December 10, 2012

Perhaps Be Cursed By Other People

Excerpt from Chapter 42 of From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965 - 2000 by Lee Kuan Yew, published by HarperCollins Publishers, 2000:

When I met his tutor at his graduation, he told me that Loong (Lee Hsien Loong, current Prime Minister of Singapore and the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew) had written him a most rational, thorough, and thoughtful letter explaining why he would not go on with mathematics no matter how good he was at it. Later, I asked his tutor for a copy of this letter that Loong had sent him in August 1972:

"Now the reasons for not becoming a professional mathematician. It is absolutely necessary that I remain in Singapore, whatever I do, not only because in my special position if I "brain-drained" overseas the effect on Singapore would be disastrously demoralising, but also because Singapore is where I belong and where I want to be. ... Further, a mathematician really has little say in what goes on in the world around him, in the way things are going on in the country. This does not matter at all in a large developed country like Britain, but in Singapore it would matter very much to me. It does not mean that I have to go into politics, but an important member of the civil service or the armed forces is in a position to do a great deal of good or harm. ... I would prefer to be doing things and perhaps be cursed by other people than have to curse at someone else and not be able to do any more."

He was then only 20 but he knew his mind and where his commitments were.

November 4, 2012

Don't Be A Pushover

PUSH sign seen on 58th Street 
between Park Avenue and Madison 
Avenue in New York City.
Photograph courtesy Pak So and Anna Tan

As we cautiously approach the 2012 United States presidential election, don't become a pushover for falsehood and deception. 

PUSH .... Push Back Hard against those who will lie through their teeth in order to control you, your family and your loved ones. They will steal any hope you have left for dignity and a future.

YouTube video posted by inscrutable67 
showing speech on democracy from The Dictator 

Excerpt from the 2012 film The Dictator, starring Sacha Baron Cohen as Admiral General Aladeen of the fictional Republic of Wadiya:

"Why are you guys so anti-dictators? Imagine if America was a dictatorship. You could let one percent (1 %) of the people have all the nation's wealth. You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes and bailing them out when they gamble and lose. You could ignore the needs of the poor for health care and education. Your media would appear free, but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family. You could wiretap phones. You could torture foreign prisoners. You could have rigged elections. You could lie about why you go to war. You could fill your prisons with one particular racial group and no one would complain. You could use the media to scare the people into supporting policies that are against their interests. I know this is hard for you Americans to imagine, but please try."

Push Hard sign seen at Kobeyaki on 7th Ave. 
between 26th and 27th Streets in New York City
Photograph courtesy Pak So and Anna Tan

October 14, 2012

Childishness and Control

YouTube video posted by movieclips showing 
an excerpt from Paul Thomas Anderson's 
2007 film There Will Be Blood 
starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano

As reported by Rebecca J. Rosen in an October 7, 2012 article for the Atlantic titled Einstein Letter Calling Biblical Stories 'Pretty Childish' To Be Auctioned On eBay:

On January 3, 1954 -- one year before his death -- Albert Einstein wrote a letter to Eric B. Gutkind ...

In the letter, Einstein offers some pointed and characteristically brief thoughts on God and religion. In a key passage, he writes:

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text.

October 1, 2012

Inner Peace AND External Peace

Inner Peace Coming Soon sign 
seen on West 24th Street 
in New York City.
Photograph courtesy Pak So and Anna Tan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel 
holding bomb diagram at the United Nations 
General Assembly on September 27, 2012.
Photograph courtesy Reuters

Excerpts below from The Foreign Policy Divide by Roger Cohen, published in the October 1, 2012 edition of The New York Times:

In the vision of President Barack Obama, America is now in the status-management business: being realistic about its power the better to exercise and preserve it. As for Mitt Romney, he belongs to Putin's school of foreign policy. The status quo he believes in is that of three decades ago. In this regard he is a closet Russian even as he denounces Moscow.

And so, for Romney, Russia is "without question our number one geopolitical foe," just like during the Cold War. He is "guided by one overwhelming conviction and passion: this century must be an American century," like the century that saw the Cold War.

In the name of U.S. domination, America needs to throw its weight around, maintaining or increasing Pentagon budgets, refusing to talk to the Taliban, confronting China, giving Israel a green light to attack Iran, and generally being unabashed about U.S. might.

It seems the devastating cost of America's post-9/11 wars has not dawned on Romney; nor has what they say about a world where U.S. power is unrivaled but insufficient for the United States to impose its will.

Romney's vision, like Putin's is pure nostalgia. It imagines a world that is gone. Of course the clarion call of American greatness can be a distraction from economic difficulty, but Americans have grown wary of adventure.

Obama has been accused by Republicans of being in the business of "managing decline." A better way to look at his foreign policy is one of managing the preservation of U.S. power in an interconnected world where the rapid growth is not in the West, where the national debt is a ticking bomb, and where the U.S. edge over other powers is diminishing.

He has extracted the United States from a costly war (Iraq); set a date for departure from Afghanistan; adopted a low-cost means to kill terrorists (drone attacks); rid America of the specter of Osama bin Laden; restrained Israel from attacking Iran and so starting a disastrous third Western war in a Muslim country in a decade; sought ways to work with Russia and China; put European allies in lead roles in Libya; and generally looked not to hard power but the American soft power represented most visibly by Twitter, Facebook, Google and Apple.

September 14, 2012

Threatening Us By Their Existence

Basic Training, Fort Dix, 1951
Photograph by Elliott Erwitt

Noam Chomsky lectures on Modern-Day 
American Imperialism: Middle East and Beyond
YouTube video posted by Boston University

Excerpts below from Noam Chomsky's lecture on Modern-Day American Imperialism: Middle East and Beyond given at Boston University on April 24, 2008.  Transcription courtesy of Steve Lyne and published on Scribd. by npmanuel.

A major scholarly work on the Bush Doctrine (George W. Bush doctrine), the preemptive war doctrine, is by John Lewis Gaddis, the most respected historian of the Cold War period. It's on the roots of the Bush Doctrine. And he traces it right back to John Quincy Adams, who is his hero - the great grand strategist. In particular, to Andrew Jackson's invasion of Florida, which conquered Florida from the Spanish. That was strongly approved by then Secretary of State Adams in a famous state paper in which he advocated the principle of preemptive war on the basis of the thesis that expansion is the path to security, as Gaddis puts it. So if we want to be secure (after all, we want to defend ourselves), we have to expand - at that time expand into Florida. We were being threatened by what were called runaway slaves and lawless Indians, who were in the way. They were threatening us by their existence,  by barring our expansion. And as Gaddis points out, there's a straight line from that to George Bush. And now "expansion is the path to security" means we take over the world, we take over space, take over the galaxy. There's no limit to how much you have to expand to guarantee security, and that's been the principle from the beginning.

. . . . . . 

... And that was lucidly explained by Woodrow Wilson, who is one of the most brutal and vicious interventionists in American history. The probably permanent destruction of Haiti is one of his many accomplishments. Those of you who study international relations theory or read about it know that there is a notion of Wilsonian idealism. The fact that that notion can exist is a very interesting commentary on our intellectual culture and scholarly culture if you look at his actual actions. Fine words are easy enough. But these are some of his fine words which he was smart enough not to put into print. He just wrote for himself. He said, "Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down [...] Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused."

. . . . . . 

... The Cold War was a kind of a tacit compact between the superpower and the smaller power, the United States and Russia. The compact was that the United States would be free to carry out violence and terror and atrocities with few limits in its own domains, and the Russians would be able to run their own dungeon without too much U.S. interference. So the Cold War in effect was a war of the United States against the Third World, and of Russia against its much smaller domains in Eastern Europe. And the events of the Cold War illustrate that. Each great power used the other's threats as a pretext for repression and violence and destruction, the United States way more than Russia if you look at the record, reflecting their relative power. But that's essentially the picture. In fact, for the United States, the Cold War was basically a war against independent nationalism in the Third World - what was called "radical nationalism." "Radical" means "doesn't follow orders." So, there's this constant struggle against radical nationalism, and in particular, the leading thesis all the way through is that even the smallest place if it becomes independent is a serious danger. It's what Henry Kissinger called a virus that might infect others. Like, even a tiny place - Grenada, or something. If it has successful independent development, others might get the idea that we can follow, the rot will spread as Acheson put it. So you've got to stamp it out right at the source. It's not a novel idea. Any mafia don will explain it to you. The Godfather does not tolerate it when some small storekeeper doesn't pay protection money. Not that he needs the money. But it's a bad idea. Others might get the idea. And in particular small, weak countries have to be - we have to crush them with particular violence because there it's easy. Nobody can stop you. And others get the point. That's a large part of international affairs right to the present.

. . . . . . 

... So we have to maintain the huge public subsidy to high-tech industry called the Defense Industrial Base.

We have to have a massive military. But it has different targets. As they pointed out, before this, we were aimed at a weapons-rich target: namely, Russia. Now we are aiming at a target-rich region: namely, the Third World. There aren't many weapons, but there are a lot of rich targets there. So, that's what we need the major military forces for. In fact, that's pretty much what it was in the past, too, but now it's openly conceded. ...

... The problems were independent nationalism and they continue to be so. But now it's said open and clear because the pretext is gone. We have to also be concerned now about what they call the "technological sophistication" of Third World powers. It's a really overwhelming threat. Kind of like Hillary Clinton a year or two ago saying that if Iran attacks Israel with nuclear weapons, we'll obliterate Iran. The chance of Iran attacking Israel with nuclear weapons is somewhere below an asteroid hitting Israel. But it doesn't matter. It's a nice throwaway line. But that's the kind of threat we have to worry about. It's kind of like Ronald Reagan in 1985 strapping on his cowboy boots and declaring a state of national emergency because of the threat posed to the national security of the United States by the government of Nicaragua, which was only two days away from Harlingen, Texas. So we really had to tremble in terror. Well, that's standard. It had to increase after the Cold War with the main pretexts gone, and it has.

This is all consistent with a conception of aggression that has developed through the period and right up to today - it's very lively today. Aggression has a meaning, but that meaning doesn't apply to us. For U.S. leaders, aggression means resistance. So, anyone who resists the United States is guilty of aggression. And that makes sense if we own the world. So any active resistance is aggression against us. ...

. . . . . . 

So our current George Bush, after 9/11, asked, "Why do they hate us?" and went on to explain that they hate our freedoms, and so on. You remember that. But what the press should have reported is that he was just repeating a question that President Eisenhower asked in 1958. President Eisenhower asked his staff why there's "a campaign of hatred against us" among the people of the Middle East. And the National Security Council, the highest planning agency, had provided an answer. They said of the people of the Middle East that their perception is that the United States supports brutal tyrannies, blocks democracy and development, and does so because we want control of their oil. And then they went on to say, yes, the perception is more or less correct and that's the way it ought to be. And so therefore there is a campaign of hatred against us. And so it continues.

August 3, 2012

Hours of Happiness = 3 to 8pm ... or before 10pm

Hours of Happiness, 3-8 sign 
Seen outside the B-Side Bar on Avenue B 
near 12th Street in New York City

Happy Ending ends at 10pm sign 
seen on doorway of massage parlor
on 15th Street in New York City
Photographs courtesy Pak So and Anna Tan 

Dear Customer:

We are massage store, which closes at 10pm. Please do not ring the doorbell after the closing time. Thanks a lot.

July 11, 2012

It's Called Living

Leon Levinstein
San Francisco (man asleep on newspaper), 1975

Later this summer during the month of August, the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York will be exhibiting another diverse Staff Picks show. Posted here are my thoughts and selections for the exhibition.

. . . . . . . . 

What happens when the arts have all been co-opted and the media has become enslaved? What happens when knowledge isn't used for the betterment of society but rather as an instrument of status and control? We live in an age of disinformation and glorified entertainment where the noise is now personalized and delivered in faster ways than ever.

I like to find those small moments where malfunction triumphs over function. The daily "news" that isn't quite disseminated, devices of influence that sit unused, and signs or advertisements blocked from their single-minded purpose. Silence. Tabula rasa. It's a chance to think for oneself, if only for a short while. That beautiful feeling growing slowly from within ... is called living.

- Pak So

Bill Owens
Untitled (room with two chairs and television set), 1968-72

Bill Burke
Speaker Shop, Phnom Penh, 1989

Nathan Lyons
Rochester, New York, 1978

Louis Faurer
Women in Front of Billboard, New York, 1949

June 28, 2012

Campaign Slogans

On a walk today around Manhattan, we saw posters hanging in the windows of a Gristedes supermarket on 2nd Avenue and 29th Street promoting evian's advertisement campaign titled "Live young".

Further along on the walk, we saw giant displays outside Pfizer Inc.'s world headquarters on 235 East 42nd Street promoting their latest advertisement campaign titled "Get Old".

As reported by NBC News on June 28, 2012:

In statement following the Supreme Court's backing of the Affordable Health Care Act, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney tells supporters: "What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected. I will act to repeal Obamacare."

June 4, 2012

And The Military-Industrial Complex Rolls On ...

AP Photo by Huynh Cong "Nick" Ut, 1972

In an article titled "AP 'napalm girl' photo from Vietnam War turns 40" published on June 2, 2012, Margie Mason of the Associated Press writes:

In the picture, the girl (Kim Phuc) will always be 9 years old and wailing "Too hot! Too hot!" as she runs down the road away from her burning Vietnamese village.

She will always be naked after blobs of sticky napalm melted through her clothes and layers of skin like jellied lava.

. . . . . . . . 

In an article titled "Bachmann endorses Romney in Portsmouth" published on May 4, 2012, Bill Bartel and Bill Sizemore of The Virginian-Pilot reports:

Romney said he doesn't agree with the Obama administration's new military strategy, which, among other things, calls for decreasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps and slowing the production of new ships.

Romney said it's wrong for the United States to no longer have the capability to fight two wars at one time. The larger military is needed "so we can dissuade people from doing things that would harm America and our friends," he said.

"I will add ships to our Navy. Instead of building nine ships a year, I'd build 15 ships," Romney said. "Instead of cutting our active-duty personnel, I would add 100,000 to our active-duty personnel."

. . . . . . . .

In an article titled "AP IMPACT: Almost half of new vets seek disability" published on May 27, 2012, Marilynn Marchione writes:

America's newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate, claiming to be the most medically and mentally troubled generation of former troops the nation has ever seen.

A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told The Associated Press.

What's more, these new veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average, and the most recent ones over the last year are claiming 11 to 14. By comparison, Vietnam veterans are currently receiving compensation for fewer than four, on average, and those from World War II and Korea, just two.

It's unclear how much worse off these new veterans are than their predecessors. Many factors are driving the dramatic increase in claims - the weak economy, more troops surviving wounds, and more awareness of problems such as concussions and PSTD. Almost one-third have been granted disability so far.

. . . . . . . .

Finally, in an article titled "The new Cold War? As climate change melts polar ice cap, militaries vie for Arctic advantage" published on April 16, 2012, Eric Talmadge of The Associated Press writes:

To the world's military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources, long-dreamed-of sea lanes and a slew of potential conflicts.

By Arctic standards, the region is already buzzing with military activity, and experts believe that will increase significantly in the years ahead.

Last month, Norway wrapped up one of the largest Arctic maneuvers ever - Exercise Cold Response - with 16,300 troops from 14 countries training on the ice for everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats. Attesting to the harsh conditions, five Norwegian troops were killed when their C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed near the summit of Kebnekaise, Sweden's highest mountain.

The U.S., Canada and Denmark held major exercises two months ago, and in an unprecedented move, the military chiefs of the eight main Arctic powers - Canada, the U.S., Russia, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland - gathered at a Canadian military base last week to specifically discuss regional security issues.

None of this means a shooting war is likely at the North Pole any time soon. But as the number of workers and ships increases in the High North to exploit oil and gas reserves, so will the need for policing, border patrols and - if push comes to shove - military muscle to enforce rival claims.

May 27, 2012

A Shout-Out To Painters & Artists Everywhere

We Paint sign (an altered Wet Paint sign)
Seen at the Grand Avenue - Newtown subway 
station in Elmhurst, Queens, New York City.
Photograph courtesy Pak So and Anna Tan

April 2, 2012

Excuses, excuses

William Eggleston
Near Jackson, Mississippi, c.1970
Dye transfer print

In October 2008, Patrick Kevin Day wrote in an article titled Michael Cera: hoodie king of Hollywood for the Los Angeles Times:

Since "Arrested Development's" end in 2006, Cera has starred in three feature films, his own Web series and a handful of TV guest appearances. In almost all of these, he's appeared with his trademark zip-up hoodie. Like Bogey and his fedora, or Astaire and his tux, Cera has turned the dressed-down, low-maintenance uniform of twentysomething hipsters everywhere into a true film icon.

. . . . . . . . 

On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, 17, is killed by George Zimmerman, 28, in Sanford, Florida.

. . . . . . . . 

On March 23, 2012, Geraldo Rivera commented on the program Fox & Friends:

I believe that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain, should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted. But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was.

March 26, 2012

What Are They Afraid Of?

Capitalism and a free-market economy have, for the most part, worked wonders for Hong Kong. In the most recent year, Hong Kong's gross domestic product was a whopping U.S. $220+ billion dollars and it was ranked as the world's freest economy for the 17th consecutive year in the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. The conservative organizations predictably highlight that "Hong Kong boasts one of the world's most prosperous economies, thanks to small government, low taxes, and light regulation."

. . . . . . . . 

Following are excerpts from A History of Hong Kong by Frank Welsh, first published in Great Britain by HarperCollinsPublishers, 1993:

Right-wing politicians, impressed by the arguments of monetarist economists, maintain that problems cannot be solved by 'throwing money' at them; such an emotive term can hardly be allowed to obscure the fact that many serious problems of society can only be solved by the application - preferably judicious - of a great deal of money indeed. This the Hong Kong government under Sir Murray's leadership proceeded to do. Social expenditure (hitherto restricted partly for ideological reasons, but also out of the impossibility of establishing satisfactory standards for the continued influx of refugees - the population had grown from 3,133,131 to 4,064,400 in the decade before 1971) could now reasonably be increased, and the budgetary stringencies of the preceding period had left resources enabling this to be done. The 1971 Hong Kong Annual Review, the first to be issued under the influence of Maclehose, was a bold document, amounting to nothing less than a manifesto for change, and foreshadowing the policies of the 1970s, which made that decade a 'golden age' for Hong Kong. A usually bland and formal official publication was charged with new energy. After appropriate acknowledgements to the previous incumbent the areas for expansion were identified - water and power supply, education, health care and, above all, housing: 'Housing is the one major social service that remains to be reviewed. It is a key to so much - health, standards of behaviour, family solidarity, community spirit, distribution of labour, communications needs, to name a few factors only.' ...

... 'Throwing money about' in other areas has produced dramatic effects in Hong Kong. Millions of Americans might wish to live under a government whose policy is that 'no one should be denied adequate medical treatment through a lack of means'. Medical charges are almost nominal, reflecting a substantial subsidy from public funds. Patients in public hospitals - some 85 per cent - are charged $7.50 a day (the figures have been converted to US dollars, and should be interpreted in the context of the average annual wage - excluding management and professional salaries - in Hong Kong being about US $13,500; adjusted for the Economist's Big Mac cost-of-living index this would increase to some US $20,000). This modest charge covers everything from meals, medicine and investigative tests to surgery or any other treatment required, and even it may be reduced or waived in cases of hardship. Maternity and child health centres, tuberculosis and chest clinics, social hygiene clinics and accident and emergency departments are free; family planning centre and methadone clinic clients are charged the ludicrous sum of 14 cents per visit.

Like any health care system, that of Hong Kong is not immune from criticism; there is no general family practitioner service as in Britain, and specialist high-technology medicine is not as widely available as in the United States. Nevertheless the generally satisfactory standards are reflected in the statistics for mortality and most illnesses, which are usually better than in either of those countries. And no statistics can adequately reflect the mental security given by freely and quickly - available medical care.

. . . . . . . . 

Finally, as mentioned earlier in a 2009 blog post titled Democracy on these pages:

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who passed away on August 25, 2009, has written of healthcare reform: "A century-long struggle will reach its climax," ... "We're almost there .... I believe the bill will pass, and we will end the disgrace of America as the only major industrialized nation in the world that doesn't guarantee health care for all of its people."

March 16, 2012

Red hats and blue coats

Where Does The Time Go by the innocence mission
from the 1999 album birds of my neighborhood
YouTube video posted by Drageslukeren

Where does the time go?
Where does the time go?
Where does the time go?
Where does the time go?

Visit the innocence mission online at:

February 24, 2012

People Will Eat More Of It

Excerpt from the 2009 documentary Ingredients:

"There's no culture in the world that spends less on food per capita or more on medicine than the United States."

Excerpt from The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan, published in 2007 by Penguin Books:

"The Alcoholic Republic has long since given way to the Republic of Fat, we're eating today much the way we drank then, and for some of the same reasons. According to the surgeon general, obesity today is officially an epidemic; it is arguably the most pressing public health problem we face, costing the health care system an estimated $90 billion a year. Three of every five Americans are overweight; one of every five is obese. The disease formerly known as adult-onset diabetes has had to be renamed Type II diabetes since it now occurs so frequently in children. A recent study in the Journal of American Medical Association predicts that a child born in 2000 has a one-in-three chance of developing diabetes. (An African American child's chances are two in five.) Because of diabetes and all the other health problems that accompany obesity, today's children may turn out to be the first generation of Americans whose life expectancy will actually be shorter than that of their parents. The problem is not limited to America: The United Nations reported that in 2000 the number of people suffering from overnutrition - a billion - had officially surpassed the number suffering from malnutrition - 800 million.

You hear plenty of explanations for humanity's expanding waistline, all of them plausible. Changes in lifestyle (we're more sedentary; we eat out more). Affluence (more people can afford a high-fat Western diet). Poverty (healthier whole foods cost more). Technology (fewer of us use our bodies in our work; at home, the remote control keeps us pinned to the couch). Clever marketing (supersized portions; advertising to children). Changes in diet (more fats; more carbohydrates; more processed foods).

All these explanations are true, as far as they go. But it pays to go a little further, to search for the cause behind the causes. Which, very simply, is this: When food is abundant and cheap, people will eat more of it and get fat. Since 1977 an American's average daily intake of calories has jumped by more than 10 percent. Those two hundred calories have to go somewhere, and absent an increase in physical activity (which hasn't happened), they end up being stored away in fat cells in our bodies." ...

February 20, 2012

I'm A Human Being ...

Excerpts from The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe, first published by W.H. Allen & Co., London, 1959:

... Cunning is what counts in this life, and even that you've got to use in the slyest way you can; I'm telling you straight: they're cunning, and I'm cunning.  If only 'them' and 'us' had the same ideas we'd get on like a house on fire, but they don't see eye to eye with us and we don't see eye to eye with them, so that's how it stands and how it will always stand. The one fact is that all of us are cunning, and because of this there's no love lost between us. ...

. . . . . . . . 

And I swear under my breath: "Like boggery, I will." No, I won't get them that cup, even though the stupid tash-twitching bastard has all his hopes in me. Because what does his barmy hope mean? I ask myself. Trot-trot-trot, slap-slap-slap, over the stream and into the wood where it's almost dark and frosty-dew twigs sting my legs. It don't mean a bloody thing to me, only to him, and it means as much to him as it would mean to me if I picked up the racing paper and put my bet on a hoss I didn't know, had never seen, and didn't care a sod if I ever did see. That's what it means to him. And I'll lose that race, because I'm not a race horse at all, and I'll let him know it when I'm about to get out - if I don't sling my hook even before the race. By Christ I will. I'm a human being and I've got thoughts and secrets and bloody life inside me that he doesn't know is there, and he'll never know what's there because he's stupid. I suppose you'll laugh at this, me saying the governor's a stupid bastard when I know hardly how to write and he can read and write and add-up like a professor. But what I say is true right enough. He's stupid, and I'm not, because I can see further into the likes of him than he can see into the likes of me. ...

. . . . . . . . 

... So I thought: they aren't going to get me on this racing lark, this running and trying to win, this jog-trotting for a bit of blue ribbon, because it's not the way to go on at all, though they swear blind that it is. You should think about nobody and go your own way, not on a course marked out for you by people holding mugs of water and bottles of iodine in case you fall and cut yourself so that they can pick you up - even if you want to stay where you are - and get you moving again.

February 5, 2012

The Clown Show - Episode 1

YouTube video posted by incitebytes 
of a Herman Cain clip from the 
October 4, 2011 episode of msnbc's  

Herman Cain:  "A poet once said ..."

The Clown Show Continues

Mitt Romney clip from the 
February 2, 2012 episode of 
Joe Scarborough's Morning Joe 

Mitt Romney:  "I like being able to fire people ..."

January 23, 2012

Your So-Called Superior's Superiority Complex

"Superior" sign seen on West 25th Street 
by the Avenue of the Americas in NYC.
Photograph courtesy Pak So and Anna Tan

Excerpt from The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Cenury by Edward Dolnick, first published 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers:

It was in a conversation with Gilbert in (Hermann) Goering's jail cell, on the night of April 18, 1946, that Goering offered what became a famous observation on mass psychology:  "Why, of course the people don't want war," he said. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

Gilbert remarked that in a democracy the people have a say in the decision to go to war.

"Oh, that is all well and good," Goering replied, "but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

January 2, 2012

Slow Down

Man in Striped Shirt at the Piano, 1954
Photograph by Roy DeCarava

Excerpts from The Joy of Quiet by Pico Iyer, published December 29, 2011 in The New York Times Sunday Review:

A few months later, I read an interview with the perennially cutting-edge designer Philippe Starck. What allowed him to remain so consistently ahead of the curve? "I never read any magazines or watch TV," he said, perhaps a little hyperbolically. "Nor do I go to cocktail parties, dinners or anything like that." He lived outside conventional ideas, he implied, because "I live alone mostly, in the middle of nowhere."

. . . . . . . .

The urgency of slowing down - to find the time and space to think - is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. "Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries," the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, "and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." He also famously remarked that all of man's problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

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We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we're so busy communicating. And - as he might also have said - we're rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.

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None of this is a matter of principle or asceticism; it's just pure selfishness. Nothing makes me feel better - calmer, clearer and happier - than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music. It's actually something deeper than mere happiness: it's joy, which the monk David Steindl-Rast describes as "that kind of happiness that doesn't depend on what happens."