Friday, October 31, 2008

Parvum Opus 299 ~ The Baker's Dozens

Tony Hillerman

The other evening at the library I was telling Fred that it looks like some of my favorite mystery writers aren’t publishing so much as they’re getting older. Then I read that one of the best, Tony Hillerman, died last weekend at 83. He wrote the series about Navajo tribal policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Hillerman got to know the Navajo people and country well, and the land itself was a powerful element in his books. He’d been a newspaperman before taking up fiction, and his writing was clear and crisp. I’m sorry he’s finished his last chapter. Writers Digest interviewed him in 2000.

Bazzett’s Back

Reader Tim Bazzett sent an update on his books ~ he’s so prolific, I’m envious.

RatholeBooks now features four of my books. The Reed City Boy trilogy ~ ReedCityBoy, SoldierBoy and Pinhead ~ are my own memoirs. The fourth book, Love, War & Polio: The Life and Times of Young Bill Porteous, is something of a departure for me, but continues to feature Reed City and west Michigan, as well as being a kind of homespun primer on WWII and the polio years. Inscribed/signed copies of all four books are available for purchase at my website:, which also provides a peek at covers, reviews, sample passages, etc. The books can also be purchased through Amazon.

The Baker’s Dozens

Recently I wrote the Top Ten Reasons to Vote for Anyone But Obama. Now here are My Top Ten Personal Reasons. OK, thirteen. Next week I’ll go back to watching old movies on TV, reading trashy novels, and eating chocolate.

13. Did you see the lynching of the effigy of Sarah Palin in West Hollywood? I don’t think the Obama campaign has officially objected to it. Lynching is a powerful iconic image in this country, particularly for black Americans, even though vastly more black Americans have been killed by (1) abortion and (2) gang shootings, than ever were lynched. A lynched effigy of Obama brought McCain campaigners out with police to ask that it be taken down.

12. We haven’t been attacked seriously since 9/11/2001, but even Joe Biden anticipates a test on the new president. I think either man will be tested as president. I don’t believe a warm, sincere conversation with the attackers would be the response we need. Maybe Obama means keep your friends close but your enemies closer. But Obama is not a wartime consigliere.

11. What kind of person writes two autobiographies before he’s 50?

10. “Spread the wealth” around really does mean “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” as Karl Marx said. If these two statements are not equivalent, explain how they’re not. If you actually are a socialist, you’re OK with it and you think if Obama’s elected, at last the world will be made whole and poverty will cease to exist for the first time in the history of humankind. Some of my best friends are still socialists, but I couldn’t stay with the program. I’m not worried about my wealth being confiscated because I don’t have any, but it’s the principle of the thing. If Joe the Plumber makes good in the usual way, the theory is that other people can only make good if Joe pays for it, per IRS order.

9. And, clinging to religion when times are bad means the same thing as religion is the opiate of the people, per Marx. Which means that money trumps spirit. (Is clinging to your guns the crack cocaine of the people?)

8. We expect politicians to renege on promises after they’re elected. Obama reneged in advance, vowing to use public financing for his campaign until he found out he could get vastly more money from private sources. Can’t blame him for that, but why the promise in the first place? Because using public money seemed like the fair thing to do.

7. I never did get that chill, thrill, or even a tingle running up my leg from either Obama or McCain or any other politician, it’s more like my legs fell asleep, but I used to date someone named Barry in college who did give me chills, thrills, and occasional nausea, who was a good-looking, charming liar. And as we know, Barack used to be called Barry. Coincidence? Perhaps. I think my visceral reactions are as meaningful as Chris Matthews’.

6. If McCain wins, lots of people will say that (1) the election was rigged and (2) America is racist, and some are saying now that there will be riots or even another Civil War if Obama loses. I don’t like being threatened.

5. Last week after I sent my son’s wedding photos link to a long list of people, another of my old boyfriends e-mailed me: “I assume you'll vote for the aging veteran and the stupid hunter.” Is that any way discuss the issues? It’s not persuasive, not that any of us is likely to be persuaded of anything at the eleventh hour. The former BF is an aging veteran himself, of the Israeli Navy in the Six-Day War, of all things. Politics has led family and former friends (family is still family) to make the most insulting personal remarks about me, not just about politicians, reviving my youthful rebellious streak. I’m happy to say some people have retained their sense of humor, and you know who you are. These are serious matters, though, so naturally the emotions are engaged as well as the brain. This campaign has been one huge Rorschach test.

4. Obama has been depicted in various rags, mags, and posters as: the Messiah; Che Guevara; and George Washington crossing the Delaware. The Che graphic reference is closest to accurate, except that Che was a man of physical action. Bad action, like murder, but action nevertheless.

3. I myself have had a taste of community organizing. Years ago an old Marxist friend got some people together to start a food co-op, and I volunteered, cleaning a storefront and trying to raise money, at which I was hopeless. This co-op was of no intrinsic value. The neighborhood wasn’t hurting for a grocery store, the prices wouldn’t be lower than at the supermarket, the food wouldn’t be better than at the health food store. But I got it: it was all about organizing. And to what end? I didn’t know then, but now I have no doubt that the influences were from Saul Alinsky, whose ideas influenced Obama: organize with the goal of “change”, i.e. Marxist/socialist revolution, by generating a feeling that the larger society (with the good supermarkets and health food stores and farmers’ markets) is lousy and even evil; that average people are suffering and their lives are meaningless but they will be empowered and energized and made happy (noticed the passive verbs) by being busy at some project or other, especially if it seems to be counter the culture that is actually working; and that the useless co-op was somehow superior, and we “the people” were superior, to the ordinary stores and the capitalists, who were not “the people”.

2. As a community organizer, even Obama has said he didn’t accomplish anything he set out to do. Perhaps his theories are wrong. As a senator, he’s been a campaigner. Maybe this is why he and his wife find the American Dream so bleak. They’re successful but can’t seem to get much done.

1. It’s not true that we don’t know who Obama is. We do know.

P.S. The student I mentioned last week, who noticed that Republicans seem reluctant to admit they are, said he wanted me to use his name when I told him I had mentioned him anonymously. He is Kaou Yattasaye, from France and Mali, and he is a humorous and friendly arguer of political differences.

New interview with bluesman Sonny Robertson.


Trivium pursuit ~ rhetoric, grammar, and logic, or reading, writing, and reckoning: Parvum Opus discusses language, education, journalism, culture, and more. Parvum Opus by Rhonda Keith is a publication of KeithOps / Opus Publishing Services. Editorial input provided by Fred Stephens. Rhonda Keith is a long-time writer, editor, and English teacher. Back issues from December 2002 may be found at Feel free to e-mail me with comments or queries. The PO mailing list is private, never given or sold to anyone else. If you don't want to receive Parvum Opus, please e-mail, and I'll take you off the mailing list. Copyright Rhonda Keith 2008. Parvum Opus or part of it may be reproduced only with permission, but you may forward the entire newsletter as long as the copyright remains.

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