Archive for June, 2011

“The Sirens of Coarsegold”

June 23, 2011

I herein offer full public confession.

The only true hero to whom I pledge unyielding allegiance and unqualified endorsement is the late American science fiction author/genius/philosopher/poet/crazy man Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007).

Private First Class Vonnegut was behind enemy lines during the Rhineland Campaign in the final days of World War Two when he was captured by Wehrmacht troops and became a prisoner of war. Vonnegut and his fellow POWs reached a Dresden work camp where they were imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse known by German soldiers as “Schlachthof Fünf.”

On the evening of February 13, 1945, a series of Allied firebombing raids reduced Dresden, the “Florence of the Elbe”, to a fiery inferno, killing as many as 135,000 Germans — primarily women, children and the elderly. It was the single most destructive bombing of the war—including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Little, if anything, was accomplished militarily, since the Germans were already on the verge of surrender. It was an act purely punitive in nature, which is why one never hears much about it on this side of the Atlantic. Ironically, Private Vonnegut and his fellow prisoners emerged physically unscathed among a handful of survivors, having been protected by their prison bunker several levels beneath the earth . Spiritually, Vonnegut was changed forever, later recounting the horrors of war and survival in “Slaughterhouse Five.” I never knew about Dresden until I saw the film version in 1972 — when I also discovered Vonnegut.

But more than a dozen years earlier, while still unknown, Kurt Vonnegut wrote “The Sirens of Titan”, a book later described by Esquire Magazine as “his best book”, adding, “Vonnegut dares not only to ask the ultimate question about the meaning of life, but to answer it.” The story is a fabulous trip, spinning madly through space and time. Jerry Garcia bought movie rights. The Central Valley Tea Party’s forthcoming “Family Freedom Fest” next Monday on the Fourth of July in Coarsegold brings
“The Sirens of Titan” to mind, “Sirens” being, in classical literature, beautiful sea maidens with overpowering attraction impossible to resist. In Homer’s “The Odyssey”, the Sirens sing a song so captivating that none can hear it and escape. Not even Bart, Marge, Lisa or Maggie.

Similarly, the “Family Freedom Fest” has signs all over promoting “Old Fashioned Patriotism and Family Fun”, “Free Children’s Activities”, “Bounce Houses”, “Water Slides”, “Crafts”, “Food”, “Historic Costumes”, “Music”, Young Patriots’ Booth and Activities”, a “Children’s Performance”, “Melodrama Honoring Veterans and Active Military”, “Nashville recording artist Linda Lanier” and “Inspiring Speakers.” “A Free Community Event!”

It certainly sounds like a fine old time and I fully intend to attend, just as I did last year when a similar Tea Party event was held in Oakhurst Community Park. There’s everything to be honored and respected in well-founded patriotism, national celebration of hard-won freedoms and justifiably proud flag waving on the Fourth of July or any other American day. It’s the “Inspiring Speakers” part of the program that brings those Sirens of Titan to mind — a sharp, stabbing hook at the end of all that lovely red, white and blue bait.

As the 400 wealthiest people in our Country own more than the bottom one hundred and fifty million of us, recent Tea Party talk of “Government run health care”, “our Socialist President” and, especially, “Union thugs trying to organize WALMART” are starting to reveal a deeper, darker, brilliantly manipulated nature from way, way up above, but hardly heavenly.

In “The Odyssey”, King Odysseus escapes The Sirens by having himself tied to the mast of his ship and the crews’ ears plugged up with beeswax. In “The Sirens of Titan” our protagonist, Malachi Constant, uses The Sirens in an advertisement for cigarettes, attempting to mitigate their frightening beauty through blatant commercialism.

Around here, The Sirens of Coarsegold will be countered by the Oakhurst Democratic Forum on Saturday, July 23rd, at River Creek Golf Course on Road 600 in Ahwahnee with a public showing of “The Billionaires’ Tea Party: How Corporate America is Faking a Grassroots Revolution”, a 54 minute documentary by Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham. I like what Rob Williams wrote about it : “Regardless of your political leanings, Oldham thoughtfully details how modern political propaganda works in our culture, and ought to be required viewing.” Jeff Eisinger, Professor of Sociology at Reedley College, will be on the scene to lead an open discussion on various issues presented. $10.00 tickets for dinner at 5:30 are available at 559-658-5227, while the 7 PM program is absolutely free of charge to all, regardless of party affiliation or preference.

Hoping to see you in Coarsegold AND Ahwahnee, please allow me to close with this Happy Fourth of July quote from Kurt Vonnegut in “The Sirens of Titan”:

“Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules— and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress.”

“The Eeensy-Weensy Weiner”

June 10, 2011

If Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has yet to resign his office as you read these words, he’s later than this year’s truncated Sierra Spring and miserably more disappointing.

I realize Republican counterparts in matters of sexual folderol are as numerous as fleas on Fluffy — Christopher Lee (R-NY), Mark Souder (R- Indiana), Larry Craig (R-Indiana), David Vitter (R-Louisiana), Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina), John Ensign (R-Nevada), Gary Condit (R-California), Chip Pickering (R-Mississippi), Mark Foley (R-Florida), Ed Shrock (R-Virginia), Bob Barr (R-Georgia), and our own Sperminator (R-California) being the first dozen instantly springing to mind, pardon the expression. 

The fact that many of these rascals were able to remain in office for varying lengths of time despite extended public humiliation has nothing to do with the rights or wrongs of their behavior. Citing such instances in defense of Weiner, even referencing Bill Clinton’s successful survival in the Oval Office with a severely stained reputation, offers nothing more than the absurd notion that getting away with something creates irrefutably established collective sanction – like stealing second base. I suggest Representative Weiner’s reprehensible conduct introduces a whole new ball game.

We find that dirty old man in a raincoat now miraculously replaced by a cleaner Weiner on a Blackberry, suddenly graced through advanced technology with the remarkable capability of instant digital exposure on a global scale. Ooops. Excuse me. I’m having a Jethro Tull flashback. Poor old Aqualung. “Sitting on a park bench. Eyeing little girls with bad intent.” But this time Representative Weiner is the “dead duck”, whether he knows it or not. 

Weiner freely (and finally) acknowledges that he shared certain  “messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.” Responding to a specific concern expressed in an ill-advised 29 minute long question and answer session following his initial June 6th confession, Representative Weiner embarrassingly admitted he could not guarantee that one or more of his flashing photos might not have been received by a young girl under the age of legal consent, a turn of events offering felonious potential.
Consider who’s been hurt. Setting aside obvious casualties, including his pregnant wife, confused constituents and a stunned staff, Anthony Weiner has destroyed all credibility as a champion of progressive thought even as we approach the most critical tipping point in our nation’s political history — a hero horribly unhinged. 

Here are more victimized pieces of Weiner’s broken luck:

50 million Americans are still without basic health insurance.

One out of every four of our children remain hungry each night.

A new Rasmussen poll shows a Congressional approval rating plummeting to less than  ten percent — tying an all time low as Republicans cheer a 9.1 % unemployment rate —  believing that blocking economic recovery is their best way to beat Obama in 2012.

Two billion dollars a week continues to drain our Treasury for  “absolutely nothing” — this being the late Edwin Starr’s 1969 evaluation of WAR, a conclusion brilliant in its time and even truer yet today.

We keep getting robbed on gas prices, food costs and new “fee surcharges” on everything that walks, crawls, flies, stands, or just sits there like a bump on a log or a hump on a frog. Speaking of which, my disgust with Representative Weiner has much less to do with his sexual proclivities than the utter abandonment of  responsibility on every level evident in his actions — substituting inspired leadership with perspiring lechery — followed by the most functionally fatal act of all — lying about it again and again and again and again — even directly to the President in a private conversation. In this and other failings, Weiner has added far too heavy a load of harmful personal baggage to remain a viable spokesperson for enlightened change.

Tony! We believed you! You betrayed our trust! But most of all, you have turned out to be a real creep — even creepier than that eensy-weensy spider crawling up a water spout.

I hope that you are out.