September 30, 2010
Don't Forget to Get Your Free Copy of 'Life After Death for Beginners'
If you haven't already, be sure to check out the post below—Michael Gerber's fantastic new book Life After Death for Beginners is available for free TODAY ONLY to readers of this site. The offer expires at midnight, so don't wait.
September 29, 2010
Get Michael Gerber's New Book, 'Life After Death for Beginners' For Free
What if John Lennon secretly survived his shooting in 1980? What would he have done for the past 30 years? What would he think about what's happened in the world? And how would he feel about the person who tried to kill him?
That's the premise of Life After Death for Beginners, my good friend Mike Gerber's new novel. Mike has written eight novels and parodies (including the Barry Trotter series) which have sold over a million copies in 20 languages. But take it from me, since I've read it five times now: Life After Death is his greatest book. I loved it. It gets inside the head of (for legal reasons, someone very much like but not named) John Lennon in a completely convincing way. As you'd expect, it turns out to be very funny, very sad, very mysterious, and very weird in there.
And starting at midnight tonight, for 24 HOURS ONLY, Life After Death for Beginners will be available in electronic form completely free to readers of this site. I like to think this is because we've oozed our weltanschauung all over Mike and he's thanking us.
Here's how it works:
2. Enter the coupon code "FREEDAY."
3. Enter your name and email, then download it for $0.00. (After tomorrow, it will be $4.99 for the electronic editions and $14.95 for a softcover.)
I really hope you'll get it, read it, and tell your friends. As I like to say, it's a cross between The Rutles and Three Days of the Condor. It's as though it were specifically designed to manipulate the pleasure centers of exactly the kind of oddballs who visit (and write) this site.
If you need more convincing, here's the official book description:
Life After Death for Beginners stars Tom Larkin, an impossibly famous rock icon who dies tragically at the hands of a deranged fan—or so the world believes. In reality, Tom narrowly escapes with his life. As he recuperates in a secret hospital for the super-rich, his loving but imperious wife Katrinka becomes convinced that it’s safer for everyone if the musician stays dead. Reluctantly, Tom agrees to live out his days in obscurity… until an old enemy reveals that his life is still in danger. Stripped of his former fame and access, Tom has to figure out who tried to kill him without publicly revealing his survival. His search leads him back to his old life, to the manager who made him a star; to the other three members of The Ravins, each dealing with his legacy in their own way; to his estranged daughter and the son who thinks he’s dead and of course, to Katrinka, the eccentric, devoted, public face of the Larkin myth.
September 22, 2010
Support Emily Henochowicz
Emily Henochowicz, my nominee for Secretary-General of the United Nations, is taking a break from school and needs some money, so every $5 Friday for October is going to go to her. I hope you can read this and send her whatever you can afford (via paypal at firstname.lastname@example.org):
You support me right? I need a little help from my friends. As my life story unfolds, so to does the animation I am creating. I know it will be an incredibly powerful work. I’m making it to share my soul. My creativity is flowing and it will be ready when it is ready. I left school because when you almost die, you realize life is short and you got to grab it while you have it. I need to pay my rent and eat sometimes, or get sketchbooks. So you know, wanna donate or pre-order some prints? I’m also selling pages from my sketchbooks. If you don’t have a lot, even a dollar would help.
Have some sketches - $20 plus s&h for five pages, $50 for five signed pages.
Tell me the piece and I'll get you a Kinko’s style print signed for $150 or a high quality professional print for $1000.
There's more, so be sure to read it all.
September 21, 2010
This is a few weeks ago, so you may have seen it already. But if not: Simon Owens wrote an entertaining article about the continuing online fight between Glenn Greenwald and Jeffrey Goldberg. The most important part of all it is clearly that Goldberg feels he can't simply ignore Greenwald. He does have to acknowledge that Greenwald exists, even if that's all he does:
“[Goldberg's responses] are all substance free,” [Greenwald] told me. “It’s funny. It’s almost like his responses are three or four years behind. When I first started writing about criticizing media figures — establishment media figures — that was very much the reaction. It was a very lame sort of not-really-attentive response, just dismissive or plain mockery. Like, ‘I don’t have to respond because in my world he’s nobody and I’m somebody so the most I’m going to do is be derisive about this.’ That’s a journalist/blogger cliché from 2005, and most journalists know they can no longer get away with it. He’s living in a world where he thinks it doesn’t affect his reputation. Among his friends it doesn’t. I’m sure he calls [TIME writer] Joe Klein or whoever else I’ve criticized and he’s like ‘he’s an asshole and a prick, don’t worry about that.’ But I guarantee you that there are a lot more people reading the stuff I write than the stuff he writes, in terms of sheer number. And the level of impact that that kind of level of critique has is infinitely greater than it was three years ago. So I’m sure he tells himself and convinces himself that it doesn’t actually matter but it does. And it’s hurting his credibility.”
The Rich: Should We Kill and Eat Them?
In the past, I have opposed killing and eating the rich. This is because on any kind of rational world scale, I am part of the rich.
More recently, however, I've been on the fence. People like Todd Henderson (Stutts '93) and Ben Stein (Stutts '66, Stutts Law '70) make me wonder whether we need to do it, even if I myself end up consumed in the ensuing orgy of cannibalism.
In fact, just one thing keeps me from endorsing this wholeheartedly. And it certainly isn't the character of our rich—the people who run the U.S., like Henderson and Stein, are mind-numbingly brutal, cruel and stupid, and will surely destroy us all unless they're stopped.
The problem is that the people who run America, and every other country on earth, have almost always been mind-numbingly brutal, cruel and stupid. Even the ones who aren't (in Norway, maybe?) are no prize.
For instance, take a look at the below scene from the documentary Our Brand in Crisis. In it, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, a rich white presidential candidate in Bolivia, talks with his rich white acquaintances at a campaign event in the garden of his home. Everything about it could have happened in any number of countries in history—because elites aren't just always brutal, cruel and stupid, they're brutal, cruel and stupid in exactly the same ways. A demagogue has somehow illegitimately gained support among the poor! The poor are massing at the gates and about to attack us!
This leads me to believe the problem isn't one of bad individuals, but bad systems—and that these bad systems, since they're almost universal in human history, grow out of some aspect of human nature. Hence, eating the people at the top won't change much for very long. We'll just have to eat a new crop a few years later.
So what we need to do is figure out a system that leans against negative human tendencies, and accentuates positive ones. Killing and eating the rich probably won't get us anywhere. I just wish Todd Henderson and Ben Stein would stop making themselves look so very, very delicious.
September 19, 2010
The Iron Law of Institutions Meets the Beatles
Despite appearances, I'm still alive. There's lots of stuff going on over here that I hope you'll check out.
In other news, Slate just ran an article about the internal dynamics of the Beatles. And what's interesting about it to me is how, at the birth of the Beatles, John Lennon appears to have violated the Iron Law of Institutions—that is, unlike just about every leader in every society in history, he decided to allow competition to his power because it was better for the society overall. Here's how the article describes what happened when Lennon, 16, met Paul McCartney, then 15:
John Lennon saw the two sides of his attraction to Paul McCartney quickly and clearly. "I dug him," he said, and he wanted him in the band.
But he had his concerns. "I half thought to myself, 'He's as good as me,'" he told the journalist Hunter Davies in 1967. "I'd been kingpin up to then. Now, I thought, 'If I take him on, what will happen?' " (In one sense, Lennon obviously meant: "If I invite him to join the group." But the double meaning of "take him on" is worth noticing.) In a 1970 interview with Jann Wenner, Lennon described his dilemma even more plainly: "I had a group. I was the singer and the leader; then I met Paul, and I had to make a decision: Was it better to have a guy who was better than the guy I had in? To make the group stronger, or to let me be stronger?"
With hindsight, it's clear that it wasn't an either/or. Bringing Paul aboard made the group much stronger and it made John much stronger. It gave him part ownership of a priceless enterprise. That math adds up to infinite value.
But we're missing the point if we look at Lennon's thinking as a mistake. Actually, he put his finger right on the core emotional dynamic. What Paul represented to John—for good and for ill, for excitement and for fear—was a loss of control. All through his relationship with McCartney, the power between them would be fluid—a charged, creative exchange that fueled them and frustrated them, leading to creative peaks and valleys of recrimination and estrangement.
And it can all be traced to their first encounter. "The decision was made to make the group stronger," Lennon told Wenner. Had he decided to keep the power all to himself, he probably would have forsaken his power entirely.
So the Beatles are an extremely powerful example of what can happen when people in charge think first of the good of the group, rather than purely of maintaining their own position within the group. (And Lennon didn't even have to give up his power—he just had to share.) Imagine what human beings could accomplish if this were the norm rather than an incredibly rare exception.
September 11, 2010
Today Is the Ninth Anniversary of an Enormous Opportunity
Oh good, it's time to rerun this again.
There's a short post (scroll down) by me in The Hill responding to the question "Are we safer now?":
Let's try asking different questions
The question of whether America is safer today is sort of strange, for two reasons.
First, the U.S. is unquestionably the safest country that's ever existed.
I don't say that to diminish the terrorist attacks nine years ago — I lived about a mile north of the World Trade Center then, and was on Seventh Avenue watching when the north tower collapsed. Let me tell you, Osama bin Laden & friends really put the "terror" back in "terrorism."
But the sad reality of life on Earth is that horrible things happen all the time. What was unusual about the terrorist attacks wasn't that they happened, but that they happened to us. We have two giant oceans on either side of us; two weak, friendly neighbors; and the most powerful military in the world. As awful as that one day was, what was true before is still true afterward: No one has less reason to be scared than Americans. Wondering whether we're safer is a little unseemly, like Yao Ming wondering whether he's ever going to get taller.
Second, making Americans safer is not a serious goal of the people who run the United States.
Michael Moore Matching Donations to Cordoba Initiative
September 10, 2010
Five Dollar Friday
The Real News month is now in its second week, so another $5 goes to them. I wish I could embed this, but it's not cooperating for some reason. Be sure to check it out—no normal news channel would present Thomas Ferguson talking in Baltimore about how Wall Street and the government combined to create the Baltimore of The Wire.
September 08, 2010
Other people have noted this elsewhere, but I would like to co-sign:
It's almost certain that if Republicans win the House or Senate or both in November, they will do everything in their power to crash the economy. Certainly I would if I were them: all the blame will accrue to Obama. Most obviously, this will take the form of shutting down the government or stopping any kind of further stimulus. But there's also a real chance of an acute crisis between now and 2012 (as opposed to the current chronic, grinding crisis) that requires massive congressional action.
And there's no way Real World Obama could beat them, despite the fact he'll understand it will gravely imperil his reelection campaign. Even Liberal Fantasy Obama probably couldn't beat them at this point, given how profoundly the Real World version has encouraged his opponents and demotivated his supporters.
So we may get a chance to find out just dreadful it is to have a worldwide depression, followed by three new wars in the mideast led by President Palin, followed by an even greater depression. If we're lucky we might also get an Early Christmas global warming catastrophe somewhere in the process.
I have to admit, I may have once again underestimated the ability of the Democratic Party to make the world a much, much worse place.
Well, it least it will be exciting!
September 06, 2010
Next Generation of Yale Students Successfully Gelds Selves
I was going to title this post something like "Yale Students Now Gelded Like Horses." But then I realized that was an unfair comparison. Gelding is something that's done to horses. Unlike ambitious Yale students, they don't voluntarily geld themselves.
This is from Mother Jones:
Like most famous people who get fired, McChrystal landed on his feet—as a lecturer at Yale. But even though the school year has barely started in New Haven, McChrystal's already triggering controversy there, too. This time, the uproar's not about the Rolling Stone piece. It's about one of McChrystal's first tours in Afghanistan, when he was in charge of the Special Operations task force that included NFL star-turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman.
Amir Bar-Lev, the director of The Tillman Story, a documentary about the late NFL star-turned Army Ranger, is hosting a screening of the film on Yale's campus on September 11. (Elizabeth Gettelman recently reviewed the film for Mother Jones.) The Yale Democrats, who were originally supposed to sponsor the screening, have backed out of the event after learning that it aims to be a "teachable moment" focusing on McChrystal's presence at Yale. Here's the Yale Daily News' Esther Zuckerman:[Dems President Ben Stango] said his organization supports the film and its message, but that the Dems, who he said consulted Yale faculty and other advisors about the decision, did not want to us the event as a means to protest McChrystal.
"The Yale College Democrats do not attack war heroes," Stango said. "We do not attack members of the Yale faculty."
Poor Ben Stango. I'm sure he has many wonderful qualities and is fantastic at standardized tests. But when you're 20 years old and calibrating your actions for how they'll play on Fox in 2029 when you're nominated to be Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, you're already far down the wrong path in life. (Of course, the joke will be on me in 2030 after his confirmation, when Assistant Secretary Stango calls in the drone strike on the wedding I'm attending outside Jakarta.)
September 03, 2010
Five Dollar Friday
Every Friday this month, I'll be giving $5 to The Real News. They have an incredibly promising idea—people-funded TV—and deserve the support of everyone on earth who's not an investment banker.
As examples, check out their two pieces below about the state of war in Mexico today. If the people who run the U.S. cared about our national security in the genuine sense, this kind of thing would be on CBS every night, along with serious discussions about drug legalization. But of course they don't care and thus it's not on CBS, so we need to put up the money for this ourselves.
So if you're moved to do so, you can donate here.