Saturday, July 12, 2008


I swore I would not write about politics, but I can't resist this one.
THE WIRETAPPING BILL was passed by Congress: 69 to 28. (97 out of 100 Senators!)
More individual rights have been stripped from American citizens.

Senator Obama said he was against it. VOTED FOR IT.
Senator Hillary Clinton said she was against it. VOTED AGAINST IT.
Senator McCain said he was for it. DID NOT SHOW UP TO VOTE.

This vote is indicative of who these people are, and have been from the very beginning. At the end of the day, it's not even that it's one issue. Every thing we do, every move we make, every word we speak indicates who we are.

I'm quite isolated watching U.S. politics from half way around the world because for the most part Kiwis just don't like Americans and American politics. (However, their own National Party, Brash and Key are allied with Bush, and they are in the lead for this year's election.)

Living in New Zealand I feel obligated to read about US politics. There are many websites including: nyt, bbc, guardian, and numerous 'alt' websites. The local papers here publish stories about the U.S. every day, mostly about celebrities. But how reliable they are on world events, I'm not sure, in 2006 they said -- after Katrina destroyed New Orleans -- that sharks from the ocean were swimming down Bourbon Street.

The passing of the wiretapping bill is shocking. The two year debate around it was based on fear. It includes immunity for those who cooperated with the government in illegal wire taping after 9/11. These would be AT&T, Verizon and anyone else the White House asked to conduct illegal spying.

My friend Olivia has a friend who just returned to New York after a trip to New Zealand and she says that if the Republicans win, she's moving to NZ. I got news for Olivia's friend, when you visit here they love you, when you move here it's a little different, like the one Kiwi who said to me, "You're not moving here are you? There are enough of you bloody Americans here already."
Why do Americans move to NZ?
P.S. To Olivia's friend, you can't move here if you are over the age of 54. They don't want oldies retiring here -- unless you invest 5 million -- then age is not a factor. Sigh.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Bonny Finberg

"How the Discovery of Sugar Produced the Romantic Era" by Bonny Finberg. Published by Sisyphus Press, NY, NY 2007

Finberg's twelve short stories told from the male point of view are a wonderful romp into the land of men. But who are these men? Do we know them? Friends? Lovers? Strangers? Family?

In the introduction Finberg says she wrote these stories from the male point of view as a distraction from the writing of her novel and she discovered, that "…man or woman, we all share the same loneliness, foolish hope and disappointment, and are essentially the same at our core."

"...essentially the same at our core" is a debatable topic, but what is clear is Finberg's talent in creating stories like an artist painting a canvas. She knows just how much to add to what we already know about the human (male) condition and she knows when to end it. As I finished each story, I found myself lingering over what I had read, the images, the person -- wondering if he was okay, or equally wondering if he knew what an idiot he was.

Her observations of ordinary acts are brilliant. Here's a ditty I love in "Basho on the Road:"
"He picks up a Dunkin' Donuts bag next to the clutch and pulls out white gym socks."

Ordinary guys, doing ordinary things offered to us, the reader, by an extraordinary talent.

As I read these stories, all but one in the third person, I found myself wondering how can a third person tale be gender specific? For instance, who else but Dashell Hammett could write from a male point of view, but is it male POV -- in third person when the writer is a woman? In each story Finberg got inside the men she was writing about. It was like she sat down in a café with these men and they opened their hearts and fears to her. And like the best ghost writer she was able to articulate what they thought they could not.

From "Memory":
"He would stand in the courtyard at dusk and play the violin. People threw down change in brown paper bags. This was before he understood that these were not ordinary things."

Brilliant. Humourous. Touching. Surprising. And the best for last: unexpected endings that will touch your heart and sometimes smack you up.

More from Finberg's introduction:
"I wanted to write from the male point of view in order to create a greater sense of distance from my characters. At first I discovered that saying “he” instead of “she” was all it took. Most of them sprang from my head like little Athenas while others were based on fleeting observations of strangers—in the street, at a cafe, parked behind the wheel of a mini-trailer. Sometimes I added elements from people I knew, and one or two were based on women that I turned into men."