Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Couplet for YOU ...

Love is a beautiful dance that spins

Into the world when the day begins

       --- my Christmas Present to all my friends

Monday, May 23, 2016

Some of you will probably be very glad to learn that the incomparable Elaine Shaffer's recordings of Bach's Flute Sonatas -- which have never been released on CD -- (Odd nose why ...) are available, at least for the moment, on youtube; you can find the sonata in B Minor here, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZz4E7ZmgvU

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Beginning of beloved Gravely (Scribner's, 1984)

(the term "my omniscient friend" indicates I was already a Fordie even way back then)

            A little while ago, some of those friends who were accusing me of writing books less well than I write rock and roll songs were also kind enough to tell me there was not much rock and roll in this one.

            They are probably right, because this book is about me and my friends and the women I loved before I met the young girl I'm about to marry, whose blue eyes and red hair may well be the death of me.  But for the benefit of anyone who never heard one of my songs or read the notes on any of my record albums, I would like to say a few things here, before we start out toward the first edition of the floating opera.

            A lot of the same people who accused me of writing books less well than I write rock and roll also accused me of confusing all the times and the flow of time and the interactions of the different times, and they too are probably right, because I don't believe that time is, or that time has to be, or even that time ought to be as regular as distance in a Flemish painting.

            I think every moment in the past is just as distant as the last breath I have taken, and they are all equally unreachable and far away, because things grow at different speeds.

            But sooner or later they all end up in the magic realm of Maybe Once and Sir, If Only, where it's all unreachable, it's all imagined – like the naked lunch tomorrow and the voice, Carl Phillips, which can sing inside your head.

            When I was starting on this book, I wanted to begin with a little picture of the way Middleville, Virginia, looked when I lived there, which was pretty much the same time as all of the events described in this book – about ten years ago – and I started that way more than once.  I wrote about how beautiful the dogwood and the redbud are each spring at the time of the Dogwood Festival, and how Thomas Jefferson used to live outside of town on a little mountain when He was alive, and how the Blue Ridge Mountains sometimes looked all blue and hazy, like they might be islands floating on the sea of Earth, but I kept getting stuck.

            Then my omniscient friend suggested that I might want to start at the end of the book, as is commonly done by European authors, according to this person; so for a couple of weeks I tried starting the book by describing the way my next door neighbor, Christian Gehman, is riding around and around and around his gigantic front lawn on his beloved Gravely tractor here in Cismont, Virginia, but I kept getting stuck at that end of the story too.

            However, some good came of the attempt, because those two words – beloved Gravely – kind of got fixed in my mind, and after I had written them what seemed like several thousand times, they took on an unnatural significance.

            By then I was so sick of the project I would gladly have forgotten the whole idea, only I had promised a certain blue-eyed young lady I was going to write it all down.

            And if you break your promises you lose your soul.

            So I was sitting on my porch one afternoon, listening to Christian's tractor go around and around and around, and I was thinking about how much I hate Gravely tractors, because they're all the same and they all try to thump you with those wicked handlebars.  I used to have a Gravely tractor of my own, and it tried to kill me more than once before I blasted it with Spook's old Purdey shotgun.

            And if you don't believe me you can see the rusting carcass in the woods behind my house.

            So I was listening to Christian's tractor and falling asleep when suddenly it occurred to me that I did not have to start at the beginning of the story, like an American writer, and I did not have to start at the end, like Europeans do; I could start in the middle anywhere I wanted to start if that made it come any easier, and after a while, if I had been doing it right, nobody would care where I had started as long as the story could walk and talk all by itself.

            Acting on this principle I kept those words – beloved Gravely – because by that time I believed thy sounded mystifying and momentous and majestic.  I wrote them at the top of every page, and it was just like magic.  Just as soon as I stopped trying to do things in a particular way – just as soon as I didn't have a single idea in my head, the way I do when I am writing a new rock'n' roll song – why, I thought of something else to write down, and then I thought of another thing, and another, and pretty soon I was clipping along without ever having mentioned once upon a time.

            Some of you will probably be glad to know that this book is not written in dialect or spelled funny, and I hope you believe I did my best to make it easy to understand.  I really did.  I changed it completely so many times that my eyes wore out and I had to buy new spectacles.

            Fortunately, I had kept a copy of it just the way it was when I first wrote it down, and, with a few minor additions and corrections that my omniscient friend suggested, that version is what you have already begun to read.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Skaters Dance

Thoughts on what happens when we write .... and read. 


by Christian Gehman

Now.  Maybe … 

         Please, can you imagine? … now … that somewhere in a foreign country, not too far from here, where it is winter—out in the country there, she lives—a skater?  She is beautiful; she looks like someone you have loved, and someone you still love today, and someone you will love tomorrow.

She has those beautiful kind hazel eyes, or bright blue eyes, or the warm brown eyes you will always love.  She may have green eyes, even.  Not for jealousy.
Imagine you can see snow everywhere: a wintry landscape, Currier and Ives, perhaps a barn and cows, a farm yard with some chickens, a log cabin with a porch.  Around this peaceful snowy paradise are snow-covered fir trees: and a wisp of smoke curls up from the cabin's field stone chimney.
Just outside the kitchen window live some chickens in their chicken house, and they are happy making eggs.  In the barn live cows; the horses there are stamping, munching hay, blowing steam out their noses in the cold frosty air.
On this day, our skater gets up early, rising from her sleigh-bed in the rafters of the cabin, fluffing back her goose down comforter—she gets up early knowing she’ll go skating.  Our skater dresses all in green: green skirt, green tights, green leotard, and her form-fitting green skater’s jacket has been trimmed with pure white ermine at the collar.  Each green is slightly different. 
Downstairs in the kitchen she prepares a cup of creamy, warm hot chocolate: a dark liquid not too sweet but creamy and well-frothed with bubbles.  She drinks it sip by sip gazing into the fire.
Then, dangling her figure skates across one shoulder, our Skater sashays out the door. She walks through the wintry landscape with its dark green, snow-covered trees: she sees her breath puff in the frosty air as she walks down to the pond, a light snow crunching under her warm fleece-lined boots.
It has been a cold winter, so the old quarry pond is blessed with black ice three feet thick.  The water in one corner, as our skater knows, is deep enough to swallow you forever if the ice lets go.
She sits down at the end of the short wooden dock to lace her skates up tight.
The pond’s black ice is smooth, unmarked.
Her green skating costume trimmed with ermine; and the way she looks around so kindly, with her eyes:  these are things you will remember.  Also, how she moves:  her swoops and twirls and arabesques, her lutzes, axels, doubles, triples, triple-doubles: how she spins and bends and pirouettes.  A champion of skating, now she's practicing for her performance at the next Olympics.
Each move our skater makes cuts a distinct mark on the ice.  Her skate blades cut these marks quite clearly on the smooth black ice.  Her skates make a slight scraping, grinding, slicing noise, but she is not too much aware of that noise, while she skates.  It is part of her skating process.  Sometimes she might sing or hum or maybe even talk to herself—from pure delight and from enjoying what she’s doing: how she’s skating.

She can glide, she can soar, she can swoop; she can twirl, she can leap, she can spin and she can make your heart stop, fascinated, with the loveliness of all her movements, skating: until finally you know she loves to do the skater's dance for you.

And in her heart someone is always watching. 

      At long last, after skating to a great sufficiency, she goes back to her cabin, stopping at the barn to say hello to the big bay horses and the Guernsey cows, making sure they have plenty of water.  Back home at last, she makes another cup of that sweet dark hot chocolate whose foamy breaking bubbles glisten creamy in the cup.
Before long, while she’s still drinking chocolate, another skater comes over the hill from a neighboring farm.  He looks down at all the marks she left on the ice.  A young man, and he hopes to be a champion one day.  He sits down on the dock and pulls his skates on, lacing them up tight, then glides out on the smooth black ice. 

This second skater, puzzling out the marks that she has left, finds that by skating over them, so that his own skates run where hers ran: he finds that the figure of the skater's dance repeats itself in his own movements: all her swoops and twirls and arabesques, the lutzes, axels, doubles, triples, triple-doubles: all her swirls and bends and pirouettes are reproduced now in his movements.  And sometimes the next skater adds in his own movements or re-skates again some of her figures that he’s already skated over—just to learn them better, maybe—or because he likes to skate them?
Skating in her marks, he feels the same emotions and sometimes almost thinks to see reflections of the kindly look that he has seen so often—in her eyes.
      But of course, he makes a few mistakes, or maybe puts in—now and then—his own material, improves a little here and there on her dance; he grows bored or fascinated by the dance she did and by his own reinterpretations of that dance.  His mind moves with his body as her mind moved with her body when she skated. 

Sometimes his mind goes off completely on a wander of its own, some wild new tangent—and calls up a new, completely different series of movements, which we might call “the dream of skating”but before long it returns to what he has been doing, skating over her marks, and he becomes aware of the wander only when he "wakes" to find himself still tracing out her marks on the ice: that mad, mad whirl of marks whose meaning can be puzzled out only by someone whose ability to skate has been not just well-learned but also practiced.

      This puts him, somewhat, in the same position as you, dear reader, looking at this text and reading, falling, maybe now and then, into your own sweet dream of reading.

      Did you like skating into this fable?

      Is it time for some hot chocolate? … for the foamy breaking bubbles glistening at the cup’s edge: maybe chocolat with whipped cream on top?

At long last, after skating to his heart's content, the second skater finally takes off his skates and puts his boots back on.  He walks home past the skater's cabin, stopping in her barn to say hello to all her horses and her cows (because they’re old, old friends); then he knocks on her front door, she opens her door smiling at him just because he looks so handsome in his tight black skater’s outfit! -- and then he drinks a nice cup of the hottest creamy chocolate with her, looking up to her kindly hazel green eyes.

Will they both hope that possibly "Tomorrow we can skate again" …? 

Perhaps together?


Now perhaps, dear reader, what I have been getting at is that the important thing about reading the great books is the “dance of the intellect among words” – producing which dance, after all, is the main purpose of “education.”

Copyright 2013 Christian Gehman all rights reserved.
Posted to blogspot / novelismo April 29/2013
1,279 words on Tuesday, May 01, 2012
1,167 Words on Friday, February 17, 2012
1051 words on Monday, July 13, 2009
          and tomorrow is Bastille Day!
Copied to Niagra folder, Monday, July 16, 2009
20130130 the skaters dance for laura hartman
1,272 words on January 30, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Past

 Nostalgia may be a plague to history (or perhaps more pertinently, to historians?) ... but seems essential for writers like Conrad, Ford, Steinbeck, Trollope ... the past must be real enough to be important if you're going to write about it. Otherwise you're limited to reporting on the vagaries of a present moment.


Since "SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING" ... don't sit. Get a stand up desk or use a bureau. And as for fast walking and other exercise: the first twenty minutes are the most important; thus, two twenty minute walks -- or even three! -- will do the most for your metabolism. Walking does help restore the brain to its usual potential for writing, but ... it's even more effective to "read something fun" -- a magazine, a comic book, the novel you're reading, Scientific American, Allure -- whatever works for you as an amusement. Simenon works well for some. Others like browsing through cookbooks. So perhaps combining these two will give the maximum boost: 20 minutes of reading for fun, followed by 20 minutes of fast-walking arm-waving moderate exercise in the great outdoors. Or try 10 and 10 -- whatever works for your deadline. It's perhaps worth noting that though "healthiness" may be your aim, a good many of the world's most prolific and acclaimed writers have found that coffee, nicotine and a mild hangover were essential to their writing process -- even more so when the deadline looms. Remember this: "The deadline IS the deadline" -- it's not three days before the deadline (when panic may well set in), perhaps because "the prospect of being hanged wonderfully focuses the mind." Sometimes, however, the deadline's anxiety may prevent setting pen to paper; if this happens, try copying by hand with a pencil for 10 minutes from a book; preferably a book with some literary value.  And remember this: some editors are like dogs: Never Satisfied with the smell of Anything until they've pissed on it a few times."  

Friday, December 28, 2012

For Paul Krugman: Please analyze, if you can, the effect of the Bush era tax cuts on creating jobs in America. My notion is that we gave the super rich a nice piece of lagniappe, which largess they then took and actually did create jobs -- in China. So, if it is possible to track differential rates in overseas investments by America's wealthiest as a result of the Bush era tax cuts, I believe the study would be extraordinarily entertaining to most of your readers. It is now possible, I think, to describe the Republican party as being in thrall to Currency Cranks, Abortion-Nots, Teahadi partisans, whose elected members are in thrall to big money contributors like Sheldon Adelson.  Lundberg's book The Rich and the Super Rich could be updated by a bright graduate student to cover the last 30 years of criminally silly tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans -- and to track the lobbying money that supported ramming this down the throats of ordinary Americans. It is possible to speculate that higher tax rates on the wealthiest Americans would (a) balance the government's books and (b) spur the kind innovation in domestic industries that brings augmented profit. I'd be in favor of a direct tax on shares similar to the real estate tax -- if it would do any good. Corporations not registered in this country, and whose shares aren't traded here could be taxed at a higher rate to encourage them. My very best to Sarah Murphy, and best wishes for the coming year.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Papa -- From Millersville University's Archive

Richard Gehman was a journalist, biographer and free lance writer. Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on May 20, 1921 Gehman attended local public schools and graduated from McCaskey High School in 1938. Prior to his graduation he worked for Lancaster's two major papers the Sunday News and Intelligencer Journal. After his graduation until 1942 Gehman worked as a reporter for the Lancaster New Era and the Philadelphia Record. In 1942, Gehman was drafted into the United States Army and was stationed at the military base in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. While in Oak Ridge he edited the base's newspaper the Oak Ridge Journal from 1943 until the close of the war. Following the war, Gehman moved to New York and began working for the magazines Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan. Within a few years he chose to become a freelance writer contributing articles to numerous magazines including Newsweek, Look and the Saturday Evening Post. During the 1950's and 1960's he published over 3,000 articles, wrote five novels and a dozen nonfiction books. He also taught writing classes at several major universities including New York University, Columbia University and Indiana University. By the late 1960's he had become known by his peers as the "King of Freelance Writers". During 1970's the demand for his articles had waned and before his death had practically ceased. He spent his final years in Lancaster financially bankrupt and emotionally troubled over his declining popularity. He died on May 12, 1972.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I thought you might be interested in this article from the NYT on the Dragas-Sullivan shambles at UVA .. the demonstration was the most fun I've had on campus since ... 1974?

I don't think the controversy is over yet.  The trend to "online education" seems counterproductive to me in light of artist Kyle McDonald's covert photographing of people staring at new Apple computers with robotic expressions on their faces.  Perhaps McDonald was just recording the usual facial expressions of people absorbed in what Roland Barthes calls "the dream of reading" ....

(See Guardian article on Kyle McDonald and some of McDonald's other projects are also entertaining, as is this video.) 

As I noted in a comment on Kurzweil AI, even though online education is being ballyhooed just now, perhaps primarily as a cost-saving measure,  probably a great deal of intelligence, including what are possibly the most valuable parts of education, are transferred most efficiently in a human to human interface that allows the student’s mirror neurons an opportunity to learn these intellectual behaviors in a process similar to learning to dance. It seems possible that students won't learn the most important elements of what we might call “the dance of the intellect among facts” just by staring at a computer ... but then, reading books and attending lectures have never been very important to the ill-educated.

Hoping to see you at the Messiah Sing In on Tuesday, December 8, and 8 p.m. in Old Cabell Hall (not free any more, but not expensive)

Monday, August 13, 2012

UVA - The West Lawn - The Rotunda

   I wrote this 20 years ago. It's from from Why I Love Brunettes, an unpublished novel that is the exact opposite of 50 Shades of Grey -- not only is it reasonably well-written, but also -- it makes repulsive behavior seem repulsive in a way that alters the behavior.  I hope you love this bit about The Lawn at the University of Virginia.
   And my fondest hope is that you get to visit The Lawn  as often as I have done. I saw Queen Elizabeth there from about 10 feet away.  I saw the Dalai Lama there3.  I once catered a party for Edgar Shannon and his wife Eleanor at Carr's Hill, long ago.  Please go to the Messiah Sing at Old Cabell Hall as often as you can -- this year it will be on Tuesday, December 8,.2012.  And afterwards, walk up The Lawn for me.  In 1988, we found a miniature model of the Rotunda modeled in packed snow, with fresh snow just drifting over it one year.  My friend Patrick Tompkins and two other graduate students witnessed this.  No one at the C&O believed our tale.  It was before cell phone cameras or I'd have a picture. 

   Read this now?

    But you and I, mon capitaine, wild tchopitoulas that we are, we're going to stand here just outside the door of Number 8, The West Lawn, watching how the clean white dome of old Tom Jefferson's Rotunda gleams above the shadows deepening like smoke across the green cove of The Lawn. We’ll see the dome of the Rotunda change as dusk begins to purple into evening; we’ll watch how the catalog of column styles and types of portico changes with the shadows as the east side of the dome reflects the clear blue skies above the Grounds, and we’ll see the dome reflecting, orange gold and purple, the 'candescent sun’s red ball of glory settling behind the Blue Ridge Mountains at the western edge of Albemarle.

      The shadows and the columns amplify the peaceful stillness of what you and I – remembering the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge – might call:
“A holy and enchanted place.”
      Or else, remembering a few lines of the poet Baudelaire, we might conclude that:
La, il n'y a qu'ordre et beauté
Luxe, calme et volupté ....
      Because no one who wanders in that place can ever quite believe its timeless promise of unchanging grace and beauty can be false.

      On the steamy hot days Doc liked best, the timeless promise of the columns and the dome – a cool, serene lucidity connected to the world and yet apart from it – inspires a belief in what, for lack of any better term, we may as well call:
Man's immortal soul.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Helen Dragas Must Go

   Clearly, Governor Bob and Helen Dragas see some opportunity for corporate profit in lowering the quality of education at UVA so he can then award privatizing contracts for computerized online "education" to private companies. Perhaps Ms. Dragas will start one of those companies -- soon after she retires from her position on the Board of Visitors!
   I have not yet heard of any move to ask all members of the Board of Visitors to require themselves to adhere to the University's Honor Code. And that seems to me the key element.
   Extending the term limit for Helen Dragas, who has shown herself to be not only a truly dishonest but also a dishonorable human being, not just in her business dealings but also in her work (no, her devious machinations) as Rector of the Board of Visitors, where her dastardly actions brought discredit on the University and made its Honor Code a laughingstock  ... is a travesty.
    I find some amusing parallels to the John Hawkes novel Travesty, in which three occupants of a car are speeding toward a rendezvous with a tree in Southern France ... that will kill them all. At the end of these ridiculous shenanigans, Governor Bob will be out of office permanently, the not-Rector Helen Dragas after having puked on her own shoes a few more times, will go back to building shoddy houses in some of Virginia's more densely populated districts, and the power of Terry Sullivan to do good on The Lawn will have been circumscribed.
The Sun Is Beer! 
   With regard to computerized online "education," it seems worth nothing that people staring at computer screens often adopt robotic, trance-like facial expressions, and though they may perform well on some low-level multiple choice tests, they rarely learn anything important. They don't, for example, learn or absorb any of the transfer of personality and attitudes that takes place by way of interactions between two human beings within the mirror neuron system. That's what real education is about; and that is why it civilizes the barbarians.
   Helen Dragas made plenty of money building houses. Let her go back to that -- it is a business she understands.  And she did the right thing for her customers when some of those houses, were outfitted with defective Chinese-made drywall.  But I am willing to believe that none of that drywall was as defective as her paltry notion of how to "transform" the University of Virginia. Ms. Dragas didn't bother to write or "craft" her own oracular pronouncements or official "statements," rather, she hid behind and concealed the involvement of a non-Virginia PR agency like Hill & Knowlton. So She's Gotta Go! Will Someone please make up a batch of buttons .... with a flattering picture of Helen Dragas on them?  


If Ms. Dragas doesn't yet understand how dishonest and dishonorable she was by claiming Hill & Knowlton's work as her own, I'll be happy to explain it to her over a beer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Secret King -- from beloved Gravely -- (Scribner's 1984)

            Spook’s book The Secret King demolished modern economic theory by demonstrating the utter unreliability of conclusions based on such highly unstable data as government statistics, corporate reports, and the fluctuating value of modern currencies; Spook said the Never-Never Land approach just ignored the fact that any overall treatment of “the economy” always reflected the author’s innate political bias, and usually little else.
            He then went on to point out some of the similarities between modern times and the last stages of dynastic monarchism.  In both cases, according to Spook, the principal sources of wealth were controlled and/or owned by what he called “immortal agencies.”  The principal source of wealth in modern times, of course, is industrial production.  Under the last stages of dynastic monarchism, it was agricultural production.
            In modern times, the immortality of industrial corporations, subject only to the very realvicissitudes of mismanagement and cut-throat competition, is not a matter for dispute because it is one of the attributes of the “legal fiction” which created corporations in the first place.  Pretty much the same thing was true under the dynastic monarchies; even though individual members of the ruling class might die, the titled offices or patents of nobility from which their privileges derived did not die.  In both cases the “immortal agencies” – corporations or princes – were granted an immunity from prosecution on capital charges for all but the most atrocious crimes, and even in the event of those crimes it was only the individual who was prosecuted, not the “immortal agency.”  Modern corporations, said Spook, have been created by the state in much the same way and for many of the same reasons that dynastic monarchies created patents of nobility: to enforce the laws, to regulate production, and to collect the taxes.  A reciprocal relationship exists in both cases, and both systems are characterized by heavy taxes laid on the less wealthy citizens, and also by vast differences in wealth between the rich and the poor.
            There was a real revolution in America, but unfortunately it occurred just as the source of wealth was changing from agricultural to industrial production.
            Spook said that anti-monarchist sentiment in America and in most of the rest of the world was so strong that those people who were naturally a part of the monarchist party had been forced to call themselves by a different name.  But, he went on, the history of the “secret monarchy” that they controlled could easily be traced.  The monarchists, before the Revolutionary War, were by far the stronger party.  Fully a third of the population were avowed Royalists.  Geographical factors, along with their reliance on the English armies – mostly hired mercenaries – coupled with some French intriguing, were responsible for the defeat of the Royalist party.  But the Royalists themselves went right on prospering even after losing the war – whereas the starry-eyed idealists who had signed the Declaration of Independence, for the most part, suffered a decline in wealth and died poorer than they had ever been under the Old Regime.
            For several years, however, the apparently inexhaustible reserves of new land in the West retarded the reconsolidation of power in Royalist hands; before too long, however, even Jackson had to fight the bank, and after the rise of finance capital and the immortal agencies that controlled it, the die was cast; the agrarian democrats were no longer fighting agrarian monarchists, but the far stronger forces of the capitalist plutocracy.  Then as the source of wealth shifted more and more from land to capital, so did the government shift back to “secret” monarchy from what had been American democracy.
            This conflict ended with the War Between the States.
            The Secret King, triumphant in the war, proceeded to consolidate his power; and his vassals, the new corporations, soon were abusing their privileges to such an extent that the central government itself was forced to make efforts to curb the power of capital, but now lacked the necessary philosophical justification for doing so.
            According to Spook, the problem was precisely that the government had – either intentionally (at the behest of the Secret King) or inadvertently (through clumsiness and inattention) – allowed the re-creation of a monarchical system of government controlled by immortal agencies: much the same as things had been before.
            The results of this state of affairs – the creation of a permanent underclass, the establishment of a society based on differing degrees of privilege and entitlement in which the poor pay taxes and the very rich do not – could not be ameliorated, except temporarily, Spook concluded, without attacking the problem at its root – e.g., by breaking the power of the federal government and the corporations in the same way that the power of the English kings and their vassals had once been broken.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Merkin Way?

Posted in The Atlantic, months before the date of this post  --   Though I paid so little attention to news regarding the OWS protests that I can't "parrot" any of their slogans (in fact, I never heard that they had a slogan other than "Down with Corporate Greed") -- it would be fair to note that a very distant cousin, Joel Gehman, seems to be an organizer of the Occupy protest in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.   I never met the man.  I doubt you'll try reading Ferdinand Lundberg's book The Rich and the Super Rich because you don't really want information about the history of  favorable tax treatment paid for in the halls of Congress by  the 10% of the American population that owns 90% of the wealth. It's not quite fair to opine that they got so rich by cheating the rest of us.    It's an old, old story in America -- but I doubt you'll pay any more attention to Alexander del Mar's notes on the Greenback Bond Scandal after the Civil War than you will to the even older news about the Yazoo scandal.   Funny, ain't it, how "the facts" often seem so strongly biased against special deals for the rich and their pet politicians and toward liberal theories of prosperity?  And how liberal, centrist American politicians -- like Nelson Rockefeller -- have managed to produce long periods of the sustained prosperity that comes  with rational government?   "A rising tide lifts all boats" is the Liberal shibboleth.   If you're not appalled by the notion that Warren Buffet pays tax on his income at less than half the rate his secretary pays, I'll need to remind you again that  "_______ don't have politics, they just have enemies."    Fill in the blank any way you like -- "fascists, corporatists, the Rich and the Super Rich  ...   or even liberals."    It would be unfair to assume that your politics depend on willful ignorance ....  Greed and personal interest likely have a stronger influence.   I'm not sure we all want to agree that "Work hard and pay for tax breaks" has often been the American Way to get rich -- but those are the facts.   Real and lasting general prosperity, however, means a strong, relatively stable market for bonds -- not the false promise of artificially inflating equity values during the boom phase of the Keynesian cycle.  We're all paying for that last boom now.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Sheltering Sky

The Sheltering Sky is a novel by Paul Bowles. I love everything Bowles wrote. Bernardo Bertolucci filmed this novel. I found the movie less entertaining than the book; scarcely worth watching, is how I remember the film (and a big letdown after The Conformist).  It's fair to note that, alas, Bowles's novel struck me as scarcely worth finishing: it seemed to me, while I was trying to read it, that after writing about a third of what could have turned out to be a very, very good book indeed, Bowles just got bored with it .... but continued writing it anyway. He had got hold of a theme that wouldn't support a whole symphony?  Not even a film score?  Bowles is much better at writing short stories -- he's really at the top of his form, perhaps because they hold his attention.  Or because he doesn't get bored before they are over?  Possibly a logline for a film would be his ideal length?  Maybe The Sheltering Sky was just too big and too ambitious (as a book); or perhaps it needed a strong passionate romance at its core, and I don't think Bowles was temperamentally any more capable of writing a strong passionate romance than he was of living through one himself.  Bowles spent much of his life in, and preferred living in, Morocco, a country where most of the natives despised him as a foreigner.  What hapened to Bertolucci's flim, I don't know.  Got lost in Morocco, I guess.  Don't miss visiting the great Moroccan / Mediterranean restaurant Aromas  in Charlottesville.  Next time you're here.  It is at Barracks Road.  You might be here at the film festival, maybe -- at the beginning of November 2012?  For the Messiah Sing In at Old Cabell Hall in early December?  Thank you, NetFlix for making "a life with film included" possible here in Bumpass, Virginia.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Swamp We're In -- came from NOT TAXING THE RICH

Seems to me that the 53% of us who pay taxes -- and especially those like you who are  in the middle third of that bracket -- are the ones who really got screwed by the cockeyed Trickle Down scheme for not taxing the Rich and the Super Rich at all -- or maybe only at half the rate their secretaries pay.  So our current tax scheme probably needs an adjustment it won't get.

You might spend some time parsing Paul  Krugman, who has many interesting takes  on why continuing to think inside the box will get us deeper into the swamp.


Of course, Krugman  won't go for the Trickle Up! Economics miracle that would actually pull us out of the mess fairly quickly.  The problem now is that there's no liquidity at the bottom of the system.  The top's doing fine ....

Sometimes it seems to me that all economic theory is just cleverly disguised  political theory aimed at promoting the interests of a particular class at the expense of the others.  We've mostly been fascinated by one variant or another of eitehr Keynesian economics or Trickle Down economics since the thirties -- since, in fact, Keynes proposed it.  And the result has been that 37% of this country is stuck below the poverty line, while 10% of the country owns 90% of the wealth producing assets. The "middle class" -- YOUR 53% -- has been shafted by the R&SR clique, and even worse, the "middle class" by and large has bought into the notion that "cutting the deficit" will somehow ameliorate our current economic malaise.  The  ill-gotten gains enjoyed by the super rich combined with a climate of financial de-regulation and two long-running very expensive foreign wars to  produce, first -- the housing bubble and (2) now a self-defeating spiral into what  seems long-lasting, if not a terminal recession.

Quite a lot of the smart money went over to China during the last 20 years --  chasing high returns  in Chinese industries blessed with very low wages and a government that provides neither health care, health insurance, a social safety net, financial regulation nor any pollution controls.  Without those blessed benefits of the pirate/slave economy, bolstered by Western investment, your iPhone never would have happened at a cost-effective price, and Steve Jobs would have continued floundering along like he did with the NEXT.

Jeffrey Sachs has argued persuasively that general prosperity won't return to America during my lifetime because there has been little  investment in education, worker training, infrastructure ... and without a balancing overhaul of the tax code, we're all down the tube anyway.

My favorite part of the Chinese swindle over the last 20 years is  the reverse mergers scam -- 18 Billion dollars worth of good ole American dollars contributed  mostly by medium and small investors.

You could simplify it all by opining that Trickle Down economics and/or Keynesian economics produced disproportionate prosperity for  the rich and the super rich, who invested in China.   But at least we can all be glad we sent the pollution overseas and got back some really cool gizmos that make it easier to send email and take pictures.  That was a fair trade, right? mmmmmm  ...

You might loke at Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border if you'd like a clearer understanding of how difficult it is to change the corporatist economic policies that prevent real general prosperity. Those policies were part of the American hegemony that impoverished most of Latin America.

More of the same will only get us more of the same.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Writing and the Internet

Three important notions apply:  1.  Color Screen Addiction;  2.  The rat experiment demonstrating that the absence of an expected reward produces increasingly frantic performances of the conditioned task (rat pushes button frantically even though no reward appears; and finally -- a basic concept equally applicable to rats, adults and children:  3.  Internet (and television) usage should be rationed or even prohibited while working.  And while writing.  If you're working on a long piece, don't look at the net before you begin or even during a break.  Interacting with a color screen is rarely a creative act.  Turn on the typewriter sounds and go go back to composing in Word.  Better yet, order some new Palomino Blackwing 602 pencils and write your draft by hand, then retype it -- seems clunky, I know, but often it's the only way to get your focus back.   If all else fails, start a chapbook and copy passages from your favorite and most inspirational writers for 5-7 minutes to reset your mind from "watch naked color pictures dancing on the screen" to "Write It Now."  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Swamp! Let's get out!

A sensible and fair tax policy creates prosperity. Trickle Down Economics, on the other hand, created a plutocracy by impoverishing 37% of Americans. Trickle Down gave us an unending cycle of boom and bust, plus endless expensive foreign wars. Printing money is not the answer: nor is lending money to corporations and stock brokers. Lending money to human beings, on the other hand, as an advance against future tax refunds during prosperous times, will work very well. See note below regarding Trickle Down Economics. It's time to get out of the swamp!


Money belongs in the pockets of the people. -- Thomas Jefferson

Written in 2011.

Paul McCulley did a good job at PIMCO before the economy got stuck in the current liquidity trap. But based on a discussion reported by John Mauldin, McCulley can't really think outside the box. The liquidity trap results from America's 40 year war on the working class. This war solidified the position of the American Plutocracy -- 10% of the people own 90% of the wealth; 37% of the people are living below the poverty line. The result of 40 years of Trickle Down Economics: an endless cycle of boom and bust, along with a continuing series of expensive foreign wars. Right now the bottom of the economic spectrum -- the bottom third of all taxpayers! -- doesn't have enough money to spend.
That is the trap we're in, and it is the swamp from which flow all our other stagnating ills. The solution is Trickle Up Economics: 

1.  The IRS can loan every individual who has filed a tax return in the last five years $20,000 in equal monthly installments to as an advance against future tax refunds -- to be repaid over the next 20 years, all money to be spent on items produced by American labor. 

2.  The minimum wage can be doubled in three increments of 33% over the next 18 months -- or, just double the minimum wage. 

3.  Payouts on all entitlement programs -- Social Security, Railroad Retirement, welfare and food stamps can be doubled, with a requirement to spend the extra money on goods produced by American labor (penalties, with rewards for whistle blowers to be built in). 

4.  The renminbi can be revalued upward to a rational level, and at the same time we can put a substantial tariff on Chinese imports -- this will raise enough money to upgrade our airports and roads.  And put a tariff on all imports from countries that don't have health, retirement and environmental protections -- a tariff sufficient to level the playing field.

5.  All legally constituted operating companies doing business in or producing goods in America, whether corporations or partnerships, that have been in business for at least three years (unless their main business is investing in the stock market), can receive a $1 million dollar loan from the IRS to be repaid over the next 20 years. 

6.  And certainly, the Rich can pay taxes at the same rate as their secretaries, no matter how much they lost at the Wall Street Casino last year.  Will these measures cause some inflation? Let's hope so. We need the money at the bottom -- for small businesses and the people those businesses employ. We don't need more money poured on the top -- that won't stimulate aggregate demand. But Trickle Up Economics will do the job handily. It's time for McCulley to stop flapping his hands and saying "I hope I'm wrong." He's not wrong. The current game is rigged against American prosperity -- which means the prosperity of the working classes. America is prosperous when grocery baggers and assembly line workers can make enough money to live on working one job, and by working two jobs or a job and a half can make enough money to save up to get into a properly-valued house. 

7.  Finally, it's time to tax shares directly -- in kind, at the same rate as real estate is taxed -- on average -- around 2 or 3%. A hundred years from now the dividends on the investments held in trust will pay all our healthcare and infrastructure expenses.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Clutter produces Dither

Always .....

Of Story

Waking in
your arms
the ink
jar's full ....