30 March 2012

The Mauritius Penny




21 March 2012

Quote of the Day

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Shultz made his position on the subject of LGBT equality absolutely clear to a pair of NOM-affiliated shareholders, telling the crowd:

“Any decision of this type or magnitude has be made with great thoughtfulness and I would assure you that a senior team at Starbucks discussed this. To be very candid with you, this was not something that was a difficult decision for us and we did share this with the board as well. [snip] We made that decision, in our view, through the lens of humanity and being the kind of company that embraces diversity.”

The Man in the Mirror




10 March 2012

Books: Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan (2006)



There are parts of Apathy and Other Small Victories that just wanted me to throw it down because the character of Shane is someone I would never want to spend time with. He’s nihilist that conservatives rant about, and he has this overwhelming sense that he’s funny. Well, maybe. Because there are times in this novel where I was not sure if the character was narrating or the author was doing stand-up. 

All Shane cares about is leaving. Usually on a Greyhound bus, right before his life falls apart again. Just like he planned. But this time it's complicated: there's a sadistic corporate climber who thinks she's his girlfriend, a rent-subsidized affair with his landlord's wife, and the bizarrely appealing deaf assistant to Shane's cosmically unstable dentist. When one of the women is murdered, and Shane is the only suspect who doesn't care enough to act like he didn't do it, the question becomes just how he'll clear the good name he never had and doesn't particularly want: his own.

The book has a great opening line, but the novel is a bit all over the place. It was recommended by a friend, but this weirdly, often funny novel collapses under its insistence that someone like Shane can actually exist. It’s like Neilan watched too much Twin Peaks and tried to create a less complex version of that show, but with all the weird people. It works to an extent, but Shane is rather pathetic, clownish guy who probably would have killed himself long ago, but can’t seem to care.

06 March 2012

Books: The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2009)



Books are to me what music, gaming, cooking, sports and other activities are to others. I love them, like I love my family. Nothing makes me feel happier than the smell, the texture, the elegance of a book. And my primary genre is fiction. I think one of the reason I like Stephen King so much is that there is always a writer in his tales. In some ways, it goes back to the notion for all writers struggling to fill up blank papers with a bunch of letters to create sentences, paragraphs that create a story from nothing, write what you know. 

And writers, who write about books, where the central theme of the story is about a book, or books, are always endlessly fascinating for me. I have always been aware of Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s 2001 best-seller The Shadow of the Wind. It sounded like an intriguing novel, but to this day, I’ve never bought to add to my ever increasing collection of books. Plus, I will admit, I’ve never been fond of the first person narrative, and that will sometimes hinder my judgment on authors I’ve never read before. 

The Angel’s Game, the prequel to 2001 novel came out in 2009. We received a copy of the book at my late Borders store when it came out in paper in 2010. Never –usually- to pass up a free ARC, I took it home and it has sat here for close to 2 years. 

Since being unemployed and sort of given up on finding a job, I can’t buy books. But since I have probably 60 or more books not read sitting in boxes, this has become a perfect time to catch up before I become homeless or, more logically, end my life.

Now seeing this is a prequel –and set sometime before the first book- I felt pretty secure that I would not have worry too much. Then I went online and discovered that Ruiz Zafón was creating a four book series set in Barcelona in the early decades of the 20th Century, and while they would share the same universe, same locations like the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, they could be read separately, and in any order.  

In The Angel’s Game we meet a young, tortured writer named David MartÍn, who after struggling for years writing pulp fiction for unscrupulous magazine publishers, and who also lives in the shadow of a more popular, but less creative, fellow author, is offered a lucrative commission from a mysterious editor from Paris. This well-dressed man represents something called Éditions de la Lumière (Editions of the Light), and soon David suspects he may have made a deal with the devil.

Within this novel, Ruiz Zafón takes the slenderest of ideas –what artist has not thought about selling their soul for success- and creates a wonderful, pulpy, melodramatic tale that zigs and zags through the streets of Barcelona like a toy car out control. 

It’s a fairly literary novel, wrought with history lessons, lost loves and damaged souls. Only towards the end, where bodies start piling up like a some 20th Century version of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series, does the story unwind. Still, now that I’ve read this one, I’ll figure out how to get my hands on The Shadow of the Wind (if I can’t find it in a used bookstore, I may end up ordering a used version on Albris). The third book in this Barcelona cycle, The Prisoner of Heaven, is due in June.  

02 March 2012

Divided, he profits


News is entertainment now. And folks like Rush Limbaugh have been given power, not because what news he’s reporting is factual, but because he can say whatever he wants with no accountability, because it’s entertainment, an opinion. Plus, as some of his supports have said, he does what he does because he knows he can get people’s panties, especially the far left, in a twist. So, whether he believes what he says is irrelevant. What is important to him, and thus his audience, is just being a provocateur. 

The issue that I realize is that for people like Limbaugh, since he’s amassed so much power, is that no one can tell him NO. And that is a dangerous power to have. We know fear is the ultimate tool of those prescribing to a certain dogma, this he feels –whether it’s real or not- threatened by people just as smarter as or smarter than he is. So his defensive mechanism is to pull the victim card, not for him because I believe he can hold his own, but for a certain group of people who need their ideology legitimized, however questionable it may be. Our opponents –be it a neighbor or someone on websites like Facebook- stop trying to share any common ground and become our enemies.  Limbaugh sees himself as an aggressor to help defend the envy and the greed of the world. And that resentment of others motivates him, and sanctifies him in the eyes of his followers, as acting in self-defense. 

Those who oppose his point of view are seen as evil and a menace, so the first step he took was to use fear as weapon for his listeners. Again, whether he actually believes anything he says is moot, because he learned that to succeed in what he is doing, is to give his listeners the impression that he passionately believes in everything he says. And the reason I note that is because he is an entertainer, nothing more. Much as Glenn Beck is, as much as Anne Coulter is. 

So Limbaugh uses fear as gunpowder, and hatred as his fuse. And then he uses dogma to light its end. 

For him and others, it’s not enough for his audience to believe him, he’s telling them this is what they should believe in; and thus they want them to believe him. It’s a magical circle of perfection. And his audience does not question what he says, because his dogma and their dogma have formed an identity in itself. So who ever do question it is the enemy, an evil creature that must be torn down like a cancer. They feel it is their right and duty to confront them, and destroy them. To them, the only road to salvation is to believe in the order Limbaugh is offering. Sadly, I see his stratagem as a way to generate and channel hatred.  

But it’s entertainment, no more, no less. Of course he cannot control how his fan base reacts to provocative statements, claiming no responsibility for whatever action or words they use, which gives him a sort of variation on the Monopoly’s Get Out Jail Free Card. But I’ve said it before; it is one thing to want less interference and a smaller, fiscally responsible government. It’s is another thing to sell yourself out to the highest bidder in hopes fattening a CEO’s campaign chest.

01 March 2012

I Have Forgiven Jesus

I was a good kid
I wouldn't do you no harm
I was a nice kid
With a nice paper round
Forgive me any pain
I may have brung to you
With God's help I know
I'll always be near to you
But Jesus hurt me
When he deserted me, but

I have forgiven Jesus
For all the desire
He placed in me when there's nothing I can do
With this desire

I was a good kid
Through hail and snow I'd go
Just to moon you
I carried my heart in my hand
Do you understand?
Do you understand?
But Jesus hurt me
When he deserted me, but

I have forgiven Jesus
For all of the love
He placed in me
When there's no-one I can turn to with this love

Monday - humiliation
Tuesday - suffocation
Wednesday - condescension
Thursday - is pathetic
By Friday life has killed me
By Friday life has killed me

(Oh pretty one, Oh pretty one)

Why did you give me
So much desire?
When there is nowhere I can go
To offload this desire
And why did you give me
So much love
In a loveless world
When there's no one I can turn to
To unlock all this love
And why did you stick me in
Self-deprecating bones and skin
Jesus - do you hate me?
Why did you stick me in
Self-deprecating bones and skin
Do you hate me? do you hate me?
Do you hate me? do you hate me?
Do you hate me?