Don't worry, you can trust me. I'm not like the others.

Banned In China

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dos Passos and Hemingway

Went to Florida and because of a mix up with shipping I didn't have my computer for most of the time I was there (carried my ereader though).  Flew down for the first time (flying that is) for many years.  Went to help my mother after surgery, turns out it was unnecessary.  Still that's where I was for awhile, so.............

I read Hemingway Cutthroat by Michael Atkinson a mystery that takes place during the Spanish Civil War with Hemingway trying to find out who murdered this guy he knew, Jose RoblesJohn Dos Passos gets him involved.  I thought the book was nearly completely made up, but it turns out that the murdered man was real and that he was a friend of both Hemingway and Dos Passos and was one of the reasons that Dos Passos began his turn from the left to his later position as an asshole.  In looking up stuff about the book for this post, it turns out that the incident was more or less as it was depicted in the book, I think.

I'm a sucker for mysteries and a sucker for a book(or movie) that drops famous literary names (or movie star names, Errol Flynn was there).  Perhaps that's why I liked Woody Allen's most recent movie.

Dos Passos doesn't have the major role in the book, that is of course Hemingway.  Hemingway up, Hemingway drink, Hemingway get laid, Hemingway drink some more, Hemingway get drunk, people try to kill Hemingway, Hemingway drink, Hemingway try to get laid again, Hemingway drink some more, Hemingway do some detecting, Hemingway drink. 

This is the second novel by this guy with Hemingway as a sleuth trying to find out about the murder of a friend.  The first one being Hemingway Deadlights which many of the readers said wasn't as good as the one I read.  There is also the thing that Hemingway Deadlights takes place in 1956 while this one is in 1937, so I thought it would be better to read them not in the order they were written, but in the order they theoretically occurred at least.

But, if I didn't say it I recommend Hemingway Cutthroat as a beach book.  Something to get one's mind off Weimar as farce this time around.  A point in history where things certainly appeared as bleak as they do now.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Another Book Report


I've just finished reading Grant Moves South by Bruce Catton.  It is either the first volume of a two volume history of Grant in the Civil War or the second volume of a trilogy of Grant in the army.  I have the trade paperback and on the cover it says:  PART ONE OF THE CLASSIC CIVIL WAR STUDY OF GENERAL ULYSSES S. GRANT.  However, inside on one of the early unnumbered pages there is a Publisher's Note that explains that they had published Captain Sam Grant by Lloyd Lewis the first volume of a three volume biography of Grant.  However, Lewis died before the publication of that book and Catton was brought in to "finish" the trilogy.  Although, I am sure he did a great deal of his own research. 

This book is a biography of two living beings really.  It follows Grant from his re-enlistment at the start of the Civil War until the capture of Vicksburg, and it also is a biography of the Army of the Tennessee, one of the greatest and most successful armies in American history.  Catton moves effortlessly from descriptions of Grant and his personal battles and relationships to a description of the Army as an almost living thing with a character and life of its own independent of Grant but also interconnected with him in a special way that made them both great.

Captain Sam Grant was published in 1950.  Grant Moves South was published in 1960 and the final volume of the trilogy Grant Takes Command also by Catton was published in 1968.  I have the final volume in hardback and it also has a similar Publisher's Note inside, but no claim on the cover.  On the other hand I have seen the cover of the trade paperback on Amazon and it has a similar claim (PART TWO, etc.). 

I've read several of Catton's books including the Army of the Potomac Trilogy and This Hallowed Ground his one volume history of the Civil War, and his Centennial History of the Civil War.  But I read them, more or less when they came out.  It looks like I got these books also close to the actual publishing dates, but I didn't read them then.  I think that I was interested in stories of battle and not so much the analysis of Grant's character or the descriptions of just what had to be done by a commanding general to deal with the logistics of the army or the politics of slavery and cotton.  Now that sort of thing fascinates me. 

I am sorry that Catton died before Ken Burns' PBS series.  I think that he would have made a good counterpoint to Shelby Foote, since they both wrote about the war from the perspective of  the average soldier, even in this book whose main character is the (in all probability) greatest American soldier.  In all his books Catton wrote from the perspective of the Northern soldier while Foote wrote from the perspective of the Southern soldier.

I had forgotten how eloquent Catton was and reading him now was a pleasant re-introduction to that eloquence.    His explanation of what the war was really about and the way that was expressed, haltingly in an incomplete and almost crippled way by those in the war is incredible.

One example of this is Catton's discussion of Grant's famous Order No. 11 banning Jew from his department.  He points out that cotton trading, corruption and the place of freed slaves in society at the time were inexorably related. and all were involved in the issuing of  that very order.
[R]elated not merely because cotton was common to both of them, but because Grant and most other men were children of their time and, without thinking, used derisive words denying human dignity to whole groups of people whose right to claim human dignity was what was chiefly at stake in this war.  [Grant] could thoughtlessly say "Jews" when he meant scheming fixers who would have sold their own mother for gain, and he could say ""Darkeys" . .  when he meant pathetically displaced men and women who were struggling upward to the point where people might recognize their decency as human beings....When he wrote his Memoirs Grant chuckled mildly about the frontier schoolrooms in which, as a child, he had been taught over and over again that "a noun is the name of a thing."  He was grappling with the names of things now, and the grapple was like Jacob's, wrestling with the angel, for the names were important.  Far ahead of him . . . dependent in a strange way on this very campaign, there might be a day when people of good will, like himself, would use no abraded epithets but would simply talk about human beings.
I think of the time of the writing and publication of this book, which was at the high point of the American republic and early days of the civil rights movement where American ideals seemed finally to be about to be realized in the then and now has to have impacted the writing and the outlook of the writer in this work. 

I really can't recommend this book highly enough for its style and for its explanation of the development of what for want of a better words the American character.  Grant was central to the development of that character and was as good an example of what an American could be, could become and the very limitations on that character.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Poli Sci 101

The president really doesn't have much power.  

Also, the majority party in congress really has no power either. It is only the minority party that has the power unless the minority party is democratic, then the minority party has no power.

Therefore, if the republicans gain power they will have absolute control and be able to do many bad things.   The democrats really do want to do something, but they can't, because a couple of years ago they only controlled the House, Senate, and Presidency.  Now however they can't do anything because they only control the Senate and Presidency, but the republicans control the House so the democrats have to do everything the republicans want.  Which they also had to do when the republicans were also a minority in the House. 

Therefore, if you do not vote the democrats back in and allow them to control both houses of congress and the presidency the republicans will do bad things and then things will be really bad, even though the democrats really can't do good things when they control everything.

I posted this at Slobber and Spittle and I liked it so much I expanded it and then posted it here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dear Leader Has No Real Power

I drifted by Lawyers, Guns and Money the other day.   I think and I want to be fair, they were strongly arguing that the presidency is not as powerful as it appears, at least on domestic matters.  Their post was in response to a David Sorita post at Salon and commented on at Slobber and Spittle

At any rate the argument being made on moderate liberal blogs, like LG&M, (for want of a better term) seems to be that Obama has done the best he can given the way this country's national political system is structured.  I made the point that in that case we shouldn't fear a Michelle Bachmann presidency. 

It was then pointed out to me that it will be different if Michelle Bachmann is elected, she or I assume whatever republican is elected, will have iron control over congress.  So to.

The point I feel needs to be made is that Obama had a chance to make some real changes upon his election and for a few months there after.  Once he had shown what he really was, which isn't much, then there was not so much of a chance of anything even remotely resembling hope of change coming out of him.

If the argument is that he didn't want or isn't bright enough to do more than he is doing, that seems to me a different argument then that he doesn't (or at least didn't at the beginning) have the intrinsic power to make major changes and yet that seems to be the new defense of Obama from moderate liberals. 

It is I guess possible to think that all his problems come from his desire to appear bipartisan, but if that is the case then his desire for bipartisanship is pathological and nearly certifiable.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Various Stuff Before I Start Cutting Wood Again

Not been doing much about writing this week.  My Mother had to have serious surgery on Wednesday.  Well, the surgery was to correct a serious problem, a seven centimeter aneurysm on her aorta, but the surgery itself wasn't apparently major  She is in Florida with two sister-in-laws and one brother.   I'm going down later this month.  The thing was found by accident when she went in to have x- rays for her back pain.  It turned out that the pain was being caused by the pressure of the aneurysm on her spine. 

At any rate the surgery took about an hour through the groin area, micro, I guess.  Out of the hospital by Saturday and back home.  Now if we can only get her to do something about her one eye (cataract which can be easily fixed, and then something about the fact that she is deaf as a stump, something that can also be easily fixed by out patient surgery) she'll be as good as a 75 year old.  I think eight-nine is the new seventy-five, isn't it?

I was drifting over the net and completely forgot that yesterday was the anniversary of Hiroshima:  Happy Nuclear Power Day.

Then I went to Executed Today a site that I "enjoy" starting my day with.  Kind of, oh I don't know, just interesting.  And found out that apparently there was a time in our history when a president did not feel able to go to war without congressional approval.  Now I do admit that we were apparently getting ready to kill each other at a rate we hadn't before considered possible, but still it is an interesting factoid, isn't it?

I have little or nothing to comment on the S & P downgrade with the two trillion mathematical error.  Still, I am kind of a little bemused by it all.  I am still reading as much as I can find out about economics, but perhaps the guy I work with said it all:  "Learning about economics right now, is as useful as learning about hydrology while you are going over Niagara Falls in a barrel."

I find it interesting that S & P is still considered an organization that has any relevance at all to anything at all in the economic world.  The other thought is how is it that these private corporations have the power to say whether or not a government's bonds are safe.  Added to the fact that since these corporations are licensed in the U.S.A., these guys should be concerned that today they could be dragged from their homes and kept in prison until they decide that they rating is going to be AAA.

We live in strange times.  Obama is not a particularly smart guy, but given the fact that he is surrounded by mental midgets, he appears relatively impressive.  I guess, I personally don't think so, but then I knew that there were no WMDs (an acronym I hate) before we invaded Iraq. 

I kept expecting the Media to recognize just how stupid Bush and his advisers were, but didn't happen.  My thought is that they are all so inbred at this point, that they are something like sheep in the intelligence field.  But with nice fluffy wool because that is apparently what they are bred for.  Not only that but I suspect that they actively seek to keep out those who see things clearly and are more intelligent then they are because smarter people in positions of power are a threat to the ruling class. 

As for their supporters generally, as they say half of the population is of below average intelligence.  Then there are those who simply feel a kind of need to tug at their forelock when their "betters" pass by.  And there you are.  A few outsiders are let into the class (Obama again) but they are the types who believe (or should I say BELIEVE) in the system as it is.  The same thing went on during the middle ages, but they had the advantage of continuous wars and disease to regularly cull the ruling classes and allow new blood in and even that didn't work for ever.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Guy Maddin - Sissy boy slap party

You know I'm thinking that this is just what we saw happening in Washington.

Happy You Are Really Fucked, And Nobody in Power Gives a Shit Day

I guess my problem, any more, with the kind of thing I have been for the most part writing about is that it tends to get old:


I guess that one needs to point this out over and over and hope that on the hundredth or four hundredth repetition it will click in the (for want of a better term) average voter's head.  But it does get tiresome after awhile.

I realize that we aren't the only country that this is happening in, but that doesn't make it any better (except of course for the misery loves company aspect).  In the latter part of the Twentieth Century we were told that democracy (or republican with a small r government or representative democracy) had won the day.  Now it becomes obvious that it didn't matter.  We can elect anybody we want and they will just do whatever the ruling plutocracy (it looks like everyone else is linking to Matt Tabbi, so I guess I will too) wants them to do.  Then they will explain that: well couldn't do anything else, but the other guys would have been much worse, don't you know?  And the vast majority of voters will buy it.  Christ.

Now various "liberal" blogs are telling me:  "It could have been worse.  After all they only cut off your left hand it could have been your right."  Although, I am kind of happy to see that Digby has seen the writing on the wall, and appears at least for a day to have quit her "if only Obama understood, if only Obama was a better negotiator" bullshit.

UPDATE:  The news just gets better and better for our overlords.  Apparently they have convinced most of the democrats that the real problem is the deficit and we need to cut spending.  Then them jobs will just appear.  Perhaps we really do have the government we deserve (although to be completely honest I don't think I have the government I deserve).