Saturday, August 29, 2015

My Literary Hero: Satchel Paige

"I never threw an illegal pitch. Trouble is, once in a while I would toss one that ain’t never been seen by this generation." 

Citibank: Cost of not acting on climate change: $44 trillion

The banking giant's bottom-line assessment of the impact of climate change can be found here.

If you don't think climate change is reality, please watch the video below. If you do think it is reality, please read this.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Fifth Beatle

Over the years, there have been lots of nominees for the title of "Fifth Beatle." This article lists the names most commonly mentioned. Was it producer George Martin? Manager Brian Epstein? Former bassist Stuart Sutcliffe? Studio contributors Nicky Hopkins, Eric Clapton, or Billy Preston? Business manager Neil Aspinall? Press officer Derek Taylor?

Wait a minute. What about conceptual artist, singer, and songwriter Yoko Ono? Somehow her name always slips out of this discussion.

That last nominee may draw smirks from those addicted to an ancient and inadequate narrative about whose "fault" it was that the band disintegrated, but consider. Ono is the only one who can claim to have collaborated as a peer on the composition of a Beatle album track: REVOLUTION 9. Ono also supplies lead vocals -- briefly -- on another track, HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN. Unless I am very much mistaken, she's the only woman to have done so on an official release. (I'm not counting Phil Spector's heavenly choirs on the LET IT BE album, since superseded.) Come to think of it, I can't think of another Beatle track where a non-Beatle sings a line of lead vocal.

Ono is also mentioned by name on COME TOGETHER. Even if she hadn't been, she was obviously and prominently Lennon's soulmate, muse, and artistic partner.

Truth be told, there was no Fifth Beatle. Ono appears to me to have engaged in more actual collaboration than any of the men on the list, though.

If you are still among of those skeptical of Ono's abilities, consider listening to the track YES, I'M YOUR ANGEL.

Monday, August 24, 2015

You won't BELIEVE what Alan Greenspan called Noam Chomsky

(Via +Richard Gibney and selected wire sources:)

The bitter feud between the former head of the Federal Reserve and the noted linguistics guru reached a fever pitch yesterday when ...


For the love of God, click here for more

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fiona Apple on Creativity

The Five Books I'm Reading (August Edition)

* LES MISERABLES -- Hugo's masterpiece, humanity's masterpiece.

* CONTEMPORARY FICTION -- brilliant collections of post-1970 short stories by American authors.

* TO THE LIGHTHOUSE -- Nicole Kidman's audio performance of Virginia Woolf's classic.

* A DISTANT MIRROR -- Barbara Tuchman's authoritative history of the dismal 14th century.

* THE HOLY QUR'AN -- Just got a one-volume version of Yusuf Ali's translation, with exhaustive commentary.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Helping Shakespeare-phobics since 1995
A dear friend recently told me he'd been using my SHAKESPEARE FOR BEGINNERS book to teach high school students for two decades now. I had no idea it had been that long. Life carries its little rewards.

Shakespeare's Literary Devices #4: SOLILOQUY

A soliloquy is a lengthy speech in which a character who is all alone onstage expresses his or her deepest thoughts and emotions. The soliloquy differs from the monologue in that the monologue is spoken while a character shares the stage with others.

The most famous Shakespearean soliloquy is the "To be or not to be" speech from Hamlet. Below, the late Roger Rees shares his personal experience in delivering it.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Shakespeare's Literary Devices #3: APOSTROPHE

Not to be confused with the punctuation mark.

A writer who uses this kind of apostrophe detaches from reality and addresses an imaginary person or object as though he, she, or it were actually present..

Shortly before murdering King Duncan, Macbeth imagines he sees a dagger and speaks to it as though it were a person:

 “Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand?
Come, let me clutch thee!
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.”

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Man Who Killed 99 People #Islam #Quran #Forgiveness

(There are many online sources referencing the miracles of the Quran ... but the biggest miracle of all is forgiveness.)

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said:

There was a man from among a nation before you who killed ninety-nine people and then made an inquiry about the most learned person on the earth. He was directed to a monk. He came to him and told him that he had killed ninety-nine people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the negative and the man killed him also, completing one hundred.

He then asked about the most learned man in the earth. He was directed to a scholar. He told him that he had killed one hundred people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the affirmative and asked, `Who stands between you and repentance? Go to such and such land; there (you will find) people devoted to prayer and worship of Allah, join them in worship, and do not come back to your land because it is an evil place.’

So he went away and hardly had he covered half the distance when death overtook him; and there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the angels of torment. The angels of mercy pleaded, ‘This man has come with a repenting heart to Allah,’ and the angels of punishment argued, ‘He never did a virtuous deed in his life.’ Then there appeared another angel in the form of a human being and the contending angels agreed to make him arbiter between them. He said, `Measure the distance between the two lands. He will be considered belonging to the land to which he is nearer.’ They measured and found him closer to the land (land of piety) where he intended to go, and so the angels of mercy collected his soul.

[Al Bukhari and Muslim]

(One interpretation of this story is that Allah miraculously caused the distance between the man and the land where he meant to go to to diminish.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Your Least Favorite Beatles Song (and Why I Disagree)

Well, the votes are in. As I expected, a consensus has emerged for the Beatles "Revolution 9" as the Internet's least favorite Beatles song. I used this track as a writing prompt for my novel JIHADI: A LOVE STORY.

Although the track does tend to tax the patience of first-time listeners -- and, let's be honest, repel many from even the idea of listening to it a second time -- I stand by my view that it is both important and beautiful. A complex, multi-layered, carefully structured composition that produces something like a liminal ("dream state") experience when approached without prejudice, "Revolution 9" also -- this is the fun part -- stands up to close analytical scrutiny. I have listened to it dozens, probably hundreds of times now. It rewards each new encounter. It conveys a deep, raw power and illuminates countless intricate emotional states.

That's my experience, I know -- not that of the majority. Yet it's worth pointing out that the majority seems willing to grant the importance of an album like Radiohead's KID A, which owes a great deal to this work.

I might ask skeptics to consider that John Lennon put a lot of time into this. For a brilliant second-by-second deconstruction from Ian Hammond revealing the complexity of the piece, click here.

For the Village Voice's defense of this track, click here.

For one interpretation of the lyrics (if that's what you can call them) click here.

For my longer-than-this-post meditation on why the song doesn't suck, click here.

Lennon's (and Ono's) masterpiece, in my humble opinion. Horses for courses.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


An open group specifically for those unfamiliar with (or bored by) Shakespeare. Welcome! Click here to visit the group without joining. Ask any question. Price of admission: Thy opened mind. Management reserves the right to refuse service.

 Shakespeare for Beginners

Shakespeare's Literary Techniques #2: SYMBOLISM (and a Shakespeare Trivia Question)

Symbolism is the use of specific images, objects, or people to represent abstract ideas.

MACBETH uses darkness to symbolize evil. In the middle of the day, when the sun would be expected to shine, "dark night strangles the traveling lamp" (II, iv), perhaps as the result of an eclipse.

You can argue that darkness also represents corruption and death in this play. Shakespeare was fond of fusing multiple, interconnected ideas into a single symbol. He also linked contrasting symbols: the opposite of darkness, light, is used to represent life. Elsewhere in the play, in a speech that appears in the film BIRDMAN, life is compared to a candle that's snuffed out.

For a clip of the new MACBETH film, click here.

For a discussion of iterative (repeating) imagery in MACBETH, click here.

Trivia question: What actor originated the role of Macbeth?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Manga King Lear

Wow. So far, I am really impressed with this adaptation, as are two younger associates, to whom I am reading it aloud. Although it's sensitively edited, this is the real text, not a modern-language dumbing-down. It's brought to life with vivid, dynamic illustrations and a risky re-imagining of the setting that is working for me. Quite an accomplishment. Buy it here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

In London? Here's What You Need to Do Tonight #Shakespeare #HenryV #OriginalPronunciation

Two more nights to check out Passion in Practice's landmark production of Shakespeare's HENRY V in original pronunciation. Don't miss it!

Click here to order tickets.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Hollow Crown

I've been in heaven since this came in. Shakespeare as mini-series. Do it again! Coriolanus / Julius Caesar / Antony and Cleopatra, please!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

#DonaldTrump: First Oompa Loompa President?

More About Those White Cops Who Shoot Unarmed Black Civilians, Knowing They Are Being Filmed

This is an addendum to yesterday's blog, in which I proposed a cluster of surrealistically low IQ scores as an explanation for this phenomenon.

Without disputing that scenario for a moment, +Dave Toropov pointed out that there is a more likely theory: They are confident, given the vagaries of the travesty we refer to as the "American justice system," that they will literally get away with murder.

This BBC article confirms that their belief is well founded.

US cops who shoot unarmed civilians are rarely prosecuted, and hardly ever convicted.

So shame on us.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dear Next White American Cop Who Shoots an Unarmed Black Person On Video

Setting aside for the moment your seemingly hardwired racism and your eerie resonance with various historically painful gatherings of uniformed thugs, I ask: Has it ever occurred to you that you just might not be bright enough for this line of work?

I mean to ask: Is it possible that you lack enough IQ points to qualify as someone responsible for protecting the public? Even the exclusively white public?

Are you and your supervisors unable to grasp the reality that armed assaults on civilians are likely not only to be recorded and circulated, but also to lead to prison time for you, and to result in disgrace, civil unrest, and chaos?

If so ...

If a sense of shared humanity won't prevent you from shooting unarmed persons ...

... and if you're not smart enough to realize you will indeed become a global pariah for doing so ...

... and if your superior is incapable of preventing violent, idiotic racists like you from getting access to lethal weapons at public expense ...

... could I respectfully suggest that you check out of the police force indefinitely and get some therapy?