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July 12, 1988 [Jul. 8th, 2015|10:15 am]

This poem, based on an old diary entry from July 12, 1988, is about the presidential campaign of 1988. Specifically, Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee, has just picked Senator Bentsen to be his vice-presidential nominee.

~ ~ ~

The geeky little Greek will lead the blue team,
Dukakis of Massachusetts, and he has a theme:
He picks Texas's own Senator Lloyd Bentsen.
They call it the Boston to Austin connection!

This 'odd couple' thing has worked before,
A Boston/New York gent and a big Texas bore,
When princely Kennedy picked good old boy LBJ,
And to the White House they went all the way!

But they really were giants back then,
And this history ain't happening again.
Dukakis doesn't have that Kennedy shine;
And if Quayle is no JFK,
Staid Bentsen is no LBJ;
And the Republicans' economy's running fine;
Bush is no great shakes, one of an alliance,
But Reagan has become one of America's giants,

So Bush can stay on that merry course
And ply that wild supply-side voodoo,
Whereof the rich eat the poor, and worse,
And caper on to Reagan's dark rendezvous.

-- e. e. monk

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John A. Williams [Jul. 7th, 2015|04:06 pm]
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~ “I do have faith in myself and my abilities to write. I believe very much in what I have to say. I’m too old to start wavering now.”

~ “I’m still angry, but you can’t just be angry all the time.”

-- John A. Williams

Williams died last weekend at 89. He was a fairly prolific writer who never really made the big time. As the critic John Leonard wrote, “That peculiar mechanism which transforms writers into celebrities, and their books into preferred stock, just hasn’t worked for him.” The fact that Williams was a black man writing of the black experience did not help. In fact, I had not heard of him before. Browsing through his works, I will have to add him to my 'wanna read' stack. This excerpt from the Times's obituary is about his controversial biography of Martin Luther King, which also did not improve his popularity.


In “The King God Didn’t Save: Reflections on the Life and Death of Martin Luther King Jr.” (1970), Mr. Williams argued that Dr. King, suffering from hubris, was essentially a dupe, bought off with small concessions by the white power structure and blocked from effecting meaningful change.

“He did not understand that it had armed him with feather dusters,” Mr. Williams wrote. “He was a black man and therefore always was and always would be naked of power, for he was slow, indeed unable, to perceive the manipulation of white power, and in the end white power killed him.”

The negative portrayal, so soon after his assassination, dismayed many of Dr. King’s supporters.

-- William Grimes, The New York Times

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Orwell [Jul. 7th, 2015|09:01 am]

This is the first time that I have heard that Orwell coined the term "cold war". He used it in a 1945 essay.


“For forty or fifty years past, Mr. H. G. Wells and others have been warning us that man is in danger of destroying himself with his own weapons, leaving the ants or some other gregarious species to take over. Anyone who has seen the ruined cities of Germany will find this notion at least thinkable. Nevertheless, looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery. We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity. James Burnham’s theory has been much discussed, but few people have yet considered its ideological implications—that is, the kind of world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would probably prevail in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of ‘cold war’ with its neighbors.”

-- George Orwell, "You and the Atomic Bomb" in The London Tribune (1945)


On the other hand, from the same article in which I learned about this, it appears that "Animal Farm" might have been in significant part lifted from "Animal Riot" by Nikolai Kostomarov. Well, even so, I am sure that it was a creative borrowing, and that there is a real reason why "Animal Farm" is still widely read, while "Animal Riot" probably cannot even find a place in the game "Trivial Pursuit".

[Source: John Reed, "Animal Farm Timeline" in The Paris Review]
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Ronald Reagan [Jul. 6th, 2015|04:03 pm]

In the early years of the Soviet Union, it was not unusual for curious Westerners to venture abroad and take a look at this new innovation in government and to become outright infatuated with what they saw, apparently not seeing everything. One New York reporter, Lincoln Steffens, famously enthused, “I have seen the future and it works.”

Ronald Reagan, at a CPAC meeting in 1977, played off Steffens’s line, saying, “I have seen the conservative future and it works.” Reagan apparently did not see everything either.

[Source: Craig Shirley, “Rendezvous with Destiny”]
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Elderly Life [Jul. 6th, 2015|08:20 am]
I see a note that Pop scribbled for himself and left on his desk. It reads: "Dear, God, I made it out of bed again today. I thank you so much." I guess that is what happens to one's expectations when we live into our seventies.
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Quote [Jul. 5th, 2015|04:08 pm]

"That is what writing is for me: failing with total dedication."

-- Karl Ove Knausgaard
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Lolita [Jul. 5th, 2015|09:01 am]


“What is extraordinary about Lolita is … the way in which Nabokov enlists us, against our will, on Humbert’s side. … Humbert has figuratively made the reader his accomplice in both statutory rape and murder.”

-- Alfred Appel, Jr.

“We find ourselves the more shocked when we realize that, in the course of reading the novel, we have come virtually to condone the violation it presents … we have been seduced into conniving in the violation, because we have permitted our fantasies to accept what we know to be revolting.”

-- Lionel Trilling


I have read of women readers who feel the same way, including adolescent girls, and I imagine one reason why there is this sympathy for Humbert is because the man’s whole life is consumed in his passion for Lolita, so that he burns in his own fire. He doesn’t just pick her up at a school yard and then dump her on the side of the road when he is through. He wants to spend his whole life with her. He is still a criminal and Lolita is a victim, but he loved nothing and nobody more than he loved that girl, even when she was pregnant with another man’s child and was no longer a nymphet. In this regard, the novel becomes a sort of perverse romance.

[Source: Nomi Tamir-Ghez, “The Art of Persuasion in Nabokov’s Lolita” in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita: A Casebook, ed. Ellen Pifer]
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Saturday Night [Jul. 4th, 2015|08:30 pm]
( You are about to view content that may only be appropriate for adults. )
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Aldous Huxley [Jul. 4th, 2015|01:43 pm]



What would you say makes the writer different from other people?


Well, one has the urge, first of all, to order the facts one observes and to give meaning to life; and along with that goes the love of words for their own sake and a desire to manipulate them. It’s not a matter of intelligence; some very intelligent and original people don’t have the love of words or the knack to use them effectively. On the verbal level they express themselves very badly.

-- Aldous Huxley at The Paris Review (1960)

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Byron [Jul. 4th, 2015|08:24 am]


Dear Becher, you tell me to mix with mankind;
I cannot deny such a precept is wise;
But retirement accords with the tone of my mind:
I will not descend to a world I despise.


Oh! thus, the desire, in my bosom, for fame
Bids me live, but to hope for Posterity's praise.
Could I soar with the Phœnix on pinions of flame,
With him I would wish to expire in the blaze.


To me what is wealth?—it may pass in an hour,
If Tyrants prevail, or if Fortune should frown:
To me what is title?—the phantom of power;
To me what is fashion?—I seek but renown.



I am not certain that I am reading him correctly anent the phoenix, but I like the concept of Byron imagining his fame taking off and living upon his death.
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