>Blog Fallout

>I hesitate to post, if only because I like the picture of Grace & Bob so much and don’t want to move it down the page. But time marches on.

My post awhile back about the Christian Taliban prompted an exchange that is ongoing, from an offended reader. It isn’t my intention to make this forum a permanent soapbox, though, so I won’t try to defend my earlier words–which I thought pretty much said everything I needed to say on the subject. But it turns out, and this is the real reason for today’s post, that I was not the first to use the term. Here is an interesting article on America’s Christian Taliban.

>In the Air

>Bob Nichols is the husband of Grace Paley. He is a wonderfully funny man who also is a writer. During my recent workshop with Grace, Bob attended several of the sessions. On one occasion, we were critiquing a fantastic story by one of the participants, in which a character’s life course is changed by an incident that struck me as being similar to something that happened to Bruce Wayne, who channeled his trauma into becoming Batman. Bob was fascinated by my comment and pulled me aside later wanting more details, wanted to know how I knew this information, and what, by the way, was Superman’s origin?

At one of our readings, Bob read from his quirky story “The Secret Radio Station,” the lead story in In the Air.

“In our town there is a secret radio station.

“Why secret? Everyone knows about it. It’s evangelical.”

Its secret is that it is beamed only toward our town. (The station can’t be located.) But it isn’t heard anywhere else.

The secret is in its place, not in its message. Still, the message is given in an unknown language. Words, a vocabulary that we don’t share. Therefore one can say what is broadcase is secret.

At the same time everyone knows what the message of the radio station is: simply a picture of the way the town was in the past and the way it can be.

Still, the language itself, the medium in which the message is sent out, is not understood. It’s difficult to say how everyone knows the message. And there are some that deny this really is the message. It could be a commercial message of some kind, one just designed to sell products. There are intervals, definite breaks in the continuous flow of the unknown language–this could be commercials. Though of course we can’t be sure of it.”


>I travel overseas often, mostly to Asia but in 2004 also to Central America and Europe. Not since the 70’s, when I first went abroad and America was still struggling to recover its Vietnam-tarnished reputation, have I actually been embarrassed to be an American. The illegal, immoral, arrogant war in Iraq is bad enough, but the election–I’ve been overseas three time since early November–is even harder to explain. How is it possible that we have a lying President, a corrupt Vice President, a war-mongering Secretary of State and a torture-endorsing Attorney General, not to mention various other environment-destroying, impoverished-trodding and corporate-asskissing high officials? How did this happen?

>End in Sight–again

>I’ve been working on yet another revision to my novel. When it was my MFA thesis, it was described as “complex” and “ambitious,” and I failed to recognize the veiled criticism in these adjectives. I’m not ashamed to admit now that I wasn’t up to the challenge I’d set for myself, which is more or less the story of my life. But at the Sewanee Writers Conference in 2004 I got some sound advice from Richard Bausch: Divide and Conquer. My complex, ambitious novel had two separate timelines with overlapping characters, interwoven through 400 pages. No wonder the deluge of queries didn’t stir up any interest among agents. Too complex, too ambitious. (Which is not to say there weren’t other problems, but that’s a different story.)

Following Dick’s advice, the book is now two books. I have just finished unraveling the first strand, which was originally backstory for the second strand. But it didn’t quite stand on its own, I realized. What to do? At the gym this evening, on the treadmill, I realized that there are three new scenes I have to write to make this work. I know where they go, I know what’s going to happen, I know how to punch up the ending. I needed to write it down, so as not to forget it, as I did recently with a story I wrote in my sleep, but I had no pen. And as I stood at my locker, forcing myself to memorize what I’d come up, I looked down. There was a brown pen, dropped by a UPS guy. I picked it up. I’m ready to go.

[Book two, I think, will be easier, becuase it shouldn’t require much new material. I hope.]

>State of Disunion

>Except that (i) we have a President who is a fascist liar (for which reason I won’t be watching his speech this evening–what would be the point?); (ii) our environment is under attack by corporate raiders and global-warming disbelievers; (iii) the Christian Taliban/relgious right is growing in arrogance and strengh, insisting that alternatives don’t exist, and that there is only one way; (iv) human and civil rights are also under attack by the belligerant militarists, arm and arm with the evangelicals; (v) consumer protection laws are being dismantled by the corporate-controlled Republican regime; (vi) the so-called “tax reform,” which is nothing more than a scheme to shift the burden of financing government from the owners of capital to the consumers in the economy, i.e., the poor, is looking unstoppable, given the President’s unwillingness to listen to reason; (vii) despite the election in Iraq, which by no means means that democracy has taken root there, Americans continue to die there for this illegal and immoral war; and (viii) those who dissent are still spat upon as traitors who should “leave if they don’t like it,”–the country’s in pretty good shape.


>Let’s just say it’s a little early to declare the election (either Iraq’s or ours) a success.

John Coyne, founder of Peace Corps Writers, sent this today.

Seems like we’ve read this story before!

The New York Times — 09-04-1967

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote

Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose, Special to The New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3– United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting or the victory of the military candidates, Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice president.

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.

Few members of that junta are still around, most having been ousted or exiled in subsequent shifts of power.

Significance Not Diminished

The fact that the backing of the electorate has gone to the generals who have been ruling South Vietnam for the last two years does not, in the Administration’s view, diminish the significance of the constitutional step that has been taken.

The hope here is that the new government will be able to maneuver with a confidence and legitimacy long lacking in South Vietnamese politics. That hope could have been dashed either by a small turnout, indicating widespread scorn or a lack of interest in constitutional development, or by the Vietcong’s disruption of the balloting.

American officials had hoped for an 80 per cent turnout. That was the figure in the election in September for the Constituent Assembly. Seventy-eight per cent of the registered voters went to the polls in elections for local officials last spring.

Before the results of the presidential election started to come in, the American officials warned that the turnout might be less than 80 per cent because the polling place would be open for two or three hours less than in the election a year ago. The turnout of 83 per cent was a welcome surprise. The turnout in the 1964 United States Presidential election was 62 per cent.

Captured documents and interrogations indicated in the last week a serious concern among Vietcong leaders that a major effort would be required to render the election meaningless. This effort has not succeeded, judging from the reports from Saigon.

NYT. 9/4/1967: p. 2.

>I had a dream . . .

>In which I was walking down a city street–Chicago, I think–and came across the headquarters of Poets & Writers. The building was grand and colossal, a cross between a Las Vegas Casino and a temple on some shimmering Greek isle. Not sure if this was a good omen or bad one.

>Shaved Ice

>When it snowed here last week, I didn’t bother to shovel. There was warmer weather predicted, there wasn’t much to begin with, and what the heck is a 4-wheel drive vehicle good for if you can’t get out of your own driveway without breaking your back anyway? The afternoon when the temperature hit 65 degrees, the stuff disappeared like beer at a tailgater.

Ice and snow were in the forecast for this weekend. When the flurries started Saturday afternoon, I made a last dash for the Kroger–where I saw every other resident of the county–and then settled in. Snow turned to sleet turned to ice and this morning there was a nice glaze on the trees, the grass, the driveway. I skated out to the mailbox for the paper and saw it wasn’t as bad as expected, but still it was plenty slick. Since I was expecting guests for lunch (my dog had a playdate with a beagle), I resolved to put my newly asphalted driveway to the test and got out my shovel. Which will never be the same–asphalt and ice will chew up a plastic shovel pretty fast. Did you know that? There was hardly any snow to deal with, but the ice, about a quarter inch thick, was a challenge. At some point it felt like I was only shaving the driveway, and not really engaging in permanent ice removal. It would come back.

Fortunately, though, so did the sun, and my effort–I’m convinced–aided in the melting process. My guests arrived, no one slipped and fell, the dogs had a wild time in the yard, and we had a nice relaxing afternoon by the fire.

>An Untold Death

>Occasionally, often for no discernible reason, a name from my past comes to mind–someone from high school, maybe, or my college fraternity; sometimes I can even place the name in time. Yesterday, I recalled a friend from 4th grade. My recollections aren’t very precise, but I remember we were part of a magnet experiment in Indianapolis, where students from various city schools were pulled together into one class at School No. 84 on the city’s north side. It was something to be proud of. I remember a few of the kids from that class: Lorna, Irwin, Alan, Steve, Craig. But because my father changed jobs, we moved out of state at the start of fifth grade, and would lose touch with them all. All but Craig. We wrote from time to time, less as the years went on, and even traded visits–the Greyhound bus ride being quite an adventure for a child travelling alone in those days.

I Googled Craig, which is what I can do now that I couldn’t when these memories struck a few years ago. And what I discovered is that Craig died, in October, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He had become well-known in the Indy music scene, and the web had lots of information about him. His death brought Vicky to mind. I dated Vicky in grad school, but we had an unpleasant breakup and hadn’t been in touch since–a long time ago. I Googled her last year. She died a few years ago, of heart failure. Then there was Vince. I knew Vince from my law firm, so he was a more recent friend, but we hadn’t spoken in some time. I Googled him last year, and found news of his death, in an accident on the DC beltway.

This is a strange way to get the news, one that drives home our–or is it my?–disconnectedness.