The Writing on the Wall: San Francisco Chronicle, 16 May 2018

Editorial, p. A9:

The Trump Administration has exported its politics of provocation to the last place that needs it, the Middle East. The all-too predictable immediate result has been carnage. The long-term consequences are likely to be worse.

Like President Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement last week, his relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Monday stoked tensions and emboldened hardliners on all sides. They include those who urged protesters to storm a border fence in Hamas-ruled Gaza, about 40 miles from the wilfully oblivious celebration of the new embassy. Israeli soldiers responded with tear gas and gunfire, leaving at least 60 dead and 2,000 wounded.

The disputed status of Jerusalem, in light of its religious and political importance to Jews and Palestinians alike, has long been regarded as one of a few key controversies to be resolved by peace talks. Trump’s recognition of the holy city as Israel’s capital would be a monumental concession to one side if anything had been gained or even asked in return. As effected, it was just a gift Trump bestowed on his evangelical political base, and by extension himself, at the expense of lives, American standing and prospects for peace.

Whether Trump takes the need for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations seriously might be guessed from his decision to entrust the job to his callow son-in-law, Jared Kushner, along with a laughable litany of other assignments for which he has no obvious qualifications.

The Amber Spyglass (Pause for Now)

NO SPOILERS FOR THE AMBER SPYLGASS, PROMISE!

p. 248, just halfway. But self was immersed in a wonderful piece of Amber Spyglass fan fiction (and there are very few of those. At least, when compared to Hunger Games. There are six times as many Hunger Games fan fics than there are Amber Spyglass fan fics — of any ship.) Anyhoo, self was enjoying the fan fic hugely until she landed on a chapter where the writer quotes the end of The Amber Spyglass. And — self knows the end already because Twitter is an undisciplined space. But she didn’t expect it to go down like that. It was so awful. Seeing as how she found the ending of The Subtle Knife excruciating, she knew she wasn’t strong enough for the end of The Amber Spyglass. Exhibit A: She put off reading the last 50 pages of The Hunger Games for two years, until the movies started coming out, because she was so sure Peeta would die. But then a niece looked self straight in the eyes and said, “Peeta makes it.”

Oh. He DOES?

Screech!

Self returned home, read the last 50 pages of The Hunger Games, went to the local bookstore, bought Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and binge-read.

So, alas, farewell for now, His Dark Materials, and on to . . .  Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, which has zero angst.

The edition self checked out of the Redwood City Library has a neat little intro — Stevenson’s essay, “My First Book.” She’s actually been dipping into it off and on, the past few days. Here’s an excerpt:

I am told there are people who do not care for maps, and find it hard to believe. The names, the shapes of the woodlands, the courses of the roads and rivers, the prehistoric footsteps of man, still distinctly traceable up hill and down dale, the mills and the ruins, the ponds and the ferries, perhaps the Standing Stone or the Druidic Circle on the heath; here is an inexhaustible fund of interest for any man with eyes to see or twopence worth of imagination to understand with!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

#amreading The New Yorker, 26 March 2018: “California v. Trump”

In March, the Donald toured the border wall, and the Attorney General flew to places like Las Cruces, New Mexico. Thank God for Jerry Brown.

Addressing the U.S. Attorney General, Brown said: “I’ll cooperate, Jeff, if you can get off this current maneuver you’re on, because it’s unbecoming.”

“California v. Trump”, by Connie Bruck

Early this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared war on the State of California. At least that’s the way many opponents of the Trump’s Administration saw it. Speaking to the California Peace Officers Association in Sacramento, Sessions announced that the Department of Justice was suing the state for passing three laws to protect undocumented immigrants — measures, Sessions said, that “intentionally obstruct the work of our sworn immigation-enforcement officers.”

Earlier, self had watched the AG on TV make a rhetorical device of “How dare you?” and finish up with, “California, we are coming to get you.”

DSCN0847

While 45 seems lost in his own alternate reality of The Apprentice (“You’re fired” seems to be his favorite slogan), Sessions is lost in his own version of a western, where the Good Guys (Whites, self presumes) battle it out with Bad Guys (Native Americans, self presumes — aka, Non-Whites). The “coming to get you” had her rolling on the floor, because Sessions in person is rather petite in stature. And moreover, has elf ears. The idea of him as a gunslinger is patently ridiculous. But, it must have been an image dear to his heart, his own private childhood fantasy. And now he gets to act it out! On behalf of a President who likes talking loud and waving a big stick! As if the whole country — nay, the whole world — could be reduced to black and white! Or, if you prefer, white and white!

It’s a ridiculous performance.

Some weeks ago, Brown hit back with a tweet of his own:

Thanks for the shout-out, @realDonaldTrump. But bridges are still better than walls. And California remains the 6th largest economy in the world and the most prosperous state in America. #Facts

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Why Is This Happening To Us? Conservatives Call the Parkland Survivors “Hitler Youth”

Here is one explanation, which self found in a back issue of The New Yorker.

It was the lead essay in Talk of the Town: The New Yorker, 28 August 2017

“The Divider”

. . .  speeding toward yet another airport last November (2016), Obama seemed like a weary man who harbored a burning seed of apprehension. “We’ve seen this coming,” he said. “Donald Trump is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party for the past ten, fifteen, twenty years . . . “

For half a century, in fact, the leaders of the GOP have fanned the lingering embers of racial resentment in the United States. Through shrewd political calculation and rhetoric, from Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” to the latest charges of voter fraud in majority African-American districts, doing so has paid off at the ballot box.

And make no mistake, Trump is planning to do it again in 2020 — he’s planning to call upon that mass base of Americans who turned Charlottesville, Virginia into such a spectacle. And the only ones, it seems, who can stop him are . . . Parkland Survivors.

As I’ve told anyone who will listen: The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High are people who had eight years with Obama. They know what a good president is. Thank God.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“Worlds of Decay, Renewal Merge Unexpectedly”: Elegy for a City, San Francisco

  • Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about a walk in the city these days. The Sunday before, my companion and I had walked the streets of Washington, D.C. and marveled at how clean they were. On returning back home, it was clear how much of San Francisco was a mess, particularly downtown with its crowds of lost souls roaming filthy streets. — from Carl Nolte’s column, Native Son, in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, 18 March 2018

Don’t ever try to walk (alone) from the Asian Art Museum to Powell. Don’t. Even if it’s broad daylight, you will be accosted by xxx panhandlers, and some will be quite aggressive. Just saying. That stretch of San Francisco feels like Detroit. Or like a Third World city. The decay is absolutely heartbreaking.

Self tried it once, last year. Every few steps, someone said something to her. Like running a gauntlet. Don’t reach for your wallet, don’t hesitate. Keep your earbuds in place. Keep walking.

If that’s what it’s like in the daytime, can you imagine what it’s like at night? Downtown San Francisco is not a woman-friendly city.

(And on the streets, there are Teslas. And Jaguars)

Stay tuned.

Florida: Where Lightning Strikes

Self is still digging deep through her pile of stuff, languishing since 2015. Which is why the article about Trump that she reads this morning, in The New York Review of Books (September 2015) is so scary. Because it sounds exactly like right now. And Trump wasn’t even President yet.

If nothing else, the article, written by Michael Tomasky, shows that Trump did not suddenly sneak up on America like a Stealth bomber. His base was quietly building (like the ratings for his show, The Apprentice) for at least a decade.

An excerpt:

Is Trump not the logical culmination of where Republican politics have been headed for many years now, going back to the Clinton and Bush presidencies, but especially during the presidency of Barack Obama? Two qualities more than any others have driven conservatism in our time. The first is cultural and racial resentment, felt by the mostly older and very white population the GOP increasingly represents — resentment against a fast-changing, more openly sexual America, as well as against dark-skinned immigrants, and White House occupants, and gay people and political correctness and the “moocher class” and all the rest. The second is what we might call spectacle — the unrelenting push toward a rhetorical style ever more gladiatorial and ever more outraged (and outrageous), driven initially by talk-radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and now reproduced on websites, podcasts, and Twitter feeds too numerous to mention.

Self thinks that the reason the GOP and conservative pundits lash out at the survivors of the Florida School Shooting is: here are a group of kids challenging them on their turf: the media.

Dinesh D’Souza (who, when last self checked, was an adult, with a bestselling book yet) ridicules the Florida students who broke into tears when Congress refused to revive a bill that would ban assault rifles. Because D’Souza himself is a master manipulator of the media, but it took him decades to get there. And suddenly, almost overnight, the kids are everywhere: on the web, in our news, on television.

Which proves self’s point: In the last few decades, the GOP has become nothing more than a party of shills. Their power is the media, not the implementation of actual policy issues.

And in a party like that, of course the biggest shill of all would win his party’s nomination.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

#amreading: “The Daggers of Jorge Luis Borges”

From The New York Review of Books, 9 January 2014, a review by Michael Greenberg of Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature, edited by Martin Arias and Martin Hadis, and translated from the Spanish by Katherine Silver (New Directions):

  • Throughout his life, Jorge Luis Borges was engaged in a dialogue with violence. Speaking to an interviewer about his childhood in what was then the outlying barrio of Palermo, in Buenos Aires, he said, “To call a man, or to think of him, as a coward — that was the last thing . . . the kind of thing he couldn’t stand.” According to his biographer, Edwin Williamson, Borges’s father handed him a dagger when he was a boy, with instructions to overcome his poor eyesight and “generally defeated” demeanor and let the boys who were bullying him know that he was a man.

 

 

#amreading: The New York Review of Books on Oliver Sacks (21 May 2015)

You will notice, dear blog reader, that all the magazines self has been quoting this week are three years old. That is because 2015 is the last year she had much leisure time. She thinks it’s a very good sign that she saved all these past issues of New York Review of Books. Like she knew, she’d be getting back to them one day. Even if that day was three years later.

Moving on.

Oliver Sacks is no longer with us. Nevertheless, his ouevre remains. Jerome Groopman, in his review of Oliver Sacks’s memoir On the Move: A Life, quotes Sacks’s description of himself:

of “vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.” A talented student drew a contrast with Ivan Ilyich, who was passionless and shaped his behavior to strictly conform to others’ expectations. Tolstoy judged Ilyich’s life as “most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”

Which is why self is sharing this photo (taken at the San Carlos Auto Pride carwash):

DSCN0148

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More from Joan Acocella on Martin Luther (The New Yorker, 30 October 2017)

Still reading the Joan Acocella essay from a month and a half ago. It’s a great essay which somehow also manages to call up Freddie Krueger and his origin story (but self will not mention that here, as it’s getting close to Christmas).

In addition to fascinating examples of Luther’s ripe way with speech, it brings up Luther’s anti-Semitism (which was not uncommon at the time).

Acocella on the Jews: “Luther despised them dementedly, ecstatically.”

Then follows many scatological references. Also, this:

  • “what makes Luther’s anti-Semitism most disturbing is not its extremity (which, by sounding so crazy, diminishes its power)”

which recalls the present day (calling 45 “mental” thereby diminishing him — which does our country no favors because, after all, 45 is a dangerous guy, and probably NOT crazy)

Martin Luther lived to “an old age”: 62. But “the years were not kind to him . . . He spent days and weeks in pamphlet wars over matters that, today, have to be patiently explained to us, they seem so remote.”

This is sad!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day: Joan Acocella on Rescuing Luther’s Bibles From a 2004 Fire

The book historian Stephan Fussel, in the explanatory paperback that accompanies the two-volume facsimile, reports that in 2004, when a fire swept through the Duchess Anna Amalia Library, in Weimar, where this copy was housed, it was “rescued, undamaged, with not a second to lose, thanks to the courageous intervention of library director Dr. Michael Knoche.” I hope that Dr. Knoche himself ran out with the two volumes in his arms. I don’t know what the price of a calf is these days, but the price of this facsimile is sixty dollars.

The New Yorker, 30 October 2017

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