Tag Archives: Jon Stewart


18 Aug

The only news here is why the Times waited to report this previously well reported information

Jon Stewart, Steve Colbert, John Oliver, Keys & Peele, Barry Crimmins are great but these guys paved the way

Brady Vs Goodell: Being paid 46 million dollars a year to front a 10 billion dollar a year enterprise doesn’t necessarily make you the worst person in the world. Right?

There was a time when Maureen Dowd was worth reading and I get that The Short Fingered Vulgarian is hot stuff currently and that you get clicks by mentioning him but any regard I had for MS. Dowd has vanished. She now completes the troika of to be avoided Times columnists.

Amazon is a white collar sweat shop and the New York Times did some good work presenting that—which is plain to see if you have the old fashioned attention span to go through its 5100 word reportt

Jeff Bezos, the fifth richest person in the world, of course, demurs.Perhaps you are not famiiar with business magbate BEZOS:

That Amazon’s so called fulfillment centers were literally sweat shops is old news

Two things (at least) to note are that the Times Amazon expose garnered 5100 (and counting)comments and it stimulated bloviating pundits to moral ideation

Meta item of the day

DISPOSABLE  FUTURES by Brad Evans and Henry Giroux

DISPOSABLE FUTURES by Brad Evans and Henry Giroux

From Disposable Futuresby Brad Evans & Henry Giroux

It was against twentieth-century forms of human dispos- ability that we began to appreciate the political potency of the arts as a mode of resistance, as dystopian literatures, cinema, music, and poetry, along with the visual and performing arts, challenged conventional ways of interpreting catastrophe. We only need to be reminded here of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour, Bertolt Brecht’s The Interrogation of the Good, Max Ernst’s Europe After the Rain, and Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 to reveal the political value of more poetic interventions and creative responses to conditions we elect to term “the intolerable.” Indeed, if the reduction of life to some scientific variable, capable of being manipulated and prod- ded into action as if it were some expendable lab rat, became the hallmark of violence in the name of progress, it was precisely the strategic confluence between the arts and politics that enabled us to challenge the dominant paradigms of twentieth-century thought. Hence, in theory at least, the idea that we needed to connect with the world in a more cultured and meaningful way appeared to be on the side of the practice of freedom and breathed new life into politics.

And yet, despite the horrors of the Century of Violence, our ways of thinking about politics not only have remained tied to the types of scientific reductions that history warns to be integral to the dehumanization of the subject, but such thinking has also made it difficult to define the very conditions that make a new politics possible. At the same time accelerating evolution of digital communications radicalizes the very contours of the hu- man condition such that we are now truly “image conscious,” so too is life increasingly defined and altered by the visual gaze and a screen culture whose omniscient presence offers new spaces for thinking dangerously. This hasn’t led, however, to the har- nessing of the power of imagination when dealing with the most pressing political issues. With neoliberal power having entered into the global space of flows while our politics remains wedded to out dated ways of thinking and acting, even the leaders of the strongest nations now preach the inevitability of catastrophe, forcing us to partake in a world they declare to be “insecure by design.”

Why I Am Reading Less (and Enjoying It More?)

15 Aug
Donald Trump pinata

Donald Trump pinata

Two things I cared very little about: short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump’s reptilian illocutlons and Jon Stewart’s final show. Trump is a carney barker and though I respect and admire Stewart it’s his body of work that matters to me not the Comedy Central love fest scheduled at the same time as the GOP debate. I watched neither.

What I did [with great expectations] watch was David Simon’s newest HBO project Show Me A Hero which premieres on August 16*.Per usual for a Simon production there is a well cast ensemble with amazing and nuanced performances by Oscar Isaac,the perennially excellent Cathleen Keener and long-lost Winona Ryder

Now David Simon and his projects (since his beatification)soak up a universe of press attention so it will be the difficult to be unaware of Show Me A Hero. And like many great works it will move some writers to articulate some smart stuff, often bringing out the best of their talents. Over at Grantland (which, under the dearly departed Bill Simmons, had been a haven/springboard for good, young writers)Andy Greenwald skillfully opines:

In interviews, Simon often comes across as a unique, occasionally aggravating mix of self-righteous and self-effacing. But Show Me a Hero is an important reminder that there are real virtues to being a lonely needle in our soft cultural haystack. While everyone else is breaking their backs trying to make viewers comfortable, Simon is unwavering in his mission to make us pay attention. You’re always going to notice the prick right before the medicine goes in.

The artfulness and empathy of Show Me a Hero would be tremendously moving in any year. But it feels particularly relevant in 2015, when the Black Lives Matter movement and the violent incidents that inspired it are dominating the headlines. Though a large number of Yonkers residents appear to use NIMBYism as cover for old-fashioned racism, Simon and Zorzi are generally respectful of all involved. Indeed, their scripts go to great pains to suggest that there is something inviolable about the desire to consider one’s house a castle, built to defend against the chaos and uncertainty of the wider world. Keener’s Mary isn’t a hateful person. But what shocks her into action is the suggestion that someone else’s culture and experience might be unwelcomely poked into her own. This struck me as the inverse of The Wire’s unforgettable opening quote about letting everyone play the game: “Got to. This [is] America, man.” Well, what could be more American than the right to take your ball and go home?

In addition to these 6 hours I devoted to Show Me a Hero, series such as True Detective,Luther‘s 14 episodes (for the second time),Bloodlines, The Affair, Spiral, Peaky Blinders, Witnesses (both the French crime series and the HBO documentary), Transparent, Bosch, Hit or Miss and manifold wonderful discoveries at Netflix (which make that resource that much more valuable) and Amazon Prime have put a significant dent into my reading habits.

Washington Square, 1969 [photo :Andre Kertez]

Washington Square, 1969 [photo :Andre Kertez]

Which is not to say that I have not been pleased by what I have read this summer:

Bull Mountain  by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Palace of Treason: A Novel  by Jason Matthews

Palace of Treason: A Novel by Jason Matthews

Palace of Treason: A Novel by Jason Matthews

The Lower Quarter: A Novel  by Elise Blackwell

The Lower Quarter: A Novel by Elise Blackwell

The Lower Quarter: A Novel by Elise Blackwell

The Mulberry Bush  by Charles McCarry

The Mulberry Bush by Charles McCarry

The Mulberry Bush by Charles McCarry

Darkness the Color of Snow: A Novel  by Thomas Cobb

Darkness the Color of Snow: A Novel by Thomas Cobb

Darkness the Color of Snow: A Novel by Thomas Cobb

A Free State: A Novel by Tom Piazza

A Free State: A Novel by Tom Piazza

A Free State: A Novel by Tom Piazza

I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller by Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller by Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller by Terry Hayes

 Sweet Caress  by William Boyd

Sweet Caress by William Boyd

Sweet Caress by William Boyd

*More on Show Me A Hero

So It Went: Now and Then

31 Aug


In watching an old video of Jon Stewart’s, dare I say, famous appearance on the now dumped-into-the-dustbin-of-history, CNN show,Crossfire, I was reminded of the vital strain of satire and good-natured social commentary that Kurt Vonnegut wielded like Tinkerbell’s magic wand — from the roiling drug and sex crazed period of the United States self-inflicted ruination also known as the Viet Nam war, until his passing in 2007.

That the times when I discovered and began to read Kurt Vonnegut were transformative seems to be the conventional wisdom. Unpopular wars, minority political action, generational searching for the zeitgeist, pharmaceutical experimentation, various liberations and radical critiques insured that it was noisy time. His non- doctrinaire critique of modern American life was what made him strong beacon of sanity in the dark night of modern times. At the center Vonnegut’s well-honed and piquant humor was a fundamental decency that echoed the Dalai Lama:

Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”


“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

Apparently not very one admired Kurt Vonnegut, though it is hard to take this the following piece of pretzel logic seriously (why do an obituary of a failure?):

The issue of whether Vonnegut was a literary master is already settled for me. If you like You can review his cultural valence,in two new Library of America compilations — Kurt Vonnegut, Novels & Stories 1950–1962 which includes Player Piano,The Sirens of Titan, Mother Night and selected stories. Volume Two, Kurt Vonnegut Novels & Stories 1963–1973 includes Cat’s Cradle,God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions and more Stories.

 Kurt Vonnegut, Novels  &  Stories 1950–1962

Kurt Vonnegut, Novels & Stories 1950–1962

If This Isn't Nice, What Is?  by Kurt Vonnegut and Dan Wakefield

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?
by Kurt Vonnegut and Dan Wakefield

In addition to his fiction Kurt Vonnegut was a prolific and expansive orator, to which Isn’t This Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young edited and introduced by Dan Wakefield attests. Before the recent wave of memorable commencement orations (David Foster Wallace, George Saunders,David McCullough Jr), Vonnegut was charming graduating classes around the US This anthology includes nine speeches, seven commencement orations, one to the ICLU (Indiana Civil Liberties Union), one upon receiving the Carl Sandburg Award.

Kurt Vonnegut Drawings edited  by Nanette Vonnegut.

Kurt Vonnegut Drawings edited by Nanette Vonnegut.

Even casual readers of Vonnegut were aware of his penchant for doodling (many of his later novels were festooned with his drawings). A quick scan of his official website makes clear he went beyond doodling. When the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library opened in Indianapolis the inaugural exhibition included drawings and silkscreens etc. Now comes Kurt Vonnegut Drawings edited by his daughter Nanette Vonnegut. You can view them here

And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life  by Charles J. Shields

And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields

Charles J. Shields’s authorized biography And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life paints “the portrait of a man who made friends easily but always felt lonely, sold millions of books but never felt appreciated, and described himself as a humanist but fought with humanity at large. As a former public relations man, Vonnegut crafted his image carefully—the avuncular, curly-haired humorist—though he admitted, “I myself am a work of fiction.”

Kurt Vonnegut: Letters edited by  Dan Wakefield

Kurt Vonnegut: Letters edited by Dan Wakefield

Fellow writer and friend Dan Wakefield edited Kurt Vonnegut: Letters collecting Vonnegut’s personal correspondence, written over a sixty-year period. Many of these epistles are as amusing and engaging as Vonnegut’s fiction. To whit,

On November 7th, 1973, the head of the local school board, Charles McCarthy in Drake, North Dakota —demanded that all 32 copies of Slaughterhouse-Five be burned in the school’s furnace as a result of its “obscene language.” Deliverance by James Dickey and a short story anthology with works by William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, among others were also incinerated. Vonnegut wrote to Mr, McCarthy (not to be confused with mid century TV entertainer Edgar Bergen’s puppet Charley McCarthy:

..If you were to bother to read my books, to behave as educated persons would, you would learn that they are not sexy, and do not argue in favor of wildness of any kind. They beg that people be kinder and more responsible than they often are. It is true that some of the characters speak coarsely. That is because people speak coarsely in real life. Especially soldiers and hardworking men speak coarsely, and even our most sheltered children know that. And we all know, too, that those words really don’t damage children much. They didn’t damage us when we were young. It was evil deeds and lying that hurt us….

…If you and your board are now determined to show that you in fact have wisdom and maturity when you exercise your powers over the eduction of your young, then you should acknowledge that it was a rotten lesson you taught young people in a free society when you denounced and then burned books–books you hadn’t even read. You should also resolve to expose your children to all sorts of opinions and information, in order that they will be better equipped to make decisions and to survive.

Again: you have insulted me, and I am a good citizen, and I am very real.


A Man Without a Country: A Memoir Of Life In George W Bush’s America is a collection of short essays, Kurt Vonnegut published in 2005 maintaining (correctly) it would be his final work. As a number of commentators opined, it was as close as Vonnegut ever came to a memoir. Uhr Chicagoan Studs Terkel effused,

Thank God, Kurt Vonnegut has broken his promise that he will never write another book. In this wondrous assemblage of mini-memoirs, we discover his family’s legacy and his obstinate, unfashionable humanism.


Three interviews interviewer and Vonnegut devotee Walter James Miller conducted in 1971, 1983, and 2006 are preserved on this unabridged CD, Essential Vonnegut Interviews

Kurt Vonnegut The Last Interview edited by Tom McCartan

Kurt Vonnegut The Last Interview edited by Tom McCartan

Kurt Vonnegut The Last Interview is an anthology of conversations with Vonnegut spanning his long career is edited by Tom McCartan. Here’s a sampling:

Is there another book in you, by chance?

No. Look, I’m 84 years old. Writers of fiction have usually done their best work by the time they’re 45. Chess masters are through when they’re 35, and so are baseball players. There are plenty of other people writing. Let them do it.

So what’s the old man’s game, then?

My country is in ruins. So I’m a fish in a poisoned fishbowl. I’m mostly just heartsick about this. There should have been hope. This should have been a great country. But we are despised all over the world now. I was hoping to build a country and add to its literature. That’s why I served in World War II, and that’s why I wrote books.

When someone reads one of your books, what would you like them to take from the experience?

Well, I’d like the guy—or the girl, of course—to put the book down and think, “This is the greatest man who ever lived.”


Currently reading A Broken Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen’s Secret Chord by Leil Leibovitz (WW Norton)

Vernacular  Ideogram by Kurt  Vonnegut

Vernacular Ideogram by Kurt Vonnegut