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Old 14.03.2009, 16:52   #91
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Thursday, March 12, 2009
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ON OPTIMISM
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If all our writers, from Khorenatsi to Zarian, have so far failed to penetrate the thick walls raised by our political and religious leaders, whatever possesses me into thinking I have a better chance? And what kind of arrogance bordering on pathological megalomania is it that makes our Turcocentric ghazetajis entertain the illusion they will have better luck with the Turks? Perhaps there is a Don Quixote in all of us – a Don with the IQ of Rosinante, or is it Sancho Panza's jackass?
*
“Please, don't tell my mother I am a CEO on Wall Street. She thinks I am a pimp.”
*
When millionaires declare bankruptcy, they do so to protect their millions. Some laws, it seems, are made by crooks, for crooks.
*
In his autobiography,Theodore Reik, a Freudian psychoanalyst, writes that for many years he was deeply in love with a very attractive woman. But when he finally married her, the wedding night was a disaster. He seems to be saying, a penetrating awareness of the other is achieved only by penetration.
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Both pessimism and optimism are more or less legitimate ways of forecasting the future. Sometimes pessimists are right, and sometimes optimists. But optimists are never right if their optimism is motivated by wishful thinking. Reality advances on a different plane from our wishes. That’s why, even when our dreams come true they have a tendency to turn into nightmares.
#
Friday, March 13, 2009
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REFLECTIONS ON OUR HISTORY
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“If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”
Our history in a nutshell.
*
There are two kinds of nations: those who divide and conquer, and those who divide themselves and are conquered.
*
The function of a belief system or ideology is to raise a wall between us and our perception of reality. The function of our nationalist historians, leadership, and educational system is to cover up this fact. And the function of our writers is to remind us of it. There are many references to this fact in our literature. (See below.)
*
To those who say, how could little Armenia resist the overwhelming might of ruthless empire builders like Genghis Khan (13th century), Timurlang (14th century), and Suleiman the Magnificent (16th century), my answer is: our predisposition for dividing ourselves was in full swing long before these gentlemen went on the warpath. Listen to our 5th-century historian, Yeghishé:
“Solidarity is the mother of good deeds, divisiveness of evil onces.”
Elsewhere: “We may not be allowed to question the integrity of princes, but neither should we praise men who pit themselves against the Will of God” (that is, the Reality Principle).
And more to the point:
“In the same way that a man cannot serve two masters, a nation cannot have two kings. If a nation is ruled by two kings, both the kings and their subjects will perish.”
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Am I rubbing salt in our wound? Why not? -- if the wound is self-inflicted.
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Raffi: “An Armenian's worst enemies are not odars but Armenians.”
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Gostan Zarian: “Armenians survive by cannibalizing one another.”
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Charents: “O Armenian people, your salvation lies only in your collective powers.”
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For more on this subject, see my DICTIONARY OF ARMENIAN QUOTATIONS.
#
Saturday, March 14, 2009
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LITERATURE
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The only time I am referred to as a writer by our commissars is when they tell me it is my duty as a patriotic Armenians to echo their sentiments and thoughts. You say I have said this before? How flattering! Not only you read me but you also remember what I say.
*
Money goes to money, they say. Something very similar happens to culture too. Consider the situation of 20th-century French literature, one of the most highly developed and influential in the world: the three playwrights who revolutionized the French theater (Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, and Eugene Ionesco) were an Irishman, an Armenian, and a Romanian respectively). And now consider the situation of Armenian literature at the other end of the spectrum: not only we don’t encourage or welcome outside contribution, but we also alienate and silence our own (from Abovian to Zarian). Figure that one out if you can.
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Old 18.03.2009, 18:05   #92
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Sunday, March 15, 2009
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BOOKS IN MY LIFE
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I grew up in time of war – two wars, as a matter of fact: World War II and the Greek Civil War. I grew up in a house without books. It was only at the age of fourteen that I read my first book – WITH FIRE AND SWORD by the Polish Nobelist Henrik Sienkiewicz: a historical novel of WAR-AND-PEACE dimensions, but less Tolstoy and more Dumas pére and Errol Flynn. The only thing I remember about it today is the name of the central character, Pan Mikael Volodiovsky. I read it in an Armenian translation done by a Mekhitarist monk. At one time the Mekhitarists were formidable translators and the most prolific of them all was Arsen Ghazikian, who single-handed translated all the epic poems of the Western canon from Homer to THE SONG OF ROLAND, among many other Greek and Latin classics. Two of his students, Padre Elia (Yeghia) Pachikian and Mesrob Janashian, were my teachers. Janashian was also the author of a highly detailed and competent HISTORY OF MODERN WEST-ARMENIAN LITERATURE.
After FIRE AND SWORD I chanced on a thin paperback, Dostoevsky's THE GAMBLER, and was hooked on the Russians. What fascinated me about Dostoevsky was the fact that his characters spoke their mind, held nothing back, refused to stand on ceremony or consider what others may think of them. In that sense, they were more authentic human beings than anyone I had ever met. Chekhov was different. His characters impressed me as people I had known or could have known. There was nothing bizarre or incomprehensible about them.
The Russians, and I include Tolstoy and Turgenev, made me realize that I wasn't alone, and whenever I try to reread them now I also realize that you can't go home again.
#
Monday, March 16, 2009
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THOMAS MANN
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On a visit to Venice, a middle-aged German writer falls for a beautiful Polish boy on the beach, postpones his return home, and dies of cholera. (As a youth, Mann idolized Wagner, who also died in Venice.) I first read DEATH IN VENICE in Venice, at the age of fifteen, in an Italian translation. It left me cold. Much ado about nothing, I thought. Ten years later I read it again, this time in an English translation, with the same result. But I refused to give up on Mann and with CONFESSIONS OF FELIX KRULL, CONFIDENCE MAN I got religion. Immediately after I read and reread THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS, and DOKTOR FAUSTUS the way a born-again reads and rereads the Bible.
Two things fascinated me about Mann: his subtle humor and his expertise on a wide range of subjects. When he expanded the Biblical story of Joseph into a four- volume, 2000-page long novel, for instance, he acquired an entire library on both the Bible and ancient Egypt. To write about the life of a modern composer, he befriended and pumped several famous musicologists, composers, and conductors, among them Adorno, Schoenberg, and Bruno Walter (who happened to be a next-door neighbor as well his daughter's secret lover). In politics and philosophy, he could argue both sides of any issue – an advantage over Shaw, Sartre, and Nabokov who took sides with disastrous results -- Shaw and Sartre in their support of totalitarian regimes, and Nabokov in his defense of the war in Vietnam.
Mann has had his share of critics: Shaw ignored him, Sartre and Nabokov dismissed him as a bourgeois, Brecht called him “a short-story writer," Stefan Zweig thought he was long-winded, Furtwaengler accused him of changing nationalities as if they were shirts, and Hitler wanted him assassinated -- some said because THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN outsold MEIN KAMPF.
*
Mann on Hitler:
“Thanks to his own baseness, he has indeed succeeded in exposing much of our own.”
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“The totalitarian statesman is the founder of a religion; or, more accurately, the founder of an infallible, inquisitorial system of dogma that forcibly suppresses every heresy while itself resting on legend – a system to which truth must austerely submit.”
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Mann on what it takes:
“The creative genius must first become a world in itself, in which only discoveries and not inventions, remain to be made.”
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“The intellectual man is almost as much interested in painful truths as the fool is in those which flatter him.”
#
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
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ARNOLD J. TOYNBEE
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When asked by a journalist what had motivated him to dedicate most of his adult life to writing his monumental multi-volume STUDY OF HISTORY, Toynbee replied with a single word: “Curiosity.”
Of the twelve volumes, my favorite is the 12th, subtitled RECONSIDERATIONS. Here Toynbee replies to his critics – an astonishingly large number of them from all over the world. Sometimes he is willing to admit error, at others he reaffirms his position and goes further. Case in point: “Spate's failure to keep his knowledge of the Jordan valley's history up to date would have been venial if the tone of his criticism had not been supercilious. However, my concern with Spate is not to return his fire but to follow out the second thoughts into which I have been stung by the stimulating shot with which he has peppered me.”
One reason I enjoy reading and rereading RECONSIDERATIONS is its quintessentially unArmenian tone of tolerance and acceptance of dissent as worthy of consideration.
Toynbee's general theory of the rise and fall of civilizations and empires goes something like this: civilizations grow by responding successfully to challenges under the leadership of creative minorities, and decline when the leaders fail to react creatively.” In his own words: “A growing civilization can be defined as one which the components of its culture [economic, political, artistic, and scientific] are in harmony with one another; and, on the same principle, a disintegrating civilization can be defined as one in which these elements have fallen into discord.”
All general theories are vulnerable to contradiction and criticism. Plato's were criticized by his student, Aristotle, Marx's by Keynes, Spengler's by Jacques Maritain and Teilhard de Chardin, and Toynbee's by a wide range of specialists who saw in him an interloper who had dared to exploit their findings to serve his own alien agenda.
In my view, Toynbee's greatest merit is not his general theory but the many brilliant observations on the human condition. Random samples follows:
*
On racial superiority:
“The Jews, the Japanese, the British 'sahibs', the Nazis...all seem to me to have been chosen by no one except themselves.”
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On critics:
“Whenever a reviewer is tempted to treat an author as a dart-board he should remember that the missile which his hand is itching to lance is not a dart but a boomerang.”
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On chauvinism:
“Self-idolization is most flagrantly in evidence, not as a self-adjudicated reward for success, but as a self-exculpating compensation for failure.” (I think of these lines whenever I hear one of our charlatans bragging about our celebrities and achievements.)
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“The egocentric illusion has always beset every living organism in which an ego has ever asserted itself.”
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On pessimism and optimism:
“The truth is that Valéry's pessimism and Gibbon's optimism are, both alike, rationalizing of feelings that are irrationally subjective.”
#
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
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REFLECTIONS
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Whether God exists or not is not the problem. The problem, the real problem, the existential problem is placing as great a distance between us and the Devil as possible. Likewise, knowing the truth is not the problem. The problem is recognizing a deceiver when we see one.
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Because I criticize Armenians I am accused of anti-Armenianism; and because some Turks quote me, I am accused of pro-Ottomanism. I may be wrong about everything but I have no doubt whatever in my mind that no one, not even the very best among us, are beyond criticism. And not to criticize in the name of patriotism is to support the corrupt and the incompetent, and when things go wrong, to blame the enemy who probably was also duped into supporting lying riffraff.
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Among us, politics (or the art of the possible) is confused with ideology (the art of the impossible), and inevitably, ideology is confused with theology (the art of the incomprehensible), and theology is confused with pathology. Some day, in a future progressive and enlightened Armenian democracy, if our partisans are arrested and put on trial, they will be absolutely right in pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.
*
As solitary creatures, Armenian writers have been perennial victims of political parties and their satellite institutions, all of which have a tendency to divide their fellow Armenians into friends and enemies or yes-men and dissidents. As for dialogue: who has ever heard of such a thing in an Ottoman or Soviet environment, or, for that matter, in a crypto-Ottoman or neo-Stalinist context?
#
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Old 21.03.2009, 16:40   #93
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Thursday, March 19, 2009
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SWINE
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Again and again we are told by so-called experts in Washington that the bonuses of the chief executive officers on Wall Street are such an insignificant fraction of the total bailout that it is a waste of time discussing them. These gentlemen must be blind not to see that a million dollars is a million dollars; it may be small change to some, but they are a fortune to the rest of mankind who must work for a living. And I suspect the outrage is less about the bonuses themselves and more about the fact that the very same individuals who are responsible for the present crisis have the judgment and manners of greedy swine.
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C.G. Jung: "Even in our civilization, the people who form, psychologically speaking, the lowest stratum, live almost as unconsciously as primitive races."
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The words of an honest man don’t need definitions; but the commas of a crook should be carefully examined under a microscope.
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We are told by scientists that we are made of stardust, and it is the dust that survives.
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I knew I was going places when a number of Oriental carpet dealers wanted to hire my services as reviewer and translator of their books. These gentlemen are not the kind that would waste their money carelessly.
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It is men without honor who are the first to rise in defense of their honor.
#
Friday, March 20, 2009
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ON A NUMBER OF THINGS
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Obama wants to negotiate with Iran. I suspect Iranians will not fall for his rhetoric as readily as those who voted for him. That's because they have their own brand of rhetoric; and when rhetoric meets rhetoric the result is bound to be a dead end.
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Talaat's blunder: left to their own devices, Armenians would have done a far more through job on themselves.
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While listening to the televised sermon of a bishop, I could not help thinking: “I don't believe a word he says, and I doubt if he does.”
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Bonus: What's a five-letter word that starts with a “b” that stands for bastard, and ends with an “s” that stands for swine?
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Armenian Ottomanism: alienating a fellow Armenian in the name of patriotism.
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Atheism: If an ant were to speak to me and say, “I don't believe in your existence,” would I step on it?
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Benefactors: Take away their money and what have you got? An empty suit, albeit an expensive one. Am I alienating benefactors? Hell no! What I say has as much effect on them as the fart of an ant.
#
Saturday, March 21, 2009
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JOHN UPDIKE
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After COUPLES, I read everything he wrote, and he wrote a great deal, and he knew how to write -- fiction as well as criticism and poetry. He was an inspired craftsman. His nonfiction was as good as his fiction, which is not something that can be said about such contemporaries of his as Mailer, Bellow, and Roth. But somewhere along the line – it may have been after the second or third RABBIT – I gave up reading him.
Shortly before he died a few days ago I read a critical essay about him by a young American writer in whose last sentence Updike was dismissed as an “asshole.” (I later learned this critic had committed suicide.)
I am now reading Updike's TOWARD THE END OF TIME (1997), an autobiographical novel about old age that, as always with Updike, brims with sharp observations and verbal felicities. And now I am looking forward to reading his posthumous works – diaries, notebooks, correspondence, perhaps even an unfinished novel and several big biographies.
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Some random samples of Updike's descriptive skill:
“Girls with orange hair hanging like seaweed or loosely bound with gold barrettes like pirate treasure.”
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“A runty senior with a huge mane of black hair that for diving he did up in a hairband like a Greek girl.”
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“The first breath of adultery is the freest; after it, constraints aping marriage develop.”
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“An aluminum screen door with a misadjusted pneumatic attachment that snaps like lightning the first two-thirds of its arc and then closes the last third slow as a clock ticking.”
#
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Old 25.03.2009, 18:06   #94
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Sunday, March 22, 2009
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ON MYTHS
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We either react against the ideas instilled in us during our formative years, or we treat them as infallible articles of faith and stick to them to the bitter end.
Deep inside somewhere Charents remained a nationalist even when he spoke against it; and Zarian remained an anti-nationalist even when he voiced nationalist nonsense. In a letter to a fellow Tashnak, the editor of HAIRENIK wrote: “If we treat him (Zarian) right, he may come to our side.” When he didn't, he was ignored and treated as an eccentric and a non-person. “I was told he was crazy and I stayed away from him,” a Tashnak neighbor of his once said to me, “and now you tell me he was a great writer?”
According to Ilya Ehrenburg, Stalin said, “Don't touch Charents, he is on our side,” or words to that effect. But truth or God or the Reality Principle is on nobody's side.
Studied in a Christian context, Greek myths about gods who fornicate with mortals sound blasphemous as well as ridiculous. And yet, the Greek effort to explain Reality makes as much sense today as the myths invented by Jewish, Muslim, and Christian theologians who have legitimized murder and massacre in the name of God.
Toynbee is right: after choosing themselves, the chosen assert moral superiority and expect everyone else to be subservient to them. You are either with us or against us, they say, and if you are against us, you don't deserve to live. Some day when mankind is finally civilized, this kind of mindset will be viewed as worthy of barbarians and serial killers.
#
Monday, March 23, 2009
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CROOKS UNLIMIMTED
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What's the use of writing if you end up alienating friends and making enemies of the very same people on whose goodwill you depend for your survival? On the other hand, what's the use of writing if you are not allowed to say what must be said? I may be more popular and have a better chance to survive by making at least minimum wage if I were to write cookbooks. I am not much of a cook, granted. My repertoire is limited to hard-boiled eggs, cheese sandwiches, pilaf, and spaghetti. But I am told you don't have to be a cook to write cookbooks. A best-selling author of cookbooks once told me, “I try at least once every one of my recipes before publishing them,” thus implying many other don't. If there are dishonest politicians, incompetent chief executive officers, and fornicating bishops, why not plagiarizing cookbook writers?
*
Speaking of crooks: why do you think Bernard Madoff wasn't exposed for twenty years? The answer is simple: Wall Street if full of them. Exposing him would have meant exposing themselves. And now that the bonus scandal has exploded, I am looking forward to the second act of the play – investigations, hearings, and indictments. As for the third act, I expect, very much like Watergate, it will end in the resignation, arrests, trials, and incarceration not only of CEOs but also of politicians and other fat cats. Unless of course there are so many of them that both Wall Street and Washington would be paralyzed.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009
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THE PLACEBO EFFECT
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All talk of Historic Armenia belongs to the realm of archeology. In a political context, it makes as much sense as Historic Macedonia, Mongolia, or, closer to home, America.
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There are so many laws and lawyers that protect the interests of the wealthy that even God wouldn't dare to challenge them.
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Whenever a fellow Armenian contradicts me, I cannot help suspecting that he is too smart to be in a position to plead ignorance, and that his disagreement is more like a game, a challenge, or a thoughtlessly adopted political agenda.
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A movement that fails to evolve a leader is as doomed as one that evolves two of them.
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To label ideas as pro- or anti-Armenian can be misleading because what may be in our interests today may be against the Reality Principle tomorrow, as our revolutionaries in the Ottoman Empire discovered. After all, not all wars of liberation end in liberation, and “freedom or death” makes sense only if it means freedom for the majority. To confuse the placebo effect of some ideas with objective reality may result in disaster.
#
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
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READING
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Books are my favorite companions. I don't care where I live as long as there is a good library in the neighborhood. Between a hell with books and a heaven without them, I would choose hell any day.
Once, a few years ago, after observing the monotony of my daily routine and drab surroundings, a childhood friend commented, in my place he would have committed suicide. He promised to share his home and wealth with me if I agreed to return to Athens. Shortly thereafter he went bankrupt and died of a heart attack. I was reminded of this episode while reading Christopher Isherwood's mammoth DIARIES (1048 pages). In almost every other entry he speaks of encounters and conversations with the likes of Thomas Mann, Aldous Huxley, Greta Garbo, and Krishnamurti. And yet, he suffers from fits of depression and requires the constant care of quacks, shrinks, and swamis. There are endless passages about dreams, nightmares, meditation techniques, yoga, and mystical nonsense – passages I now skip for the sake of entries like the following:
“After dinner, Aldous [Huxley] and I got in a corner. He was a little drunk, and started on a favorite topic: the poorness of all literature. Homer was terribly overrated, Dante was hopelessly limited, Shakespeare was such a stupid man, Goethe was such a bore, Tolstoy was silly, etc. etc.” (page 92).
#
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Old 28.03.2009, 17:09   #95
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Thursday, March 26, 2009
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ON REVOLUTION
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The average layman may not understand the exact meaning of subprime mortgages, hedge funds, toxic assets, derivatives, and all the complexities of the present economic crisis, but he understands greed when he sees it, and recognizes a blood****er when he sees one.
Anger is negative, we are told. Anger does not solve problems.
Where would revolutions be without anger?
Where would America be without its Revolution?
Americans today, especially the homeless and the unemployed who number by the million, have many more reasons to be angry and to revolt against their financial officers on Wall Street and representatives in Washington than they had against the mad English king.
You say, anger is negative?
I say, what could be more positive than anger against corruption, greed, incompetence, and injustice?
*
Even if they are allowed to keep their bonuses, the CEOs will spend it in fear, they will live in fear, and they may even go underground for the duration. Some day they may even realize that accepting those bonuses was the dumbest thing they ever did.
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Organized religions have victimized more innocent civilians than organized crime. The same could be said of organized ideologies, including nationalism, communism, and capitalism.
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Under a corrupt or authoritarian regime, law and order might as well be synonymous with fear and lawlessness.
#
Thursday, March 26, 2009
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RIFFRAFF
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A so-called young financial expert on TV speaking of Wall Street chief executive officers: “Their salaries could be as low as $75,000...they survive on bonuses...”
Bernard Madoff ruined about 5000 investors. Wall Street CEOs ruined the global economy. They should be grateful that so far they haven't been arrested. The very least they can do is work for minimum wage until they correct their blunders. But of course, not being a financial expert, I can rely only on my common sense, which, it seems, flies out the window when applied to Wall Street riffraff. And this so-called young whippersnapper thinks he will be quelling the anger of the unemployed and homeless on the grounds that these poor CEOs work for next to nothing?
*
Speaking of American movies, a French critic once described them as “technical perfection in the service of cretinism.” What we have here is financial expertise in the service of moronism!
Consider the following scenario: Your house is on fire. Firefighters arrive and after pouring gasoline instead of water they expect you to be grateful to them. Thank you for doing such a great job. Here, please accept this small check as a token of my appreciation.
*
Another scenario: You hire a contractor to fix your old house. He in turn hires electricians, plumbers, dry-wallers, roofers, and so on. But by the time they are through the house is torn down as in the story of the big bad wolf and the three little pigs. At which point, the contractor demands to be paid the agreed on amount plus a bonus.
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We are told the CEOs who bankrupted AIG have already quit. So what? Let's get them back and let them work for a dollar a year. Liddy is doing it. Is decency on Wall Street limited to only one CEO?
*
Once upon a time, when Communists spoke of Wall Street, they meant everything that was evil in the capitalist system. Who could have foreseen that some day Wall Street would be perceived as such by the whole world, including Americans?
#
Saturday, March 28, 2009
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MEN AND WOMEN
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According to a study conducted by a Vatican theologian, men and women are tempted by the same sins but in different order of frequency. Men are tempted by women, food, laziness, anger, vanity, envy, and avarice; and women by vanity, envy, anger, men, food, avarice, and laziness.
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THE SINS OF THE ESTABLISHMENT
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To support only writers who are pro-establishment is to be against literature and for prostitution.
*
A NEW BOOK
*************************
In a recent issue of LE POINT (Paris, March 3, 2009) I read the following ad for Gilbert Sinoué's EREVAN:
“The great novel of the Armenian people.”
“A great novel that speaks of a terrible truth.”
“Written with intense emotion, but also with justice.”
“Gilbert Sinoué makes us relive the tragedy of an entire people.”
*
CARLOS FUENTES
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“It makes no difference whether you surrender your ass or your conscience: you will get them back in bad shape.”
#
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Old 01.04.2009, 18:42   #96
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Sunday, March 29, 2009
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WHERE WE STAND
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Russians gave communism a bad name and Americans did the same with capitalism. The next “fail-safe” or “best” system, whatever it may be, will also bite the dust by its dedicated supporters as surely as communism and capitalism. It is almost as if the destiny of the best were to be the worst.
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Armenianism: the triumph of dogmatism over solidarity.
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It is the most assertive among us that are the most insecure.
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What we are is not a monolithic structure but fragments of what we could have been.
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We are constantly bombarded by lies that encourage us to hate our fellow men. It is almost as if the function of our “betters” were to make us worse.
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Pablo Neruda: “I only know the skin of the earth, / And it has no name.” After “All men are brothers,” the best argument against nationalism.
*
I see a clear parallel between what contemporary composers have done to music, what artists have done to art, what politicians have done to statesmanship, with what economists have done to the global economy.
#
Monday, March 30, 2009
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SOCRATES
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“We approach truth only in the proportion as we are farther from life.”
*
ON OBJECTIVITY
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Objectivity and passionate involvement are mutually exclusive concepts – unless of course one develops the difficult art of thinking against oneself, which means assuming one is wrong even when – especially when – one is absolutely certain of one's moral superiority and infallible judgment.
*
ON UNDERSTANDING
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To understand and solve a problem, one must be objective, and one must be objective for purely selfish reasons – to improve one's chances of survival. Cultures that are not tolerant of objectivity or dissent (in this context, two words that might as well be synonymous) have a short lifespan. Think of the Soviets, the Nazis, the regime of the Young Turks, and more recently, the Nixon administration. Closer to home, think of all the dissenting voices in the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the last century that were ignored by our revolutionaries who to this day emphasize their heroism instead of questioning their judgment.
*
DEFINING EVIL
******************************
To know what must be done and not do it.
To know that what one does is wrong but do it anyway.
To know that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” and to divide it anyway.
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WORTH REPEATING
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The surest way of moronizing a nation is to brainwash the people into believing they are not just smart but smarter than any other nation, and anyone who dares to say otherwise is an enemy of the people. I speak from experience. The more moronized I was, the smarter I thought i was.
#
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
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STRANGE BUT TRUE
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What a strange world we live in!
Chief executive Rick Wagoner (the one who traveled to Washington by private jet to ask for a handout) is getting $23 million for bankrupting General Motors as the management is demanding more concessions from the workers.
*
The best argument against women's intuition and men's IQ (if such a thing exists) is the high rate of divorce.
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In the struggle for justice there are no losers. Even if you lose you may inspire others to carry on the struggle, or you may wear down the opposition even if it is by an invisible fraction of an inch.
*
No one can be as ignorant, or rather, as infatuated with his own ignorance, as he who pretends to know and understand everything. I would even go as far as saying, the safest way of judging a man's knowledge and understanding is by the number of times he is willing to say “I don't know” and “I don't understand.”
*
One of the most difficult things in politics is separating friend from foe – especially the kind of foe who knows all the right words and can easily guess what it is exactly that you want to hear.
*
It is only after the obvious solution is rejected that a problem is declared insoluble.
#
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
***********************************************
DON'T BE A FOOL!
************************************
A wise man (it may have been Aldous Huxley) once said that our planet is the insane asylum of the universe.
It is said, “There are forty-three kinds of insanity.”
Or, to paraphrase Tolstoy, “Every insane person is insane in his own way.”
There is a school of psychology that says, since the social order in which we live in is insane, the function of psychiatry is to replace one form of insanity with another.
Consider the case of Christians who believe the Bible to be the source of all wisdom, including scientific knowledge.
Chief executive officers who believe they deserve million-dollar bonuses after bankrupting not only their business but also the global economy.
After reading one of my commentaries, a Mekhitarist monk is quoted as having said: “He is an intellectual and all intellectuals eventually go insane.” Which may suggest that we are better at diagnosing insanity in others than in ourselves. Either that or we assume to be the norm and any deviation we label as insane.
We may know how to survive, but do we know how to live?
We brag about our literature but we suppress free speech.
Don't be taken in by appearances.
Don't believe everything you read in the papers.
There are as many lies in the speeches of our speechifiers and the sermons of our sermonizers than there are forms of insanity.
#
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Old 04.04.2009, 18:15   #97
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Thursday, April 2, 2009
***********************************************
THE UNANSWERED QUESTION
************************************
It is said of the 18th-century French aristocracy that they knew how to live. Yes, that they did. They knew how to live alright! What they didn't know – which is infinitely more important than what they knew – was how to survive.
With us it's the other way around: we know how to survive, or so we are brought up to believe, but not how to live.
If we use the word survival only in reference to the nation, and if by nation we mean the regime, yes, we may qualify as survivors. The questions to be asked at this point are:
What kind of survival is it that requires the death of millions of innocent civilians, including our best and brightest?
What kind of survival is it that places the survival of the regime above the survival of the people?
What kind of survival is it that allows the regime to brainwash the people into believing that it is our patriotic duty to serve the regime?
Serving the regime is a fascist concept. In a democracy, it is the state that serves the people (not the other way around), which is why politicians are referred to as public servants.
But that's not the end of the story, which in our case happens to be not so much a comedy of errors as a tragedy of fallacies, or again, as a perversion of priorities.
Now then, let us suppose for the sake of argument that your family perishes and you are the sole survivor. Do you then go around bragging about your own survival? I don't think so! And yet, this is what we are encouraged to do to perpetuate the lie that we never had it so good because we are in the best of hands.
A final question: We may indeed know how to survive, but do our leaders know how to govern?
#
Thursday, April 3, 2009
***********************************************
4 STORIES / 4 MORALS
************************************
1.
The Pope holds shares in the Casino at Monte Carlo.
*
2.
After bankrupting the global economy, chief executive officers collect million-dollar bonuses.
*
3.
Priests make a comfortable living by exploiting someone else's crucifixion.
*
4.
Turcocentric ghazetajis try to make a name for themselves by exploiting the martyrdom of innocent victims.
#
Moral I: When you reach the top, the rules of the game no longer apply.
*
Moral II: The rules governing underdogs do not apply to top dogs.
*
Moral III: When it comes to taking care of number one, all rules are suspended.
*
Moral IV: After declaring yourself to be on the side of the angels, you may forge an alliance with the devil.
#
Saturday, April 4, 2009
***********************************************
AS OTHERS SEE US
************************************
Did Princess Diana (may she rest in peace) have one, or is it two, drops of Armenian blood in her veins? Was Guderian of blitzkrieg fame an Armenian? Why should anyone give a damn? It seems to me we are so hungry for celebrity that nothing would make us happier if someone were to prove that Hitler's or Stalin's great-great mother or father was half- or even one-quarter Armenian.
*
We have a great many writers today who write as Armenians. I for one would like to write as a human being. We are all born as human beings but somewhere along the line we are carefully educated to identify ourselves with a specific group, after which we are told all kinds of lies about that group and it makes no difference which group it is.
*
We are brainwashed to justify our regime's failings by saying we are a young democracy. We are also informed that Armenia is “the cradle of civilization.” Figure that one out if you can.
*
If I were to meet an Azeri today and if I were to identify myself as an Armenian to him, my guess is he would see in me someone with a bloodthirsty disposition. I am told Azeris today identify Armenians as “the Israelis of the Caucasus,” and when a Muslim calls you an Israeli, take my word for it, that ain't no compliment.
*
Hanging a label on a fellow human being is the beginning of all crimes against humanity. Azeri refugees today think of Armenians the way Armenians think of Turks. Have I said this before? Readers accustomed to hearing old lies expect me to come up with new truths. To them I say, the number of truths is limited and nothing that is true is ever new.
#
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Old 08.04.2009, 19:04   #98
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Sunday, April 5, 2009
***********************************************
THE CHARITY OF SWINE
************************************
We are told the favorite reading matter of Roman emperors was epic poems glorifying their deeds. Which reminds me of a book I once wrote for an Armenian publisher subsidized by one of our national benefactors in which his (benefactor's) name wasn't mentioned. Though the book was a success (three printings in as many years) the publisher was fired.
*
Roman emperors, Ottoman sultans, Soviet commissars, Armenian benefactors, Wall Street chief executive officers: they expect to be brown-nosed and rewarded even when they make a mess of things. They want smart people working for them but not smart enough to see their limitations. They support free speech provided it doesn't expose their failings.
*
The wealthy think of the poor as lazy parasites. The poor return the compliment by viewing the wealthy as a bunch of blood****ers.
*
Some of the worst blunders in the history of mankind were committed by men who assumed to know better.
*
In the world of high finance, the lower in the totem pall you are, the more checks and balances you have to deal with.
*
I think of my schooldays in Venice when the Mekhitarist monks charged us for the toilet paper we used. Then motivated by greed they trusted the wrong investment firm and lost everything.
#
Monday, April 6, 2009
***********************************************
HUMAN NATURE EXPLAINED
************************************
“In his place I would have done the same thing.” There is more truth in that sentence than in many treatises on understanding and human nature.
*
“...tribalism has impeded African progress. What Africa needs is precisely such transmutations of tribal loyalties to the larger loyalties of nationhood.”
Why is it that none of our pundits dares to say as much about us?
*
Both Turks and Armenians are naïve dupes in so far as they believe in the lies of their own political leaders, the biggest lie being that as civilized people they are incapable of violating anyone's human rights, let alone committing crimes against humanity. Butter would not melt in their mouths -- or anywhere else for that matter.
*
Reality is versatile in its production of facts and by carefully selecting some and ignoring or rejecting others one can justify anything. Theologians, ideologues, historians, and propagandists in general are fully aware of this phenomenon and like lawyers they go about their business with ruthless dishonesty.
*
Somewhere Alain writes that we conceive of birth as something that happened in the past and of death as something that will happen in the future. But in reality, he tells us, they are both ongoing processes. Every moment that passes is a preview of death, and it is up to us to be reborn as human beings “today, now, immediately, it is our only chance.”
#
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
***********************************************
TWO FASCINATING WRITERS
************************************
In his DIARIES, Christopher Isherwood speaks of several encounters with Lesley Blanch (then wife of Romain Gary) but at no time does he mention that she is the author of SABRES OF PARADISE, one of the most fascinating books ever written on the Caucasus, and one of the very few books that I have read three times -- the others being THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (Mann), LOLITA (Nabokov), and Toynbee's RECONSIDERATIONS.
Simenon is mentioned only once to be dismissed as “a dreary little mind.”
In my twenties and for about ten years Simenon became an obsession. I read everything that I could locate in libraries and bookstores. He wrote under several pseudonyms and may have published as many as five hundred book, and slept with as many women, he never tired of boasting in interviews, and did so to enhance his understanding, he would explain. I think it was Gide who first compared him to Chekhov.
In a 1960 entry, Isherwood quotes Leon Surmelian as having said: “...among Armenians who come to America, it is always the third-rate who succeed,” and “Armenians are either businessmen or dreamers.”
I remember once when I wrote Surmelian a letter proposing an interview, he turned me down and said he had just published an essay in the weeklies and I was welcome to comment on it in a letter to the editor.
#
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
***********************************************
ISHERWOOD AND WHITMAN
************************************
By skipping passages dealing with Ramakrishna, Krishnamurti, assorted swamis and gurus, and mercenary Hollywood producers, I was able to finish Christopher Isherwood's mammoth DIARIES. May I confess that what I enjoyed most are his one-liners on his fellow men and women:
On Charles Laughton: “stupid, vain and pretentious...an arrogant old fool.”
On Laura Huxley (Aldous Huxley's third and last wife): “[a] mannish well-tailored bitch.”
On Claire Bloom (who was to become Philip Roth's wife): “demure but probably quite a bit of a bitch.”
On Shelley Winters: “a blundering Jewish leftwing ass.”
On Izak (OUT OF AFRICA) Dinesen (Baroness Blixen): “a withered monkey.”
*
I am now reading Walt Whitman. Some of his lines are piercing in their precision, as when he speaks of animals:
“They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago...”
We need more Whitman in our lives and less sermonizers and speechifiers who rub salt in our wounds and promise heaven which is even more inaccessible to them than it is to the rest of us.
#
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Old 11.04.2009, 17:44   #99
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Thursday, April 9, 2009
********************************************
TO EACH HIS OWN
************************************
To us, the Genocide is a tragedy.
To the Turks, it's an embarrassment.
To American politicians running for office, a cash cow.
To our own leadership, a distraction from present problems and their reluctance or inability to solve them.
To our Turcocentric ghazetajis, an endless source of venom and an opportunity to play the blame-game as well as a chance to assert moral superiority.
As for Turcophile historians who say it was the Armenians who massacred the Turks; I for one am not surprised. So what if after 600 years of subservience that gradually degenerated to brutal oppression, some Armenians took justice into their own hands? Would anyone dare to assert that, had the Ottoman Empire been an Armenian Empire and Turks an oppressed minority, they would have said, “Let bygones be bygones. Let us smoke the peace nargileh and forever after live like brothers?"
*
ON MORAL SUPERIORITY
*********************************
We are told when God created angels and He gave them a free will, half of them turned into devils. It is therefore safe to assume that if sometime in the future the Good Lord were to give His angels another crack at freedom, another 50% of them would make the wrong choice. Which is why so far God in His infinite wisdom has not made the same mistake. Which is also why, when God wants to destroy a man, He gives him more power, because more power means greater freedom.
*
P.S.
*****************
Yesterday I listed four books that I have read three times. I should have included another – Raymond Chandler's FAREWELL, MY LOVELY.
*
WORDS OF WISDOM
********************************
Chinese saying: “Extreme cleverness is as bad as stupidity.”
#
Friday, April 10, 2009
********************************************
A MENSCHE
************************************
In his THE GREAT WAR FOR CIVILIZATION, Robert Fisk dedicated an entire chapter to the Armenian genocide. He does the same with his latest book, THE AGE OF THE WARRIOR: SELECTED ESSAYS (New York, 2008). After tearing to shreds Turkish and “gutless” American denialists, among them President Bush, General Petraeus, ambassador Ryan Crocker, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, he turns his outrage on Armenians themselves. When an interviewer in Yerevan makes a reference to Turkey's “lack of democratization,” Fisk demands to know: “What about Armenia's pliant press? And why was it that present-day Armenia seemed to protest much less about twentieth-century's first Holocaust than the millions of Armenians in the diaspora, in the U.S., Canada, France, Britain, even Turkish intellectuals in Turkey itself?...Long live the Soviet Union.”
A man after my own heart!
#
Saturday, April 11, 2009
********************************************
THE USES AND ABUSES OF FAITH
*************************************************
Whenever I replace the word “God” with “the Unknown and the Unknowable,” what I read makes either more sense or no sense at all – as in “God loves you.” If God loves us, His definition of love is more akin to hatred.
*
Most of mankind's problems, including our own, stem from the fact that those who have God or capital (make it, Capital or god) on their side, consider themselves beyond criticism.
*
When a man is devoid of honor, compassion, and understanding, he adopts race, color, and creed as criteria.
*
Faith is an essential ingredient in one's life, we are told. Maybe so. But what if faith allows us to call anyone who does not share our belief system an infidel dog who doesn't deserve to live?
*
What do I think of mysticism? Let me quote my favorite mystic, Saint Teresa of Avila: “It is the humblest among you who are the most perfect not those who are favored in prayer or with ecstasies.”
#
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Old 11.04.2009, 19:31   #100
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Quote:
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“Extreme cleverness is as bad as stupidity.”
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Old 15.04.2009, 19:16   #101
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Sunday, April 12, 2009
********************************************
THE LANGUAGE OF DIPLOMACY
*************************************************
According to Talleyrand (see below) “Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts.” Elsewhere he gives the following definition of non-intervention: “Mot metaphysique et politique qui signifie a peu pres la meme chose qu'intervention.” (A metaphysical and political word that means approximately the same thing as intervention.)
Had our revolutionaries known what Talleyrand knew, namely that, in diplomacy verbal support means the opposite of military intervention, the Genocide could have been averted.
What a difference a single word makes! No wonder medieval Jewish scribes copying the scriptures were warned a single wrong letter would mean the destruction of the world.
Which is why Turks are against the use of the word genocide: they know it would usher in escalating territorial and financial demands with no end in sight, in addition to legitimizing Kurdish territorial claims.
*
Talleyrand (1754-1838) maybe said to have been the French Mikoyan. No matter who was at the top he got along with him. He knew how to compromise, adapt, and survive. Like Mikoyan he was educated in a seminary and it was said of him (as it could have been said of Mikoyan): “He would sell his soul for money, and he would be right for he would be exchanging dung for gold.”
#
Monday, April 13, 2009
********************************************
MY FAVORITE AMERICAN WRITER
*************************************************
It was in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones that I first “met” Gandhi, and it was in Gandhi's writings that I first read about Thoreau. I dare anyone to read him (Thoreau) and not be infatuated by his down-to-earth honesty and style that does not take any prisoners.
*
On politicians: “Office-seekers and speech-makers who do not so much as lay an honest egg.”
*
On patriotism: “The remembrance of my country spoils my walk.”
*
On society: “Pigs in a littler which lie close together to keep each other warm.”
*
On wealth: “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”
*
On his fellow men: “The man I meet with is not often so instructive as the silence he breaks.”
*
On his choice of career: “I have tried trade; but I found that it would take ten years to get under way in that, and that then I should probably be on my way to the devil.”
#
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
********************************************
ON BLUNDERS
******************
Since the number of blunders is infinite and man's capacity to commit them without limit, both the young and the old, the experienced and the inexperienced, the careful and the careless, and the wise and the fool are destined to commit an equal number of them.
*
MAN AND GOD
**************************
If to believe in God were the same as believing in men who speak in His name, a suicidal terrorist would qualify as a man of faith instead of a brainwashed fanatic and a brainless dupe.
*
THE GOOD AND THE BAD
*************************************
In the presence of a bad man I am diminished. In the presence of a good man I am born again.
*
ON BEING HONEST
***********************************
One of the benefits of being honest is to be shunned by crooks.
*
ON ECOLOGY
******************************
God is not an ecologist. He exterminated dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers, the mammoth, and countless other species.
#
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
********************************************
DRAGON'S TEETH
***********************************
“The Passage du Commerce Saint-André” by Balthus is no doubt one of the most mysterious paintings by one of the most enigmatic modern painters. The old man in it is identified by Balthus himself as an Armenian. See BALTHUS: A BIOGRAPHY by Nicholas Fox Weber (New York, 1999), page 27.
I am reminded of the words of a much traveled Dutch doctor who once told me: “No matter where you go, you will run into an Armenian.”
If Talaat were alive today he would be willing to concede that deporting Armenians was a blunder because it amounted to sowing dragon's teeth.
*
In DICTIONARY OF LITERARY AND THEMATIC TERMS by Edward Quinn (New York, 2000), there is an entry on “naturalism,” with a single bibliographic source, Y.H. Krikorian's NATURALISM AND THE HUMAN SPIRIT (1944).
*
ON THE ART OF WRITING
******************************
Reduce a page into a single line.
*
ON THE ART OF LIVING
*****************************************
“Divorce reason and marry booze.” This according to Omar Khayyam.
*
ACCORDING TO HORACE
**************************************
“Poems written by water-drinkers have a short lifespan.”
*
ON LITERARY IMMORTALITY
******************************************
It lasts as long as the blink of an eye when measured in cosmic time.
*
MORE WORDS OF WISDOM
****************************************
Viscount Samuel: “It is those who strive to make things better who save them from becoming worse.”
*
The TALMUD: “Thy friend has a friend, and thy friend's friend has another friend: be discreet.”
#
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Old 18.04.2009, 18:06   #102
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Thursday, April 16, 2009
********************************************
FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
***********************************
You may have noticed that, when an intelligent man behaves stupidly, the reasons he invents to justify his conduct will be even more stupid.
*
A fanatic will always have more enemies than a moderate because he will arouse hostility among fanatics in the opposite camp as well as moderates in his own.
*
Even when our predictions come true they do so in such an unexpected manner or context that their accuracy becomes irrelevant.
*
It is not at all unusual for our chauvinists to preach Armenian civilization and to practice Ottoman barbarism.
*
Where a part-time janitor makes more money than a full-time writer, there will be an abundance of trashy propaganda and a total absence of ideas.
*
In all political movements, lust for power is invariably hidden behind noble slogans: the greater the lust, the nobler the slogans.
*
The nobler the idea or ideology, the more crooks it will attract.
#
Friday, April 17, 2009
********************************************
CONTEMPT
***********************************
A couple of weeks ago I was exposed to a long televised lecture on solidarity and the primacy of Etchmiadzin by a former members of the Communist Party from the Homeland, that is to say, a full-time professional divider and atheist.
Because as an orphan during World War I my mother was brought up as a Catholic by nuns, my schoolmates made fun of me and treated me as a lesser Armenian, perhaps even a coward and a renegade, all because, it seems, during the massacres, when Turkish soldiers came to arrest Armenians, the Catholics would say, “I am not an Armenian, I am a Catholic.”
A loud-mouth taxi-driver uncle of mine held me in visible contempt and even ridicule because I dared to have ambitions beyond his attainments.
The secretary of a so-called cultural foundation, himself a writer and teacher, once screamed at me: “How dare you criticize us? Just who the hell do you think you are?”
In recounting these very few but representative anecdotes, my aim here is not to preach mutual respect – that would be highly premature – but to provide an objective assessment of our present situation that may lead to an enhanced awareness of where we stand as a community and as a nation.
To those who tell me I write about our problems but fail to provide solutions, I add the following solutions to this particular problem: If you want to be loved, don't make yourself hateful; and if you want to be thought of as a smart Armenian, don't behave like a damn fool.
#
Saturday, April 18, 2009
********************************************
MY FAVORITE BIBLICAL ONE-LINERS
************************************************
“Where there is no vision the people perish.”
*
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
*
“The Kingdom of God is within you.”
*
ON CONTRADICTIONS
*************************************
There are two kinds of contradictions: (one) the kind that leads to compromise and synthesis, and (two) the dead-end, dogmatic, or Armenian kind that arrests progress because reason is replaced with ego. Result: no vision, a house divided, death and destruction – that is, the Kingdom of the Devil.
*
HEADLINE
*******************************
“I am proud of my Armenian ass,” reads the headline of an article about an attractive wench in one of our weeklies. This vulgar boast is preferable to me to still another headline by one of our Turcocentric ghazetajis.
*
QUESTION
**************************
What is the difference between pride in one's ass and pride in one's ego?
*
ANSWER
***********************
One way to sum up the plot of Homer's ILIAD is to say it is about a war of egos over the abduction of an ass that resulted in the destruction of Troy and the death of countless “esh nahadags.” Because he was blind, Homer could not see this aspect of his story. As a result, he glorified militarism and heroism.
#
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Old 22.04.2009, 18:52   #103
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Sunday, April 19, 2009
********************************************
ON RECEIVED IDEAS
************************************************
At a time when I didn't know who Shakespeare was, I heard an adult say, “HAMLET is Shakespeare's greatest play.” I immediately adopted that line as dogma and repeated it whenever Shakespeare was mentioned, until I heard someone say, “I prefer MACBETH.”
If all ideas are open to contradiction, received ideas are doubly so.
“Notwithstanding what the Good Book says about divided houses,” a reader tells me, “there are benefits to being divided. If one part is defeated and perishes, the other survives. Perhaps that's the secret of our survival."
Maybe so, but what kind of life is it whose sole aim is survival? No doubt to survive is better than the alternative, but I believe, and I hope you will agree with me when I say, there are greater goals in a nation's life than mere survival.
Such as?
Such as creating a new civilization.
We did that once.
Which means we can do it again.
And how do we do that?
We begin by questioning the validity of all received ideas, one of them being that since to endure is one of our greatest achievements, we can now relax and say “yes” to whatever we are told by our “betters,” who on closer inspection may well be nothing of the kind. They may even be our worst!
#
Monday, April 20, 2009
********************************************
REFLECTIONS
************************************************
The fascist mind comes in two parts: the ideological and the criminal; and the function of the ideological is to camouflage the criminal.
*
Politicians who profess family values see nothing morally inconsistent in screwing the nation.
*
Because our enemies won, we were not allowed to name our traitors.
*
Like most Armenians, I have followed many controversies in our media, and I have witnessed many more, but I have at no time heard an Armenian say: "I was wrong!" or, even better, "I was dead wrong because I placed my own ego, interests, family, political party, church, or tribe above the interests of the nation."
*
A power structure that has all the answers will view questions as subversive.
*
A woman raising her skirt in public will attract a bigger audience than a writer spilling his guts out.
*
At one end of the spectrum we have decent human beings who happen to be Armenian, and at the other, carcinogenic agents who wrap themselves up in the flag in order to hide their true colors.
#
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
********************************************
VARIATIONS ON A FAMILIAR THEME
************************************************
We are told sex and violence in movies lower the moral standards of a nation. What we are not told is that intolerance in organized religions and ideologies, in addition to lowering moral standards, it claims many more innocent victims. Intolerance also divides a nation thus making it more vulnerable to rape and massacre (of the “red” as well as the “white” variants). Don't get me wrong. I am not advocating for more sex and violence in movies. What I am doing is exposing the double-talk of religious and political leaders who speak with a forked tongue and are believed by dupes.
*
The guiding principle of all men at the top is, if the truth will harm your power, prestige, and integrity, it's okay to lie your head off. But the problem with lies is that they invariably create a chain reaction of more lies until the truth is buried beneath them like a needle in a haystack. Case in point: If the Turks are bloodthirsty savages, why were we their most faithful subjects for six hundred years? And if we are smart and they are dumb, why is it that it took us six centuries to unmask them? And even more to the point: if they are pathological liars and we speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, why are we against dissent and free speech? What are we afraid of? And if we have produced more heroes per capital than any other nation on earth, allow me to pose the following question: What could be more cowardly than fear of free speech?
#
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
********************************************
WHY HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
************************************************
History repeats itself for the simple reason that the men at the top are bastards and the people are as gullible as children. Thoreau was right when he said Egypt would have been better off if the people had drowned the pharaohs in the Nile like dogs instead of building pyramids for them; and Shaw was also right when he said we would have no more wars if soldiers took aim and shot not at the enemy but at their own sergeants. One reason he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviets is that Russian soldiers in World War I did exactly that.
*
Homer was dead wrong when he decided not to quote Greeks who said they resented killing and dying in defense of the non-existent honor of a slut who happened to be the wife of an impotent fool.
*
I once heard one of our notorious blood****ers say, if he were to work for an odar organization, he would make twice as much. In nature, parasites do their work in silence; among us, they demand our gratitude.
*
Among my readers, I have critics (which is understandable), enemies (which is less so), and mortal enemies (whose hatred of me is so visceral that it might as well be Ottoman).
#
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Old 25.04.2009, 17:47   #104
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Thursday, April 23, 2009
********************************************
ON SHRINKS
************************************************
After the composition of his First Piano Concerto, Rachmaninoff is said to have experienced a crisis during which he became convinced he had lost his creative impetus permanently. But after seeing a psychiatrist he recovered his creativity and composed his Second Piano Concerto, or so we are told by his biographers. What we are not told is that if he had not seen a shrink, maybe he would have composed nine symphonies. Marlon Brando was under constant psychiatric care and instead of getting better, he got worse, in addition to making an unholy mess of his private life and his physique. Neither Tolstoy nor Dostoevsky were ever treated by a shrink, and my guess is, their problems were worse than Rachmaninoff's and Brando's combined.
*
Once upon a time, in the Middle Ages, we were celebrated for being good fighters. We still are, but only against the wrong enemy: ourselves.
*
I write for two totally non-literary reasons: to fight boredom and to acquire friends; and with every book I have published, I have acquired a new friend; also (alas!) twenty-two enemies.
*
There is no evidence to suggest that the average Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or Jew is a better human being than the average agnostic or atheist. Which amounts to saying: all organized religions are more or less alike and very often they succeed only in legitimizing prejudice, promoting a false sense of moral superiority, and dehumanizing a fraction of mankind with such labels as pagans, heretics, infidels or giaours.
#
Friday, April 24, 2009
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ARMENIAN MANIFESTO
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What choice did we have under the Ottomans and the Soviets?
Wrong question.
When we had a choice, we failed to present a united front to the enemy.
And what made our enemies invincible was their solidarity.
Let's not lose sight of that fundamental fact, which our dividers do their utmost to cover up in order to appear
(a) to be blameless, and
(b) to continue dividing us.
Blameless?
Why do you think General Antranik wanted to see them hanged from the nearest tree?
Why do you think Zarian called them “cannibals”?
And please,don't tell me our sermonizers, speechifiers, and Turcocentric ghazetajis know better than Zarian, the General, and Charents, whose final “Message” mentions neither Turks nor Russians.
Let's not have any illusions about our men at the top, who like Wall Street chief executive officers, care more about their powers and privileges than the welfare of the nation. Which is why, at the risk of repeating myself, I will say again:
Armenians of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your dividers.
#
Saturday, April 25, 2009
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MAXIMS AND REFLECTIONS
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It is not easy writing for readers who already know everything they need to know, even if what they really know happens to be recycled mumbo jumbo.
*
Work hard, but not too hard: you may be digging your own grave.
*
Authority thrives on ignorance. Where there are leaders (as opposed to public servants) there will be spin doctors, cover-up artists, an uninformed community, and dupes.
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From nature’s point of view, chastity is a far more dangerous sexual perversion than all the others combined.
*
Venetian saying: "The priest’s friend loses his faith, the doctor’s his health, the lawyer’s his fortune."
*
Schopenhauer: "We pay an attention to the opinion of others which is out of all proportion to its value."
*
When midgets are in charge, giants become outlaws.
#
======================================================================
Ara Baliozian reads the Armenians, yo’
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by Christopher Atamian
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Published: Saturday April 18, 2009
"Lying is done with words and also ­silence." -Adrienne Rich
The poetic genre known as the aphorism goes back at least to Hippocrates, in 5th-century B.C.E. Greece. The word aphorism derives from the Greek aphorismos and denotes an original and easily remembered thought, expression, or witticism. Popular aphorists of the past include Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, and Erasmus. Armenians have a practitioner of this rarefied art as well, and he goes by the name of Ara Baliozian.
The author of some 20 books of prose, poetry, and plays, as well as translations of Armenian writers such as Zabel Yessayan and Kostan Zarian, Baliozian was born in Athens, attended the now-­defunct College Moorat-Raphael in Venice, and currently resides in Kitchener, Ontario. His newest work, a slim volume (56 pages) titled Pertinentes Impertinences, is a series of reflections and aphorisms in French translated from English by Denis Donikian, Mireille ­Besnilian, and Dalita Roger, and published last year by Arvesd Aysor in Yerevan.
Baliozian writes about a wide range of topics and people, though he seems particularly at home when perhaps justifiably lambasting Armenian politicians and leaders. Baliozian takes no prisoners - intellectual or otherwise. This hasn't necessarily made him the most popular writer in the Armenian diaspora, though an increasing number of people now read his work with passion and a deep-seated sense of appreciation for his daring to say what so many others think. Whether Baliozian's views represent those of an enlightened minority or of a silent majority, his work should be read by every Armenian, especially when they are young and in their formative stages, as a means of opening their minds to different ideas and ways of thinking about their culture.
In a sense, Baliozian is heir to the Armenian writers before him who dared to analyze and constructively criticize Armenian society. The Armenian mind that Baliozian deconstructs so ably is a direct descendant of the mentality that Hagop Oshagan describes in novels such as Mnatsortats and Haji Murad and that Constantinopolitan writers such as Krikor Zohrab wrote about before the Catastrophe of 1915. "If you want to understand Armenians," Baliozian writes, "don't read their nationalist historians; read instead a history of Armenian literature. The only reason we don't burn writers the way Indians burn widows is that we prefer to ignore them, which amounts to burying them alive." Baliozian on the sacred cows of Armenian culture: "Because I refuse to share their obsession with massacres and money, they call me negative. One way to be positive in their eyes is to adopt ‘Yes, sir!' as a mantra.'" (Both quoted from baliozian.blogspot.com. All quotes that follow are from Pertinentes Impertinences.)
Baliozian's oeuvre is in point of fact rather subversive. He uses repetition to his advantage and hammers away at his iconoclastic thoughts and ideas in the same way that the Armenian press and powers that be have drilled their own propaganda into Armenian minds and hearts for centuries now. It's a welcome counterbalance. While no one would deny, for example, the terrible suffering that successive Ottoman and Turkish governments have inflicted on Armenians and on the Armenian psyche, Baliozian is quick to confront the type of knee-jerk anti-Turkism that portrays Turks as somehow more cruel or barbaric by nature than others: "Our magazines regularly publish so many anti-Turkish commentaries that if our editors were to define what it means to be Armenian, I would imagine they would define it as hating Turks. And to think that these are the exact same people who criticize me under the pretext that I am a repetitive pessimist." (p. 18)
Baliozian's writing is also an intelligent and sometimes humorous call to introspection and societal self-criticism: "An Armenian-American composer admitted to me one day: ‘I hope that Armenians won't support me. I'd be grateful if they spared me their hostility.'" (p. 49) When analyzing the current Armenian craze for all things Gorky, Baliozian recalls the following: "Speaking of Arshile Gorky, one of our elder statesmen once told me: ‘Not a single Armenian bought a painting from Gorky while he was alive.'?" (p. 49)
The author is at his most incisive when taking on taboos in Armenian intellectual history and commenting on the behavior of certain contemporary leaders: "Our charlatans tell us that our patrons, bishops, and do-gooders know better than we do because they speak in the name of God and Capital. And when God and Capital speak, the scribblers are meant to shut their mouths and listen. Otherwise their mouths must be shut for them, that is to say, cut their tongues cut out, in good old Ottoman fashion." (p. 27)
There is isn't much to criticize about Pertinentes Impertinences apart from the fact that Baliozian, perhaps weary of repeating the same mantras that go unheeded, may indeed at times begin to sound repetitive. Baliozian's observations, however, are about as close as any contemporary Armenian writer comes to getting at the truth of things. And as the commonplace aphorism states, the truth will set you free. A fitting coda to this piece and to Baliozian's work comes from Kingsley Amis, whom the author quotes as saying: "If you don't disturb anybody with what you write, then I think there's no point in writing." (p. 47)
All (re)-translations of Baliozian's writing from French to English were made by Christopher Atamian.
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Old 29.04.2009, 19:08   #105
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Sunday, April 26, 2009
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ELEGY
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An American chief executive officer – young, handsome, healthy, fabulously wealthy – has committed suicide. One down, ninety-nine to go.
*
Two American governors, Spitzer and Blogojevich, were caught red-handed. One resigned, the other impeached. But to me, the greater scandal is the fact that several of Obama's financial advisers are former Wall Street chief executive officers. If it takes one to catch one, how come no one has been caught yet? Bernie Madoff? If he is in jail today it's because he confessed. And then there are the senators who deny the reality of the Genocide not because they are convinced that to be the truth but because they are being handsomely compensated by Turkish lobbyists.
*
The rich are swine. Even as I curse my fate, I thank God for making me poor.
*
What is the penalty for being wrong? If nothing, anyone can say anything he wants.
*
To be easily satisfied with one’s own arguments is an unmistakable symptom of advanced cretinism.
#
Monday, April 27, 2009
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LIVE AND LEARN
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When it comes to learning about oneself, friends are useless, enemies more valuable.
*
Repeating oneself and being consistently negative are not mortal sins; being dishonest is.
*
A hundred years ago our political leaders were naïve daydreamers. Today they are – or rather they think they are – pragmatic operators. I have trouble deciding which is worse: being at the mercy of fools, or idiots who think they are smart?
*
Let others speak of the American dream, we can speak only of the Armenian nightmare.
*
What kind of loving Father is He that needs to be constantly reminded to “give us this day our daily bread,” after which He lets millions die of malnutrition and starvation.
*
You begin to learn only after you unlearn what you have been taught. Likewise, you begin to write only after you give up all literary ambitions.
*
I am grateful to readers who don't think highly of me. The temptation to believe sycophants can be overwhelming.
*
When experts disagree, prejudice casts the deciding vote.
*
Because the prodigal son returned, the fatted calf was butchered. Good news for the guilty son, bad news for the innocent calf. Why couldn't they have a vegetarian feast?
#
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
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FEEDBACK
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Do not bother reading what follows because I have said it before, and many others have said it before me.
*
Some readers tell me I make them laugh. Others say I depress them. I suggest it's not me they are talking about but our reality.
*
I wish I were a comedian. The ability to make people laugh at themselves I consider one of the rarest of all gifts.
*
We all have our share of failings, limitations, and blind spots. In religious parlance, we are all sinners, including saints. That's Naregatsi's message, in case you are not willing to take my word for it. With one difference. Some of us pretend otherwise, and they happen to be the worst, and it's their awareness of their condition that makes them compensate by assuming a holier-than-thou stance.
*
To my critics I say, criticize, if you must, the incompetence of our political leaders, the values of our merchants, the dogmas of our bishops, and the double-talk of our superpatriotic blood****ers. Do not shoot our critics, who like piano players in western saloons, are doing their best.
*
AMERICANISMS
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“What's your racket?”
“I am not a crook.”
“Do bears **** in the forest?”
“Does the Pope speak Latin?”
And the other day in a movie:
“Does the Pope **** in the forest?”
#
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
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SKELETONS IN THE CUPBOARD
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*********************************************
FIRST NATION?
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Love our enemies?
We can't even stop hating one another.
*
EITHER / OR?
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“Do you think of yourself as a success or a failure?”
Very much like the overwhelming majority of my fellow men, I think of myself as a working stiff.
*
MIRACLES
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There are two kinds of miracles:
(one) useless – like walking on water; and
(two) dangerous – like promoting alcoholism by turning water into wine.
*
MEMOIRS
*********************
One reason I went into writing is that I hate working for nonentities who expect you to behave like a lesser nonentity – and all for minimum wage. I know now that writing for Armenians is no different – minus the minimum wage, of course.
*
WINNERS AND LOSERS
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“Just because you are a loser, it doesn't follow so is the nation. Stop projecting!”
I think of myself as someone who speaks of reality in an environment dominated by propagandists who speak of fantasy, which allows them to see moral victory in military defeat, and a Higher Truth in a Big Lie.
#
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