I don't know why, maybe old habit, but I got all nostalgic this Mardi Gras, put on my beads, my Grandma Sarah's accent and my gold smoking jacket, and went out alone to celebrate the last day of fun before the 40 days leading up to the resurrection of our (and our Government's) Lord, Jesus Christ. That it was laundry night; that George W. Bush fantasized about his own old days, chugging Hurricanes along the Rue Bourbon; that some wacko chased me down the street, screaming; these little things ruined it for me. So I didn't call you, whoever you are, but I went to see Gwendolyn and Becky Sharp do what musicians do, which is give me a reason to go to sleep and get up again.
There's no Lent for me this year, and if Jesus were around for this mess, I think he'd agree. Just last night I was bored, watching this silly if heartfelt history of the Middle East done by the "Globe Trekker" kids (nothing compared to the great recent Frontline documentary on the Saud royal family...THERE'S something for you Europeans to inspire you to get rid of your own royals); then I happened to see a mind-blowing show on our biggest Christian network, TBN, "Creation in Symphony", hosted by the director of the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas. You can check out all their "evidence" yourself:
Yep, when we wipe out the planet, Jesus will appear and save (some of) us, and mostly in that part of Texas, I'd reckon. What used to amuse me, now makes me sick and wont to hear Condi Rice provoke the North Koreans and the Persians into some real old-fashioned End Time violence.
Back before I became a Born-Again Anti-Christian, this might have inspired me to say, "Damn, I'm sick of Texans." But I wouldn't wish these people on anyone. So I'll say, "Damn, I'm sick of CHRISTIANS," which is the Goddamn truth.
Fortunately I then discovered another bizarre (and subtitled) Korean soap opera. Some of you know my previous affection for "Emperor Wang Guhn", which was like Fellini's version of "Lord of the Rings" set in ancient Korea. This new one looks promising, with weird, looping flashbacks, terrible romantic Korean pop music and some excellent CGI martial arts fighting. A pair of honorable rogues are stirring up trouble in the ancient Kingdom of Dang, but instead of being put to death, a cute lady-in-waiting to the Empress (who looks just like a Korean Audrey Hepburn) falls for one of them and gets them sold into slavery instead. I watched the two heroes already make two unsuccessful attempts to break out; now they've been sold to the Government to build a castle for one of their sworn enemies. But they'll soon try again... It made a nice contrast to the incredibly depressing Scottish soap opera, "Two Thousand Acres of Sky", where one of the lead characters just got drowned trying to save his pal's escaped salmon (don't ask.)
Anyway, I must have a lot of sins to make up for this Lent, or maybe Henry does, because only three people decided to show up at the soiree we threw at his studio Saturday night. Maybe I should retroactively declare that my going-away party and be done with it. You guys are really making it personal; so be it. I won't dwell on it, but please, I don't want to hear any more comments about how much I will be missed when I move away from Los Angeles. I will start laughing at you.
So after my fab "Twin Peaks" experience, I've decided to begin my penance by revisiting more forgotten cornerstones from the past to see how they pan out. One seemed obvious; to reread Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, the story of a man in ancient India who goes through various trials in his life, first as an ascetic in the forest, then inspired by an encounter with the Buddha to live a life of pleasure as a wealthy merchant, which after many years drives him nearly to kill himself, until he leaves that life behind and takes up as a simple river ferryman. I'm usually loathe to answer the question, "What is your favorite (fill in the blank)?" There are too many good things in the world to limit them. However, I'll make something of an exception for Siddhartha. I read the book when I was 16, about the same age as Siddhartha when he leaves his family to become an ascetic in the forest, to learn "to think, to wait, and to fast". I'd read nothing like it before, and it focused a great upheaval in my life, when I abandoned my childhood dream of going to Cal Tech and becoming a scientist, and instead went to UC Berkeley to learn about the "real" (real strange) world. It was only after reading Siddhartha that I really decided to become a writer. Now I'm 39, about the age of Siddhartha as he realizes that his life as a wealthy merchant is destroying him, and about the age that Hesse was when he started writing the book in 1919, at his new villa in Montagnola, the lovely warm southern Swiss Alps of Ticino. I'd like to share part of this book with you at this juncture, first in the original German as a nod to my Alpine friends, and then in English (PS Lorinda - This book is in public domain, and is exactly the sort of thing that could be redone as I was talking about):
Finster begab sich Siddhartha in einen Lustgarten, der ihm gehörte, verschloß die Pforte, setzte sich unter einem Mangobaum nieder, fühlte den Tod im Herzen und das Grauen in der Brust, saß und spürte, wie es in ihm starb, in ihm welkte, in ihm zu Ende ging. Allmählich sammelte er seine Gedanken, und ging im Geiste nochmals den ganzen Weg seines Lebens, von den ersten Tagen an, auf welche er sich besinnen konnte. Wann denn hatte er ein Glück erlebt, eine wahre Wonne gefühlt? O ja, mehrere Male hatte er solches erlebt. In den Knabenjahren hatte er es gekostet, wenn er von den Brahmanen Lob errungen hatte er es in seinem Herzen gefühlt: "Ein Weg liegt vor dem Hersagen der heiligen Verse, im Disput mit den Gelehrten, als Gehilfe beim Opfer ausgezeichnet hatte." Da hatte er es in seinem Herzen gefühlt: "Ein Weg liegt vor dir, zu dem du berufen bist, auf dich warten die Götter." Und wieder als Jüngling, da ihn das immer höher emporfliehende Ziel alles Nachdenkens aus der Schar Gleichstrebender heraus- und hinangerissen hatte, da er in Schmerzen um den Sinn des Brahman rang, da jedes erreichte Wissen nur neuen Durst in ihm entfachte, da wieder hatte er, mitten im Durst, mitten im Schmerze dieses selbe gefühlt: "Weiter! Weiter! Du bist berufen!" Diese Stimme hatte er vernommen, als er seine Heimat verlassen und das Leben des Samana gewählt hatte, und wieder, als er von den Samanas hinweg zu jenem Vollendeten, und auch von ihm hinweg ins Ungewisse gegangen war. Wie lange hatte er diese Stimme nicht mehr gehört, wie lange keine Höhe mehr erreicht, wie eben und öde war sein Weg dahingegangen, viele lange Jahre, ohne hohes Ziel, ohne Durst, ohne Erhebung, mit kleinen Lüsten zufrieden und dennoch nie begnügt! Alle diese Jahre hatte er, ohne es selbst zu wissen, sich bemüht und danach gesehnt, ein Mensch wie diese vielen zu werden, wie diese Kinder, und dabei war sein Leben viel elender und ärmer gewesen als das ihre, denn ihre Ziele waren nicht die seinen, noch ihre Sorgen, diese ganze Welt der Kamaswami-Menschen war ihm ja nur ein Spiel gewesen, ein Tanz, dem man zusieht, eine Komödie. Einzig Kamala war ihm lieb, war ihm wertvoll gewesen--aber war sie es noch? Brauchte er sie noch, oder sie ihn? Spielten sie nicht ein Spiel ohne Ende? War es notwendig, dafür zu leben? Nein, es war nicht notwendig! Dieses Spiel hieß Sansara, ein Spiel für Kinder, ein Spiel, vielleicht hold zu spielen, einmal, zweimal, zehnmal--aber immer und immer wieder?
Da wußte Siddhartha, daß das Spiel zu Ende war, daß er es nicht mehr spielen könne. Ein Schauder lief ihm über den Leib, in seinem Innern, so fühlte er, war etwas gestorben.
Gloomily Siddhartha went to the pleasure-garden he owned, locked the gate, sat down under a mango-tree, felt death in his heart and horror in his bosom; he sat and sensed a dying, a fading, an ending within him. Gradually he gathered his thoughts and retraced the entire path of his life, starting from the first days he could remember. When was there ever a time when he had experienced happiness, felt a true bliss? Oh yes, several times he had experienced such a thing. In his years as a boy, he had tasted it eliciting praise from the Brahmans, when, far surpassing the others of his age, he had distinguished himself in the recitation of the holy verses, in disputations with the learned ones, as an assistant as the sacrifices. At such times he had felt it in his heart: "A path lies before you to which you are called, the gods are awaiting you." And again, as a young man, when the ever-elusive goal of all reflective thought had plucked him out of the multitude of the other contenders and borne him upwards; when he wrestled in pain for the meaning of Brahman, when every bit of knowledge he acquired merely kindled fresh thirst in him--there too, amid his thirst, amid his pain, he had the same feeling: "Onward! Onward! You are called upon!" He had heard this voice when he had left home and had chosen the life of a samana, and again when he had gone away from the samanas to that Perfect One, and again when he had gone away from him and into the unknown. How long it was now since he had heard this voice, for how long since he had scaled any heights, how evenly and monotonously his path had passed through life, for many long years without a lofty goal, without thirst or elevation of the spirit, content with small pleasures and yet never satisfied! For all of these many years, without knowing it himself, he had labored and longed to become a man like those others, like those children, and in all that time his life had been much more miserable and poor than theirs, because their goals were not his, nor their worries; in fact, this entire world of Kamaswami-people had only been a game to him, a dance you would watch, a comedy. Only Kamala had been dear to him, had been valuable to him--but did she still? Did he still need her, or she him? Were they not playing a game without an ending? Was it necessary to go on living for that? No, it was not necessary! The name of this game was samsara, a game for children, a game perhaps enjoyable to play once, twice, ten times--but over and over again?
Then, Siddhartha knew that the game was over, that he could not play it any more. Shivers ran over his body, and inside him, and he felt something had died.
WOW. It may be 23 years later, but this book still packs a punch. I hope you enjoyed it; I'll share something happier with you all next week. But this section mirrors my feelings this week.
So Fat Tuesday once again, the best holiday of the year for a burnt-up Southern Catholic. No gifts or cards or depression, just me me me, you you you, and then 40 days of denial until Jesus Christ tries to lead us to the cross by example. Maybe this year Jesus will take pity on us and do something splashy, maybe he'll teach a lesson to the unholy bastards using his name to carry on their campaign of death and repression. But I doubt it.
Instead we'll get more sickos:
Woman Accused of Giving Lethal Sherry Enema
No, I'm starting to think that even severe measures, as in France, might not be enough:
If only we were more like the French
Call me a chippy atheist, but I'd rather see a headscarf ban than Muslim ghettoes
I interviewed a Parisian anthropologist for a television series recently (there's a sentence you don't read often enough). He admitted that the French had banned Muslim headscarves and other religious symbols from schools last year out of intolerance. "But intolerance is not racism, and tolerance is not anti-racism," Emmanuel Todd of France's National Institute for Demographics told me. "What France is saying [to the country's 5 million Muslims] is that we want some of your daughters to marry some of our sons."
Instead, we are ruled by Christians; thanks to the many who sent me this Canadian article:
Paranoia Grips the U.S. Capital
By Eric Margolis
The Toronto Sun
The film Seven Days In May is one of my all-time favourites. The gripping 1964 drama, starring Burt Lancaster, depicts an attempted coup by far rightists in Washington using a top-secret Pentagon anti-terrorist unit called something like "Contelinpro."
There are some perverse things about America that no amount of Christians can undo; the Superbowl made me think of plenty (thanks, Miles):
Too bad we can't get anyone else to really play ball.
No Foreign Observers to Monitor Iraq Vote
By Robin Wright
The Washington Post
Only one outsider from international mission may assess elections on site.
You can't believe one word or one action; for example, remember that nice Iraqi woman at George W. Bush's last State of the Union address, who hugged the mother of the soldier Who Gave His Life for His Country (thanks, Brad)?
Subject: Who was that Iraqi woman?
Yep, not much has changed since the late, great Johnny Carson made this speech about American Democracy:
The great thing about democracy is that all the lies come out...eventually, if you dig long enough. How about the end of this lie?
Reuters.com - White House Scraps "Coalition of the Willing" list
The end of this lie?
Analysis: Iraqi Insurgency Growing Larger, More Effective
By Tom Lasseter and Jonathan S. Landay
Knight Ridder Newspapers
If it's not Jesus we take into battle, it's "Star Wars":
** 'Robot soldiers' bound for Iraq **
The US military plans to deploy robots armed with machine-guns to wage war against insurgents in Iraq.
< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/world/americas/4199935.stm >
Armed Robots to March Into Battle
December 2004 article from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) about how "soldiers may have armed robots as battle buddies by early ." The article provides images and brief information about the Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System (or SWORDS) robots, which consist of a "weapons platform mounted on a Talon robot."
And every day we push our enemies harder and harder, and we push our friends harder and harder. I think, my friends, that this could really be bad news:
Britain Leans Away from Iran Attack
By Annabel Crabb
The Age, Australia
** Should Iran suspend its nuclear programme? **
The United Nation's chief nuclear inspector says that Iran has not yet completed suspension of its uranium enrichment programme. Send us your reaction.
< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/talking_point/4041629.stm >
EU's Solana Says Attack on Iran Would Be Serious Mistake
Link to article:
News Analysis: Iran puzzle: U.S. and Europe on separate tracks
The New York Times
Iran is shaping up as the most serious diplomatic challenge for President Bush's second term.
United States and Europe Differ Over Strategy on Iran
By Elaine Sciolino
The New York Times
Rice Says U.S. Won't Aid Europe on Iran Incentives
By Steven R. Weisman, Elaine Sciolino and David E. Sanger
The New York Times
Bush Pulls 'Neo-Cons' Out of the Shadows
By Doyle McManus
The Los Angeles Times
U.S. Adds Israel to the Iran Equation
By Paul Richter
The Los Angeles Times
The Jewish state 'might well decide to act first' to foil Tehran's nuclear ambitions, Cheney says.
Focus on Iran Causes Unease
By John Daniszewski
The Los Angeles Times
Reaction in Tehran is stern, but analysts abroad see Cheney's warning of a possible Israeli strike as a way to prod Europe. Bush's speech is criticized.
Why the Hawks Are Circling Over Iran
By Rupert Cornwell
The Independent U.K.
As George W. Bush prepares for a second term, his administration is setting its sights on Iran. But, Rupert Cornwell reports, a new foreign policy adventure could be disastrous.
It makes me pine for the old days...remember when Clinton was in charge, when we still ignored genocide but had fun doing it, when we could make fun of each other?
German Radar Police Stumped by Parking Ticket
Now we've even made the Germans worried about us and Iran, and that's really something. Let's pray to Jesus this Lent, friends, but let's pray he protects us from his own followers:
Politicians Worried About US' Iran Stance
German politicians are alarmed following President Bush's comment that he would not rule out military force against Iran. Many are warning against an escalation of the conflict.
American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh's report that the US military has been actively carrying out military preparations for a preemptive strike against Iran and President Bush's statement that he would not rule out military force against Iran over its nuclear program have sent alarm bells ringing in Germany.
Representatives from across the political spectrum have responded with varying degrees of concern about the possibility of another conflict in the region.In an interview with daily Berliner Zeitung, Claudia Roth, party chairwoman of the Greens, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, said diplomatic solutions were needed and not "threats of force." It's a stance that's backed by all party members. Greens spokeswoman Krista Sager called such plans a "very dangerous policy".
The governing Social Democratic Party (SPD) has reacted similarly.
Foreign affairs expert Gernot Erler has demanded that the US provide its NATO partners with all its plans regarding Iran. He called threats against the Iranian government at odds with European Union efforts to reach a diplomatic solution for Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"The approach provided by the three European governments of the United Kingdom, France and Germany is not compatible with the American approach of threatening with military intervention," Erler said.
The EU, led by the United Kingdom, France and Germany, has negotiated numerous times with Teheran to try and persuade the country to give up its goals of producing atomic weapons. In November, Iran succumbed to the demands of the EU and the International Atomic Energy Agency to halt all activities related to the enrichment of uranium.
US should be more willing to negotiate
While those in the Green Party and the SPD are more critical of the potential for conflict between the US and Iran, the center-right opposition party, the Christian Democrats, think that cooperation between the US and the EU is the best way to bring about a lasting solution.
Former German Defense Secretary, Volker Ruhe, suggested that the US should determine how it can best support European nuclear negotiations with concrete proposals to motivate Iran's mullahs to permanently reject an atomic weapons option.
Long-time foreign policy expert from the Christian Democratic Union, Wolfgang SchÃ¤uble, warned against over-dramatizing the situation. In an interview in the newspaper Die Welt, SchÃ¤uble asserted that it is Iran's attempts to become an atomic power that pose the real threat, not the position of the United States.The Christian Democrats' Iran expert, Ruprecht Polenz, bemoaned that the Bush administration does not bring any political solutions to the negotiating table.
Threat blown out of proportion?
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU presidency, said he could not possibly believe that after the bad experience in Iraq, that the US would possibly attack Iran.
"I can't imagine that this is serious American policy," said Asselborn.
Yet it is exactly the policy during the first four years of the Bush administration that frightens some European politicians.
Good cop, bad cop
The EU is eager to negotiate with Iran. Just last week, it again met with Iranian representatives in Brussels to discuss a possible trade agreement, something that Iran has long been striving for. But the EU cannot and will not forever play the role of the good cop while the US holds a big stick in its hand.
Asselborn shares this belief. And so does German Foreign Minister and unofficial Green party leader, Joschka Fischer. In the past few months, he has repeatedly told the regime in Teheran that it may be miscalculating the EU's ability to hinder the US from using military force.
"I can only appeal to those responsible to not come to false conclusions that isn't in the interest of Iran, isn't in the interest of regional stability and isn't in the interest of the European Union," Fischer said.
Author: DW staff (jdk)
http://www.dw-world.de © Deutsche Welle
Vive le screed!
09 February 2005