Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This Country Is Vanishing

The Marshall Islands are drowning. Climate change is why. Read more here.


You will not read a better thriller this year than THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING




Just a superb debut from Paul Hardisty, and an inspired reconfiguration of the genre. With all this going on, perhaps the world needed a great eco-thriller in 2015 a little more than we needed another superhero infusion. We got one. Here's a sample:

Above the din, a voice rose from the back of the room. Heads twisted to listen; the men quietened. A young man dressed Saudi-style in a flowing white robe stood against the back wall, one hand resting on a young boy's shoulder. He was tall, clean-shaven, light-skinned, almost European-looking. He was Clay's age, maybe younger. He spoke slowly, his voice like wind sculpting rock, deep and resonant.
   'The poison that afflicts our children comes from the facility. It comes in the air, down the wadi, when the cool winds blow from the plateau. We can smell it, foul like the vapours of hell. This is done by the government and the company to push us from our land. It is intentional.'

Bring on the movie.

I look for more from Claymore Straker.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tunisia



Noam Chomsky flattens William F. Buckley


I never thought the day would come when I would miss Bill Buckley, but as (aged) Chomsky suggests at the end of this video, the Firing Line host's rabid twenty-first century successors make one long for conservatives of reason. A breathtakingly young Chomsky makes beefsteak tartare of him here, and lands some excellent points about militarism.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Human Experimentation at the CIA

"Crime one was torture. The second crime was research without consent in order to say it wasn't torture." That's according to a researcher with Harvard's Humanitarian Initiative, quoted in this Guardian article about the CIA's violation of basic medical ethics standards.

And from Amnesty International comes word that "from 2002 to 2008, the CIA put doctors in examination rooms so that they could help design sustained exercises in torture, as part of a secret detention program."

June 26 is the annual International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

No one has ever been held legally accountable for the CIA's use of torture. The Justice Department is dragging its heels. That should change. Click here to tell the Obama Justice Department to read the full Senate Torture Report ... and end its silence and inaction on CIA torture.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

Happy Birthday, George Orwell (Drone Strike Edition)


Everyone in America seems to be quoting him reverentially today. I'll join that parade.

According to the best sources available, the US has killed 1147 civilians in drone campaigns meant to eliminate 41 Al-Qaeda leaders. The Obama Administration continues to insist that the program is based on "precision" targeting with a "near certainty" that no civilians will be harmed, and that "operations" are only undertaken in the face of an "imminent threat."

What would George make of all that, do you think?

And what would he make of our country's enduring popular support for the drone campaign?

New York Times: Homegrown Extremists Accounted for More Deaths in US than Al Qaeda- and ISIS-style Zombies

From today's Times: "Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center."

Read the full article here, please.

Actually, they're all part of a vast confederation of zombies.


Ayat of the Day (2:83)

During Ramadan, we fast not only from food, but from harsh words. So I think I need to do a better job of calibrating how I feel about the Confederate flag issue.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ayat of the Day (102:1)



Nabokov's Top Nine Sentences

(In my humble opinion. I'm talking about the novels.)



9. "Nature had once produced an Englishman whose domed head had been a hive of words; a man who had only to breathe on any particle of his stupendous vocabulary to have that particle live and expand and throw out tremulous tentacles until it became a complex image with a pulsing brain and correlated limbs." (BEND SINISTER)





8. “And she was mine, she was mine, the key was in my fist, my fist was in my pocket, she was mine.” (LOLITA)



7. "It suddenly occurred to me that I was demented and about to do something stupid." (LOLITA)




6. "And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night -- every night -- the moment I feigned sleep." (LOLITA)




5. "If I correctly understand the sense of this succinct observation, our poet suggests here that human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece." (PALE FIRE)




4. "And he absolutely had to find her at once to tell her that he adored her, but the large audience before him separated him from the door, and the notes reaching him through a succession of hands said that she was not available; that she was inaugurating a fire; that she had married an American businessman; that she had become a character in a novel; that she was dead." (PALE FIRE) 




3. "The accumulation of consecutive rooms in his memory now resembled those displays of grouped elbow chairs on show, and beds, and lamps, and inglebooks which, ignoring all space-time distinctions, commingle in the soft light of a furniture store beyond which it snows, and the dusk deepens, and nobody really loves anybody." (PNIN)





2. "In other more deeply moral worlds than this pellet of muck, there might exist restraints, principles, transcendental consolations, and even a certain pride in making happy someone one does not really love; but on this planet, Lucettes are doomed." (ADA) (Note from YT: Lucette has committed suicide.)





1. "I hastened to quench a thirst that had been burning a hole in the mixed metaphor of my life ever since I had fondled a quite different Dolly thirteen years earlier."(LOOK AT THE HARLEQUINS!)


And here's a bonus Nabokov sentence, one that didn't come from a novel, and thus, I think, should not have been eligible for consideration, but still rocks my world every time I read it. This one cheats by means of a semicolon. You and I can't get away with such stuff.

“Literature was not born the day when a boy crying 'wolf, wolf' came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying 'wolf, wolf' and there was no wolf behind him.” (LECTURES ON LITERATURE)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

This Ramadan, Give Free Rice to Hungry People

Do it by playing a simple game that increases your knowledge.

Click here ... and Ramadan Mubarak!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Ayat of the Day (76:25)


South Carolina Still Flies the (Insert Intense Gerund Here) Confederate Flag

The oldest and wisest there make a point of flying it in front of the state capitol.



This is akin to sneaking a swastika onto that flagpole, and it needs to stop. It needed to stop well before the obscene massacre yesterday, and it will need to stop even if people make well-modulated noises today about history and heritage and military service and how hard it is to tell why someone does something. It just needs to stop, period.

Answer to yesterday's Shakespeare trivia question

The actor believed to have originated the great comic roles of Falstaff, Touchstone, and a host of other Shakespearean clowns was named Will Kemp.

He appears to have had some kind of professional falling out with Shakespeare's company around the time of the premiere of HENRY V. Interestingly, that play makes a point of killing off Falstaff, a role we believe Kemp made famous. In HAMLET, which comes out a bit later, the clown is notably dead (though there is a funny gravedigger), and there's also a long lecture to a troupe of actors about the evils of improvising onstage for a cheap laugh when a play is being presented.

He may well have gotten on people's nerves.

Having been fired, or something, from Shakespeare's company, Kemp dreamed up a publicity stunt (since imitated) as a kind of comeback: dancing his way from London to Norwich. The gimmick ate up nine days on the calendar, and gave rise to the expression "nine days' wonder."

The comeback was a failure. He died poor and obscure.



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Shakespeare trivia question

A famous comic left Shakespeare's acting company after having originated (we think) such roles as Touchstone and Falstaff. What was his name? And how did he originate the phrase "nine days' wonder"?

Answer tomorrow.


Ramadan: First day of fasting (and #sadaqa link)

Twelve years a Muslim, alhamdulillah, and I can say this the most interesting Ramadan schedule yet. Let's hear it for the northern latitudes! They bring us more blessings!


Click here to give rice to hungry people just by clicking your computer.

Ramadan Is Here (Voice Only)

May Allah accept our fasting and our worship and forgive our sins!

The song below, which features no instruments, is from Native Deen, and is one of my favorites.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ayat of the Day (97:1)


Ramadan Tomorrow -- I Think

Every year there is a mad scramble to figure out the moon sighting and/or a local debate whether or not that is the right thing to do. (It is, in my humble opinion.) This year is likely to be no different. So I'm waiting on the moon like the rest of the world, searching for the same words half the planet is, and getting ready for the season of forgiveness.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ayat of the Day (22:54)


Answer to Yesterday's Shakespeare Trivia Question

This speech from MACBETH shows up in the Oscar-winning film BIRDMAN. You hear it as Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) navigates a liquor store inexplicably strewn with uncountable Christmas lights. When Thomson makes it out to the street, a mediocre actor who is suing him, and whom he may or may not have injured by means of telekinesis, continues to rant and howl the words below, having apparently become a street person. A "poor player."

Or (more likely) a hallucination of a poor player.

Quite a remarkable film, BIRDMAN rewards repeat viewings.





Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fassbender and Cotillard in New MACBETH film. (And a #Shakespeare Trivia Question)

This looks unmissable.

By the way -- what speech from MACBETH turns up, unedited, in the most recent Oscar-winner for Best Picture, BIRDMAN? (Answer tomorrow)


Ayat of the Day (7:199)

Show forgiveness

Enjoin kindness

Avoid ignorance

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Asked to Identify My One Favorite Poem, I Could Only Identify Four

(Copyright is not mine on the Plath and Collins. Copyright holders, please tell me if you want me to take your stuff down.)


THE SECOND COMING
William Butler Yeats

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


TULIPS

The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in.   
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.   
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.   
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses   
And my history to the anesthetist and my body to surgeons.

They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff   
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,   
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.

My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.   
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage——
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,   
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;   
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.

I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat   
stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.   
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley   
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books   
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.   
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.

I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free——
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them   
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.   

The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe   
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.   
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle : they seem to float, though they weigh me down,   
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their color,   
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.

Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.   
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,   
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow   
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,   
And I have no face, I have wanted to efface myself.   
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.

Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.   
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river   
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.   
They concentrate my attention, that was happy   
Playing and resting without committing itself.

The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;   
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,   
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.



THE LANYARD

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the "L" section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard. 
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake 
learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard. 
A gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard. 
Or wear one, if that’s what you did with them. 
But that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand 
again and again until I had made a boxy, red and white lanyard for my mother. 
She gave me life and milk from her breasts, 
and I gave her a lanyard 
She nursed me in many a sick room, 
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips, 
set cold facecloths on my forehead
then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim and I in turn presented her with a lanyard. 
"Here are thousands of meals" she said, 
"and here is clothing and a good education." 
"And here is your lanyard," I replied,
"which I made with a little help from a counselor." 
"Here is a breathing body and a beating heart, 
strong legs, bones and teeth and two clear eyes to read the world." she whispered.
"And here," I said, "is the lanyard I made at camp."
"And here," I wish to say to her now, 
"is a smaller gift. Not the archaic truth, 
that you can never repay your mother, 
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be 
that this useless worthless thing I wove out of boredom 
would be enough to make us even."


SONNET LX
William Shakespeare

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, 
So do our minutes hasten to their end; 
Each changing place with that which goes before, 
In sequent toil all forwards do contend. 
Nativity, once in the main of light, 
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d, 
Crooked elipses ’gainst his glory fight, 
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound. 
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth 
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow, 
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth, 
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow: 
   And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand, 
   Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand. 

Ayat of the Day (57:3)


13 Great Opening Lines You Probably Haven't Read Yet

Coilin O Haodha
He could never remember exactly when he had fallen in love with the ghost that lived in the shadow on the half-landing of the second stairs. -- Coilin O Haodha, FAITHLESS-HEART

Edna and I had started down from Kalispell, heading for Tampa-St. Pete where I still had some friends from the old glory days who wouldn't turn me in to the police. -- Richard Ford, ROCK SPRINGS

Justice? — You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law. — William Gaddis, A FROLIC OF HIS OWN

At night stray dogs come up underneath our house to lick our leaking pipes. -- Mark Richard, STRAYS

"Take my camel, dear," said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass. — Rose Macaulay, THE TOWERS OF TREBIZOND

"Tell me things I won't mind forgetting," she said. "Make it useless stuff or skip it." -- Amy Hempel, IN THE CEMETERY WHERE AL JOLSON IS BURIED

Ho Chi Minh came to me again last night, his hands covered with confectioners' sugar. -- Robert Olen Butler, A GOOD SCENT FROM A STRANGE MOUNTAIN

A woman I don't know is boiling tea the Indian way in my kitchen. -- BHARATI MUKHERJEE, The Management of Grief

Every now and again, as if on a whim, the federal government people would write to Marie Delaveaux Wilson in one of those white, stampless envelopes and tell her to come in to their place so they could take another look at her. -- Edward P. Jones, MARIE

When I was twelve years old, my father was tall and awesome. -- Stephanie Vaughn, ABLE, BAKER, CHARLIE, DOG

To begin, then, here is a scene in which I am the man and my friend Sarah Cole is the woman. -- Russell Banks, SARAH COLE: A TYPE OF LOVE STORY

Two nurses with scissors could make a man naked in eleven seconds. -- Melanie Rae Thon, FIRST, BODY

They made love then once more because she was leaving him. -- Mary Dorcey, THE HUSBAND



Friday, June 12, 2015

Ayat of the Day (2:255)


Russell Banks's SARAH COLE: A TYPE OF LOVE STORY:Turning the Page

It was a pleasant surprise to find the complete text of this astonishing short story here, in an apparently authorized online edition. Even though you can read it all on screen, I recommend encountering it as a (physical) page-turner, as I did.

Banks does things with voice and point of view here that I hadn't even imagined as possibilities, and he creates two characters I won't forget anytime soon. This is indeed a love story, though saying so is a bit of a spoiler. Required reading for human beings who've fallen in love, plan to do so, or don't plan to do so.

Here's my favorite passage, and the engine for Banks's jaw-dropping journey:

"When you have never done a thing before and that thing is not simply and clearly right or wrong, you frequently do not know if it is a cruel thing, you just go ahead and do it, and maybe later you'll be able to determine whether you acted cruelly. That way you'll know if it was right or wrong of you to have done it in the first place."

You'll want a hard copy of this one. Click here for the Amazon link to the impeccable short story collection in which I found this masterpiece.



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ayat of the Day (49:13)


"Half of humanity would have to move to higher ground."

Here's a quote that really caught my attention from the recent CNN piece on rising sea levels:

If Greenland melts completely, which could happen in 140 years, according to "Six Degrees," by science writer Mark Lynas, then "Miami would disappear entirely, as would most of Manhattan." "Central London would be flooded. Bangkok, Bombay and Shanghai would also lose most of their area," he writes in that book. "In all, half of humanity would have to move to higher ground."


Please sign this petition to support a ban on fossil fuel burning in the USA by 2100.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ayat of the Day: (2:2)


Dr. T on Grammar: Less or Fewer?


Dr. T offers two prescriptions for acute LESS OR FEWER distress. Take your pick.

There are two viable rules for dealing with this puzzle. You can use either. Just know that each rule runs into exceptions it can't account for.

PERFECTLY GOOD RULE NUMBER ONE: USE "FEWER" FOR THINGS YOU CAN COUNT, AND "LESS" FOR EVERYTHING ELSE. Thus: 
  • I have fewer jars of peanut butter than I had yesterday. (You can count jars of peanut butter.)
  • I have less peanut butter than I had yesterday. (You can't count peanut butter.)
Only trouble here is that a sentence like "I have less than two hundred dollars in the bank" appears to violate the rule. Most of us want to avoid writing "I have fewer than two hundred dollars in the bank."


PERFECTLY GOOD RULE NUMBER TWO: USE "FEWER" FOR THINGS THAT ARE PLURAL, AND "LESS" FOR THINGS THAT ARE SINGULAR. Thus:
  • I have fewer jars of peanut butter than I had yesterday. (Jars of peanut butter are plural.)
  • I have less peanut butter than I had yesterday. (Peanut butter is singular.)
Alas, this rule still flunks the bank account test: "I have less than two hundred dollars in the bank." Two hundred dollars is plural, or at least sounds like it should be plural. (Some people argue that we actually think of it as a singular amount, an implied single pile of money, but I'm not sure I buy that.)

So -- use either rule, but be prepared to make exceptions for things like money. And distance. And time. And weight.

As in so many areas of human endeavor, there's a time for hard-and-fast-rules. And a time to use your God-given common sense.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ayat of the Day (4:29) #Quran


John Banville's THE SEA: Sentence Geek's Delight

Banville is a brilliant enough stylist to make you overlook both the essential misanthropy of this book and its unwillingness (for most of the undertaking, at any rate) to bother with a plot. As my friend +Richard Gibney put it, THE SEA "really takes off in the last ten pages."

It does indeed, and it packs a wallop. Loss, memory (functional and failing), grief, alienation, and survivor guilt are all major themes here, and they all pay off.

With prose that astonishes on nearly every page, and an uncanny ability to capture the essence of a given moment, Banville earned all the accolades this intricate novel brought him. Even so, I suspect THE SEA's density, its pervasive cynicism, and its fundamental distrust of people will not be to everyone's taste. Sentence geeks, on the other hand, will follow his lead. I did.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Dr. T on Grammar: Who or whom?

Among the stranger affectations of those writing for public inspection is the idea that
"whom" is a fancier, more refined version of "who."

This is comparable to using "him" instead of "he" because you think it sounds smarter. Such a practice prompts the inevitable questions: Do you really think that? Really?

Here is a STRANGELY AFFECTED AND THEREFORE MORALLY BANKRUPT SENTENCE: Clive is someone whom I always thought would win the dogsled-eating competition. 

Who did you think would win the dogsled-eating competition? Clive. Who would? Him. Are you quite sure? Mm hmm, him would win it. Really? Yes, because him excellent eater of dogsleds.

Here is a CORRECTED REWRITE: Clive is someone who I always thought would win the dogsled-eating competition.

Who did you think would win the dogsled-eating competition? Clive. Who would? He would.

Dr. T's prescription: If you could correctly say he, she, we, they, etc. after turning the sentence into a question and then answering it, as above, use who.


Dr. T helps relieve painful nominative and objective pronoun constipation.

We all fart occasionally, but there's no need to do so while writing for public inspection. Follow Dr. T's simple prescription, and the internal pressure to write strangely affected sentences will pass.

The only time you want to use whom is when you can turn your sentence into a question, and then answer it correctly with him, her, us, them, etc. Thus: Clive is the contestant to whom the judge gave the biggest and shiniest dogsled-eating trophy. To whom did the judge give that pretty trophy? To Clive. To whom? To him! To him and no one else!


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Contemporary Fiction: 50 Short Stories Since 1970

I stumbled across this hardcover in a second-hand store and heard its whisper: "Buy me. You won't be sorry."

It was right. The book has held me spellbound from the first story onward, Sherman Alexie's This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona. There is not a false note in the volume, as far as I can tell, and I'm six stories in. Given the breathtaking quality of the work thus far, I wondered about the selection method used by the editors. The sell copy reads:

"A collection of stories chosen based on the results of a survey of more than 200 literature professors, award-winning writers, and the directors of prestigious writing workshops."

Mystery solved. This, then, is a compelling assemblage of 50 master classes in brilliant, unforgettable short fiction written over the past half-century, some by people you've heard of (Margaret Atwood, Raymond Carver, Annie Proulx) and some by others less brand-name-y (Alexie, Toni Cade Bambara). If you love great writing, you need to buy this book. You won't be sorry, either. Here's the Amazon link.


Friday, June 5, 2015

T.S. Eliot's Rule of the Game

"There is only the trying. The rest is not our business."
(From Four Quartets.)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ebrahim Moosa's WHAT IS A MADRASA?

I was privileged to be among the early readers of this book. "Madrasa" has become a codeword of sorts in the era's media-squid-ink orgies, not unlike equally baffling codewords like "Islam" and "cleric." (Imagine if "university" became such a codeword.) Those interested in a more nuanced analysis will find Moosa's work -- part memoir, part scholarly treatise -- an indispensable contribution to the conversation about modernity.

Buy it here.


Ayat of the day


ISIS is bad news

It is largely bad news of our own making,  but it is bad news nevertheless, and I want to make sure I note that here.

"The knowledge of them is with my Lord, in a Book; my Lord neither goes astray, nor forgets." (20:52)


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The five books I am reading: June 3 edition

I tend to read multiple books at once and I have reached a point in my life where I am okay with that.

* T.B. Irving's translation of THE HOLY QUR'AN (my favorite English edition)

* J.D. Salinger's FRANNY AND ZOOEY (it's turned out to be a book for long seated trips, so it's taken me a while to make progress, because I have ended up waiting for such trips to return to it)

* Steve Zaffor and Dave Logan's THE THREE LAWS OF PERFORMANCE: REWRITING THE FUTURE OF YOUR ORGANIZATION AND YOUR LIFE (just a superb, business-friendly recapitulation of the Landmark Forum principles)

* CONTEMPORARY FICTION: 70 SHORT STORIES SINCE 1970 (an impeccable collection featuring top-notch work from Margaret Atwood, James Carver, Richard Ford, Annie Proulx, Alice Walker, and on and on.... last night I devoured Atwood's DEATH BY LANDSCAPE)



* Leo Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE (another eat-it-when-I-am-in-the-mood entree that never goes bad in the refrigerator)




Tuesday, June 2, 2015

JIHADI: A LOVE STORY -- Phase Two, in which Yusuf commemorates the Normandy Invasion

JIHADI: A LOVE STORY is a novel about an American Muslim accused of terrorism.

You can read an excerpt here.

A tight little 140-word summary of the 119,000-word novel is here.

To get updates about the novel, follow me on Twitter or follow this Pinterest board or join this Google+ group.

Phase Two commences June 6, 2015, the seventy-first anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, and of Anne Frank's writing the words "where there's hope, there's life," and of the birth of my late aunt Tina Mitchell, and of who knows what other important events.

Via a powerful, daily, global conversation about coexistence and literature and culture, I am creating the possibility of harmonious acceptance in the Middle East, USA, and Europe by December 31 2016.

In keeping with that goal, this blog posts daily from June 6, 2015 onward, Godwilling.

P.S.: Some of the followers of this space already know who all the people in the puzzle below are. Some don't. Whether you know who they are or not, the individuals in the collage below all show up, directly or indirectly, in the text of the novel. If you think you know who they are, e-mail me for a No-Prize.


Monday, June 1, 2015

The Three Laws of Performance (Zaffron and Logan)

1. How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them. Your perspective is itself part of the way in which the world occurs to you, and how a situation occurs includes your view of the past (why things are going the way they are going) and the future (where this is all going.)

2. How a situation occurs arises in language. Language is the means through which your future is already written, and it is the means though which it can be rewritten.

3. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people. When Martin Luther King Jr. said "I have a dream," he created that dream in others.

I didn't write the above. I just boiled it down. Zaffron and Logan's book The Three Laws of Performance transforms the world if you want it to.




Yusuf's Room at Arles


Self-portrait in which the artist does not appear.

My brother Joreth (Theo?) made it possible for me to hit my word counts in this room, bless him.