Eisenhower read nine newspapers a day; Bush prefers his news ‘filtered’

November 19th, 2003 § 0

Editor and Publisher’s Carl Sullivan noticed an interesting item about previous presidents’ appetite for news and how they compare with the current occupant of the Oval Office…. Dwight Eisenhower read nine newspaper a day. Bush likes to get his news “filtered.”

“I glance at the headlines, just to get kind of a flavor,” Bush told Fox News… “I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who probably read the news themselves….the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what’s happening in the world.”[The Carpetbagger Report]

Fast Company: The Walmart You Don’t Know. …

November 19th, 2003 § 0

what originally inspired the post was below an article in fastcompany about walmart. the scale of walmart’s operations is unbelievable. they are four times larger than the second biggest retailer in the us and larger than exxon or mobil.

while this article focuses more on the issue of losing jobs overseas, it does not ignore the consequences of the walmartization of all aspects of life.

walmart is leading the charge to lower prices and lower quality of life. americans seem to be waking up to the consequences.

Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost…. Ever-cheaper prices have consequences. Says Steve Dobbins, president of thread maker Carolina Mills: “We want clean air, clear water, good living conditions, the best health care in the world–yet we aren’t willing to pay for anything manufactured under those restrictions.”

Fast Company: The Walmart You Don’t Know. [what’s in rebecca’s pocket?]

how higher prices improve life

November 19th, 2003 § 0

here in vienna, prices at the supermarket are magnitudes (between one and half and two times) higher than in toronto or elsewhere in north america, especially for cheese and produce.

happily, the cheese and the produce are far better than what one is accustomed to in toronto. after a summer in carinthia and on the island of hvar, i became even more particular, so i still try to buy my fruits and vegetables at the freyag market on thursdays.

the native fruits and vegetables of austria (apples, onions, beets, carrots, lettuce of various sorts, squash of all kinds, brussel sprouts, broccoli) are not any more expensive and superb. full of flavour and small.

(how did north americans ever fall for the plump shiny enormous and tasteless red apple, found almost everywhere in their supermarkets?)

but everywhere all of this food costs much more than in toronto. yet it is a joy to eat. one need not eat so much of it to feel nourished.

when one goes out into the countryside, there are many small farms, many prosperous small holdings. the consumer is paying (and the government too) for this quality produce. but the farms are there and so are the farmers.

it is a sustainable universe with happy consumers and comparatively well-off farmers (and anyone who says european farmers are lazy and idlers and ought to be forced to work harder hasn’t spent anytime on a farm over here).

higher prices and higher quality is not limited only to food. it carries over across the retail gamut. europe is more expensive

but the current american model of massive discount retail pricing is destroying the quality of products, the producers themselves, the smaller specialty stores.

the model of quantity not quality is a ghastly one, laying desert to an entire continent in concrete and neon. and the food doesn’t even taste good.

my austrian girlfriend anna found the food in new york so bad she could only shop in health food stores. in toronto, she said food was much better but not good.

one honest man

November 19th, 2003 § 0

one of the few americans to have made sense throughout the entire 9/11-afghanistan-iraq fiasco still unfolding is gore vidal. a man with his views, despite his enormous reputation, is not going to get a lot of air time in george bush’s america. but this week the la weekly interviewed him. vidal did not mince words, nor does it look like they edited him down much. run, do not walk, to one of the darkest and most amusing evaluations of the contemporary american and world political situation.

on electronic voting machines:

We don’t want an election without a paper trail. The makers of the voting machines say no one can look inside of them, because they would reveal trade secrets. What secrets? Isn’t their job to count votes? Or do they get secret messages from Mars? Is the cure for cancer inside the machines? I mean, come on. And all three owners of the companies who make these machines are donors to the Bush administration. Is this not corruption? So Bush will probably win if the country is covered with these balloting machines. He can’t lose.

on the iraq war:

I think we will go down the tubes right with it. With each action Bush ever more enrages the Muslims. And there are a billion of them. And sooner or later they will have a Saladin who will pull them together, and they will come after us. And it won’t be pretty.

on despotism, business and the bush administration:

Once you have a business community that is so corrupt in a society whose business is business, then what you have is, indeed, despotism. It is the sort of authoritarian rule that the Bush people have given us. The USA PATRIOT Act is as despotic as anything Hitler came up with — even using much of the same language.

finally a comparatively mainstream thinker who is prepared to come out and call a spade, a spade. the laws going on the books in america are very similar to those enacted by the nazis before the second world war. the language used by the president of the united states is as jingoistic and as frightening as that used by hitler.

let’s hope those electronic ballot boxes are banned before 2004.

nebelland – into the fog | a journey into ingeborg bachmann’s poetry

November 19th, 2003 § 2

i was in the national library today collecting the books that astrid and i had ordered up for me last week. they included two editions of geschichte der o (pauline reagé) for anna-friend (in contrast to anna-lapin), and a book of ingeborg bachmann’s poetry in translation and a translation of her stories the winding road.

one of the first things that astrid spoke to me about was a woman poet from klagenfurt, her home town. i had never heard of her.

but my first real look at bachmann’s verse was an eye opener. strong stuff all of it. the aesthetic encounters the personal encounters hard language. none of the caterwauling of an anna akhmatova for stern bachmann.

with the time i spent in advertising and my current dark mood, i was especially taken with a very short poem called reklame – advertisement:


Wohin aber gehen wir
ohne sorge sei ohne sorge
wenn es dunkel und wenn es kalt wird
sei ohne sorge
mit musik
was sollen wir tun
heiter und mit musik
und denken
angesichts eines Endes
mit musik
und wohin tragen wir
am besten
unsre Fragen und den Schauer aller Jahre
in die Traumwäscherei ohne sorge sei ohne sorge
was aber geschieht
am besten
wenn Totenstille

the play is between the poet’s personal voice and the washing commercial which plays in the background and infiltrates her consciousness. the poet’s voice is in oblique text and the washing commercial in italics. the symphonic dissonance between the gay jingle of advertising and the hard reality of daily life strikes one hard here.

as a sometimes poet who has indeed not only listened to washing commercials, but made them, i have a great sympathy for bachmann’s interrupted thought processes. sadly these days so does every other consumer/soul in the western world and most of the rest of the planet.

i will try to post a translation to this poem later as i can’t seem to find one on the net, let alone a good one.

perhaps astrid might have a go at it? in which case i’ll tidy up.

two other lines overwhelmed me. i first caught sight of them as just a fragment before seeing the larger whole.

Nebelland hab ich gesehen,
Nebelherz hab ich gegessen.

this may be roughly translated as:

the fog land have i seen the fog heart have i eaten.

but really english fails us here. there is no worthy equivalent to nebelland. perhaps misty moors. distant duns. no. nein. nought.

those two strong lines are part of a longer poem entitled “nebelland” or “into the fog”. well worth looking up, as it is too long to reproduce here.

as you can see, i had the good fortune of reading from a facing translation. ingeborg bachmann’s poems. finally another good reason to learn german, some very good poetry. written by a young woman from klagenfurt.

something about those carinthian women. strange dark artists. carinthia is beautiful, the mountains and the lakes. what are they so despondent about? is it in the water? i drank my share this summer.

on a lighter note, i highly recommend joining the national library for anyone of scholarly or literary bent who happens to be sejouring in vienna. for about ten euros a year, you have access to a fabulous collection (rather strong on german language resources and things austrian, but there’s lots leftover for the merely trilingual) and a wonderful reading room look over the city garden. it is a serious environment where one finds people who take writers and words and books very seriously indeed.

very inspiring for any kind of a writer, i am certain. i can see why astrid likes it here.

reaction to a poem | romantic realism

November 18th, 2003 § 0

interesting night, last saturday. astrid and i went out again after her return from klagenfurt. first café dieglass. one of her favorites although i find it very formal and a little bit stuffy. shared a meal which was actually ample for two. talked and talked. then we moved onto another even more conservative bar called planters. kind of pickup joint for mid-level bankers/business types 27 to 40. the kind of place you’d never catch me dead in.

queen of the nightbut with astrid it was alright. we just sat in our corner and talked about relationships, love and physical attraction.

astrid seems to like these grown-up places. if she decides to carry on in the theatre world, she’d do well to habituate herself to another life. but she does frequent alt wien, as well. as she admits, she’d like to be a theatre administrator and not an actual metteur en scène in any case.

she’d read the poem. she was quite categoric that the girl in it has nothing to do with her. i disagree about the nothing part, but do agree that it is not entirely here. when i emailed her to have a look at it, i’d warned her that it was only partly based on her.

but she insists emphatically that she is very realistic about life and doesn’t have any illusions. i hope that’s not true. twenty-two is a little bit early to be shedding the rose-coloured glasses.

on the other hand i’ve been out with her when she was said she is very romantic. certainly true. but when the romantic side doesn’t follow her script, she is most discontent.

what can i say, astrid is the first for romantic realism… a new artistic movement and genre. nice to have someone care so much about poem. and i had begun to think writing poetry was a waste of time (cf. anna).

a big loss is that she asked me to take one of the photos down from her gallery. in my opinion, the nicest one. i acceded to the request but will try replace it with something else.

three thirty comes onby the time three thirty am rolled around, i had had enough. but astrid delightful as she is, is never at a loss for words. and she likes the last word. at four in the morning, i’m inclined to give it away.

favorite late night haunt in vienna | best friends

November 12th, 2003 § 2

anna p and alec in alt wienstrange how life can turn out. my best friend in vienna is the best friend of my once and future princess (aka, ex-girlfriend). confusing? both of them are called anna. i see anna more than anna. here we are together in my favorite late night hangout in vienna. it’s called alt wien and is one of the few cafés open really late in vienna. closing hours are variable, says anna, depending on the humour of the waiters and ambience, but on this wednesday night we were there until three-thirty in the morning, recounting mutual tales of romantic woe and exploring the psychology or rather the sociopathology of (wo)mankind.

smoking | alt wienanna studies psychology so our talks usually run deep. she is so sad and beautiful. she makes me think of helen of troy.

strange thing with the smoking in vienna. all of these beautiful young women damning themselves to yellow teeth and a hacking cough in their thirties. but in alt wien, the cigarette takes on a twenties kind of glamour.

anna works part time in the skies with austrian airlines. if you are very, very lucky you will run into her some time when you are flying. we often meet the evening of her return to vienna. i will miss her while i’m away.

in fairy tales

November 11th, 2003 § 0

there was girl named for a star
fair and small, she grew and twinkled
always like a jewel: saphires, rubies
and diamonds most of all she loved .
astrid sparkled in the morning
and at night.

her mother loved her and took care
that nothing hurt fair astrid
for she was lovely and unique,
a mind full of words and books
a fairy tale princess who lived in a tower,
the miller’s daughter, cinderella,
all the roles of the world
lived in her heart.

she grew and grew and finally
had to leave for the city
to study all by herself.

early she rarely rose, for time
she needed for dreams and thought,
high theatre she loved for there
the characters acted and spoke
bold and great and complicated
just like in her very own thoughts.

but there disappointment
first struck when she found out,
in life, these lofty players,
drink too much and curse,
are normal folk with
ex-girlfriends and wives
and carburators to fix.

so she thought a poet might be nice
full of passion and fury, deeply romantic,
lively debate and profound talk,
but poets neglect always the garbage
to take out and personal hygiene.
our shiny astrid, ever so clean and twinkling,
dirty floors and sheets could not abide.

then the ballet struck. dancers
so noble and tall upon the stage,
surely they must know something
of the ineffable, these sylvan creatures
and graceful men, she hoped.
but even one night of their dull conversation
for sparkly astrid was too much. i’m bored
she thought and went home to her tomes
of long dead thinkers and troubadors.

fancy clothes and fashion
astrid often adorned and she gleamed
so bright in the dark that to nightclubs
she was often called, by friends
good and bad, invited to test drugs
but astrid felt too wild with just blood
in her veins – she had the sense to say, no –
i will go again to the theatre then.

and round and round she turned
fair astrid and twinkled on every side
and slow and sadly learned,
the only real princes, in fairy tales live.