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Dangerous Places

"Literally the best short story collection I've read." -- Caroline Leavitt

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September 18, 2016

Perry's Blog

the donald Lout

Donald Trump is a unquestionably a lout. My progressive friends, Laptop Liberals whose notion of activism is to repeat a Facebook meme see no need to go beyond that shallow analysis.They declare Trump and his followers to be an exasperating annoyance, an annoyance that is now growing to be a frightening threat.

laptop liberal Laptop Liberal

I can’t find a meme or analysis that examines the conditions that make Trump possible. There is plenty of arrogant contempt for those who like him, though.

To be sure, a Laptop Liberal is someone whose notion of activism is to click on “Like” or “Share,” those being limits of acceptable personal risk.

All manner of Progressives tell us how the West went wrong starting on the day Columbus set sail from Spain. We have been treated to a barrage of slogans divorced from any concrete social program, other than to promote shame and guilt…

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March 2, 2016


the donald


Donald Trump is a unquestionably a lout. My progressive friends, Laptop Liberals whose notion of activism is to repeat a Facebook meme see no need to go beyond that shallow analysis.They declare Trump and his followers to be an exasperating annoyance, an annoyance that is now growing to be a frightening threat.

laptop liberal

Laptop Liberal

I can’t find a meme or analysis that examines the conditions that make Trump possible. There is plenty of arrogant contempt for those who like him, though.

To be sure, a Laptop Liberal is someone whose notion of activism is to click on “Like” or “Share,” those being limits of acceptable personal risk.

All manner of Progressives tell us how the West went wrong starting on the day Columbus set sail from Spain. We have been treated to a barrage of slogans divorced from any concrete social program, other than to promote shame and guilt. Shrill charges of white privilege litter the Internet, but there is never any word of what one should do about that. The charge is sure to be leveled at this column as a means to dismiss it–but as ever the charge will be not be accompanied by anything other than rage and an attempt to foment guilt.

The same can be said of the Black Lives Matter movement. Of course black lives matter—who would say otherwise?–but should one suggest that all lives matter, that response gets a quick slap for being racist. In fact, any denial of racism by anyone in the majority culture is deemed racist. Too many black kids are being shot and killed—no question. Where is the program to accompany the slogan? Should we disarm citizens? Do we need different training for police? Can we note that the vast majority of deaths among black people attributed to criminal violence are perpetrated by other blacks? Where is the black leadership open to the idea that the dissolution of the black family, a situation that has 77 percent of all black children born into single-parent homes–is a condition that needs to be addressed?

Feminism has become so strident and so partisan that Gloria Steinem , the founder of Ms. Magazine, can be excoriated by feminists for her championing Humanism and fairness as social goals. In the absence of facts supporting the charge of rape culture, whole fictions are routinely invented by such journals as Rolling Stone. The invented narratives and questionable statistics are proof enough, and to dare wonder if a rape culture exists in America precipitates an immediate charge of being part of the problem, no facts necessary.

On American campuses, the abrogation of free speech has become routine; what was once a marketplace of ideas has been closed pending purges of those who might express any doubts that the official progressive party line may not be a fair description of the lives we live in 21st century America.

People are tired of it.

People, smart people, know that the United States is far from perfect. They also know that the United States remains the only country in the West that has elected a black man to leadership—twice. We have universal suffrage and universal rights to marriage. They remember that this is the country that fed the world and restored the economies of its enemies after World War II with the Marshall Plan. They know they live in America, the land that gave the world inexpensive birth control, that smart phone in your hand, jazz, blues, and rock ‘n roll, the jet engine, Velcro, and a long, long list of spiritual and creature comforts from the amazing to the trivial that induce millions of illegal immigrants to come here. Yes, they believe in American Exceptionalism because on balance, they know we are the good guys.

This is the place where cultural abrogation and a meritocracy are laudable goals.

Is there work to be done?—you bet. Only the louts in Mr. Trumps camp believe all is perfect, but not every person who supports Trump is a lout. Universal education appropriate to the 21st century is overdue, renewable energy sources need to be discovered and cultivated, mass transit that links cities and runs faster than the Tunerville Trolley is overdue.

But America also knows that it cannot go forward with Fascists on the Left telling us what may be thought or what may be said because our history is a miserable litany of oppression when, in fact, our history is a litany of the expansion of rights.




February 12, 2012

Someone needs to tell the pinheads of the America Right that the culture wars are neither about culture nor are they wars. Most of all, they need to know that from their perspective the war was lost. Carrying on the fight with the ardor of a redneck flying the Stars and Bars on his pickup truck’s radio antenna—as they do on the lawn at the statehouse in South Carolina—earns them a seat under arc lights on the set of a Sunday morning talk show, but a good slap upside the head to these pencil necks ought to bring home the lesson that there is more to life than being a loud-mouthed pundit whose ranting swells ratings.

Now we are again discussing a woman’s right to birth control and whether church-based employers should be required to include access to birth control in employees’ health benefits.  Seriously?  Did someone’s watch stop in 1952?

Evidently, some knuckleheads have rediscovered the argument that it is all right for faith-based institutions to accept all manner of subsidies in terms of cash, grants, and tax relief, but the organizations need not feel obliged to obey Federal law should the Fed require it.

This non-issue was settled a half-century ago when US Marshals under the direction of Robert Kennedy explained to the people of Alabama that since their state university accepted Federal aid, it would be obliged to admit all qualified US citizens. Now that there is a President unwilling to look the other way about birth control, and the Blue Meanies need something to talk about as they run for office, puddle-deep thinkers are enjoying having ink and bandwidth squandered on them for a debate about which there should be NO debate.

Social change in America has always been about the expansion of individual rights and the subsequent grudging admission of those who resisted change that expanded rights was a good idea, after all. That’s called evolving for the better—it’s not a war. Resisting such changes is like arguing with an incoming tide.

The progress of who can or cannot vote in America is just one example–from white men to universal suffrage was a powerful historical necessity that repeatedly redefined personhood and is still being fought in a few backwaters where the defenders of privilege and rank awaken from sweaty nightmares with new requirements to impose on a minority before anyone god-forbid exercises the fundamental right of citizenship. Photo IDs to vote?  Really? If our democracy muddled along just fine without that technology for 225 years, exactly what shortcoming is being rectified?

The culture wars were never political fodder until Ronal Reagan made them so. Before Reagan ran for president, conservative citizens could bemoan social change, but social issues were matters of evolution, not of political power.  If flapper daughters were getting laid in automobiles, no one mounted an initiative to outlaw cars and arrest beauticians who bobbed hair.  The greatest experiment in American social control, Prohibition, failed miserably.

Political power is the ability to impose one’s will on others and so require others do one’s bidding. That is achieved by defining criminality. If being an escaped slave makes one a criminal, one can be arrested and be assigned to one’s owner. If being a Jew makes one a criminal, one can be placed in a death camp. If terminating pregnancies makes one a criminal, one can be jailed for murder. If holding a single joint makes one a criminal, one can do time for possession of a controlled substance.


Ronald Reagan, the former head of a labor union—the Screen Actors Guild—cobbled together a party of televangelists and fundamentalists who want to criminalize ordinary human behaviors. Reagan gathered people enamored of a First Fantasy that they had a Divine Right and Divine Requirement to oppress and make criminals those who were non-believers. In a land where the Constitution forbids the establishment of a state religion, if not faith itself, the parameters of faith became matters of politics. Never mind reality and the thinking around such issues, these goons are still threatened by women’s roles in the workplace. Legions of frightened squint-eyed bigots oppose universal marriage rights and defend an institution as “sacred” while deliberately ignoring the fact that half of all marriages already end in divorce. They defend those failures with dreams of a halcyon past that never was, a vision forged by television sit-coms in which fathers wore ties at their family dinner tables, everyone was a virgin on their wedding day, a non-time where there were no slums and every citizen in the United States parked an automobile the length of a city block in their suburban driveway. These same troglodytes crawl out of their caves when there is talk of adoption across racial and ethnic lines or adoption by gay or lesbian couples, never mind that the number of children in dire need of homes is at crisis levels. Once these heirs to American Gothic were courted by Reagan, the sex lives of public figures became matter of public consideration, a situation that would have denied Americans the leadership of Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy. After all, if the American mission is about purity and sanctity, the qualities of the Head of State must be saintly.  Ownership of women’s wombs became a matter of public policy, never mind that the history of reproductive rights had expanded with technological innovation. What people did in their bedrooms became a matter of public policy, never mind that an enlightened public knew that alternative lifestyles posed no threats to them, their children, or allegedly sacred institutions such as the family and matrimony had demonstrably failed.

Reagan’s predecessor on the right, Barry Goldwater, twenty years before Reagan ran for office was a decent man of principle, principles that were expressed, understood, and rejected by voters.  But Reagan saw his chance for a presidential victory by appealing to the worst in us, the willingness to bully and oppress the powerless.  The culture wars had long been lost, but Reagan reopened the debate in his ruthless pursuit of votes, any votes he could get, creating the political atmosphere of hatred and fear that Goldwater would have despised. Reagan encouraged small minds to believe the cultural evolution of the prior twenty years could be reversed, one issue at a time. Never mind that business people were dressing down and that jeans had become acceptable everywhere—those damned Sixties hippies needed to be dealt a comeuppance even if they had been right about Civil Rights, the futility of the Vietnam War, and the over-reaching fascism of the only American President to resign in disgrace after his Vice-President was jailed, his Attorney General was jailed, and the growing mountain of evidence indicated an American president had conspired to direct a burglary.


Not a single turn in the evolution of our culture has ever been reversed through political action, yet those  forces that would reverse History are with us again and dominate our political landscape. They point bony fingers at “liberals” in the same way McCarthyites pointed at “communists.”  Back then, the forces of oppression insulted all of us by asserting how a film like Spartacus threatened America by espousing a message of revolt for the sake of rights; a generation later they trembled before Youth Culture and rock ‘n roll; now they complain that Occupy Protestors are unclean and smell instead of addressing the plain fact that class warfare is being perpetrated by the rich upon the poor.

We should grow weary of this shit.

The politics of the past is financially and morally bankrupting our country. We put fine young men and women at risk in wars against shepherds while we defend the right of oil-producing states to deny women driver’s licenses. We are denying our youth their chance at social mobility by allowing our national higher education system to rest on a system on loans no one can any longer afford. We are placing the minds of children at risk by disenfranchising education. We are defending the rights of corporations to act as individuals and bring their great wealth to bear on political speech. We are placing the aged at risk with a medical system of ever-growing complexity and expense that enriches insurance companies.

Demand that politicians stop inhabiting fantasies and pay some attention to what is genuinely happening in America.

Thinking About Aaaahnold

May 18, 2011

The Governator

This is no scandal.

The only people who think such behaviors are scandalous are the people who think that public figures must subscribe to a code of behavior appropriate to sainthood. Life is more complicated than that, always has been, and the reasons for committing adultery are many and varied. If Bible-thumping yahoos had their way, our only leaders will be passion-free milquetoasts, and from our recent history we’d have lost the leadership and intelligence of Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, arguably Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton.
Should we prefer moral purity for the vision and leadership of the New Deal, a warning about the military industrial complex and the interstate highway system, the courage of a nation in the Cuban Missile crisis, the Great Society and the Civil Right movement, and the last President in the US to lead for 8 years of peace who also brought us balanced budgets?
Close to the end of my  mother’s life, I asked her what she thought of Clinton and Lewinsky, and she laughed, “He’s a man!”
They should have put her on FOX News.
Having a pair of balls–literal or metaphoric–should not disqualify any woman or man from public leadership.
We want to remember that for every adulterer of either gender, there is a facilitating partner usually of the other gender. Does anyone suppose that Arnold’s household staffer did not know he was married?
Personal heartache–yes. But a scandal is a stone-cold rapist leading the International Monetary Fund–assuming the stupid bastard is guilty, which it looks like now, at any rate.
The real drama is the incredible moment when Schwarzennager decided to run for office. “Ja! I shall run. Who will ever discover the little boy?”
That might have been a good time to tell your wife, ya think, Arnold?

Bye Bye Bookstore; Hello Library

January 7, 2011

About 100 years ago, people were mourning the many, many downtown stable closings.
What shall the stable-boys do? And the horses! Dear heaven, how I will miss the horses! The pungent smell of piss, manure, and sweat, the flies, the tack, and the wonderful excitement of a runaway on a crowded thoroughfare! Why O why are people in such a hurry! Why must they close our stables?
The nostalgia surrounding failing bookstores is so much horseshit. People rending their garments and scattering ashes on their heads need to acknowledge the obvious: bookstores are failing because the business model is unsustainable, neither cheap nor convenient.
• Bookstores keep about 90 percent of all books published invisible to readers;
• Bookstores accept payment for prominent near-the-door display;
• Bookstores when they offer to order a book for you not only duplicate a service you can perform for yourself, but do so at a higher price;
• Bookstores perpetuate secondary sales of used books and deprive writers of royalties;
• Bookstores accelerate the process of making a title go out of print because they do not stock idle inventories, reducing the shelf life of a book to less than a can of beer.
Creative destruction may in fact return us to civic communities. Make your public library community center again and get your town to fund the place adequately. Kids can attend story hour—without a sales pitch! Your civic group can meet—you’ll have to bring your own snacks. And your librarian! My o my: what a resource! True, the kid with five piercings at the bookstore may be more interesting to look at and might brew a better cup of coffee, but your librarian has a few skills, too.

Untrue Grit

December 31, 2010

The original True Grit had flaws–as does this new version. Fans will note that the Coen brothers have moved the eye-patch from Wayne’s left eye to Bridges’ right.

At issue in the novel and the original are courage and heroism, virtues that contemporary audiences distrust because those virtues require certainty, and post-modernists sensibilities would have us believe that the only certainty is that there is no certainty. This passes for sophistication among people who also equate criticism with creativity, impresses people who do no critical thinking at all, and have never had the courage or desire to be genuinely creative because to do so requires self-examination of core values. 

You cannot create art and hope it will have lasting worth if you believe all principles have equivalent value and that yours will change with time, place, and how much coffee you’ve had.

Wayne was not a great actor; he was a great icon, employed by Howard Hawks and John Ford in movies that defined the American mythos immediately before and after WWII. The Searchers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Stagecoach, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence are complex stories; Sands of Iwo Jima is a very great, complex, war movie, not propaganda. Sure, in his long career Wayne made more than a few stinkers–what star does not? A guys gotta eat.

Living in a post-modernist culture of cynicism, the Coen’s do not know what to do with the idea of “heroism.” What the hell do they think “grit” means?   Bridges plays the lead very well, but Wayne played the hero as an archetype and was probably the only actor who could do that, not out of any amazing talent, but because of his long legacy as a journeyman western hero and the connection in the audience’s mind that Wayne=Americanism. Wayne’s personal politics were Reagan-Right, but skepticism about his performance that won an Oscar because of his personal politics is like rejecting Ezra Pound’s poetry because he was a fascist, somewhat off point. He won the Academy Award for a lifetime of roles–everyone knew that. So what?

The Coen version ends with a tired contemporary cliché of an older person who recalls the action for us–awkwardly imposed on the film as no such character is hinted at in the opening. Lacking a vision of courage and moral certainty, the Coens simply had no ending, and fell back to the faux memoir, a narrative that roots all story-telling in individual perspective and makes all “facts” really simply “recollections.”  Like Titanic. Yes, well, no doubt the two outlaws Mattie interviews at the end of the Coens’ version were bad men in their time–but see? here they are in a western show with Rooster Cogburn. There is no such thing as good and evil: it’s only thinking that makes it so. Everyone gets old and dies; nothing matters.

But the original ends with a freeze frame of Wayne: “Well, come see a fat old man sometime!” as his horse leaps a fence, the camera shooting from the ground up, making Wayne larger than life–which he was.  

So the Coens give us a sigh that means “paths of glory lead but to the grave,” a pretty limp emotional point, but in the original we see the larger-than-life image of a dissolute, ageing, principled loner whose courage and grit in a lawless territory who comes to respect a 14-year-old girl he calls “little sister” because she too has grit. Pointedly, the Coen brothers omit the dialogue by Wayne, “She reminds me of me,” uttered when Mattie and her horse swim the river into Choctaw territory, fearlessly leaving law and her lawyer behind. The famous “jousting” scene in both films is observed by Mattie from a height and distance, but in the original Mattie excitedly says, “True grit? I’ll say!” but in the Coen brothers version she may as well be in the cheap seats at an NBA game. They’ve edited out courage.

When a culture cannot identify evil and questions its own motives, it can no longer identify its enemies.

Yes, there is evil in the world.

Yes, not all claims to virtue are of equivalent value.

Yes, this is what the original westerns taught us—which is why they have gone out of style.

The End of Publishing As We Know It

November 13, 2010

This week, the Times announced that The New York Times Book Review will soon begin to list Best Selling e-Books.

There will always be books–as luxury items. They look sharp on the living room table and they impress visitors.

But for the kind of texts people read and then donate/resell/lend, who in their right mind would pay $30.00 for a book when they can download the equivalent for $10.00 or $12.00 onto a device that costs $150.00?   Read five books in the first year, it pays for itself.

It’s All Good

Faster, cheaper, and more efficient models trumps dead trees and toxic inks. Prepare to say farewell to an industry so over-inflated with its self-importance and so risk averse that it no longer can afford or want to consider new writers unless they produce “projects” with a waiting audience.

Digitized novels and stories and poetry will stay available literally forever. Writers with small audiences will be able to reach their readers. Small forms–novellas, a cycle of short stories, a poetry chapbook–will have distribution possibilities.

When the music industry found out people were not buying vinyl or CD plastics, there was a lot of noise about professionalism, distribution channels, prestige, etc. The market for new music is youth–totally uninterested in such values, they download digitized songs one at a time, at about the same price that 45 rpm records were sold 50 years ago.

After inflation, that’s about 75% less expensive.

How’d you like to be the person at Columbia Music who used to design album covers or write liner notes?  Remember when bands had fan clubs organized and run by their recording studios? They sent newsletters in the mail–Where o where are my beloved Monkees in June? (And who wrote the newsletters?) MTV videos, part marketing, part art, used to cost a bazillion dollars: now anyone with talent and a videocam posts on YouTube and then market through connectivity via Facebook, MySpace, etc. If you’re a start-up band, you and your buddies make your own stuff and hope to go viral.

Paper is no different from vinyl. Media is media, and media is separate from creative art.

The real ballsy attitude is held by the publishing industry itself, which seeks to embrace the new technologies that outsource so many former publishing functions and the associated intermediary labor onto the creators. “You write it, proofread it, find an agent who will edit it, design it, market it–we’ll sell it!”

And all for a mere 85 percent!!!

Worse…”Build a platform of 30,000 readers of your blog–which you will do for free–gather 100,000 Twitter followers by being clever 5 times per day, and we just might read your book manuscript.”

This is pure chutzpah.

What Next?

With every new competitor, the price of the Kindle drops. My bet is on the Barnes and Noble Nook–due for release next week. It’s the first to have color, allows lending, works on Google’s Android system, and is smaller than the iPad.  That means children’s books and graphic novels. Imagine–you have three kids and are going camping for two weeks.  Hmmm…Say, Martha, shall we carry homework, reading, and entertainment on a 7 oz. device or shall we tote 14 lbs. of books for Sally, Billy, and Junior?

Sucky Social Networking

As the means for digital distribution penetrate the market, more and more people will ask, “What’s good to read?”

The social networking models don’t work well. The metrics of popularity rule social networking. If that were accurate for books, fundamentalist religious tracts and pornography would dominate publishing, as they do, online. Book readers want a trusted source and authority. This doesn’t mean an advanced degree: what it means is a reviewer who consistently is honest, accurate, and plugged-in. Trust is earned, not granted.

Audiences will find their communities the many serious blogs that intelligently review books. What in a brick-and-mortar bookstore passes for genre is online already a network of niche-targeted blogs. Gay and Lesbian? Women’s Books? Action-Adventure? Sci-Fi? There are associated book blogs, reviewing and recommending with sincerity and ability.  Compare that to the clerk at my local bookstore whose qualification for the job is talent at steaming milk.


The first electronic reader that sews up the college and post-graduate textbook market will end publishing as we know it.  Why pay thousands for a law library when for a fraction of the price you can carry it in your briefcase–and it will be searchable, as well. Those lovely color plates in Gray’s Anatomy—why look at them on coated paper stock?

Someone go to midtown Manhattan and stick a fork in their asses; turn them over. They are done.