Friday, February 17, 2012


Today, I had the most amazing experience. I tried to appreciate a widely praised writer whose work I thought was boring, tedious and a waste of time.

Of course, this is not the first time this has happened.

The writer's name is Nathan Englander. He is widely praised in the NY Times:

And he has his own page on Amazon:

I managed to struggle through one story, "The Twenty-seventh Man," the first one in a collection called "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges."

This story is about 27 Jewish writers who are rounded up by Stalin in the 1940s and taken to a prison to be held overnight and then shot to death the next morning. The story is tedious and long and predictable and drawn out and boring. Basically, it's a shaggy-dog story. There are no suprises here, no insights into human nature.

The only thing I can figure out is that those critics who rave about Englander's work are responding to the theme, the message, rather than the experience of reading. They are applauding a sermon.

Yes, it is terrible that these Jews are rounded up to be killed. But we know this already. We know there have been atrocities against the Jews, among many other peoples, over the centuries. We don't have to be told, again, that these atrocities are bad.

There is an old rule about writing: Tell them something new, that they don't already know, or tell them something old in a new way.

This story is neither one. It's something old, that we already know, told in an old way.

I don't think this is a matter of taste. I think it's a matter of applauding the sermon. But a work of art should be more than a sermon. It should be better than that. It should be more complex, more aesthetic in nature, more ambiguous, not just a message. It should have elements of poetry, meanings that are not easy to define.

This story is overwhelmed by its meaning. The message outweighs the art. It is too ponderous and heavy and dull to be a work of art.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


It is weird getting old. I am 73 now. Knock on wood. Older than my dad ever was. He died at 72, on the crapper, which was somehow fitting. He had trouble with constipation for years.

He was shacked up with an 18-year-old girl whom I met one time. Hurray for him. He had the right idea.

When he divorced my raving hysterical critical bitch of a mother--I started to type "monster," god rest her soul--he bought a Cadillac and a boat and found this young woman. Bless him. Wish he'd done it sooner. Unfortunately, he only lived two more years to enjoy his freedom.

Now, here I am, getting older and grumpier every year. Everything pisses me off. Everything hurts. My hands, my knees, my shoulders. Sometimes, I'll be sitting still, minding my own business, when for no reason I get a sudden jolt of pain, about a five or six on a scale of one to ten, with ten being enough to make you pass out.

I never thought growing old would be fun, but I pictured it as a time of leisure, relaxation and satisfaction. I assumed that you would not feel as much pain, that your pain receptors would somehow be dulled. Good luck with that.

So I'm grumpy. In fact, my son calls me Grumpy, like one of the seven dwarfs.

And he's right. I am grumpy. You would be, too. Or will be. 

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Monday, February 6, 2012


I saw that Ron Artest, a rough-and-tumble professional basketball player, has changed his name to Metta World Peace.

A year or two ago, Ron Artest got into a hell of fight during a game and the fight went up into the stands. It was something to see:

Now he has a new name, Metta World Peace. And that is--if you can believe this--what the announcers call him on TV these days (he plays for the Lakers): "Metta World Peace takes the rebound ... Metta World Peace makes the shot ... Metta World Peace sets the pick ..." Etc., etc.

OK, OK, OK. I don't know if Ron Artest is trying to change his image or his nature. Or both. I guess he is trying not to be a thug any more. Change your name and your image. Why not?

I think I will change my name to Eternal Zen Master. That is on top of numerous joke aliases I have with my friends.

From now on, just call me Zen for short. Peace be with you, ya'll.

-- Roger, Eternal Zen Master

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I watched the Super Bowl today -- the whole game -- and it was a blast.

I take back all the bad things I said about it being boring.

And my team won. Hurray! I ended up rooting for the Giants, and it was a real cliffhanger.

It is weird how the game usually comes down to a few key plays. A dropped pass, a near-interception. I guess that is what makes it so exciting. You never know what is going to happen.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle


For Bippy

Many college students hate to study, I believe, because they don’t feel like they are in control. The teachers and the school seem to dominate their lives. If you are a student, these five rules are designed to give you a sense of control:

  1. BE EARLY. Go to bed early. Get plenty of sleep. Go to class early. Sit in the front row. Take an interest in the subject, the material, and the assignments. When you get an assignment on Monday and it is due Wednesday, do it Monday afternoon. If it is due in three weeks, start on it today. Do it early. Hand it in early. This will give you a sense of control. You decide when to do it and when to hand it in. You can relax. The deadlines won’t stress you out if you are early. You will be on top of your studies instead of them being on top of you.
  2. BE PRO-ACTIVE. Skim your textbooks and other material early in the process, whether it’s one assignment or the whole semester. Get an overview. Use the SQ3R method: Survey, Question, Read, Write, Review. Be an active learner. Survey the chapter headings in your textbook. Read the first sentence of each paragraph. Figure out what is important to your instructor and focus on that.
  3. BE SELFISH. It’s your grade and your education and your future. Get what you want out of it. Establish your goals and your methods. Nobody else is going to do it for you. Nobody else is always going to be there for you. The only person who is always going to be there for you is you.
  4. BE ORGANIZED. Do first things first. Set your priorities. Read “How To Get Control Of Your Time And Your Life” by Alan Lakein. Do your A-1 first.
  5. BE GOAL-ORIENTED. Success in anything is like a sport. Go for the basket, the touchdown, the goal. Don’t stop until you get there. Start with your end-game. Think of the goal first. Never give up.
Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Success is going to be hard. If it was easy, everybody would do it. (Notice that they don't. They are too lazy, or too self-absorbed, or they don't care, or they are not academically adept.) Good luck. You will need it.  

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


So millionaire robotic personality Mitt Romney is building up steam. (In the GOP primaries for the presidential nomination.)

Too bad. He might have a chance to win. And that would be too bad. Bad for the future of the good old USA. Bye-bye health-care reform. Bye-bye reasonable foreign policy. Bye-bye any chance for income equality. Bye-bye healthy environment. Bye-bye future of the biosphere.

What kind of future do we want?

Think about this, people. Do you want to go back to the policies of Bush and Cheney?

Please think about this.

I was hoping that Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul or even that nutcase Herman Cain would win the GOP nomination for president.

Because they wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning the presidency.

But Mitt could win.

God help us.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle