Friday, July 23, 2004

Correct us if we're wrong. Every once in a while you have to step back and look in the mirror. Unfortunately, all of our mirror manufacturing has been outsourced. So...we turn to our friends across the pond for a fresh look.
In essence you don't run for President directly, you ask the media to run you for President. Reaching the voters relies almost entirely on how the media choose to perceive you and your campaign.
The March of Time: Old Battle for the White House (punt intended)

The Blog, The Press, The Media: Margo On the road again
Making the media accountable for their errors in the lead up to the Iraq war, and the false claims of some mainstream media that they’re working for you, the reader, rather than for their owner’s corporate agendas. Harry Heidelberg recommends Petition for initiation of complaint against Fox News Network for deceptive practices, where moveon has petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to take legal action against Murdoch’s Fox Network for deceptive advertising by promoting itself as the “fair and balanced” network. And see details of the moveon-inspired Outfoxed movie, which “provides an in-depth look at Fox News and the dangers of ever-enlarging corporations taking control of the public's right to know”. The Not Happy John Website is pulling together a mailing list of readers who we hope will help the site morph into an Australian version of moveon to help defend our democracy.
Wondering who's to bless and who's to blame in the MEdia [Why network publicists cut off journo Bobbin at six questions People are naturally superstitious in an industry in which no one really understands what separates hits from flops and hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, they will cut off a Q&A session after Bobbin's sixth question ]
• · See Also Media Matters: making headway in campaign against misinformation
• · · Journo wonders why media bigs aren't reporting WMD scoop: Why isn't Dan Rather reporting this? Why isn't Peter Jennings reporting this? It has been generally ignored, just as any story that's deemed favorable to the president is ignored by the formerly mainstream press
• · · · See Also Thomas Norton, a retired college professor, stared at Morning Call reporter Tracy Jordan and called her a 'stupid bitch
• · · · · See Also SF Chron letters editor on leave over political contributions
• · · · · · MEdia Dragon, who smacked book critic Dale Peck Crouch says he's being congratulated for hitting critic Peck

Thursday, July 22, 2004

in Bushworld, you don't consult your father, the expert in being president during a war with Iraq, but you do talk to your Higher Father, who can't talk back to warn you to get an exit strategy or chide you for using Him for political purposes.
Ms. Dowd's Bushworld
Their civility...

The Blog, The Press, The Media: Liberalism as Deep Civility
Political correctness is another name for civility
The point of being polite or civil to another human being is not to demonstrate superiority, it is to demonstrate respect. The real test of a person's civility is the way they treat those who have less power and status than they do. True civility is not about whether you chew with your mouth open or use four letter words, it is about acknowledging that other people's beliefs, ambitions, and feelings are as important as your own.
Good manners are sometimes about being respectful and sometimes about maintaining a status hierarchy. Knowing which fork to use at dinner can be a mark of status. Knowing the right name to call something or someone can serve the same purpose. For example, referring to a judge as 'your highness' will earn you a smirk and a snicker from those who pride themselves on knowing better. Elaborate rituals can be used to exclude and humiliate people.
Civility is not just good manners. It is not civil to publish tracts denying that the holocaust took place or promote research which set out to prove that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. It doesn't matter how well mannered your prose is or what deference you show to academic norms. To have members of your family slaughtered like animals and then be accused of making it up is to be treated with contempt.

What's the Point of Being Polite? I; Where's the civility? II [ courtesy of Ken Parish]
• · See Also John Quiggin
• · · Daniel Drezner had a nice roundup on civility in the blogosphere: An Incentive to Behave badly
• · · · Kalblog: That said, it does make a lot of civility complaints look rather silly, especially since the blogosphere is in many ways an outgrowth of academia
• · · · · See Also Rewarding-random-acts-of-civility
• · · · · · See Also Never underestimate the role of envy in any walk of life

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Above all, blogging is fun. And that’s one thing I don’t get from Jennifer Howard’s eat-your-spinach account of life in the blogosphere: a sense of how much fun we’re all having out here. ‘We’ meaning TMFTML and Maud and Cup of Chicha and Old Hag and Bookslut and the thousands of nice people who visit us every day. It’s not a private party. There’s no secret handshake. All you have to do is click on a link. Or not. But we hope you do.
Not exactly Heathers

Literature & Art Across Frontiers: Why 'Heritage' is no longer a dirty word
Although the sun doesn't often make an appearance, summer is upon us. And across our bloody meadows, open commons, and ancient forests Britain's heritage army is steeling itself for combat. As July merges into August, the great battles of the English Civil War, the Wars of the Roses, even the Roman invasion will once again be re-enacted to the delight of millions. For summer is the season of heritage.
Since it was first widely identified some 20 years ago, Britain's love affair with the living past has mushroomed both in popularity and as a realm of critical inquiry.

• Think of heritage as the building block for understanding the world: Think of literature as training wheels for the imagination [Shared inheritance As July merges into August: In the future, all books will be digital...well, ]
• · But who knew half the nation was still reading? Literature's killer could hardly be more obvious: It's the Internet [I want to be a loose cannon, I still want to do my part to shake things up: Lily Wong Fillmore is in love with village language
• · · There's a profound air of inquiry hanging over 9 La Trobe Street, Melbourne: The Existentialist Society gives me purpose, yes. Although it might all be bullshit [The multiculturalist preaches that, in an age of mass migration, society can be a kind of salad bowl, a receptacle for wonderful exotic ingredients from around the world, the more the better, each bringing its special flavor to the cultural mix. For the salad to be delicious, no ingredient should predominate and impose its flavor on the others: As culture merges into mores]
• · · · See Also So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance
• · · · · John Marsden Australia's most influential author: John, when you sign one of your books, you sign, Take risks. Why that?
PS::Because I guess in modern society the emphasis is so much on taking care that I think we're going to end up with a generation of frightened people, but also people who are emotionally and spiritually stunted by being so careful that they never get out there and try anything adventurous.
• · · · · · Rachel Griffiths: Rejected by NIDA, dismissed by others who simply continues to delight in the unorthodox
• · · · · · · Writing Tool #14: Interesting Names Roy Peter Clark The best reporters recognize and take advantage of coincidence between name and circumstance

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

You'd have to think hard to come up with practically any journalist, east of Iraq, who has a juicier beat nowadays. ...Toobin's beat is suspenseful enough to make a Reality TV poobah drool Toobin is a journalist in the right place at the right time

The Blog, The Press, The Media: American journalists thought they were safe in Russia
Former Time magazine Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier says there's little doubt that Forbes editor Paul Klebnikov was the victim of a contract killing. Although during Putin's presidency 14 reporters have been killed, with one exception they were all Russians, so Americans thought they were safe. Business, imagined Western reporters covering the rise of Russian capitalism, had matured. The bosses of the underworld and the lords of the oligarchy had learned. Disputes were settled in courts, not bloody sidewalks. How wrong we were.
Svoboda Slova; Freedom of Speech [ courtesy of Why Jones is wrong about blogs NYU's Rosen has three reasons]
• · See Also Shooting the Messenger: The Challenge Facing Real Journalists... [ courtesy of Call this the season of the documentary... Fahrenheit 9/11, Control Room, Hunting of the President and now, Outfoxed]
• · · How does today’s Republican Party fit Wall Street bankers under the same tent as blue-collar America? How does a party unify those who seek to bathe corporations in taxpayer cash with those who want to curtail government spending? When Left is Right
• · · · DRAGON: Underground MEdia Diet FOX: The 'Official' Government News Network... a steady diet of official information [ courtesy of The E(l)ection: Bring It On!... ]
• · · · · See Also Why the Press Failed... [ courtesy of A Giant Leap for Academia? Google Ventures into DSpace
• · · · · · Darren Baker on My Czech Republic: A native of California, Darren has been living in Moravia since 1992. Not far, in fact, from the house where Freud was born (which, incidentally, is a massage parlor today)

Too bad for Bill Clinton that he wasn't on trial in the Czech Republic. The Senate would probably have voted him a pay raise before dismissing the case. True, he lost a lot of good will by bombing Iraq just before the impeachment vote. But for being a rogue on another count – I did not have sexual relations with that woman; people here would just as soon laugh and buy the man a beer. As many see it, there's something distinctly untrustworthy about a man who doesn’t lie about an affair and cover it up...
Hillary Clinton with Czech President Vaclav Havel at Cafe Slavia, famous for serving Hill's Absinth

Giving People Better Stories: Daring, If Human, Leader & Mascular Icon: William Jefferson Clinton
I loved being president. I loved it. Even in the hardest period, I thought, Gosh. It was an exciting job. There was always something new, and always some opportunity, every day, to make somebody's life better, to make... As I said in my book, the way I judged my own life and politics was whether I was giving people better stories - were they going to have a better story? And I think every day there was some chance to do that. So there was some loneliness there, but basically, it was a joy for me. I liked it.
You were raised to be an optimistic man by your mother. Do you have as much faith in humanity now as when you took office?
More. Oh, more. How could I not? You know, the know, power structure of the Republican Party, the Congress, the Special Counsel, came down on me, the press was hounding me and baying like dogs at the moon and saying I was dead as could be, and the American people stayed with me. And then, after that passed, we had two of the best years of my presidency, in '99 and 2000, from the point of view of the American people. And the way I've been treated by people since I left can I not? I believe I'm more optimistic today, and more idealistic today, than I was the day I took the oath of office as president in 1993.
Mandela told me he forgave his oppressors because if he didn't they would have destroyed him, He said: 'You know, they already took everything. They took the best years of my life; I didn't get to see my children grow up. They destroyed my marriage. They abused me physically and mentally. They could take everything except my mind and heart. Those things I would have to give away and I decided not to give them away.' And then he said 'Neither should you'.
Mandela said when he was finally set free he felt all that anger welling up again and he said: 'They've already had me for 27 years ... I had to let it go'.
Speaking of his own attempts to forgive the former independent counsel Kenneth Starr and the rest of his legal tormentors, Mr Clinton adds: You do this not for other people but for yourself. If you don't let go it continues to eat at you.

Nelson Mandella praising Clinton for being the person we'd all like to be -- on
our best day. Bill Being Far From The Male Eunuch
[ANDREW DENTON: Enough Rope]
• · Tony Jones: Mark Latham, do you see any similarities between Bill Clinton's rise to the US presidency and your own tilt at power here in Australia? Liverpool Mayor: Latham

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The kids need more than rock in their art diet:
One of my beginnings was about a young university guy who, when you meet him. is drinking coffee at a Toronto diner. He's reading Kafka in the hopes that it'll offer a clue as to why he's able to turn into a housefly, but really he just wants to get up enough nerve to talk to the waitress.

Feeding the Soul: If you can make Underground Love to Zamizdatzine, you can make a Book
The first thing I learned about self-publishing is that the literary world considers it roughly equivalent to defecating in the middle of a formal dinner party...
The rise of indie music offers a potential model. Ten years ago, if someone put out their own album people would say, Oh, I guess they couldn't get a record deal. Nowadays -- after years of undeniably great independent releases, consciousness of media ownership, and a self-sustaining community -- public perception of indie rock has shifted. Now, people would be just as likely to say, Oh, cool. Major labels suck.
The same shift could happen in publishing. Similar conditions are there: increasing media consolidation on one end, and a pool of artists who are used to doing it themselves on the other. This time, it's zinesters and their photocopiers instead of guitarists with their four-tracks.

• The Thing by Which You Will Be Judged: Indie music in the '90s, indie publishing in the '00s [Link Poached from Don’t Let a Little Thing Like Failure Stop You! ]
• · the very stuff of your being is unworthy, your soul too thin and your brain too thick: Fighting the Voices In Your Head
• · · The absence of new stories makes for a monotonous and confining culture: Writing a book is a political act, and because it's entertainment, it's a subversive one

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Back in June 2004 AD I made a punt along the lines that Federal E(l)ection would not take place sometime after 20 October (The Day of the Dracorian 20th wedding anniversary). My gut feeling is that the Liberals will scrape in despite byelections making Blair look like a loser. Winner takes all mentality was practiced by the communists and now major parties are also tempted to take the easy way out. In my humble opinion Iron Wall to Iron Wall Labour version of the political machine might be even more dangerous than John Howard. While NSW is in the hands of the Sussex Street the Kanberreans of Liberal devotion have nothing to fear until 2007.
The year of the webdiary/blog: It's one thing to hear people in the internet industry swapping jargon like Blogosphere. It's quite another to hear it emerge from the lips of a government minister

The Blog, The Press, The Media: The Next Power to the People will be Blogged
Margo is without any doubt, just like John Hatton and Brian Harradine and Ted Mack, the national living treasure. As ordinary Havels and Mandelas of this fragile world, Margo might not have a silver bullet to solve the entrenched problems of democracy but she honestly cares about people. Margo is also one of the few journalists who keeps every dishonest leader, be it a power hungry politician, media personality, or businessman, awake at night.
Margo Kingston would like to make one thing clear: she is not Australia's answer to Michael Moore. Yes, her new book Not Happy, John! is a broadside against our Prime Minister, just as Moore's books and films have been slaps in the face for George Bush.
Yes, like Moore, she argues with a colloquial passion that her publishers hope might - just might - tap into a similar seam of popular discontent. But that's where it ends. Although we both dress badly, and we have continual bad hair days, there's one crucial difference. Which is that I do not have a sense of humour.

There's enormous energy just bubbling along under the surface in this country [ courtesy of The Antipodian Political Bible]
• · See Also Anti-Howard website linked to controversial consultant Tim Grau, the Bunyip of the Labour Party; like the weblog it sends up, it lacks any real depth or insight
• · · Google et al Search firms hunt the next dotcom boom
• · · · MEdia Dragon, Inforworld meets print:
Dialogues started online shape the content of this magazine InfoWorld Test Center Lead Analyst Jon Udell has worn his fair share of hats during a 25-year career

• · · · · Believe or not this sewerage case scared a bit this MEdia Dragon based in Sunshine Coast in Y2K: Fear factor: Largely the stuff of Hollywood films, cyber terrorism - politically motivated attacks intended to shock and terrify

• · · · · · Czech Out The Community Amplify: Blogs on steroids

Friday, July 16, 2004

In the immortal words of Monty Python, Amongst [the Spanish Inquisition's] weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms. Truthfully, not a bad formula for startup success...Fanaticism is the secret weapon... that, and the comfy chair

The Blog, The Press, The Media: New York Times, Sydney Morning Herald et al...
We've discussed many times how newspapers simply don't get the internet, and Adam Penenberg is suggesting that there may be no greater example than the NY Times. The Times, of course, was one of the first online newspapers to require online registration and set up a paid archive for articles after a short period of free time online. However, because of that, the New York Times results barely appear at all in Google. If they're striving to be "the paper of record" then they need to be where people are looking -- and these days, people are looking in Google. Penenberg notes that despite the fact that the Times makes very little money off of those archives, they won't open them, because it might endanger their $20 million per year deal with Lexis-Nexis. Talk about getting hung up by legacy systems. Either way, it's a good point that the folks at the NY Times (and other newspapers) need to realize. Being online means being accessible. If you're not, then today's surfers aren't going to care. You may believe you can hang onto a small group and sell their demographic data to advertisers, but the data is dirty and the times are changing. People don't want to jump through hoops when there's a lot of other content out there, and if the command line of the internet is a search engine, these sites that block themselves off are simply making themselves obsolete.
Being online means being accessible [ courtesy of Bad for business popups generating more negative feelings for the brand than positive responses]
• · See Also Silicon Valley and Hollywood Are Not That Different
• · · Webdiary: If Tony Fitzgerald QC was correct about the importance of truth to democracy, it's not just politicians who owe us the truth. Journalists do too
Only for MEdia Dragons who fail to appreciate the fact that curiousity about intelligence can kill even in the so called civilised world...Czech this Out:
• · · · Full Report of Contradiction in ChairName and Content: Lord Butler delivers Iraq verdict [The spectre of Good Intentions & Weapons of Mass Destruction ... will hang over Media, MI6 and MPs]
• · · · · US Senate report on the intelligence that helped bring about the war in Iraq: Warning Amerikan PDF spy within [Tasman courtesy of ASIO, Mossad, KIWI agents]
• · · · · · Last, But Not Least: Barista singlehandedly pumps MEdia Dragon;=) [ Ken Parish: Pump, Baby, Pump New Blog: From a LAN Downunder Moore New Blogs Down Under:It's 4.45am and I'm crying like a baby...]

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Lev Grossman suggesting a list If You Read Only 10 Cool Books This Summer! You don't need a reviewer to know which way the river a flowin
Shed, any inhibitions about raw escapism. You get back in touch with the tiny Philistine who lives in your lazy, pleasure-loving little heart. Why fight it? We took a look at this summer's guilty pleasures and picked out the most delicious we could find. Go ahead. You've been good. Have a summer fling with an unsuitable book.
The survey, by the National Endowment for the Arts, indicates that people who read for pleasure are many times more likely than those who don't to visit museums and attend musical performances, almost three times as likely to perform volunteer and charity work, and almost twice as likely to attend sporting events. Readers, in other words, are active, while nonreaders, more than half the population, have settled into apathy.
[Why hadn't this active act happened before? Jozef Imrich Punches Critic: The Literary Wars Turn Violent ]

Literature & Art Across Frontiers:
Fantasy is a literature particularly useful for embodying and examining the real difference between good and evil. In an America where our reality may seem degraded to posturing patriotism and self-righteous brutality, imaginative literature continues to question what heroism is, to examine the roots of power, and to offer moral alternatives. Imagination is the instrument of ethics. There are many metaphors beside battle, many choices besides war, and most ways of doing good do not, in fact, involve killing anybody. Fantasy is good at thinking about those other ways. Could we assume that it does so?
Ursula K. Le Guin: Immature people crave and demand moral certainty [Visit Ursula Le Guin's Web Site ]
• · The world is suffering from a dark and silent phenomenon known as Digital Decay: New on the endangered species list: the Bookworm [An Austrian-born cartoonist ruins his life pining for Disney's approval and just a little credit More people in the world know my name than that of Jesus Christ
• · · See Also Jean Bethke Elshtain reviews books on Gandhi
• · · · See Also Insiders agree the financial squeeze on university presses is likely to persist ((2nd hand books make shaky future on the Web: Is becoming the Napster of the book business?))
• · · · · See Also 'Micky Mouse' courses, such as a BA in Popular Music, can be rigorous, relevant and lucrative
• · · · · · See Also [The Da Vinci Code]: Librarian Aids Best-selling Novelist

Sunday, July 11, 2004

We're living in such conservative times. Anyone who is prepared to commit a passionate act for something they believe in is considered a fool or crazy.

A cold story about the ghosts of Hitler and Stalin trapped in the tomb, may not sound like hottest book in town
Hitler and Stalin took over societies already riddled with fear of the future, with paranoia about conspiracies and with hatred of 'others' expressed in murderous language. Both dictatorships were able to replace the notion of moral and legal absolutes with 'historical absolutes': the idea that law must be subordinated to the 'iron laws' of development, whether Marxist-Leninist or racism...
Steel magnate Fritz Thyssen fled to Switzerland because he believed that Nazi planning was 'Bolshevising' Germany. Factory manager Victor Kravchenko defected in 1943 because he found that class privilege and the exploitation of labour in Stalinist society were no better than the worst excesses of capitalism. Violence was... regarded as redemptive, saving society from imaginary enemies. It is the memory of that deception which still, generations later, darkens our hopes of constructing a future through politics.

Literature & Art Across Frontiers: Do-or-Die Revolution: A Hard Day's Escape
When the Beatles spontaneously launch into I Should Have Known Better from the caged-in luggage compartment of a train as a group of girls cluster outside, Taylor shoots the crisscrossing fence wires not as a cold, defensive barrier but as a protective one, one that fosters a kind of intimacy: It's all that separates the Beatles from the world, but it also frames them beautifully, a visual affirmation that these four raffishly striking young men were made to be seen as well as heard.
There was a time, shortly after John Lennon's death, when A Hard Day's Night was almost unbearable to watch. It was bad enough that we all knew how the band's story had ended, with lawyers and negotiations and daggers of mistrust shooting four ways and then, the worst thing imaginable, silence. But in the early '80s the story took a sadder and more jagged turn. If it was hard to think of the 1980 John as dead, leaving behind some great and some mediocre solo records and a grieving widow nobody ever liked much anyway, it was incomprehensible that the 1964 John -- the one we'd loved first -- was gone too.

The great Beatles movie reminds us how much they gave -- and how much we took [The world premiere of The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night was in London in July 1964 ]
• · See Also Pretty good for a leg crosser: Defender of the little people, Sharon Stone lists her requirements for taking a job
• · · See Also Literary Reading in Dramatic Decline: Fewer Than Half of American Adults Now Read Cold River
• · · · See Also Nobodies of the world unite!
• · · · · Oedipus complex is the antecedent Hamlet complex Ours is a culture obsessed by the skull beneath the skin
• · · · · · Where it will all end, knows God! You heard it here first: Congratulations Terry, ouch Terence Alan Teachout ((Even Best Friends of Barbara Bush love reading About Last Night))

Friday, July 09, 2004

During a recent graduate seminar on 20th Century American Autobiography and Memoir, I found myself obliged, in the interest of civility, to swallow a fit of temper.
Deeply ironic, Saar's work speaks from a sort of existential nakedness, and gets beyond...Exclusion is the rule in binary practice (either/or), whereas poetics aims for the space of difference -- not exclusion but, rather, where difference is realized in going beyond. Read it before it is banned!

Literature & Art Across Frontiers: ACTION AND REACTION: It's Imitation Time
In Seven Types of Ambiguity, William Empson argues that ambiguity serves an indispensable function in poetry. When the disparate meanings of an ambiguous grammatical construction or word reinforce and enrich each other, the poet can achieve radically novel conceptual and emotional effects; but unhappy ambiguities, including those condemned as mixed metaphor, may be simply incoherent when the meanings are mutually impertinent or at odds. In his recent contribution to the history of ideas, which tracks the medieval word reaction and its more ancient correlate action from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries, Jean Starobinski makes a similar argument about the metaphorical appropriation of terms.
Jean Starobinski's History of Reaction: The Uses and Dangers of Metaphorical Language [The most dangerous threats are right under our noses: If books could kill]
• Gene Deitch: A whole new area of work opened up for me just as the Soviet forces were breathing smoke around the borders of Czechoslovakia, and I made a film called The Giants that the communists banned for 20 years. For me, it was a point of pride: The Giants Win and Lose (Part 1): (Don’t Let a Little Thing Like Failure Stop You!)
• · See Also Our MPs can scarcely be accused of being bookish. Why then a plush library?
• · · Péter Esterházy's Celestial Harmonies A Cheeky Work of Postmodernist Genius
• · · · The Boston Globe: offers an amusing round-up of reviews of presidential memoirs
• · · · · See Also The attraction of strangers: partnerships in humanities research [Happy ever after - on separate floors Couples are increasingly finding that living apart is the best way to stay together ]
• · · · · · See Also Literacy in the new millennium

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The rich have the right to buy more homes than anyone else. They have the right to buy more cars than anyone else, more gizmos than anyone else, more clothes and vacations than anyone else. But they do not have the right to buy more democracy than anyone else.
Justice Learned Hand, a prophet of democracy

To live is an expression which has had much harm done it by rich celebrity writers who seem to think that life is limited to pretending you like Elvis, absinthe, cocaine, and keeping a mistress in Potts Point.

This is the Escape that will Never Be Duplicated: The Seventh of July of Our Tragic Escape: Declaring Independence From Fear...
It is important from time to time to remember that some things are worth getting mad about. The cold hard truth is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, so we should not be surprised if or when Madmen Run the Asylum...
Once Upon A Bad Time, the lives of Eastern Europeans were dominated by leaders with aristocratic manners appropriate for the stone age. Thank your lucky stars you were not one of us. We have to remind ourselves that those born and bred in the Eastern parts of Europe were the Western European equal in their desire for life, their longing for liberty, their passion for happiness.
7/7 of 1980 enlarged the meaning of escape across the Iron Curtain as the crossing has no exact precedents or parallels. Even after 24 years, the scent of horror is still impossible to wash away.
In death, Cold Rivers’s characters find an extension of life: they live in death and we, the readers, actively participate in keeping them alive, even if only during our reading. Nothing was as it seemed and the more mundane the surface, the more layers there appeared to be; we are peeling a true literary onion, multi-layered myths and realities that are quite able to bring literal tears to your eyes.
There is no history, only biography of divine discontent. It was Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson who first coined the phrase divine discontent. Characterized by a yearning for greater meaning in life, this restlessness and dissatisfaction with the status quo is often an impetus to escape to the world that is more soul-satisfying... What could possibly impel three twenty-two-year-old Czechoslovaks, who just completed two year compulsory service in the communist army, to swim across the Morava River to Austria? How are we to understand their decision to forsake the land of their birth and build a new life in the far way world?
The ghost of the Central Europe tends to breathe confused life into every boy born into the communist system. In childhood we harboured fantasies that when we go to sleep at night our toys would magically come alive and carry us across the borders to the New World. Alas, it never happened, but that did not mean that one day we would not discover a mystical passage to the land of our dreams. One of the great things about life under communism was that it could always get worse, just when you thought it couldn't...
Those who know what it was like to be twenty-two-years young in communist Czechoslovakia might understand that some of us had absurd and impossible aspirations and we believed that we could achieve them. We used to dream of dancing at the Beatles' concert and marrying Olivia Newton-John ... Then we transferred our dreams to crossing the Iron Curtain.
There is a theory going around on the net that everything you need to know about divine discontent, and even life, you can learn from the drops of lessons in the Cold River. There is a lesson for teens, there is a lesson for adults, there is a lesson on having fun, there is a lesson on being serious, there is a lesson on soulful friendship, there is a lesson on dancing, there is even a lesson on how not to escape across the Iron Curtain. Moreover, there is a lesson how to make you feel like a lost Central European.
Unlike myth, history is not tidy, and the wall that became known as the Iron Curtain is complex as any genuine tragedy. Cold River is a chilling image of a totalitarian world without breathing space, where ideology has no outside and even an unborn child is already a subject.
When something is wrong, you know it. Deep inside, even if everyone around you tells you it is not, you still know the truth. Few would dare dream about crossing such a border, unless, of course, you have inside knowledge and contacts. Milan has both. They will have only one chance to disarm the army guards at the gate and drive through an army barracks without alarming others. Their set day is sunny. Not one of them, even for a moment, thinks it might rain. But it does and the swollen river makes it impossible for them to cross, yet it is impossible to go back...
You didn't care if you were brave or weak. You just became nothing!
The character in the Quiet American said, Sooner or later, one has to take sides. If one is to remain human.
In some ways, it was a selfish act. We had in a small way done our duty to our people and our country. We crossed the uncrossable Iron Curtain so we could sleep at night. True happiness calls for courage and a spirit of sacrifice, the rejection of any compromise with evil empire, and readiness to pay in person, including with death...
Zakes Mda's Ways of Dying features a central character Toloki who observes: Death lives with us everyday. Indeed our ways of dying are our ways of living or should I say our ways of living are our ways of dying?

· No power on Earth can stop an oppressed people determined to win their Freedom: Let's Say It with Blood [Any survivor has more to say than all the historians combined about what happened This was the Escape of Our Times: Survivor-on-Amazon breaking historical taboos]
· · See Also This is Another Fight of Our Lives [New Political Tidal Wave: Something to get mad about: Just memorise poetry if you are a teenager at heart- because the escape defies prose
· · · We weren't given a hope in Morava River... The Passion of Exile: Sentenced to the Strange Psychological Hell... From Old World Tragedy to New World Disaster
· · · · See Also In any society, it’s a risk to take freedoms for granted
· · · · · Random reality bites: We can't all be born rich, handsome and lucky... Better That 100 Democratic Witches Should Live
· · · · · · Better Off Dead: I'll admit I survived, but I wasn't proud of myself for surviving
· · · · · · Read more: In every book a wealth of experiences and universal wisdom awaits you, and they will enrich your cultural world ... Marilyn Monroe swimming in the Cold River

Sunday, July 04, 2004

If you aren't reading Margo's book now, you're missing out. I'm happy to report that this book launch was not sexed up

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: Green Valley: Once a Beauty, now a Beast?
Mark's selection signalled that Labour insiders thought this election will be decided on personality. I know a female political journalist or two who regard Mark as charismatic.
Most women see him as younger and more telegenic than John Howard. His round, baby face has something of the abstraction of a tribal mask. However, does Mark have enough Elvis in him to beat John; enough excitement factor, enough charisma, enough likeability?
I first practiced my broken English on impatient Mark at my maiden parliamentary Christmas party back in 1982. At the time Mark used the NSW Parliamentary Library on regular basis as the researcher (biographer) for Gough Whitlam. Only Garry Sturgess would match the level of dedication and hard work displayed by Mark. The way he managed to capture the media imagination with the list of broken promises by Greiner made other people on the opposite side of politics such as the bar regulars of Ken Hooper, Bryce Osmond stature just shake their heads.
At the Library, Mark would bounce ideas, with minds great and small. It was a real pleasure listening to his approaches on solving problems in the communities living in the public housing stricken areas of Western Sydney. It would come as a great surprise to many, especially Greig Tillotson and David Clune, who are long time admirers of Gough and Bob Carr, that their heros would employ someone who would actually hit king (sic) anybody. I personally find it very hard to believe the allegation even though I have participated at a number of late night drinking sessions when Peter Anderson and Brian Langton added guitar fire to the already jolly atmosphere by singing revolutionary songs.
Somehow I suspect that the Sunday program by Ross Coulhart might actually work in favour of the subject of the unauthorised biography as most Australians prefer the bare fist to the backstabbing knife. I certainly do!

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