Happy Birthday, Chuck! Talk about going postal:
The nine-to-five is one of the greatest atrocities sprung upon mankind. You give your life away to a function that doesn’t interest you. This situation so repelled me that I was driven to drink, starvation, and mad females, simply as an alternative.
If you haven’t read Post Office, you really, really should.
Not quite. (watch at least halfway through)
You can find the origins of this ad here.
My brother, his wife, who is from Quito, and my mom are headed down to Ecaudor in the next few weeks. For my mom and my brother, it will be their first trip to South America. I’m very excited for them, and, well, a little jealous, because I’ve never been to Ecuador.
I can’t make it on this trip, but I will make it some day. Instead I took a virtual trip courtesy of Tom Miller’s, The Panama Hat Trail, one the hundreds of unread travel narratives on my bookshelves.
The premise of the book is that Miller is going to follow the supply chain of the famous Panama Hat (made in Ecuador much to his surprise) from the source, the weavers and even the straw (toquilla) all the way to haberdashers in the US. Miller deftly uses this narrative arc to explore the country through it’s landscape, literature, culture, religion. history, migration patterns and cuisine.
It’s a thoroughly enjoyable ride despite the clear exploitation and deplorable conditions of the indigenous weavers. As the hats pass through the supply chain from toquiila to the weavers to the buyers, finishers, exporters and finally the hat shops, they become increasingly more valuable. At the bottom end, the weavers are earning next to nothing for their herculean efforts. Some of the finest hats, the Monecristi Finos, sell for hundreds of dollars, with the weavers seeing very little of that largess.
Miller seems to me to be very even handed and fair to his hosts. However, he doesn’t pull many punches and reveals many of the country’s warts, including the relationship with the Indians, as I mentioned before, but also the deplorable state of the infrastructure, the poor quality of the health care system, the feud between the residents of Quito, the capital, and Quayaquil, the economic engine of the country, the manaña culture, the raping of natural resources by Texaco, it’s defenseless in the face of it’s more powerful neighbors, Peru and Columbia and so on.
The end result is that you start to feel a little sorry for poor downtrodden Ecuador. It doesn’t make we want to go there any less. In fact, I’m all the more curious having read Miller’s account.
For more recent trips to Ecuador, check out Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations show.
I took a break of my tour of Scandinavian mysteries and picked up Peter Lovesey’s The Last Detective. I enjoyed it as a nice change of page. But I really loved this money quote at the beginning of Chapter 5 where Lovesey takes him most famous predecessor to task:
In the modern police, as any detective will tell you, a murder mystery is rarely, if ever, solved by scintillating deductions from clues that baffle inferior minds. Unless the killer’s identity is so obvious that the case is cleared up in the first hours, the investigative process is likely to be laborious, involving hundreds of man-hours by police officers, forensic scientists and clerical staff. If any credit attaches ultimately to a conviction, it is diffused among numerous individuals, and has to be qualified by administrative delays, false assumptions, and sometimes fatal errors. These days criminal investigation is not a sport for glory hunters.
A friend at work turned me on goodreads.com, a great to to keep track of the books you read, make suggestions to others and find out what your friends are reading.
You can create custom bookshelves, join groups and create lists.
Please join up and add me as a friend so I can see what your reading.
Words to live by.
Lately I’ve become enmeshed in the world of Nordic mysteries. I just can’t get enough of them. They are so dark and compelling. I picked up one of Henning Mankel’s Kurt Wallender mysteries and was immediately sucked into his murky, sullen world.
After that, I sought out other Scandinavian writers and have found nothing but pleasure. Unlike many of our (American) mystery writers who are mystery writers first and writers second, the Swedes, Norwegians, et al. are firmly planted in the world of literature. They are writers who happen to write mysteries. It makes a world of difference. Henning Mankell. Karin Fossom. Kjell Ericksson. Ake Edwardson. These and many more are all excellent, but but my favorite is Icelander Arnaldur Indriðason with his phlegmatic and morose inspector Erlendur Sveinsson.
Erlendur’s life is a mess. His daughter is a junkie. His son won’t talk to him. His ex-wife won’t have anything to do him— Erlendur walked out on his family when the kids were young. He has no friends. He despises his mentor. Best of all, his pastime is to read stories about people who get lost in the snow. This is from Voices:
Sometimes he bought a bottle of Chartreuse at Christmas and had a glass beside him while he read about the ordeals and death in the days when people travelled everywhere on foot and Christmas could be the most treacherous time of the year. Determined to visit to visit their loved ones, people would battle with the forces of nature, go astray and perish; for those awaiting them back home, Christmas turned from a celebration of salvation to a nightmare. The bodies of some travelers were found. Others were not. They were never found.
These were Erlendur’s Christmas carols.
You have to love this guy.
Most of my high school classmates became lawyers and real estate moguls, chasing the almighty buck. Hard to blame them considering where we all came from and what was expected of us. A select few put aside their materialistic impulses and went into noble profession of teaching. None are likely to be better than my old friend Steve Reifman, a 3rd grade teacher at Roosevelt in Santa Monica.
Steve’s one of the most intense guy’s you’re likely to meet. He’s in incredible shape. He’s got a great sense of humor. He can quote every line of Fletch and Caddyshack. More importantly, Steve is the sort of guy we’d all like to have a for teacher. He’s not just dedicated to his student’s learning and growth. He wants to make sure they have a good time along the way. He’s funny. He cares. He probably keeps his kids in stitches. I have no doubt that Steve’s former students consider him a major influence in their lives and come back to visit him again and again. He is, was, and always will be “The Total Package”.
Back when I lived in LA for a brief while in 1998, I helped Steve edit his book, at the time called 12 Keys to Classroom Success. I’m not much of an editor (as anyone who reads this blog will know), but I was happy to help in any way that I could. 10 years later (and 4 keys lighter – something of a devaluation must have taken place over the last ten years), Steve’s book, Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, has been published by Corwin Press.
Obviosusly, this book is not for everyone, but rather has a very targeted audience. However, if you’re a teacher grade school teacher who wants to fine tune your performance in the classroom, you’d do yourself a world of good by giving Steve a read.
Steve iss working on a series of children’s books about a terrorism fighting kid named Chase that will be sure to have a wider audience. I look forward to seeing them on the shelves.
This is the advice from Michael Pollan in his new book, In Defense of Food. The basic idea is that most of what Americans buy at the supermarket and consume is not food, but food-like substances created in the labs of places like General Mills. Most of this crap is sold in the middle aisles of the market, so if you want to eat healthy, stick to the perimeter where you’ll find dairy, meat, fruit and veggies. Sound advice.
Comedian Lewis Black, on the other hand, thinks it’s all bullshit. You can’t believe what the experts tell you because they don’t fucking know anything. Instead he offers his wisdom on health:
- The good die young, but pricks live forever
- If you masterbate 20 times a day, you’ll never make it out your front door.
Hard to argue with either of those.
More than 50% of Americans have a “negative” or “highly negative” view of people who don’t believe in God. 70% think it important for presidential candidates to be “strongly religious.”
“A person who believes that Elvis is still alive is very unlikely to get promoted to a position of great power and responsibility in our society. Neither will a person who believes that the holocaust was a hoax. But people who believe equally irrational things about God and the bible are now running our country. This is genuinely terrifying.”
44% of Americans think Jesus Christ will return in the next 50 years. (22% are “certain” that he will, another 22% think he “probably” will.)
“According to the most common interpretation of biblical prophecy, Jesus will return only after things have gone horribly awry. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the U.S. government believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency.”
Only 28% of Americans believe in evolution (and two-thirds of these believe evolution was “guided by God”). 53% are actually creationists.
“Despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of the earth, more than half of our neighbors believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue.”
87% of Americans say they “never doubt the existence of God.”
“Had the residents of New Orleans been content to rely on the beneficence of the Lord, they wouldn’t have known that a killer hurricane was bearing down upon them until they felt the first gusts of wind on their faces, but a poll conducted by The Washington Post found that 80% of Katrina survivors claim that the event has only strengthened their faith in God.”
28% of Americans believe that every word of the Bible is literally true. 49% believe that it is the “inspired word” of God.
“We read the Golden Rule and judge it to be a brilliant distillation of many of our ethical impulses. And then we come across another of God’s teachings on morality: if a man discovers on his wedding night that his bride is not a virgin, he must stone her to death on her father’s doorstep (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).”
80% of Americans expect to be called before God on Judgment Day to answer for their sins. 90% believe in heaven. 77% rate their chances of going to heaven as “excellent” or “good.”
“In the year 2006, a person can have sufficient intellectual and material resources to build a nuclear bomb and still believe that he will get seventy-two virgins in Paradise. Western secularists, liberals, and moderates have been very slow to understand this. The cause of their confusion is simple: they don’t know what is like to really believe in God.”
65% of Americans believe in the literal existence of Satan. 73% believe in Hell.
“It is terrible that we all die and lose everything we love; it is doubly terrible that so many human beings suffer needlessly while alive. That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion-to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious delusions and religious diversions of scarce resources-is what makes atheism a moral and intellectual necessity.”
83% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. (11% disbelieve. 6% don’t know.)
“The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.”
These are quotes from Sam Harris’ new book, Letter to a Christian Nation, written in response to feedback he received following the publication of his first book The End of Faith. I read the former over the weekend (it’s quite concise) and finished the latter last week. Both are at the same time frightening and heartening.
They are frightening because Sam Harris in his brilliant points out the quite obvious problem that many of the most important decisions being made in the world today are being made by people who firmly believe their holy books are the literal word of god. They are heartening because Sam Harris is articulating what many people like me who live in a reality based world where evidence trumps faith is leading the charge against the dark age thinking that drives this country and much of the rest of the world.
One of the main problems with faith, and there are so many, is that the underlying beliefs are used to justify some of the most egregious affronts to humanity–the Crusades, the Holocaust, the Inquisition, suicide bombing. Each of these has a single common thread–they have been justifyed in the mind of the perpetrators by a firm belief that they were doing god’s will.
Mr. Harris writes with far more eloquence and intelligence on this topic than I will ever be able to muster. I urge you to Check is books out of the library, go down to you local book monger or buy them from Amazon today.
And to the 50% of Americans have a “negative” or “highly negative” of my atheism, I say, wholeheartedly, FUCK YOU. My faith that your belief system is irrational and dangerous will never kill a single human being. FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU.
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