I just finished…

…”When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron. It is always good to have some Buddhism around to assist one’s alignment. I keep “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” on my desk within arm’s reach for just such a purpose. I am unsure yet will this one will go. It was good but it will not displace the other.

I just finished…

…”The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skoot, which Adele’d picked off the FREE shelf at Café Bongo (not its real name). Probably you know all about it, so I won’t go into that. But I did think my reaction was unusual.

I was most interested in Skoot’s dealings with Lacks’s hostile, suspicious, feloniously inclined, and assortedly whacko descendants, whose cooperation she needed in order to write her book. I was drawn to shat she had to go through to write her book, but I sure wished she had been more honest about her reactions to these encounter and more inquisitive about her own motives in persisting with them. (Imagine if Janet Malcolm was writing this! I kept thinking.) It wasn’t until I reached the concluding chapter and it wasn’t about her and these people but about the “issue” of individuals’ proprietary rights in their body parts that I
realized how outside things I stood.

I just finished…

…Joshua Ferris’s “The Unnamed,” an Adele recommendation.

It took convincing, but she got me to read it. I am glad I did. It is imaginative and compelling, with my expectations, one after another, having the rug pulled from beneath them. I like that in s novel. It was deep too — and daring — and creative in its approach and execution. John Updike meets Samuel Beckett. A significant achievement.

My only disappointment which engaged Ferris about it. In fact, the reviews, while in quality places, were oddly mixed.

These reviews were wrong. Adele was right.

10th & Bainbridge Blues

My latest is up at http://www.firstofthemonth.org/archives/2015/03/10th_and_baimbr.html

It begins

I met E. Martin in 1958 at summer camp, where he was not only our bunk’s starting shortstop and point guard but the only one among us who read I. F. Stone’s Weekly. He went on to courageously lead the anti-war movement at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, admirably participate in Physicians for Social Responsibility, and steadfastly practice psychiatry from a self-characterized “radical social/economic justice perspective.” At age 70, he relocated from suburban Boston to a sustainable farming community in western Massachusetts. When he recommended reading Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America, I did.

True Romance

My latest is up at http://www.tcj.com/reviews/inner-city-romance/

It begins:
Shortly after the underground comic Inner City Romance debuted in 1971, with its surfeit of pimps, smack, revolutionaries, and ho’s, the Afro-American cartoonist Grant Green bet cash money that its creator, Guy Colwell, was a brother.
Green lost.

A couple million for your thoughts

My latest has gone up on-line here:

It begins

I may have been unkind to the Supreme Court.
I had been calling Citizens United the most wereweasel-bit decision of the past 50 years in its likely social devestation. I had it bunked between Dred Scott and Korematsu in the jurisprudential Hall of Shame. By okaying corporations to dump unlimited cash sacks into the back pockets of electoral candidates, it seemed to have laid its crop against the flanks of the rich, goading them to trample our last pretensions to representative democracy.

Thought for Today

My PTP, Dr. Zowie (not his real name) is an alternative-minded cat. When I told him yesterday about a mid-afternoon, 20-mile, stop-and-go freeway traverse I had pummeled myself with the Thursday before and my incredulity that people could suffer this, both ways, five-days-a-week, he remarked upon how “we blind and deceive ourselves through various belief systems. Here we are the richest country in the world and look what we do to ourselves. Chronic diseases. Stress. Cardio-vascular disease…” He looked at me pointedly, with that one.

“It’s the great joke,” he went on. “We all want security, but we aren’t looking the one place it is. We look at the future. We look at the past. But it’s right here. Right now. This moment. That’s all there is. I can hear God. And she’s just laughing.”

To which Adele replied, after I’d reported this conversation, “That’s right! Blame it on a woman!”

Numbers Game

A lefty, ex-pat buddy of mine, who enjoys nothing so much as sending out e-mails linking to articles trashing the USA (unless he has some sexual preoccupation for which he has another mailing list entirely),sent one today with a subject line of “How ignorant r most americans.” The link was to a Politico article noting that 29% of us regard Fox News as the most trustworthy, while only 22% favor CNN, 10% favor CBS and NBC, 8% favor ABC, and 7% MNBC. But if look at this another way 29% favor Fox while 57% favor someone else, not including those who opt for PBS or, like me, don’t watch any of these clowns. [Moreover, among Democrats, only 3% favor Fox.)

Another thing: I have this rule of thumb that 20% of the people will believe anything. This derives from the study that found that 20% of the population believes extra-terrestrials are cruising around kidnapping human beings to experiment on. So Fox News-believers rank 9-points above that.

My conclusion is Three cheers for the red-white-and-blue!

I just finished…

…Ira Katznelson”s “Fear Itself.” It is no easy read, but I found his analysis of how the south, through its domination of New Deal and post-war legislation, shaped our country today quite the head-buzz. I also was comfortable with his view that fear – first economic, then of war, then the bomb, then communism (and now radical islam) has been a primary shaping force too, though there my sense is the south has been only of secondary import. All parts of the country are equally capable of being spooked.
Just as a side thought, Katznelson often mentions “the national security state.” Makes me wonder when and with whom that phrase originated? It’s a term, like “paradyme,” which I never used to encounter and then suddenly seemed all over the place.

I just finished…

…”The Children Act,” by Ian McKewan. Adele, whose evaluation I trust over my own in this case, found it “beautifully orchestrated” and was engrossed by the depiction of the inner states of the central character. I admired the level of excellence McKewan brought to each sentence and his ability to focus upon and bring to attention details in the least consequential of moments, but I found the book too clock-like in its workings, too carefully thought out and controlled, not unruly enough for my taste in novels, more an over-blown short story or novella.