Indianapolis, when he was 9 years old

[…] He wants to tell us things: It is not the fittest who survive – it is
merely those who happen to survive who survive. The earth is a
''fragile habitat'' that our big brains have failed to take care of. We
must hope for flippers and beaks – or nothing at all. We are all,
finally, being too mean to one another. ''I'll tell you what the human
soul is,'' a character in ''Galapagos'' says. ''It's the part of you that knows when your brain isn't working right.'' […]

[…] No matter how
corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our
media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the
music will still be wonderful.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC

Now,
during our catastrophically idiotic war in Vietnam, the music kept
getting better and better and better. We lost that war, by the way.
Order couldn’t be restored in Indochina until the people kicked us out.

That
war only made billionaires out of millionaires. Today’s war is making
trillionaires out of billionaires. Now I call that progress.

And
how come the people in countries we invade can’t fight like ladies and
gentlemen, in uniform and with tanks and helicopter gunships?

Back
to music. It makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she
would be without it. Even military bands, although I am a pacifist,
always cheer me up. And I really like Strauss and Mozart and all that,
but the priceless gift that African Americans gave the whole world when
they were still in slavery was a gift so great that it is now almost
the only reason many foreigners still like us at least a little bit.
That specific remedy for the worldwide epidemic of depression is a gift
called the blues. All pop music today – jazz, swing, be-bop, Elvis
Presley, the Beatles, the Stones, rock-and-roll, hip-hop, and on and on
– is derived from the blues.

A
gift to the world? One of the best rhythm-and-blues combos I ever heard
was three guys and a girl from Finland playing in a club in Krakow,
Poland.

The
wonderful writer Albert Murray, who is a jazz historian and a friend of
mine among other things, told me that during the era of slavery in this
country – an atrocity from which we can never fully recover – the
suicide rate per capita among slave owners was much higher than the
suicide rate among slaves.

Murray
says he thinks this was because slaves had a way of dealing with
depression, which their white owners did not: They could shoo away Old
Man Suicide by playing and singing the Blues. He says something else
which also sounds right to me. He says the blues can’t drive depression
clear out of a house, but can drive it into the corners of any room
where it’s being played. So please remember that.

Foreigners
love us for our jazz. And they don’t hate us for our purported liberty
and justice for all. They hate us now for our arrogance. […]

[…] I
went to an overachiever’s high school in Indianapolis, which no longer
exists. It was called Shortridge High School, and since 1906 had a
daily paper. I was an editor of the Shortridge Daily Echo, and
I learned to write. It was beneficial, really, because it made me aware
immediately of the response of readers. You publish something people
don’t like and you hear about it right away.

I knew how to
paste up a front page and write headlines. At the City News Bureau, we
phoned in our stories and we phoned in leads. The first thing you’d say
is who, what, when, where and why. In writing fiction, that’s what I
always did. I made sure the reader knew at once where he was, too.
Fiction is a game for two. You have to make it possible for a reader to
play along.

[…] DAVID BRANCACCIO:
Well, I want to ask you about this. You ask in the book a question that actually you don't answer so I want to –

KURT VONNEGUT:
I'm old.

DAVID BRANCACCIO:
But I want to– think about answering this one. You write "what can be
said to our young people now that psychopathic personalities — which is
to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame —
have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and
corporations and made it their own?" What can we say to younger people
who have their whole lives ahead of them?

KURT VONNEGUT:
Well, you are human beings. Resourceful. Form a little society of your own. And, hang out with them. Get a gang.

DAVID BRANCACCIO:
You're preaching getting into gangs?

KURT VONNEGUT:
Yes. Well, look, it's–

DAVID BRANCACCIO:
A good gang.

KURT VONNEGUT:
Look, I don't mean to intimidate you, but I have a master's degree in anthropology.

DAVID BRANCACCIO:
I'm intimidated.

KURT VONNEGUT:
From the University of Chicago– as did Saul Bellow, incidentally. But
anyway, one thing I found out was that we need extended families. We
need gangs. And, of course, if they're tribes and clans and so forth
have been dispersed by the industrial revolution by people looking for
work wherever they can find it. And a nuclear family, a man, a woman
and kids and a dog and cat is no survival scheme at all. Horribly
vulnerable.

So yes, I tell people to formulate a little gang. And, you know, you love each other. […]

[…] Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to
reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writings. This
makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of
the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about
themselves to readers. We call these revelations, accidental and
intentional, elements of style. […]

[…] One thing which has not changed is that none of us, no matter what
continent or island or ice cap, asked to be born in the first place,
and that even somebody as old as I am, which is 80, only just got here.
There were already all these games going on when I got here. … An apt
motto for any polity anywhere, to put on its state seal or currency or
whatever, might be this quotation from the late baseball manager Casey
Stengel, who was addressing a team of losing professional athletes:
“Can’t anybody here play this game?” […]

[…] What painters and sculptors and writers do, incidentally, is put
very small properties indeed into good order, as best they can.

A painter thinks, "I can't fix the whole planet, but I can at least
make this square of canvas what it ought to be." And a sculptor thinks
the same thing about a lump of clay or marble. A writer thinks the same
about a piece of paper, conventionally eleven inches long and
eight-and-a-half inches wide. […]

[…] I put my big question about life to my biological son Mark. Mark is a pediatrician, and author of a memoir, The Eden Express.
It is about his crackup, straightjacket and padded cell stuff, from
which he recovered sufficiently to graduate from Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: “Father, we are
here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” So I
pass that on to you. Write it down, and put it in your computer, so you
can forget it. […]


Dubbing E.B. the boy


"I'm impressed that he was clearly African
American,
yet he stood at the helm at something as mainstream and
significant as '60 Minutes' for all these years.

"W.E.B.
DuBois talked about the twoness of African Americans — to be American
and to be black
; well Ed Bradley experienced a threeness, if you will.
He was an American, he was black, and he was a journalist, and everyone
knows that's a whole different experience, too."

Alicia Nails, an
Emmy-winning television producer and director of the Journalism
Institute for Minorities at Wayne State University
, in Mekeisha Madden Toby's "Legendary newsman made '60 Minutes' tick"

QotD: My First Gig

What was your very first job? 
Submitted by Laurel.

From age 13 to 17, I delivered a tiny, uninfluential paper no one's ever heard of to between sixty and sixty-five doorsteps along a few streets south and west of the Forest Glen Metro station in Silver Spring, Md.

My brother Erin helped me unbundle the stacks that a big gunmetal-gray cargo van would drop off at the end of our house's driveway. Then we'd put them into a cart and wheel them around through silent stretches of suburban street, lit by waning pools of lamplight. If it rained or snowed, we'd bag them in small plastic sleeves. My aim and control were ferocious. Most days, I could put a rolled-up, rubber-band-bound newspaper atop a penny on your welcome mat from your lawn's streetside curb.

Oh dude, but that one time I didn't? I was 14 or 15. It was winter. I was three doors away from the warmth of home and the satisfaction of another day done, and I'd heaved a color-slick ad-filled Sunday paper, safe in its sleeve, onto the left front edge of Mr. C——-'s porch. It landed like a dream. But then it kept going on sheer momentum and a sheet of half-melted ice. Then it tapped the thick sheet of fancy ribbed glass window beside the front door and the whole thing blew like a safecracker's wet dream.

I paid to replace the glass. And there must not've been too many hard feelings, because Mr. C——- hired me for a couple of summers afterward to tag along in his van on contracting jobs, lifting sheetrock and pounding nails and bracing ladders. I put on solid muscle, got a lot of paint on my overalls and listened to more than a little Shirley Caesar on a crackling radio.

Full of passionate intensity

[…] Were pro-Israeli and
pro-Arab viewers who were especially knowledgeable about the conflict
immune from such distortions? Amazingly, it turned out to be exactly
the opposite, Stanford psychologist Lee D. Ross said. The best-informed
partisans were the most likely to see bias against their side.

Ross
thinks this is because partisans often feel the news lacks context.
Instead of just showing a missile killing civilians, in other words,
partisans on both sides want the news to explain the history of events
that prompted — and could have justified — the missile. The more
knowledgeable people are, the more context they find missing.

Even
more curious, the hostile media effect seems to apply only to news
sources that strive for balance. News reports from obviously biased
sources usually draw fewer charges of bias. Partisans, it turns out,
find it easier to countenance obvious propaganda than news accounts
that explore both sides.

"If I think the world is black, and you think the world is white, and
someone comes along and says it is gray, we will both think that person
is biased," Ross said.

[…]

Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post, "Two Views of the Same News Find Opposite Biases"

“Superman Returns”

Pretty savior-centric, sis. You WILL believe Jesus is magic. When I could, I focused on the media over the message.

  • The kid with the cameraphone producing what Frank Langella-as-Perry White calls an "iconic" picture vs. poor Sam Huntington-as-Jimmy Olsen's vague blur-caps. Kevin Spacey-as-Lex Luthor's goons documenting the evil-that-they-do with video cameras.
  • Kate Bosworth-as-Pulitzer-Prize winning editorial writer Lois Lane) clearly bugging the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of Peta Wilson's spokeswoman with persistent questions about the shuttle launch, plus the one about why a single network was covering one particular related event.
  • A Daily Planet story meeting like none I've ever seen. And then, the next day? An elevator full of silent riders with their eyes glued to the newspaper.

Spacey? Scenery-chewing goodness from start to finish. Parker Posey? Not enough scenery left for her. Kal Penn? Screen time yay, but not a single word. Bosworth/Routh/Marsden? Bland. Marlon Brando? Surprisingly good for someone dead two years.