Wednesday, May 28, 2003

"Harken unto me, read thou my lips, for verily I say that wheresoever the CIA putteth in its meathooks upon the world, there also are to be found those substances which God may have created but the U.S. Code hath decided to control. Get me? Now old Bush used to be head of CIA, so you figure it out."

From the preface of a recent book, Drugs, Oil, and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina:

"This book [...] explores the underlying factors that have engendered a U.S. strategy of indirect intervention in Third World countries through alliances with drug-trafficking proxies. This strategy was originally developed in the late 1940s to contain communist China; it has since been used to secure control over foreign petroleum resources. The result has been a staggering increase in the global drug traffic and the mafias assorted with it, a problem that will worsen until there is a change in policy.

[...] Today drug networks are important factors in the politics of every continent. The United States returns repeatedly to the posture of fighting wars in areas of petroleum reserves with the aid of drug-trafficking allies (or what I call drug proxies) with which it has a penchant to become involved. Surprisingly, this is true even in Colombia, where we are nominally fighting a war on drugs; yet the chief drug-trafficking faction, the paramilitaries, are allies of our allies, the Colombian army. Worse, they are the descendants of yet another clever CIA notion -- to train terrorists to fight the left -- which has once again come back to haunt us.

[...] These problems facing America are by no means entirely of its own making. But one recurring cause, commonly recognized, is U.S. dependence on foreign oil and its need to control international oil markets. Past U.S. support for drug proxies is another more covert and less recognized contributing factor, one that must be acknowledged if the root causes for these crises are to be addressed.

Conversely, the great resistance that still exists to acknowledging past U.S. involvement in and responsibility for covert intrigues contributes to our present inability to bring true peace and security to the rest of the world. The agencies responsible for past errors are too concerned to preserve not only their reputations but their alliances and, above all, the corrupt social systems in which such alliances have thrived. Consequently an international drug traffic, which the United States helped enlarge, continues to thrive.

I shall argue in this book that covert operations, when they generate or reinforce autonomous political power, almost always outlast the specific purpose for which they were designed. Instead they enlarge and become part of the hostile forces the United States has to contend with. To put it in terms I find more precise, parapolitics, the exercise of power by covert means, tends to metastasize into deep politics, an interplay of unacknowledged forces over which the original parapolitical agent no longer has control. This is the heart of the analysis.

[...] In short the etiology or origin of global terrorism is rooted partly in the historical context of previous U.S. policy decisions with respect to both drugs and oil. I say this not to cast blame but to suggest the proper direction to search for solutions. Decision makers of a half century ago cannot be faulted for lacking the foreknowledge that comes more easily in retrospect. It is, however, not too late to address the legacy they have left us -- a suspect affluence grounded in part on the impoverishment of the rest of the world. As long as that legacy is not corrected, we can be sure that the problem of terrorism will remain with us. [...] "

Monday, May 26, 2003

Ted Rall's comic today, Gitmo House, puts a black comedy spin on the US treatment of teenaged detainees who have been abused at Guantanamo Bay.

"It is the boy's smile, in any case, that we return
to, direct and radiant, proceeding out of an
unhesitating faith that the world, at the end of the
day, is good, and that human decency, like parental
love, can always be taken for granted--a faith so
honorable that we can almost imagine Orwell, and
perhaps even ourselves, for a moment anyway, swearing
to do whatever must be done to keep it from ever being
--Thomas Pynchon, Foreword to 1984, pp. xxv-xxvi. (The Guardian has published an edited version online).

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Happy birthday, Thomas Pynchon!

"Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr was born to Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Sr. and Katherine Frances Bennett Pynchon on May 8, 1937 in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York."
--The Straight Dope

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Jim Knipfel has reviewed Pynchon's foreword to 1984. Here are some excerpts:

[...] Another way to catch people’s attention, the editors figured, is to commission a new foreword by someone who might have some special, unique insight into what Orwell envisioned. For the centennial edition of Animal Farm, for instance (which received a similar repackaging), they hired Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and The Magician’s Assistant. But who would be right for 1984?

Someone, maybe, who might feel a special bond with Winston Smith. Or O’Brien or Goldstein or Big Brother himself. Even Tillotson (you never hear enough about him). If it turns out to be an author who writes like no one ever has before—or ever will—then you’ve got a double bonus. People will pick up the dusty old novel not for the dusty old novel, but for the secret prize hidden inside, like the toy balloon gondolas and plastic cavemen that used to lie buried at the bottom of boxes of Fruity Pebbles. I never liked Fruity Pebbles much, but those gondolas were the best.

Plume couldn’t have done better than to snag Thomas Pynchon. While we all, in some way, have a stake in the implications of Orwell’s novel, I have to believe that Mr. Pynchon’s stake is a bit bigger.

Much as Orwell "foresaw" a world of electronic surveillance, falsified history and sham wars, Pynchon’s own writings (intentionally or not) have had a prescient quality of their own, envisioning everything from the internet to the convergence of computer technology, artificial intelligence and genetic research, which he presaged in his 1984 essay, "Is It O.K. to be a Luddite?". Pynchon is also, it goes without saying, well-versed in the mechanics of paranoia and conspiracy.

Here, in his first extended bit of published writing since his introduction to Jim Dodge’s 1997 novel Stone Junction (an essay which also had quite a bit to say on matters Orwellian), Pynchon employs a language that’s simple and straightforward, yet plays with ideas that are (unsurprisingly) subtle. In the end, he’s produced the most insightful—and playful—analysis of the novel I’ve ever read. Pynchon weaves elements of Orwell’s biography together with various political and historical events of his day (and our own) to explain not only what’s going on in 1984, but why, and where it came from.

At the same time, he deals with the above-mentioned "snitch" controversy (without saying as much), dismisses other controversies (like recent claims that Orwell was an anti-Semite) and demolishes several overly simplistic readings of the novel.

[...] He does pause briefly at a couple of points to draw parallels between 1984 and 2003—the use of doublethink by modern-day politicians and media outlets, for instance. He even brings up parallels which aren’t usually brought up: the similarity between Oceania’s Ministries and our own Department of Defense (which wages war) and Department of Justice (which regularly stomps on human and constitutional rights). Early in the essay, he even hints (again without saying as much) at the events of September 2001 and the effect such events usually have on the political outlook of a nation. An attack on one’s own homeland can suddenly transform peace activists into dangerous subversives in the minds of most citizens. It was something Orwell witnessed during the Blitz, and something we’ve witnessed over the past year and a half.

As with most everything he writes, Mr. Pynchon’s essay flows easily through a remarkable range of topics—technology, historical precedent, Orwell’s situation and our own, the cuts the Book of the Month Club wanted to make before releasing the novel, various characters and the roles they play—and how fictional characters can develop the nasty habit of doing things the novelist himself never expected. He even hints in the closing paragraphs that 1984 ends on a note perhaps a bit brighter than most of us realize.

As always, it’s a delightful little ride and, all told, it’s less an introduction to the novel than it is a commentary written for readers already well familiar with it. [...] "

I like Knipfel's take on the foreword. Unlike a couple of trolls on PYNCHON-L, he seems to recognize that Pynchon's assignment wasn't to write a textbook or monograph about Orwell, and that Pynchon takes the opportunity to provide tantalizing glimpses into his own writing. Dave Monroe is right to say -- in his recent comments on PYNCHON-L -- that the foreword is at least as much about Pynchon and his writing as it is about 1984.

I suspect that the foreword points to Pynchon's current novel-in-progress, the way his 1993 essay Nearer My Couch to Thee provided a glimpse at what was to come in Mason & Dixon, published in 1997, with its talk of Franklin, time, dreams, and the fading of "the long-ago age of faith and miracle, when daily life really was the Holy Ghost visibly at work and time was a story, with a beginning, middle and end."

A Pynchon scholar friend suggests that the appearance of this Foreword may also be read as an alert that a new Pynchon novel could be on its way, the author doing what he can to raise his profile a bit -- without plunging into the celebrity author circuit -- in order to help with the marketing of his book. I hope he's right.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Pynchon has written a foreword to a new edition of Orwell's 1984. Some reviewers have praised it highly (just about the only place it's being trashed -- by a couple of the usual suspects -- is PYNCHON-L). The Guardian has published a slightly shortened version, but it's worth buying the book to read the Foreword in full.

Pynchon has strong words for post-9/11 U.S. Here's a sampling:

"[...] Now, those of fascistic disposition - or merely those among us who remain all too ready to justify any government action, whether right or wrong - will immediately point out that this is prewar thinking, and that the moment enemy bombs begin to fall on one's homeland, altering the landscape and producing casualties among friends and neighbours, all this sort of thing, really, becomes irrelevant, if not indeed subversive. With the homeland in danger, strong leadership and effective measures become of the essence, and if you want to call that fascism, very well, call it whatever you please, no one is likely to be listening, unless it's for the air raids to be over and the all clear to sound. But the unseemliness of an argument - let alone a prophecy - in the heat of some later emergency, does not necessarily make it wrong. One could certainly argue that Churchill's war cabinet had behaved on occasion no differently from a fascist regime, censoring news, controlling wages and prices, restricting travel, subordinating civil liberties to self-defined wartime necessity. [...]"

"[...] Doublethink also lies behind the names of the superministries which run things in Oceania - the Ministry of Peace wages war, the Ministry of Truth tells lies, the Ministry of Love tortures and eventually kills anybody whom it deems a threat. If this seems unreasonably perverse, recall that in the present-day United States, few have any problem with a war-making apparatus named "the department of defence," any more than we have saying "department of justice" with a straight face, despite well-documented abuses of human and constitutional rights by its most formidable arm, the FBI. Our nominally free news media are required to present "balanced" coverage, in which every "truth" is immediately neutered by an equal and opposite one. Every day public opinion is the target of rewritten history, official amnesia and outright lying, all of which is benevolently termed "spin," as if it were no more harmful than a ride on a merry-go-round. We know better than what they tell us, yet hope otherwise. We believe and doubt at the same time - it seems a condition of political thought in a modern superstate to be permanently of at least two minds on most issues. Needless to say, this is of inestimable use to those in power who wish to remain there, preferably forever. [...] "

"[...] Prophecy and prediction are not quite the same, and it would ill serve writer and reader alike to confuse them in Orwell's case. There is a game some critics like to play in which one makes lists of what Orwell did and didn't "get right". Looking around us at the present moment in the US, for example, we note the popularity of helicopters as a resource of "law enforcement," familiar to us from countless televised "crime dramas," themselves forms of social control - and for that matter at the ubiquity of television itself. The two-way telescreen bears a close enough resemblance to flat plasma screens linked to "interactive" cable systems, circa 2003. News is whatever the government says it is, surveillance of ordinary citizens has entered the mainstream of police activity, reasonable search and seizure is a joke. And so forth. "Wow, the government has turned into Big Brother, just like Orwell predicted! Something, huh?" "Orwellian, dude!"

Well, yes and no. Specific predictions are only details, after all. What is perhaps more important, indeed necessary, to a working prophet, is to be able to see deeper than most of us into the human soul. Orwell in 1948 understood that despite the Axis defeat, the will to fascism had not gone away, that far from having seen its day it had perhaps not yet even come into its own - the corruption of spirit, the irresistible human addiction to power were already long in place, all well-known aspects of the Third Reich and Stalin's USSR, even the British Labour party - like first drafts of a terrible future. What could prevent the same thing from happening to Britain and the United States? Moral superiority? Good intentions? Clean living?

What has steadily, insidiously improved since then, of course, making humanist arguments almost irrelevant, is the technology. We must not be too distracted by the clunkiness of the means of surveillance current in Winston Smith's era. In "our" 1984, after all, the integrated circuit chip was less than a decade old, and almost embarrassingly primitive next to the wonders of computer technology circa 2003, most notably the internet, a development that promises social control on a scale those quaint old 20th-century tyrants with their goofy moustaches could only dream about. [...] "

" [...] The interests of the regime in Oceania lie in the exercise of power for its own sake, in its unrelenting war on memory, desire, and language as a vehicle of thought. Memory is relatively easy to deal with, from the totalitarian point of view. There is always some agency like the Ministry of Truth to deny the memories of others, to rewrite the past. It has become a commonplace, circa 2003, for government employees to be paid more than most of the rest of us to debase history, trivialise truth and annihilate the past on a daily basis. Those who don't learn from history used to have to relive it, but only until those in power could find a way to convince everybody, including themselves, that history never happened, or happened in a way best serving their own purposes - or best of all that it doesn't matter anyway, except as some dumbed-down TV documentary cobbled together for an hour's entertainment. [...]"

"[...] There is a photograph, taken around 1946 in Islington, of Orwell with his adopted son, Richard Horatio Blair. The little boy, who would have been around two at the time, is beaming, with unguarded delight. Orwell is holding him gently with both hands, smiling too, pleased, but not smugly so - it is more complex than that, as if he has discovered something that might be worth even more than anger - his head tilted a bit, his eyes with a careful look that might remind filmgoers of a Robert Duvall character with a backstory in which he has seen more than one perhaps would have preferred to. Winston Smith "believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945 . . ." Richard Blair was born May 14, 1944. It is not difficult to guess that Orwell, in 1984 , was imagining a future for his son's generation, a world he was not so much wishing upon them as warning against. He was impatient with predictions of the inevitable, he remained confident in the ability of ordinary people to change anything, if they would. It is the boy's smile, in any case, that we return to, direct and radiant, proceeding out of an unhesitating faith that the world, at the end of the day, is good and that human decency, like parental love, can always be taken for granted - a faith so honourable that we can almost imagine Orwell, and perhaps even ourselves, for a moment anyway, swearing to do whatever must be done to keep it from ever being betrayed. [...]"

Pynchon presents a nuanced argument, however, which is worth reading in the context of the entire Foreword. It also provides some tantalizing glimpses into Pynchon's writing practice, and sheds light on the novels, stories, and essays where Pynchon shares and responds to some of Orwell's concerns. So, buy the book and read Pynchon's Foreword, then go ahead and read 1984 again, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

"There were men called 'army chaplains.' They preached inside some of these buildings. There were actually soldiers, dead now, who sat or stood, and listened. Holding on to what they could. Then they went out, and some died before they got back inside a garrison-church again. Clergymen, working for the army, stood up and talked to the men who were going to die about God, death, nothingness, redemption, salvation. It really happened. It was quite common."
Gravity's Rainbow, p. 693

Speaking of God, preparing for war
Knight Ridder

CAMP COMMANDO, Kuwait - On the brink of war, chaplain Doug Dowling is thinking about the sermon he will deliver today to American leathernecks in his sandbagged chapel a few miles from the Iraqi border.

He will urge the Marines to treat enemy bodies with respect, to look away from the grotesque mutilations of war. He will tell them the war is not about getting even for 9/11. And he will tell them that amid the horror of war they may find the beauty of valor and comradeship and, perhaps, the presence of God.

A stocky Navy lieutenant with a blond mustache and bare-walls haircut, the 42-year-old Milwaukee native looks like a Marine in his digital desert camouflage uniform, floppy "boony" hat and military web gear.

But he wears a tiny black metal cross on his shirt and speaks with the fervor of a former Navy warplane navigator who was stationed in Kuwait during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, who fought in the 1991 Gulf War and then became a pastor for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

"There is a God who is a warrior, but God is the same always," Dowling said. "The God you believe in as you may go to war is that same God you believed in yesterday and the day before, so nothing changes for me on this day."

Dowling has baptized 32 people here, including a Navy officer he met briefly in a military base parking lot and christened with water from a plastic bottle.

He will hold one more service today in his tiny chapel with a cross on top, really a bunker dug halfway into the desert sand and then sandbagged for protection.

"I will pray for our men and for theirs, too," he said. "And I will pray especially for peace."

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

"In Thomas Pynchon's novel The Crying of Lot 69 the meaning of the second law of thermodynamics and its dismal decree that all information inevitably crumbles away is made vivid by a woman named Oedipa, who wonders how many men have slept on a sailor's burning mattress, how many lives lost forever," writes Alan Lightman in the New York Times.

And, sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theater, all just to keep the people distracted . . . secretly, it was being dictated instead by the needs of technology . . . by a conspiracy between human beings and techniques, by something that needed the energy-burst of war, crying, 'Money be damned, the very life of [insert name of Nation] is at stake," but meaning, most likely, dawn is nearly here, I need my night's blood, my funding, funding, ahh more, more. . . . The real crises were crises of allocation and priority, not among firms--it was only staged to look that way--but among the different Technologies, Plastics, Electronics, Aircraft, and their needs which are understood only by the ruling elite . . . "
Gravity's Rainbow, p. 521

"The networks don’t like to talk about how much they actually spend, but one veteran of the media scene here estimated the cost for a major TV network at about $100,000 a month. Others say that is a low estimate. Almost all of this cash (except a few “tips” here and there) goes directly to the Iraqi government. Once you add up the bill for the TV networks alone, we’re talking perhaps millions of dollars in revenue a month for the government.

There is a joke here that the major media outlets are now competing with oil smuggling as the number one money-maker for the Iraqi government. It is particularly ironic that while Rupert Murdoch’s 'troops' from FOX News Network rally for the war, dismissing antiwar activists as dupes of the Iraqi regime, the “network America trusts” is paying 'Saddam' (as they refer to Iraq) hand over fist tens of thousands of dollars every month. But stroll down the halls of the press center and you’ll see that Rupert’s troops have multiple battalions. He also owns Sky News (the British version of FOX), as well as the Times of London. A bit of research would probably find that Murdoch owns other publications operating here as well.

FOX News reporters (and others as well) like to say 'for the benefit of the viewers' that their broadcasts are being monitored by the Iraqi government. Fair enough. But perhaps the Murdoch Empire should begin each of its reports or dispatches from Baghdad by disclosing how much money they paid “Saddam” today. "

-Jeremy Scahill, reporting from Iraq, 1 February 2003 multinational corporations prepare to rebuild -- reaping fabulous profits in the process -- what the US prepares to destroy....

Monday, February 03, 2003

"There's something still on, don't call it a 'war' if it makes you nervous, maybe the death rate's gone down a point or two [...] but Their enterprise goes on"
Gravity's Rainbow, p. 628

The death rate's ready to climb again, dramatically, and opportunity abounds:

Job Description

United States Navy

MORTICIAN-$6,000 Sign-On Bonus
Location: New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL;
Houston, TX; Philadelphia, PA; San Diego, CA
Position Type: Employee
Position Duration: Full-Time
Date Posted: 01/31/2003

We are looking for candidates Nationwide!!!!

Worldwide. Position will require relocating.

The Navy Mortuary Affairs Program is responsible for the recovery, preparation and final disposition of Navy and Marine Corps deceased personnel and their eligible beneficiaries. Even during peacetime, we are funeral service professionals caring for our brothers and sisters-in-arms throughout the world during a most difficult time, providing aid to their families with Honor and Dignity. You would serve as a uniformed member of the United States Navy Hospital Corps, a group deeply ingrained with traditions of Honor and Commitment not unlike the devotion of those who choose the funeral industry as their career.

Requirements are a graduate of accredited Mortuary school and licensed Funeral Directors/Embalmers willing to serve where needed in locations such as Italy, Spain, Guam and the United States. Experience in all facets of the funeral industry is a plus with emphasis placed on technical ability. An enlistment award of $6000 is available as well as advanced rate upon completion of training. Applicant must be a U.S. Citizen , less than 35 years of age, and in good health.

Worldwide. Position will require relocating

For more information, contact a Career Development
Specialist at (email), or
888-633-9674 (toll free).

Pentagon stocks up on body bags

Nearly 10,000 bags were ordered, but officials say they have not been shipped to the Persian Gulf.

By Sydney P. Freedberg
St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2003

In the last six months, the Pentagon has ordered 9,640 body bags, but they are not immediately headed for the
Persian Gulf.

'Right now, we're just replenishing supplies' in military warehouses, said Frank Johnson, a spokesman for the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia. 'It's not necessarily an indication of things to come.'

But two military suppliers said it is logical to assume that the government is anticipating battlefield casualties.

'The fact is, they are preparing for casualties,' said Gerald Kramer, president of Extra Packaging Corp., a Boca Raton-based supplier of body bags. 'This is a buildup of bags for a war that may occur.' [...] "

The Daily Howler, 3 February 2003:

"[...] In an editorial, the Washington Post describes another paradox about the reaction to Columbia. Last Friday, four U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan, victims of a Blackhawk crash. But their deaths have been completely ignored, even as the Columbia seven are discussed wall-to-wall, and even as we stage worthless discussions about whether the space program will continue. (Hint: It will.) '[A]s we read the biographies of these brave seven,' the Post says, 'replay their buoyant interviews of recent days and come to know the grief-stricken but proud surviving spouses and parents, we might spare a moment also for the four who died near Bagram, and the others most of us will never hear about.'

Those others 'we will never hear about' include the coming dead in Iraq. It has been remarkable to compare the mourning for the Columbia seven to the all-encompassing lack of interest in the deaths which will soon occur in Iraq. Is war on Iraq a good idea? On that, we don’t express a view. But it has become rather clear that these upcoming deaths play no role in our current calculus. In the press, we have seen almost no attempt to estimate or discuss the impending loss of life. Recent reports about 'Shock and Awe' or possible use of American nukes have produced almost no discussion. Do Americans care about Iraqi deaths? There is almost no sign that we do.

Inevitably, others will notice. In this morning’s Times, for example, Neil MacFarquhar reports reaction in the Middle East to the Columbia disaster. He quotes a Jordanian columnist who 'said he hoped the disaster would push Americans to reflect about what they are doing in the Middle East every day, about the destruction and death visited by American-made munition.' There is, of course, no chance that any such reaction will occur. Around the world, people will notice this lack of concern about deaths which lie outside our family. [...] "

" [...] What do you make of the Total Information Awareness project?

John Perry Barlow: I was just writing a spam to my friends last night about its 'all seeing eye' logo [The logo has since been changed - Ed.]. Looking at that logo, you've got to wonder if they aren't just engaged in some massive prank on us. It's hilarious -- straight out of a Thomas Pynchon novel. Can you beat it? It's fortunate that this is so stupefyingly funny. [...] "

Sunday, February 02, 2003

" [...] If things turn more bleak for McCaw, Ellison or Bertarelli, they can always look to the story of the Wall Street tycoon George Mallory Pynchon for inspiration. A few years after a failed effort aboard his yacht Defiance in 1914, Pynchon's brokerage house went bust and he was barred from the stock exchange. But Pynchon landed on his feet. He was soon hired by a rival broker — as a messenger. [...] "

Pursuit of the America's Cup Can Be Fulfilling, and a Curse
By Warren St. John
New York Times, February 2, 2003

....thinking of the many Pynchon characters who fail to get the message....

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

" [...] in the world of people who obsess over abandoned subway stations, the fierce debate over whether 76th Street exists has transformed it into transit Atlantis. For decades, the station has been rumored to sit just to the east of the Euclid Avenue station, part of a grand, never-realized plan to continue the A line out to 229th Street in Cambria Heights, where the subway is now only a distant rumor. The station cannot be found on any map, however, nor can it be reached by any train. On the street where it is supposed to be, along Pitkin Avenue, just over the Brooklyn border into Queens, there are no traces of evidence, like subway grates, that anything lies below. Some swear they have been inside the station — or, more accurately, they swear they have talked to others who swear they have been inside it. But apparently these explorers have never returned with pictures. And so that leaves true believers, chief among them a retired transit worker and police officer from Queens named Steve Krokowski, in a decidedly lonely minority. So lonely, in fact, that during a recent exchange on a Web site for subway buffs — — many doubted the existence of not only the subway station but also of Mr. Krokowski himself. Perhaps, they suggested, his whole account of the station's existence was part of an elaborate ruse, worthy of Thomas Pynchon or Chuck Barris. Perhaps even the name itself was a subtle hint: Krokowski . . . crock? [...] "

Next Stop, 'Twilight Zone' (a k a 76th St. Station)
New York Times, January 21, 2003 

Monday, January 06, 2003

"[...] Quoting the New Testament, Mr Bennett argues that Jesus anointed his disciples with the oil and encouraged them to do the same with other followers. This could have been responsible for healing eye and skin diseases referred to in the Gospels. "If cannabis was one of the main ingredients of the ancient anointing oil... and receiving this oil is what made Jesus the Christ and his followers Christians, then persecuting those who use cannabis could be considered anti-Christ," Mr Bennett concludes. [...] "

Jesus "healed using cannabis"
by Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
The Guardian
Monday January 6, 2003

"...but Peter was only bringing hops in to the cooling-pit, the most ordinary of tasks,-- slipped in the dust, fell in the Pit, with the dried hops nearly twenty feet deep, hot from the Kiln [...] Certain herbal essences in massive influxion, as I feel it my duty to assure her, have long been known and commented upon, as occasions of God-revealing. She nods emphatically.-- As weeks passed, she tells us, Peter Redzinger's account chang'd, from a simple tale of witness, to one of rapture by beings from somewhere else, 'long, long from Pennsylvania,' as he expressed it,-- and always at the center of the Relation, unwise to approach, an unbearable Luminosity."
Mason & Dixon, pp.357-358

Sunday, January 05, 2003

"The oil towers stand sentinel, bone-empty, in the dark. Hunchbacks, lepers, hebephrenics and amputees of all descriptions have come popping out of their secret spaces to watch the fun. They loll back against the rusting metal flanks of refinery hardware, their whole common sky in a tessellation of primary colors. They occupy the chambers and bins and pockets of administrative emptiness left after the Revolution, when the emissaries from Dutch Shell were asked to leave, and the English and Swedish engineers all went home. It is a period now in Baku of lull, of retrenchment. All the oil money taken out of these fields by the Nobels has gone into Nobel Prizes. New wells are going down elsewhere, between the Volga and the Urals. Time for retrospection here, for refinin the recent history that's being pumped up fetid nad black from other strata of Earth's mind. . . . "
Gravity's Rainbow, p. 354

...found while looking for something else (after talking yesterday with a friend who spent time with Cliburn and his formidable mother, Rildia Bee, in the 70s, after recently meeting a Julliard classmate of Cliburn's):

" [...] In the United States, this period followed the McCarthy Senate Hearings where anybody with the slightest, or even imagined, affiliation with communism was branded as subversive. To complicate matters, a few months prior to the Competition, on October 10, 1957, the Soviets had shocked the world by launching Sputnik, the first man-made satellite ever to orbit the earth. Americans had been beaten in the race to space. It was a devastating psychological blow. Sputnik symbolized the technological superiority of a totalitarian government. Even more frightening was the possibility that such rockets could carry atomic bombs. Americans feared communism would soon take over the world.

Enter 23-year-old Van Cliburn, child prodigy pianist from Kilgore, Texas. [...]

Cliburn had the chance to perform in Baku only once. It was his first trip back to the Soviet Union after the Competition. Actually, he had expected the entire concert to be canceled because of the U-2 Affair that had occurred in early May when the Soviets shot down the U.S. reconnaissance plane and captured pilot, Gary Powers, whom they imprisoned as a spy.

Relations between the two countries broke off. An Official State Visit by Eisenhower was canceled. Since Van's trip had been organized by the U.S. State Department as part of a cultural exchange, he expected the same until a special directive from Khruschev told him to proceed with the concert tour as originally planned.

He toured various cities in the Soviet Union on that trip including Moscow, Riga, Minsk, Kiev, Sochi, Leningrad, Yerevan, and Tbilisi. He managed to squeeze in two days in Baku where he gave a single concert-June 28, 1960. [...]

One of the most vivid memories was the ride into the city from the airport-passing miles and miles of oil derricks. "The Azerbaijanis asked me whether I had ever seen anything like this before? I told them my father was an oil executive with Magnolia Petroleum (which later became known as Mobil Oil Company) and besides, I had grown up in Kilgore in East Texas which, in 1930, had had the largest oil boom up to that time in the history of the U.S. The oil wells in Kilgore are packed together so closely; it's amazing! They found it hard to believe that I was so familiar with similar fields like their own. Small world, isn't it?"

"By the way," Cliburn added at the conclusion of our interview. "Are those wonderful old oil derricks still standing in Baku? And are they still stretching far out into the Caspian Sea?" [...] "

The Era of Van Cliburn Musical Phenomenon in the Midst of Cold War
by Betty Blair
Azerbaijan International (3.3) Autumn 1995.

....and on that serendipity tip, just for fun:

Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) has been observed again over Baku this week.
UFO was flying, different colors lights were brightening around it.

05/01/2003 14:04
Baku Today

According to the information given to "olaylar" news agency by expert in UFO Fuad Gasimov, chairman of Cosmic Seismological Department of Azerbaijan National Aero cosmic Agency, appearance of UFOs in the sky is symbolic and it is an alarm signal.

"Something must happen," he said. “If we analyze the processes going on in the world, we would observe that probability of war becomes high in Iraq.”

F.Gasimov stated that the appearance of UFOs is reason for probability of outbreak of Iraq war. “They try to prevent the war,” expert said.

The appearance of UFOs in Azerbaijan sky may be estimated as a warning against the republic too expert in UFO says. In case war outbreaks the objects are against of use of the Azerbaijani airport.

Some scientists claim that UFOs were also observed before and warned about natural disaster. Mr.Gasimov stated that UFOs hinder the prediction of earthquakes and researches carried out in this field.

"They don't want mankind reveal their secret. But there are some facts stating that UFOs keep in touch with the scientists. Though most approach this unserious, objects keep in touch with selected persons by the means of Morse alphabet or telepathy signals and transmit information related to the future".

According to Mr.Gasimov, Einshteyn dreamed about the idea on A-bomb. Besides it, German scientist who invented bomb wrote in his memories that he invented it in his dream. "All this ground that these claims are true,” expert insists.

information provided by Olaylar.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Sometimes, Pynchon's so-called "reclusive" qualities (a descriptor he described, in a phone interview with CNN in '97, as a sort of code-word used to describe somebody who doesn't want to talk to journalists) seem quite refreshing in contrast to other writers. And I'm not sure what Gabaldon gains by launching what Pynchon called, in Mason & Dixon, an "inexpensive salvo" -- despite her huge audience and financial success, might she be just a tad concerned about herself as a mass media creation?

Writer's a 'born storyteller' - and multitasker
byy Richard Nilsen
The Arizona Republic
January 3, 2003

Diana Gabaldon is a fire hose.

Whether she is talking to a visitor or writing novels in half-million-word chunks, words pour out in a torrent from this tiny woman.

You struggle to keep up.

"Well, most novelists are exhibitionists by nature," she says. "And when you find one who isn't, like Salinger or Pynchon, you kind of wonder what they're hiding - in poor Tom Pynchon's case, this is all too evident, if you've ever seen the sole known picture of him.

"I love talking about books - any books, but in particular my own - and if that can be done with somebody who actually likes books in general and understands what writing is . . . well . . . .

"So far, I think, I've seen four or five hundred published articles, interviews, et cetera, concerning myself. They're invariably entertaining, I'll say that much. Der Stern - German equivalent of Newsweek - just sent me one they did, with the headline, ' "I like men," says the bestselling American author Diana Gabaldon . . . and she is an expert!' "

The Valley resident and author is more than a bestseller. Her Outlander series of novels has some 12 million copies, translated into 16 languages - including a new deal to sell them in China.

The five books in the series, averaging 700 to 1,000 pages, tell the story of an English nurse in 1945 who accidentally touches a magic rock in Scotland and is transported to 1745, where she finds war and rebellion and a handsome man. [...]"