Reading and All-Knowing Space Gods

Right now one of the several books that I am reading is L. Fletcher Prouty’s JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy.  Prouty was the basis for Mr. X, played by Donald Sutherland, in the Oliver Stone film JFK.  Prouty is a controversial figure, as one can imagine, given the fact that he believed in a conspiracy in the JFK assassination, amongst other things.  If you look him up on the internet you will see him praised as a hero and called a sham.  I think there are very interesting ideas in this book that are very credible, especially regarding our reasons for getting involved in Vietnam.  I also feel there are times he makes bold claims which he does not back up.  He often talks about a High Cabal of money men that are making decisions for the country, but he never backs up this claim in any substantive way.  I haven’t even gotten to the JFK stuff yet.  

The reason that I bring up this book is that I believe that when we are reading, that we always read with a hyper critical eye.  I think reading in general is positive.  I think you should purposely read things from a wide variety of perspectives.  I think Ayn Rand is batshit crazy, but I still read The Fountainhead.  Even in a book so full of asinine theories, there were small moments of truth.  All humans, no matter how flawed, are still possible of revelations.  Also, even the best writers have biases and blind spots.  Even if you are reading for escapism, you should occasionally reflect about what the author’s aims are and if they hold water or not. 

However, life is short, and you do not want to spend too much time out in la la land.  You cannot possibly read every book.  You need to pick and choose your battles.  Occasionally though, you should venture out into strange territory and try out some new ideas to make sure that life is never too safe.  Just make sure you are thinking when you do so.   

The only exception is when you are reading this blog.  I have clearly descended from some all-knowing space god. My aim is true.  

Calling in an Airstrike On Your Own Position

Last week I had a friend tell me while collecting SXSW wristbands that he wanted to call in an airstrike.  The character Captain Harris in the movie Platoon, played by Dale Dye, orders an airstrike on his own position once it is overrun by the Vietcong.  One of my favorite sayings when things get absurd or bleak is that I would like to, “Call an airstrike in on my own position.”  I think more people should use that as I am sure that we have all felt like that at times.  I just hoped to provide you with some happy thoughts if you were at work on this fair Tuesday morning.  Enjoy.

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Oliver Stone on Drones

“Drone attacks are better than boots on the ground,” one Cold War liberal recently told me.

No, they’re not. They’re an intrusive, terrorizing global policeman behavior that will invariably set us up for blowbacks. We will be hated for this naked abuse of our military power.

A terrorist band that is seriously planning an attack on USA can be apprehended in traditional ways that have worked for centuries—it requires solid detective work and good local alliances with foreign countries. There are always screw-ups, but the exception is never the rule. We must respect all international borders, if we expect our own to be respected.

It is the way of the world. Live and let live. Violating that is the law of the jungle, and that’s where we are now. Our America-centric world is a dualistic black-and-white cartoon, violent in its outlook.

No good will come of this. Peace is not a cliché. Peace is a way to live and grow.

Quote by Oliver Stone.  I think Oliver Stone is dead on about our use of drones.  He has always been way more thoughtful than his critics have made him out to be.  I am glad that he is out there as he has a curious mind and never stops asking questions.

I also wanted to add, as someone that is a liberal on most issues, that I think drones have been a shame on the Obama White House.  If we are going to get anywhere in this country we need to call out our own side when we see something that is morally wrong.  

The Smoke and Mirrors of History

Last night I couldn’t sleep and was reading L. Fletcher Prouty’s book JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy.  Prouty was the basis for Mr. X in the movie JFK.  I got it several months ago because it was cheap and I heard Oliver Stone recommend it.  In fact he wrote the forward to the book.  I love Oliver Stone films and really enjoyed his book The Untold History of the United States.  What I have seen of the documentary series is pretty great too.  The thing that is really great about Oliver Stone, even if you don’t buy what he is selling, is that he at least asks questions that other people don’t.  Asking questions is the first step to thinking about things.  We need to be careful not to get lost down in a labyrinth, but it is always good to question and challenge things.   

The truth about this book I was reading last night is I don’t know how to read it.  I don’t know if I should read it as fiction, fact, or something in between.  I imagine it is somewhere in between.  But telling what is what is almost impossible. 

I was a history major at West VirginiaUniversity.  I transferred near the end of my college years to PennState and got an American Studies degree.  I know how history can shift depending on the author that you read.  Even a seemingly straightforward history book has it’s own biases and blind spots.  When you are reading about something controversial, like the Kennedy Assassination, there are an incredible amount of smoke and mirrors.  Who is writing the book and why?  What are their political and economic motives?  However, these are really questions you should ask yourself when reading any history book.  If you read something that seems like a revelation you should always cross reference it with multiple sources. 

While I was in Japan I read two books on Custer.  One of them, the least substantial of the two, was Larry McMurtry’s book on Custer.  He wrote a short form biography and I don’t even think he would rate his book as one of the substantial books on Custer.  It’s more of a light read to get you thinking and get you interested.  However, in the book McMurty, who is an avid reader and book collector, says that there are four excellent biographies of Custer and his Last Stand.  He claims that if you read all four you have a really good idea of what happened that day.  One of them that I read was Nathaniel Philbrick’s Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of Little Bighorn

I think as a challenge to myself I want to read the other three books.  Not because I am any more interested in Custer than I am in many other historical events, although I do find it to be an interesting story.  But I think the event is small enough that by reading several books, if McMurty is correct, one can get a good multi-angle view of what happened that day.  It would be much harder to do that for a big event along the lines of World War II.  Although I have read a lot of history books, I can’t say that I’ve read more than one or two on any subject except for big events like World War II which you can probably never really grasp completely, unless you spend your whole life studying it.  Even then there are just too many stories and viewpoints.  But while it may sound incredibly boring to you, it seems like something fun for me to try to get a well rounded view of a historical event.  Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that in recent days.  The squalor of the mind…

Hans Blix on Syria

I just got the following article off of Oliver Stone’s facebook page:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/08/29-1

The article is from Hans Blix.  Remember him from before the Iraq War?!!  Before Chimpy Bush went into that country and laid waste to our moral standing in the world.  Blix is laying out the fact that we have no moral mandate to act as the world’s policeman.

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Killing the Dreamers

The truth is never simple and yet it is. The truth is we did kill him. By silence we consented… because we couldn’t go on. But by Ares, what did we have to look forward to but to be discarded in the end like Cleitus? After all this time, to give away our wealth to Asian sycophants we despised? Mixing the races? Harmony? Oh, he talked of these things. I never believed in his dream. None of us did. That’s the truth of his life. The dreamers exhaust us. They must die before they kill us with their blasted dreams.

A quote by Ptolemy in the movie Alexander.  Directed by Oliver Stone.  This is one of my favorite movies of all time.  It got a bad rap when it was first released.  I think it was too complex and too dense in story to be digested in one sitting.  Every time I watch it some new detail emerges.  It is a highly intelligent film.  It also features many entertaining and great scene-chewing performances, in the best sense of the term.  My favorite version is the longest version, The Final Cut.

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Oliver Stone and Jeju, Korea

“…Obama’s resupplied Japan with stealth fighters. Japan has the 5th largest military in the world. No one admits that. You call yourself a Self Defense Force…You’re the 4th largest military in the world, after Great Britain and China. The US is your full accomplice in this. You are some of our best buyers. We make you not only pay for the weapons we sell you, but we make you pay for the wars we fight.
We are bullies. You’re facing a dragon of great size and the dragon is not China, it’s the U.S. Four days ago, I was in Jeju, Korea, where South Korea…is destroying a UNESCO World Heritage site, destroying the land and inhabitants…they’re going to build the harbor so deep that the George Washington, the largest aircraft carrier in the world, carrying all kinds of nuclear missiles, is going to sail to Jeju. South Korea – armed to the teeth. Japan – armed to the teeth…Philippines…we’re back in Subic Bay…
We are looking for arrangements in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and I heard India…India was always non-aligned…This is very dangerous…This is like NATO. It began as a defense arrangement and became an offensive arrangement…
This year, the specter of war has returned to Asia…The spirit of World War II is being revived…So you can talk all you want about peace and nuclear abolition but the poker game is run by the U.S.”

I know several people in the environmental movement that were actually at Jeju, Korea.  My father was one of them.  I can’t attest to this whole statement by Stone, but I have heard the part about Jeju echoed before.

Where I’m Coming From

I would like to explain the kind of writing I am trying to do with this blog a little more.  Think of it as a diary, but where a diary is a reflection of one’s own feelings and inner thoughts, this is a diary of what I see and think of what is going on in our culture on a day to day basis.  Where a diary would be all about me, with this blog I am trying to hold up a mirror to the world as best I can.

I am trying to write on a daily basis, without fear, on what I see, hear, and read.  All writing is biased and personal to some degree.  I don’t have a stranglehold on the truth.  I am simply trying to tell my truth as best I can.

View the culture as an ocean.  Everyone is swimming in that ocean.  It influences us in ways that we can’t even comprehend.  I am trying to help people understand that ocean and how it influences us.  In even the simplest pop song there are market forces, cultural prejudices, and tribal loyalties at play.  When someone drives a pickup truck they may be driving it for reasons of need related to work, or they might be driving it because of reasons associated with identity.

I grew up in a liberal family with mostly conservative friends.  I am from the North East, but I live in the South.  I am a musician who played sports as a kid.  I’ve worked white collar jobs and I’ve worked blue collar jobs.  My parents are Unitarian, but I have read the Bible and taken religious classes, and I don’t belong to any kind of church or organization.  I’ve read Steinbeck and I read Entertainment Weekly.  I treasure David Lynch, but I’ve watched trashy reality shows.

My heroes include Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter Thompson, Morrissey, Oscar Wilde, Oliver Stone, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Nicolas Winding Refn, Bob Dylan, Paul Westerberg, John Lennon, George Orwell, Hampton Sides, Lou Reed, Bill Maher, Haruki Murakami, Flannery O’Connor, and George Carlin.  Those are just a few of the many people that have influenced my way of thinking.

I have an American Studies degree from PennState and am getting an Environmental Science and Policy degree from St. Edward’s University.  I play in a band called No Show Ponies and a band called Shinyribs.

This will hopefully tell those of you that don’t know me a little bit about what my background is and who I am.  I’ve always liked George Carlin’s distaste for groups and the way that he tried to treat every individual as an individual.

I have my own biases and blind spots.  I don’t claim that I have some kind of secret information that elevates me above anyone else.  If there is anything that I view as being slightly different it is that I don’t fit neatly into any tribal affiliation.  In the past year I’ve gone to art museums and drank beer on the back of a pick up truck while my friends went hunting.  Although most of my political beliefs could best be described as extremely liberal, I have friends that run the gamut in terms of their political orientation.

Every time I write something I am filled with a feeling of pride followed by a serious feeling of dread and self doubt.  I promise to write as honestly as I can in the moment and let it stand as is.  I will not revise anything, unless it is for spelling or grammatical purposes.

Hopefully those of you that read this will learn to trust me.  Not that you will agree with me, but in the sense that I will not bullshit you.  I will fail and I will succeed.  I am human.

The Darkness Reaching Out for the Darkness

“He’s the darkness reaching out for the darkness.” – The movie Nixon

One of the funniest movies I’ve seen in recent years is Oliver Stone’s Nixon.  Now this movie is not a comedy in the regular sense, nor is it funny unintentionally like a really bad movie.  It’s funny because the cast of characters that was the Nixon administration was one of the biggest pack of emotional mutants ever assembled.  It was almost like the movie The Monster Squad, but real.  It’s a freak parade for the ages.  Oliver Stone captures these people that ruled this nation like wild beasts in a cage.  How did we let these people climb to the highest seats of the nation?  How is it that someone as off the grid as Nixon seems like a liberal compared to some of our current wizards?  If you have the right kind of mind and some time on your hands, fire up the popcorn and watch Nixon on a night with a full moon.  Just like me you might find yourself howling with laughter.