Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why John McCain is going to lose in November.

There is only one person left in America who thinks the war in Iraq was a good idea, and he is the Republican presidential nominee. How does somebody get that out of touch with reality and one's fellow citizens. Senator McCain should read this examination of the war by Fred Kaplan. I have to quote the beginning of it:

Imagine it's early 2003, and President George W. Bush presents the following case for invading Iraq:

We're about to go to war against Saddam Hussein. Victory on the battlefield will be swift and fairly clean. But then 100,000 U.S. troops will have to occupy Iraq for about 10 years. On average, nearly 1,000 of them will be killed and another 10,000 injured in each of the first 5 years. We'll spend at least $1 trillion on the war and occupation, and possibly trillions more. Toppling Saddam will finish off a ghastly tyranny, but it will also uncork age-old sectarian tensions. More than 100,000 Iraqis will die, a few million will be displaced, and the best we can hope for will be a loosely federated Islamic republic that isn't completely in Iran's pocket. Finally, it will turn out that Saddam had neither weapons of mass destruction nor ties to the planners of 9/11. Our intervention and occupation will serve as the rallying cry for a new crop of terrorists.

It is extremely doubtful that Congress would have authorized such a war or that the American people would have shouted, "Bring it on!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

More books I've read in 2008

Breakfast After Noon, by Andi Watson is a graphic novel about Rob and Louise, two young Brits about to be married who get laid off from their jobs in the fine pottery business, and how each of them reacts to this set back, and how it affects their relationship. Louise goes out and gets new training, Rob refuses to even consider looking for work in another field, and his life eventually comes close to falling apart. This might seem odd coming from me -- the King of Happy Endings -- but this book's happy ending seemed forced. In my experience, things don't usually turn out that well for people like Rob, too inflexible to see more than one way of perceiving oneself.

And Russell Hoban redeems himself in my book. Y'all know he's one of my favorite writers, Come Dance With Me and Her Name Was Lola both blew me away, but Linger Awhile left me cold. I liked The Medusa Frequency a lot more. It's weird, of course. A blocked writer spends his time conversing with the head of Orpheus, when said head is not a football or a cabbage, that is. Along the way Hoban discourses on -- among many other things -- fidelity:

"Fidelity is a matter of perception; nobody is unfaithful to the sea or to the mountains or to death; once recognized they fill the heart. . . Anyone who loves, anyone who perceives the other person fully can only be faithful, can never be unfaithful to the sea and the mountains and the death in that person, so pitiful and heroic is it to be a human being."

"Art is a celebration of loss, of beauty passing, not to be held." "What remained became the endlessly voyaging sorrow and astonishment from which I write in those brief moments when I can write." "Used properly the back of a cereal box is to literature what Buddy Holly is to music."

Love, and why art is but a pale remnant of love:

"When there was love and happiness there was no story, what there was could not be contained by words. With the death of love came the story and the story found words for it."

A beautiful and profound book. Just what I expect from Mister Hoban. (Maybe I should reread Linger Awhile; I must have missed something.)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dogs I have been fortunate enough to know

Don't get me wrong -- I love cats. In fact I share my home with a black-and-white Holstein-cow-marked feline; her name is Cookie and she is definitely one of my favorite people in the world. She enjoys nothing more than getting a good scratch and I enjoy giving a good scratch, so we get along great.
She's just one of many cats I've loved, but the truth is I'm a dog man. I truly believe that dog's unconditional love is the way we all should be -- human and canine -- and that we have much to learn from the dog. Much. All dogs are cool which is why all dogs go to heaven, but some dogs are more special than others. I feel very lucky to have known more than my share of great dog souls and today I want to tell you about the first of my canine mahatmas.
Her name was Cindy. She was a pit bull, but my dad called her a bulldog because he knew my mom wouldn't let him have a pit bull around babies. She needn't have worried; Cindy was gentle and patient with me; many was the time she was awakened from a deep sleep by a toddler (me) jumping on her stomach, knocking the wind out of her; not once did she ever get angry or even pretend to retaliate. She had no patience however with anybody that tried to mess with me. And nobody did. There were a lot of bullies in the neighborhood in Richmond where I grew up, but none of them picked on me until after Cindy died when I was 12. Take a good look at that picture of her. She only had three legs because she was hit by a garbage truck and had to get one of them amputated. She also had an underbite so pronounced it was a wonder she could chew. But she could run like the wind on her remaining three legs and if she bit you, you'd definitely know that you'd been bit.
So what did I learn from Cindy? That a homely exterior can hide a great soul and a beautiful heart. That you should not let a physical handicap slow you down. That you should always be loyal to and protective of your loved ones, and extra patient with babies and toddlers.
And that love lasts forever. I still miss her.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

This American Life

One of the things I love most about having an I-Pod is that I never have to miss an episode of my favorite radio show "This American Life," I just subscribe to the podcast. If you've never heard this show before, the concept is pretty simple -- they pick a theme and let writers, artists, journalists and normal everyday people tackle that theme. And no matter what the theme, the show is always fascinating. This weeks' theme was "Human Resources" which sounds pretty boring, but I learned so much -- especially about chimpanzee retirement homes, which I never knew existed. But trained chimps are only going to work for a few years; once they get to be four or five years old they're too mean and too stubborn to do sitcom tricks anymore. But they can't be returned to the wild because they've never known any kind of life other than the domestic life, and they live a long time in captivity.
It never occurred to me that Cheeta -- the chimp from the Tarzan movies -- might still be alive, but he is. From Wikipedia: In retirement Cheeta lives at a primate sanctuary called Creative Habitats and Enrichment for Endangered and Threatened Apes (or CHEETA) in Palm Springs, California. He watches television and makes paintings which are sold to benefit primate-related charities. He often watches his old films with his grandson, Jeeter. He also likes to leaf through books and "play" the piano."
Cheeta will be 76 years old next month, and his autobiography -- no kidding -- will be out in October.