Thursday, July 21, 2016
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
"Bird-Brained" is a compliment, not an insult. Anyone who observes birds and their behavior closely knows that we are the dummies, cut off from our true nature and potential by ego and distraction.
Learn the Language of Birds and the keys to enlightenment in Peter Sis's lovely graphic novel retelling of an ancient Persian story.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
In 1919 Sherwood Anderson wrote Winesburg, Ohio, wherein a collection of related short stories painted a portrait of a small town and its inhabitants. The stories on their surface were simple and ranged in tone from mysterious to quaint to alarming. There was a Biblical simplicity and urgency to that book, an interesting psychological depth, and I revisit it every decade or so.
About three-quarters of a century later, Russell Banks did the same for a Vermont trailer park and its denizens. The stories are realistic in style and often devoted to moral lessons around the activities of the people renting these temporary shelters in a beautiful but often brutal landscape.
I bought my copy used at Rhino Books in Nashville. Someone had scrawled on the frontispiece the words "Realist fiction--like Country and Western music, it's all about the TRUTH." Seems appropriate! At any rate, I had a fine talk with the proprietor of Rhino about the state of bookselling in Bmore and about how much I liked his little venture, and about my own experiences during most of a decade in book retail back in my 20s. Russell Banks might have enjoyed our conversation, and it could fit right into a book like Trailerpark.
I've written about Mr. Banks before.
Monday, July 11, 2016
Chomsky, with elegance, marshals his profound knowledge of science, philosophy, and history and distills all of this down to about 120 pages on problems and interesting avenues for exploration in the cognitive sciences. Hold onto your hat because the first chapter with its scientific linguistic jargon might have you squirming!
I have read dozens of works by Chomsky, but with one exception they were all books about politics. Politics only makes a brief appearance here as a slim chapter called "What is the common good?" This was the most accessible chapter, but the most interesting IMO was "The Mysteries of Nature: How Deeply Hidden?" Chomsky spends a lot of time explaining the concept of mysterianism and how some attempts to understand the origins of language and consciousness might indeed be doomed as scientific enterprises, with mere speculative "storytelling" taking the place of actual proof.
So if you are up to finding out what one of history's most interesting and sophisticated minds is thinking about--Noam if you want to!
Sunday, July 10, 2016
But in this instance, it is the “war” on crime itself that is most to blame. More than any other nation in the world, we turn to the state-sanctioned compulsion of the criminal justice system to “solve” social problems, including mental illness, drug addiction, poverty, homelessness, and lack of opportunity. Our “first responders” are too often the police, bearing handcuffs and guns rather than public assistance or life support. We arrest and incarcerate our fellow citizens at the highest per capita rate in the world. And those targeted are disproportionately black and Hispanic men living in poverty-stricken inner-city neighborhoods. We can’t seem to find the resources to invest in those neighborhoods to support adequate schools, job training programs, after-care for children let out of school before their parents come home, or economic development. But we are more than willing to pay enormous sums for more police to patrol the neighborhoods and prisons to house inmates taken from these communities. Our prisons in turn are ruled by violence and the threat thereof, from both guards and fellow inmates.
Cole goes on to conclude: "As Americans we have been far too complacent in the face of state-sanctioned violence. As long as the guns are pointed at others, we turn our heads and look away. But until we begin to demand alternatives to state violence, the killing will not cease."
It's a point that others have made before. Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine connected the manufacture of nuclear missiles in Columbine and Clinton's bombings of Kosovo and Sudan to the mindset of people who shoot up schools or malls. Noam Chomsky has been saying for years that the best way for the US to end terrorism is to stop participating in it against others.
So read Cole's piece and meditate on it, then go read:
I thought I knew a lot about the history of our drug prohibition. But here are more valuable pieces to the puzzle beyond the Reefer Madness, chemical-company funded and racist Chamber of Commerce shenanigans which resulted in marijuana criminalization in the US. And the book is entertaining as hell on top of being contrarian and smart.