Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller

April 10th, 2012 at 4:34 pm

“Remember, if you can’t make money, make friends.” – Henry Miller

Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller

I care not for trends and fads, nor do I care to know how The Establishment regards the life and letters of Henry Miller. But at the rate I’m going, I’m going to have to keep reading Henry Miller books and eventually develop an opinion of my own. In the meantime, the opinion is verging on positive.

Henry Miller’s Big Sur book is 400 pages of rambling, rants, idle preponderances, and anecdotes. The book simply eschews. At every page. It seemed a bit Thoreauish. My favorite excerpts are below. Remember, Big Sur does not exist. Don’t go there.

It would be too easy, too convenient to refer to any degree of prescience in Miller’s Big Sur book because I am quickly learning that there is no prescience. Nothing changes. The writing is on the wall. We are. It is.

“I would rather be surrounded by the work of children and the insane than by such “masters” as Picasso, Rouault, Dali or Cezanne.”

“Well, nobody belongs who’s trying to simplify his life. Nobody belongs who isn’t trying to make money, or trying to make money make money. Nobody belongs who wears the same suit of clothes year in and year out, who doesn’t shave, who doesn’t believe in sending his children to school to be miseducated, who doesn’t join up with Church, Grange and Party, who doesn’t serve “Murder, Death and Blight, Inc.” Nobody belongs who doesn’t read Time, Life, and one of the Digests. Nobody belongs who doesn’t vote, carry insurance, live on the installment plan, pile up debts, keep a check account and deal with the Safeway stores or the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. Nobody belongs who doesn’t read the current best sellers and help support the paid pimps who dump them on the market. Nobody belongs who is fool enough to believe that he is entitled to write, paint, sculpt or compose music according to the dictates of his own heart and conscience. Or who wants to be nothing more than an artist, an artist from tip to toe.”

“I am not interested in the potential man. I am interested in what a man actualizes – or realizes – of his potential being. And what is the potential man, after all? Is he not the sum of all that is human? Divine, in other words? You think I am searching for God. I am not. God is. The world is. Man is. We are. The full reality, that’s God – and man, and the world, and all that is, including the unnameable. I’m for reality. More and more reality. I’m a fanatic about it, if you like.”

“I abhor people who have to filter everything through the one language they know, whether it be astrology, religion, yoga, politics, economics or what. The one thing about this universe of ours which intrigues me, which makes me realize that it is divine and beyond all knowing, is that it lends itself so easily to any and all interpretations. Everything we formulate about it is correct and incorrect at the same time. It includes our truths and our errors. And whatever we think about the universe in no way alters it…”

“Man is not suffering from the ravages wrought by earthquakes and volcanoes, by tornadoes and tidal waves; he is suffering from his own misdeeds, his own foolishness, his own ignorance and disregard of natural laws. Man can eliminate war, can eliminate disease, can eliminate old age and probably death too. He need not live in poverty, vice, ignorance, in rivalry and competition. All these conditions are within his province, within his power, to alter. But he can never alter them as long as he is concerned solely with his own individual fate.”

“The sum of all knowledge is greater confusion.”



The Mystery of Capital by Hernando De Soto

April 4th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

The Mystery of Capital was originally published in 2000 and I can only imagine that it is now horrendously out of date. All problems are solved about every decade, right?

The Mystery of Capital by Hernando De Soto

This book is not a Mystery or Thriller. It is not suspenseful. Rather, it is a economist’s straightforward assessment on yet another reason why our world is so fucked up. Yes, another stirring contribution to the ever-popular genre of Teen Lit, WOWISFU. WOWISFU is the next Hunger Games. (pronounced Wowzafoo.)

Regardless, I found The Mystery of Capital to be a worthwhile read. In a most obtuse, simplistic assessment, De Soto argues for government regulation and oversight to foster proper development in regards to property, real estate, and capital in general. (De Soto focuses entirely on Third World, Developing, and post-Communist countries.)

He supports a system of government aggregating, organizing, and facilitating the proper networks of legal framework, methodically opening up their bureaucracies to large swaths of populations currently operating on the periphery by adopting, co-opting, and implementing the frameworks already in place on such black markets. Using the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century as a model, De Soto speaks of a global industrial revolution in our common era in which life is now organized on a very large scale. In such, institutions are slow to adapt and therefore entrepreneurship triumphs, even if it means triumph in the black market, or “extra legal” sector.

Contrary to very popular and dominant arguments, De Soto insists that the world’s problems are not overpopulation, urban growth, and a poor minority, but rather, outmoded systems of legal property. Unfortunately, Legal Property is not near as sexy or easy to master as say, racism (ex: “The problem with the world today is that there are too many (name of color) people.”)

De Soto speaks of Metcalfe’s Law: “The value of a network – defined as its utility to a population – is roughly proportional to the number of users squared. An example is the telephone network. One telephone is useless: whom do you call? Two telephones are better, but not much. It is only when most of the population has a telephone that the power of the network reaches its full potential to change society.”

De Soto’s primary argument resides on an insistence in formalizing the property rights of so many “extralegal” citizens living and doing business outside of their population’s established networks of commerce, thus preventing their community from realizing the full potential of capitalism.

In simple math, legalization of property = creation of capital.

And while I do not have the intellectual capacity nor desire to fully engage in the nuances and complexities of this issue, this book was most rewarding to me in a conceptual manner. It was illuminating to immerse myself in the true nature of our Abstract World. De Soto has a comfortable grasp on how our systems of governance rely on symbols and abstraction to generate money, wealth, and affluence, what De Soto refers to as capital. It’s a twisted, mind-bending read. But it made me feel smarter and more informed. Which is what books are for in the first place, right? To make us feel better, smarter?

Reading is sexy.



7 Things Not to Envy About North Korea

December 21st, 2011 at 12:09 pm

For some time now, long before Kim Jong-il finally kicked it, I have been wrestling with a morbid curiosity of  North Korean.

Can you relate?

The reasons for my fixation are probably somewhere between Orwellian Obsession and Despot Envy.

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

With her book Nothing to Envy, Barbara Demick provides an impressive journalistic contribution to history by giving voice to the people of North Korea by telling the awful, modern story of their national cult by interviewing normal, everyday citizens who defected from the misery of the failed state.

Immediately addressing my North Korean compulsion, Demick asserts that, “While the persistence of North Korea is a curiosity for the rest of the world, it is a tragedy for North Koreans.”

Guilty as charged.

Even alongside the modern era’s menagerie of beasts, North Korea still contains plenty to be intrigued and horrified:

1. The recurring global theme of co-opting and perverting religion and exploiting people’s capacity to Believe

“What distinguished him [Kim Il-sung] in the rogues’ gallery of twentieth-century dictators was his ability to harness the power of faith. Kim Il-sung understood the power of religion. His maternal uncle was a Protestant minister back in the pre-Communist days when Pyongyang had such a vibrant Christian community that it was called the “Jerusalem of the East.” Once in power, Kim Il-sung closed the churches, banned the Bible, deported believers to the hinterlands, and appropriated Christian imagery and dogma for the purpose of self-promotion.”

Pyongyang was the Jerusalem of the East??? It is never a good sign when you live in a country with hinterlands.

Demick shares with us matter of factually that during the famine of the ’90s, it was the, “Simple and kindhearted people who did what they were told – they were the first to die.”

2. North Korea is literally covered in shit

“North Korea was chronically short of chemical fertilizer and needed to use human excrement since there were few farm animals…The countryside reeked of the night soil that is still used instead of chemical fertilizer.”

3. There is a name for that creepy material preferred by Bond villains and Dictators alike

“Vinalon, a stiff, shiny synthetic material unique to North Korea.”

4. North Korean Irony

“In 1991, while South Korea was becoming the world’s largest exporter of mobile telephones, few North Koreans had ever used a telephone. You had to go to a post office to make a phone call.”

, and

“An aside here about sex in North Korea…[what] many North Korean defectors…found most surprising about South Korea was that couples kiss in public.”

1991. Few North Koreans had ever used a telephone, much less a mobile phone. Think about that.

And these poor people are so prude, so repressed, so stifled by the mere grim struggle to subsist on a daily basis that they are most surprised by public displays of affection. Affection. Think about that.

5. Grotesque Canopies of Frozen Menstrual Rags

Life in dormitories of North Korean schools was a bit different than the typical cushy American upbringing:

“[Students] were roused by a military-style roll call at 6:00 AM, but instead of marching off like proud soldiers, they shivered into the bathroom and splashed icy water on their faces, under a grotesque canopy of frozen menstrual rags.”

6. Government Healthcare

A “Let’s Eat Two Meals a Day” campaign was cheerily implemented by the North Korean government during the famine of the ’90s.

How’s that for a new diet fad?

“They [North Korean citizens] jumped from the tops of buildings, a favorite method of suicide in North Korea since nobody had sleeping pills and only soldiers had guns with bullets.”

How’s that for actual death panels?

7. Big Brother

One young man featured in Demick’s book used his new life in South Korea to read all the books unobtainable in his homeland.

“His favorite was a translation of 1984. He marveled that George Orwell could have so understood the North Korean brand of totalitarianism.”



The Revolution by Ron Paul

December 20th, 2011 at 5:00 am

“I would choose freedom even if it meant less prosperity.” – Ron Paul

The Revolution by Ron Paul

I approve of most books that come with an additional reading list. Hooray, Reading!

I especially approve of books with “A Reading List for a Free and Prosperous America.” Good for you, Ron Paul!!

The Revolution is refreshing because Ron Paul dutifully and thankfully goes after the Bush Administration and goons like Alberto Gonzales responsible for the Patriot Act and its focus on citizens rather than foreign terrorists. In The Revolution, Ron Paul accuses politicians of treating Americans like sheep and even criticizes a Senator’s quote with a summation of “creepy propaganda.”

And Ron jumps into the real issues, like weed, for which Mr. Paul diplomatically tells us, “People’s opinions on this issue are so deeply and fervently held that it can be very difficult to persuade them to revisit the evidence dispassionately.” But he quickly assures us that, “We seriously mistake the function of government if we think its job is to regulate bad habits…When you actually study the beginnings of the federal war on drugs, you uncover a history of lies, bigotry, and ignorance so extensive it will leave you speechless.”

And all this from a medical doctor no less. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a leader familiar with healthcare?

Ron Paul hits his stride and wraps things up with a topic he is clearly comfortable and passionate: money (End the Fed is his 2nd book), sharing with us a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson:

“All the perplexities, confusions, and distress in America, arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.”

And I agree. We are all foolish in many ways, especially money. Consumption Is The Problem.

Ultimately, it will be difficult for Ron Paul to garner the needed blind support of the masses because he is a walking embodiment of a theme familiar to readers of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Freedom is messy and ugly and difficult because it demands freedom for everyone, even those you don’t like.



Jay-Z Decodes 18 Things

September 6th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Sometime in 2010, Jay-Z published a memoir/manifesto/song explainer, Decoded.

Decoded by Jay-Z

Soon to be released as a blog post, here are 18 original Authwhore tracks sampled from the book:

1. Childhood Kicks: “It was the seventies and heroin was still heavy in the hood, so we would dare one another to push a leaning nodder off a bench the way kids on farms tip sleeping cows.”

2. Adolescent Fortitude: “When Dee Dee was murdered, it was like something out of a mob movie. They cut his balls off and stuffed them in his mouth and shot him in the back of the head, execution style. You would think that would be enough to keep two fifteen-year-olds off the turnpike with a pocketful of white tops. But you’d be wrong.”

3. Form: “I still loved rhyming for the sake of rhyming, purely for the aesthetics of the rhyme itself – the challenge of moving around couplets and triplets, stacking double entendres, speed rapping.”

4. Thoroughness: “To tell the story of the kid with the gun without telling the story of why he has it is to tell a kind of lie.”

5. History: “I was part of a generation of kids who saw something special about what it means to be human – something bloody and dramatic and scandalous that happened right here in America – and hip-hop was our way of reporting that story, telling it to ourselves and to the world…We came out of the generation of black people who finally got the point: No one’s going to help us.”

6. Hip-hop: “Hip-hop is the only art that I know that’s built on direct confrontation…There are very few beta rappers – it’s alphas all the way…It’s a recurring story in hip-hop, the tension between art and commerce.”

{Isn’t hip-hop a funny word when written? It seems a character from Watership Down.}

7. Boxing: “Boxing is a glorious sport to watch and boxers are incredible, heroic athletes, but it’s also, to be honest, a stupid game to play. Even the winners can end up with crippling brain damage.”

8. Cristal Champagne: “It was symbolic of our whole game – it was the next shit. It told people that we were elevating our game, not by throwing on a bigger chain, but by showing more refined, and even slightly obscure, taste.”

9. Failure: “I don’t accept that falling is inevitable – I think there’s a way to avoid it, a way to win, to get success and its spoils, and get away with it without losing your soul or your life or both.”

10. Physics: “There’s an equal and opposite relationship between balling and falling.”

11. Seeing Yourself on TV for the First Time: “After my first record got on the radio and on BET, it was wild being at home, feeding my fish, and suddenly seeing myself on TV.”

12. Duality: “I think it’s worth it to try to find that balance. It’s like life – sometimes you just want to dumb out in the club; other times you want to get real and go deep.”

13. Poverty: “One of the reasons inequality gets so deep in this country is that everyone wants to be rich. That’s the American ideal. Poor people don’t like talking about poverty because even though they might live in the projects surrounded by other poor people and have, like, ten dollars in the bank, they don’t like to think of themselves as poor. It’s embarrassing.”

14. Charity: “To some degree charity is a racket in a capitalist system, a way of making our obligations to one another optional, and of keeping poor people feeling a sense of indebtedness to the rich, even if the rich spend every other day exploiting those same people.”

15. 80s Hair Bands: “Rock started to change. Style started trumping substance, which culminated in the rise of the big hair bands. There were probably some great hair bands – I wouldn’t really know – but I do know that most of them were terrible; even they’ll admit that now. And what’s worse is that the thing that made rock great, its rawness, whether it was Little Richard screaming at the top of his lungs or the Clash smashing their guitars, disappeared in all that hairspray. It was pure decadence. It crippled rock for a long time. I wasn’t mad, because rap was more than ready to step in.”

16. Preferences: “More than anything, I love sharp people; men or women, nothing makes me like someone more than intelligence. Big was shy, but when he said something it was usually witty. I’m talkative when I get to know you, but before that I can be pretty economical with words. I’m more of a listener.”

17. Religion: “I don’t believe in the fire-and-brimstone shit, the idea that God will punish people for eternity in a burning hell. I believe in one God.”

18. Poetry: “…a set structure forced sonnet writers to find every nook and cranny in the subject and challenged them to invent new language for saying old things. It’s the same with braggadocio in rap…If you can say how dope you are in a completely original, clever, powerful way, the rhyme itself becomes proof of the boast’s truth.”



How To Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson

May 6th, 2011 at 10:07 am

Writing a book is probably the least idle thing I can think of. Try to not hold that against Mr. Hodgkinson when reading his “How to be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto.” The inherent irony of this book’s existence will torment your lazy brain.

How To Be Idle

Take your time with it. Library fines be damned.

“How to be Idle” is a whimsical lark of a book, pondering such hefty topics as Saint Monday, hangovers, and the “Death of Lunch.”

There are pertinent references to [productive] cultural luminaries such as Keats and his concept of “diligent Indolence.” Diligent Indolence. Now that’s something I could get behind. If I weren’t so torpid.

I am also a big fan of the chapter, “On Being Ill.” If you cannot relate to the “exquisite langour of surrender,” then this book is either for you or not for you.

Did you know that in 1839 it was considered elegant to take a tortoise out walking?

“How to be Idle” is peppered with poets and songs and philosophers, musings and collections. It is humorous and admirable, a dutiful effort for a book on idleness. It affords for worthy ruminations on drinking, working, and dreaming. As well as the impact of the Industrial Revolution on our modern working lives and consumer culture. Damn you Robber Barons and Titans of Industry!!!! My clenched fist shakes in your general direction.

“How to be Idle” is ultimately an eloquently argued plea for the value and worth of less. I hope that makes sense to you. Less is more. Small is the new big. Downsizing is the new expansion. Fuck outsourcing, you shouldn’t be sourcing in the first place.

Buy this book. If you get around to it.

And then read it. Eventually.

I guess.



War by Sebastian Junger

April 12th, 2011 at 9:58 am

I too was disappointed and, quite frankly, utterly shocked upon realizing that this was not a book about the perennial funk rockers infamous for such groovy hits as “Low Rider.”

War by Sebastian Junger

“Society can give its young men almost any job and they’ll figure how to do it. They’ll suffer for it and die for it and watch their friends die for it, but in the end, it will get done. That only means that society should be careful about what it asks for.”

This book, from the author of The Perfect Storm, is about combat. Not war.

Sebastian Junger puts himself on the tip of the fucking that is the American military machine currently thrusting into the deep oily swaths of Arabian pussy. And god bless him. He embeds with the very best jism of our society’s ejaculate.

“Wars are fought with very heavy machinery that works best on top of the biggest hill in the area and used against men who are lower down. That, in a nutshell, is military tactics, and it means that an enormous amount of war-fighting simply consists of carrying heavy loads uphill.”

“War” is pure and true, touching on both the logistical realities of modern warfare, as well as its philosophical underpinnings. It is a griping, fierce read. But it sometimes misses the point with too much journalistic focus:

Junger relates that, “The market town of Nagalar was a mile to the east and boasted a “men’s club,” whatever that meant; at night something akin to Christmas lights flashed weirdly over the rooftops.”

What??? That’s it? Let’s go! To the titty bar in Nagalar!!!! You shitty, shitty journalist.

There is bonding and camaraderie and love and devotion. Friendship and family. Triumph and terror. Despair and delight.

Junger gets to know the men and describes their plight with stunning simplicity and passion. Hemingway, your seed has sprung. But it is Junger’s analysis and observation that comes with cool cutting, slicing through the heat, blood, and death.

“The idea that there are rules in warfare and that combatants kill each other according to basic concepts of fairness probably ended for good with the machine gun.”

And I know what you’re thinking: “WHAT ABOUT THE 2ND AMENDMENT!!!”

And I agree, this book is a stirring rebuke of the second amendment’s validity.

But let’s let him continue, as he does, later:

“As a result, much of modern military tactics is geared toward maneuvering the enemy into a position where they can essentially be massacred from safety. It sounds dishonorable only if you imagine that modern war is about honor; it’s not. It’s about winning, which means killing the enemy on the most unequal terms possible.”

Damn fine writer.

Ah, poetry. Blunt brutal reality, stirringly told:

“War is a lot of things and it’s useless to pretend that exciting isn’t one of them. It’s insanely exciting.”

So let the drumbeat roll, the machine gun rattle.

“The machinery of war and the sound it makes and the urgency of its use and the consequences of almost everything about it are the most exciting things anyone engaged in war will ever know. Soldiers discuss that fact with each other and eventually with their chaplains and their shrinks and maybe even their spouses, but the public will never hear about it. It’s just not something that many people want acknowledged. War is supposed to feel bad because undeniably bad things happen in it, but for a nineteen-year-old at the working end of a .50 cal during a firefight that everyone comes out of okay, war is a life multiplied by some number that no one has ever heard of.”

And then somber inevitability:

“Suddenly it seems weak and sad, a collective moral failure that has tricked me – tricked us all – into falling for the sheer drama of it. Young men in their terrible new roles with their terrible new machinery arrayed against equally strong young men on the other side of the valley, all dedicated to a kind of canceling out of each other until replacements arrive. Then it starts all over again. There’s so much human energy involved – so much courage, so much honor, so much blood – you could easily go a year here without questioning whether any of this needs to be happening in the first place.”



Javelin

February 20th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Javelin

“Each Javelin round cost $80,000, and the idea that it’s fired by a guy who doesn’t make that in a year at a guy who doesn’t make that in a lifetime is somehow so outrageous it almost makes the war seem winnable.” – Sebastian Junger, “War”

War by Sebastian Junger



Half Empty by David Rakoff

January 21st, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Half Empty by David Rakoff

I too was deceived into thinking (hoping?) this would be a coherent, cohesive contribution to the canons of pessimism and cynicism.

Instead, it is just another collection of Sedarisian essays. Some humorous. Others only mildly so. Some poignant. Others only mildly so.

I really enjoyed Rakoff’s previous work, “Don’t Get Too Comfortable,” and “Half Empty” is not without its moments.

“Unless someone looks you in the eye and hisses, ‘You fucking asshole, I can’t wait until you die of this,’ people are really trying their best.”

Really.



Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

December 9th, 2010 at 8:56 pm

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience – well, that comes from poor judgment.” – A. A. Milne

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

“How To” books are a perilous endeavor. How to Win Friends and Influence People is worthwhile but The Secret is drivel. Right?

And so we are confronted with [How To] Make Ideas Happen, an instructional tome for creatives encouraging accomplishment by way of organization & execution, community involvement, and dynamic leadership.

I found it a worthwhile read of recommendations sure to sneak their way into my personal undertakings. I am confident I will experience rampant success immediately.

But I was certainly doubtful in the opening pages as Belsky encouraged the implementation of “energy lines,” “responsibility grids,” and “windows of nonstimulation.” Maybe I was expecting something more theoretical and less cheekily practical?

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed fresh from his successes at Cornell, Harvard Business School, and Goldman Sachs, Belsky also recommends “Darwinian Prioritization,” i.e. nagging.

Praising the benefit of quick action, Belsky notes disparagingly that “Bureaucracy was born out of the human desire for complete assurance before taking action.” I know, complete assurance can be such a bummer. What squares those people are who prefer lame things like assurance.

Page 70, the beginning of the chapter on Execution, begins with the infamous Thomas Edison quote: “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” And not until page 99 comes the rub: “Unfortunately, perspiration is not glamorous.” No shit. And thus we are paid to do what others do not want.

But all is not lost. Belsky has his own quotes to rival Edison: “To envision what will be, you must remove yourself from the constant concern for what already is.”

And “[Engaged leaders] are driven by deeply held convictions rather than by some persona that requires tremendous energy to uphold.”

But the most relevant, and to me revelatory, segment came when Belsky noted the importance of storytelling to leadership. But more on that in my own book.

There is nothing but stories.

Ultimately though, Belsky is a disciple of the Gold Sachs and is proudly supervising his own network of grifters and charlatans. He has created a vast money-making enterprise and this book is little more than a philosophical mouthpiece to proselytize his wares. Look at all the neat products you creatives can buy.

Have you fully implemented the Action Method?

Purchased tickets to the Conference?

The Behance Network seems legitimate and reasonable and respectable. What happened?