Monthly Archives: September 2010

Paper vs. plastic

I was eating some yogurt while reading a book.  And I wondered: why is it that we put food, meant to be stored for only a few weeks at most, in a plastic container that will last at least 100,000 years, whereas we put words, transmitters of all our culture, on thin strips of pulped wood that will last a few decades at best?

A homely enough question.

The answer?


Is it a short story, or a novel, or neither?

Here I am, innocently trying to polish up a short story, yet it simply refuses to be a short story. It insists that it is longer, grander, of more lofty ambition. I do not know if I believe it. I am unconvinced that is not just a short story trying to hide in the cloaks of a novel’s ambition. I am trying to embarrass into to admitting just that, by stripping it down. And yet the ideas come, the details come. They step forward and demand to be recognized. They have a place too, they say, and it is here. Right in these pages. Don’t you see? We go right there. Perhaps they are right.  But I just got done writing a novel, and before that, I wrote another one.  They took two years a piece.  I want to get something done that doesn’t take two years to get done.  See?  They don’t see.  We belong here, too, you know.  That is what they say.

Well, I say, let us see.  Let us just see.

Dead of arid words

I caught this insight on the way and quickly seized the rather poor words that were closest to hand to pin it down lest it fly away again. And now it has died of these arid words and shakes and flaps in them – and I hardly know any more when I look at it how I could ever have felt so happy when I caught this bird.

– Nietzsche

I am a First Amendment Fundamentalist

There’s a reason the 1st Amendment is First: it outlines the most important liberties we have.  It trumps all opinion polls and all outcries and all protests and all “community standards”.  It is the bedrock of a free society.  And sometimes in a free society you have to put up with things you don’t like.  Things you might even hate.  And yes – so do your children.

If you believe this too, you are a First Amendment Fundamentalist.  Like me.

So folks can build a Muslim community center wherever they want.  In Manhattan.  Near Ground Zero.  On Ground Zero, if they can afford the real estate.  And some minister can burn all the Qurans he wants on 9/11.  Pretty stupid way to exercise your First Amendment rights, but hey, there’s no clause in there saying you can’t be dumb.

The mural in question.

And right here at home, some artist has created a mural some are calling “grotesque” and “offensive”, especially to schoolchildren.  I call it juvenile, but that’s beside the point.  All editorial comments are.  The artist, David Marez, can put up whatever he wants on this wall, for whatever reason he wants.  He doesn’t have to justify it to anyone.  The Constitution went on ahead and took care of that for him.

The City of Scottsbluff so far is doing its job, and has not attempted to come up with some cockamamie reason to force this mural off the wall.  Good.  They best keep it up.  Let the moral crusaders for “decency” preach all they want – on their own streetfronts.

Laboring with the Monkey Wrench Gang

Some good quotes from The  Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), which I finally got to.  As I type, 80,000 in Washington DC are at the Boise St – Virginia Tech football game, to say nothing of the millions watching on TV (including me).

Let us never deceive ourselves that we labor in anything other than obscurity.

There comes a time in a man’s life when he has to pull up stakes. Has to light out. Has to stop straddling, and start cutting, fence.

All this fantastic effort — giant machines, road networks, strip mines, conveyor belts, pipelines, slurry lines, loading towers, railway and electric train, hundred-million dollar coal-burning power plant; ten thousand miles of high-tension towers and high-voltage power lines; the devastation of the landscape, the destruction of Indian homes and Indian grazing lands, Indian shrines, and Indian burial grounds; the poisoning of the last big clean-air reservoir in the forty-eight contiguous United States, the exhaustion of precious water supplies — all that ball-breaking labor and all that backbreaking expanse and all that heartbreaking insult to land and sky and human heart, for what? All that for what? Why, to light the lamps of Phoenix suburbs yet to be built, to run the air conditioners of San Diego and Los Angeles, to illuminate shopping-center parking lots at two in the morning, to power aluminum plants, magnesium plants, vinyl-chloride factories and copper smelters, to charge the neon tubing that makes the meaning (all the meaning there is) of Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Tucson, Salt Lake City, the amalgamated metropoli of southern California, to keep alive that phosphorescent putrefying glory (all the glory there is left) called Down Town, Night Time, Wonderville, USA.

“When I somebody coming to do me good,” said Hayduke, “I reach for my revolver.”

“Friends,” says Doc, “I don’t believe in majority rule.  You know that.  I don’t believe in minority rule either.  I am against all forms of government, including good government.”

You think a trick like that will fool a bunch of grown men?” Bonnie asks.
Seldom allows himself a cautious smile. “Well now, honey, if Love was by himself I’d say no, you wouldn’t fool him so easy. But with his Team it’s different. One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity there ain’t nothing can beat teamwork.”

Steal Freedom

Notable geek Cory Doctorow sez:

Science Fiction is the Only Literature People Care Enough About to Steal on the Internet.

Bullshit!  Jonathon Franzen’s newest Freedom is already available on bittorrent.  Go steal it to prove Doctorow wrong.  (Can’t guarantee it will be worth the read, though.)