Tuesday

Jul. 13, 2010

the finger

by Charles Bukowski

the drivers of automobiles
have very little recourse or
originality.
when upset with
another
driver
they often give him the
FINGER.

I have seen two adult
men
florid of face
driving along
giving each other the
FINGER.

well, we all know what
this means, it's no
secret.

still, this gesture is
so overused it has
lost most of its
impact.

some of the men who give
the FINGER are captains of
industry, city councilmen,
insurance adjusters,
accountants and/or the just plain
unemployed.
no matter.
it is their favorite
response.

people will never admit
that they drive
badly.

the FINGER is their
reply.

I see grown men
FINGERING each other
throughout the day.

it gives me pause.
when I consider
the state of our cities,
the state of our states,
the state of our country,
I begin to
understand.

the FINGER is a mind-
set.
we are the FINGERERS.
we give it
to each other.
we give it coming and
going.
we don't know how
else to respond.

what a hell of a way
to not
live.

"The Finger" by Charles Bukowski, from Bone Palace Ballet. © Black Sparrow Press, 2002. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the short-story writer Isaak Babel, (books by this author) born in Odessa, Ukraine (1894). He was the author of Tales of Odessa. In 1939, he was arrested by the Soviet secret police, and that following January, after a 20-minute trial, he was executed in Moscow.

It was Isaak Babel who said, "There is no iron that can enter the human heart with such stupefying effect, as a period placed at just the right moment."

It's the birthday of the poet John Clare, (books by this author) born in Nottinghamshire, England (1793). John Clare wrote about 3,500 poems, of which only 400 were published in his lifetime, and his great importance as an English poet has only become clear in the last few decades.

It's the birthday of Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, (books by this author) born in Abeokuta, Nigeria (1934). He's the first African to win the Nobel Prize in literature, which he was awarded in 1986.

His plays include A Dance of the Forests (1963), The Lion and the Jewel (1963), Rites of the Harmattan Solstice (produced 1966), Requiem for a Futurologist (1985), and The Beatification of Area Boy (1996).

He's been a professor at several British and American universities. And he has long been a pro-democracy activist in his native Nigeria, protesting military dictatorships time and time again. For this, he has spent a lot of time in exile and in prison. Once, just after he got out of jail, someone asked him why he — an aging man nearing 70 — kept doing stuff to get himself put in prison. Soyinka said: "My conviction simply is that power must always be defeated, that the struggle must always continue to defeat power. I don't go looking for fights. I'm really a very lazy person. I enjoy my peace and quiet. There's nothing I love better than just to sit quietly somewhere, you know, have a glass of wine, read a book, listen to music."

But just a few months after that interview — and almost two decades after becoming a Nobel Prize laureate — he led more anti-government protests. He was tear-gassed and arrested, though soon released.

His poetry collections include Poems from Prison (1969) and Mandela's Earth and Other Poems (1988). A few years ago, he published a memoir, You Must Set Forth at Dawn (2006).

He said, "The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny."

It's the 50th birthday of the most sued man in the history of the British legal system, Ian Hislop, (books by this author) born in Mumbles, Wales (1960). He's the editor of the satirical fortnightly Private Eye, which is the U.K.'s best-selling current affairs magazine.

When it first started in 1961, the magazine was mostly composed of silly jokes. While it still features a great many silly jokes, it has branched out to include investigative journalism, in-depth reports of government and financial scandal, good old-fashioned gossip, and a number of regular columns, serious and satirical. There's a book review section, a column on architecture called "Nooks and Corners," and a column called "Wikipedia Whispers," devoted to reports of famous people editing their own profiles to make themselves look better.

The Private Eye keeps a large legal defense fund set aside for fighting and paying out libel cases. After losing a famous libel suit brought by publishing mogul Robert Maxwell (born Ján Ludvík Hoch), Hislop proclaimed, "I've just given a fat cheque to a fat Czech."

Hislop once said: "Satire is the bringing to ridicule of vice, folly and humbug. All the negatives imply a set of positives. Certainly in this country, you only go round saying, 'That's wrong, that's corrupt' if you have some feeling that it should be better than that. People say, 'You satirists attack everything.' Well, we don't, actually. That's the whole point."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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