Archive for past blast

ask forgiveness w/ last breath

14 July 04:  Rush Limbaugh actually said this today: “If you’re down, turn off the partisan media. Just turn off the TV, don’t read anything. Just listen to this program for three hours every day and be done with it, and go to my website. This is not a plug. I’m just thinking of you.” Hilarious. I should confess that for a few months there, back in the early nineties, my media intake *did* consist solely of Limbaugh three hours a day.  I had no TV, I was in between jobs (and in between girlfriends, obviously), and I was trying to “learn conservative.” At any rate, Limbaugh had not yet become the blowhard he is today; he still made honest attempts to persuade.

Addendum: Early on, Rush Limbaugh wrote and published actual books – ‘The Way Things Ought to Be’ was worth reading – attempting to make his conservative case. Starting in about 1994, though, with the rise of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, Limbaugh put aside persuasion – a real skill he had, that impressed me – and focused solely on enflaming his listeners.

Reminders

16 Mar. 06: This Tuesday I taught my three Kwantlen classes, starting at eight in the morning and ending after nine at night, accomplished with maybe half a brain [due to a concussion] and, truly key, the forbearance and consideration of my students. Throwing oneself at their mercy is the name of the game (if you want everybody to win).

20 Mar. 06: As I was walking down Georgia Street to a meeting with the new director of communications and education at the BC Securities Commission today, it occurred to me that her first impression would be of a guy with a big fresh Frankenstein scar on his forehead who was at an occasional loss for words. Within seconds of this thought, I saw a woman with an almost featureless face walk by: a little hole for a mouth, two nostrils but no nose, and two slitty eyes, that was all. Not that I need reminders as to how fortunate I am, but reminders are always there.

Happy to help

Leonard Bernstein died thirty years ago today. I always think of Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg on this anniversary. I wrote this ten years ago:

Twice in the last week I have helped to prevent a calamity from befalling a colleague. One colleague was irritated and the other was infuriated to receive my editorial help, though they each requested it. Both will come out “smelling like a rose” (to use an expression my Dad has always loved and that I now love, too).

In my last couple of years in book publishing back in the early 1990s, I spent more than half of my time, it seemed, addressing legal matters: Making sure that my authors weren’t going to get the company I worked for, Prometheus Books Inc., sued for defamation, libel, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, and the like. Although I did not become an editor so that I could act as an ersatz lawyer, I did enjoy the role, especially because I got to talk to a REAL lawyer, and a great one, Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, a lot.

Stefan provided his services for free, because he liked the books we published. He was a wonderful and brilliant and eclectic man, who reached the highest levels of accomplishment as a musical conductor and mathematician and teacher before starting his career in Law. I didn’t know he’d been a conductor until I called him one afternoon regarding a lawsuit. Leonard Bernstein had died the day before, and for some reason I brought that up with Stefan. “I was his assistant conductor for a year,” he said. “This sounds more impressive than it was. My main job was to have a cigarette lit and ready for Lenny when he came offstage.”

Back to my point: Because of Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, many of my authors *didn’t* besmirch their reputations and *didn’t* get their butts sued. To a person, they were unhappy receiving the help they received, because they believed they didn’t need it. They all asked: What could go wrong?

A calamity is smaller than a comma when it’s born.

Remembering Stefan – and remembering my mentor Paul Kurtz, the difficult boss who introduced me to him – fills me with gratitude. Some very gifted people have shared their time with me.

How hard would it have been to say some kinder words instead

The Greeks and Us

Lately I’ve been beginning my mornings reading the Greek Tragedies. It has been a joy! Perhaps the biggest theme in the Aeschylus and Sophocles I’ve read so far: the pressure of justice upon children. I’ve been reminded of something I wrote on that topic awhile ago about more modern times:

Compared to how often parents denounce and disown their children, it is remarkably rare to see them do so in print. Why? Perhaps because, to anyone outside the writer’s particular family orbit, slagging one’s offspring utterly undermines one’s standing as a parent, and hence one’s authorial credibility, too. (The father of cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, Lionel Dahmer, saves his harsh judgments for himself.)

I can think of only one example in the genre: Famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s rejection of her first son, William Murray, after he became a born-again Christian. (This son was the “Murray” in the Supreme Court Case Murray v. Curlett in which the court banned prayer in United States schools.) O’Hair wrote: “One could call this a postnatal abortion on the part of a mother, I guess; I repudiate him entirely and completely for now and all times. He is beyond human forgiveness.”

Books by adult children attacking their parents, on the other hand, are everywhere.  Parents, even if they are not dead, can’t fight back without bringing upon themselves righteous fury and dishonour. This genre, then, allows justice for those children among us who could never defend themselves before, but for the rest it provides a template for cowardice and disgrace that is tempting for a time. [4 June ’04]