Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Sunday, November 27, 2011
I cannot think of a single important decision or judgment
that I have made in the past
that did not contain a 99% margin of error.
Let that be a warning to all those with whom
I share my wisdom.
What do the Pope of Rome and Stalin have in common?
When asked to name my favorite Armenian dish,
I identify myself as a vegetarian.
When told there are many delicious vegetarian dishes
in our cuisine,
I say I prefer to keep my answers to that subject short
because all talk of pilaf and shish-kebab bores me stiff.
And speaking of questions:
I don’t remember a single interview
with an African-American writer
in which mention was ever made of chicken and watermelon.
A question I have never been asked:
“On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate our leadership?”
The obvious answer is minus one, of course!
Monday, November 28, 2011
Why is it that some very smart and learned Armenians
confuse anti-charlatanism with anti-Armenianism?
Why is it that some very cunning Armenians
in their defense of their own selfish, narrow interests
voice reasons worthy of an inbred moron?
When it comes to Genocide recognition
the American question is not whether it is true or false but
“What’s in it for us?”
Call that cynicism if you like.
They call it pragmatism.
Whenever I write for Armenians
I remind myself that I am breaking the commandment:
“Thou shalt not share your wisdom
with wiser men than yourself.”
Wisdom and serenity are mutually exclusive concepts.
You can’t be serene in a world of lunatics
who think you are the lunatic.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
It is a universally shared human weakness
to prefer flattery to criticism,
but it is adangerous addiction
to prefer lies to truth.
On a radio program on children’s poetry this
morning, I overheard the following quotation:
“There is some shit / I will not eat!” That’s
what I call good poetry – rhythm, music, and
words that once heard are never forgotten.
Belief systems have nothing
to do with reality and everything to do with the
power to shape our perception of reality.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
By Vahan Vahanian (Jansezian).
Los Angeles. 2011. 255 pages.
(In Armenian)
“I am told I go to extremes in my assertions,
to which I say, What are words for?"
The labyrinth of Armenian life in Los Angeles
is Vahan Vahanian’s territory
and he has as many stories to relate as Scheherazade.
His style is brief, to the point,blunt.
He takes no prisoners.
“With the dollar, a man who signs his name with an X
is treated as a philosopher.
Without the dollar a genius is shunned as a lunatic…”
“That’s the way it is in America.
Novelties aplenty,
real-estate developments everywhere,
institutionalized larceny rampant,
refinement an absent factor.”
Vahanian is not afraid to step on toes or,
for that matter, to kick balls.
A man after my own heart.
As the editor/publisher of a newspaper
that is distributed freely,
neither is he afraid to alienate a fraction of his audience.
He speaks of a woman who tells him
her aim in life is to have more of everything –
“more fun, more money, more jewelry and more sex with younger men…”
“In Los Angeles there is neither brotherhood nor friendship.”
Phony intellectuals, exhibitionists, megalomaniacs, and womanizers
are a dime a dozen.
Vahanian may speak of depressing things
but he does so with a friendly smile
and his smile is infectious.
“Every other Armenian you meet these days
has political ambitions.
If Raffi Hovannisian and Jirair Libaridian made it,
why can’t I?”
And there is the self-appointed genius with literary ambitions:
“Did you get my article?”
“When are you going to print it?”
“No editorial changes, please!”
“How much are you going to pay me?”
If to say what must be said were music,
Vahan Vahanian would be our Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.
(For more information, write to newarmenia ).

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Thursday, November 24, 2011
To how many women we could say:
I love you with all my heart
and I shall continue loving you to the end of my days,
but not you as you are,
but you as a figment of my own imagination.
Charlie Chaplin asked Truman Capote
to read the manuscript of his memoirs
with the eyes of a professional writer.
When Capote did and reported back with a list of suggestions,
Chaplin said: "Get the hell out of my sight!"
To avoid grief, conflict, misery and suffering,
do nothing and be nobody. Or simply, imitate the dead.
That’s what most Oriental wisdom boils down to.
But since life is only an extremely tiny interval of light
in the darkness of non-being,
it should be as different from death as we can make it
even if in the process we experience confusion and misery.
Friday, November 25, 2011
The official Kemalist classification of Armenians
as “Christian Turks” is patently absurd
in view of the fact that we are devoid
of both Christian charity and Turkish solidarity.
What motivates us to assess ourselves
as smart, progressive, compassionate, and God’s chosen
is the suspicion that we may be none of these things.
One of the worst things that can happen to a nation
is to believe in its own propaganda;
and one of the worst things that can happen to a leader
is to become a dupe of his own lies.
Speaking for myself,
I committed my worst blunders
after convincing myself that I knew better
and anyone who dared to contradict me
was a damn fool.
When it comes to women,
not only boys will be boys
but also men of all ages.
Hence the saying,
“The brain of a man is the body of a naked woman.”
Even after 30 books and over a thousand articles,
stories, and essays in periodicals and newspapers
I hesitate to identify myself as a writer
because more often than not I am asked:
"How come I have never heard of you?"
to which I am tempted to reply:
"Next time you visit your public library
check and see how many names you recognize
besides Shakespeare’s and Hemingway’s?"
I can’t imagine Mozart at the age of thirty saying:
"I have composed enough. I am quitting."
I have no doubt whatever in my mind that
Mozart would have gone on composing
even at the age of 80, very much like Verdi.
Likewise, I can’t imagine God saying,
"I have created the universe and enough is enough!"
What if, even as I write these lines,
God is busy creating other universes
in other dimensions?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Sunday, November 20, 2011
A headline reads:
“Should Some Bankers Be Prosecuted?”
The obvious answer is, of course!
Gross incompetence is penalized in all other lines of work.
Why should bankers be immune?
Is it because as the 1%
they control 99% of the power?
A typical passage in the article reads:
“The federal government has been
far more active in rescuing bankers
than in prosecuting them.”
And why?
Because the 1% can afford politicians,
the 99% cannot.
What is American-style democracy
if not the fascism of capitalists?
When we demonize Turks
we forget that angels and demons
are creatures of our imagination
and that in reality some Turks may well be better or wrose,
but none of them is an invulnerable being
beyond our reach.
Sartre is right:
in human relations
magic plays a more important role than
reason, common sense, and experience.
Where imagination enters,
misconceptions are sure to follow.
All popular ideas can be easily and safely contradicted
and they have been.
One could even say,
thinking consists in exposing contradictions.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Once, recently, when I said something to the effect
that our treatment of writers
has been worthy of barbarians,
it was the barbarians who were eager to prove me right
by hurling insults at me and in general
behaving like hoodlums on the warpath – as if
that was the only way they knew
how to prove me wrong.
"For a smart man you can be very naïve!"
a trial lawyer, who is also a good friend, tells me.
I don’t know about smart
but I am worse than naïve
when I get emotionally involved.
Emotion reduces a complex reality
into a one-dimensional extension of ourselves.
Emotion, writes Sartre somewhere,
attempts to change the world by means of magic.
What could be more primitive?
The most beautiful spectacle I have ever beheld
was a sunrise from a seventh story hospital window;
and to think that the purpose of a sunrise
is not to provide man with beauty.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
It’s not Armenians against Turks,
Germans against Jews,
Jews against Palestinians,
or Cain against Abel.
It’s man against man.
If the world were populated
by a single race, nation, or tribe,
the number of wars, revolutions and massacres
would remain constant.
God created man.
God also created the Devil
and the Devil belongs to no race, nation, or tribe.
Organized religions are maneuvers
designed to allow one to sit at the right hand of God
and to behave like swine.
God created time and space.
What would stop Him from creating
an infinite number of other dimensions?
God created man.
He must have been bored stiff.
What other possible explanation is there?
Why are you so tough on your fellow Armenians?
I am asked once in a while by concerned readers.
I am not tough on Armenians.
I am tough on deceivers, dividers, and bloodsuckers
regardless of nationality.
I am tough on all victimizers.
Now then, identify yourself please.
Are you a victimizer or a victim?
If you are a victim, why do you object
to my speaking up against your tormentors?
Dupes are not born but made
and what makes them is childhood indoctrination --
brainwashing for short;
and if you say you were not brainwashed
i will say, that's because
those who brainwashed you
were successful in convincing you
you were being educated.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Thursday, November 17, 2011
How sweet was it to the poet
who wrote that line?
After being betrayed to the authorities
by his fellow Armenians,
he committed suicide
by banging his head against the wall.
Many others were shot in the neck
or driven to Siberia.
If you say all that happened in a different era
and under a different regime, I say,
regimes may change
but the scum always rises to the top.
There is a sultan and a commissar in all of us.
If we ever undertake the task of
de-Ottomanizing and de-Stalinizing ourselves,
how many of those who are in power today
would remain in power?
If you are one of those readers
who think I have been consistently wrong
in my judgment of my fellow countrymen,
all I am prepared to say in my defense is,
I have at no time violated anyone’s human right of free speech.
Can you say the same about the status quo
in whose defense you speak?
Friday, November 18, 2011
Do we have a constitution?
What does it say about free speech?
Is it for it or against it?
If it’s for it,
why is it that some of our ablest intellectuals
live in exile?
What about a Supreme Court?
Do we have one?
Who are its members?
What do we know about them?
Are they for or against fundamental human rights?
Do we have dissidents?
How many?
Who are they?
How many members of the present administration
are former KGB agents?
We are told most American senators and congressmen
are millionaires, sometimes even multimillionaires.
What about their Armenian counterparts?
Do we have anything resembling
the Occupy Wall Street movement in Yerevan?
A few years ago the Canadian spy agency
called me and said they were going to send someone
to interrogate me about our present situation.
I said I was the wrong man for such an undertaking;
it would be a waste of their valubale time;
I was only a distant observer;
I knew little or nothing about specifics.
They disagreed.
They said they read my commentaries in the Armenian press
and they considered me an expert on the subject.
An excpert?
An expert!
They must be joking.
They were not joking.
If they were interested in names
I could be of no use to them
because I didn’t even know someone who knew someone.
What kind of expert was I
if I had more questions than answers?
And if so far I have made no effort to know more
it maybe because in this case
ignorance may indeed be bliss.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Canadian literature is rumoured to be dreary.
By contrast, Armenian literature is not even rumoured
to be defunct or non-existent.
One advantage in being non-existent is that
no one bothers to spread the rumour that it is trash.
The only people who take Armenian literature seriously
are Armenian writers who take themselves seriously.
The central concern of Armenian writers
who take themselves seriously
is to expose the mediocrity of all others.
“Yes im anoush Hayastani.”
I should like to see one of our poets producing a sonnet
titled “To my sweet fellow countrymen.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011
Pick a man, any man, from the gutter,
give him a title and a regular salary,
and forever after he will say
he never had it so good.
One reason I write as I do is that
I was spared that kind of treatment.
I was born in the gutter and my guess is
I will die in it.
I am not complaining.
Things could have been much worse.
What saved me was pure luck.
No one ever bothered to give me a title.
As for salary:
what I was offered was never above minimum wage.
Had it been above minimum wage
I may have chosen a different path
and I would now be on my way to the devil.
Monday, November 14, 2011
There are advantages
to being a third-rate minor scribbler
living in the middle of nowhere.
To begin with you are left alone.
Your readers are so few in number
that if you alienate one of them
it doesn’t feel like you have lost
half of your income from royalties.
By contrast, consider the case
of an Armenian-American academic
with a regular salary and a captive audience.
Not only will he be careful
not to say anything that may be construed
as critical of God and capital
(make it Capital and god) in general
and benefactors in particular
(one of whom may be subsidizing his “chair”)
but also anyone who may be remotely connected with them.
In short, he will support the status quo
and pretend we never had it so good
because we are in the best of hands.
During the Ottoman and Soviet eras
our poets wrote odes and panegyrics
to sultans and commissars.
Habits die hard.
“Treason is in our blood,” said Raffi.
So is cowardice.
Hence the scarcity of dissidents
and the overabundance of brown-nosers.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
“You call yourself a dissident?”
said a (Soviet-Armenian) writer from Paris.
“Did they throw you out of your home and homeland?”
No, they didn’t because they couldn’t.
I was born and raised on foreign soil
and my home was mine, not theirs.
The contempt in his voice was such that
I understood why in their eyes
we will never rise above the status of “aghber.”
Because I try to be honest and objective
I am dismissed as pro-Turkish by some of my readers
as if being dishonest were an integral part
of the Armenian identity.
I must get used to the idea that
some of my fellow Armenians are so wrong
that they challenge all concepts of wrongness,
so that one could say they are not even wrong!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
THE 99%
There is no such thing as a belief system
without childhood indoctrination.
Eliminate indoctrination and the chances are
a belief system will collapse
into an abyss of absurdities.
It can truly be said of dupes that
they are the 99%.
On the radio this morning:
“Pakistan today is ruled by criminals.”
An American pundit:
“Almost everyone in Washington is on the take.”
He who admits to being a dupe
will not admit to being a coward, a liar, and an idiot.
Workers of the world unite?
Even better:
Dupes, idiots, and victims of the world…
What belief systems do is
convince idiots they are smart,
barbarians they are civilized,
and the scum of the earth they are the Chosen.
You think I am being cynical?
Allow me to confide in you:
Reality is worse!
Sigmund Freud: “The first human
who hurled an insult instead of a stone
was the founder of civilization.”

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Thursday, November 10, 2011
There are no new or original ideas.
We are all in the recycling business.
I like to believe I have at no time recycled fascist crap
in the name of patriotism or religion.
Faith is gut-driven.
So are dogmas.
Where the brain is marginalized,
disaster is sure to follow.
Where there is faith,
there will be intolerance.
Where there are dogmas,
there will be heresies.
Where there are heretics,
there will be persecution.
You may now draw your own conclusions –
or confusions.
Your choice.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Where there is power
there will be propaganda;
and where there is propaganda
there will be lies.
We are told again and again that
our Church played a key role
in the survival of the nation.
Listen to Raffi:
“Our clergymen preached patience to us
thus promoting subservience to the point of slavery…
they have always been against individual freedom.”
As recently as the collapse of the Soviet Union,
the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin opposed independence.
In Manuel Sarlisyantz’s A MODERN HISTORY
OF TRANSCAUCASIAN ARMENIA (Leiden, 1975, page 326)
we read:
“The pro-Soviet Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan was, in 1944,
appointed from Etchmiadzin to be
Prelate of the Armenian Church in North America.
He endorsed Communism as ‘leading to a Christian ideal’
and had written that
'what the clergy is…on the spiritual level,
the Communist Party is on the worldly level
of politics and economics.'”
TO COMMUNISM, [London, 1942, page 29].)
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Very early this morning
when I was half asleep
I heard someone say on the radio:
“We havent’ had democracy in 20 years.”
And I thought, we haven’t had it for 2000.
More often than not
our choice is not between truth and lies
but between big lies and bigger ones.
The cowardice of the many
and the stupidity of the few:
that’s the only way to explain our past.
The rest is propaganda.
And now that I have spoken the truth
I deserve a horse with which to gallop off
in all directions
in a cloud of dust.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Sunday, November 06, 2011
If God knows neither fear nor doubt,
can He really understand man?
When we speak of God
it is useful to remember that we speak of Him
not as He is but as we conceive Him to be;
and it is a serious blunder to conceive of God
in our own image.
We may have the answers to the most important questions
only after we die. In that sense,
death may be not an end but a beginning.
To God past and future are one
and both might as well be a fraction of a second.
What if the Big Bang as we know it
is only the last bang in an infinite series of bangs?
Everything we say about God is based on hearsay evidence
and therefore inadmissible.
God and men are more fiction than reality.
Reality (or God or Truth) is so different
from what we imagine it to be that
if the two ever met
they would not recognize each other.
Monday, November 07, 2011
To go down into the gutter with your adversary
is almost to agree with him -- if not with his words
than with his way of life.
No Armenian writer loved his fellow Armenians
as much as Khachatur Apovian – and he committed suicide.
I don’t criticize ideas;
I criticize their absence,
In a controversy to be silent
is to support the status quo.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
We have more questions than answers.
Who qualifies as an Armenian?
What if half of Turkey is half Armenian?
Because an Armenian girl was legally raped as a teenager,
does it follow that her offspring
acquired the national identity of her rapist
who may have been himself half Armenian?
An Armenian who is against us,
is he not more Turkish than Armenian?
A Turk who is with us
is he not more Armenian than Turkish?
If to divide-and-rule is enemy action,
do our dividers qualify as Armenian?
How many of our bosses, bishops, and benefactors
(who support only one faction) qualify as Armenian?
If we say only Armenians who are for solidarity
qualify as Armenian,
who will dare to say he is against solidarity?
If we preach solidarity and practise divisions
do we not speak with a forked tongue?
Can an Armenian who speaks with a forked tongue
qualify as a human being?
You should be.
i am.
Who said reality is easy to figure out?
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
After a disaster,
those who are partly or wholly responsible for it,
will come up with a thousand reasons why
the disaster was inevitable.
Don’t believe a word they say.
Their priority is not to understand and explain
but to mislead and deceive.
Their aim is not to learn from history
in order not to repeat it,
but to salvage their powers and privileges.
To say where there is power there will be abuse of power
is like saying where there are people
there will also be the law of gravity.
Haves and have nots?
It would be more accurate to speak of
bloodsuckers and their victims.
Deceivers and dupes?
Even better: predators and herbivores.
Class warfare?
I suggest telling bloodsuckers
to minimize their intake of blood
does not qualify.
There are many things that can be seen
even by a legally blind man,
but most of us are so carefully and consistently indoctrinated
that we are willing to testify under oath
we saw nothing.
Sh*t happens because most men are sh*ts.
And more often than not
a deceiver is as much of a sh*t as a dupe.
Voltaire on the origin of religion:
“From the meeting of the earliest scoundrel
with the very first fool.”

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Thursday, November 03, 2011
If you have any hopes,
prepare yourself to see them shattered.
The source of all my problems?
I value honesty above everything else.
So much so that
I’d much rather listen to the braying of an honest jackass
than to the seductive song of a phony nightingale.
When it comes to painful experiences
I have the memory of an elephant.
As for happy ones:
I can’t think of a single one that did not end badly.
The first thing I did when I came to Canada
from war-torn Greece was to buy a loaf of bread
and a cup of coffee.
The bread tasted like @#$%
and the coffee was so hot that it burned my tongue.
After that everything went downhill.
The only thing that cheers me up these days
is the prospect of death.
Friday, November 04, 2011
In an interview published in TIME (Oct. 10, 2011, page 64),
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
has this to say on the Israelis:
“As long as they refuse to apologize for the nine people
of Turkish descent who lost their lives
on the flotilla, as long as they refuse to pay compensation
to the families and as long as the embargo on Gaza
has not been lifted, the relations between the two countries
will never be normalized.”
On President Bashar Assad of Syria:
“It is impossible to preserve my friendship
with people who are allegedly leaders
when they are attacking their own people,
shooting at them, using tanks.”
It can truly be said of Erdogan and Turks
that they are a clear-cut case of the blind leading the blind.
To my Turkish friends and readers I therefore say:
“See you in the ditch.”
Saturday, November 05, 2011
In his biography of Alexander the Great,
Plutarch writes:
“One of the largest and most handsome lions,
which was kept in Babylon
was attacked and kicked to death by an ass.”
Shaw may be right:
the insane should be punished more severely than the sane
if only because they are more unpredictable and dangerous.
And speaking of insanity:
if you are in love,
you should remind yourself at least once a day
that your beloved is less a real person
and more a product of your imagination.
I don’t agree with a reality that makes crooks wealthy
and honest men poor,
and because I speak of this reality,
some of my readers hate me
as if I were responsible for everything
that has gone wrong in their lives.
Subtract imagination from love
and the result may be closer to contempt than affection.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Sunday, October 30, 2011
The West has its share
of dupes, fools, fanatics, racists, skinheads,
serial killers, child molesters,
and chief executive officers –
in short, hoodlums and hooligans –
as Turkey has its share of denialists.
It’s beyond me why anyone in his right mind
would expect them to be morally superior.
Monday, October 31, 2011
In my lifetime alone
world population has increased
from three to seven billion.
Scientists tell us the planet cannot sustain
this rate of growth.
Contraception is the only solution.
So far politicians have done nothing in that direction
because they don’t want to offend the Catholics.
But I believe the Pope is as much to blame
as film producers who glamorize sex
and treat pregnancy (if at all) as if it were
an alien, disconnected, and rare condition.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
After Shakespeare, he is for me the most quotable English writer.
But whereas Shakespeare is universally admired,
Toynbee continues to have more enemies than friends,
especially among his fellow English historians,
probably because he exposed their mediocrity.
In that sense, he reminds me of our own Zarian.
I love Toynbee’s ideas; but what I love even more
is his Mandarin prose.
“I believe that Man has been given the capacity to see God, and I believe that this is the summum bonum towards which all creation groans and travails.”
“The Jews, the Japanese, the British ‘sahib’, the Nazis…all seem to me to have been chosen by no one except themselves.”
“Their pummelings have given me a mental massage that has loosened the joints and muscles of my mind and has set it moving on a new course.”
“If the Turkish atrocities could be explained as anachronistic outcrops of a residual savagery in the hearts of recent proselytes to a Western
way of life, how was a Western historian to explain the apostasy of Germans who were native-born children of the Western household?”
“A capacity to suffer fools gladly and to do this with gusto, not as a martyrdom, but as a fine art which the practitioner can practise with zest.”
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Until very recently
Ayatollah Khamenei and Ahmadinejad were as close
as “kolo kai vraki” (bum and pants).
Today “one of Ahmadinejad’s advisers
stands accused of raping 340 virgins during the last year.”
Not even a writer with the fertile imagination
of Gabriel Garcia Marquez could have written such a sentence.
For more, much more, on the subject,
see Abbas Milani, “Desperate Dictatorship,”
(THE NEW REPUBLIC, Oct. 6, 2011, page 30).
Peace is wonderful.
Friendship is great.
Love is best.
But one must be a pervert of the worst kind
to love creeps like Khamenei and Ahmedinejad who,
after conspiring to commit countless crimes against humanity,
end up hating each other.
Where there is too much talk of God,
can the Devil be far off?