Tweets - Oct 13, 2009

on October 14, 2009 with 0 comments » |

Tweets for October 13, 2009:

  • Start the day where I left off last night! Santana at Woodstock - the "slithering snake", the percussion... WOW! bit.ly/ZLcAA #Music
  • Speaking of great percussion, these guys rocked Davis Sq. on Saturday at Honkfest. What a party! I need more! afrobrazil.org #Music
  • Unseen Sahara - Photo gallery via @NGMag bit.ly/14VvnN Related article: bi t.ly/NGMSahara #Travel #AmazingWorld
  • RT @NGmag Psychedelic! NG funded researcher discovers new glow-in-the-dark mushroom species bit.ly/NGMush #Amazingworld
  • Experience Nature thru the eyes of one of NorthAmerica's finest Nature/Wildlife photographers @kristenwestlake at bit.ly/VE1Qf #Art
  • "I am sunk in the usual demoralizing happiness which this atmosphere produces in me.” - EdithWharton bit.ly/1m0vsT (via @maudnewton)
  • Read something by Anne Fadiman about reading a Yeats poem at his grave. Guess a Wharton fan would rendezvous at Louvre where she did? :)
  • Haah! RT @rameshsrivats Don't blame him. Given a chance we would celebrate the success of Desi Arnaz. RT @amitvarma bit.ly/kq58G
  • Just in Time for Halloween: Scroll forward to 3:42+ for the fun! :) bit.ly/2lKFyI (via @sepiamutiny Zinda Lash bit.ly/Ni2GR)
  • This one is for you, @amitvarma: Dallas man's collection of cow #art set for auction bit.ly/24klEE
  • To Read Later: Books of The Times: Beneath a Sheen of Glory, the Ugly Horror of War bit.ly/M3vN3
Post, automated thanks to LoudTwitter. If you are on twitter, you can follow me at http://twitter.com/sanjeevn.

Honk!

on October 11, 2009 with 0 comments » | ,

We spent 2.5 hours on Saturday afternoon at the Honk! festival in Davis Square. I did not take my camera with me but found some videos that people have put online from this amazing street festival.



We walked around and saw couple of brass bands from 1.30-2pm and then saw the Chicago based group Environmental Encroachment from 2-3pm. Here is a sampler.

And then from 3-4pm (missed first 10 minutes in walking up to where they were), the AfroBrazil band rocked Davis Square plaza.



The 95 year old woman was amazing! What spirit to come out alone to HonkFest and enjoy raucous Afro-Brazilian music that you could not help but dance to!

THIS, my friends, is what life is all about.

The rest is just stuff

on October 9, 2009 with 0 comments » |

Reading the recent Paris Review interview with John Banville, I found this lovely excerptat the very end of the interview which I really loved and decided to transcribe and save for later savoring!

Banville: ... Art is a hard business. It's a matter of  sentiment, but not sentimentality. I do it for myself. The coincidence is that what I do for myself chime sometimes with the experiences and emotions and desires of other people. This is a kind of miracle, but I don't intend for it to happen -- it just does. Art is like sex; when you're doing it, nothing else matters. Away from his desk the novelist can care deeply about the social, political, moral aspects of what he is writing but when he sits down to write, all those concerns fall away and nothing matters except the putting down of one carefully chosen word after another carefully chosen word, until a sentence is finsihed, then a paragraph, then a page, then a chapter, then a book. When I'm working I don't care about anything, not even myself. All my concentration is directed towards the making of the thing on the page. The rest is just stuff -- even though it is the stuff of life.

Quotable quote that: Art is like sex; when you're doing it, nothing else matters ..was tempted to put it as an eye-catching title to the blog post ;)

To Be Or Not To Be

on October 8, 2009 with 0 comments » | ,

Flipping channels a few days back, I came upon Charlie Rose's interview with Jude Law, who I learned is playing Hamlet in a Broadway production: Hamlet -  directed by Michael Grandage; in preview starting Oct 6th at the Broadhurst Theatre in NYC. The play played to much acclaim in London before this.



I have never really been exposed to much Shakespeare (other than reading highly abridged versions of the plays when I was 15) and also have not gone to Broadway plays yet. Also, if you ask me to make a list of 20 really good Hollywood actors of the 80s, 90s, and 00s, I doubt Jude Law would even make my list.

And so, it was with great surprise that as I watched the interview, I got hooked by the minute. I am not sure if it was Jude Law's passion and his way with words or what ... but I absolutely loved the interview and it inspired me to pull my copy of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations off the book-shelf to read lines from Hamlet! (I know - the entire play can be read online, thanks to Bartleby, but I find it easier, for the purposes of finding wonderful lines, to read this book which has 9 pages worth of quotations from Hamlet.)

While it is not my intention to transcribe the lines I liked (there are so many!) here, I will post this short excerpt from the interview that talks about what is perhaps one of Hamlet's (arguably even Shakespeare's) most famous lines:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of disprized love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
And here is a section from the Charlie Rose interview, in which Rose played a short clip where Peter Brooks talks about the famous phrase.
CHARLIE ROSE:  This is Peter Brook, who is analyzing... "to be or not to be."  Here it is. 

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Peter Brook:  To be or not to be, which is should I then kill myself?  Or if I live, what can I live for?  And it ends -- the thought leads to him saying, thinking too much is what gets one into trouble.  And he says that the greatest enterprises can be completely squashed by what he calls the pale cast of thought.  And Hamlet realizes that he had been thinking and thinking all this time of should he kill, shouldn’t he kill, is life right, are people like this, are people like that.  And he now realizes that there is something much simpler, whether it’s -- he likes it or not -- he has an action with his destiny, and so he says, the speech would start to be or not to be and ends with this word, action.  And from then on, everything changes. 
    (END VIDEO CLIP)
Brilliant! So, "To be or not to be" is not about life-and-death as it may seem but about leaving our doubts, insecurities, and questions (which Hamlet has many throughout the play!) behind and taking action!

P.S. WNYC’s Sara Fishko considered a range of approaches to Hamlet. Also learned from the page that there have been over 50 film versions of Hamlet made since 1900, making it the most filmed Shakespeare play! Embedded at the link is a youtube video of a 1913 silent film version and in the embedded audio file Fishko mentions female actress(es?) who have played the lead part in some plays!

P.P.S. Via wikipedia, comes this rendering of the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy from First Quarto (Q1) which was published In 1603 by booksellers Nicholas Ling and John Trundell. It is the so-called "bad" first Quarto.


Perfect place to start the day...

 "When the way things are seems to offer no possibility; when you are angry and blocked, and, for all your efforts, others refuse to move or cooperate, ..when even enrollment does not work and you are at your wit's end -- you take this next ...practice: our graduate course in possibility." - Chapter 10, Art of Possibility, by Benjamin & Rosamund Zander. 
Enrollment is a concept from the previous chapter and is about the art of generating a spark of possibility for others to share.

I thought this quote at the start of Chapter 10 was quite timely to read this AM as I had a disheartening conversation with a local company yesterday. Through an old friend/contact, I thouoght I had got a foot in the door - a door which I had hoped would open up the possibility of a job soon. But after yet shut door and yet another disappointment in what has become a long drawn out and frustrating job search process, I find myself groping to pick myself up again and go at it again.

So, bring it on, Zanders -- not that reading about this makes it any easier to open up new realms of possibility!

P.S. Benjamin Zanders is the Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and a teacher at the New England Conservatory of Music. His TED talk (embedded below) shows us how energetic and excited he can get about the art of possibility and how it can shape and transform lives - on both professional and personal fronts.


I just ran into these lines from East Coker, the third poem in Eliot's Four Quartets:

And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

The last line sounds very Bhagwat-Gita-ish!

"Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani"

Which translates as: "You have a right to perform your prescribed action,but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. / Never consider yourself the cause of the results your activities,and never be associated to not doing your duty."

Or like my friend, Bharat said to me once: "apna kaam pura kar. phal ki ichha kyon, Paarth?" ("Complete your work, why desirous of the fruits, Paarth?" -- Paarth being another name of Arjuna, to whom, in his moment of wavering, Krishna narrates the Bhagavad Gita in the Mahabharata.)

Coming to think of it, a lot of Four Quartets seems to be derived from teachings of the Gita or other Hindu philosophy, which Eliot had studied. For example: the lines about "endings and beginnings" in the 1st Quartet, Burnt Norton ...

... say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now.

...

Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.

...

Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.
 

...and coming back to this theme again throughout the poem; with minor variations that further embellish this theme through repetition - trying to capture the complexity of life. For example East Coker, starts with "In my beginning is my end" and ends with the opposite - "In my end is my beginning". Then in the last quartet, Little Gidding, he ends with:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

This is nothing but about the cyclical nature of life (a Hindu philosophy), no? Also, many lines of the poem (some of my favorite lines, in fact) are about time, the past-present-and-future, memory, consciousness, existence, and the "flux of life". They again remind me of some of the teachings of the Gita, which I admittedly have only read cursorily.  

Note (1): Eliot ends his poem The Waste Land with "Shantih shantih shantih" - but I have not really read this poem with a detailed eye and hence do not enjoy it as much as I do Four Quartets.

Note (2): I have been reading bits and pieces of Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot a lot recently in addition to two books about Eliot - The Achievement of T.S. Eliot  by  F.O. Matthiessen & Art of T. S. Eliot  by Helen Gardner. The latter especially has greatly enhanced my appreciation for Four Quartets. For example, in addition to the knowledge that the titles of the four poems in Four Quartets are about four places that were important in Eliot's life, I learn that they also represent the four elements - Burnt Norton about air ("on which whispers are borne, intangible itself, but the medium of communication"), East Coker is about earth ("the dust of which we are made and into which we shall return), The Dry Salvages is about water ("which some Greek thinkers thought was the primitive material out of which the world arose, and which man has always thought of as surrounding and embrancing the land, limiting the land and encroaching on it, itself illimitable), and Little Gidding is about fire ("the purest of elements... which consumes and purifies.") 

Thus,...

"the whole poem is about the four elements whose mysterious union makes life...and perhaps adding that some have thought that there is a fifth element, unnamed but latent in all things: the quintessence, the true principle of life, and that this unnamed principle is the subject of the whole poem."

Note: All quoted lines above are from an essay in Helen Gardner's book called 'The Music of Four Quartets'. This is an old book - from 1950 - which I am able to read thanks to the amazing public library system in the US. There are a few different essays about Four Quartets in the book but this particular one tells us about the musical aspects of this poem -- not just with naming it "Quartets" but also how each of the quartets contains five "movements", each with their own inner structure. However, it would be too much to go into all the details here of the exquisite lyrical quality of the poem that Ms. Gardner beautifully elucidates - not only through the music in the recurring words, each time deepened and expanded by fresh use but also through repetition of images, each time with different meanings. Instead I'll leave you with these lines by Gardner about the poem - which I think captures the reasons why I find such affinity to this poem.

We might begin a description of Four Quartets by saying it presents a series of meditations upon existence in time, which, beginning from a place and a point in time, and coming back to another place and another point, attempts to discover in these points and places what is the meaning and content of an experience, what leads to it, and what follows from it, what we bring to it and what it brings to us.

The point she goes on to make is that such a description can only be brief and abstract and such abstractions must yield to considerations of the form of the poem, to which it "owes its coherence". And that is where the circular nature of the poem, the repetitions, and the sense of working out through the "beginnings and endings" of life does the poem rise from being mere poetry to sublime art, which, like the Gita, captures the very essence of Life. Or as Ms. Gardner beautifully summarizes with the last line of her essay:

In it the form is the perfect expression of the subject; so much so that one can hardly in the end distinguish subject from form. The whole poem in its unity declares more eloquently than any single line or passage that truth is not the final answer to a calculation, nor the last stage of an argument, nor something told us once and for all, which we spend the rest of our life proving by examples. The subject of Four Quartets is the truth which is inseperable from the way and the life in which we find it.

Despair

on September 30, 2009 with 0 comments » | ,

What an amazing picture - definitely worth a thousand words and more! 

A man takes a break from cleaning a house swamped by flash floods brought on by Typhoon Ketsana, in Marikina, The Philippines.
© Erik de Castro / AP

A man takes a break from cleaning a house swamped by flash floods brought on by Typhoon Ketsana, in Marikina, The Philippines.

When Pigs Fly

on September 29, 2009 with 0 comments » |

Next time someone tells you -...] will happen when pigs fly, tell them they already did!


Miss Porky Pig flies through the air during the Pig Racing and Diving show at Melbourne Showgrounds, Australia.
© Scott Barbour / Getty
Miss Porky Pig flies through the air during the Pig Racing and Diving show at Melbourne Showgrounds, Australia.

Just read that Omara Portuondo was granted a US visa to play 2 concerts - San Francisco Jazz Festival (Oct 20) & at UCLA (OCt 23).

So, in celebration, here is one of my favorite songs by her - with another great from the Buena Vista Social Club: Ibrahim Ferrer. (If you have not seen the documentary on the BVSC, you can watch it on hulu.com.)



Hear it without understanding it first.[1] Then you can read the English translated lyrics.

[1] Damn! I *so* need to learn Spanish -- not just to read Paz and Neruda and Lorca in their original but also enjoy beautiful songs like these even more! Plus would help in that long-hoped-for South America travels, no?) 

Possibilities

on September 23, 2009 with 0 comments » | ,

Soren Kierkegaard, the famous Danish philosopher wrote in his book Either/Or:


If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility?

Tweet is a very lonely man

on September 18, 2009 with 0 comments » | , ,

Much ado about a Tweet but it takes special talent to come up with this analysis. :)



The context of this quote and videos of the entire discussion from which the above prized quote was gleaned can be seen at this blog post by Amit Varma, one of the panelists.

Update: Someone started this on an email group I am on and while I cannot reproduce their verse here, here's my contribution.

Twitter this, Twatter that!
--------------------------------


i.
Look! Tharoor's under a dark cloud
for saying whats on his mind aloud
Serves him right for being outspoken
Who does he think he is - Ashton?*

ii.
The Tweet is a very lonely man
Will Tharoor now be an also-ran?
Much ado about a pol's tweet
Cows make for sumptuous meat!

iii.
Five-star luxury he does like
Waiting for the CPI now to strike!
But the nerve to call us cattle
He deserves a rap on the knuckle!

iv.
Tom's not smiling, all distraught
Says we need some restraint in thought.
Tharoor's in Liberia, can't join in for a chat
Fly coach or business, you fat-cat?

* Those amongst you who are not lonely...er who do not Twitter, that's Ashton Kutchner - the demi-God [pun intended] of Twitter - the tweeter with the most "followers". Also, you will need to see all 3 videos at http://tiny.cc/LonelyTweet to get all the jokes (like 'fat-cat', Liberia, etc.)

Renovating Virtues

on September 17, 2009 with 0 comments » | , , ,

This is one of the best quotes about the relationship of art to life....

The relation of art to life is of the first importance especially in a skeptical age since, in the absence of a belief in God, the mind turns to its own creations and examines them, not alone from the aesthetic point of view, but for what they reveal, for what they validate and invalidate, for the support that they give." - Wallace Stevens (Opus Posthumous, page 159)
I suppose the quote particularly vibed with me since I, being an athiest, have sought strength, solace, and the lovely company of music and poetry in a difficult period of my life. So, be it music, poetry, paintings, or any other art, I have seen that art that can connect and move you can rejuvenate you from the tedium of life. These are the renovating virtues through which "our minds are nourished and invisibly repaired" [1].

As the critic Robert Pack writes in the Introduction to his 1968 book on Wallace Stevens and his poetry and thought:
To say that all things are potentially beautiful, for there is nothing beyond the touch of the artist, may not be the last reach in the paradox of human understanding, but at least it indicates the kind of paradise that may be lost if the prophetic voice is right. This paradise, rich with the transformation the imagination makes of ordinary experience, is what Wallace Stevens envisions and evolves, it is the treasure most accessible to our modest lives, and for many it would define the sum of human loss were it to be relinquished.
Leave you with a lovely poem by Wallace Stevens titled "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour."

Light the first light of evening
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough. 
--
[1] The words "renovating virtues" I borrow from this lovely excerpt from William Wordsworth's The Prelude.

    There are in our existence spots of time,
    That with distinct pre-eminence retain
    A renovating virtue, whence–depressed
    By false opinion and contentious thought,
    Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
    In trivial occupations, and the round
    Of ordinary intercourse–our minds
    Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
    A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
    That penetrates, enables us to mount,
    When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.

He is The One! :)

Have seen lots of pictures of Obama that I have liked but none more endearing than this one! ;)

bk.obama.20090916.7302


Learn more about what was happening here.

And that is the least of the problems women commuters in trains and buses of India have to often endure. But since we, as a nation, cannot seem to change our sexist attitudes and behavior, we have to seek alternative measures to curb this - like running special ladies-only trains.

© Chiara Goia for The New York Times
Elsewhere, Japan has its own problems to deal with when it comes to public transportation!
Tokyo police have begun a week-long crackdown against the twice-daily scourge of gropers on commuter trains.
and   
A Japanese rail operator said Thursday it is installing blue mood-lighting in its stations in a bid to stop people committing suicide on the tracks of a busy Tokyo line.
And so it goes....

Man bites dog

on September 16, 2009 with 0 comments » | , ,

In this case, he did more than bite.

This is the most surreal WTF video I have ever seen. Many thanks to Aadisht, who forwarded it to Gaurav, who in turn led me to it. This is the logical next step to the "Man bites dog" news headline.



I had seen only half a minute of the video but already had gleaned so many prized quotes..

"Kutta bhi vaheen area ka hai....har roj uske paas hee khaana khaata hai ..isliye sab log pahanchaata hai usko" :)...

"doctor ke liye treatment ke liye ...maybe I dont know if usko jaroorat hai ki naheen"..

and "uska medical ho gaya hai..." ...
later..

interviewer: oh..biwi delivery ke liye gayi thi? mere khyaal se woh miss kar raha hoga?
cop: kuch bol naheen saktein
interviewer: kuch psychic hai kya woh....
cop: naheen, accha hai woh!

:)

interviewer: pahle kabhi kiya...kabhi bhi aisa try bhi kiya ho!

interviewer: kuch film dekhi kya aise...

and there is lot more in this fascinating interview between the befuddled and curious reporter and the calm bemused cop (how does he keep a straight face!).

Also, this hindi news article about the incident is priceless. I thought nothing in the article could exceed the WTF value of the interview but the last sentence does in fact trump it!
"kutiya ki haalat par raham kartein hue tardeo thane ki police ne logon ko vishwaas dilaaya ki kutinya ko adalat mein pesh naheen kiya jaayega."
Aah... good to know! For a moment there I was afraid they were going to drag the poor already harassed dog to court and ask it to give witness. Good to know the cops are considerate and will "raham khao" on the kutta and not bring it to court. (Seriously!!? WTFness quotient shot off the scales!!!)

Also, this video of the aankon-dekha-haal from a witness, who seems to be taking great joy in narrating all the details!

I am sure there is a horrific and disgusting angle to this story but all I can find in it is much amusement and laughter. At the stupidest of things. Like the dog barking in the background 18secs into this 2nd video and more interesting questions from the interviewer: "unki position kya thee" etc etc.

Sorry for any readers who do not know Hindi. Someone should put up a translated transcript of the entire video but I cannot do it. I keep falling off the chair ROTFLing after every 10-15 seconds watching the video!

Saw this video at 2pm or so yesterday and was laughing right through it. Then at 4pm last evening, shaving, I remembered the last sentence of the Punjab Kesri article and start laughing aloud. Again, at 4am this morning, tossing and turning in bed, I remembered parts of the interview, and start laughing aloud. (Luckily my wife did not wake up and wonder what was wrong with me!)

And so it goes... the  video continues to entertain long after I first saw it. Makes me wonder if I am amongst a minority of people who find such joy and amusement in the  WTF moments of life! Life is too boring and mundane (not to mention absurd and meaningless) without this, no?

I think I know why this is so entertaining to me....is kahaani mein sex bhi hai, action bhi hai, drama bhi hai, comedy bhi hai, tragedy bhi hai, satire bhi hai, emotion bhi hai, farce bhi hai, horror bhi hai..... this, my friends, is the stuff life is made of. Who needs entertainment or Jon Stewart or The Onion when life can serve us so much mirth!

-
Humor is merely tragedy standing on its head with its pants torn. ~ Irvin S. Cobb

Evolution

on September 14, 2009 with 0 comments » | ,

A great cartoon a friend sent me via email.


There is a signature at the bottom but its hard to read and I have no idea about source and hence do not have a copyright notice here but if you know the source, let me know and I will be happy to put an attribution.

Same friend also sent this other one the other day. Only sharing it here because I first thought there was another Krueger National Park type situation.(If you have not seen that vide, you must! See it here.)

The headline screams:

Dog Pack Attacks Gator In Florida 

At times nature can be cruel, but there is also a raw beauty, and even a certain justice manifested within that cruelty.  The alligator, one of the oldest and ultimate predators, normally considered the "apex predator", can still fall victim to implemented 'team work' strategy, made possible due to the tight knit social structure and "survival of the pack mentality" bred into the canines.  Note that the Alpha dog has a muzzle hold on the gator preventing it from breathing, while another dog has a hold on the tail to keep it from thrashing. The third dog attacks the soft underbelly of the gator. 

See the remarkable photograph below  .....

.....  

   ........

  Warning: Not for the squeamish ..... 

       ............


                 ............ ............


Sorry! Bad one... No one reads my blog anyways but if someone does, hope such stupid jokes do not drive you away! :) 
--
At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.  ~Jean Houston

Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective:  an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.  ~Christopher Morley

Its a dog's world - 14

on September 10, 2009 with 0 comments » |

Come meet the ...


Picture 9.jpg
... Yoga Dogs! (via a post at BoingBoing.com)

Update: Looks like too many people visiting the site, thanks to BoingBoing and other sites advertising this, Yoga Dogs site is down!

Its a dog's world - 15

on September 9, 2009 with 0 comments » |

No comments... except every dog has its day!



Paris's pinkified pet playhouse has two floors. Downstairs there is a living room and upstairs there is a bedroom and a closet to stash the many outfits she has purchased for her small pets. Hilton's dogs, which bear names like Tinkerbell, Marilyn Monroe, Prince Baby Bear, Harajuku, Dolce and Prada, will feel right at home because the mini-mansion, outfitted by interior decorator Faye Resnick was designed to resemble Hilton's own home in all its pink majesty and includes miniature Philippe Starck furniture, heat, air conditioning and even a black crystal chandelier and black ceiling moldings.
More pictures and details here.


Btw, it seems these are the dogs that play in this mansion!


Celebrity twitter pictures: Paris Hilton posted this ridiculous picture of her pet dogs

Also, her dogs are named Tinkerbell, Marilyn Monroe, Prince Baby Bear, Harajuku, Dolce and Prada. WOE! Ms Monroe will never be quite the same for me again.

Update: via Paris's own Twitter update, we learn which one is Marilyn Monroe! ;-)

As if blood newly came

on September 8, 2009 with 0 comments » |

Been trying to read up about Wallace Stevens a lot lately. Here's some beautiful lines from "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" celebrating poetry.

The poem refreshes life so that we share,
For a moment, the first idea . . . It satisfies
Belief in an immaculate beginning

And sends us, winged by an unconscious will,
To an immaculate end. We move between these points:
From that ever-early candor to its late plural

And the candor of them is the strong exhilaration
Of what we feel from what we think, of thought
Beating in the heart, as if blood newly came,

An elixir, an excitation, a pure power.
The poem, through candor, brings back a power again
That gives a candid kind to everything.
More excerpts from the poem can be read here. Or you can read the entire poem and lots more from Wallace Stevens by buying:

or

Do read more... for as Wallace Stevens said in his poem, Of Modern Poetry: "It must be the finding of a satisfaction."

Also for your reading pleasure these two links from the NYT archives:
Talk With Mr. Stevens (1954) - A New York Times interview with Wallace Stevens. 
Wallace Stevens, Noted Poet, Dead (1955) - The New York Times obituary for Stevens.
And to come full circle, the 1931 review of Stevens' first book of poems, Harmonium, which included the poem "Notes towards a Supreme Fiction."
"Harmonium" (1931)
"From one end of the book to the other there is not an idea that can vitally affect the mind, there is not a word that can arouse emotion. The volume is a glittering edifice of icicles. Brilliant as the moon, the book is equally dead."
The reviewer, Percy Hutchinson, can eat crow. Harmonium is celebrated as one of the great poetry books of the 20th century [1] and Stevens is celebrated (and not just by Harold Bloom) as one of the top 5 leading American poets of the 20th century alongside T. S. Eliot, William Carlos William, and ( controversially) Ezra Pound. (I say controversially because though he is credited with fostering modern poetry, his own contributions to poetry, Cantos notwithstanding, I am finding are subject to a lot of discussion and debate. Be that as it may, he deserves mention amongst the greats of modern poetry.)

[1] Read this blog post by Edward Bryne, editor of Valparaiso Poetry Review, where he compiles a list of 100 books of poetry "that might present appropriate coverage of poets whose contributions represent a collective sampling of twentieth century American poetry." Also, the follow-up post with replies from some readers of his blog.

--
“After one has abandoned a belief in god, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life’s redemption." - Wallace Stevens, in his book Opus Posthumous.

To possess other eyes

on September 4, 2009 with 0 comments » | ,

Given that I am reading a book with excerpts from Prousts (see previous post), I may post an excerpt from Proust from time to time in the next few days.

Here's one that I found (still in the Preface to the book) that I liked!

The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; .. with men like these we do really fly from start to start.
Indeed! That's what reading is all about...

After much rain through May to August, we are having a week of great weather here in the Boston area, with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s. I put up a Facebook update noting this and then commented on this when I found what I called the "perfect poem for the week."

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather...
And autumn's best of cheer.
- Helen Hunt Jackson . . . Oxford Book of Children's Verse in America, Donald Hall, ed. (1985) Oxford University Press.
And there there is Thoreau waxing poetically and eloquently about the joy of such a September day at Walden - very near here!
"In such a day, in September or October, Walden is a perfect forest mirror, set round with stones as precious to my eye as if fewer or rarer. Nothing so fair, so pure, and at the same time so large, as a lake, perchance, lies on the surface of the earth... Read More. Sky water. It needs no fence. Nations come and go without defiling it. It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver will never wear off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs; no storms, no dust, can dim its surface ever fresh;Ma mirror in which all impurity presented to it sinks, swept and dusted by the sun's hazy brush,—this the light-dust cloth,—which retains no breath that is breathed on it, but sends its own to float as clouds high above its surface, and be reflected in its bosom still."
Reading this, Neha wrote about how "utterly wonderful" it was that "something that someone once wrote that finds resonance in contemporary experience."

Indeed! That comment came back to me when this morning I read something which harks back to what she said about how something written centuries back finds a resonance today.
"Art propitiates accidental homecomings. It sets up and invokes that privileged moment which the Greeks called anagnorisis - recognition."- Andre Aciman in Preface to "Proust Project" [1]
I love the term - accidental homecomings - as it applies to things that others have written that find homes in our hearts.

As Proust himself wrote elsewhere:
"Every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have perceived in himself."
[1] I find Proust very inaccessible - have made two attempts to read 'In Search of Lost Time - Swann's Way' in the past and failed. Some day I will read it but for now, I picked up this book at the library earlier this week - hoping to enjoy, through others experiences of reading the book, the wisdom and joy that can be gleaned from Proust's writing.

It's a dog's world - 13

on September 2, 2009 with 0 comments » |

What can I say! The picture says it all :)

A dog owner in China has trained his two terriers to do his shopping.
Wow Wow and Pong Pong bring the groceries home
Wow Wow and Pong Pong bring the groceries home.
More details here.

Earlier: The lettuce-dogs of Fuzhou, China:
Lettuce dogs
Sigh!

Using darkness as a medium

on September 1, 2009 with 0 comments » |

In comparing the confessional poets (like Robert Lowell) to Wordsworth's poetry (Prelude, etc.), Mark Strand, in an essay [1] about the poetry of self, opines that "Wordsworth takes his own Being in the wold more for granted than any contemporary poet is able to." He writes:

In most so-called confessional poetry, there is no governing vision of submergence or transcendence as there is in Wordsworth. Submergence occurs when the poet uses darkness as a medium and communicates with his own unconscious. It is through such process that the poet makes the universe internal until it takes on his form. Transcendence is the process by which the poet puts himself into the universe until he becomes identified, with the divine event. Light is its medium. In confessional poetry, the self is terminal, physical, isolated.....
This one is a weighty essay but I enjoyed the book very much especially A Poet's Alphabet, On Becoming a Poet, the Introduction to The Best American Poetry 1991, Notes on the Craft of Poetry, and an interesting essay about the appearance of Parnassus in 4 different poems by US poets.

[1] You can read this and other essays by Mark Strand in his book: The Weather of Words. Also, read this article about the book by Edward Bryne.

 Just ran across a quote:

Like dreaming, reading performs the prodigious task of carrying us off to other worlds. But reading is not dreaming because books, unlike dreams, are subject to our will: they envelop us in alternative realities only because we give them explicit permission to do so. Books are the dreams we would most like to have, and, like dreams, they have the power to change consciousness, turning sadness to laughter and anxious introspection to the relaxed contemplation of some other time and place.  --- Victor Null, South African educator, psychologist in Introduction to Lost in a Book: The Psychology of Reading for Pleasure, Yale University Press (1988).
You can read an article based on the main thesis of the above book here (pdf).

I have never really read Shakespeare much but lately am finding a few lines here and there through the internet and finding great delight in his lines. Here is one from Richard II, Act V, Scene V which I found looking at some quotations about time.

When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men's lives.
And here have I the daintiness of ear
To cheque time broke in a disorder'd string;
But for the concord of my state and time
Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;
For now hath time made me his numbering clock:
My thoughts are minutes; and with sighs they jar...
Like the poet Mark Strand writes in a book I am currently reading (The Weather of Words), poetry is not all about...
"...the dark or the unknown at the center of our experience. Some try not to, choosing to speak of what is known, of common experiences, in which humanness is most powerfully felt, experiences that we share with those who lived hundreds of years ago."
Perhaps the Bard wrote for some of us...traipsing around through life centuries later! As Strand writes later in that para:
"This is the secret life of poetry. It is always paying homage to the past, extending a tradition into the present."
Latter in the essay (which he penned as an Intro to the Best American Poetry, 1991), Strand writes:
"The way poetry has of settling our internal house in order, of formalizing emotion difficult to articulate, is one of the reasons we still depend on it in moments of crisis and during those times when it is important that we know, in so many words... Read More, what we are going through. ... Without poetry, we would have either silence or banality, the former leaving us to our own inadequate devices for experiencing illumination, the latter cheapening with generalization what we wished to have for ourselves alone, turning our experience into impoverishment, our sense of ourselves into embarrassment."
Elsewhere, Strand writes:
"… it's not that poetry reveals more about the world — it doesn't — but it reveals more about our interactions with the world than our other modes of expression. And it doesn't reveal more about ourselves alone in isolation, but rather it reveals that mix of self and other, self and surrounding, where the world ends and we begin, where we end and the world begins." 
Much delight to be sought through poetry and the words of poets!

Alienated gorillas

on August 30, 2009 with 0 comments » | ,

Found an interesting quote (emphasis mine):

A zoologist who observed gorillas in their native habitat was amazed by the uniformity of their life and their vast idleness. Hours and hours without doing anything. Was boredom unknown to them? This is indeed a question raised by a human, a busy ape. Far from fleeing monotony, animals crave it, and what they most dread is to see it end. For it ends, only to be replaced by fear, the cause of all activity. Inaction is divine; yet it is against inaction that man has rebelled. Man alone, in nature, is incapable of enduring monotony, man alone wants something to happen at all costs—something, anything.... Thereby he shows himself unworthy of his ancestor: the need for novelty is the characteristic of an alienated gorilla.  - E.M. Cioran (b. 1911), Rumanian-born French philosopher. The Trouble with Being Born, ch. 11, trans. by Richard Howard, Seaver Books (1976).
Something to think about next time you crib about being bored, as I was doing this afternoon. What do I know -- I am an alienated gorilla!

Also: "Boredom and fear keep us working and obeying the laws." - Mason Cooley, who also opined that

Also, Nietzsche said:
Only the most acute and active animals are capable of boredom.
and also that:

One receives as reward for much ennui, despondency, boredom—such as a solitude without friends, books, duties, passions must bring with it—those quarter-hours of profoundest contemplation within oneself and nature. He who completely entrenches himself against boredom also entrenches himself against himself: he will never get to drink the strongest refreshing draught from his own innermost fountain.  
So, drink from the refreshing draught of my innermost fountain I have to. There is nothing else to salvage this despondency and ennui.

A qualified unhappiness

on August 13, 2009 with 0 comments » | , ,

I might have blogged this when I read Nonconformity couple years back:

"The natural state of the sentient adult is a qualified unhappiness. I think also that in an adult the desire to be finer in grain than you are only adds to this unhappiness in the end" - F. Scott Fitzerald, as quoted in Nonconformity by Nelson Algren
And so it goes...

This excerpt from William Faulkner's Nobel lecture:

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. 
It's a short Banquet speech... but so wonderful to read! Go read it in its entirety or better still

I ran into this quote from Kundera and wanted to share it here:

"Anyone whose goal is 'something higher' must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves." - Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
I had fervently read a lot of Kundera novels in the mid-90s when I was first introduced to his oeuvre by a friend. I so enjoyed them that I went and bought 4-5 of his novels during a trip to India in 1998! I should probably re-read a few of them some day soon -- it's been 10+ years and I am sure the books are tired waiting in anticipation on the book shelf behind me, hoping that some day someone will pick them up and read them!

Just ran into these lines:

The American nation drives passionately toward comfort. The aim of the frenzied practical life in which it engages is to attain material ease, and the symbols of its paradise are significant... Naturally, in paradise one would not wish to be annoyed by a suspicion that all was a brilliant fake, a magnificient evanescent dream, but rather, to refine upon one's luxurious means of existence. This is where in America the artistic intelligence may enter and play, elaborating, colouring, bedecking, adding splendour to the circumstances of one's comfort. - Gorham B. Munson
For the record, these lines were not written in writing about American life, in general but are from an essay that appeared in The Dial in November 1925 about "The Danadyism of Wallace Stevens" - which can be read, if interested at page 78 of this book, via Google Books! This was an essay published two years after the publication of Wallace Stevens' first ground-breaking book of poems, Harmonium.

Picked up a book with previously unpublished articles (and a few uncollected short stories) by Nelson Algren yesterday. Its called Entrapment and Other Writings; Entrapment being Nelson's unfinished novel.

Reading the introduction, I came upon this paragraph from a 1953 essay in the Nation that Nelson penned, which, as the editors write could well have been, 'with a few changes of detail', written in 2008:

Five years have passed since we began, once again, to rearm. Do we therefore feel more free from attack than we did five years ago? Have we thereby established an abiding trust in the hearts of other peoples? Do we therefore find ourselves with more friends in the world? Are our rights as free men thus made more secure? Or have we not once more demonstrated that keeping industries that depend for profit upon war and the preparation for war (such has the aviation industry) in private hands is equivalent to putting a hot-car thief in charge of a parking lot? So it must be that, in the present senatorial passion for investigation, the reason nobody investigates the men who are trading off our freedoms for private enrichment is that they are the very ones who are doing the investigating.”
I had read this couple years back when I read Algren's book Non-Conformity, a book which allegedly the FBI pressured the then-publisher, Doubleday, to not publish when it was written in the early 1950s [1].

Also, in a brief interview from 1957 included at the end of the book (Entrapment & Other Writings, that is), I glean this gem:
Life (magazine) wants writing that's so hygienicized and so cellophanized that it's lost all its vitality. This kind of writing breeds of sort of spiritual isolationism. There is something more to our life....it shouldn't be merely a collection of gadgets and nothing more, two cars in a neat arage. So many lives are made up of gadgets and nothing more.
Once again, as true today, (perhaps moreso!), as it was in the 50s! He continues:
There are all these myths, you know. Our society is full of them: the General Motors myth, the gray flannel suit myth. And the biggest myth of all is that of the gadget, gadgets everywhere, a collection of things: two Fords in the garage, a deep freeze in the basement, and an all-purpose wife in the kitchen. There was never a time when men lived more tidily in such disorder. There were never more analysts telling other analysts what to do. There was never a more rigid moral code adopted so flexibly....so much abundance with so little satisfaction.
With a few changes and updates to the collection of things we surround ourselves with in the 21st century (as compared to the 1950s), the above paragraph rings so true!

To quote some more:
Q: You think, then, that Americans are deceiving themselves most of the time?
A: We live in an age where self-deception is at its height. Nowhere is there such discrepancy between people's lives and what they hear every day about their lives. Magazines like Life exist by fostering this kind of self-deception.
Instead of berating certain magazines, I'd update the above to TV channels and the media of today... but this self-deception sure does continue today too!

Leave you with this gem from later in the interview:
Q: “What do you think is the relation of the church to the people you write about—the accused, the underprivileged?
A: “I’d say the church does gently what the police do roughly.”
Now I've got to get around to reading Nelson Algren's Paris Review interview from 1955!

[1] Notes from the 1998 publication have this to say:
As Algren was writing Nonconformity, his affair with Simone de Beauvoir was coming toan end and the FBI was compiling an extensive file on him. Both of these developments exerted an influence on the resulting essay. Finally, the FBI found two informants of "known reliability" to denounce him as a former Communist. Doubleday, his New York publisher, which had pressed Algren to let them publish Nonconformity, then canceled his contract.

Lovely!

We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
               - from the poem, Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens
Also, earlier in the poem, these lovely lines:
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measure destined for her soul.

I had to go read Sunday Morning after reading 4 pages about this poem in a book I randomly picked up at Boston Public Library earlier today: Revolution and Convention in Modern Poetry: Studies in Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Yvor Winters  by Donald E. Stanford. I lot of this critical writing about poetry goes over my head and yet reading critics write about poetry tells me how complex poetry can be and how we are mere hacks and poseurs who think we write poetry!
 
In any case, I had a little exposure to Wallace Stevens' and William Carlos Williams' poetry in April this year when I was celebrating National Poetry Month with tweets about poetry....and so am delighted to be reading and finding gems like these in their poetry.

Woodstock

on August 7, 2009 with 0 comments » |

Just ran into a lovely collection of pictures, from Woodstock (August 15 to August 18, 1969), which were contributed to NYT by readers.

woodstock
(This iconic picture is not from the Reader gallery at NYT linked above [1].)

40 years later, I bet it all feels like a magical moment to all those that were there. More pictures at this link.

Related: Video of the entire concert of Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock.


and Jimi Hendrix playing The Star Spangled Banner on his guitar.


Stupendous stuff!

Also this link to a video of Janis Joplin at Woodstock.

[1] Btw, seems the couple embracing in this iconic Woodstock photo are still together. Here is a snapshot of them now!

I got introduced to the topic of chaos and the beauty and order implicit in chaos in 1991 when I did a senior year project on the order seen in fractal agglomerates and through the mid-90s, I read many articles and books about chaos theory. Though I do not claim to understand all the math behind it, there is something about the topic of chaos that draws me to it every few years.

So, I recently got two books from the library: Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by M. Mitchell Waldrop and Deep Simplicity - Bringing Order to Chaos and Complexity by John Gribbin.

Prefaced in the second book, I found this wonderful quote from Richard Feynman.

‘It always bothers me that, according to the laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of space, and no matter how tiny a region of time. How can all that be going on in that tiny space? Why should it take an infinite amount of logic to figure out what one tiny piece of spacetime is going to do? So I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed, and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the chequer board with all its apparent complexities.’  - Richard P. Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, November 1964 Cornell Lectures, broadcast and published in 1965 by BBC, pp. 57-8. 
[Also, seems Bill Gates has now put the full video of the lectures online, as part of Project Tuva.]

Leave you with these words from Feynman in the same lecture series:
‘Nature has a simplicity and therefore a great beauty.’
Indeed! And how many of us live our lives completely oblivious to the great beauty of nature!

Updates: Couple more quotes about chaos -- though not necessarily in the scientific sense:
“Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.”   Tom Barrett

“Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.” - Chuck Palahniuk“
Chaos is a friend of mine.” - Bob Dylan
“When tempest tossed, embrace chaos” - Dean Koontz 
"Chaos is the score upon which reality is written.” -  Henry Miller

“Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.” -  George Santayana

“Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit” - Henry Brooks Adams
In short, in chaos, there can be an opportunity to be creative, to grow, and to even flourish!

Yesterday, I blogged about the lovely Philip Roth Paris Review Interview from the 80s. There are many more lovely excerpts from it that I would love to transcribe here -- entire pages of it -- but for now, a few more paragraphs will have to do.

You're asking me about the relationship between art and life? It's like the relationship between the eight hundred or so hours that it took to be psychoanalyzed, and the eight or so hours that it would take to read Portnoy's Complaint loud. Life is long and art is shorter.
Also:
The thing about Zuckerman that interests me is that everbody's split, but few so openly as this. Everybody is full of cracks and fissures, but usually we see people trying very hard to hide the places where they're split. Most people desperately want to heal their lesions, and keep trying to. Hiding them is sometimes taken for healing them (or for not having them).

Later...talking about a tough time in his life after his marriage broke down:
The image that teased me during those years was of a train that had been shunted onto the wrong track. In my early twenties, I had been zipping right along there, you know - on schedule, express stops only, final destination clearly in mind; and then suddenly I was on the wrong track, speeding off into the wilds. I'd ask myself, "How the hell do you get this thing back on the right track?" Well, you can't. I've continued to be surprised, over the years, whenever I discover myself, late at night, pulling into the wrong station.
And so it goes....

In his 1961 essay in Commentary about writing "American Fiction", Philip Roth writes that it grows harder every day to write fiction in America. For when reality itself is so bizarre, writing fiction and creating "the willing suspension of disbelief" (Coleridge) becomes a challenge for the writer.

"The American writer in the middle of the twentieth century has his hands full in trying to understand, describe, and then make credible much of American reality. It stupefies, it sickens, it infuriates, and finally it is even a kind of embarrassment to one's ...meager imagination. The actually is continually outdoing our talents, and the culture tosses up figures almost daily that are the envy of any novelist."
Gleaned above lines from the book Philip Roth by Derek Parker Royal (page 136).

In talking about this essay during his Paris Review interview in 1984, Philip Roth had this to say:
Alienated in America, a stranger to its pleasures and preoccupations - that was how many young people like me saw their situation in the fifties. It was a perfectly honorable stance, I think, shaped by our literary aspirations and modernist enthusiasms, the high-minded of the second post-immigrant generation coming into conflict with the first great eruption of postwar media garbage. Little did we know that some twenty years later the philistine ignorance on which we would have liked to turn our backs would infect the country like Camus's plague. Any satirist writing a futuristic novel who had imagined a President Reagan during the Eisenhower years would have been accused of perpetrating a piece of crude, contemptible, adolescent, anti-American wickedness, when, in fact, he would have succeeded, as prohetic sentry, just where Orwell failed; he would have seen that the grotesquerie to be visited upon the English-speaking world would not be an extension of the repressive Eatern totatitarian nightmare but a proliferation of the Western farce of media stupidity and cynical commercialism - American-style philistinism run amok. It wasn't Big Brother who'd be watching us from the screen, but we who'd be watching a terrifyingly powerful world leader with the soul of an amiable, soap opera grandmother, the values of a civic-minded Beverly Hills Cadillac dealer, and the historical background and intellectual equipment of a high school senior in a June Allyson musical.

Twenty years later, I wonder what Roth would have to say about writing fiction in America - assaulted as we were these past few years by daily news of the Bush-Cheny led misadventures in Iraq  and their own versions of reality of "progress" being made there on the one hand and the shenanigans of so-deemed "reality" TV celebrities, on the other.

I'll have to go read The Plot Against America, Everyman and other recent novels and also some recent Roth interviews soon!