Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: Part Two

Posted September 28th, 2010

I have been preoccupied, lately, with whether this is an especially crazy time to be alive, what with the instantaneous information/misinformation bleeding out of the internet. (See the thing about Tacitus in the blog just before this one.) I do think that crime and show business have never been more closely aligned. I don’t know if there has ever been a time where criminal arrests are worth as much in terms of $$ as going on a publicity tour or being in a movie . But otherwise, I am starting to conclude: apparently things have always been running like this. Here is a quote from a book review of a new biography of George Washington (by Ron Chernow)  in today’s NY Times

“Washington” also devotes great attention to the harsh criticism that Washington faced as soon as the luster faded and the governing began. As president, missing his beloved Mount Vernon and incurring great financial losses to serve as head of state, he was carped about so relentlessly that even his way of tapping a fork at the dinner table could become fodder for malicious gossip.”

I guess that’s just the way we do things. Oh well. And also yikes.

My new cure for political nerves

Posted September 14th, 2010

I feel compelled to keep up with the news for some reason, even though it causes me to then spend an awful lot of time fretting about the way things are going and the ways things are going to end up. I follow that with long spells of wondering what I am supposed to do to help or how I may be inadvertently contributing to harm.  When I think about it all, it  just seems like everything keeps getting worse and its a trend no one can reverse. And when I say ‘it’ I mean…you know…IT. All of it. Crazy egomaniacs with big mouths and tiny brains,  economic policy debates,wars and plans for more wars, disasters both man made and natural, ridiculous people running for office, leaders of other countries who seem mentally ill, etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.etc.

But lately  I started  wondering whether things were ever better.  Or are they always pretty much this bad and its just a question of your definitions ?  Or am I maybe just getting punchy from  a life-time build up of bad things that I have paid too much attention to and the older you get, the more of this craziness you have been cataloguing?  The idea that things were at some point  better is the premise on which the bellowing baboons of politics like Rush Limbaugh et al issue their edicts. With that as a basic underlying theme,  they set the stage for the parade of mini-brained egomaniacs like Sarah Palin to give advice as they pretend they  can  see some kind of essential set of easily achievable truths that the fancy pants  thinkers are looking past.

Then this past weekend I  read this paragraph by Tacitus, Roman historian.(56-117 AD)

In his book “The Histories”,  he recounts the events of 69 AD.  By the way,  Rome didn’t fall til 476.  So 69 is not the worst year Rome ever had. Yet his book opens with this paragraph.

The story I am approaching is rich with disasters, grimly marked with battles, rent by treason and savage even in peacetime.  Four emperors perished violently. There were three civil wars, still more foreign campaigns, and often conflicts which combined elements of both. Success in the East was balanced by failure in the West. The Balkans were in turmoil , the Gallic provinces were wavering and Britain was conquered but immediately abandoned. The Sarmatian and Suebian peoples rose upon us, the Dacian distinguished himself in desperate battles won and lost and thanks to the activities of a charlatan masquerading as Nero, even Parthia was on the brink of declaring war.  Now too, Italy itself fell victim to new disasters or ones which had not occurred for many centuries. Towns were swallowed up or buried along the richest part of the Campanian coast. Rome was devastated by fires, her most venerable temples were destroyed and the very Capitol was set alight by Roman hands. Things holy were desecrated, there was adultery in high places. The sea swarmed with exiles and cliffs were stained with blood. Still fiercer savagery gripped Rome. Rank, wealth and office, whether surrendered or retained, provided grounds for accusation, and the reward for virtue was inevitable death. The profits of the prosecutors were no less hated than their crimes. Some obtained priesthoods and consulships as the prize of victory, others acquired official posts and backstairs influence, creating a universal pandemomium of hatred and terror. Slaves were bribed to turn against their masters, freedmen against their patrons, while those who lacked an enemy were ruined by their friends.”

So that is what I now think about when I wonder WTF with regard to the million and one alarming headlines I read per day.  Tacitus would probably have a look at them and say “Mm hmm. What else you got?” (though he would no doubt  say it a little more eloquently than that.) But it seems like his one paragraph sum up of 69 AD brings a useful perspective.

Life!  Whoever holds the patents on humans clearly sent them to market before working out enough of the bugs.  If Steve Jobs put out a product this erratic, no one would ever shut up about it.

I just finished my new book

Posted September 11th, 2010

HOORAY for me But at least on some level, a draft of it is finished. Its a book of essays. It includes a lengthy piece about my mother, for which I will be going to hell.   The title of the book MIGHT be “Cool, Calm and Contentious.”  although that makes me sound a little like Clint Eastwood. All I know is that now, suddenly, I am not swimming in three feet of loose paper.  I write on the computer but in the final stages I find that I can’t see what, if anything, the book says unless I print it out. Pretty soon my already cluttered office looks like I am ready for a segment on hoarders.

Anyway: Wow. Free time.  I think I will start making films. Until it catches up to me because free time only seems like free time BEFORE it becomes unemployment.