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Sunday, March 29, 2009

"They Made A Desert, and Called It Peace"

That's Tacitus, by the way, discussing the Romans. But he might as well have been talking about the Americans.

Any lingering doubts that Obama is just another shithead war-mongering fuck should be dispelled by a careful review of his policy speech regarding Pakistan and Afghanistan. Here's a transcript:

Peel away all the flowery diplomatic language and you're left with a few highlights.

1. 17,000 more troops are going to Afghanistan. The purpose of the troops is to kill all the bad people, i.e., Taliban and al-Qaeda. These are the same people who were supposedly killed when Bush sent troops there in 2002. Instead, they got stronger and spread into Pakistan.

But this time will be different! Apparently. It is not clear why, but whatever.

Wasn't it Einstein who had the line about insanity being defined as doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results? Smart guy, Einstein.

2. 4,000 US "trainers" will go to Afghanistan to train the army there. This is essentially a replay of Vietnam policy, which, as we all know, worked out so well. Because nobody understands the local situation as well as us 'Mericans, and nobody has that expert-eese as much as we do.

3. The US will pay $1.5bn per year to Pakistan over the next few years. This will serve to a.) buy the corrupt government's collusion, and b.) salve the consciences of the very tiny number of Americans who actually feel kind of bad about killing all those dumb niggers with our ongoing drone and rocket attacks. Oh and they can build schools or something too, when they aren't being bombed by the States. Maybe we'll send an few advisors for that too. Nice!

Now, infrastructure aid and so on can be perfectly helpful, and maybe a few roads actually will get built. But it sticks in the craw to hear him say that the money will go to create "opportunity zones in the border region to develop the economy and bring hope to places plagued by violence," when, after all, it is the US missile attacks in those regions (ongoing since 2004) that have killed more people than anything else.

4. By the way, the justification for all this--for renewing the war in Afghanistan and spreading it into Pakistan, when most people thought Obama was actually interested in reducing military action around the world--is that al-Qaeda carried out 9/11. Of course, the Taliban government offered, at the time, to turn over OBL to the US--if the US could provide any evidence of his involvement in the attacks. The US refused to do so, preferring intead to start another war. Obama thus carries on this fine tradition perpetuated by Bush, Bush II, and many others.

5. Laugh until you cry: "The return in force of al Qaeda terrorists who would accompany the core Taliban leadership would cast Afghanistan under the shadow of perpetual violence. "

What, exactly, has Afghanistan been living under for the past eight years (longer than that, if you include the US/Soviet proxy war dating back to 1980), you stupid fuck?

If this all sounds a lot like W.'s policy in the region, well... yeah. Except that he was smart enough to see a hopeless situation and bail (but not smart enough to avoid another hopeless situation, but that's another story).

Q. How do you say "Vietnam" in Arabic?
A. "Iraq."
Q. How do you say it in Pushto?
A. "Afghanistan."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why I Didn't Vote for Obama

During all the celebrating of O-bomb-ya's victory last November, I felt left out. It was depressing. I felt like I was missing out on some big generational shift or soemthing--at least, that's what TV kept telling me. There was a party going on all around me and I wasn't invited. or more properly, I was invited, but I refused to go, because the guy hosting the party had said some murderously stupid things that all the other guests seemed intent on ignoring.

I couldn't feel celebratory about somebody like that, and I didn't vote for the guy because I didn't like what he'd been saying for months vis-a-vis Afghanistan (that he would expand the war there) and Pakistan (that he would expand the war there). My misgivings were ignored by the Obama supporters I talked to. Typical of the repsonses was that of my sister, who said something to the effect that Obama was just "talking tough" in order to get elected, but he was really peace-loving at heart.

Well, now we all know that's a pile of shit, right?

According to the NY Times, Obama is weighing plans to attack the Pakistani city of Quetta, the provincial capitol of Balunchistan and one of the largest cities after Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar. This is a pretty huge fucking deal and the resultant silence from the "liberal left" is staggering. If W. had announced this plan, or McCain, then all those good lefty-thinking northeastern liberals would be out there protesting, but since the plan is emanating from a supposedly progressive (huh?) politician, anything goes.

The theory, by the way, is that he will destroy Al-Qadea and Taliban targets there, and so the world will be safe for everybody. It's the same flawed logic that spurred W.'s Afghan war in 2002, and the Iraq war in 2003, not to mention the ongoing missile strikes into Pakistan since 2004. Lest we forget, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were created by the US in the 1980s to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, at which point, they were going to make the world safe for everybody. (Ronald Reagan called them the "moral equivalent to the Founding Fathers.")

What gets left out of the thinking when people talk about bombs and drones and missile strikes, is:

a. the strategy hasn't worked yet,which is why the war keeps creeping from place to place (Afghanistan to the tribal areas to Baluchistan to who knows where); and

b. lots and lots and lots of innocent people die.

Admittedly, US policy doesn't give a fuck about that, and nor do US politicians, Obama included, and nor do (from what I can see) the majority of US citizens. Please remember, three days after Obama's inauguration, he authorized the continuation of missile strikes into Pakistan. 15 people were killed that day in a village in Waziristan, mostly women and children. The strikes continues on a weekly-or-more-often basis. Raise your hand if you give a fuck. I mean, really.

On the other hand, if even one such strike occurred on US territory, the hounds would be baying for blood...

Expanding the war into Baluchistan will have any number of negative consequences, all of them dire. It could easily split Pakistan into pieces, which is at least one potential goal of the policy. It will radicalize a segment of the citizenry which, until now, has been relatively moderate. It will swell numbers of Taliban and Al-Qaeda recruits. It will further weaken the already-weak and corrupt federal government. Any of these results can and will be used as further justification for more military action in which more people who have never done a damn thing to the US or its citizenry will die.

But who cares, right? They're just niggers, right?

Oh wait, we can't say that anymore, now that Obama's president.

I'm glad I voted for Nader.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Killer bunnies

Okay, I've been trying to get through Night of the Lepus for about a week now. For those of you not in the know, this is a 1972 movie about giant killer rabbits in Arizona. Now read that sentence again. Right, I know--Arizona, of all places?

Just kidding.

For those of you still not in the know, here's a picture that pretty much tells you everything you need to understand about Night of the Lepus:

As you can see, there are 1. ) giant bunnies with cuddly twitchy faintly obscene twitching noses, and there are 2.) people with their throats ripped open. That's pretty much the extent of the movie's interest. It's worth noting however that fuzzy soft cuddly bunnies are really really cute and entirely unthreatening to almost everybody in the omniverse apart from certain grass-based organisms, so splashing their incisors with blood and having them run through the picture in slo-mo (in order to, I guess, enhance their fearsome ferocity or something) actually does little to make them any scarier. There is, however, a great "burble-burble" electro-soundtrack underscoring their villainous rampages which, against all the odds, does make the proceedings a trifle creepy.

But what truly elevates this movie from "enjoyable kitsch" to near-perfection is the cast, which includes Janet Leigh (remember Psycho?) and DeForest Kelly, aka Dr McCoy on the original Star Trek. He ambles around with a mustache and a leather jacket but still looks like he'd rather be on some alien planet--well he's pretty close, it is Arizona*--with Kirk and Spock and all the rest. The grant blood-sucking bunny rabbits, you know, just add to this feeling of being trapped somewhere in a really long, really bad Star Trek episode.

*Just kidding, cowboys. I lived in Tucson for 7 years and loved loved loved it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The icing on the cake

Aloha! Here's one final post from Cincinnati, featuring me and uber-fan Susie who drove all the way down from Dayton just to hear me and say hi. Her friend also took this picture, which I have snitched from her blog.

Susie is herself an interesting person with a blog worth checking out, especially if you're interested not only in her perspective on, ahem, me, but in other aspects of modern life:

Networking is important to establish those professional relationships that will benefit your career later in life

Cin City IV

...So the last thing I did in Cincinnati was have a workshop with a half-dozen writing students who had sent me some stories ahead of time. I found this a lot of fun (their mileage probably varied) especially as I haven't really spent any time with student-age writers since, well, since I was a student. These six people (five women one guy) were a trmendously talented bunch, with all of the stories being intersting and compelling in their own varied ways. A couple had obvious shortcomings (too long, or whatever) but many were just a step or two from being done and publishible in my opinion. But what do I know--I haven't managed to get a short story into a magazine in years. (I used to do it but seem to have lost the knack, for whatever reason.)

Anyway, thanks to the students for letting me see their stuff and talk about it. I'll keep their names confidential for privacy reasons but suspect they'll be making a name for themselves sooner or later. Nice work, guys.

And that was about it, except for the party Jay threw in my honor on Thursday night. Attended by faculty and grad students, it involved copious amounts of liquid refreshment and many funny stories excganged on all manner of topics. Binx the Doberman pinscher made an appearance, then left, then I think reappeared several more times. Then everyone went hojme and I went to bed and got up at 6a.m. and Jay drove me to the airport and I flew back to Hawaii where it has been pouring rain and gloomy with cloud and continues to be so. Hooray for the tropics. Sort of.

Moral of the story: Cincinnati is tres tres cool, even if the Bengals are kind of lame.

Greetings, Earthlings!

Here's a photo taken from reading on Tuesday night. As you can see, I had reverted to my natural space alien form for this special event. I thought it was clever the way I removed my eyes and other facial features, and replaced my outer coating of dermis (the humans call it "skin") with a foamy material that blended with the atmosphere in the room. Also I was able to stow my tentacles in the boxy "podium" structure immediately in front of me so as not to upset the weak-stomached human organisms in the audience.

This photo was taken by the freakishly good-natured human organism Jay Twomey with his cellular phone device. Apparently there were significant atmospheric disturbances at the time. Thanks, Jay!

Cin City, v.3

Okay this is slightly late, sorry. On Wednesday, following my Tuesday night Lecture, I met with a groupd of frighteningly well-motivated students who had all read The Preservationist, so I fastened my seat belt, drank a tankard of coffee and proceeded to answer a bunch of questions I had never thought much about. It was, all kidding aside, really nice to spend three hours with people who cared so much about something I had written, even if much of the time, their thinking about it had about as much in common with mine as, say, a student of advanced biochemistry.

So one of the first questioners pointed out that all the women characters in the book had absent mothers. (Memo to self: Duh...) She asked what I was trying to say with that, or soemthing to thate effect. So after I franticalkly scrolled through the women characters, searching for a mom figure and finding none, I mumbled something about, you know, not wanting to spend all that much time focusing on the family histories of each of the eight main characters in the book... um... how's that? People nodded as if I had said something of substance, but let's face it, these were grad students and I don't think anyone was fooled.

Then another woman asked which character (if any) I had as an"advocate" for the reader, you know, which one was the sort of reliable one for the reader to use as a kind of touchstone. This was a new idea to me, so I said, "Um, none of them, I mean, I think they're all important, they all have their own, like, story to tell." She looked profoundly unconvinced but maybe that was just me feeling paranoid. I found out later that this whole "advocate for the reader" idea is one that some other teacher talks about, and I think it's kind of bogus but what do I know. There's a tendency in workshops to say "Whose story is this, anyway?" as if there can only be one center to any given story, which I think is pretty much wrong, and which my first two books (and maybe Monster) demonstrate as being pretty much wrong.

Then some people said some nice things and this one woman said she liked the consistentcy if characterization in the book, which was nice to hear because I had to work pretty hard for that, and this other guy sort of but not really but sort of so I'll take it compared the book to As I Lay Dying, which is a compliment I'll accept any day of the week (even if it wasn't actually directly offered as such).

There was a lot of other stuff too but you get the idea. Someone asked me a question and I don't much remember what it was but when I answered she said she didn't believe me, which was pretty funny. But I had told the truth, so, what can I say. It was something to do with the function of the characters in the story and did I plan for them to represent different aspects of relationships to religion or something like this. I forget exactly. So anyway, the answer was, no. I don't plan that kind of stuff, I'm too busy trying to keep the characters straight in my head and make sure the story's moving along nicely and I'm not using the word "plenipotenitary" too many times on one page or whatever. She was thinking in terms of thematic stuff and I was stressing that my primary concern was with storytelling. She looked faintly amused and then she didn't believe me and we all had a good chuckle.

Then we all went home. It was great! Thanks to everybody in the class for reading the book. I appreciate your interest.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cin City, volume 2

Thanks to everybody who came out last night to listen to me talk/read/meander. There were about 50 or 60 people in the audience, which is easily the largest group I've ever addressed, so thanks. It made me feel like a real writer or something (a disorienting sensation, but that's another story).

Thanks also to the unnervingly cheerful Jay Twomey, the guy who's organized this whole shebang. And a massive shout out to my uber-fan Susie, who is not affiliated with the U of Cin in any way but who drove all the way down from Dayton (Dayton!) just to hear me. That's like an hour's drive each way... there's some dedication in a big way, kids, let's all try to learn something from that. Susie's pal took a picture of the two of us which, hopefully, will find its way to my inbox and I will post.

So, what did I talk about? I started with the sometimes humorously negative responses to my stories from some critical quarters, which led me to some ideas of what people are looking for when they read, specifically, Biblical reinterpretations, and then a little but about how I went about writing the stories, and then I read some excerpts, and then I talked a little more and read more excerpts and then people asked questions and then some of us went and drank beer. It was all, generally speaking, great. Maybe at some future date I'll post the actual "lecture," or at least extracts from it, if people are interested.

Favorite question/answer from the evening:

Q: "I heard you like graphic novels, Dave... would you consider doing one as a Biblical story?"

A: "Yeah, definitely. But I can't draw to save my life."

Which is, sadly, true. I think Jonah has promise as a comic book aka graphic novel aka story wid pitchers. But I really can't draw a lick, so, I need a collaborator. Send samples to dmloveletters.

By the way, the next time you find yourself in Cincinnati, please consider staying at a great B&B called Clifton House. It's run by yet another cheerful Cincinnatian named Nancy, who keeps a terrific house and serves a breakfast that makes you fall to your knees and moan, "Yes! Yes!" So... I recommend it.

Later today, I go talk to a bunch of grad students who've read The Preservationist. Here's hoping I get a bunch of questions along the lines of, "Is your writing autobiographical?" I love being asked that and I always say, "Entirely."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

P.S. I forgot

Freakishly good-natured U of Cin professor Jay Twomey told me yesterday that, based on my photo at the top of this blog page, everybody here expected me to be "a great big bear of a man." Disappointment ensued when it was discovered that, in fact, I am not. Discuss.

Cin City, vol. 1

So, flew 7 1/4 hours from Honolulu to Chicago, hung a couple hours in the airport, then a short hop to Cin "Sin City" cinnati, where I was met by the lively and freakishly good-natured Jay Twomey, the U of Cin professor who'd invited me to the school's reading/lecture series. Jay plied me with coffee and brought me to his house, where I met Binks, his freakishly good-natured Doberman, who slinked away when I first showed up but later made great overtures of friendliness (resting his head on my arm as I sat a the kitchen table being one of his more heartwarming habits).

After a few hours of semi-consciousness I was bundled off to the U of Cin library where I read from Samson to a group of 30-35 people. This happened at 4p.m., which was earlier than expected but probably just as well since I was pretty bleary and jet-lagged. I think the reading went okay--what I remember of it, ha ha--and people were very nice about saying that I didn't suck too horribly. Then I was bundled off to some bar with a bunch of Jay's dissolute professorial colleagues where we had beer and sandwiches and I generall got the idea that the faculty at this institution are pretty nice and interested in other people and so forth.

Now it's the morning after, I maneged about 12 hours of sleep and I'm feeling much better. Tonight is my "official" lecture and reading and I apparently will be fully conscious for that one, which kind o makes me nostalgic for yesterday when I was half sleeping through it all. But hopefully it will go well, especially if the crowd is half as friendly as yesterday's.

Favorite question from yesterday: "So, did you do a lot of research and, like, Biblical scholarship, when you were writing these books?"

Answer: "No."

Full report tomorrow...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Cincinnati, here I come (part 2)

This afternoon I leave for scenic and lovely Cincinnati, Ohio, which a few years ago was voted the nicest city to live in by some magazine. I have never been there myself, despite going to school in Oberlin, which is not too many miles north and east. So I'm curious.

I arrive Monday morning local time and will probably proceed to crash out. however, for those of you living in the area and who are also curious, I'll be giving a reading Monday night--I know not where, exactly, but it's somewhere on campus and I'm sure a quick phone call to the English department will point you in the right direction.

If you can't make it to that, I'm also giving a lecture Tuesday night, and will be reading during that as well. There's a link below for more info.

I am not a huge fan of flying in airplanes, so, any cheery thoughts yo wish to turn in my direction will be appreciated. I'll try to coment on my time in Ohio as I go along, if anything interesting happens (which I'm sure it will...)