War Stories

1. So Sarah Palin turns out to be a kickass orator. I’m glad, though I’m no more likely to vote for John McCain because of it. She speaks almost as well as Barack Obama, and that means we actually have two good orators in this presidential election (whereas in 2004 we had zero, and I do mean zero).

I don’t like Sarah Palin for Vice President (and I especially don’t like what I’m hearing about book-banning) but I do like Sarah Palin. She’s smart, brave, funny and definitely a breath of fresh air next to ol’ Crusty McCain. Her growing family looks great and is certainly a campaign asset, even that new kid with the funny name and the MySpace page.

Now, let’s talk about John McCain. Hell, I like him too, and I don’t even begrudge him the right to endless glorification of his Vietnam War experience (see Ron Hogan on “John McCain’s Little Golden Book”, pictured above). But I’m tired of hearing that his “war hero” status deserves automatic hosannas, because in fact I think John McCain’s inclination towards military solutions is his single biggest weakness. In 2008, I don’t want a soldier running my foreign policy. I want something we haven’t seen for a long time: a diplomat.

Many people call John McCain a war hero, but I don’t call somebody a hero that easily. I certainly appreciate that he made great sacrifices for the United States of America, and I believe him to be an honest and admirable man. In a different election year, he could have made a great conservative President. But America is not in the market for a war hero in 2008. We’re looking for a candidate who intends to reduce, not increase, tension around the world, and that’s the reason — not because of his celebrity, not because we need a savior — why we are more excited about Barack Obama than John McCain.

2. Writing tips and web writing tips from Dumb Little Man.

3. Publisher’s Weekly is running a contest in conjunction with an upcoming writing seminar. Sounds like a good endeavor — click link for entry details.

4. Garth Risk Hallberg is shedding tears for the dying New York Sun newspaper and its book section, but I’ll conserve the water. I’ve read the book section, but haven’t been blown away. Anyway, we already have a brainy paper in New York: it’s called the New York Times. And I never see anybody walking around with a New York Sun just like I never see anybody walking around with a Kindle. Good try, though, guys. Next time you want to start a great publication, download WordPress.

5. Rev Run has a new book out: Take Back Your Family: A Challenge to America’s Parents. Maybe Rev. Run should run for Vice President (he’s a good orator too).

6. New Quarterly Conversation!

7. New BookForum!

8. New Words Without Borders! (The “Reversals” issue).

9. Triple Canopy’s prescient piece on New Orleans.

10. Reconstructing Mayakovsky: A Novel of the Future by Ilya Szilak.

11. The artwork of Mary Beach and Claude Pelieu, two Beat/modernist artists associated with Paris, San Francisco and Cherry Valley, New York, in a Flickr slideshow by Ginger Killian Eades.

12. Action Poetry leaves you wanting more? Here’s Anderbo.com. Good stuff.

13. Bureau of Public Secrets: Ten Years on the Web.

14. Taco Bell has introduced a new extra-spicy taco, in a red shell with melted cheese sauce, called the Volcano Taco. I don’t know what the hell took them so long.

34 Responses

  1. Expressing a desire to ban
    Expressing a desire to ban books is more than enough reason not to vote for anyone.

    Book banning. My God.

    I don’t like this book. I don’t want it placed in the “adult” section, I want it BANNED. Freedom of speech? Not in my state!

  2. Why did I have a feeling that
    Why did I have a feeling that you had a fetish for the beehived and bespectacled HR manager type who was really into hockey but had nothing of substance to say at a bar? Shame on you. A married man too! Well, Caryn will straighten you out. Just remember these words: “Sarah Palin as the President of the United States.” Say them again and again, and you’ll see why this is a bad idea.

    As for the NY Sun, well, I have no real dog in this matter. That so-called boy wonder Wallace-Wells said that he’d love it if I could write for him, but never answered another email or phone call from me again. And while I’m not exactly going to get out the box of Kleenex over the humorless Adam Kirsch, the NY Sun WAS a good books section. They did hire people who knew how to read, knew how to set up arguments, and knew how to write. They helped many a freelancer and literary type get by, hone their voices, etcetera. Perhaps if they had been more responsive to crazy types querying them, instead of simply shooting us emails begging us to link them all the time, they might have had a shot at attracting more visitors to the whole of their paper. But you won’t be finding me performing a dance of joy over this. One less books section for newspapers means nothing else to replace it. Except maybe Sarah Palin’s first act of vice president: to ban all remaining book review sections from newspapers.

  3. Ed, I’m just trying to walk
    Ed, I’m just trying to walk that fine line between the personal and the political. Believe me, as I did say above, I do *not* support Susan Palin for VP. The possibility of appointing a Supreme Court justice who intends to overturn Roe vs. Wade is enough in itself to ensure that I would not support her for VP.

    Still, her convention speech was entertaining and showed much skill, and I thought this was worth some applause along with my usual derision.

  4. Oh elections and the
    Oh elections and the internet, my favorite combination. Bringing out the insanity one page view at a time!

    Actually Caryn has nothing to do with it and she thinks it’s fairly obnoxious to consider remarks about a woman rooted in “fetish”, even in jest. But then again she’s one of those conservative Christians from the Midwest, so what does *she* know?

  5. Banning books! I can’t abide
    Banning books! I can’t abide it. I lost a teaching job because I wouldn’t censor Huck Finn. But that pic of her taken last year in the stars n’ stripes bikini with the automatic weapon, while personally offensive–which is my own issue–, doesn’t spell class either. Imagine Indira Gandhi dressed that way.

    But back to books. If she bans my book it is the same as saying the people who’d buy it don’t have the freedom to be as they are, do as they do. But hey, she’s anti-gay, too. Wow. I’m most of that to which she’s opposed.

  6. This woman walked in to her
    This woman walked in to her local library to ask how to go about banning books?????
    Something a very scary FASCIST would do.
    Woman and girls beware.
    Remember THE HANDMAIDEN’S TALE by our Canadian friend Margaret Atwood? She’s too much like a character in that novel.
    That’s how much she scares me.

  7. Hoo boy!

    Well, first, Eric,
    Hoo boy!

    Well, first, Eric, no, I’m not on crack. Just because I disagree with someone doesn’t mean I can’t approve of their skills. She definitely ups the ante in this election, rhetoric-wise, and after the sleepfest of 2004, I think a lively election is a good thing. Now, let’s see how Sarah Palin does in the debates.

    And of course I’m way against banning books and homophobia. These things may be in Palin’s past, but we have to give her the benefit of the doubt and the chance to state her positions. And yes, I do note that she hasn’t stated any of her positions yet, except the position that she’s a pit bull with lipstick.

  8. Overtly emotional
    Overtly emotional partisanship causes people to lose objectivity. One can be partisan and have a side without losing objectivity, which is what Levi has here. From what I saw she was good. She does seem to have a bit of a regional accent. Obama is good, excellent even, at this as well. Obama, though, can become a stammerer and uhhh and you know, uh um speaker without teleprompter or prepared text — as bad, perhaps worse than the very inarticulate President Bush.

    Who cares, though.

    The web — ten years on for that one site linked above. That seems like a long time so I wanted to go down memory lane about this web site. For those who don’t know, it might be fun.

    Back in 1994 or so, there were so few web sites that new ones were literally announced at a server at U of Illinois Super Computer Center. Everyday one or two new sites were posted at the new web site page. And lo and behold one day I see a new web site announced for Literary Kicks, a web site about Beat generation writings. I was incredibly keen on Kerouac and the others and associated literature and was very happy to see this.

    Back then it wasn’t so easy to get a dot com domain. Literary Kicks was hosted by, as I recall, charm net and the address was http://www.charm.net/~brooklyn/LitKicks.html. No litkicks dot com back then. Brooklyn was Levi’s username at charm net and the tilde before it indicated his directory on the charm net http server.

    This was in the day when Yahoo was on the akebono server at Stanford still — no yahoo dot com. To get indexed there you’d write to them and say what category you should be listed in.

    There was no Internet Explorer, only Mosaic (extinct but its evolutionary descendants remain, eg FireFox) and a unix command line only program called Lynx.

    AOL and Compuserve and other online services that are extinct were most common and they did not do the web. The web was still unknown for the most part. I got the bug and figured out how to put up sound bits of Jack Kerouac reading his work a bit after I saw Literary Kicks. I’d come across these sounds at a BMUG site and had to translate their format to a format that is still supported but probably quite rare now, .au files. I’d sent them to Levi first and then put them up myself at a web site that is still there and is a total dinosaur with the ~ in the name. I never bothered to get a Kerouac Speaks domain and I’d have probably been sued if I did (or I could taken a side and got an ok …that’s another story.

    To provide an example of how confusing the web was to people back then, Wired magazine did an article on Levi and LitKicks and didn’t understand the link to my Kerouac site was a separate web site.

    I guess the bottom line is, as web pioneers, why didn’t we bother to become multi-millionaires?


    Kerouac Speaks

    My page counter died a long long long time ago and it was well over a million. So take a listen — a living fossil of the early web.

    Fun stuff, almost as much fun as lipstick on a pig.

    Oh, and ps, the idea that Sarah Palin wants to ban books is about as stupid as all the crazy things said about Obama, he’s a Muslim he’s not a US citizen etc ad nauseum.

  9. “Her growing family LOOKS
    “Her growing family LOOKS great and is certainly a campaign asset, even that new kid with the funny name and the MySpace page.”

    The general timbre of Levi’s post was rooted on appearance. Ergo, my playful suggestion that this was a fetish, commonly limited to its sexual connotation. But, of course, the word itself has other meanigns. From def (2) in my dictionary: “any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion.” Which is what Levi was doing here. And, hey, that’s his right.

    If, Caryn, you’re going to imply that I’m an obnoxious misogynist, you may want to understand that words have multiple meanings. The hangup with “fetish” is your own.

    I still await a legitimate answer back from Levi as to what Palin SAID or OFFERED in that speech outside of oratory. (And for what it’s worth, although I felt McCain’s speech was lacking the other night, I did indeed like his theatrical “stand up and fight” finish. Even though this was nothing much more than oratory without substance.)

    Also, many of my friends are indeed conservative and a few are from the Midwest. I don’t see what any of this has to do with it. As a California transplant who still gets strange looks, you should know by now that I’m certainly not the type to prejudge people like that.

  10. If I was a pitbull I’d sue
    If I was a pitbull I’d sue for defamation of character.
    Sarah Palin is a common or garden reactionary

  11. Ed, no, I think that
    Ed, no, I think that “obnoxious” pretty much covers it. To me, you’ve tipped the meaning a bit to the side by bringing our marriage into the equation. Which is, by my definition, not only obnoxious, but wholly disrespectful. As for prejudging, I have listened enough to know that you are, by no means, above such a tendency, just like everyone else. Words, words, words.

  12. I say again … hoo boy.

    I say again … hoo boy.

    Ed, like I wrote last time, I don’t see why I should have to defend Sarah Palin’s candidacy since I think I made it very clear that there is no way on earth I’ll be voting for her. All I wrote is that I like her. She’s got a great personality, and despite many questions that are being raised about her career and her beliefs, I think she must be accorded some positive notice as the second woman ever included in a US presidential election. And, finally, I would like to point to a real disconnect between the negativity towards Sarah Palin expressed by many who instantly decided they hate her (Eric’s site, for instance) and the more welcoming attitude many other Americans feel. As a writer, I always want to go towards the meaty side of a debate — the center. There’s not much of interest at the extremes here. Where is that center?

    (I agree with TKG’s comments about this, as well. But, TKG, I can’t agree that Palin’s interest in banning books is irrelevant. I don’t think anybody is worried about a Vice President using her power to ban books, but we are worried about a potential President with a book-banning mindset. With that said, though, thanks for the nice walk down memory lane, internet-style.)

    Finally, what do fetishes and appearances have to do with anything? Nothing, as far as I can see.

  13. I’m not sure that one
    I’m not sure that one convention speech read off of a teleprompter is enough to praise Sarah Palin’s oration skills or say she’s a likeable human being. All we know at this point is that she can read with personality. I watched Palin’s speech online the day after she gave it, mainly because I was curious to see these oratorical fireworks for myself. And yes, she read those prompters really well, with poise and aplomb and occasional flashes of inspired bitchiness. You go, girl!

    The fact that she delivered that speech with personality seems to be obscuring the larger issue that she didn’t really say anything. Other than mayors are like community organizers, except they have real responsibility. Which, from the perspective of someone who has worked in the nonprofit, community-organizer sector for years, is bullshit of the highest order. There isn’t anything likeable about cutting down those who work hard to make their cities better places to live. Those people are doing the real work in this country, and they often do it without pay or recognition. While I understand that she was saying this at the expense of Barack Obama, I also understand that the fact that this was a huge applause-generating line proves a general sense of being out of touch with what it takes to make things happen on the level where most of us actually live and die and work and love. That is despicable.

    Anyway, I’m reserving judgment on whether or not she’s actually a great speaker when she proves herself without the benefit of speechwriters and practice time.

    So much of the Palin hype has to do with the fact that she’s a woman. From the history-making perspective (2nd woman ever to be included on a presidential ticket) to the creepy MILF comments made by the likes of Donny Deutsch (for real, that’s an honest stomach-turner), and though I know this makes a difference to some people, I have a hard time caring one way or the other. Either she’s good for the job and brings something worthwhile to the table or she doesn’t. Either we’re honestly comfortable with her being a heartbeat away from leading the country or we’re not. Does the skirt matter? Do the librarian glasses matter?

    I certainly hope they don’t.

  14. Also, when it comes to the
    Also, when it comes to the word “fetish,” we can slice-and-dice it down to its dictionary definitions all day long, but in the end, someone doth protest too much, and it ain’t Caryn.

  15. Hi Levi, is it relevant that
    Hi Levi, is it relevant that Obama is a Muslim? Is it relevant that Obama is not a citizen of the US and not eligible for the office?

    Answer: no because those things are not true and is nonsense.

    But people say them about Obama all the time.

    Is it relevant Palin wants to ban books? No because just like that nonsense about Obama it is a made up nonsense.

    As far as susbtance of the speech — what’s so interesting is how the same thing is said about Obama — what was offered outside of oratory.

    The exact same statements are made.

    Obvioulsy both are right to a large degree — political speeches are by definition empty oration but one key to this is that left heard pali and right hears Obama and say — “that’s an empty speech!” But left hears Obama righthears Palin and they say — right on — finally a speech of substance over empty rhetoric.

    I think it is because it is a bit rorshacky and that one side doesn’t know the other sides code words or vocabulary so of course they don’t hear what was “offered up” as ed put it.

    Mingbai ma? Cette vie en rose?

  16. Levi-
    (and other

    (and other conscientious right- thinking americans out there.)

    Do you think VOTING is actually going to determine the out come of this election?

  17. TKG, I enjoy reading about
    TKG, I enjoy reading about the “early days” of the internet. Good stuff! Reminds me of a fascinating book Levi recommended called “Burn Rate” by Michael Wolff. I think you, Levi, Christian Crumlish, and others should put together a book about your experiences.

    I have a serious question about the internet, which I will soon get to in a round-about way.

    Regarding Palin: I seriously doubt we have to worry about the actual banning of books, by Palin or anyone else, but I’d like to know if that is her mindset.

    Republicans say they are against big government telling us what to do until it comes to something they don’t like. Guns, they like. I personally don’t believe in banning guns, either. For one thing, it would be impossible to do. And banning books, for the most part, makes more people want to read the books. Not to mention that the government would have to somehow control the internet.

    That’s my important question about the internet. Is it possible for a government to control the internet, or is the World Wide Web somehow immune to that type of interference? I mean, there must be some mainframes somewhere that hold all this data. I know, I probably sound like a dumb-ass, but I really want to know.

    ps – The people I know personally who like Sarah Palin are the same ones who liked Dan Quayle. Sarah and Dan look like some people’s idea of solid, wholesome Americans. The promising, young future leaders, full of gusto and optimism.

    But there are soldiers over in Iraq whose tours of duty were supposed to have ended, and they are ready to come home, and the government is making them stay. Conservative Republicans will say, “Those people knew what they were getting into when they joined the military! They have no reason to gripe!” But that doesn’t change the fact that we are spreading our military dangerously thin. Spreading it way too thin, don’t you think?

  18. Okay, I do think the “fetish”
    Okay, I do think the “fetish” thing was originally just meant as a joke. Enough about that, I hope.

    TKG, why do you say that there is no truth to the Sarah Palin book-banning thing? I didn’t hear that the reported fact had been disputed. The reported fact is that, as Mayor, Palin had inquired into how to begin banning books. Here’s something about it from L.A. Times:


  19. Second — or third fourth
    Second — or third fourth fifth hand statement that once upon a time Palin inquired about banning books before she was ever elected to a public office.

    Sounds 100% substantiated to me.

    Bill, yes, the government can control the internet.

    This is not in theory it is actual and real.

    China is doing it with planning aforethought and in a well coordinated manner using technology from our great companies such as Cisco and Google and Yahoo.

    It can be done, it is being done.

    Not here. It would be very difficult to do here for a multitude of reasons — impossibe really.

    But is is controlled in China and all the rhetoric about how the wild west internet will free China is 100% BS and people who say it know better or ought to.

    I wish also, that I could write more like you mention Bill, so thanks for your nice comment.

  20. Jack Kerouac was a pinko
    Jack Kerouac was a pinko liberal in his youth. Burroughs said he was “apolitical.”

    As a hardcore drunk, Kerouac probably voted for Nixon, if he voted; Vietnam: our first preemptive war. Would he vote for McCain/Palin now?

  21. The VP,s job is to be
    The VP,s job is to be ‘Incitatus’ you get appointed and people are told to respect you, which by enlarge they do, it goes with the territory.

    How else would anyone ever remember Dan Quayle- that’s potato with ‘e’ Quayle- or Spiro Agnew.

    Sarah Palin sounds like a downward spiral.

    In the meantime politics makes religious believers of us all. If McCain gets elected we all have to pray that the old guy stays healthy, and our born again ‘four legged friend’ doesn’t get to be Caligula by accident.

  22. Sarah Palin sounds like a
    Sarah Palin sounds like a displaced “voodoo science” teacher from Dayton, TN, AKA “Monkey Town”. She has “flat earth” religious views and wants to impose them on others not of her ilk.
    She is a censorship advocate, an anti-green governor, and generally the darling of the far right of the republican party. McCain chose her because he HAD to. In some ways, Palin is the antithesis of McCain. I certainly hope that the public is not fooled by this embodiment of a political ploy.

    Let’s vote for Obama/Biden and not pay attention to “Sarah Barracuda’s” mewlings to others of her ilk. Oh, and we’re running two wars and NEED to pay our fair share of taxes.
    Whatever happened to WAR BONDS? If the government is going to borrow to the hilt, folks may as well get something back for it.

  23. I’m with Steve
    I’m with Steve Plonk.

    Remember, anyone who is the governor of a state can probably make a good speech. Hell, Kevin Kline made a good speech when he portrayed the president in the movie “Dave.”

    It’s much more important to look at the overall mindset of the candidates.

    Republicans say the war in Iraq is necessary. They say that, while the war seems to be costing a lot of money, it is ultimately going to end, whereas, the expense of giving everyone free health care will go on forever. They also say that most people have health care, either through insurance or medicaid or medicare. But there are flaws in those statements.

    For one thing, if almost everyone has health care, why not close the gap? Would it not be cheaper in the long run to catch illness in its early stages? Would it not make us a stronger, more confident nation?

    For another thing, why does it have to be that war is the only way? Why do people who, by & large, speak of trusting in a God-who-can-do-all-things believe that, when it comes to foreign policy, war is sometimes unavoidable? Why does that have to be true?

    Maybe some of you saw Bob Woodward on 60 Minutes last night. According to Woodward, George W. Bush’s answer to the mounting casulty reports on American soldiers is to show how many more Iraqis we have killed. It started out as a surgical strike, to only do as much damage as was necessary to bring democracy to Iraq. Now it’s devolved into, “hey, don’t let the American casulties scare you – we killin’ the hell</i) out of them!

  24. …an eli eli lamma lamma
    an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone
    cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
    with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered
    out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.
    What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open
    their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?

  25. amen, tkg . . .

    and Steve,
    amen, tkg . . .

    and Steve, we have already sold billions of dollars worth of “war bonds” to China and Japan. We just didn’t call them that.

  26. Good joke, Bill, but this is
    Good joke, Bill, but this is one of the few series of wars in history which has NOT had “war bonds” nor any viable means to fund the conflicts. We are heavily in debt as a nation. Common sense tells me that the money has to come from somewhere. Usually taxes are raised to pay for the war(s) or war bonds are introduced. Gas rationing was introduced in World War Two and we had recycling drives in Korea. Deficit spending is okay to a point, but we are all beyond that point. The national debt is the highest in history and so are our trade deficits.
    That is why I am for the Democrats. This deficit is worse than Ronald Reagan’s.

  27. If you think you have it bad
    If you think you have it bad down in the States, you should check out the idiots we have running and rerunning in the current Canadian election! Prime Minister Stephen Harper is so bigoted and socially/sexually conservative, he makes John McCain look like G.G. Allin.

  28. Steve, it was only a joke in
    Steve, it was only a joke in the sense that I’m shaking my head, laughing to keep from crying. But I think you understand.

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