"I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot."

I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect.

J. D. Salinger: 1919-2010. Say hello to Somerset Maugham, would you?And so you die, and the world is left just a little more wanting than it was before, or so I feel — even though you were in this world but not really of it, I suspect. Strange that I should be so saddened by the death of someone that I never met, who wrote a handful of books and short stories before I was born. But like so many youths, you spoke to me through Holden — here was someone who wasn’t phony (to use Holden’s term); here was someone who actually understood. In a world overwhelmed with bullshit, here was a sliver of truth. And unlike so many youths who go on to acquiesce to or otherwise be absorbed by the seemingly inherent phoniness of adulthood and maturity, you carried the banner until your death at 91. You retreated in the face of overwhelming odds to your “cabin in the west” much like Holden yearned to do, choosing solitude over surrender. You fought the good fight in your own way until the end; for this, I salute you.

It was a very stupid thing to do, I’ll admit, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it.

You never sold the movie rights to Catcher in the Rye; never let it be raped and ransacked by Hollywood. You never let it be cheapened for the quick, easy money. You never sold it out — cliché, I know, but nevertheless for this I am ever thankful (unlike myself and so many others, you learned from your mistakes). So I shudder to think what might happen to your creation now that you are gone. Who will protect Holden from the phonies now? Who will pick up your banner now that you have dropped it?

I recall your daughter writing a nasty memoir suggesting that you were an awful father; I never read it, but suspect that you probably were. That doesn’t change the esteem I have for you as an author. I wonder if your survivors are already talking to Hollywood about the film rights to your work; the thought both saddens and angers me to no end. I take solace in the fact that your works won’t be in the public domain until 2080, long after I’ll be dead myself. If you were smart — and I suspect you were — then Holden is safe for the next 70 years, at least, whatever your heirs might do.

Goddam money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.

If they do defile your work while there is still breath in my lungs, I for one will not see it; Holden will forever remain as he is pictured in my mind’s eye. And since I find myself here in Sai Gon at the moment — you’d be amused to know that I should be studying this morning, but instead I’m sitting in a cafe wasting time writing this — I will burn a joss stick in your honor this evening. Perhaps I will even make an impromptu altar to you, if I can find an illegal, xeroxed copy of Catcher In the Rye mixed in between copies of Lonely Planet Thailand and the latest Dan Brown defecations that can be found among the “book” sellers (and hookers and pimps and “masseurs” and drug dealers and motorbike taxi drivers oh my!) that haunt Pham Ngu Lau by night. These two things are the least I can do for someone that gave me such a gift as Catcher.

J.D. Salinger 1919-2010

An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.

Shoulda Taken the Blue Pill

Ah, now this is the stuff of blogs: navel gazing and self-righteousness at it’s best. …

I never really stopped to think about this; perhaps that’s the problem — why, that as I close in on age 40, I still feel like [tag]Holden Caufield[/tag]. I reread Catcher in the Rye for the umpteenth time last week. I remember reading it as a youth, and having one of those epiphanies that only someone filled with the self righteousness of youth can experience: here is someone who “understands,” I thought; here is someone who “gets it.” The who being J.D. [tag]Salinger[/tag], of course. I thought the same thing when I read [tag]Ayn Rand[/tag]’s The Fountainhead. I suppose I should be embarrassed to admit that now, but I’m not — I’m also astonished to have found it among my mother’s books shortly after her death, but that’s another topic for another time.

I guess I had some vague notion or expectation that by now I wouldn’t still feel alienated from the world around me. I’m not really surprised that I’m not, I suppose; but I think if anything I’m even more restless and mystified by the world today — even pissed off — then I was as a youth. I guess the upcoming election coupled with the current financial debacle have exacerbated these feelings. Or maybe I’m just not as self absorbed as I was as a youth.

But I just can’t believe that most people actually think that either [tag]Obama[/tag] or [tag]McCain[/tag] are good choices for president. I can’t get my brain around this that the majority find one or the other acceptable. I could provide reasons a mile long against both, but the one that astonishes me the most, I’ve already written about, and that’s their support for FISA. Good God, both candidates for president voted to abridge our civil rights, rights upon which this country supposedly was founded, rights which supposedly men and women have died to protect — are dieing even today. At least in theory, this is why they are dieing; I’m not so sure, and that is what is so terrible about that.

But the thing is, I bring this up with people, even people that I used to think were rational thinkers, and they just shrug their shoulders. “Well, would you rather have Obama/McCain?” they ask, depending on which side of the political spectrum they lie. No I wouldn’t. I would rather have someone who isn’t a career politician, i.e., I’d rather have someone who is not a sellout crook. I’d rather have a candidate who hasn’t wiped his butt with the constitution like these two have as sitting U.S. senators; they are no different than the sellout crooks in the current administration.

Pete Townsend was right: meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Then there is the financial debacle.

So, as of today, it looks like Congress may pass that $700-OMFG-billion [tag]bailout[/tag]. Oh, they threw in a few caveats so they can brag about how they protected the “little guy,” or as Obama likes to say, “Main Street.” The hope is, of course, that the government will by huge amounts of devaluaed assets — essentially bying bad debt — with the idea that with this bad debt taken off their hands, banks and financial firms will be more willing to — wait for it … wait for it — extend more credit. To make more loans to create more debt. Ostensibly “good” debt, but debt nonetheless. As the Associated Press put it, the bailout “would pump as much as $700 billion into beleaguered financial firms that are starving for cash, taking over huge amounts of devalued assets from the companies in the hopes of unlocking frozen credit.”

WTF?

According to the AP report, the government will insure some bad home loans rather than buy them outright, ostensibly to limit the amount of tax payer money used in the bailout. It also seems that financial executives who got us into this mess “would see their pay packages limited,” and won’t receive “golden parachutes. Something tells me their limited pay packages will still be more than I make in total for several years.

The AP also reports that the government would receive stock in the companies it bails out, ostensibly giving it, and by proxy us, a chance to recoup some of the bailout through future profits these companies would make. So we’re betting on these companies that are all about to fail that someday they’ll make money again. This sounds a little too close to the logic of “too big to fail.”

And last, and seemingly least in the eyes of the government, the litte guy on Main Street: the plan would require the government to try renegotiating the bad mortgage debt it acquires with the goal of lowering borrowers’ monthly payments so they can keep their homes.

Again, WTF?

OK, if you don’t want to read the angry, self-righteous rant we all know is coming, stop here. Bad words trouble you? Please go to http://www.fluffyboxofkittens.com and tell ’em I sent ya.

<angry rant>

So, essentially the government is going to fuck us hard yet again, but at least is giving us a momentary reach around before heading out the door without so much as a “thank you ma’am” (that will come later in a soundbite for the evening news that we’ll see on the fuzzy TV in our sordid little roach motel room). Sorry for the graphic analogy (not really) but I’m very, very angry by all this, not to mention mystified as to how anyone can think this is a good idea.

Our country is already $9.8 billion in the hole (yes, all the sordid details can be found here), between debt carried by the U.S. public and that carried by the government The total debt has increased more than $500 billion each year since since 2003; the annual budget deficit declined from $318 billion in 2005 to $162 billion in 2007, but is estimated to increase to $410 billion in 2008. Budget deficits add to the debt, of course, because the government borrows to make up the slack.

So, a government that lives beyond its means is going to borrow even more money to bail out individuals and corporations living beyond their means.

Seriously, in what the fuck world does this make sense? Please tell me, as I’d like to join the rest of you there, but apparently I was in the bathroom when they handed out the blue pills.

I’ll go ahead and state the obvious here, because obviously it needs to be said. But in all seriousness, isn’t this just the sort of thing that caused the current problem in the first place? On one hand, we’ve got milions of people living beyond their means through credit. Maxing out their multiple credit cards and getting a mortgage they have no realistic means of paying off in the long run, living in debt up to their eyeballs — all in pursuit of the so-called American dream. On the other hand, there’s the thousands of greedy bastards willing to extend all that questionable credit. As if that weren’t enough money, even greedier bastards are buying and selling that debt.

So now that this is all crashing and burning, both sides are clamoring for the government, which is broke to begin with, to bail them out. And that means, of course, us taxpayers. Well, maybe if you’re one of those people living impossibly beyond your means, or one of those greedy bastards making money off of those fools, you think this is a good idea.

As someone who has largely stayed out of debt for most of his adult life — caveat to Mom and Dad for paying off the college loans — who pays his taxes (taxes which have gone up under Dubya, I might add), who lives simply and not beyond his means, who drives a ’92 Subaru that’s paid for (what a novel concept), I have to disagree. I don’t think my tax dollars should be used to bail out anyone on either side.

Fuck you; you made your bed, now you should have to lie in it. Why should people like me help foot the bill and be punished while others get bailed out — in other words, rewarded — for being at best foolish and ignorant and at worst a greedy, opportunist asshole? When do I get to stop feeling like Holden Caufield, and that there is actually some rationality in the human world? What about my American dream?

I think that’s about to drown in a $700 billion flush down the toilet; Obaman or McCain will have the priviledge of jiggling the handle.

Oh, but what about the “painful recession” Dubya warned us about if this doesn’t come to pass? Well, what about it? I would have thought unending war, gas shortages, and a price more than $4 dollars a gallon would be enough to wake people up, but it hasn’t; it just produced more should shrugs. Maybe this would be enough to make the blue pill wear off.

</rant>

Ah, I feel much better now. I still feel like Holden Caufield, but I’ll stick with the red pill.