Friday, September 02, 2005

Disastrous Times and The Book Lovers

I have nothing to say about the New Orleans disaster and the outrageous Federal non-response that hasn't already been said. I tried watching the cable news on one of the evenings when the levees were just starting to break, but I found most of the anchors disgusting and their overwhelming excitement about "looters" to be poisonous.

So I started to get all my information from the blogosphere, as it's called, and the best place, bar none, from day one of the hurricane has been a blog called AMERICAblog: Because America Deserves The Truth! It's run by a writer/policy wonk out of Washington, D.C. named John Avarosis, a young, gay Greek-American originally from Chicago who has worked as a policy consultant for Madeline Albright, among other people.

He's been writing "Where the hell is George?" from day one of the hurricane, and posting more pertinent information than you can imagine. The only drawback with his site is that it's gotten TOO popular and the once-fascinating "Comments" sections underneath each of his posts have gotten too full and too dull. Click here to get to the site.

I'm a little reluctant to recommend the above site, "Rigorous Intuition," because frankly it's so terrifying. Written by a "cautiously pessimistic Canadian novelist and satirist" named Jeff Wells, the brilliant site is pretty much conspiracy theory central except that it's written with such low-key, classically Canadian restraint that you can forget that he's writing about George Bush Senior as a pedophile with satanic connections and then offering fairly rigorous proof of this little historical byway. Here's the first three paragraphs of his latest rumination on New Orleans:

I don't know what hurts more, my heart or my head.

How is it that one of America's great cities ceased to exist this week, but I can still watch Letterman tonight?

What do I do with this knowledge: there are more than a million internal refugees and estimates of 100,000 dead, and yet the Pentagon is "hurt" that the media is siding more with victims than federal authorities?

Read this site with great care. Though it's also getting a bit too popular, most of the commenters heed Mr. Wells' civilized style and write about outrageous things without getting too ugly and/or crazy. In fact, one of my favorite takes on the payback the Bush Cabal can be expecting was written by someone named "starroute":

The deaths of the innocent don't necessarily work to the advantage of their executioners.

I posted something the other day at the ezboard (though the last I looked, nobody had commented on it), suggesting that the the spiritual power of all the soldiers who have died in Iraq is being channeled through Cindy Sheehan -- and that this is what the magical/symbolic arm-wrestling over the field of crosses has been about.

The ghosts of New Orleans are notoriously uncontrollable. I see no reason why Bush/Cheney should expect to get any real advantage out of them.

Click here to get to this amazing, paranoid site that unfortunately makes as much sense as anything else right now.

In front of the Main Civic Center branch of the San Francisco Public Library today, there was a used book sale in progress.

For future reference, it happens from 11AM to 2PM on the first Friday of every month from April to October, meaning next month will be the last one this year.

It is put on by Friends of the Public Library...

...a group that is regularly vilified at the beginning of the public comments section at each Board of Supervisors meeting.

The guy going after them is tall, appears to be in his 60s, and is astonishingly articulate, but once you've seen him enough times on Channel 26, you realize he's a monomaniac.

The next big event for "The Friends" will be their annual monster used book sale at Fort Mason, a famous event that has always sounded a bit like the city of Boston's department store, Filene's, with its famous basement where women were known to tear clothing out of each other's arms in order to get the best bargain.

This event, which I just happened to stumble across, was petite and charming.

The best part was watching the book lovers just sitting down on the concrete...

...and perusing their possible purchases.

The prices, by the way, were $1 for a hardback, $.50 for a paperback which is essentially giving them away.

Most of the stuff they were selling was junk, though I was tempted to buy "How To Get Pregnant" just because I liked the title.

Still, there were a few treasures among the dross, and there were quite a few different sections from cookbooks to sci-fi...

...along with fiction and broken-up sets of classics.

The most interesting section actually looked like the three boxes full of comic books, or "graphic novels" as they were calling them. I asked the blonde French boy who was avidly going through the stacks whether he'd seen any Asterix and he quickly told me no, but gave me a big smile because I'd even heard of Asterix. (Thanks, Ellen and Pedro.)

I did manage to snag a treasure, a hardback copy of Italy's great classic historical novel, "I Promessi Sposi" or "The Betrothed" as it's called in English. Written in the 1820's
by Alessandro Manzoni, for whom Verdi eventually wrote his requiem, it's a 600-page historical novel about Milan and environs during the year 1630, which ends with the plague hitting the city and the population going from 240,000 to 80,000 in six months.

I read the book in the early 1980s, when AIDS first appeared on the scene. I had asked my well-read friend Jerry Morgan whether there was a good book about The Plague. "I Promessi Sposi," he said without hesitation, and he was right. The book is above all an Age of Englightenment look at a very insane period, with Bread Riots in Milan, Crazy Convents, Evil Local Dukes, and finally for the last third of the tale, The Plague. Its hero and heroine are a peasant couple who are "betrothed" at the beginning of the book and are thwarted in their plans to get married every step of the way while taking in just about every misadventure of their times. If you're ever feeling ambitious about reading a classic, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Then I checked my email and found an idiotic and insulting note from my Congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi, on "How to Help the Hurricane Victims" in New Orleans. For some reason, this so infuriated me that I wrote her a truly nasty note back, which is below if you're in the mood for a rant.

Dear Congresswoman Pelosi:

Your "How to Help Hurricane Victims" email was both stupid and insulting.You don't even mention the fact that the levees weren't being maintained under YOUR watch, lady, as Minority Speaker, and you don't even mention the disgusting federal aftermath with its nonexistent help for the residents of New Orleans. Instead, you crow about how Dennis Hastert (who has already said New Orleans shouldn't be rebuilt) and yourself are being wonderfully "bipartisan."

And if you weren't such an enabling, goddamned idiot, you might know that one of the people you want us to send "Cash Donations" to is "Operation Blessing," a wing of Pat Robertson's empire. You remember Pat, don't you? The guy who is calling for the assassination of foreign leaders in public?

I don't think you have any idea of the depth of anger in this country right now towards ALL of you in the federal government at this moment. Frankly, I think it's time to toss out all incumbents, including you, and I will be doing my very best to make that a reality.

With Contempt,
Your Constituent
Michael Strickland


Kit Stolz said...

Holy cow...a city that goes from 240,000 to 80,000 in six months?

Jeez. It's a good reminder. For a lot of us, these are the good old days...

cookie jill said...

Booooooooks! (drool) ;-)

James Chaffee said...


I am the tall guy who goes to the Supes meetings. I will be 59 later this month. I appreciate your comments and thanks for the compliment, but "amazingly articulate" and "monomaniac" must be somewhat of a contradiction. I am sorry if I may seem monomaniacal, but I would contend it is inherent in the context. They only give you two minutes and laying out the foundation for a point and then making the point is naturally constrained. With even three minutes one can compare and contrast or make an analogy, but coming across as barely articulate when you only have two minutes is a challenge. As you can probably imagine, I have done a good deal of thinking about how it looks to be outside of the City Hall political axis and attempt to use a public forum to make a point. We live in a capitalist system and consequently we all have some prejudgments about people who are not getting paid for what they do. The real question is, How can people who are less articulate than myself get to be heard? Shouldn't we give people who make public comment the benefit of the doubt? What I am attempting to address is the increasing privatization and commercialization of our society. Is there any way to overcome the inherent advantages that privatization and commercialism has? There are some areas in which repetition is considered an advantage. How would you make the point? James,