Bob Schwartz

Knowing Back Not Going Back

Sources: An anthology of contemporary materials useful for preserving personal sanity while braving the great technological wilderness

Now there’s more to do than watch my sailboat glide
But every day can be a magic carpet ride
A little bit of courage is all we lack
So catch me if you can, I’m goin’ back
Goin’ Back, Gerry Goffin & Carole King

You can’t drive a car forward looking in the rear view mirror. That’s how you crash.

But if you are someone who swam in the idiot wise sea of a different time, not really so long ago, you look at some of the riches that you caught floating by, open this or that broken-binding book and say: we might use this now. They might use this now, if it wasn’t considered so old and out of touch with now. Not to mention out of print and out of mind.

What goes round comes round, or might just go away. Too bad, because great tools don’t go out of style. People just forget they’re there.

Spirit Accident

Spirit Accident

The chance of an asteroid
Hurtling toward earth and
Hitting it doesn’t hit
Even the misses are few.
Odds are better
A fragment hits
Leaving lasting spirit
But loose memory
Almost lapsed memory
Lingering.

Look at the assembly
Recognize the parts
And their provenance.
Once in the while
An early element
Arrives and sits down.
Good to see you.
And you.
It’s like it never left.

© Bob Schwartz 2017

Sometimes I Think I Must Go Mad: ‘Much-loved’ giant rabbit found dead after United flight to O’Hare

Oh, sometimes I think I must go mad. Where will it all end?
Groucho Marx as Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff in Horse Feathers (1932)

Here is the story in today’s Washington Post.

Here is the summary: A woman in the UK raises giant rabbits. Darius is 4 feet, 4 inches long, a Guinness World Record (see photo above). His 10-month-old son Simon is already 3 feet 5 inches long. Simon was sold to a buyer in Chicago and shipped via United Airlines. Simon died sometime during the trip.

Not a day goes by that doesn’t hint at some degree of craziness, or scream about it. Maybe it is always like this or maybe we are now more sensitized to it from frequent exposure.

Where will it all end?

Minister of Finance: Here is the Treasury Department’s report, sir. I hope you’ll find it clear.
Rufus T. Firefly, President of Freedonia (Groucho Marx): Clear? Huh. Why a four-year-old child could understand this report. Run out and find me a four-year-old child, I can’t make head or tail of it.
Duck Soup (1933)

“Trump jokes about replacing Haley, takes it back”

Washington Post today:

There was a bit of awkwardness at President Donald Trump’s lunch with U.N. diplomats when he made an undiplomatic comment about Nikki Haley, his ambassador to the U.N.

Trump was kicking off Monday’s lunch with ambassadors of countries on the U.N. Security Council when he asked the room if they liked Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Trump said that if they didn’t, “she could easily be replaced.”

The comment sparked some awkwardness, but seemed to be taken in jest. Haley and others gathered around the lengthy table laughed.

Above is a photo of Nikki Haley and Donald Trump at the lunch.

U.S. Days of Remembrance, Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Babi Yar

These are the official Holocaust Days of Remembrance in the U.S., coinciding with Yom Hashoah, the Day of Remembrance. The U.S. Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s week-long annual commemoration of the Holocaust.

In looking for a poem to include, I discovered that the great poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko died this month at the age of 84. This news did not receive the sort of coverage it deserved. If ever a poet lived the life of poetry as insurgent art, he did.

Yevtushenko also wrote one of the definitive poems about the Holocaust. From the Guardian:

Yevtushenko gained notoriety in the former Soviet Union while in his 20s, with poetry denouncing Joseph Stalin. He gained international acclaim as a young revolutionary with Babi Yar, an unflinching 1961 poem that told of the slaughter of nearly 34,000 Jews by the Nazis and denounced the antisemitism that had spread throughout the Soviet Union.

Until Babi Yar was published, the history of the massacre was shrouded in the fog of the cold war….

Yevtushenko said he wrote the poem after visiting the site of the mass killings in Kiev, Ukraine, and searching for something memorializing what happened there – a sign, a tombstone, some kind of historical marker – but finding nothing.

“I was so shocked,” he said. “I was absolutely shocked when I saw it, that people didn’t keep a memory about it.”

It took him two hours to write the poem that begins: “No monument stands over Babi Yar. A drop sheer as a crude gravestone. I am afraid.”

Babi Yar
Yevgeny Yevtushenko

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone.
I am afraid.
Today I am as old in years
as all the Jewish people.
Now I seem to be
a Jew.
Here I plod through ancient Egypt.
Here I perish crucified on the cross,
and to this day I bear the scars of nails.
I seem to be
Dreyfus.
The Philistine
is both informer and judge.
I am behind bars.
Beset on every side.
Hounded,
spat on,
slandered.

Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols into my face.
I seem to be then
a young boy in Byelostok.
Blood runs, spilling over the floors.
The barroom rabble-rousers
give off a stench of vodka and onion.
A boot kicks me aside, helpless.
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.
While they jeer and shout,
‘Beat the Yids. Save Russia!’
Some grain-marketer beats up my mother.
O my Russian people!
I know
you
are international to the core.
But those with unclean hands
have often made a jingle of your purest name.
I know the goodness of my land.
How vile these antisemites—
without a qualm
they pompously called themselves
the Union of the Russian People!

I seem to be
Anne Frank
transparent
as a branch in April.
And I love.
And have no need of phrases.
My need
is that we gaze into each other.
How little we can see
or smell!
We are denied the leaves,
we are denied the sky.
Yet we can do so much—
tenderly
embrace each other in a darkened room.
They’re coming here?
Be not afraid. Those are the booming
sounds of spring:
spring is coming here.
Come then to me.
Quick, give me your lips.
Are they smashing down the door?
No, it’s the ice breaking . . .
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar.
The trees look ominous,
like judges.
Here all things scream silently,
and, baring my head,
slowly I feel myself
turning grey.
And I myself
am one massive, soundless scream
above the thousand thousand buried here.
I am
each old man
here shot dead.
I am
every child
here shot dead.
Nothing in me
shall ever forget!
The ‘Internationale,’ let it
thunder
when the last antisemite on earth
is buried for ever.
In my blood there is no Jewish blood.
In their callous rage, all antisemites
must hate me now as a Jew.
For that reason
I am a true Russian!

More poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Ex Nihilo

Ex Nihilo

When once was nothing
Was something?
Where once was nothing
Was nowhere?
Know everything
Believe in what you know
And nothing else?
Believe everything
And know nothing?
Aleph to tav
Alpha to omega
Awwal to akkir.
Is this the emet
The truth?

© Bob Schwartz 2017

World Book Day

Today, April 23, is designated World Book and Copyright Day by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)—a day to promote reading, publishing and copyright. (In the UK, World Book Day is recognized on the first Thursday in March, but strangely World Book Night is tonight.)

UNESCO says:

World Book and Copyright Day is an opportunity to highlight the power of books to promote our vision of knowledge societies that are inclusive, pluralistic, equitable, open and participatory for all citizens.

The UN says:

It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. With this in mind, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day.

So today, read a book, write a book, publish and copyright a book. If you’ve already done any or all of those, start doing it again. Appreciate those who have done any of those things. And give a book to someone or read a book to someone, particularly to children.

Note: I know Cervantes, Shakespeare and Nabokov, but I admit that Garcilaso de la Vega, Maurice Druon, Haldor K. Laxness, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo are new to me. Among the things I learned is that Laxness received the 1955 Nobel Prize for Literature, and that George R.R. Martin (author of Game of Thrones) said “I think Druon is France’s best historical novelist since Alexandre Dumas, père.”

All of which serves as one more reminder of what great authors and books remain to be read, and as a reminder that World Book Day is a good time to get started.

Morning Practice

Morning Practice

Laugh in the morning
Dance in the morning
Harder than it seems

IAVA: “WTF!?!? A tax on our GI Bill!!”

I’ve posted frequently about the sorry state of veterans affairs in America. Hypocritical “Thank you for your service”—particularly from flag-lapel-pin-wearing ultra-patriotic politicians—followed by every effort to not serve those who deserve it.

Following is the text of an email just received from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) about the latest travesty. As the email says: “Yesterday, Congress took stupid to a whole new level.”


You’re not gonna believe this!

Yesterday, Congress took stupid to a whole new level by announcing a ridiculous plan to tax enlistees $2,400 to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill. Yes, some in Congress want to tax troops to use the GI Bill. It’s insanity!

It’s bad for veterans. Bad for our military. Bad for recruiting. Bad for our economy. And especially bad for families making a base pay of only about $19,000 a year.

And IAVA won’t stand for it. No way.

If you’ve volunteered to serve this country, you are entitled to your education benefits. It’s a cost of war. PERIOD.

IAVA created and passed the original post-9/11 GI Bill back in 2008. And we’ve been holding the line to defend it ever since. We fought to upgrade it in 2010. We’ve also helped hundreds of thousands of vets use it. And thanks to your support last year, we successfully fought $4B in proposed cuts.

But our earned wartime benefits are under attack again by politicians looking to nickel and dime our brothers and sisters–as bullets continue to fly at them in combat around the world.

IAVA will ferociously #DefendTheGIBill. Now and forever. We will fight to ensure all enlistees get the same benefits (or better) than we got. And we need you to have our back.

Sign our petition to send a clear message to Congress now: if you need money to pay for stuff, find it elsewhere! Not from the wallets of young enlistees.

Together, we will hold the line. And we will win.

Onward,

Paul Rieckhoff
Iraq veteran
Founder and CEO
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA

PS. We need fuel for this urgent fight. Donate now to #DefendTheGIBill.

The Trump Plan for North Korea: Gorgo’s Revenge

Mr. Unpredictable and Secretive says he has a plan for dealing with North Korea, China and other international situations, but he can’t say what the plan is (he can’t say or he can’t say?).

In the deep archives of comic book history, I found a clue.

The comic from 1962 is called Gorgo’s Revenge. Gorgo was the monster from a 1961 British movie, in which Gorgo attacks London. The comic book series Gorgo’s Revenge (later called The Return of Gorgo) continues the story, this time in China.

It seems that Gorgo’s return is considered to be a sign to the people of China, oppressed slaves of the Communist regime, that it is time to seek their freedom—by fleeing to Taiwan. (By 1962, the idea of the Nationalists overthrowing Mao on the mainland was no longer considered a reasonable goal.)

Gorgo arrives, emboldens and inspires the Chinese Nationalists, and sets back the nuclear ambitions of the Chinese Communists by years. Good work Gorgo!

It is impossible to know whether the president ever read Gorgo’s Revenge as a kid, or what he read or reads. But it does seem that it might contain just the sort of plan he has in mind. Sort of.