Monday, October 20, 2008

My little brother the budding political commentator

Harry is 4. I tried to explain to him that in a couple weeks, we're going to have ourselves an election. He knows who the current president is and doesn't recognize John McCain. But when I showed him a picture of Barack Obama he said:

"Bobby doesn't like that guy."

Bobby being our dad, Robert.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Abraham Lincoln's Farewell Speech to Illinois, before becoming president and suspending their of Habeas Corpus

Or, some of the best writing ever in the universe:

My friends, no one not in my situation can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A new approach

I think the entire presidential campaign could take place in court. Have each side present, then gets cross-examined and whoever gets to be president, the other candidate goes to prison for libel and fraud. Then, if, after four years, the president is seen not to have done a good job, he (not "he or she" yet, for better or for worse--although at this rate, I'll be getting ambivalent about Michelle Obama's candidacy in 2024) goes to jail for fraud and libel.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Indira Ghandi Peace Prize

Supposedly there is an Indira Ghandi Peace prize, which the current president of Iceland has won (he's coming to Columbia College, and I still occasionally read their publicity). Leaving aside the ruler of the most geologically- and genetically-nifty nation on the planet, I'd like to take a moment to ask a question the publicity surrounding his visit did not consider it in their purview ( and rightly so, perhaps) to ask: "Gee, guys. Why do you think Indira Ghandi would have a peace prize named after her?"

A little backstory: she was the daugher of Jawaharlar Nehru, the man who, along with Mohandas Ghandi (no blood relation to Indira) brought modern, democratic India into existence. She had a successful first term as Prime Minister in the late 60s (in which she was responsible for revolutionizing Indian agriculture) and, like you would, ran again twice more. Those two terms, and a third that came on the heels of some pretty exciting felony charges, showed more and more of her megalomaniacal side--development of the nuclear bomb (idiotically code-named "smiling Buddha"); boxing matches with the Muslim and Sikh separatist movements until, after ordering a raid-turned-massacre at the Golden Temple (THE Sikh holy place) she was killed by...get this: her two Sikh bodyguards.

Note to dictators everywhere: make sure the people you pay to stand behind you with sub-machine guns don't want to shoot you with them.

But the point is, none of this constitutes evidence that she should have a peace prize named after her. Maybe a prize should be given in her name at the Cornell School of Agriculture that takes the form of a parsnip with her face carved into it and 20 bullet holes and exit wounds on the sides, the placement of which are engineered so you can play it like a fife. Why not? I could use a laugh. But could we please save the peace prizes--both the naming and the bestowing--for people who make the world a safer place to live in other ways than leaving it? What's next? The Josef Stalin Leadership Award? (I'd give the old standby example, Yasser Arafat--but he already received a Nobel peace prize. He got it, of course, for curing cancer and for writing a well received series of articles, syndicated in the early 90s by NY Times, Atlantic, and other respected marketplaces of ideas, in which he warned us of the threat posed by the Jews. Did you know that before reading his articles, 8 out of 10 Americans didn't know Jews control the media? After he wrote them? 6 out of 10. Don't progress feel good?)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Variations on Marketing

Now made with 100% all-natural, non-carcinogenic ingredients, guaranteed or your money back!

Cheese Whiz: "Now with up to 2.4% more cheese flavor in every third bite! (Void where prohibited.)"

Brussels Sprouts: "Now with 40% more edibility!"

Cigarettes: "Now with 30% more cost!"

Carrots: "Tired of eating the same old carrots? Well, try new carrots! Now with 100% more carrotiness in every carrot!'

Feel free to post your own.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Six Word Novel: part 2

Question: Which is better--

the original: "For sale: babies' shoes, never worn."

or: "For sale: babies' shoes, worn once."

A Thought on Writing

I'm not a self-centered asshole. I don't think any writer is. Many are assholes, I'm sure--or translate as such into human terms--but not self-centered. It's not a martyr complex; it's the plain truth: no one who was actually self-centered would treat himself the way a writer treats himself, alienating personal relationships and then dissecting them in print; abjuring sleep and calm: living on an edge, in constant danger of falling, for no better reason than to be able to see down, in addition to being able to see up and around.

Why do we do it? Why do we hurt ourselves? It's because we are locked boxes with precious things inside of us that can only be accessed by tearing through the shell. But it's something that we're not alone in doing--authors. Everyone cracks the shell to get at the seed, and the seed, of course, is time--the sheer beautiful paradox that we don't have too much time alive and don't know where we go after that. The signature difference between an artist, a laborer, and an entrepreneur is that, whereas a laborer uses his time for work directly, an artist divides his time between introspection, that is, plumbing the nature of his own time on Earth, and the creation of art--which is little more than a by-product of that introspection. An entrepreneur uses his time directing the use of others' time, including that of artists.

That doesn't account for the people artists hurt in their pursuit of self-immolation. Very little accounts for, or explains, or justifies, the hurt endured by the people with whom an artist associates. The only way I've ever seen it explained is in terms of present and future--the way people account for someone like Winston Churchill saving England and the free world, but doing a shit job of raising his children. The former was very noble and wonderful, but there's no denying that children would prefer, in the final analysis, to be raised by competent parents.

Of course, this will all seem hilariously ironic in a few dozen years if I don't make it as an author.
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