Friday, August 20, 2010

I hereby enlighten you - twice!

Honestly, there are two things you should check out right now that will be time better spent than random internet perusing and Facebook checking:

Worldview 8/19/2010
Andrew Bacevich, the most brilliant person I have heard in quite some time. He's not a pacifist. He's not a warmonger. He is a retired colonel. He critiques Obama's policy. He critiques Dubya's policy. He critiques Eisenhower's policy, for goodness' sake. He probably knows more about U.S. war policy than every squawking head put together. I was privileged to hear him speak live in Chicago last night. I want more of him. Much, much more.

There is no "Ground Zero Mosque"
Tons of bonus points for using my favorite quote, by Pastor Martin Niemoller. (Now if we could just stop using the stupid term 'ground zero' as a description of where the WTC twin towers used to stand, that would be awesome....sigh, a girl can dream.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And so in conclusion...

OK, ready? Here's the entirety of my thoughts on the whole let's-build-a-mosque-and/or-community-center-near-where-the-World-Trade-Center-was "controversy." Ready?


Is that clear enough? Do we need specifics?

  • "This country was founded on freedom of religion..." DON'T CARE
  • "But radical Muslims were behind 9/11..." DON'T CARE
  • Obama said... DON'T CARE
  • They have the right, but is it wise... DON'T CARE
  • An affront to New Yorkers... DON'T CARE
  • The families of 9/11 think they should... DON'T CARE
  • "Hallowed ground" OH GIVE ME A FREAKIN' BREAK + DON'T CARE

This is the lamest controversy ever! (Well, wait. No it's not. I take that back, universe. I'm not testing you, I promise.) But I Just. Don't. Care. Build a mosque, don't build a mosque. Invite the community. Protest. Scream. Yell. Pretend you even know on which street the thing is proposed to be built. It's so not interesting. It's just more 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 which is all anybody can ever fall back on to say or do about anything ever. Look, New Yorkers have a weird, creepy, fairly annoying sense of having each been individually, personally attacked on September 11, 2001 (stemming from their inability to ever actually leave New York, I guess? somehow?) but even some of them think the community center which includes a mosque can be built wherever. How long do we have to keep this totally boring debate going? I'm just curious.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Well, obviously...?

OK, I love Amazon's targeted recommendations as much as the next person, but really? Today I received this in my inbox:

"As someone who has purchased or rated The Portable Voltaire or other products in the Specialty Boutique - New & Used Textbooks category, you might like to know that Sharpie Liquid Mechanical Pencil is now available. You can order yours for just $3.59..."

Seriously, I don't get bothered when internet commerce tries to make connections to sell me more stuff. I'm not one of those privacy freaks who's all, "Oh my gosh my PRIVATE INFORMATION that I've put on the WEB to make my life more convenient is totally being LOOKED AT" or whatever. But I would at least like the connection to be, well, a connection! Come on, Amazon. The Specialty Boutique has both textbooks and pencils and you thought you'd email us all? No. No, I don't think so. Stick to recommending me Indigo Girls albums I already own when I check the price on their new one; that seriously has a better chance of success. Try as you might, you cannot convince me that Voltaire has anything to do with this best of all possible mechanical pencils.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Authors, party of six!

I never duplicate entries between this main blog and my literary supplement blog, but this one I just had to share in both places...

Everyone knows Some people know that one of my favorite little games to play with myself is to imagine all of the celebrities who share my birthday (May 13, btw) at one big birthday dinner party, because it's quite an eclectic mix: Harvey Keitel, Stevie Wonder, Bea Arthur, Dennis Rodman, Mackenzie Astin, Stephen Colbert, and the latest addition, Robert Pattinson. Well, tonight I just happened to glance at my Goodreads profile (paying attention to something else entirely) and there's a whole "Linda's favorite authors" section where the first six who happen to default to the front page, complete with pictures, are: Fyodor Dostoevsy, Virginia Woolf, Nelson DeMille, Leo Tolstoy, Anna Quindlen, Gloria Steinem.

Suddenly, I was playing a new imaginary dinner party game. Imagine the possibilities! I mean, obviously, Fyodor and Leo could go off in a corner speaking Russian, but I don't think either is the type to do that. Nelson would obviously have to talk to Leo about how he totally used War and Peace in The Charm School. Which man would hit it off with which woman? Virginia clearly had opinions about Leo and Fyodor; what would she make of Nelson? They might be surprising friends. What would Virginia think about the latter century feminists, Gloria and Anna? Would Anna act like a journalist, or a novelist? And with Leo and Gloria at one table?! Two of the wisest people ever. Ever! World peace might just spontaneously come into being, just from them existing in each other's presence.

God, this is a fun game. Endless fun.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The one thing I must have to be truly alive

The other week I listened to Atul Gawande on NPR's Fresh Air. He was talking about a recent article he wrote for The New Yorker about what medicine and doctors should and shouldn't do to make the end of life more humane. It was fascinating stuff. I mostly know of Atul Gawande from his book Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, which I touched many times in my Borders days, but this is the first time I've listened to him talk.

In the Fresh Air interview, he talked about how taking lots of drugs and having lots of medical intervention when one is old and/or terminally ill often do nothing to prolong life any longer than a non-drugged hospice route. He also talked about how hard it can be when it falls to family members to make end-of-life decisions, especially when the patient's wishes are unclear. He gave an example of one son or daughter - I think it was a daughter? - who asked her father what was his minimum quality of life for which he would actually want to be saved. The man said that as long as he could still eat ice cream and watch football on TV, that would be sufficient for him and he'd still want to be alive.

Atul Gawande pointed out that this ice-cream-and-football life may not be enough for some people. They might insist that they be able to walk around, or cook for themselves. This made me think about my minimum standard. I mean, I generally want to be able to travel, and go out, and write and run and swim and hike and explore. Sure - these are all things I want from my life. But if it came to that kind of decision about the minimum acceptable quality of life? The answer was instantly clear to me: as long as I could still read books, I would still want to be alive.

Note that this does NOT mean being read to. I hate being read to. No books on tape, and I would obviously have to be able to see, and be able to hold a book. But that is my answer. Reading. What's yours?