Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Post Card To The White House

President Obama, you have found your Waterloo,
I'm afraid.

It's name is Kandahar, the Taliban region of the
Afghan hinterland which you want to pacify.

Like Lyndon Baines Johnson's Vietnam,
Like George W. Bush's Iraq,
You've found yourself an unpopular war to push for.

You're proposing a big increase in occupation troops,
And a plan that will keep us there for years.

And you had been on your way towards becoming a good president.

Interesting, and you'd just won the Nobel Peace Prize!

Now that stocks in missile manufacturing will spike on Wall St.,
I guess you can give the Nobel committee's medallion back.

I voted for you, Sir, but I'll vote for a third party next time.

We need a working families who sends their sons to war party.
And we need, as you had promised, to bring the troops home.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Our Warm Novermber

So far, I'm enjoying global warming.
I'm looking forward to seeing palm trees in New Jersey.
I'm going to buy some Hawaiian shirts.
Later, when seas engulf the higher ground,
not so much.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ayn Rand, The Tell-All

In the first week of November, 2009, two new $30-plus bios on Ayn
Rand (1905-1982) were brought out.

First of all, what is ethics?
Why do we need ethics?

A little ignorance can be a dangerous thing,
Especially when promoted in a bestseller.

You will not learn a thing on ethics
Reading Ayn Rand and her Neitzschean code.

You might learn a few things by reading the life
Of this writer of some execrable bestsellers.


You will learn, derivatively, of Neitzsche's longing for pagan days,
When Alexander sat, for a hot disracted minute, at Aristotle's knee.

Then he laid waste to the world
In the name of Athena and the elite in power.

Alexander, it appears, was insane, manic-depressive
And alcoholic, but nothing if not "individualistic."
Nobody would question him. He ruled the world.

He loved a good fight, and bringing death to Persians,
And, moving further East, death to Asians who did not surrender.
Most of them promptly did, as his reputation had, ahem, preceded:
Basically, they'd been getting in his goddamned way!

None of this was Aristotle's fault.

The first great philosopher, A.,
Taught the first great bad student, A.,
And A is not A.


Ayn Rand 's "values" were the Neitzschean ego rampant
And behaving abominably!, the more badly behaved,
The more outrageously so, the more "individualist."

Neitzsche's ideal was the classical world
Of the few wealthy powerful men,
The small aristocracy in power,
And let the rest, the people, the masses, be damned.

As we know, ethics is the opposite of this.
It is because of "elites" and their misdeeds that we need ethics.

Neitzsche was mentally ill, obviously,
Organic brain damage, via syphillis.
He wasn't wrapped too tight to begin with.


Ayn Rand was just the most recent
Of all of Aristotle's, well, not-so-great pupils,
She had little intention of being much good at this;
She intended to promote herself, her books,
Her late-Victorian prejudices, nostalgias,
Her reactionary abhorrence to mid-century change,
So she advocated Aristotelian reason.
So what?!

She'd learned of Aristotle while studying math
At Petrograd U. She was just an average cuckoo.
She also looked remarkably like Hitler in a dress.
(It was always Halloween at her house.)

Diagnosis: Narcissistic personality disorder,
Plus its attendant paranoia and substance abuse.

She never met a stimulant she didn't like,
Caffeine, nicotine, bennies (amphetamines.)
Hilariously, she had quite a thing for young men.

She ended-up with heart disease, lung cancer,
Benzedrine addiction, depression, and a marriage
That drove her husband to drink.

Further Dx: The eminent psychologist, Albert Ellis:
"She's a big fucking baby!"

These items are not part of the official hagiography
From The Ayn Rand Institute.


So, there's more:
Hitler in a dress was married to an out-of-work actor.
She met a nineteen-year-old who was tall and virile.
He had a great idea, a lecture bureau. She'd make a mint in fees!

He moved to New York to set it up.
She (married, remember) moved to New York to follow him,
And she moved from a beautiful California home.
She ended up in freakin' Murray Hill in pursuit of his booty.

He, the kid, set up the lectures. Voila, she turned into a celebrity!
An eminence! The leader of a movement that has the answers!
(The "movement" consisted of his cousins, in-laws, acquaintances.)
She lauded the kid, encouraged him to settle, marry the girlfriend.


Then Ayn Rand beds him!
"Oh, sweet mystery of life, I've found you!"
She lets her husband know, she lets his wife know:
They will simply have to tolerate
What these two Neitzschean bigshots are up to.
He is twenty-five years younger,
She is 49, he 24.
She just wants what she wants.

Though newly married, he's tied to the moneymaker that gives the lectures.
Then, for relief, he enters a relationship with a model who simply likes him.
It's a good thing everyone is so busy with appointments, lectures,
Publication deadlines, graduate courses, theses, lacy lingerie sales.

He's now in a parallelogram!

(The original triangle was a stretch - his wife was utterly elegant!
Svelte, a blonde, and a treasure, a devoted love. Ayn Rand was a crone.)

Ayn Rand condemns him for not taking "values" seriously,
For not taking reason, the intellect, seriously, and ethics.
She drums him out of the lecture bureau business.


We can take all of Ayn Rand's "teachings,"
The thousand-page books, etc.,
And we can compare them to this story.

And we can ask,
What is ethics?
Why do we need it?
What is philosophy?
Why do we need it?

What we don't need is this pretentious fool, Ayn Rand.

We don't need the $30-plus bio-tomes!
Wait til they're remaindered for $3.95.

Buy them on Kindle, and save all that paper.


A note on Ayn Rand's development: she studied math, logic, philosophy,
and history in St. Petersburg (which had become Petrograd, later Leningrad.)
She was fascinated with the rigor of mathematics and its essentially Aristotelian
logic: A is A, B is not A, etc. She later came to assign every paranoia-tainted
and hate-filled opinion she ever formed to the realm of the "logical" and "rational."
And she was obsessed with demonstrating her "logic" with long trains of
deductive argumentation from entirely spurious premises. (She was the Evel
Knievel of leaping to conclusions, as one of her friends said.)

Thus her advocacy of Neitzschean egotism was "rational" self-interest,
(but Neitzschean values are, at their heart, brutal, callous, grossly irrationalist.)
Her pro-business advocacy presented her as a "new intellectual"
for capitalism (not a mere hot-headed, reactionary crank.)
Her advocacy of a romanticist sensibility in literature
(though romanticism is known for its brooding emotionalism, its Byronic heroes)
is presented as "serene" and "joyous," even "realistic." Her "philosophy" was a frankensteined
patchwork of contradictions, and you could see the really bad stitching
everywhere. She was a piece of work. Her "philosophy" was propaganda,
pure and simple, for the self-interest of the business culture, and though it
was often eloquent it was not literature, it was mere good, slick propaganda.
She was a Hollywood screenwriter, an image-maker, at heart. She was all Hollywood,
plus much ultraslick Madison Ave. She was the laureate of the self-involved self.
Which also made her laureate of the teen-aged-- deludedly self-important-- self.
Grownups do not, cannot, read her.

Her writing style was, oddly, all about oratory, because all of her prominent characters
were speechifiers. And in her life she was known to hold forth endlessly.
Her Saturday "parties," attended by followers in her Manhattan apartment, were all about her
seminarizing and debating until dawn. These events were reportedly dreadful, listening
to this debate-team bully on benzedrine who was convinced she was the answer to
all questions, as she drilled arguments at devotees with over-strenuous attempts at

I saw her "lecture" one time. When she was walking out afterwards, in
an ankle-length mink and a black dress and heels, a young student asked her
a question politely. Rand denounced the student in a furious rant
for having asked a question that challenged Rand's thinking. She looked
exactly like Hitler in a dress, angry, dark eyes, dark hair, hateful, spoiling
for a fight. She spent her youth in one of the first totalitarian states of the
20th century, so perhaps she can be forgiven her anger, hate, and paranoia,
as her family had been deprived of their prosperous business and their home by the mob rule of
the Bolshevik revolution and its aftermath. She had little understanding of the Western world,
except that we love a good communism scare, as did she.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The 21st Century Proverbs

The meek shall inherit the earth
when the arrogant are done despoiling it.


A fool and his money are a friend indeed.
A friend in need should get a bank loan.


A profit has no honor in mortgage-backed securities.
In his own time, a prophet cannot be heard in the din of prophesying.


Absolute power is a joy forever, and a thing of beauty!
Constant opinion polling corrupts absolutely.


All work and no play makes Jack a John D. Rockefeller.
John D. Rockefeller has servants throw parties for him.


Behind every great man is a codependent.
A woman's place is in the driver's seat.


When a star falls an angel goes to hell.


When a star falls in Hollywood he goes to rehab.
From there he goes straight to Spagos in a limo for a three-picture deal at lunch.


The new broom knows not of what it sweeps.


A stopped clock and Glen Beck are both right twice a day.
And Beck is having a stupid argument with the clock.


Rock stars give passes to girls who're fun lasses.


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a stupid question.


A penny saved is worth about two birds in the bush.


The old saw no longer makes the cut.

These "perverbs" originally appeared on October 23, 2009 in the NYTIMES.COM
Schott's Vocab weblog, as contributions to a competition on proverb-mashups.

My favorite proverbial sayings from recent decades:
Dorothy Parker was challenged to say something funny on horticulture and...
"You can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think."
Also Woody Allen's phys ed wisdom is a fave: "Those who can't do teach.
Those who can't teach teach gym."
Lastly, Groucho Marx:
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog,
it's too dark to read."

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?