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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rebel Yell Bourbon

There's a company in Louisville Kentucky (the last state in the Union to have slaves legally) called the Rebel Yell Distillery that claims to have been making their eponymous bourbon since 1849. It's very good Bourbon. Of COURSE it's good bourbon--there was no such thing as a "rebel yell" until the 1860s. So the company was literally ahead of its time. Woo! Prophetic whiskey!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Six-Word Novels

A person just died somewhere. Another.

Government investigates government corruption. Reveals: corruption.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Things that Frustrate Me: Part 1

I recently discovered the hard way that the short stories in a New Yorker Debut Fiction Special Magazine I have (all caps because it's a capital way to spend like 8 bucks--if none of your friends or relatives subscribe) are all JUST a little bit too long to read on the john.

To clarify: not only are they too long for a trip of normal length--they're even too long for that trip you prolong because you like what you're reading, so that when you get up, you have to slap the feeling back into your thighs. I try not to have too many of those.

You know what makes great crapper reading? Franz Kafka. Try it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chorus from a song I'm writing

In a little while
I'm gonna go away
Cuz I didn't come
Round here to stay

And when I get back
From where I've gone
I speck to find
That you've moved on

And this, too, shall pass
And that, too, shall pass
And so it goes around and round
And so it goes around.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Last Names

There's been some talk of late concerning the potential for empowerment in "keeping one's own name" after marriage or hyphenating or whatever. All of this sounds suspicious for the usual reasons which I won't bother too much about--the fact that the name a woman would "keep" was her father's name, which her mother took; the fact that being "empowered" in name is not necessarily the same as being empowered in reality, etc--but there are a few new ones I'd like to discuss.

The first one relates to the use of last names as first names--Walker, Hunter, Harper, Braden, Bradley, Apple, etc. While not a part of modern feminist chic, per sé, it seems useful to lump them together under the common heading of "name fads," the better to connect them to a third practice: the Spanish last-name-bonanza.

While studying literature over the summer, I was introduced to a writer named "Perez Galdós." Now, I wasn't paying very close attention that day, so I came away thinking what a stupid name "Perez Galdós" is. Wrong. The full name is "Benito Perez Galdos"--matronymic and patronymic. Of course, the "matronymic" comes from the father of the mother, but that doesn't stop most people nowadays, and it certainly didn't stop people back then. Furthermore, inherent in the name is a further tribute to the father: "Perez" basically means "Son of Pedro" the way "Benitez" means "Son of Benito" and "Mikhalovna" means "daughter of Michael" and so on.

I admit that, to a large extent we have lost the fight regarding the last-name-as-first-name. Hunter S. Thompson is here to stay. But I do believe there is some grit left in us to resist the substitution of a name that comes from one's father with a name that comes from one's grandfather.

After all, last names are fairly new things. In a small village it was enough to say "Andrew, son of Edmund, Cooper" or something similar. And everyone would know who you were because there weren't many coopers in town. Well, now we live in large villages and the burden of proof is on you to make yourself identifiable. So take a Jameson if your father's name is James. Take an Ericasdaughter if your mother's name is Erica. And keep your father's last name and come up with a new one. Mine would be Adam Stephen Robertson Katz (Katz, a Hebrew word, is, for reasons I don't wanna go into now, close enough to my current occupation I don't feel I need a new one).

The problem with "keeping your own name" is that it doesn't involve change or reassessment. It doesn't come from a new conception of yourself. If you want to be modern and do something modern with your name, ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING WITH YOURSELF, AND TAKE A NAME TO REFLECT THAT.

A Thought

The following appeared on a neighboring blog in my name, but I decided to reappropriate it to keep up the volume of stuff without having to actually write so much.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out the justice of Catholics identifying the origin of their church with the line: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock (petrvs) I build my church," especially considering how overly concerned Catholics seem to be (especially of LATE! My GOODNESS!) With the peters of their officials.

Thank you and enjoy each your week.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How to Carve a Turkey

1. Cut open the thigh and make sure the juice runs clear. If not, continue baking or roasting until juice will run clear in the other leg. If you run out of legs to test, you do not necessarily need a new turkey.

2.Cut off the wings and drumsticks to prevent escape. Take out the gizzards, too, for much the same reason--the idea is to take away the turkey's options, I guess.

3. Enter the knife into the turkey near the spine and cut a slice downwards until the blade is between the leg and wing. Do this until all meat is gone, except what you want to pick at later. This will come to be called the "breast meat," even though turkeys don't have breasts, and, if they did, probably wouldn't have them on their backs.

4. Ponder whether drum-sticks were designed to look like--or, indeed, were made out of--birds' legs; or if the similarity was noted later.

5. Try futilely to cut thigh meat away in a coherent fashion (put most of the little pieces in your mouth, even though it's all little pieces). Give up. Vow to return for a second attempt when Aunt Edna finishes her fascinating story about the pubic cysts she just had removed.

6. Remove neck and put into fridge for later making into soup. Vow to do same to Aunt Edna if she doesn't shut up about the fucking cysts.

7. Put all slices on a plate in coherent fashion. Place pan-drippings in a small, porcelain toureen.

8. In light of Aunt Edna's refusal to take any hint at all, contemplate the oneness of all things: here you are carving a turkey--and yet, as you grit your teeth ever more tightly, you realize you and the turkey are both "on knife's edge." Allow a tear to roll down your cheek; vow to be more compassionate.

9. Stab Aunt Edna.
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