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Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Vonnegut’

The nuclear family, in its brief heyday, was fundamentally an economic strategy, one that made it easier to control the supply of workers and organize childcare and domestic work so that women were doing as much of it as possible for free.  This arrangement no longer makes economic or emotional sense — and millennials know it.  Almost half of us, after all, grew up with parents who were divorced, or in single-parent households.  But the nuclear family remains the only form of family with cultural legitimacy.
Here’s the lesson I had to learn:  “Traditional” nuclear families today are no more stable or secure, no more or less likely to lead to lasting happiness, than “alternative” households.  In “The Sirens of Titan“, Kurt Vonnegut spends hundreds of pages coming to the conclusion that the purpose — or at least a purpose — “of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”  The problem with found families is exactly the same as the problem with every other sort of family.  There is no perfect structure, no single set of rules, that can guarantee that people will always be decent to each other, will never have growing up to do, and that nobody will ever get their heart broken ever again.
And that, I suppose, is what family means.
It means you love whoever is around to love.  That doesn’t mean you have to like them all the time.  Love takes work.  Living together takes work.  Sick and tired of waiting around in the antechamber of socially sanctioned adulthood, millennials are setting up home right here.  We are not waiting for our “real lives” to start.  We may never have the security or stability we were raised to desire, but we can still have commitment and community.  For me, this is my real life.  These are the households and relationships where I have grown up, learned how to take care of myself and other people, had my heart and brain and favorite mugs broken.  These are our real lives, brief and beautiful, stupid and unlikely, and we would live them far better if we were given permission — beyond the wish fulfillment of fiction — to believe in them.
    —    Laurie Penny
From her article:  “Live Wrong And Prosper: It’s The Future Of Families
Appearing in:  Wired Magazine;  dtd:  July / Aug 2020
Online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/live-wrong-prosper-covid-19-future-of-families/
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On This Day In:
2020 A Message To Optional Trump Supporters (Basically Everyone)
2019 Bigger Jaws
On The Other
2018 Hoping For A Blue Wave In November
2017 Garden Dreaming
2016 Well, Maybe Not “No” Talent
2015 An Appetite For Life
A Trip To The Library
Great Expectations
2014 Pass The Soul
2013 Zapping Music And Art
2012 Not Quite Fantastic
That Kid Is Back
2011 Wolves At The Door
2010 I’m Feeling Patriotic… (Well, more than usual, anyway.)
Beating the Heat…

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When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig.  I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people:  Do you play sports?  What’s your favorite subject?  And I told him, no I don’t play any sports.  I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.
And he went WOW.  That’s amazing!  And I said,  “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.
And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before:  “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them.  I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.
And that honestly changed my life.  Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them.  I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.
    —    Kurt Vonnegut
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On This Day In:
2020 To Our #IdiotInChief: Wear A Mask!
2019 Silent Purpose
2018 Just Bake The Cake, Man
2017 Visible Proof
2016 Poor Enough Means
2015 Still Standing
Follow Your Heart
2014 Just Reminded
2013 A Fine Balance
2012 One Measure
2011 Seeking The Common Ground
In Brightest Day…

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My brother is partly dependent upon the Navy for funds with which to investigate cloud physics.  He was talking recently to a similarly mendicant scientist about the billions invested in space.  The colleague said this, wryly:  “For that kind of money, the least they can do is discover God.”
    —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From his book:  “Wampeters Foma And Granfalloons
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On This Day In:
2013 Without Witness
2012 Nutritarian

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Two weeks later, a new semester began at Lincoln High.
In the band rehearsal room, the members of C Band were waiting for their leader — were waiting for their destinies as musicians to unfold.
Helmholtz stepped onto the podium, and rattled his baton against his music stand.  “The Voices of Spring,” he said.  “Everybody hear that?  The Voices of Spring?”
There were rustling sounds as the musicians put the music on their stands.  In the pregnant silence that followed their readiness, Helmholtz glanced at Jim Donnini, who sat on the last seat of the worst trumpet section of the worst band in school.
His trumpet, John Philip Sousa’s trumpet, George M. Helmholtz’s trumpet, had been repaired.
“Think of it this way,” said Helmholtz.  “Our aim is to make the world more beautiful than it was when we came into it.  It can be done.  You can do it.”
A small cry of despair came from Jim Donnini.  It was meant to be private, but it pierced every ear with its poignancy.
“How?” said Jim.
“Love yourself,” said Helmholtz, “and make your instrument sing about it.  A-one, a-two, a-three.”  Down came his baton.
     —   Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From his book:  “Welcome to the Monkey House
From the short story:  “The Kid Nobody Could Handle
[Loving yourself is where it always begins.  We are each given our own instrument.  What is your instrument?   —    kmab]
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On This Day In:
2021 Eye On The Prize
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2020 And Most Adults Don’t Either
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2019 Happy Thanksgiving (2019)
2018 And Smiles…
2017 Or Savor A Little Longer…
2016 Sometimes I Just Want To Smell The Flowers
2015 One Truth – Done Well
2014 Now In Imagination, On The Other Hand…
2013 No Plan, No Map
2012 Singing About Love
2011 The Awesome Power Of Truth

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I “discovered” Kurt Vonnegut Jr. when I was going through my first Science-Fiction reading phase back in high school (way back in the late 60’s early 70’s).   I read a couple of his novels and really enjoyed them, so whenever I would stumble upon one of his books on a store shelf, I’d pick it up for my “library”.
I bought “Welcome to the Monkey House” (1968©) back in my Army days and have carried it around the world with me ever since.  Last summer (2011 that is), I took it along with me for its second trip to Liverpool, determined to read it.  I didn’t, but I read another Vonnegut (Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons), and it rekindled my interest so I set “Welcome” on my nightstand, hoping I’d get around to it sooner rather than later.  I guess since I bought it 40 years ago, reading it after another year and a bit is “sooner” rather than later…
Anyway, the book is absolutely terrific!!
It is a series of 25 short stories from Vonnegut’s early writing (50’s and 60’s).  A few are Sci-Fi related, but all are really about humanity.  Almost every story has a “twist” at the end which, for me, was unpredictable.  Okay, maybe not “unpredictable” as by the fourth or fifth you KNOW there will be a twist so you’re left trying to anticipate it, but most still surprised me.  Some will make you almost cry, some will make you almost laugh out loud, but all will make you feel better about yourself (and maybe even humanity).
The book is a very fast read.  The stories average 12 pages, so you can complete one and put the book down for a while as you wind your way through your day.  I had training in San Francisco during the week, so I read the first five or six stories on the BART  traveling to and from and then finished the book yesterday while home in bed with my kidney stones flaring up.  Very highly recommended!!!
Oh, in case you’re wondering how I know when I bought this book, when I was in the Army they used to make us write our names and the last four digits of our social security number in the book as it was a personal belonging which they would ship home in the event they had to ship you home too…
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On This Day In:
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2020 Veterans Day – 11 November 2020
Thankful
Remembrance Day – 11 November 2020
2019 Veterans Day – 11 November 2019
2018 Veterans Day – 11 November 2018
2017 Veterans Day – 11 November 2017
2016 Veterans Day – 11 November 2016
2015 Veterans Day – 11 November 2015
2014 Veterans Day – 11 November 2014
2013 Veterans Day – 11 November 2013
2012 Monkey Business
Veterans Day – 11 November 2012
In Others
2011 Veterans Day – 11/11/11
Deeply Confused (Still)
2010 We are not from fearful men and I Am Not Afraid!!
Veterans Day – 11 November 2010
2009 Narrowly missed first weight goal, but still happy…

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Agony never made a society quit fighting, as far as I know.  A society has to be captured or killed — or offered things it values.
… One wonders now where our leaders got the idea that mass torture would work to our advantage in Indochina.  It never worked anywhere else.  They got the idea from childish fiction, I think, and from a childish awe of torture.
… I am very sorry we tried torture.  I am sorry we tried anything.  I hope we never try torture again.  It doesn’t work.  Human beings are stubborn and brave animals everywhere.  They can endure amazing amounts of pain, if they have to.
    —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From his book:  “Wampeters Foma & Granfalloons
[Obviously, this is a book Bush / Cheney never bothered to read.   —    kmab]
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On This Day In:
2021 Being Constantly Great
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2020 Sapping Joy
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2019 Word Up
2018 But Much Is Worth Learning
2017 Mr. President, About Global Warming
2016 Starting To Stumble
2015 Begin Combat
I Am A Runner
2014 Just Dig ‘N It, Why?
2013 Additions
The Object Of Instruction
2012 Telling Her
2011 On Torture

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Most writers I know, all over the world, do the best they can.  They must.  They have no choice in the matter.  All artists are specialized cells in a single, huge organism, mankind.  Those cells have to behave as they do, just as the cells in our hearts or our fingertips have to behave as they do.
We here are some of those specialized cells.  Our purpose is to make mankind aware of itself, in all its complexity, and to dream its dreams.  We have no choice in the matter.
…  But if the entire organism thinks that what we do is important, why aren’t we more influential than we are?  I am persuaded that we are tremendously influential, even though most national leaders, my own included, probably never heard of most of us here.  Our influence is slow and subtle, and it is felt mainly by the young.  They are hungry for myths which resonate with the mysteries of their own times.
We give them those myths.
We will become influential when those who have listened to our myths have become influential.  Those who rule us now are living in accordance with myths created for them by writers when they were young.  It is perfectly clear that our rulers do not question those myths for even a minute during busy day after busy day.  Let us pray that those terribly influential writers who created those our leaders’ were humane.
     —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From his book:  “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons
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On This Day In:
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2020 Each Over All
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2019 And Integrity For Today’s Elected Republicans
2018 A Faulty Start, Too
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2017 Beneath The Tree Of Wisdom
The Republican Rape Of The American Middle Class
2016 Something Authentic Happened
2015 Back On The Bricks
On, Rocinante!!
2014 Changing Frequently
2013 Trifles
2012 Simple, Ordinary And Wonderous
2011 Humane Writers

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About the dumb Earthlings versus the smart Earthlings:  I have known a fair number of scientists over the years, and I noticed that they were often as bored by each other’s work as dumb people would be.
    —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
From his book:  “Wampeters Foma & Granfalloons
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On This Day In:
2021 Unnoticed Perfection
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2020 Maybe After A Couple Of Hundred Years I Think About It
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2019 Courage Facing Temptation
2018 I Can’t Laugh At #45
2017 Release, Harmonize, Illuminate
2016 One Trouble With Television
2015 I Am Lucky And I Am Grateful
2014 Future Envy
2013 We Do Not Want To Learn That
2012 Social Inhibition
2011 Studying Chinese Food
Are You Bored, Too?
2010 Rant, Pant, Deep Breath – Reality

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A great swindle of our time is the assumption that science has made religion obsolete.  All science has damaged is the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Jonah and the Whale.  Everything else holds up pretty well, particularly the lessons about fairness and gentleness.  People who find those lessons irrelevant in the twentieth century are simply using science as an excuse for greed and harshness.
     —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
From his book:  “Wampeters Foma & Granfalloons
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On This Day In:
2021 My Fear Is She Loses This Bet
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2020 Still On The Obstacle Course?
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2019 Expecting A December Correction
2018 Dominoes II (Update From Last Year’s Post)
2017 Dominoes
2016 Itchin’
2015 In The Not So Distant Future
2014 Sources
2013 Three Essentials
2012 Just Looking
2011 Religious Lessons
2010 View From Under The Bus… (A mid-term report card on the Obama Administration. Long, but still worth reading for historical perspective.)

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We are what we pretend to be.
     —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From his book:  “Mother Night
[If we want to be bad enough and try to be hard enough.  Unless we aren’t…     —    kmab]
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On This Day In:
2021 Too Bad Politics And Greed Get In The Way
Little Prayers
2020 Precarious Fools
A Shining City Upon A Hill
2019 How #45’s Father Raised Him For Incompetence
2018 Describing #45 – “The Loser” – As A Successful Businessman
Raking – #PresidentIdiot Proposes Full Employment For California
2017 Federal Deficit, National Debt And Tax Cuts For The 1%
2016 Picky, Picky, Picky
2015 Another Limitation On Religion
2014 Enduring
2013 Tell Me More…
2012 Passing…
2011 Fake It ‘Til You Make It

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When I think about my own death, I don’t console myself with the idea that my descendants and my books and all that will live on.  Anybody with any sense knows that the whole solar system will go up like a celluloid collar by-and-by.  I honestly believe, though, that we are wrong to think that moments go away, never to be seen again.  This moment and every moment lasts forever.
     —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
From his book:  “Wampeters, Foma And Granfalloons
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On This Day In:
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2020 3 November Is Coming!
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2019 Senate Republicans: Impeachment – Because It Is Right!
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2018 Intensity Doesn’t Make It Correct
HF2: 1940’s Grapes
2017 Proof Sits In The Oval Office
2016 Tragic Determinism
2015 Maybe It Should Be Clearer
2014 Make It Your Strength
2013 Four Score
2012 The Ruler
2011 Forever
2010 Just Cuz
How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?
It’s Alive!! (3rd Pair Shoe Review)

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Writers are specialized cells in the social organism.  They are evolutionary cells.  Mankind is trying to become something else;  it’s experimenting with new ideas all the time.  And writers are a means of introducing new ideas into the society, and also a means of responding symbolically to life.  I don’t think we’re in control of what we do.
    —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
From his book:  “Wampeters, Foma And Granfalloons
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On This Day In:
2021 Climate Change Deniers
We Don’t Listen Anyway
2020 Nothing New Here
Talk To Me
Register And Vote
2019 Love And Leave
2018 Smiling If Not Laughing
2017 Chilled And Smooth
2016 But Sometimes You Have To Stand In Front
2015 The Key Shift
2014 Remember ISIS / ISIL?
2013 What Have You Done Lately?
2012 B8
2011 I’m Definitely Not In Control

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My longer-range schemes have to do with providing all Americans with artificial extended families of a thousand members or more.  Only when we have overcome loneliness can we begin to share wealth and work more fairly.  I honestly believe that we will have those families by-and-by, and I hope they will become international.
    —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From the preface to his book:  “Wampeters, Foma &  Granfalloons
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On This Day In:
2021 At Least Not Until Sunset
Rain On The Leaves
2020 At Least A Little Less
Two For The Post
2019 Promises, Promises
2018 You Mean There IS Something Else?
2017 Be Good
2016 Raise Yourself
2015 A Kids Movie Rip-Off
2014 Ready, Action!
2013 Responding To Challenges
2012 Abnormal, adj.
2011 Large Families
On The Brink

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This is what I find most encouraging about the writing trades:  They allow mediocre people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something like intelligence.  They also allow lunatics to seem saner than sane.
    —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From the preface to his book:  “Wampeters, Foma &  Granfalloons
[This explains why Sarah Palin can appear so stupid when she tries to give an unscripted presentation at a campaign stop (remember Boston and Paul Revere riding to warn the British) versus her taped ads and TV appearances.  She can have a platoon of writers and camera folks edit in their intelligence to substitute for her lack of intelligence.  Hey, Sarah!  Have you figured out the names of any of the newspapers you usually read, yet?    —   kmab]
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On This Day In:
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2019 Reality And Imperfection
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2018 Pity The Nation (Part 1)
Day 41: Hiccup Or End Of Days?
2017 Sharp-Edged Beauty
2016 Start, Keep, Finish
2015 Lifetime Friends
2014 Acknowledgement
2013 Longevity, Tenacity and Diversity
2012 What Reagan Really Cared About
2011 Seeming Sane (Or Not)

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“Nobody is going to listen to what you say,” he assured me.  “People are seldom interested in the actual content of a speech.  They simply want to learn from your tone and gestures and expressions whether or not you are an honest man.”
     —    Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
From the preface to his book:  “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons
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On This Day In:
2021 The Same Goes For Countries And Elected Leaders
Just Beginning…
2020 Your True Standard
But When The Smoke Had Cleared Away…
2019 Ooh, Shiny
Day 4: Surprised
2018 We Are Approaching Default
Running On History
Day 37: Blended Not Juiced
2017 Today Is Not Lost
Day 8
2016 Paying Attention
2015 An Awful Ordeal
2014 What Are You Doing?
2013 Lives > 1
2012 Strange To All The World
2011 Unnecessary Stagefright

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