Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blog As You Like And Die happy!

Henry Miller

As a blogger who is also a lifelong Henry Miller fan, I want to draw the attention of my fellow Miller buffs to the following blog:

I've been reading Miller for more than 30 years, and I never knew about this. This is a great tidbit (or a "four pound tidbit," as the late Norman Mailer once said to me at a book-signing in Washington, D.C.) Miller and his first wife June Mansfield frequented a Greenwich Village place called The Pepper Pot during the 1920s. This blog site will tell you all about it. Good stuff!

Meanwhile, it's no secret among his fans that Miller loved to paint watercolors. He painted hundreds of them. More about that is available here:

And then there's my own visual muse, which took the bit in its teeth nearly three years ago. I'm about to start painting again. Here's what I had to say about it when I started out:


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Talkin' Euro Trash

I saw this on an office wall when I was posted at the American Embassy in Ivory Coast about 20 years ago. I always loved it, and if you've ever spent any time in Europe, it will definitely "resonate," as we used to say.

In heaven, the police are all British, the chefs are all French, the mechanics are all German, the lovers are all Italian and it's all organized by the Swiss.

In hell, the police are all German, the chefs are all British, the mechanics are all French, the lovers are all Swiss and it's all organized by the Italians.

Bada-bing, bada boom.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I am no longer a conservative

I have opted out of the American conservative movement.

Now, before all of you liberals out there start waving your hankies like the fans at a Florida Marlins game, not so fast.

The fact that I no longer consider myself a conservative certainly does NOT mean that I have become a liberal. Au contraire. I find liberals as revolting as I ever did. Their watered-down Marxism, their infuriating smugness, their endless carping about "diversity" which like a ground bass accompanies their efforts to gag and stifle anyone who doesn't follow their statist orthodoxy are as repugnant to me as they ever were. Their endless efforts to create a "class war" in this country, ensuring a permanent underclass to which they can endlessly pander for the resentment vote is, was and always will be both cynical and disgusting. So is their equally-endless pose as the champion of "the poor," while the mean old Republicans, according to orthodoxy, are only the friends of "the rich."

Horseshit. Last year the Democrats took more contributions from rich people than the Republicans did. So what, I hear you cry. Bruce Springsteen said he'd be PROUD to pay more taxes.

Bruce Springsteen is rich. He can pay more taxes and still have plenty of money left over to buy half of New Jersey if he wants. His "populist" pose is phony, as is that of every other limousine liberal. Rich celebrities, and the wine-and-cheese crowd in Fairfax County, VA, are looking for an emotional luxury, a means of assuaging their consciences for being rich. The word "hypocrisy" comes to mind. Anyway the prosecution rests.

No, I haven't become a liberal. What I've become is an Aussteiger. Look it up.

Okay, don't look it up. It's German for "drop-out."

Since the 2008 general election, when "America" (whoever that is) elected as president a one-term senator with no other experience outside of "community organizing," I have been on the sidelines. I don't read the newspapers anymore. For me, now, the news falls into two categories: the stuff that depresses me and the stuff I don't care about. Come spring I might check the sports pages for the baseball scores, but beyond that you couldn't pay me to read a newspaper. As for CNN, MSNBC, Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC and all the rest of them, the plug's been pulled. You couldn't pay me to watch the news, either.

Obama was an emotional luxury for that same wine-and-cheese crowd. He made a few million white liberals feel good about themselves. Well, I don't care whether or not white liberals feel good about themselves. I also don't care about what racial or demographic group the president might belong to. When Obama was elected, my dismay had nothing to do with his color and everything to do with the fact that America had, for the first time in my life, elected a president who was younger than me. Yipe.

As for those who thought that Obama's election was going to herald some tie-dyed "new age," I'm going to throw cold water on you: he just does what he's told, same as Bush did.

So why have I opted out of the conservative movement? Why do I no longer read National Review? Why is it that, when I go to my sister's house and she has the Fox network on, I ask if I can change the channel to the ball game?

Because up until now, I believed, as most conservatives do, that the principles of free minds, free markets and personal responsibility as embodied in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, were worth fighting for.

I've given up that fight. There isn't anything left to fight for.

For conservatism to have any meaning, there has to be something to conserve. There no longer is, and probably hasn't been since the end of the Second World War. As much as I admired the late William F. Buckley Jr., his perspective was that of a man born in 1925, when America could still lay claim to being a country.

It no longer can.

As Saul Bellow pointed out in his Nobel prize acceptance speech, way back in 1976 already, America has long since ceased to be a country in any recognizable sense of the word. America today is a collection of cultures, each one concerned with its own agenda and dismissive of all the others except when it can make "strange bedfellow" alliances with other cultures in order to further its agenda.

I could provide many illustrations of this. I'll mention only one of my favorites: radical feminists and Bible-pounding fundamentalists making common cause against pornography. (Now, THERE'S a lost cause. Not porn, which has always been and will always be with us, as long as human beings have both libidos and imaginations, but the "struggle" against it.) Feminists were up in arms about pornography because they claimed it was "demeaning" to women. Bible-pounders were against it because to them, sex is sinful and must be kept locked up in Ma and Pa's bedroom, insofar as its existence is acknowledged at all. So the Ms. magazine crowd and the Jerry Falwell-ites found a place where they could smile at one another, albeit through gritted teeth.

America isn't a country anymore. What sort of common conviction can exist among 230 million-odd people, each of whom has his or her own cable channel?

It would be easy to say that the United States asked for this. We stuck a statue in New York harbor and invited the whole world to send us its huddled, tempest-tossed, etc. Nothing wrong with that. For a hundred years it was common tender to refer to the U.S. as a "nation of immigrants." Okay, troubles lay that way: those already here looked askance at the new arrivals. The descendants of the freed slaves had to battle for their place in the American sun. Racial and ethnic prejudice, and the violence which attends it, have been a steady drumbeat in American history.

But up until some point in the years after World War II, Americans, whether they came from Poland or China, or whether their ancestors came from Sierra Leone, considered themselves Americans. To put your American identity ahead of your ethnic one was expected and accepted. When I was in elementary school, my friend Jim Provenza and I used to tease each other about his being a "wop" and me a "frog." But his mother, overhearing our highjinks, reminded us, "You're an American first, and all that other stuff afterward."

That train left the station a long time ago. Everywhere I look now, in American cities, I see bumper stickers on cars trumpeting the drivers' allegiance to Peru, Puerto Rico, Senegal or Singapore. To the extent that people think of themselves as Americans at all now, they only think in hyphenated terms: "African-American." "Hispanic-American." "Gay American." "Gay, Left-Handed-Ba'hai American" and so on.  Nobody is just an "American" anymore.

Nothing wrong with being loyal to your roots, but as one of my teachers in junior high school pointed out, the moment states' rights override the rights of the nation as a whole, we're no longer a country but 50 little countries. That's fragmentation in a political sense. The fragmentation I'm talking about is much deeper. Once a country becomes culturally fragmented and compartmentalized, it not only ceases to be a country, it ceases to be an idea. Outside of a shared belief in the sanctity of voting, or that one should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, I can't think of a single principle everyone agrees upon anymore outside of "I should have whatever I want." Everyone is concerned only with their own little group and its interests. How big a hunk of the pie it can grab for itself.

America has fulfilled its promise, but not in the way it originally intended. The United States in 2011 is little more than a gigantic Greyhound terminal. Everybody wants to get on a bus. No longer THE bus, but a bus with their own destination and their own crowd. The last thing that tied us all together was television, and if that isn't poetic justice, I don't know what is. Before cable, everybody pretty much watched the same TV fare. There wasn't that much to choose from. On any given Saturday night in my youth, I could walk down the street and hear All In The Family drifting out of one window after another. Now, with 900 cable channels, the chances of my finding the same program playing in four or five households on the same block is much slighter than it once was. Everyone's tuned in to something different, soaking up a different message, a different agenda. Tuning out what they don't want to hear and tuning in only what reinforces what they already believe.

You used to hear people bellyaching all the time about how the country was "going to hell in a handbasket." That refrain is probably as old as the country, or the handbasket, for that matter. I've decided that the country isn't going to hell in a handbasket. It arrived there more than a quarter-century ago. There's nothing left to save.

And hence, nothing to conserve. So while the people I come in contact with daily continue to harp on this or that "issue," getting their knickers in a twist over Obama, or Pelosi, or what's-her-name Palin or for that matter, flag-burning, Bill O'Reilly, gay marriage or the banning of the word "Christmas" from Christmas parades, I've chosen to opt out. I just don't care about any of it anymore. I read, I write, I listen to music, I miss the woman I love. I keep hearing rumors about some global catastrophe coming in 2012. Fine. I'll be reading a book and listening to Mozart when it hits. As Tom Lehrer once sang, "We will all go together when we go."

In the meantime, just leave me out of it.