Thursday, September 04, 2008

What's a Mayor?

Everybody see this?

Allow me to suggest a slight variation:

When it comes to Sarah Palin's mayoral record as opposed to Barack Obama's work as a community organizer, the truth is that being a mayor is indeed like being a community organizer except that a mayor draws an actual salary.

Now who's the greater public servant?

Benshlomo says, Has the GOP forgotten that those who really want to make a contribution aren't necessarily interested in money and power?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Open Letter to the White House - Congress in 1987

Dear Mr. President:

So this is "the worst Congress in 20 years," is it? Let's see, by that reckoning, there was a worse Congress in 1987, and the president that year was...Ronald Reagan. What do you know about that?

As near as I can tell, you're upset with this Congress because they have insisted on considering more legislation to support the health of the nation's children, despite the fact that the last time they passed such legislation, you vetoed it and they couldn't override you. They won't just roll over and play dead. What do you know about that?

What's more, they've decided to try to take care of our children's health when you'd rather they authorize more billions for your useless, lost war. Oh, those beasts.

Oh, wait, it's not the war – you said you're upset with Congress because they refuse to provide our troops with proper ammunition and armor. Now, that's just terrible. Before this lousy Democratic Congress took office, you would never have allowed such a thing, of course, because if you had, our brave men and women in Iraq would have been reduced to digging through the trash for makeshift armor and paying through the nose for fuel and...oh, wait, never mind...

Well, maybe it's not that, either. You said that this Congress's investigations into corruption and malfeasance in the run-up to this war, and treasonous disclosures of intelligence agent's identities, and the management of this war, is a waste of time. Well, that makes sense – it's all in the past now anyway, isn't it? I mean, what do those time-wasters in Congress think this is, peacetime? There's a war on, for God's sake. It's not like the people have a right to know how their government got us into this mess...oh, wait a second, they do.

Well, it's not like anyone voted for a Congress that would end this stupid war...oh, hang on, yes they did.

Well, then, it's not like the American system of government allows the people to second-guess the Decider's decisions...oops, yes it does.

Well, then, I guess this is the worst Congress in 20 years because since 1987, no Congress has prioritized public health over warfare, and all Congresses have given the President a free hand in conducting foreign and domestic policy, and no Congress has ever tried to undercut the President's authority in any way. Right?


Go home, George.

Friday, October 12, 2007

How to Perfect the World

With all due respect to Christianity, if this is the face of perfection, I'll pass, thank you very much.

And with that, I will take the advice of a growing number of pundits, commentators and bloggers. On this journal, from here on in, Ann Coulter is a rumor. She doesn't exist.

On the count of three, everyone ignore her. One, two, three.

Benshlomo says, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

O Pioneer

Werner Erhard is 72 years old today.

He was much younger when this picture was taken.

He's the one who started that seminar back in the 70's. You know which one I mean. The only thing most people seem to know about it is that for the first few years, those who took the seminar were not allowed to go to the bathroom for long periods of time. I was going to say something snotty about how trivial that concern is by comparison to what Werner's work makes available, but let's face it, not being able to relieve yourself is a pretty frightening thing. That's probably why Werner eventually stopped doing that.

He's a controversial figure in lots of different ways, most of which I can't comment on because (1) I don't know the details, and (2) I've been doing Werner's work for more than twenty years and I'm biased.

I never did est, but I took the later developments of the seminar - the Landmark Forum and its associated courses. I think the whole thing is amazing. Little Miss has gone so far as to say that she's found two things in life that work, prayer and the Forum. I totally agree.

Straight out, folks, if I hadn't done the Forum I would never have met Little Miss, never would have gotten married, never would have attended Clarion - in fact, I'd probably still be living at home with my mother. The Forum did that for me.

As for Werner himself - well, let's put it this way. There's another important anniversary today. Fifty years ago today, On the Road by Jack Kerouac was published. Lots of people have made comments about what that book meant to America and to literature, and there are those who say that the life Kerouac celebrated in that book is gone from America. Today, with airplane travel so common and Greyhound buses rusting from disuse, with hitchhiking a dangerous pastime and the Internet all over everything, you can't go exploring anymore. You can't, they say, find space in which to invent your life.

Well, that may be true in the world outside, but if you ask me there's still plenty of room to invent your life in other ways, ways that make an actual difference in the world, and Werner is one of those who taught us how to do that.

Benshlomo says, Good night, Jack Rosenberg, wherever you are.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Buh-Bye Karl

I'll try to keep this short.

I rejoice at the departure of the evil shmoo (here's a little something about good shmoos), fantasize longingly about a government (not to say a world) without him and wish with all my glands that he had quit seven years ago, but all of that is pretty obvious.

Here's what really troubles me, although it wasn't mentioned much; ol' Turd Blossom, in the time-honored tradition of discredited or inconvenient political termites, has announced that he's got to leave for the sake of his family.

He has a family.

Oh dear Lord, please please please PLEASE tell me that "man" didn't reproduce...

The mere idea of that maggot-shaped pile of dogshit having anything resembling sex with a woman...

Benshlomo says, The horror, the horror.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Clarion Call

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I completely screwed up when it comes to blogging Clarion. I've been reading some of my classmates' postings just now and they all had such touching, funny, startling things to say on their LiveJournals and whatnot. What was I doing those six weeks, sleeping?

Well, yes, occasionally, but mostly I was struggling with getting thoughts on paper in some coherent fashion - which didn't always work. As a matter of fact, my Week 3 story came out so confusing that at least one person declined to say anything at all, and I can't blame him.

And I was preparing for Little Miss' visit over the third weekend and trying not to miss her too terribly when she left. And sitting up till 2 am writing out critiques on a lunchroom table because I couldn't seem to write legibly sitting on one of the comfortable couches in the living room. And pouring coffee down my throat in the morning and beer down my throat at night. And getting in a huge fight with my bank over a dumb-ass mistake that left me overdrawn for about a week and a half.

I even managed to borrow a guitar for the last couple of weeks. Week 6 I didn't play much, but our Week 5 instructor was Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who is not only a skillful and enthusiastic editor, he's also a terrific guitarist. One night he and I sat in the living room and jammed, and gradually people wandered in and listened.

So last Friday night a bunch of people sat around in the TV room posting the worst of their early work on our wiki and trying to guess who wrote what while metal videos screeched at us, and I listened to the paragraphs and correctly guessed the author from time to time, and then it was 3:25 am and the shuttle came to take me to the airport and it was


More later, friends and folks. I'm still processing.

Benshlomo says, See you in the funny papers.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Speaking of Science Fiction, an Open Letter

Dear Robert Heinlein:

Happy 100th birthday, wherever you are now. Hope all is well.

Shall I get the nasty stuff out of the way first? I never met you, but on the evidence of your books you were a sexist, militaristic, jingoistic demagogue. Quite a disturbing role model for a progressive wannabe science fiction writer like me.

Much as I enjoyed "Starship Troopers," for instance, I notice that the opposition to your promotion of manly military virtues appears in the form of the Bugs, a perfect communist hive mind. There's no in between. And so, waddya know - one is either a good soldier or a dupe. Sorry, not buying it.

I could point out a few more disturbing tendencies in your work. What exactly did you believe?

The ordinary rules of behavior don't apply to superior men - "Glory Road".

Labor unions are easily turned to destructive ends by any clever neurotic - "The Roads Must Roll".

The way to defeat conformity that comes from outside of society is to enforce conformity inside that society - "The Puppet Masters".

A truly enlightened woman will give herself sexually to any enlightened man, and in any case ordinary people will not seek or obtain enlightenment unless they're tricked into it - "Stranger in a Strange Land".

Even in "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress," maybe my favorite of your books, government is a positive evil no matter what it does, and the only rules that seem the least bit digestible are those made up on the spur of the moment. And there's another one of your inhumanly hot females present to throw herself at the hero without hesitation.

Oh well. Nobody's perfect.

And having pointed out all those disturbing details, Mr. Heinlein, and acknowledging that this doesn't even begin to cover all those enormous rambling novels from later in your life, it's now time to remember everything you did for us.

I find myself wondering what it was like for you after you got out of the Navy. I've read elsewhere that you hoped to attain the rank of Admiral and make a military career for yourself, but that your health got you an honorable discharge instead. That must have been devastating, to have a dream collapse around you through no fault of your own. Did you cry? It's not supposed to be manly to cry, even at times like that, but the men in your novels cry from time to time. I wouldn't blame you if you did.

Others might come away from a blow like that and give up on life, but you looked around for something to do for the next few years, and got into writing science fiction to help pay the bills. And, as Dr. Johnson once asserted, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money," so that's okay.

Let's not forget that you also coined the terms "waldo" and "grok", invented the waterbed, and gave us the acronym "TANSTAAFL," all critical developments in science fiction and in world history.

And politics or no politics, I keep remembering the story Philip K. Dick told about you. He was always short of money, and at one point he says he was about to be evicted from his home. You got wind of this somehow, and gave him a fair amount, not expecting to get it back. PKD was a wild hippie radical drug addict, and you were a conservative militaristic libertarian, and clearly none of that mattered a damn to you.

I appreciate your literary groundbreaking for the likes of me, Mr. Heinlein, but I'd say your true legacy comes from actions like that last one.

Benshlomo says, A good opponent is a blessing.

Into the Science Fiction Snake Pit

Greetings from Seattle, Washington.

I've been at the Clarion West science fiction writer's workshop for three weeks. This weekend, Little Miss is visiting me, so I'm feeling more relaxed and in the mood to write something for my own amusement. Possibly the amusement of my millions of readers, too.

I and my 17 fellow students write a story every week. We read each other's work and critique it. That's a lot of words.

Of course, we ourselves get critiqued on our work. My colleagues (despite the title of this post) are a bunch of talented people, with great good will. However, even with the best will in the world, no one likes to hear the suggestion that the children of one's mind are anything less than perfect, right?

So we all sit around writing our heads off, trying to produce something comprehensible without any revision time. Then we read three or four stories every day and prepare comments that are useful to the author without devastating anyone's ego.

And we're all adults, and we take what we're given and try to improve. And deep inside we wonder if we have any future as writers at all.

Thanks to our instructors from the past weeks - Nancy Kress, Larissa Lai and Graham Joyce - and for the next three weeks - Kelley Eskridge, Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Samuel R. Delany - for their efforts to keep us encouraged while trying to break our worse habits.

One thing's for sure, though - as much as I've missed my wife over these weeks, and as happy I'll be to get back home, when this is over I'll be sorry.

Benshlomo says, You seldom get everything you want all the time.