Saturday, October 29, 2011

on love

Thursday, October 27, 2011
There is a dupe, a coward, and a bully in all of us.
That’s the only way to explain world history.
Q: If you were an animal,
what animal would you be?
A: A vegetarian tiger.
I hate predators.
They are the commissars of the animal kingdom.
Good writing consists in deleting.
Silence can be more eloquent than
a torrent of rhetorical verbiage.
A history of silence will have no quotations.
If there are homophobes it may be because
they were traumatized by serial pedophiles,
among them such authority figures as priests.
After every line I write I ask myself:
Why should anyone be interested in this?
What if he already knows or understands what I am saying?
What if he is ahead of me when it comes to certain ideas
and experiences?
Friday, October 28, 2011
When asked where he came from,
Socrates is said to have replied:
"Not from Athens but from the world."
And yet, when he was condemned to death by the Athenians
and was given an opportunity to escape,
he said he’d rather die in Athens
than live anywhere else.
When Vahe Berberian once suggested that
Beethoven’s somewhat overblown shadow
unfairly eclipsed the reputation and worth
of many other equally great composers,
among them Boccherini,
Paul Jungmann, the quintessential German –
blond, blue-eyed, intense, unsmiling – said,
one should not speak such nonsense
in the presence of children.
Forever after music was never discussed in his presence.
All our problems must be ascribed to our enemies,
our propaganda tells us.
The enemy is us, literature reminds us.
And propaganda is more popular than literature
because no one likes to be told
he is a fool or a pervert bent on self-destruction.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Love is an arrow, marriage a boomerang.
Where there is love
there will be a pierced, broken, shattered, or shish-kebabed heart.
There is a Greek myth
whose intent is to emphasize the fact that
the woman you love
and the woman you marry are seldom one and the same.
The critical passage in it reads:
“No lovely naked bride awaited him
on the marriage bed,
but a tangled knot of hissing serpents.”
Your children will break your heart
as surely as your parents (when they die).
I first fell in love at age eight
with my schoolteacher.
She married another,
had a nervous collapse,
attempted suicide,
and became physically unrecognizable,
by which time I was nine and in love with another –
this time a coeval.
My dictionary defines “passion” as “suffering.”
The woman you love
and the woman you cease to love –
what a difference!
Not just black and white
but everything and nothing.
According to a Frenchman,
“the heaviest body in the world
is the woman you have ceased to love.”
After mentioning a dead person
it is customary to say, “may s/he rest in peace,”
when it is not the dead that are in need of peace
but the living.
Stendhal, the author of ON LOVE,
one of the best books on the subject:
“All my life I have always seen what I imagined
rather than reality.”
And Tolstoy: “In the presence of others,
women – especially when they are young –
pretend so skillfully that no one can see them as they are.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

summing up

Sunday, October 23, 2011
The secret aim of all propaganda
is not to spread lies – be they small, middling, or big –
but to convince you to believe
your brain is a useless organ;
and it becomes useful only when authorized by the state
or a central authority.
This may explain why fools have as many certainties
as the wise have doubts.
Speaking for myself: my only certainty is that
when fools are in charge,
war and massacre are sure to follow.
What a book one could write on politics
as the art of deception.
Kemalism in four words:
“Fez, no. Yataghan, yes.”
No one will ever accuse me
of taking myself seriously.
On more than one occasion
I have identified my role in our collective existence
as that of a @#$%-disturber.
A statesman is a politician who has done one right thing.
Monday, October 24, 2011
It must be obvious by now that
the regime in Ankara has invested more money and manpower
in rewriting history and in persecuting Kurds
than in providing safe housing for its citizens.
The rich like to believe the poor are lazy
and the poor like to believe the rich are greedy.
Who is right?
As far as I know no pundit has so far
dared to suggest that
we owe the present global economic crisis
to the laziness of the poor.
Crime doesn’t pay?
But it paid and paid handsomely to Gadhafy
for almost half a century.
I wouldn’t be surprised if future dictators
adopt him as a role model.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
We are expected to believe that
our revolution at the turn of the last century
in the Ottoman Empire was a success
even if the patient died.
Propaganda is designed to flatter the vanity of a few
even if it means insulting the intelligence of the many.
What Talaat and chief executive officers
on Wall Street have in common is the certainty that
if the law is on their side
they can get away with murder.
Richelieu: “If the poor are too well off
they will be disorderly.”
It follows, the poor must remain poor for their own good
and in the name of law and order.
Pushkin: “Where there is a trough, there will be swine.”
The only reason textbook on political science
don’t begin with that line is that
all educational systems are controlled by politicians.
Proust: “The pleasure an artist gives
is to make us know an additional universe.”
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
After six centuries of servile subservience
a sudden eruption of violent uprisings.
I dare anyone to suggest that
our collective destiny has not been shaped
by cowards and fools.
Treating them as heroes with good intentions
is to forget that hell is paved with them.
Bullies at the mercy of bigger bullies:
that just about sums up our present leadership.
Dzour nesdink, shidag khossink!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Thursday, October 20, 2011
Don’t judge a man by his opinion of himself
or a political party by its propaganda.
You may hope to be forgiven by a Turkish enemy
but by an Armenian friend, never!
I speak from experience.
Whenever I disagree with an Armenian,
every Armenian who agrees with him
becomes my enemy.
African proverb: “Until lions have their historians,
tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters.”
Friday, October 21, 2011
An unforgettable line from a forgotten American movie:
A lecherous hombre with a foreign accent
to a scantily clead sexy teenager:
“I want to balanga you with my bonnie johnnie.”
My guess is, as children that’s how we learn languages:
we may not understand the words
but we can guess their meaning.
As when in winter a man shivers and says,
“I am cold,” for instance;
or when he says “I am thirsty”
and is given a glass of water.
But as we grow older,
we seem to lose that particular faculty.
One of my favorite Jewish jokes goes something like this:
Two old friends meet on a road somewhere in Russia
and after a brief exchange one of them says to the other:
“You tell me you are going to Minsk
because you want me to believe you are going to Pinsk,
but I happen to know you are going to Minsk:
Why must you always lie to me?”
Saturday, October 22, 2011
“There is nothing more valuable than our honor!”
declared a Muslim in Montreal
after murdering his three teenage daughters
because they had boyfriends.
(It is to be noted that he called it “treachery”).
There it is: the perfect justification
for killing defenseless civilians.
After dismissing me as anti-Armenian,
less than mediocre and totally unprintable,
they demand solutions from me.
They must be in deep %#$&
and they expect us to believe
we never had it so good
because we are in the best of hands.
Fear of free speech might as well be
synonymous with running away from the truth.
Mel Brooks: “Comedy is when you fall down an open manhole.
Tragedy is when I cut my finger.”
This may explain why sadists outnumber masochists.
Chinese saying: “The great man is a public misfortune.”
Japanese proverb: “A wise falcon hides its talons.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

wall st.

Sunday, October 16, 2011
A single anonymous slogan
strikes me as more eloquent
than a hundred academic analyses
by learned economists.
“Wanted: corporate accountability.”
“Where is the penalty for financial incompetence?”
“I can’t afford my own politician.”
And the one that must strike fear
in all presidential candidates:
“We are the 99%.”
By the time this thing is over,
there may be enough slogans to fill a volume.
I for one am looking forward to it.
As for the Republicans who dismiss the movement
as leaderless (as if that were a liability)
or class warfare:
all I can say is that
no matter how rotten the status quo,
it will have its supporters and defenders.
From Nero and Caligula to
Idi Amin Dada, Stalin, and Saddam:
they all had their supporters and beneficiaries.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Anyone who decides to depend
on the kindness of strangers
must sooner or later come to terms with the fact that
most strangers are not kind.
We cannot speak of the moral failings of a volcanic eruption
or the questionable logic of an earthquake.
Neither can we speak of justice
for victims of massacres.
As far as they are concerned,
what’s done is done and cannot be undone.
As for those who editorialize and speechify endlessly
about genocide recognition:
they remind me of a certain American presidential candidate
who promised “Yes, we can!”
and delivered, “No, I can’t!”
What a book one could write
on the promises of politicians!
“When I hear 9-9-9
I want to dial 9-1-1.”
To which I can only say,
“It takes one to know one.”
The good news is,
so far no one has dared to say
“It ain’t 99%. It’s only 98.5%.”
They call it class warfare
and hope to win with their 1%?
That’s not optimism.
That’s megalomania run amok.
Reminds me of our revolutionaries
at the turn of the last century:
“A frog trying to rape an elephant,”
to quote one of our elder statesmen.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
With leaders like them, who needs one?
“Incoherent, confused, and self-contradictory?”
A commentary Headline in the Op-Ed page:
“Ballot is still the best way to bring change.”
Not if the choice is between bad and worse,
or between the gutless and the greedy.
“National Media, Corporate PR.”
"Against Politics, Bankers, Gangsters.”
“Eat the Rich.”
“Greed is the opium of the Rich.”
“99% of the world unite –
you have nothing to lose but your bloodsuckers.”
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
We are told “Thou shalt not kill!”
but we are also coerced into killing
in the name of God and Country.
Power structures and organized religions
are full of #$@% -- if you will forgive my French.
You are free as long as you do what you are told?
Try to make sense of that!
Can you really know someone
who doesn’t himself?
What about an institution
that contradicts itself?
Wars become inevitable only
when we do nothing to prevent them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Thursday, October 13, 2011
Two favorite aphorisms on love and marriage:
Balzac: “The fate of the house hangs on the wedding night.”
Chinese proverb: “The rose has thorns only for those
who would gather it.”
In Roger Ebert’s LIFE – ITSELF: A MEMOIR
(New York, 2011, page 226) Lee Marvin is quoted as having said:
“'You ever hear me sing an Armenian song?’
Marvin sang an Armenian song.”
A question without an answer:
What prompted God to introduce imperfection
in a perfect world by creating man?
A glance is enough to change two destinies.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Whenever I reply to a critic, I make an enemy;
and whenever I am not diplomatic enough
in my replies – diplomacy not being my field –
I make a mortal enemy.
Once when I asked the nationality
of a dazzling beauty – a teenage waitress in the cafeteria
of a department store where I was employed as a stockboy –
she said: "Canadian."
When I asked for more details, she replied:
"Let’s see now, Irish, Polish, German, Cherokee,
French, Italian and Ukrainian.”
"We are a wounded nation,"
I am reminded once in a while by our propagandists,
"and you don’t kick someone who is down," – thus
equating truth with a kick in the groin.
But truth is a kick only to those
who prefer to live in a world of lies.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
On the Tea Party:
The forces of evil know how to get organized.
On the Occupy Wall Street movement:
It never pays to give up one’s faith in mankind.
For twenty days – or is it forty? – they were ignored.
Now, everyone is talking about nothing else.
Solidarity can move mountains.
Without solidarity,
all solutions will be dismissed as unrealistic and utopian
by the very same people who consider it
their patriotic duty to divide the nation
in the name of this or that orthodoxy or ideology,
thus giving patriotism a bad name.
Where there is solidarity
even bad solutions may improve matters.
Where there is no solidarity
even the best solution will be ignored.
I have met good, patriotic Armenians
who give up on Armenianism after the first insult.
After being insulted ten thousand times,
sometimes I reply with an insult
on the grounds that I have earned the right.
If you disagree with my MO,
you can go to hell!
“Help those who need the help,”
reads a headline in the Op-Ed page this morning.
The implied subtext: “Prevent future revolutions.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Sunday, October 09, 2011
In evil men we see ourselves exposed.
To see meaning in the meaningless:
that’s the truest mark of creativity.
Forgiving others is easy.
What’s hard, perhaps even impossible,
is forgiving oneself.
Never take a whole paragraph
to say what can be said in a single line.
Never take a whole line
when a single word will do just as well.
And never underestimate the power of silence
which can be more eloquent than
the most eloquent speech.
Instead of eighty and ninety,
the French say four-twenties and four-twenties-and-ten.
This may suggest that human intelligence or inventiveness
is limited and after a certain point
it becomes inoperative.
If in a democracy the majority can be
systemativally moronized,
in what way democracy may be said to be
different from tyranny?
Monday, October 10, 2011
“One Jew tells another that,
that very morning, he asked a passerby
what he’d think, if the next day,
as was rumored,
they’d kill all the Jews and all the haidressers.
And the passerby answered,
‘Why the hairdressers?’”
After reading this joke very early this morning
I wept and laughed uncontrollably
for almost an hour.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
For ten long years I worked for a living
in factories, department stores, and offices.
The work itself i didn’t mind.
What I despised were the men I had to work for
and the subservience of my coworkers.
And because I have always had trouble
disguising my feelings,
I was fired shortly after I was hired.
I don’t know of anyone in my circles
of friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors
who has been fired as often as I have.
Don’t get me wrong.
I am not complaining.
They were right to fire;
so was I in finding all forms of modern employment
If I am ever hired as a teacher,
one of the very first things I will say to the class will be:
all ideologies and religions have their own propaganda line
that contradicts the competition.
There may be some truth in all of them
but in so far as they divide mankind,
they are big lies.
You may now guess
how long my career as a teacher would last.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Watched Chaplin’s GREAT DICTATOR.
His imitation of Hitler speechifying was wildly hilarious.
I couldn’t stop laughing.
To all our speechifiers I say:
“Let that be a lesson to you.”
You may say whatever you wish about me
or anyone else for that matter
and you will be partly right.
That’s because we are not one but many
and some of them are strangers we may never meet.
Madame Justice is not blind.
She has 20/20 vision – but only for her friends.
During our Ottoman and Soviet periods,
and today, under our own semi-sultans and neo-commissars,
she has consistently ignored us.
You don’t have to go out of your way
to make a mortal enemy out of an Armenian friend.
He will see something invisible,
hear something in audible,
and react as if you were plotting his murder.
So do words.
What if what I write may result in the destruction of the nation?
I am responsible only for what I say.
I cannot be held responsible for what others do.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Thursday, October 06, 2011
With every book I publish,
I acquire a new friend and lose two old ones.
Any day now the number of my friends
will bear a negative sign.
I feel most alone when
in the company of my fellow Armenians.
William James:
"A great many people think they are thinking
when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."
The absence of God
plays a more important role in the life of atheists
than the existence of God in the life of most believers--
judging by the way they live.
Is it humanly possible to ignore or forget the truth
after hearing it?
Friday, October 07, 2011
As soon as you settle on the answer
of an important question,
you begin to suspect there may be more merit
in its contradiction;
in the same way that after you take a woman in marriage,
all other women appear more desirable.
This may suggest that the world was created
not by God but by the Devil;
and if I am not mistaken
there is an Armenian medieval Christian heresy
that says as much.
Andre Malraux: “I am an agnostic.
But you know better than I that
no one can escape God.”
He should have added,
“and the Devil.”
Saturday, October 08, 2011
Very early this morning, on the radio,
a demonstrator in Athens:
“What’s happening today is not about saving Greece;
it’s about saving the banking system.”
Obama’s greatest blunder:
to ask men from Wall Street
to fix Wall Street.
Imagine asking predators
to reform the law of the jungle.
In a televised press conference
the other day when asked
why he did not prosecture the men
responsible for the economic collapse, Obama replied:
“What they did was immoral; it was not illegal.”
When the same question was asked to an economist:
“Their actions were criminal
and they should have been indicted.”
Who would have thought the Arab spring
would influence and shape
the Occupy Wall Street movement in America today?
Yanks being taught democracy by Africans!
What a strange place the world we live in is!
How gloriously unpredictable human beings are!
In an Op-Ed commentary this morning, I read:
“Russians say they are often more afraid
of the police than of criminals.”
Elsewhere Putinism is seen as an effort
to revive Stalinism.
What else would you expect from a former KGB agent?
Anonymous: “The rotten apple is the first to fall,
and it never falls far from the tree.”
A line from a western with Errol Flynn:
“There I was, no ma, no pa, brung up by Comanche Indians.”
I am reminded of a line by Updike
to the effect that as a boy
he was more influenced by Errol Flynn than Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Sunday, October 02, 2011
When in his eighties Pablo Casals fell in love
with one of his students and wanted to marry her,
his doctor was against it saying it could be dangerous;
to which Casals replied:
“If she dies, she dies.”
Some readers resent the fact that
I refuse to reproduce their sentiments and thoughts.
They believe a writer should be like a secretary –
take dictation.
I see that as another symptom of our sultanism.
Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821): “I don’t know
what the life of a rogue can be like
since I have never been one;
but the life of an honest man is abominable.”
Anything that is not worth rereading
can’t be worth writing.
Monday, October 03, 2011
Denialists have a powerful argument in their favor:
Everybody lies.
My aim in life:
to humanize the dehumanized.
Call me a megalomaniac.
The arrogance of the half-learned:
I know all about that.
I was there once.
Life’s favorite trajectory:
from arrested development
to advanced degeneration.
We have been ruled by barbarians
for such a long time that
we don’t mind our own.
Either that or we see them
as the lesser of two evils.
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Until very recently,
we, Armenians of the diaspora,
were not allowed to know
the identity of our political leaders;
and now that we know them,
we understand why they preferred to remain anonymous.
One of the best things about life is that it’s short.
Actions have consequences,
consequences have repercussions,
repercussions have echoes
and so on ad infinitum.
Memo to our editors:
silencing writers,
burning books,
burning men,
concentration camps,
they all begin with censorship.
It is impossible to struggle
against the certainties of ignorance
with the doubts of knowledge.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Some of my Turkish readers are outraged
when I criticize Turks.
Like all dictators, Kemal knew that
the only way to be popular
is to flatter the collective ego of the nation.
Which is why most Turks are convinced
they are beyond criticism.
I don’t always write what I think and feel
because I don’t really know what I think and feel.
All my thoughts and feelings contain
their own deviations as well as contradictions.
I resent it when someone steals my stolen lines.
I work hard to find lines that are worth stealing.
Let him do the same.
Here are some aphorisms by Antonio Porchia (1886-1968),
an Argentine writer of Italian descent
who appears to know all about us:
"Truth has very few friends and those few
are suicides."
"A door opens to me. I go in and am faced
with a hundred closed doors."
"You think you are killing me.
I think you are committing suicide."
"Some things become so completely our own
that we forget them."
"They will say that you are on the wrong road,
if it is your own."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

as i see it

Thursday, September 29, 2011
Early one morning when the fox hears a rooster crowing,
he thinks: "Breakfast!"
When he is told by the rooster in the tree
that he is not alone but with a friend,
he thinks: "Lunch too!"
But when he finds out the friend is not
another rooster but a dog,
the words breakfast and lunch are replaced with
"Feet, do your stuff!"
An Arab blessing
(as quoted by Flaubert in a letter from Cairo):
"I wish you all kinds of prosperity,
especially a long prick!"
What’s next in line?
"May you deflower a hundred virgins"?
While in Cairo, Flaubert is said to have explored
the Armenian community.
I wonder if he discovered anything of interest.
I love exotic proverbs especially when they are phony.
Example: A Burmese saying (which I just made up):
“You cannot feed a hungry tiger
with the bones of a hummingbird.”
There is a type of minor celebrity
who behaves like a major celebrity
in the hope of being confused with one.
There is also a type of nonentity
who wants you to believe he is a future celebrity.
“L’Allemagne n’a peut-etre jamais rien produit
a la fois d’aussi grand ni aussi barbare.”
Balzac: “Les moeurs sont l’hypocrisie d’une nation.”
Baudelaire: “Life is a disease. Everyone knows that.”
Because reality is against us, we say God is with us.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Hegel is not an easy philosopher.
As a matter of fact I have never heard anyone say
“I enjoy reading Hegel.”
Even Hegelians don’t always agree
on what he said or meant.
With one exception:
the Francophone-Russian Kojeve.
Kojeve’s interpretations of Hegel
are readable, accessible, insightful,
and eminently unHegelian.
Some samples follow:
“Man, to be really, truly ‘man’
and to know that he is such,
must impose the idea that he has of himself
on beings other than himself.”
“Christianity is born from the Slave’s terror
in the face of Nothingness, his nothingness.”
“The Christian frees himself from the human Master
only to be enslaved by the divine Master.”
“He does this for the same reason that
he accepted the human Master:
through fear of death.”
“For Hegel, as for Marx,
the central phenomenon of the bourgeois world
is not the enslavement of the working man,
of the poor bourgeois by the rich bourgeois,
but the enslavement of both by Capital.”
Saturday, October 01, 2011
If I were to say to my shrink:
"Most of my problems stem from the fact that
I was born an Armenian," he would reply:
"I was born a Jew. Only Turks are after your ass.
The whole world is after ours."
Those who violate my human right of free speech
do so because they are convinced
they are better men than myself;
and they are better if only because
they are closer to God and Country.
Some of them may even deliver lectures to me
on good Armenianism.
They seem to be totally unaware of the fact that
only certified morons assume that
God, Country, and good Armenianism
have only one definition: their own.
It is a scientifically established fact that
prejudice makes people stupid.
Hell is more accessible than heaven.
Lovers are mutual parasites.
Love and hatred are chains.
So is indifference.
Very often all great reformers do
is replace big lies with bigger ones.
There is more authority in silence than in speech.
One reason why the dead enjoy more respect than the living.