Sunday, April 29, 2007
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Victor Sonkin has written a wonderful piece for the Moscow Times. It follows:
By Victor Sonkin
When Kurt Vonnegut died last week, it sent powerful ripples through Russia, even in these days of declining readership. The generation that grew up in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and '80s listed Vonnegut among their favorite authors. There were at least four reasons for that.
One was Vonnegut's life story and his aversion to war. Enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II, he was captured by the Germans and was one of a handful of American POWs who survived the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945; he was later freed by Soviet troops. This experience formed the core of his novel "Slaughterhouse-Five."
Throughout the postwar era, both official Soviet propaganda and popular feelings were strongly antiwar (even the infamous Afghan campaign was never heralded in belligerent terms), so Vonnegut was in tune with the nation's mood. Another reason was that he wrote science fiction, one of the few ways for writers to address important issues that would have been censored in other genres. "Cat's Cradle" was about scientists' (and society's) responsibility; the seminal short story "Harrison Bergeron" showed how egalitarianism could turn into tyranny. Such issues, taboo in everyday Soviet writing, could be smuggled in through science fiction and enjoyed considerable success.
Third was Vonnegut's style. This usually gets lost in translation, but Vonnegut was lucky to have Rita Rait-Kovalyova as his translator. In one of Sergei Dovlatov's satirical sketches, someone asks him who has the best prose style in Russian. He says, "Rita Rait," and the reaction is, "You mean Vonnegut in Russian is better than Fedin? How awful." (Konstantin Fedin was an official Soviet writer and bureaucrat.)
Finally, it was just sheer chance. No book by a living foreign author, especially an American, could appear in the Soviet Union without the blessing of the Party. Vonnegut was, in a sense, authorized. This explains the extent of his popularity, which other authors of a comparable caliber, such as Saul Bellow or Joseph Heller, did not achieve here. In a 2006 interview, he said: "The Army kept me on because I could type, so I was typing other people's discharges and stuff. And my feeling was, 'Please, I've done everything I was supposed to do. Can I go home now?' That's what I feel right now. I've written books. Lots of them. Please, I've done everything I'm supposed to do. Can I go home now?"
Vonnegut has gone home. Russians, perhaps, mourn him more than others; his books have been encouraging and educating them for several decades.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Ezra Pound (1885–1972), poet
Read an interesting first person piece by Mike Penner who will return as Christine Daniels. We wish him and her all the best.
Read the story here
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Peggy Noonan, author, presidential speechwriter
The other day NPR ran a story on a local resident, Jim Governale, who is a broadcaster himself in Los Angeles for Talk Radio KKLA, whose grandfather had recorded Vin Scully’s calling of Sandy Koufax’s no-hit game on June 30, 1962, with the Dodgers facing the New York Mets. Governale donated the tape to the Dodgers rather than sell it.
NPR played pieces of the broadcast and you can hear Scully in his prime. What a difference between the broadcasters today and even Scully of today for that matter.
Scully truly provided a play by play so vivid that it was more picturesque to listen to the broadcast than to watch it on television and more understandable than just viewing from the sits inside the stadium. I highly recommend going to NPR and listening to the clip to hear the voice of baseball:
“Koufax goes to the rosin bag and gives it a squeeze. And, here we go, Sandy pulls at the peak of his cap, bends at the waist to read his signs and goes to work…”
I suspect that broadcasters today don’t have nearly the radio audience that used to follow the game with their transistor radios. Unfortunately, broadcasters don’t have a verbal command of the language either to provide a play-by-play description of the game. It’s no wonder broadcasters started teaming up and talking among themselves and telling stories instead of describing the game. Last night driving home from work, I listened to the eighth and ninth innings of the Dodger game with Charley Steiner and Rick Monday. I heard them tell me when the ball was fouled back or a grounder started a double play. If compared to writing their broadcast was passive broadcasting as opposed to active broadcasting. Scully knows this and knows that his skills have softened some too, so he announces the televised portion of the game. A ceremonial three-inning simulcast at the beginning of the game is just a treat.
We can say another era has been retired.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Molière (1622–73), dramatist
The Los Angeles Times’ Book Review had a center spread that asked famous writers to think about which object, picture or document in their study reveals most about the relationship between living and writing.
Stealing the idea, I ask you what is the item(s) in your writing area? The three pictures I favor in my den are below:
Monday, April 23, 2007
H.G. Wells (1866-1946)
This arrived via e-mail from B2.
2 minutes, 9 seconds
License:CC Attribution Share Alike
Genre:Public Service Announcement
Sunday, April 22, 2007
In your high school photo
You looked so young and naïve
M. Jagger/K. Richards, rock singers
Neo-Cons. The post below about the guns was posted in anger after I was so disgusted with neo-conservative comments on a couple of blogs. I have to say that people who are so righteous in their beliefs depress the hell out of me. To me most things in life are gray, but the righteous right see it as only black or white. I can’t even fathom that kind of thinking. To me there are only a number of issues that are black and white. However, I have no interest in debating that or the shades of gray in life. You may have even noticed that I have largely limited my Bush bashing. There is no sense.
"Notes on a Scandal." What an excellent movie. A great story and outstanding acting by Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Nighy was fabulous too. I highly recommend it.
You Tube. I am familiar with the site and have posted videos from it, but I never really explored it. Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours viewing a number of the Rolling Stones’ videos. Some of them brought back a lot of memories of watching them on the Midnight Special or the early years of MTV. I posted one of the silly ones by the Stones “She’s So Hot.” Followed by the complete opposite “She’s So Cold.”
Midlife Crisis. I was chatting with a friend yesterday, who is just months away from qualifying for AARP membership, and he told me he is having an affair with a 22-year-old. The guy who cuts my hair is also in the same age category, he is divorced, but he too dated a 20-year-old. I guess midlife crisis are real and it’s a crisis for all concerned.
Gradnite '75. This is me at gradnite with my first love. Where is she today? No idea. When I received this picture a few weeks ago, it was the first time I had seen it since the day it arrived. I hated that picture of me. My girlfriend at the time still looks exactly the same in my mind.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Thursday, April 19, 2007
-Virginia Tech Student, Fox Television News, April 16, 2007
I copied this entire post verbatim from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, because already the gun proponents are trotting out the same old crap about guns don't kill, blah, blah, blah. I wasn't going to say anything about gun control because the NRA has all the politicians so scared, but if we don't do something they will continue to win.
Dear StoptheNRA Member,
Yesterday, we witnessed America's worst mass shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech. Thirty-three students and faculty were killed, including the gunman. At least fifteen more were wounded.
How many deaths and injuries must we endure before our nation's elected officials act to end gun violence? We must ask our leaders: "What are you going to do about it?" What are you going to do to make our schools, workplaces, and communities safe from gun violence?
President George W. Bush said yesterday that schools should be a place of "safety and sanctuary for every student," but he and other national leaders do nothing to ensure that safety. They provide condolences, and then do nothing to stop future tragedies.
Eight years ago this week, we watched in horror as students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado fled a mass shooting. Twelve students and one teacher were killed. Just seven months ago, five girls were gunned down in a school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
These aren’t isolated incidents. February 12, 2007, Salt Lake City: A teen opens fire in a mall killing five and wounding four. On the same day in Philadelphia: Three men fatally shot and a fourth wounded at a board meeting. January 11, 2007, Indianapolis: A man shoots four fellow employees. The list goes on and on.
There are common threads in all of these tragedies — it is much too easy for the wrong people to get high-powered, deadly weapons and our leaders fail to do anything about the problem.
It is urgent that you email or call your elected officials today.They must hear that you want action to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
Please make as many of these phone calls as you can:
President George W. Bush
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
The message for all three calls is simple:
It is much too easy for the wrong people to get deadly weapons in this country. It is time for you to take steps to end gun violence to prevent tragedies like the one at Virginia Tech.
If you can't make the calls, you can click here to send an email, which will go to the President, the Speaker, the Majority Leader, as well as your U.S. Senators and Representative. One click will email all six of them.
The Brady Campaign is working nonstop to get the message out that there are solutions to gun violence. We can ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips that make it so easy to kill quickly . . . we can require Brady background checks for all gun sales, including at gun shows . . . we can stop large-volume gun sales that supply illegal gun traffickers. These are just some of the steps we can take to make it harder for the wrong people to get guns.
We are building a crescendo of public outcry to ensure that action is taken. We are aggressively rallying support among allies for our solutions. And we need your continued support to make it happen. Please make a contribution now to keep the momentum going. When you do, a generous donor will match your gift.
Gun violence is a solvable problem. We know it won’t be easy. But we can make it harder for the wrong people to get their hands on guns through strong gun laws.
It is time for our nation’s leaders have courage to say "no" to the gun lobby's mantra of any gun, anywhere, at anytime for anyone, while wrapping it in distortions about "freedom" and "liberty."
Americans have the right to live free from the constant fear of gun violence. Please take a moment to forward this email to friends and families.
Thank you for your support.
Your Friends at StoptheNRA.com
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), playwright
I am pleased to add the blog of a former colleague who has followed her dream and moved to New York to pursue her goal of becoming a major playwright. She has already won numerous awards and has been produced around the country.
Please do me a personal favor, stop by at Blindsquirrel, and say hello. She has even earned a position on the coveted boldface blogroll link because she is that good; and I want her to remember me when she becomes the next “overnight” playwriting sensation.
Johnna was also the one who encouraged me to take a class with her and write my two plays. I spent a couple of weeks writing my first 10-minute play, then the day before class, Johnna writes hers during lunch and it was great. The class busted a gut laughing at one of her scenes. I am not exaggerating it was truly a great scene and she pulled it all together in less than one hour.
Our loss of a co-worker and friend will soon be yours and New York’s gain.
New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city, that never sleeps
And find I’m a number one, top of the list, king of the hill
A number one
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it - in old New York
And if I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere
It's up to you - New York, New York
As sung by Frank Sinatra
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Willie Nelson,. singer, songwriter
Sticking with my western theme today, here is a video that Bitch Ph.d found at Unfogged it's rather humorous and politically incorrect.
Cowboy quote found through Google
Cowboys. I love westerns, not all westerns, but the “good ones.” Long ago, when I was a kid, the Rifleman was one of those shows. Recently I discovered that it’s on every night on the western channel. It was a time when crises had nicely wrapped endings and there were no ambiguities. When Lucas McCain was challenged, the town of Northfork threatened or his TV son Mark endangered, McCain answered with his
repeating Winchester rifle, unrealistically faster than a quick-draw firing off his pistol. The best episodes are the ones directed by Sam Peckinpah.
Here is a little bit of Rifleman trivia from Wikipedia:
- Conners played with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, briefly.
- In the opening titles of The Rifleman, Connors fires a Winchester repeating rifle 12 times. The Winchester 1892 only held 10 rounds.
- Connor's height is listed by the Dodgers as 6'5".
At a party given by U.S. President Nixon at the Western White House in San Clemente, California, in June, 1973, Connors was introduced to Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev of the Soviet Union.. The Rifleman was one of the few American shows allowed on Russian television at that time because it was Brezhnev's favorite. Connors and Brezhnev hit it off so well that in December 1973, Connors traveled to the Soviet Union where he presented Brezhnev with two engraved Colt revolvers and filmed a documentary.
Movies. Within the last month, I watched two movies about magicians (“The Prestige” and “The Illusionist”) and enjoyed both even though neither movie was great. They were fun to watch. I have to say I learned a bit more about magicians from “The Prestige,” well at least what the title means.
Fish. My new favorite barbecued fish is Orange Roughy now that I am tired of Salmon. However, today is Sunday and the young Republican has to have her Tri-tip, which is fine with me too because it complements a nice heavy red wine. Then I can settle in and watch the "Tudors" and the "Sopranos."
Friday, April 13, 2007
John Fowles (1926 - 2005), novelist
I have only seen Imus when he makes news with politicians or celebrities and the highlights are excerpted. What Imus said was wrong. No question. Does he deserve to lose his job? No! Otherwise The Rev. Jesse “jet stream” Jackson as Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko used to call him for rushing off to the next photo opportunity, and the Rev. Al Sharpton would be unemployed. There was the infamous Hymie town remark from Jackson and the attacking the Duke Lacrosse players as immediately guilty from Sharpton, but no one has demanded they be fired. Hell, Sharpton has never apologized to the Duke athletes, but the soon-to-be disbarred district attorney, who brought forth the charges, has. Imus has or will soon apologized to the basketball team.
Sharpton, Jackson and others are creating a deep pit without a safety net for any public figure who misspeaks in anger or in humor.
Truly something positive could have been made of this incident and instead it seems to have only widened the racial divide.
No person who examines and reflects, can avoid seeing that there is but one race of people on the earth, who differ from each other only according to the soil and the climate in which they live.
Captain J. G. Stedman (1744–97), soldier, author, artist
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Pearl S. Buck (1892–1973), novelist
Don Imus and his thoughtless (not ignorant, because he knows better) comments about the Rutgers Women’s basketball team, while attempting humor through an outrageous comment that could only make David Duke and imperial wizards laugh, is unacceptable.
I have been going back and forth whether too much is being made of this or whether he should be fired. I hate to see people lose their jobs and it’s too easy to fire someone and think the problem solved.
Positives need to come from this sad episode. I think Imus should donate a substantial amount of money to the college or the players to ensure they finish school debt free. The basketball players may already have a full ride, but $500,000 or more put into a scholarship fund would be a start. Also, he should be made to promote the women’s March Madness next year. It barely rates in comparison to the men’s March Madness. Imus’ comments and the ensuing attention should be channeled into more publicity for the women’s programs. Anything short of that means inappropriate comments will continue with only empty apologies.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Susan Sontag (1933 - 2004), essayist
There are going to be many disappointed Google searchers.
Here is why: many of Toner Mishap hits occur from Google sending people to look for many of B2s posts highlighting Edward Hopper, Star Wars, Waste and other great posts. Some even look for stuff from On The Mark and me, but I am sad and sorry to report that many of those photos no longer exist on this site.
You see, Time Warner has taken over many of the cable networks owned by Adelphia, Comcast and the like. B2 was posting pictures by connecting to his Comcast site that is no longer available and it was a big hassle to transfer everything, so similar to early Johnny Carson episodes our old posts only partially exist. I’d guesstimate that the first six to eight months there is text but no photos.
I will eventually change some of our best of posts that no longer have photos such as Urinal Selection, Sunday Lighter side that featured Daughter with Bill Clinton and many others. I don't think anyone will lose any sleep over this disappearance, but I alert you as a public service.
Virgil (70–19 BC), Roman poet
Regular readers know that Toner Mishap said good-bye to daily posting here, here and here. Now it is pretty much just me blogging with comments from On The Mark and occasional posts and mechanical help from B2. I am a bit like Davy Jones of the Monkees or Ray Manzarek of The Doors trying to go on after the band has folded. As a soloist, I followed Bitch PhD's advice and blog only when I feel like it, as opposed to blogging daily with a self-imposed deadline.
For some reason lately I have had a burst of energy about blogging, I honestly don’t know what this is about, but On The Mark says that blogging reflects my moods, more blogs good mood, little or no blogging not such a good mood. I am not sure that is accurate, but I have been relatively happy, at least for a misanthrope.
I have taken yesterday and today off, for a much needed break. Monday was opening day for the Dodgers, but since they have an especially greedy owner, I watch them only on TV. In honor of the home opener, I barbecued a couple of hot dogs and watched the game without the hassles of unruly fans, $15 parking, $5 hot dogs, $70 seats, and traffic.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Tony “the Ant” Spilotro (1938 – 1986), gangster made famous in book and movie “Casino”
If you want to catch up with what Jack from Random Thoughts and I were discussing in the comments of the previous post checkout this video at Hot Potatomash.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
“I was just gonna say, don’t get hung up about Easter,” Leon Russell
From the CD "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," 1970
Presidential Campaign. In my humble opinion, the presidential campaign has started so early because there is Bush fatigue; both sides want him out of office.
Vacation. The little Republican is on a long weekend cruise.
Cable Season. I’m looking forward to the "Sopranos" tonight and "The Tutors." Also waiting for "Big Love" and "Weeds."
Dinner. Attended a very nice and thoughtful dinner last night given by friend Sylvia. She thanked her close friends for being friends. It was very sweet.
Trees. I am amazed at how fast the leaves have appeared on the trees around the house. While I look forward to their shade this summer, I dread the fall and the mess they make. Not a bad worry to have.
Baseball. Thank goodness for baseball. It’s just such a wonderful sport. Unfortunately, everything about it outside of the white lines seems to want to detract from the game: owners, salaries, steroids, parking fees.
Personal Tidbit. I am an excellent ping-pong player. My closest competitor wins maybe three out of 15 games. I need new competition. I am not talking national ping-pong championship style; I am talking about playing in the garage. Hey, one has to emphasize one’s positive attributes where they can be found.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), political philosopher
In just twenty-five years we have gone from the American century to the American crisis.” Felix Rohatyn, the financier and social critic, tells David Halberstam. “That is an astonishing turnaround – perhaps the shortest parabola in history,” so reads the dust jacket to the book "The Reckoning" by Halberstam from 1986.
The Reckoning is the account of Detroit automakers’ arrogance toward the Japanese automakers and the predicted oil crisis. Surprisingly, this country continues to do little. The not so big three manufacturers continue to produce oversized cars and trucks, layoff thousands of employees, lose billions of dollars. Still, they do little.
Most brazenly, Ford paid its new president and CEO Alan Mulally $39.1 million for four months on the job last year. Five million dollars of the compensation was his signing bonus. Last year, the company lost $12.7 billion in 2006, the largest loss in its 103-year history. I suppose Mulally could see his bonus increase if Ford loses even more next year.
In today’s Los Angeles Times, it reports that Occidental’s CEO received $460 million in compensation. This is outrageous! We have heard ever excuse from the oil companies about high prices ranging from mice, hurricanes, to refinery capacity. If companies and their board of directors put some of this excess money back into the business it would help them, employees and the country stay competitive. Greed is not good.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Keith Richards, Rolling Stones’ guitarist, singer, song writer
It’s so outrageous that it is not beyond the pale that Keith Richards would do such a weird, sick thing as snort some of his father’s ashes mixed with cocaine. The story spread faster than Anna Nicole Smith in a room full of millionaires.
Now Richards’ manager is claiming it’s not true and said it was mentioned in jest. Yeah right. I suspect that Mick Jagger called Keith screaming, “who do you think you are Ozzy Osborne? We have to kill this story.”
I miss the days of simple name calling:
Richards said Elton John's Vegas-style stage antics and "songs for dead blondes" were irritating him.
Elton responded with, I'm glad I've given up drugs and alcohol. It would be awful to be like Keith Richards. He's pathetic. It's like a monkey with arthritis, trying to go on stage and look young. I have great respect for the Stones but they would have been better if they had thrown Keith out 15 years ago.
Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004), Republican president
Insecurity in the workforce is getting worse, according to this New York Times article. It’s bad enough that companies fire or lay off employees at will when management's bonuses are threatened, but now if you have been in the workforce too long and bring experience it will also count against you.
Circuit City, which deserves to be out of business based on my personal experience of trying to get any kind of customer service, has fired 8% of its employees (3,400 people, no doubt all frontline staff and no upper management), because their pay has inched up too high. God forbid that someone should be able to make a real living without working two jobs or even the equivalent hours of two jobs!
The laid-off Circuit City employees worked in the company’s stores and warehouses, selling electronics, unloading boxes and the like. They generally earned $10 to $20 an hour, making them typical of the broad middle of the American work force. Nationwide, the median hourly wage of all workers is about $15.
A key part of the story is that when store managers divvied up the yearly percentage increases, giving the employees 3% to 4% it apparently put them in danger of losing their positions. Hmm, I wonder what percentage increases and bonuses management passed out to themselves?
Not all is lost. These employees can apply for their old jobs, but at a lower wage. If an employee who applies for his/her job back at a lower wage, what do think the chances of loyalty to the company will be? The employee will leave in a heartbeat and a one- or two-week notice be damned. And, what if she/he does a good job and receives an increase does that put the employee at threat of losing his/her job, again?
Circuit City had already lost my business, I think it’s time they lose yours too.
We believe that if men have the talent to invent new machines that put men out of work, they have the talent to put those men back to work.
John F. Kennedy (1917–63), Democratic president
Update: From the Wall Street Journal nightly wrap up -- Circuit City Falters, Best Buy Soars Circuit City seems to have spent the last few months stumbling around in the dark. Bruised by a price battle on flat-panel televisions, the company said in February that it would shutter over 60 of its international stores and seven of its U.S. stores as part of a huge restructuring plan. Maybe it should start with a new CEO.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
George Will, baseball fan, political pundit
Spring, It’s time for baseball. I love the sport because it’s a multifaceted strategic game. Those who equate it to watching paint dry are just not interested in understanding all that goes into the game. So, to those of you who enjoy just going for the social aspect, good for you; team owners like Frank McCourt love you most of all, so you can show off your expensive seats given to you by your company or neighbor. To those of us who love the game and get excited about a scoreless pitchers’ duel – the long winter is over—it’s time for (insert favorite team here) baseball!
Divisions and World Series picks to follow as soon as I read the special baseball sections of the newspapers today.
Now having read the papers here are my picks for the 2007 season that starts today:
Phillies (NYTimes picks Mets, LATimes picks Braves)
Brewers (NYT picks Cardinals, LAT picks Brewers)
Dodgers (NYT picks Dodgers, LAT picks Diamondbacks)
Yankees (NYT picks Yankees, LAT picks Yankees)
Tigers (NYT picks Tigers, LAT picks Indians)
Angels (NYT picks Athletics, LAT picks Angels)
World Series champions will be the Detroit Tigers having defeated the Phillies