr is hardly marginalized; in fact, the opposite is likely true. As the AP notes, Sadr still commands at least 60,000 fighters — “5,000 thought to be highly trained commandos” — and he is “emboldened by its strong resistance to an Iraqi-led crackdown.”


Um.

Shit.

How could America’s Expert in All Things Mooslim get it so wrong?


McCain has repeatedly misstated the outcome of the events in southern Iraq, for example, falsely claiming that Sadr “declared the ceasefire.” But, as he admitted last week when lauding the operation against Sadr, “Maybe I’m digging for the pony here.”


Ah. Gotcha. It’s that whole pony thing again. Well, I’ve got news for McCain and other advocates o
f the Pony Strategy: if you have to dig for the pony, that means the pony’s already dead. Ponies, in fact, don’t live underground.

Get over it.