Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Pure One


In a town like many other towns there was a young man named Lao. He was much like other young men grown up in a middle class home; an only son in a house full of daughters, rather spoiled, he had neglected his education, having learned already in his teens to spend the money he was given on foolish pursuits and disposable material comforts, drinking and partying to excess night after night, impressing young women with his profligacy and boasts of sexual prowess so they would sleep with him, all the while paying no attention to the needs or feelings of others nor even the most rudimentary virtues. But Lao wasn’t stupid, and by the time he was twenty he was exhausted and rather bored with this way of living, and at the same time starting to wake up to the idea that it brought no lasting satisfaction or meaning, and moreover that he was completely dependent on his parents, whose impatience with him had finally grown palpable enough to penetrate even his heavy armor of willful indifference. He began to think instead that it was time to quit wasting his life and find another path that was independent and purposeful. And so Lao left his family’s comfortable house, taking only humble clothes, a few necessities in a small satchel, a little money for emergencies, and went out into the countryside.

He spent months wandering around, randomly following unpaved roads and forest trails barely visible in the underbrush, often setting his feet down where there were no discernible paths at all through untamed wilderness. On the way he learned from other more experienced wanderers how to survive on what he could find in the forest, or acquire by begging or, when there was no alternative, stealing. Occasionally he would stop in villages much smaller than the one he had left to enquire if there might be any holy person there, or in the hills nearby, who could guide him to some form of enlightenment. Finally, at one of these villages, he was told of a monk by the name of Chu who was respected for leading a most austere contemplative life, an example of utmost holiness, living by himself in a cave on the side of a remote mountain, ignoring all human contact, all the vices and temptations of civilization. It was said that Chu had desired only to extinguish desire itself from his mind, and then to extinguish his mind—and that he had succeeded. On hearing this, Lao set off immediately to find this monk.

With some help from wellwishers who had vague ideas where Chu might be found, Lao located his cave and camped there. Not wishing to prejudice the monk against him by too forward an action, he waited patiently near the entrance for the holy man to emerge. One morning, after quite a few had passed, he saw an old man of around 60 years, clothed in simple, ragged garments, hairless except for a gray beard hanging almost to his knees, carrying a small sack slung over his shoulder, bracing himself upright with a stout oak branch carved into a walking stick. He was not leaving the cave, but returning to it, perhaps from a long excursion, or from tending a garden somewhere, or gathering food in the forest. Lao approached him with a demeanor of genuine humility.
     “Are you the monk Chu, whom they call ‘The Pure One’?” he asked, bowing slightly, directing his gaze downward.
     “Oh, piss off!” the old man exclaimed, his voice laden with disgust; but Lao was determined to ignore all obstacles on his path.
     “I’ve heard you are the most enlightened of men, the very embodiment of pure spirit in this world, and I am sincerely hoping you could take me on as your student, to teach me how to attain what you have attained.”
     “Bah! I’ve never heard anything so stupid! You must be an idiot. How can this foul piece of meat that is a physical person walking around in the world be the embodiment of pure spirit? That’s just nonsense.” But this was exactly the sort of thing Lao wanted to hear, and it made him even more ardent to have Chu as his teacher.
    “I’ll do anything to be your student and follower,” he pleaded. “I’ll make myself your humble servant, bring your water, gather and cook your food, sweep your cave every day, chop wood for your fire, tend your garden, wash your feet—everything that you need to have done, I will do for you….”
     “You idiot, if you do everything for me, what will I do?”
    “You will have lots of time to become more holy and gain more enlightenment even more quickly. And then I will learn more quickly from you!”
    At this Chu burst out laughing. “You have answers for everything, but they make no sense. If you have all the answers, how can anyone enlighten you? If I took you as my student, it would be a joke.”
     “Yes, sir,” agreed Lao, “a big joke!” At this, the monk roared even more loudly, but to Lao it sounded like a genuinely hearty laugh, the edge of hostility diminished. Maybe Chu was beginning to think the young man was part of his fate, a path chosen not by him but for him, which he must humbly accept; or perhaps he just liked jokes. It seemed that Chu had a sense of humor, and didn’t consider a joke inimical to his view of the world or his way out of it. After a while he stopped laughing and spoke to Lao sternly.
     “All right, you can stay and be my servant, but let’s get a few things straight. First, you will not speak to me again; I don’t want to hear any more of your nonsense. Second, if you dare to touch my feet, I will beat you senseless. And thirdly, I will not teach you a damn thing until I’m good and ready.”
     “It’s a deal,” said Lao.
     “Shut up,” said Chu.

So Lao became the monk’s servant and did everything for him, with neither of them speaking a word. There isn’t much sense to sweeping a cave often, but Lao did it every day. Chu showed him where his garden was, and Lao tended it; he chopped wood and made the fire; he brought water and brewed tea from wild herbs; he gathered food, cooked it simply, and ate with the old man in silence. Chu had a place carved out in the cave, something like an alcove, where he slept and kept his privacy; Lao carved another such alcove for himself and slept there. The old man spent his time in meditation, or the quiet contemplation of his garden, or taking long walks in the forest. Occasionally, for no apparent reason, he hit Lao on the back or upside the head with his heavily knotted walking stick. This really hurt, and brought Lao no exceptional realization that he could fathom; sometimes such a blow would make him consider leaving, but his determination won out and he stayed. In this way the days passed inexorably into weeks, and then into years, and the years accumulated into decades, which also passed inexorably. Eventually Lao became an old man, as old as Chu had been when Lao accosted him at the entrance to his cave; and as for Chu, well, he got a lot older. Yet still he told Lao nothing. But then, after nearly forty years of this treatment, the now deeply bent and decrepit monk came to his bald and long bearded servant as he swept the floor of the cave, and spoke to him at last once more.
     “Tomorrow morning, at dawn, come to my alcove, and I will teach you what you wanted to know of enlightenment.” Elated beyond measure, Lao went to his corner of the cave and wept. In the morning, after a sound sleep, he woke up and went to see his master, expecting to be told everything he yearned to know. But when he saw Chu lying perfectly still in his alcove, he realized that the old man wasn’t just sleeping any more. He had died in the night. And Lao saw that the lips of Chu’s corpse were bent slightly to form the wry smile of a man who had reached the end of a long and droll story.
     “You old fucker,” Lao said. He wasn’t really angry, but wondered what he should do. His own life was by now not far from being altogether spent on yet another foolish pursuit. He could appreciate the humor in that. When Chu had said their arrangement would be a joke, he had told the truth, and Lao had unthinkingly agreed to it. Soon he felt a bit weary standing there, and couldn’t think of much else except to remain where he was. Later that day he buried Chu beneath an ancient pine tree in the forest, and then continued living the only life he knew, sweeping the cave, gathering food in the wild, chopping wood and making a fire in the winter to ward off the cold. He took long walks and meditated alone. He found he had grown to prefer things this way, and saw no reason to leave or change his habits. But one day, after no more than a few months had passed, a young man came up to him as he was returning to the cave from tending his garden.
     “Are you the monk Lao, known hereabout as ‘The Pure One’?” the young man asked humbly. “I’m seeking a path to enlightenment, and I’ve heard you know the way.”
     “Get out of here!” Lao exclaimed, his voice heavily laden with disgust.


© 2013 Steven Levery

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Stone In Your Mind

Gloucester, MA, 20 August 2012
This massive object sitting in a Gloucester driveway has always reminded me of the Zen story koan, "The Stone Mind":

Hogen, a Chinese Zen teacher, lived alone in a small temple in the country. One day four traveling monks appeared and asked if they might make a fire in his yard to warm themselves. 

While they were building the fire, Hogen heard them arguing about subjectivity and objectivity. He joined them and said: "There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be inside or outside your mind?"

One of the monks replied: "From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the stone is inside my mind."

"Your head must feel very heavy," observed Hogen, "if you are carrying around a stone like that in your mind."

It also reminds me of the misplaced boulders that are a recurring theme in the paintings of Rene Magritte (November 21, 1898– August 15, 1967), whom I find to be very Zen:
Rene Magritte, "Le Monde Invisible" (1954)

Happy New Year: House Republican Asshats Undaunted by Setbacks

As far back as July, Ezra Klein called the 112th Congress the worst ever; a couple of days ago, almost needless to say, his opinion hadn't changed. At best it was the worst in decades. Aside from barely managing to pass a "fiscal cliff" deal before the end of the year, they ended their session failing to act at all on the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, and failing to pass an extension of the Violence Against Women Act, both of which would have been bipartisan no-brainers in almost any year except 2012.
daily news headline, stabbed in the back with a pic of the statue of liberty, knife in back
The question is, will the 113th Congress be any better? They are off to a great start. Yes, they authorized just a small fraction of the Hurricane Sandy aid package already passed by the Senate. And yes, "[Speaker of the House] Boehner promised that they'll take up the remainder of the aid from the Senate bill, $51 billion, on January 15. By the way, Congress passed $60 billion in Katrina relief just 10 days after the hurricane struck. It's now been 10 weeks since Sandy hit" (Joan McCarter, Daily Kos, 04 January 2013). Note that Paul Ryan (R-WI) was one of the 67 voting against. Still a little butt-hurt over losing the election, with all those electoral votes in the Northeast Coastal blue states, Paul? You fucker! Keep in mind that this part of the package is not charity but funding financial obligations already in effect. "It was just $9.7 billion to let the National Flood Insurance Program borrow enough to pay out claims to people who had signed-and-sealed flood-insurance policies with paid-up premiums; in that sense, it hardly counts as “relief.” There may be all sorts of flaws with the insurance program, but this was a matter of letting a government entity meet its obligations, not a matter of charity" (Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, 04 January 2013).
Michele Bachmann, somewhat surprisingly, voted yes on the bill. It will be interesting to see how she votes on the larger package coming up ten days from now. In the meantime, she also proudly introduced the first bill of the 113th Congress--to repeal "Obamacare" in its entiretyNice try, you villainous hag! This is the 34th time such a bill has been introduced. It has no chance and is a waste of taxpayer's money every time it comes up.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

God allowed the 2012 election to be stolen. And...?

So let me get this straight. The point of this vid is that the Rt. Rev. Rick Joyner "isn't convinced" that the 2012 election wasn't stolen. Fixed voting machines, non-English speaking voters bused from precinct to precinct, blah blah blah, we've heard it already, endlessly, during the the last month of what passes for Republican "soul-searching" as they try to figure out what the hell happened to them on 06-07 November. Then at 1:22 he asks rhetorically, "Did the Lord allow it?" and answers his own question immediately, "Yes!"


Now if you're in the godbot army, isn't this pretty much end of story? Rev. Rick, why are we still having this conversation? I mean, it's the Lord's will, now kindly STFU already?



Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Thank you, America!

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster (via HuffPo)
Speaking as an angry, aging white male, I want to thank members of every demographic group that contributed to pulling the US back from the brink of disaster. While the GOP masterminds try to figure out what hit them, I'm going off to get a sound night's sleep.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ryan, Rand, and the Limits of Integrity (Like Not Having Any)

Let me start by getting my ad hominems out of the way, so you’ll know more or less where this will be coming from, and if you don’t want to read further, by all means move quickly on: Mitt Romney may be to all appearances an empty suit with a hairstyle, but when I look at Paul Ryan, I’m strongly reminded of the warrior lizards in “V” (2009-2011). Ryan is Romney’s Dick Cheney, but with the alien reptile better hidden beneath an attractive, youthful skin job. Make no mistake: If this pair gets elected, you should be very afraid. The US as the self-regarded “cradle of democracy”, or whatever, may be done; think “theoplutocracy” (no I didn’t make that up, but it’s where we are headed if we let the funda-corporatists have their way).

My Summer Romance with Ayn Rand. By now, anyone with an ounce of political awareness (and perhaps many more with none), have heard of Paul Ryan’s much discussed admiration for Ayn Rand (more than a brief flirtation, less than a full-blown love affair, the way he tells it now?)(see, for example, Fussbudget: How Paul Ryan Captured the G.O.P., by Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker, 06 August 2012; Romney, Ryan, Ayn Rand, and the Religious Right: The Unholy Alliance, by Lonnie Griesbaum, Daily Kos, 13 August 2012*). Anyone not already cognizant of who she was, should certainly by now have Googled the founder of “Objectivism”, and author of The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue of Selfishness, and other screeds. Doubtless many can tell a story similar to this one: Sometime around the 8th or 9th grade I stumbled on my mother’s copy of The Fountainhead, and was won over by all the talk about “integrity” and the primacy of the creative individual, and the willingness of the architect hero, Howard Roark, to place his ideals ahead of quick recognition and success, essentially to suffer material deprivation for the sake of his art. Unforgettable also (from the point of view of a 9th grader) is that on the way he gets to bed a beautiful sado-masochistic heroine, Dominique Francon. Eventually Roark is triumphant against all the forces of evil (collectivism, altruism, bad architecture) without compromising an iota of his moral superiority (well, actually, he did try to compromise once, and needless to say it ended badly, teaching him—and the reader—Never To Try That Again).

By the time I got to college, I had read The Fountainhead three times, and devoured the rest of Rand’s fiction oeuvre, including We The Living, Anthem, and Atlas Shrugged. Well, as to the latter, it was less a case of devouring, and more like choking on the (in)famous 70 page radio speech/manifesto, that inflexible and indigestible spine running up the ass of this 1100+ page monstrosity. By the end of Freshman year I was almost but not quite done with Rand. I didn’t see that ideals of personal honesty and integrity were incompatible with my natural left-liberal inclinations (and I still don’t). And who would not agree that totalitarianism, as represented by both Hitlerian Nazism and Soviet Stalinism, were evils to be opposed at all costs (this is a no-brainer, folks, you don’t need to have read Aristotle); nor did I disagree that for the most part organized religion is a barrier to human liberation and progress, not to mention a frequent source and abettor of the worst impulses of humankind (another no-brainer, as far as I’m concerned). Rather than winning me over as a complete and faithful convert, however, reading Atlas Shrugged (which, by the way, let me be clear on this, totally sucks as a novel, let alone as a novel of ideas) crystallized for me what utter rubbish Objectivism is.

The final blow came a few years later, when I read this:

Rand: Now, I don't care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man [italics are mine]. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you're a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn't know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not. Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights--they didn't have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal "cultures"--they didn't have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using. It's wrong to attack a country that respects (or even tries to respect) individual rights. If you do, you're an aggressor and are morally wrong. But if a "country" does not protect rights--if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief--why should you respect the "rights" that they don't have or respect? The same is true for a dictatorship. The citizens in it have individual rights, but the country has no rights and so anyone has the right to invade it, because rights are not recognized in that country; and no individual or country can have its cake and eat it too--that is, you can't claim one should respect the "rights" of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights. But let's suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages--which they certainly were not. What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their "right" to keep part of the earth untouched--to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it's great that some of them did. The racist Indians today--those who condemn America--do not respect individual rights.**

My thoughts at the time were, if you can use a high-minded rationalist “philosophy of individualism” to justify what was done to Native Americans (No settled society? No concept of rights? Savages? Slaves? Animals? Cavemen?) or to Japanese-Americans in WWII (Yes, perhaps they were living in some “dictatorship” where rights are not respected, rather than being residents and citizens of the US? Ironists stifle your snickers!), you can use it to justify any other form of naked thievery (which one could argue is precisely what Objectivism does), and moreover not at all short of genocide or ethnic cleansing. It’s a perfect illustration of claiming the elevated plateau of rationalism while diving straight off the cliff of rationalization. So it’s okay to steal from people if you claim they don’t have the same concept of property rights as you. Where is the fucking “integrity” in this? Or, as Mr. Natural once said, “Is dis a system?”

Von Ryan’s Distress. That Paul Ryan has been an admirer of Ayn Rand and her philosophy is a matter of public record. For the moment, let’s concede that he has covered his ass on the point of Rand’s uncompromising atheism by simply stating that he never agreed with this part of her philosophy. And let’s forget for the moment that this must surely involve a major, albeit rather convenient, effort of disconnection from one of the few points Rand got correct. In fact, let’s just forget that it’s actually laughable for anyone coming from the religious right, and forwarding a religious based legislative agenda, as exemplified by the "Sanctity of Human Life Act" (which Ryan co-sponsored along with 64 other Republicans***), to claim even a limited affinity with Rand and Objectivist philosophy, or its more malleable cousin, Libertarianism. Rand, who did not buy into the idea of legislating away the rights of adults to govern the functions of their own bodies, would certainly have laughed in Ryan’s face. Incidentally, Rand’s attitude towards Libertarianism was also unqualified scorn. But while we’re at it, why not also give Ryan a pass (you see what I’m doing here?) on Rand’s descent into the abyss of outright racism and de facto justification for ethnic cleansing, because I’m sure he would vehemently disagree with her notion that Native Americans are sub-humans who had no right to a single square inch of the land they were living on because they didn’t share a European weltanschauung.

Let’s focus instead on what such furious processes of rationalization imply about Ryan and his supporters who propose to govern according to both Biblical and Libertarian principles: a phenomenal lack of integrity. The same lack of integrity that allows right-wing religious zealots to select certain supposed Biblical imperatives to enforce or at least accept (anti-homosexuality, embryonic “right-to-life”, capital punishment, narrow definition of marriage, patriarchy, exclusionary tribalism, genocide and ethnic cleansing) while ignoring others that reflect a more, shall we say, left-liberal view (safety net for the poor, justice for the vulnerable, frowning on accumulation of excess material wealth and comforts, treating the stranger in your midst with kindness and respect). The same lack of integrity that allows Tea Partiers to rage on and on against “government interference” in the lives of citizens while accepting or even forwarding religious-based legislation on private consenting sexual behavior and the reproductive rights of women—while in fact declaring outright war on women’s rights and health care options (more on all this later).

I predict that when confronted with further questions about his attitude towards Ayn Rand, her writings and beliefs, Ryan will backpedal even more furiously. He must. What he won’t be able to back away from are all the essential contradictions inherent in being a Conservative Republican politician, not to mention claiming to be an advocate of government fiscal minimalism while being a career politician who has long suckled at government’s hind teat. Not to mention trying to win election as the presumptive intellectual backstop to an empty suit and hairstyle, whose Church, by the way, doesn’t recognize Ryan’s as legitimate, and vice versa.

_______________________________________

*I found Lonnie Griesbaum's article after writing my own, but it isn't surprising to find more than such piece homing in on this particular aspect of Paul Ryan's background. I hope my take can be found sufficiently different from everyone else's to avoid total duplication.
**Here I am reproducing the version from a source edition published later than the one I actually read, that is, from page 102-104 of the book Ayn Rand Answers ISBN 0-451-21665-2, where she is responding to the question "When you consider the cultural genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of blacks, and the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War Two, how can you have such a positive view of America?" in the Q&A section of a lecture, "Philosophy: Who Needs It" given to the graduating class of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, 06 March 1974. This pretty much contains everything I objected to at the time.
***Including the now infamous Todd Akin (R-MO2). Note added 21 August 2012.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

Given that Mother's Day this year falls just five days after the clueless majority of North Carolina voters registered approval of Amendment 1, I want to dedicate this post to all mothers out there in same sex relationships (whether married or not). And no, I'm not excluding fathers in analogous relationships, there's another day for that. I am hoping for another day, not too far in the future, when voters in North Carolina, and other states with similar bans, will stop being such dickheads.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Published: Jersey Devil Press

A flash story of mine, "A Brief Survey of 19th Century North European Art", has just been published in Jersey Devil Press, Issue Number 29, April 2012. The magazine is compiled as a PDF that can be read online or freely downloaded in its entirety (I like those!). Rather than give you a link directly to my story (if you must know, it's on page 30), I would rather you go to the site and peruse the whole issue, and for that matter check out the Jersey Devil Press site and archive.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Published: Postcard Shorts

Another flash story of mine, "Foresight", is now online at Postcard Shorts. This is another potential on-line venue for writers of ultra-short fiction. As the title suggests, submitted stories have to fit in a postcard sized panel (stated limit is 1500 characters, roughly 250 words). For more info, see their homepage, here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just in time for Christmas

The short fiction anthology, Story.Book, is now available from the publisher, Unbound Press. The upside: my most recent flash story, "Inspiration", is in it. The downside: you have to purchase directly from the publisher's UK website, and it's kinda clunky. But for a mere £10.80 (= $15.30) + shipping you get nearly 50 other stories, all prize winners—and you'll be helping to support a small press.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Published: 100 word story

Nothing like the imperative of self-promotion to bring me back to blogging. Just a quick note that a 100 word story of mine, "Interstate", is now online at...100 word story. I suggest that flash fiction fans and writers, if you haven't heard of it already, might want to check out the rest of this web journal, which is updated monthly. As the title suggests, all stories submitted are required to contain 100 words, no more, no less. Read, write, submit.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

There's something about this picture of my mom that I really like. Taken in August 1942, before she got married; before my brother and I were even a concept, let alone conceived—before my father died, leaving her to raise us on her own—the photo shows her in simple, crisp attire, possibly dressed for work. She might be worried about something, or just letting her mind wander.

Julia Helen Pactovis Levery (1916-1998)

Not that she didn't absolutely love being our mother, nor that she ceased having an inner life when my brother and I were born (quite the contrary), but somehow I enjoy this mystery about her, from a time when we didn't know each other, a past life before motherhood and going to work primarily for her children's sake took the lion's share of her time and energy. Here, to my eyes, she appears thoughtful, unposed, her attention miles away from the process of being photographed. I have no idea where she is standing; the neighborhood is unfamiliar to me; and I am happy to leave this moment in my mother's life private and unreachable, hers alone.

While this is a day to remember mothers (which should of course be more than one day a year), my thoughts are especially with single mothers everywhere, because I was raised by one.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan

I was going to write something yesterday about the earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan on Friday. The initial shock at 2:46 pm (Tokyo time) was followed by repeated aftershocks, while waves as high as 30 feet inundated cities along the coast of northern Honshu, the largest island in Japan. The epicenter of the 8.9-magnitude quake, one of the most severe in recorded history, was about 100 miles east of Sendai, and 230 miles northeast of Tokyo. It was the biggest to hit Japan since they began keeping records in the 1800s. Millions around the world spent some part of Friday watching videos of the devastation on television and the internet. There is no lack of news about it, so there is no point recounting any further details here. I would only recommend that people motivated and able to donate to disaster aid organizations try the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders. I realize that Japan has the world's third largest economy, and my understanding is that they have not specifically asked for help; nevertheless, the disaster is extensive and these organizations, as well as others like them, are on the ground there.
Rant: Here is the part where I talk about what kept me from writing yesterday, and you can stop reading if you aren't interested in what pisses me off. Naturally, in trying to gather information about the disaster, I went to the internet, where there is plenty of news, along with more commentary than anyone could possibly handle. Some of what I read was certainly valuable, and for the most part the comment stream expressed only empathy and a desire to help. However, there is a segment of humanity (and I use the term loosely) that uses any occasion to vomit their ignorance and bile into the web. In this case, I am referring to hateful braindead comments to the effect that this disaster is some kind of karmic payback for Pearl Harbor. I got my first inkling on a visit to Pharyngula, who had appended to his post a collage of such comments culled from Facebook. "Tsunami/Pearl Harbor!!!Karma is a bitch" says one. "Apparently God hasn't forgotten about Pearl Harbor either...." says another. These are from people not too ashamed to have such shite posted under their real names with photos that show them to be under 30. It didn't take long to find others expressing similar sentiments. This is something only a total fuckwit would say: "...all of the Japanese people who are caught in that tsunami are totally the same ones who bombed pearl harbor/ordered it." It would be understandable, perhaps, if such comments came from WWII veterans or others whose losses during the war are still too painful to leave behind; it doesn't make sense coming from people born long afterwards. Pearl Harbor was 70 years and several generations ago. The Japanese people paid dearly for Pearl Harbor and even worse crimes committed up to and during WWII by the actual participants, who are mostly long gone. The rest of the world, while not forgetting the historical facts and human costs, has moved on.
Let's get it straight: there is no Karma and there is no God behind natural disasters. Japan is located along a subduction zone; there are others located, for example, off the coasts of North and South America. Last Friday it was Japan; tomorrow it could be the US. We live on a restless planet. Earthquakes happen because of Plate Tectonics; they are not due to the machinations of karma nor the wrath of some invisible all-powerful being who feels the need to punish homosexuals or some poor country that supposedly made a pact with the Devil in 1791. If there really were a God, idiots who promote and repeat such stupid and hateful ideas would be instantly struck by lightening or swallowed up by the earth like Dathan (Num 16:31). Unfortunately, they are not.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Glenn, don't forget the Packers...

are a non-profit, community-owned franchise. That's a collective, so I assume they fall into group three of Beck's New World Order...and ya know, how many of those cheeseheads could be hiding a kufi underneath? Well, actually, there wouldn't be anything wrong with that at all, not that Glenn would have any idea. In any case, collective ownership, that's so un-American, it couldn't possibly work! Oh, wait, didn't they just win Superbowl XLV? Not to mention 13 league championships altogether. Pretty suspicious, maybe they don't even win the American way, maybe they get their playbooks every year from the Muslim Brotherhood or, who knows, Karl Marx himself.

Glenn Beck explains how unions in Wisconsin are creating chaos "on the backs of the workers" (did I hear that right?)
Well, let's get a couple of things straight; the New World Order, Republican style, is no control over corporate lawlessness, no state or federal services, no funding for non-profit healthcare providers, especially if they're providing services to women, and definitely no unions. And right now the ones trying to get over on the backs of workers are Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Senate Republicans, in their blatant attempt to strip collective bargaining rights from state employees under the guise of balancing the budget. Yes, I think everyone understands that financial sacrifices have to be made to keep the the State afloat, but this isn't merely about wages and benefits, but legislating away the right to collective bargaining, which is a cornerstone function of worker's unions. I'm heartened by seeing state workers refusing to roll over (yes, Glenn, there was some angry rhetoric, but the protests at least through Friday, have been non-violent, and I didn't hear anyone threatening to bring guns if their wishes aren't granted); by the show of solidarity by the Firefighter's Union, the (albeit temporary, as it must be) protest departure of Senate Democrats; and, frankly, by the results of an opinion poll that shows the majority of Wisconsin residents oppose Walker's bill. Unfortunately, it looks like it will pass, and it is too late for those who granted the Republicans control of the State House, the Senate, and the Assembly, and who now say they disagree with the upcoming legislation, to take their votes back.

Nosing around Nørrebro (15)

Feeling lazy, so make up your own stories if you want. Random photos from the past couple of years, in no particular order:


"Rainbow" (Back of traffic sign, Sortedams Dossering, 11 April 2009)

A patron saint of something or other...? (Building on Blegdamsvej, overlooking Sankt Hans Torv, 14 February 2010)

"Cops In Jail!!!" (Graffiti along path under Dronning Louises Bro, 23 August 2009)

A graffitic remnant of "Klimakonference 15" (COP15) that took place in København 07-19 December 2009 (Somewhere along Fredensgade, 11 July 2010)


"Spyo (Heart) Afeks*...on State Support" (Apartment building, Guldbergsgade, 22 May 2009)

*Near as I can figure, these are the nics of a couple of graffiti artists operating around Nørrebro. For what it's worth, note that one S in the middle of "Statsstøtte" is superfluous.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The will of the people...

Congratulations to the Egyptian people on not backing down until their dictator had no choice but to remove himself. Of course this is just a first step toward democracy, but the most important one. Of course we don't know what will happen next. Will it be like America in 1776? Or just a continuation of the same military rule with different faces. Or the next Iran 1979? Or something completely different. Whatever happens, it is for Egypt to decide, and other democracies in the world will accomplish a lot more in their own interest by showing support and respect for the Egyptian people and their revolution than by succumbing to hysterical predictions, anti-Muslim fearmongering, and conspiracy theories. If we show some trust, perhaps instead of Egypt becoming the next Iran, we will see Iran becoming the next Egypt.
(Reuters, 11 February 2011)

The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.

--Thomas Jefferson

Monday, February 07, 2011

Better than the Comedy Channel...

If you haven't seen this already, check out Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly heatedly discussing the popular uprising in Egypt (as of the 31 January 2011 edition of "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News) as though either one had a clue. After a couple of minutes of mostly checking off points of agreement (O'Reilly: "All right, let's connect the dots, here...so Mubarak, bad guy, right?"), Beck starts to veer wildly off the reservation around 2:30, and we get the spectacle of a mere fanatic like O'Reilly trying to throw a lasso around fellow pundit Beck, who is actually discussing the history of some other planet, and what he really needs here is to get fitted for a tinfoil cowboy hat.

My question is, why would O'Reilly even bother bringing Beck on his show after viewing 20 minutes of this:

No further comment except that the ongoing feud between Beck and Bill Kristol has me LMFAO.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The alternate universe of Michele Bachmann

Listening to Michele Bachmann's astounding readings of American history is like watching one of those episodes of Star Trek where the Enterprise crew stumbles into some parallel dimension with an alternate reality; world events have followed a diffent path, everyone's role is reversed, Kirk is a mass-murderer, and instead of the Federation there is an evil Terran Empire. Parts of her recent speech to Iowans for Tax Relief (sorry, it was just too long to embed here in its entirety--the scathing critique from CNN's Anderson Cooper will have to do) reminded me of that Ray Bradbury short story, "A Sound of Thunder"; it was as if someone had gone back to the Cretaceous era on a Time Safari, accidentally stepped on an insect, and changed the Earth's history.



Everyone arriving on America's shores has had the same status since its founding? Our Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States"? Did I wake up last Friday on some alternate Earth? What kind of drug does Bachmann put in her Kool-Aid? Her cluelessness would be laughable if she wasn't an elected official with real power. And she says she wants "to be in the conversation" for the 2012 Presidential campaign? One vote for this ignorant, fact-challenged, McCarthy wanna-be would be too many.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Educated? Yes. Ruling class?....I don't think so.

Here is the great populist Rush Limbaugh on his radio show last Thursday, tearing into Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer and Chris Wallace for their positive comments on President Obama's Arizona eulogy (verbatim remarks transcribed via HuffPost: Rush Limbaugh Rips Fox News Panel For 'Slobbering' Over Obama Speech, Panel Responds).
Limbaugh: "They were slobbering over it for the predictable reasons," he said. "It was smart, it was articulate, it was oratorical. It was, it was all the things the educated, ruling class wants their members to be and sound like."
Krauthammer later responded: "As one of the three slobberers...I find it interesting that only the ruling class wants a president who is smart articulate and oratorical in delivering a funeral oration...it's an odd and rather condescending view of what the rest of America is looking for in their president."
Well, as one who is both educated and appreciates a President who can express coherent thoughts in complete, grammatically correct sentences, let me affirm that Rush is indeed correct except for one small detail: he has more wealth and power in his fat left pinkie than me and all of the educated people I know put together. I have about as much power as my single vote entitles me to, and influence no one who doesn't already more or less agree with me. I am not rich and most assuredly not part of the "ruling class". Am not now and have never been.
And how much is Rush Limbaugh worth? Something like $400 million over 8 years through 2016? Which is in turn based on the presumed breadth, wealth, and influence of his listenership? And he represents the underclass? Or does this lying hypocrite represent, more likely, the media bigshots who pay his humongously inflated salary (yeah, I know Clear Channel has recently been on the brink of bankruptcy, but its owners are still Limbaugh's corporate masters)?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Welcome to Pakistan Arizona

How much further comment does this really need? "TUCSON — Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and at least 17 others were shot Saturday morning when a gunman opened fire outside a supermarket where Ms. Giffords was meeting with constituents. Six of the victims died, among them John M. Roll, the chief judge for the United States District Court for Arizona, and a 9-year-old girl, the Pima County sheriff, Clarence W. Dupnik, said." (In Attack’s Wake, Political Repercussions, Marc Lacey and David M. Herszenhorn, NYT 08 January 2011).
First of all, my thoughts are with the victims (at this writing Giffords is still alive but in critical condition with a bullet wound to the head, while the dead include her director of community outreach, Gabriel Zimmerman, 30; a nine-year old girl identified as Christina Green; John M. Roll, 63, the chief judge for the United States District Court for Arizona; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79) and their families.
What's wrong with this picture? Only last Tuesday, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, was assassinated by one of his own bodyguards, who by his subsequent statements implied that this act was justified by Taseer's campaign to have Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws amended. Doubtless many of us, if we noticed the event at all, took the occasion to reflect on what a savage country Pakistan must be, where the course of history appears hostage to conspiring conservative politicians and fundamentalist religious lunatics.
Lucky for us, we don't live in such a place! But maybe we can get there yet. On the one hand, as many have already noted, there is growing in the US, especially since runup to the 2008 Presidential election and afterwards, a palpable atmosphere of "Violence-laced political rhetoric" promoted by right wing politicians, pundits, and bloggers. Thus the main intended victim, Congresswoman Giffords, was a Democrat squarely in the cross-hairs of right wing incitement. On the other hand, I have seen numerous comments suggesting that the captured gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, is actually a Liberal. Some of his classmates suggested as much. What is readily apparent is that he is a lunatic; but whose lunatic is he? Listed among Loughner's favorite books are Mein Kampf, We the Living, Plato's Republic, and the Communist Manifesto. The last, it has been suggested, is evidence for his Liberal fanaticism. Of course the author of Mein Kampf was also a well known Liberal (I've read explicit comparisons to President Obama, I suppose by people who don't know their left from their right), but what to make of We the Living, Ayn Rand's semi-autobiographical, anti-communist first novel? Does that make Loughner an Objectivist assassin?
Further evidence I've seen put forward for Loughner's supposed lefty associations: Giffords is a centrist, a Blue Dog Democrat, not a strong supporter of gun-control nor of open borders; and Judge Roll was a 1991 GHW Bush appointee. But how does that stack up against Giffords' 100% positive rating by NARAL and her strong support for renewable energy? Loughner apparently has no known Tea Party or other organized right-wing associations; fair enough, he's not that kind of crazy, just one more psychopath who brought his paranoid delusions to a deadly end with a 9mm Glock pistol carrying 30 rounds in the magazine. Maybe it's arguable whether or not the climate of violent rhetoric somehow provided a facilitating or suggestive atmosphere for Loughner's acts (personally I wouldn't shrink from arguing the pro side of that question); however, there's a bigger issue than eliminationist rhetoric at stake here, something much more fundamental and long-standing: why is it so easy for these crazy fuckers to get guns?