COMMONPLACE BOOK: Readings for the End of December 2006

“I speak from the cusp of Boomer/GenX. I wobble on either side. I look at my daughter; and her beauty and vitality are so vivid I could faint. I want to lock her up— no, I mean, I want to empower her. Actually, no!— I want to scare her shitless. Oh, let’s be honest: I’m scared shitless. My generation has melted the polar ice caps, looted the bank, and my inheritance to her is: what exactly?”
(Susie Bright)

Press release from Gap Inc.:
“Gap’s holiday print campaign showcases heartfelt images shot by acclaimed photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. The ads capture the mood of the season while emphasizing the importance of being with the ones you love. For the campaign shoot, a diverse group of talented personalities was photographed with someone near and dear to them....
“The ads are tagged ‘peace love gap’ and each campaign image has a corresponding message such as believe in your hood, together in your hood and reflect in your hood. With a gold peace symbol prominently featured throughout the print campaign, the images remind us of the powerful message peace brings during the holidays. The print ad campaign, which was developed by Gap’s creative agency Laird + Partners, will run in December issues of publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle, Allure, Glamour, Lucky and Rolling Stone. The campaign also includes outdoor elements such as billboards and bus shelters in select markets.
"There isn’t a more meaningful time to emphasize the importance of peace and love than during the holidays. We wanted to capture these unspoken emotion in our holiday campaign and what better way to do that than by featuring some of our favorite style makers with their loved ones,” said Trey Laird, creative director for Gap. “We chose to focus on hoodies – everything from hooded sweatshirts to the softest cashmere sweaters – because they are so iconic to Gap and so perfect for the winter season.” (Publicity Release from Gap, Inc.)

"I am what Harry Potter grew up into, and it's not a pretty sight."
(Alan Moore)

"The best way to protect the Culture is by making it worthy -- not by passing laws.”
(Sophie Marceau)

“Conrad Black is not the only tycoon to have dreamed of global domination while buying and selling newspapers, and he is not the only tycoon to have had people fawning over him on the way up and shunning him on the way down; he is not the only tycoon to have lived large, issued writs and faced criminal charges; but he is the only tycoon with a wholly distinctive prose style. It is on show in a furious email Black wrote to Tom Bower, protesting that Bower’s forthcoming book about Lord and Lady Black was going to be ‘a heartwarming story of two sleazy, spivvy, contemptible people, who enjoyed a fraudulent and unjust elevation; were exposed, and ground to powder in a just system, have been ostracised; and largely impoverished, and that I am on my way to the prison cell where I belong.’” (John Lancester, London Review of Books)

“What surprised me, though, was how completely parents of even younger girls seem to have gotten in step with society’s march toward eroticized adolescence — either willingly or through abject surrender.... Our girls are bratz, not slutz, they would argue, comfortable in the existence of a distinction.”
(Lawrence Downs, “Middle School Girls Gone Wild”, in The New York Times

“Mr. Hussein staged perhaps his most macabre purge in 1979, when at age 42 he consolidated his hold on Iraq. Having pushed aside President Bakr, he called a gathering of several hundred top Baathists.... Mr. Hussein took to the podium, weeping at first as he began reading a list of dozens implicated. Guards dragged away each of the accused. Mr. Hussein paused from reading occasionally to light his cigar, while the room erupted in almost hysterical chanting demanding death to traitors. ...
Firing squads consisting of cabinet members and other top officials initially gunned down 21 men, including five ministers...
Mr. Hussein invariably ensured that those around him were complicit in his bloody acts, which he masqueraded as patriotism, making certain that there would be no guiltless figure to rally opposition.”
(The New York Times)

“The county of Yorkshire, which contains near a million souls, sends two county members; and so does the county of Rutland which contains not a hundredth part of that number. The town of Old Sarum, which contains not three houses, sends two members; and the town of Manchester, which contains upwards of sixty thousand souls, is not admitted to send any. Is there any principle in these things?” (Thomas Paine on “rotten” boroughs in 18th century England)

from “Blackadder III: Dish and Dishonesty”:

Edmund: Sir Talbot represented the constituency of Dunny-on-the-Wold, and, by an extraordinary stroke of luck, it is a rotten borough.

Prince Regent: Really! Is it! Well, lucky-lucky us. Lucky-lucky-luck. Luck-luck-LAKK-LAKK-LAKK-LAKK-cluck-cluck-cluck-cluck- cluck-LAKK-LAKK-LAKK.

Edmund: You don't know what a rotten borough is, do you, sir.

Prince Regent: No.

Edmund: So what was the chicken impression in aid of?

Prince Regent: Well, I just didn't want to hurt your feelings. Erm, so, what is a robber button?

Edmund: *Rotten borough*.

Prince Regent: Oh, yes, you're right.

Edmund: A rotten borough, sir, is a constituency where the owner of the land corruptly controls the both the voters and the MP.

Prince Regent: Good, yes...and a robber button is...?

Edmund: Could we leave that for a moment? Dunny-on-the-Wold is a tuppenny-ha'penny place. Half an acre of sodden marshland in the Suffolk Fens with an empty town hall on it. Population: three rather mangy cows, a dachshund named `Colin', and a small hen in its late forties.

Prince Regent: So, no people at all, then? Apart from Colin...

Edmund: Colin is a dog, sir.

Prince Regent: Well, yes, yes, yes...

Edmund: Only one actual person lives there, and he is the voter.

“I never gave a goddam about my reputation. My father once said something very shrewd about me to a woman journalist who had told him how courageous she thought I was for always speaking my mind. My father said, ‘if you couldn't care less what anyone says about you, then it's not courage.'”
(Gore Vidal)

“Here are 23 ministers, of different denominations, and all of them are against me but three; and here are a great many prominent members of the Churches, a very large majority of whom are against me. Mr. Bateman, I am not a Christian -- God knows I would be one but I have carefully read the Bible, and I do not understand this book.” [Lincoln here drew out a pocket New Testament] “These men well know that I am for freedom in the territories, freedom everywhere as far as the Constitution and the laws will permit, and that my opponents are for slavery. They know this, and yet, with this book in their hands, in the light of which human bondage cannot live a moment, they are going to vote against me. I do not understand it at all.”
(Abraham Lincoln, in conversation with Newton Bateman, then Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Illinois)

"There was the strangest combination of church influence against me. Baker is a Campbellite; and therefore, as I suppose with few exceptions, got all of that Church. My wife had some relations in the Presbyterian churches, and some in the Episcopal churches; and therefore, wherever it would tell, I was set down as either one or the other, while it was everywhere contended that no Christian ought to vote for me because I belonged to no Church, was suspected of being a Deist and had talked about fighting a duel."
(Lincoln in a letter to Martin M. Morris,1843)

“Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that the centenary of [Hannah] Arendt’s birth should have devolved into a recitation of the familiar. Once a week, it seems, some pundit will trot out her theory of totalitarianism, dutifully extending it, as her followers did during the Cold War, to America’s enemies: al-Qaida, Saddam, Iran. Arendt’s academic chorus continues to swell, sounding the most elusive notes of her least political texts while ignoring her prescient remarks about Zionism and imperialism. Academic careers are built on interpretations of her work, and careerism, as Arendt noted in her book on Eichmann, is seldom conducive to thinking.
“....The main reason for the contemporary evasion of Arendt’s critique of careerism, however, is that addressing it would force a confrontation with the dominant ethos of our time. In an era when capitalism is assumed to be not only efficient but also a source of freedom, the careerist seems like the agent of an easy-going tolerance and pluralism. Unlike the ideologue, whose great sin is to think too much and want too much from politics, the careerist is a genial caretaker of himself. He prefers the marketplace to the corridors of state power. He is realistic and pragmatic, not utopian or fanatic. That careerism may be as lethal as idealism, that ambition is an adjunct of barbarism, that some of the worst crimes are the result of ordinary vices rather than extraordinary ideas: these are the implications of Eichmann in Jerusalem that neo-cons and neoliberals alike find too troubling to acknowledge.”
(Corey Robin in the London Review of Books

“We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.
“In an interview on MSNBC the day the [Military Commissions Act of 2006] bill was signed, Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University, declared the date one of the most infamous in the history of the republic, and amazed at the "national yawn" greeting this "huge sea change for our democracy." Where was the public consternation about this reversal of our founding principles? That interested me more than the brazen coup of the administration—which Carl Schmitt might argue was a categorical imperative. Why had the decent people of the country mounted no serious protest even against something as on-its-face objectionable as the bill's sanction of torture?”
(Diane McWhorter at Slate)

“James Brown, Jerry Ford and now Saddam-- why do the great entertainers always dies in 3’s?”
(commenter dimestorefool at Wonkette)

“His impending execution now has its own music and graphics package on CNN.”
(Posted at 3:12 PM by Bob Harris at This Modern World)

Saint James Infirmary Blues

Let her go, let her go, God bless her,
Wherever she may be;
She can look this whole wide world all over
She'll never find another man like me.

Now when I die, I want you to dress me in straightlace shoes
A boxback coat and a stetson hat
Put a twenty dollar gold piece on my watch chain, so's
The boys'll know I died standing pat.

Cab Calloway: "Reefer Man"

I'm not a viper (the stuff doesn't affect me), but I am a true devotee of "reefer songs", double entendre lyrics and hot jazz of the '20s, '30s and '40s. It is because of this that I die alone and childless; none of the women who let me get close enough to have sex with them were willing to name a child "Fats" Waller Fountain. In our beginning is our end.
This clip is from W.C. Fields' 1933 film "International House", a film so surreal that if you saw it on late night television and tried describing it to your friends, YOU would be accused of being high. The performance is being watched by Fields (in the straw boater) over Dr. Wong's Radioscope, which "needs no broadcast station; no carrier waves are necessary." Indeed.


Now that Saddam Hussein is dead, and our president feels like a man again, perhaps our nation can get back to more important things...
No? Oh, right.

I am not automatically opposed to the death penalty, but I’m not convinced any of us are any better off with Hussein in the ground. Why not rotting in a cell somewhere, muttering to himself? The deaths of his sons Uday and Qusay Hussein—and, let’s be honest, Saddam’s 14 year old grandson-- in a gunfight seemed necessary and just; just a glimpse at their criminal histories as serial rapists, murderers and psychopaths makes me glad they’re dead. This cool execution in the dark before the morning prayer seems less than that.

We’re going to hear an endless litany from Rice and the rest that the world is better off without him— but why Hussein? Why was he any more wicked than our own creature Pinochet, or Franco, or the generals in Greece or Argentina?

It may be that our culture has invested so much of our Shadow, our concept of evil, into a handful of Middle Easterners in order to avoid looking at our own culpability in so much death and suffering. Did Washington hate Hussein so much because he was once their own creation? Do you really feel better now that the monster is dead? Any safer? No? I don’t either.

Somehow I feel that the price is much too high: 650,000 Iraqis, 3,000 Americans and 400 billion dollars. That the Kurds and Iraqui rebels should not have been abandoned by Bush's father, that Rumsfeld should not have embraced Hussein when he was slaughtering Iranians, that this parade of blood was put in motion without my consent because a bunch of Yalies and wannabe tough guys thought they were smarter than the rest of us...

Perhaps somewhere a grieving spirit is looking at a pile of rubble and a child or a woman’s hand and fitting George Bush for an imaginary noose. That's Texas justice, after all.

Merry Christmas from Comrade Bailey and Those Commies at the Savings and Loan

"...With regard to the picture 'It's a Wonderful Life', [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a "scrooge-type" so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.
"In addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. [redacted] related that if he made this picture portraying the banker, he would have shown this individual to have been following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiner in connection with making loans. Further, [redacted] stated that the scene wouldn't have 'suffered at all' in portraying the banker as a man who was protecting funds put in his care by private individuals and adhering to the rules governing the loan of that money rather than portraying the part as it was shown. In summary, [redacted] stated that it was not necessary to make the banker such a mean character and 'I would never have done it that way.'"
(Memo to J. Edgar Hoover from D.M. Ladd, May 27, 1947)
Uncovered by Wise Bread

This would be one of those absurdities-of-the-past, had I not heard an interview on NPR Christmas Day in which the academic Michael Levin defended Ebenezer Scrooge and his descendents as misunderstood and much maligned free-market capitalists. Scrooge, he said, had done more good than harm to society; that if Cratchit were a worthwhile human being he would have been able to find better employment. "There can be no arguing with Dickens's wish to show the spiritual advantages of love. But there was no need to make the object of his lesson an entrepreneur whose ideas and practices benefit his employees, society at large, and himself."

Levin defends Scrooge's evocation of prisons and workhouses for the poor: "As Scrooge observes, he supports those institutions with his taxes. Already forced to help those who can't or won't help themselves, it is not unreasonable for him to balk at volunteering additional funds for their extra comfort.... The more pleasant the alternatives to gainful employment, the greater will be the number of people who seek these alternatives, and the fewer there will be who engage in productive labor. If society expects anyone to work, work had better be a lot more attractive than idleness." This last shows a want of historicity on Levin's part, and a willful ignorance of Victorian conditions. If it doesn't bother Scrooge, then why should it bother the poor?

The weird thing is, I can't tell if Levin is being ironic or not.

I would not so disdain believers in free-market capitalism, if only they could show me that the Invisible Hand truly existed. Only a naif or a collaborator still believes that the marketplace as it exists is truly free. The deck is stacked before the game has even started. Milton Freidman's is another God that Failed, but as it was in Soviet Russia, why should the house slaves in the brokerage houses admit that injustice exists, so long as they themselves feed well off the carcass?

JAMES BROWN, 1933 to ...

James Brown is gone at seventy-three, relatively young but still a long time for someone who drove himself to exhaustion in his professional and private life—they chased him through three states, once-- and still held his head high as The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.

He had a good death, if there is such a thing. He’d worked more than 100 shows the last year of his life, celebrated his annual toy give-away for children on Friday, had a cough that worried his dentist on Saturday, entered the hospital with pneumonia Christmas Eve and had slipped away by Christmas Day.

I will always love him for the performances when he was so exhausted by a song, so overcome with emotion he had to helped off the stage, with a friend draping his coat around his shoulders and helping James stagger off under the weight of his loss— but no! He has more to say! He can’t hold back! He throws off their support and staggers back to center stage, falls to his knees, screaming OHBABY PLEASE!— howling his cri de coeur to lost love, still melodic, still heartfelt, still funky, a shriek to make Orpheus and the Bacchantes envy his skill, too much for mortal man, collapsing again, soaked with sweat, lifted again by his crew like a deposition from the cross of human feeling, still trying to sing, staggering off the stage, blind with anguish maybe but each step keeping time with the music...

“Howl, dogs, for a Wolf has died this day.”


It’s not about the monster show, the man in the rubber suit that jumps out of the dark. A B-movie or a rollercoaster can accomplish as much. That is a momentary scare, not something that freezes your soul until you can never be warm again.

The most frightening thing in the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft isn’t the ichor dripping from the jaws of elder gods, or the thought of vulnerable flesh being pierced and stripped from our bones by the scuttling claws of unnamed things that the very sight of would drive men to insanity. We already have diseases enough that do that to our bodies in microcosm, and in our visible world men build machines to destroy other men, women and children in a hundred ways to teach us that our hopes and dreams and ideas of beauty and truth are easily turned to garbage for dogs and crows.

The horrible perception of reality in Lovecraft comes when his characters feel the weight of aeons before humanity ever existed and the endless stretch of darkness after our last spark is gone. It is the awareness of the indifference of the universe that is represented by the metaphor of Lovecraft’s Elder Gods. You matter no more than a speck of sand that dreamed it was a mountain once.

In contrast, in, I hope, unending opposition, we have the symbolism of Christmas Eve: that an indifferent universe heard Job’s complaint, and took on human form. I am well aware of the historical evidence that makes the baby Jesus just one of many gods and avatars of the same idea; I usually find myself better read on the subject than most of Christianity’s critics and defenders.

It seems to me that these half-informed debates over the historicity of Jesus are beside the point. The conservative Christians and Muslims, with their simpleton’s insistence on their faith as literal and exclusive “fact”, do more damage to religion than the most science-bound atheist.

I have faith in certain metaphors as the potential salvation for mankind. Shelley was right about that much, when he called poets the secret legislators of mankind, even if he was a dope about sailboats. I feel anger and pity for those religionists who claim, “If every word in my holy book [insert title here] is not literally true, then all my faith is in vain.” A pretty shoddy faith, if it’s so easily undone.

It’s the meaning we attach to a vulnerable child that spits in the eye of Lovecraft’s indifferent, cold stars, and the marketplace sensibility of the social Darwinist capitalists who dominate our culture, and the mechanistic reductionists who sneer at love and the nuturing impulse as mere chemical predestination.

The ox and ass of the nativity crèche were once recognized by Egyptians as Osiris and Set, giving their blessing to the new god bedded down in their hay. If the self-important, indifferent to human suffering god of the Old Testament would give up his place of prominence to an unwed mother from a gynophobic culture and an all-too-human child, then surely that’s a good thing for the rest of us? Let us be tender towards the universe tonight as if it were a small child, and if the Elder Gods are still cruel, then that's their problem, not ours. Punk-ass slime monsters.


The science that inspired my Twilight Tales story "Signifying Monkey" [warning: graphic violence and sexual language*] is in the news again with a story about robots controlled by human thoughts and another hopeful story about applications for amputees. And again, I call for a memorial to be built to the experimental subjects, animal and human (remember the yellow fever volunteers, and Dr. Erlich's assistant?) that have given up their agony in the service of humanity. Kalamazoo is a pharmecutical town and I'd like to see a gentle tribute here in Bronson Park, along with our memory of the GAR, Lincoln's visit and the Boxer Rebellion.

I wish humans were benevolent enough to Use This Power Only For Good, but then I know that the military began this line of thought in order to create robotic soldiers. We 're not the only ones; Israel is working on a nanotech "hornet" like the hunter-seeker in DUNE, and Lord knows what the Chinese will get up to.

Reginald Hudlin, in his fine revival of the Black Panther, posits a US fighting force that uses dead soldiers as cybernetically controlled fighting zombies, and I suppose that would be next. Horribly, the thing that makes this a "comic book" idea isn't the outre science: in the real world, most militaries still find it cheaper to use up live meat than to spend all that money on hardware to reanimate the dead.

"If men were angels," James Madison says, "no government would be necessary." My students hear that phrase constantly as an explanation for the Constitution and my sad-but-true refutation of the anarchist dream. Now it seems we need to leash engineers and physicians who use their dark art to hurt rather than heal.

* Five bucks says that warning inspires someone to read the story for the sole purpose of being offended.


[Continued from Part Two]...

.... Four years later, Jung's "testament in stone" reached its penultimate state: "I added a courtyard and a loggia by the lake, which formed a fourth element that was separated from the unitary threeness of the house." This fourth element opens the self up to nature and the sky, to the divine and the cosmos. The courtyard is a part of the house but it is also connected to something far beyond the Self. to look into the eye of God.

Twenty years later, after the death of his wife Emma, Jung made his last addition to the building, an upper story added to the central section. "I felt an inner obligation to become what I myself am," Jung explains to himself in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, "I could no longer hide myself behind the 'maternal' [Part I] and the 'spiritual' towers [Part II]. I added an upper story to this section, which represents myself, or my ego-personality."

Why this fifth stage of development in the structure? What more is there to build, after the womb, action taking action in the world, after withdrawal into the self, after the open courtyard perceiving the eternal? There is the final act that mystics speak of as bringing the divine down to this world and rising up to meet it so that the two are one, indistinguishable from one another. This is what the design of the Star of David represents with its two triangles meeting to form a single star: "As above, so below"; "I and the Father are One".

This concept is common to many mystic traditions. In Kundalini yoga, seven "chakras"-- levels of spiritual development-- are imagined at seven points in the human body. The penultimate chakra, on the forehead between the eyes, represents a level of development wherein "God", or the "Universe", has finally revealed itself to the seeker-- but the ultimate chakra is higher still, at the crown of the head, where the mystic becomes one with the divine, no longer separate, beyond polarity. The Christian mystic Meister Eckhardt speaks of "the leaving of God for God for God"-- that is to say, growing beyond one's preconceptions in order to discover the true mystery.

As a caveat, this might be the time to tell the story of the moth who spent all night banging against the glass of a lantern trying to reach the flame within. When he went home the next morning, he told his friends, "I've seen God!", and his friends replied, "You don't look any better for it."

Had Jung attempted this stage of spiritual development at any other time than in his old age, it would have been a gross act of inflation. Coming at this time of life, his acknowledgement of ego is a simple act of recognition, like crowning a piece in the game of checkers when it reaches the other side of the board. "I felt an inner obligation to become what I myself am... Earlier, I would have regarded it as presumptuous self-emphasis. Now it signified an extension of consciousness avhieved in old age."

How much of the tower's evolutionary design was intentional, and how much was unconscious? Jung hints that he knew perfectly well what he was doing with this pun made of stone, when he speaks of the marker stone outside the tower: "The stone stands outside the Tower, and is like an explanation of it. It is a manifestation of the occupant, but one which remains incomprehensible to others. Do you know what I wanted to chisel into the stone? 'Le cri de Merin!' For what the stone expressed reminded me of Merlin's life in the forest, after which he vanished from the world. Men still hear his cries, so the legend runs, but they cannot understand or interpret them."

The truly transcendent experience cannot be described; it cannot be adequately translated to others. As the Sufis say, "To taste is to know"-- words are not experience. As the Sufis (and young animals) say, "To taste is to know"-- words are not experience. It is as the naturalist Loren Eiseley explained, after his own transcendent moment involving a wild fox cub, a chicken bone, and a moment of play: "The universe was swinging in some fantastic fashion around to present its face, and the face was so small that the universe itself was laughing... It is the gravest, most meaningful act I shall ever accomplish, but, as Thoreau remarked of some peculiar errand of his own, there is no use reporting it to the Royal Society."

Jung's Bollingen is like a magician's tower from fable: the edifice is not just a representation of his temporal power, but synonymous with the magician itself. Unlike the tower made from faery dust, Bollingen did not collapse when its magician died, perhaps because of the integrity of the craftsmanship.


A foundation calling itself "We the People" have sponsored first one, then almost 100, and, they hope, 1000 protestors dressed as the Alan Moore character "V" to appear on the streets of Washington DC next year. They wish to present petitions asking for a "redress of grievances" from the government, calling attention to the gross offenses committed against the Constitution by our current government.

This is what happens after fifty years of civics, history and the odious "social studies" teachers whose primary focus is on coaching sports:
".... Some people were interested in conversing with “V,” including a group of 6-10 college age young people who were waiting in a line to tour the Capitol. During the conversation, “V” said he wanted to quiz them on their knowledge of the Rights covered by the First Amendment. “V” asked if they could name the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Two or three immediately said “Speech.” After a moment or two one said, “Worship God.” “V” restated that freedom for the young man. Then another said “Guns.” “V” corrected him. That was as far as the young people could go in answering the question. “V” then engaged the young people in a discussion of all five of the freedoms and the four outstanding Petitions for Redress. The young people stayed with the conversation, expressing an interest in learning more, until they had to move along in the line."

Martin Nodell, 1915-2006

Martin Nodell, creator of the Green Lantern: "I picked out the name from the train man on the tracks who was waving a lantern, going from red to green.... green meant go and I decided that was it. Then I needed a colorful and interesting costume. I was interested in Greek mythology and so the costume took on elements of that. It just all fell into place. When I sent it in, I waited into the second week before I heard the word to come in... I did the first five pages of an eight page story, and then they called in Bill Finger to help. We worked on it for seven years. After that, I retired from comics and went into advertising. I came back to comics in 1981, when I began touring comic art conventions with my wife, Carrie. I've been at it ever since and have enjoyed every minute. At the Megacon this year, a young lady showed her admiration for the character by dressing up as a member of The Green Lantern Corps-- what a thrill!"
Forgive a moment of tenderness for a man I never met and a childhood remembrance: when I was a very small child, being kept quiet with my neighbors' comic books, long before I discovered the more sophisticated charms of Marvel's Silver Age, I always kind of had a soft spot for DC's Green Lantern.
The stories were never as good as the platonic idea of the character or the imagery of that emerald light and the chiaroscuro it created-- I don't think I've read but one or two "Green Lantern" comics since early childhood, with the exception of Neil Gaiman's wonderful adult fantasy, "The Heart of a Star" in ENDLESS NIGHTS about how the light and the lanterns and the good people of Oa came to be.
The thing is, I always remembered the Oaths, and the Lanterns chosen for being honest and brave, and the importance of the light in so much darkness. A silly child's totem, perhaps, akin to T.H. White's foolish candle in the wind that Arthur tries to guard, or the flickering candle wrapped in barbed wire to represent the prisoners sought by Amnesty International...

And what shall we live by instead, when we become adult and too sophisticated for dreams of justice and the belief that Truth would have a virtue and power of itself? Adopt the cynical pose of the culture of television-baby hipsters? The realpolitik of a Kissinger and his clones? Become small and mean instead?

Commonplace Book: Quotations, Mid-December 2006

“The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum.”
(Thomas Paine)

“... It's not a state of law. Iran is a little bit like Guantanamo. You don't know exactly what is going on over there. You remember more than two years ago this Iranian-Canadian journalist/photographer? She took pictures of the prison that she didn't have the right to. It was very easy to confiscate her camera, but they took her and they killed her. And the guy who killed her was promoted. The lawyer of her family was Shirin Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize, and even with her name and the whole Nobel Prize thing etc., you know, the process doesn't give anything. It's not something that you can count on that can happen. That's why I don't go [back].
“And you know, if they told me that if I go to Iran they'll kill me or they'll hang me or whatever, and that then Iran will be a fantastic place and a democracy, I would go today. Believe me, I will do it. But the fact is if dying would change something in the world, you would have a paradise right now. For all the people that have died for their ideas until now, nothing changed. Now I have decided that I want to die for my ideas, but through a very slow death. It's better.”
(Marjane Satrapi)

“...Instead of categorizing the candidates as Republican and Democrat, why not go with Clean Hands and Bloody Hands as the name of each group. Doing so would put all the Republicans and the Democrats who sold out into one bucket, and those with sound judgment in another.”
(Digby’s Hullabaloo)

“.... if any radical, misled by George Galloway’s description of Hitchens as ‘a drink-soaked former Trotskyite popinjay’, should suggest that this book was written out of vanity, he would surely be mistaken. A vain man would have taken care to write a better book than this: more original, more accurate, less damaging to his own estimation of himself, less somniferously inert. The press release accompanying the book led me to expect something much livelier; Hitchens, it exclaims, ‘marvels’ at the forethought of Rights of Man, and ‘revels’ in its contentiousness. There is a bit of marvelling and revelling here and there, but it is as routine as everything else in this book, which reads like the work of a tired man.”
(John Burrell on Christopher’s Hitchen’s biography of Thomas Paine, in The London Review of Books)
“... the real danger posed by the Truth Movement isn't paranoia. Rather, the danger is that it will discredit and deform the salutary skepticism Americans increasingly show toward their leaders.

Four years ago ... ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, who died last year, suddenly piped up, “How does it feel to be a war criminal, Henry?”
The subject of Kissinger’s past sins was very much in the air at the time. Judges in both France and Spain were seeking Kissinger for questioning as the long-simmering debate over his connection to Chilean general Augusto Pinochet’s brutal killing of dissidents in the seventies returned with a vengeance…
The question stunned the dinner guests, who included Time Inc. editor Henry Grunwald, who also died last year, and former ABC chairman Thomas Murphy. Grunwald told Jennings the comment was “unsuitable,” but Jennings persisted.
“I tried to change the subject, but it was a very uncomfortable moment,” says Walters. “[Kissinger’s wife] Nancy reacted very strongly and hurt.” Kissinger said nothing.
(New York magazine)

Daniel Robert Epstein: This is a broad question but do you think we’ll ever live in a world or at least in an America where the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund [CBLDF] isn’t needed?
Frank Miller:
My answer would be no because some fights have to be kept on perpetually. The fund is defending retailers against the various wannabe district attorneys and other assholes. I don’t think that we’ll ever not need it but I just love the fact that it exists. When I first came in, the only thing we had was the Comics Code, which enforced censorship. Now we have an organization that actually fights censorship and I support it wholeheartedly. Have you heard Hillary Clinton talking about videogames?
Yes it’s just awful!... Personally when I walk out of my apartment and I see homeless people and crackheads, I’m like “Why isn’t she fighting to save them?”
I feel that and many other things. Why didn’t she try to keep these people from knocking the towers down? But I’m hearing about videogames. It’s pathetic.
(from an interview with Frank Miller by Daniel Robert Epstein

“Opera often borrows characters from myth - witches such as Medea, militant saviours such as Siegfried - but seldom creates archetypal figures of its own. The exception is Carmen. The wily gypsy of Georges Bizet's opera has come to symbolise eternal womanhood, ...
Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones moved it to the segregated southern United States, unsettled by mobilisation for the Second World War. The Romanian director Lucian Pintilie, staging the opera in Cardiff in 1986, presented it as the mad revelry of a gang of Latin American anarchists. In 2004 Mark Dornford-May filmed U-Carmen eKhayelitsha in a bedraggled township near Cape Town, with the suave gypsy singing in Xhosa, one of South Africa's 11 official languages. The music, which is indestructible, emerged unharmed.
No single performance of Bizet's opera, fortunately, can ever be definitive. My personal anthology of favourite Carmens includes both Régine Crespin's sophisticated courtesan and the brassy, bumptious Marilyn Horne. Teresa Berganza played the character as a skittish tomboy, Agnes Baltsa as an unbridled peasant; Anne Sofie von Otter gave her an undertone of depressed, introverted melancholy that was more Scandinavian than tropical. Olga Borodina's Carmen was a lazy feline, her voice slowly curling through the air like smoke from a perfumed cigarette. As if to illustrate the range of options, Covent Garden has double-cast the role: Anna Caterina Antonacci, better known as a grave classical tragedian in operas by Handel or Berlioz, will be followed in January by Marina Domashenko, who, as a Russian, still possesses the exotic allure that Mérimée and Bizet found in Spain. Mythic characters possess a thousand faces, and Carmen remains as inexhaustibly various as Shakespeare's Cleopatra.”
(Peter Conrad)

Ubi Saeva Indignatio
Cor Lacerare Nequit
Abi Viator
Et Imitare Si Poteris
Strenuum Pro Virili
Libertatis Vindicatorem

-- Epitaph of Jonathan Swift

[“He has gone where fierce indignation can lacerate his heart no more-- depart wayfarer, and imitate if you are able one who to the utmost strenuously championed liberty.”]

Swift has sailed unto his rest,
Savage indignation there
Cannot lacerate his breast
Imitate him if you dare,
World besotted traveler; he
Served human liberty.


"Not a leaf moves in this country if I'm not moving it": The Death of Pinochet, and a Fictional Call for Justice

AP- SANTIAGO, Chile -By EDUARDO GALLARDO, Associated Press Writer- "Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who terrorized his opponents for 17 years after taking power in a bloody coup, died Sunday, putting an end to a decade of intensifying efforts to bring him to trial for human rights abuses blamed on his regime. He was 91... Supporters saw Pinochet as a Cold War hero for overthrowing democratically elected President Salvador Allende at a time when the U.S. was working to destabilize his Marxist government and keep Chile from exporting communism in Latin America... But the world soon reacted in horror as Santiago's main soccer stadium filled with political prisoners to be tortured, shot, disappeared or forced into exile...Pinochet's dictatorship laid the groundwork for South America's most stable economy, but his crackdown on dissent left a lasting legacy: His name has become a byword for the state terror, in many cases secretly supported by the United States, that retarded democratic change across the hemisphere. ..."

From PANDORA'S BASEMENT, one of my unpublished novels:

"The ferryman has parked his barges under the bridge by the Durant Hotel, and the dead are coming up from the river. The Flint River is lined with concrete, but the papyrus boats found their way from the Styx to the Flint just the same.
The dead crowd along both sides of the road like Baptists at a church picnic. Hundreds more are coming out of the empty Durant Hotel, the eyes of its abandoned windows black and broken. A few are still dressing, looking down at us through broken glass.
The dead start climbing into cars and trucks. I slow down and thread my way through. I try to use peripheral vision and not stare too closely at the things they carry, their instruments of martyrdom. A Chilean with his hands broken embraces a guitar and climbs into the car ahead of me. A pretty little nun coughs and spits out a glob stained with dirt, throws a shovel in the back of my pickup and hops into the truck bed with a grateful nod toward my rearview mirror.
When we drive past Jack’s house, all the papers he had hidden there blow out the windows in a kind of funnel cloud, and flow after us like a dragon made of government memos and manila folders. Jack’s paper trail is trailing us. ...

"Jack went down to clean things up again after the politicians made their mess, to make sure that nothing would come back on Kennicot Copper or Pepsi or AT&T. First there were the killings in 76, and then the disappearances, killing everyone that might have anything to do with an event, a common mistake, really, fairly common among murderers. There are always people who try to erase an event by killing everyone connected with it.
Amanda’s birth parents Jack found their apartment in Santiago, saw the family photos of a bearded young man and a pretty dark haired girl . Perversely he took their photos and put them in one of his boxes, as if they were better than him and he wanted to eat their souls.
She’d be older than me. She'd be my age.
She would be, wouldn’t she? If theyd let her live out her life.
Amanda was one of those children who'd been stolen from their mothers during the Chilean coup. Leftist young men were killed; their young wives, if they were pregnant, were kept alive until they delivered and then tortured to death. The babies were farmed out to childless fascist couples, who raised the children without ever telling them who they were.
Hundreds of Chileans now in their thirties had been stolen by pious goblins, and the monsters that they called "madre" and "padre" had murdered the people who'd loved them first. holding hands and making promises while they still dreamed in their mother's womb. The true mother and father had been thrown out of helicopters flown out over the ocean, or died screaming and gasping and choking on blood and wondering about a god that didn’t answer, because the god that uncle Jack has made will stop at nothing to make the world love him....

The dead all had scraps of paper in their hands— a news article, a press release, a photo, some piece of ephemera from Jack’s collection. Each of them held a folder with the name of their murderer printed carefully in Jack’s grease pencil. The ghosts started moving in among the living.
A good looking man— almost dark and handsome enough for me to resent him— was holding transcripts of Henry Kissinger talking to Kennicott executives about the necessity for realpolitik in the era of the Soviet menace. Another scrap described copper industry profits sweeping up after a coup in Chile and Argentina. He held his scraps of paper in both hands and scanned the faces of the crowd, trying to find a match.
I recognized the clippings in his hand. They were part of Uncle Jack’s collection: Jack’s underlines drawn in sanguine pencil, my yellow highlighters and circles drawn with a pale blue highlighter out of Justine’s purse.
The handsome man finally saw someone he recognized. The ghastly silence continued to surround us but we could hear him speak without sound.
—Where is my child? Donde esta mi hija?
— I don’t understand, the Pepsi executive said with a pale face.
—In the stadium. I was herded with the others into the stadium. My wife was pregnant so they took her away in the black vans. They broke my hands.
— Who took you away? What? I don’t understand what you are talking about.
— When Allende won the election. He was threatening to nationalize the copper mines— Kennicott and Anaconda—and A T and T and Pepsi. You complained to the American embassy and Nixon and Kissinger told the CIA to have Allende thrown out a window. Where is my child?
—I don’t—I promise you, this has nothing to do with me
— We were college students. She was pregnant. The black van took her to a place with a picture of Hitler on the wall and after the child was born, they tortured my wife until she died because she was a leftist college student. Donde esta mi hija?
He never shouted at the sweaty man in the expensive suit, just kept repeating his question and saying these awful things.
— We were college students. They took me to the stadium and they broke my hands and they laughed because I was crying. They shot me when they were bored.
He reached out and gently pressed his ruined fingers into the rich man’s hand. The young student held both the suited man’s hands around his own ruined ones, like a Sunday go to meeting embrace. He made the rich man feel the way the bones gritted together and bent unnaturally. He was explaining to the man as you would to a confused child who’d accidently hurt a brother or a sister.
— Mi novia was pregnant. They took her away in the van. They kept her alive until she had the baby. There was a framed picture of Adolf Hitler on the wall while they tortured her. They put things in her because they thought she probably voted for Allende. Donde esta mi hija?
— I don’t know where the baby is. I don’t know what baby.
— They took the baby. They gave the baby to a fascist family to raise as their own. Where is the baby?
The handsome man kept asking the same question, but softly, very softly. The pale man in the good suit kept trying to evade the ghost’s direct gaze and the dead you man kept wanting to know, Where is the baby?
— That was a long time ago. Before my time.
— My mother still has our picture pinned to her dress. The picture was taken at a party. Our eyes are red from the flash. I have my arm around my girl and both of us are smiling. It was a good night, you can tell from that picture. We don’t know that we’re dead yet.
Maybe the dead were finally rise up and strangle the well dressed men and women in the pit. Maybe some eldritch horror beyond description would open up and swallow them all. Maybe all they wanted to do was ask some simple question over and over again...."

The military coup, the murder of the Chilean Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the murder of the elected president, and the torture and murder of thousands of dissidents and the kidnapping and indoctrination of their children, all this began on September 11th. A lawsuit filed that day against Henry Kissinger on that day in 2001-- for his complcity in those murders-- was knocked off the front page by the sound of the Twin Towers and the wall of the Pentagon falling. The Erineyes, the Kindly Ones, the Furies had come at us sideways.

Cats Rest Easy; Sheep May Safely Graze; Frist Leaves Politics

"By day, I was little Billy Frist, the boy who lived on Bowling Avenue in Nashville and had decided to become a doctor because of his gentle father and a dog named Scratchy. By night, I was Dr. William Harrison Frist, future cardiothoracic surgeon, who was not going to let a few sentiments about cute, furry little creatures stand in the way of his career. In short, I was going a little crazy."
Thus former Senate Majority Leader, presidential dreamer and HMO scion Bill Frist, explaining why he told the staff at three Boston animal shelters he wanted to adopt cats as pets, when in fact he was spending "days and nights on end in the lab, taking the hearts out of cats, dissecting each heart, suspending a strip of tiny muscle that attaches the mitral valve to the inner wall of the cat heart and recording the effects of various medicines I added to the bath surrounding the muscle."

Frist announced this week that he would not be entering the 2008 presidential race. This also fulfills a promise he made in 1994 to leave the Senate after two six year terms.
I know that animal sacrifices-- and human volunteers as well-- have saved millions of lives because of medical research. I also believe it takes a special kind of wickedness to operate on unwilling subjects, as the Axis did in World War II and as happened here in the Tuskegee experiments-- and if an animal must be used in an experiment, let it be done respectfully and NEVER on an animal that's been brought up to think of itself as a citizen. The ease with which Frist committed that kind of casual betrayal is one more reason we are well shut of him.


(Continued from Part One)
The first expansion of Jung's tower-- what is now the central structure-- came four years after the initial stage. Despite the feelings of "response and renewal" within the first structure, Jung felt that something more was needed, beyond the familial hearth.
In a practical sense, the tower would have to be expanded in order to become useful as a work space, family cottage, guest room, an actual dwelling. Its potential usefulnes expands. This stage of the building can be read as a symbol in stone of the need for the Self to move beyond the castle keep of the womb, beyond its source, into action in the world, to become, as humans must, a socialized animal.

After action in the world, the evolving Self will feel the need to withdraw into itself if only to recharge and rest, to assimilate exxperience and listen for its own voice. Four years later, Jung's tower is extended again-- and hear its personal meaning is fairly well spelled out for us by Jung himself:
"I wanted a room in this tower where I could exist for myself alone. I had in mind what I had seen in Indian houses, in which there is usually an area-- though it may be only a corner of a room separated off by a curtain-- in which the inhabitants can withdraw. There they may meditate for perhaps a quarter or half an hour, or do yoga exercises. such an area of retirement is essential in India, where people live crowded very close together."
Jung keeps the key to this private room well guarded. He meditates, he paints on the wall, he writes arcana in his magician's diary, the so-called "Red Book" containing paintings of his visions-- expressing "all those things which have carried me out of time into seclusion, out of the present into timelessness... a place of spiritual concentration." One of the pictures shown here-- "Shadow Cornered"-- was painted during the depression that followed Jung's break from Freud.
Following to Gaaskell's scholarly stricture, it should be noted that the Greek god informing this third stage of development-- the Spiritual-- is Hermes, the trickster benefactor of alchemists, tricksters, thieves and travelers.

To be Continued...