Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Cynic of Sinope

This Smithsonian Magazine piece, the Top Ten Books Lost to Time, made me think of Diogenes, whose writings were lost (many in the fire that destroyed the Library of Alexandria IIRC). We know of him only through a handful of other writers whose works survived.

Fascinating guy. Would have been right at home in the Hotel Chelsea.

"Diogenes was knee deep in a stream washing vegetables. Coming up to him, Plato said, 'My good Diogenes, if you knew how to pay court to kings, you wouldn't have to wash vegetables.'

"'And,' replied Diogenes, 'If you knew how to wash vegetables, you wouldn't have to pay court to kings.'"

The Teachings of Diogenes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fasting to Stop Gratuitous Fasts

After the success of Anna Hazare anti-corruption fast, all sorts of people are jumping on the bandwagon.
Some have done it for a long time, and for good reasons.
Some are.. dubious.
In which category does this guy fall, you think? My, he does look saintly in those photos.
In other news:
A Chennai girl writes an open letter to a "Delhi Boy" and unleashes a brouhaha.
That long-dreamed for "pie-fax" may soon be a reality.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Return to Iron Mountain

While researching conspiracies that turned out to be true, I kept stumbling across Iron Mountain. Apparently, 40-plus years after the Iron Mountain report was published, it remains controversial, and many people still believe Iron Mountain happened.

In a journalism class in college, we were assigned to read this and write a report about it. The book is written in such a detailed, realistic and deadpan fashion, that it was easy to believe it was nonfiction, that a group of powerful people and thinkers had gathered to ponder the consequences of peace and ultimately decided it would be detrimental to the American economy--until I read more about it at the library and learned that it was a hoax. Many years later, I met one of the co-authors, and heard the whole story over Grey Goose vodkas in various Manhattan bars.

"The year was 1966 and one morning the New York Times featured a short news item about how the stock market had tumbled because of what the headline called a 'Peace Scare.'

"The news item had no byline, but it seemed to those of us around the editors’ table in the Monocle office worthy of Jonathan Swift, H. L. Mencken, Mark Twain. Around the table, in addition to myself were Marvin Kitman and Richard Lingeman. Kitman, our news managing editor, had been Monocle’s candidate for president in 1964. He ran in the Republican primary against Barry Goldwater as what he called 'a Lincoln Republican.' Unlike Goldwater, whose platform only went back to McKinley, Kitman claimed to be the only real conservative because his platform went back one hundred years and called for unconditional surrender of the South, freeing the slaves and the reinforcement of the garrison at Fort Sumter."

(Read the entire article.)

While the meeting and the book are part of a hoax, the idea that certain corporate and political concerns prefer war to peace has been borne out over and over, so the Report from Iron Mountain contains much truth.

Wherever warfare is useful to more than one person, there are conspiracies to keep peace at bay, though the majority would fall under the Oliver Stone definition of conspiracy (I'm paraphrasing,) that most conspiracies are not a bunch of white guys sitting on a hill plotting, but are conspiracies of people whose interests-material, ideological, social--align so they consciously or unconsciously act in concert.