Pieces of Kurt Vonnegut

Posted by Frankly Francis on October 27, 2012 under Books/Authors, Quotes | Be the First to Comment

The waitress brought me another drink. She wanted to light my hurricane lamp again. I wouldn’t let her. “Can you see anything in the dark, with your sunglasses on?” she asked me. “The big show is inside my head,” I said.

I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.

All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.

Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.

All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States — and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!

Wake up, you idiots! Whatever made you think that money was so valuable?

New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.

Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.

People don’t come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God.

A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were big things.

And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

I will say, too, that lovemaking, if sincere, is one of the best ideas Satan put in the apple she gave to the serpent to give to Eve. The best idea in that apple, though, is making jazz.

Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.

People say there are no atheists in foxholes. A lot of people think this is a good argument against atheism. Personally, I think it’s a much better argument against foxholes.

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.

To be is to do – Socrates
To do is to be – Sartre
Do Be Do Be Do – Sinatra

I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.

Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.

If you can do no good, at least do no harm.

Make love when you can. It’s good for you.

Ting-a-ling mother fucker.

There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look.

Until you die…it’s all life.

Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.

We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.

Life is no way to treat an animal.

The insane, on occasion, are not without their charms.

There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.

No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.

A saint is a person who behaves decently in a shockingly indecent society.

What you can become is the miracle you were born to be through the work that you do.

My soul knows my meat is doing bad things, and is embarrassed. But my meat just keeps right on doing bad, dumb things.

She hated people who thought too much. At that moment, she struck me as an appropriate representative for almost all mankind.

And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

The Fourteenth Book is entitled, “What can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years. It doesn’t take long to read The Fourteenth Book. It consists of one word and a period. This is it: “Nothing.”

A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.

And so it goes…

A Man Without A Country

Posted by Frankly Francis on July 1, 2012 under Social Issues/Politics | Be the First to Comment

Or…

Are We Not Earthlings?


Not long before his death, I had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with my favorite author Kurt Vonnegut.  It just so happened that his last published work, “A Man Without A Country” was released on that very day.

During the course of our meal, I said to him, “Mr. Vonnegut, I obviously haven’t had the chance to read your new book, but I do understand that it involves a lot of your belief that America has gone in such a poor direction, has become so gluttonous in its consumption of resources, and is generally an embarrassment from a global point of view, that you no longer feel as if you have a country.”

I went on with a certain amount of hopeful trepidation for how my comment was going to be received.  After all, I was speaking with Kurt Vonnegut…

I continued, “While I certainly agree with you in this regard, I would like to be able to say that I am a man without a country simply because I would prefer to be regarded as a citizen of the planet earth.”

Vonnegut ignored my thought completely, didn’t seem too pleased with my interpretation of his title, and immediately changed the subject.  I certainly didn’t score any points with the big guy with that.  So it goes…

But, I do think that many of our human troubles are based on human defined borders.

Think About It…

We all revolve around the sun together on the same planet.  We are all stuck on the same rock in a universe that is far too big for anyone of us to fully comprehend.  We cannot empirically answer the simplest of philosophical questions.

This should be enough to make us all realize the most common bond we share, that being that we are all in the same proverbial boat, but in our case, we have a paddle.

Humanity is indeed becoming more humane, but the pathway has not yet been linear.  We still have so much more to achieve.

I would be so bold as to suggest that when we lose the zeal of patriotism for our country uber alles, when we no longer are so convinced that God is only on our side against the enemy, when we can look at anyone and everyone and realize that they are probably just as confused about things as we are, then, maybe, just maybe, we will begin to live in a better place.

You don’t have to be John Lennon to imagine…

And seriously, to Elvis Costello’s question, what indeed is so funny about peace, love and understanding?

I think it might be prudent to judge our social evolution on how well we interact with our fellow human beings socially and in trade.  Interventionist military conflicts would be viewed as failure in regard to the foregoing, obviously.  If we are to talk the talk, then we need to walk the walk.

But, on its present course, America is not seeking that world.  America is seeking to be an empire.  I find that counterproductive and ultimately doomed (as all empires are) to failure…

I would suggest that our individual and personal life experience is far more important than nationalism in the big picture of things.  Let’s historically face it, America is much, much more of a philosophy than a country.

Do not think me naïve.  What I am suggesting is not realistic presently.  But that only makes the need for us to be thinking that way even more important.

I am a resident of planet Earth, as are we all.  I have become a free man living in an un-free world.

I just happened to be born in the USA.

For those of my national tribe, I am not disrespecting our country…I am, for fact, trying to expand the principles upon which it was founded.

And I think that Mr. Vonnegut, in his writing, is largely responsible for at least planting the seed of these thoughts in my head.  That is something that I will never have the resources to repay.

Frankly,

Francis

Kurt Vonnegut and Me

Posted by Frankly Francis on October 3, 2010 under Books/Authors, Personal | Be the First to Comment

Frankly Francis & Kurt Vonnegut

My connection to Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) began most innocently.

My father and I were doing a classic road trip in a VW Microbus in the spring of 1972 when we happened upon a drive-in theater featuring the recently released movie Slaughterhouse Five.  What a beautiful accident!

“I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all” – Sirens of Titan

From there, I commenced to read everything that Vonnegut wrote.  He became an essential element in my life.   I was (and still am) an avid reader, but I connected with his writing and thought process better than with any other author.

“This is my principal objection to life, I think: It is too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes” – Deadeye Dick

His curiosity, humor, sense of irony and tragedy, and even his joy affected me deeply.  No other writer could make me laugh at life’s follies while at the same time crying over them.

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be” – Mother Night

Curiously enough, I came close to Vonnegut without realizing it during 1974-76.  The parents of the drummer of the band that I was in were post-hippie secular humanists that hung with a very interesting crowd.  Vonnegut turned out to be an element of this group though I missed that completely.

"I am notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other" - Kurt Vonnegut

The next Vonnegut miss was in March of 1988 when he premiered his humanist requiem in my town.  I have chatted with a guy who conversed with Vonnegut in the bedroom at the post-premier house party while Vonnegut was looking for his coat…can you imagine that?

His impact upon American culture has not yet been fully realized.

The Essential Kurt Vonnegut

I still believe that peace and plenty and happiness can be worked out some way. I am a fool – Jailbird

Around the millennium I began thinking.  If I could meet any one individual currently living on this planet, who would it be?  Musicians are certainly my most admired group, but for me it is a one way relationship: what would I say to David Bowie…I really like your music?  There are a lot of philosophers and statesmen that I would love to meet, but none presently living.  Current Politicos didn’t merit consideration.  I soon knew who it would be.

Somewhere later, in the ensuing years, my best friend and wife says, “You know, I am getting tired hearing about if you could meet any single individual on this planet that you would choose Kurt Vonnegut.”  She went on to say that I should either meet with him or stop talking about it.  I thanked her for understanding and arranged the meeting.

It was a lunch in Manhattan at a little French restaurant that he enjoyed, with a few other people.

It was September 13, 2005, the day that his last work, “A Man Without a Country” was released.

It doesn’t really matter, but he ordered the salmon.  I have no memory of what I ordered.

The conversation was incredibly delightful.  He read us a poem that he had just composed.  After our lunch, Vonnegut went to appear on the taping of the Daily Show with John Stewart.

I took a picture of Kurt as he walked away down Lexington Avenue, but I missed the picture completely, photographed my own finger on the lens, and only got his feet.  Kurt Vonnegut walking away down the street and all I got was his feet.  And yet, in ways I am still feeling, that picture is perfect.

Vonnegut's feet right along the shadow line on Lexington Ave

I remember watching the show that evening – Stewart introduced Vonnegut, “as an adolescent, he made my life bearable.”

I could not possibly put it any better.

So it goes.

Frankly,

Francis

P.S. It was some years later that I connected the dots to another story involving Vonnegut that made me realize even more how close we are all:

http://franklyfrancis.com/?p=587#comments

P.P.S Here’s Vonnegut’s appearance on the Daily Show:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Kurt Vonnegut
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

Dresden. Oh, Oh, Can You Imagine?

Posted by Frankly Francis on February 7, 2010 under Books/Authors, Personal | 2 Comments to Read

Or:

How Small the World Can Be at Times…

Or:

Talk About Connecting the Dots!

Let me tell you a little story about a couple of people – one famous, one not.  This true story is centered in Dresden, Germany.  It’s OK if you don’t know of Dresden or its history.  I only know of it coincidentally and accidentally.  However, the way that I do know of it is pretty powerful.  And it bears telling.

It has been said that life is the weaving of thread into a tapestry.  This is my very small thread of that tapestry.

The Characters:

Dresden – Located on both banks of the Elbe River, it is situated in mid-eastern Germany, near the Czech border.  It is a beautiful German city with historical importance as the Capital of Saxony.  Dresden is known, amongst other things, for the quality of the fine china that it crafts.

Kurt Vonnegut – Renowned American author born into a family of German immigrants.

Marianne – Born in Germany, but now a long time American.

Frankly Francis – Curious social observer and commentator.

The Story:

Act One – World War II

Dresden is fortunate, as a German city, in that it has very limited, if any, military value.  It is considered a “safe” city.

Kurt Vonnegut, like so many young men of his day, is a private in the U.S. Army.  Because of his heritage, he could be shooting at his own family and they could be shooting back at him.  War can be like that.

Marianne could have been any teenage girl anywhere at anytime, but she happened to be in Germany when the Germans were about to lose the war.

Vonnegut is taken prisoner by the Germans and is held in Dresden.

Marianne, being as young as she is, is relatively oblivious to understanding what is happening all around her.  What is crystal clear is that she must travel and find her way to the advancing Americans.  At all costs she has to avoid the advancing Russians.

Dresden is an easy target for Allied bombing.  The British are really pissed that the Germans have bombed their old city of Coventry virtually out of existence.  Plans are made and set in motion.

Marianne’s mother is apparently skilled at hiding her teenage daughter from the men.  Nonetheless, Marianne, to this day, cannot forget the cries of the women being raped by the soldiers.  Can you imagine living through that?  You see, the Russians felt that they had been treated terribly by the Germans and now it is their turn to inflict a little treatment of their own.

Dresden is Fire Bombed shortly before the end of WWII.  Historical reports estimated deaths in the range of 150,000 to 250,000, which would be more than those directly killed by the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.  A recent report has substantially lowered the estimates to no more than 25,000 deaths.  Whatever the actual total, it was a horrendous, apocalyptic event.  13 square miles of city were leveled.

Kurt Vonnegut survives the Fire Bombing of Dresden underground, in a meat storage locker.  Can you imagine living through that?  He later uses that address as the title to his book, “Slaughterhouse Five.”

Act Two – After the War

Marianne makes her way to America.  She becomes close with my family.  I think of her as family.

Frankly Francis, becoming sentient, rabidly reads everything Vonnegut writes.  Frankly Francis concurs with John Stewart, who would later say, “Kurt Vonnegut made growing up bearable.”

Marianne and Frankly Francis are together at a birthday dinner for Maria, sister of Frankly Francis.

Frankly Francis, never one to waste an opportunity to mention that he had lunch with Kurt Vonnegut, talks of that meeting and Vonnegut’s past, including his having survived the Fire Bombing of Dresden.

Marianne, never one to waste a word, says simply and succinctly that she passed through Dresden on the day it was Fire Bombed and watched the destruction from just outside of town.

THUD!

Frankly Francis has made a loud sound by falling off of his chair.

Dots are connecting!  What are the odds that this little thread would come into direct contact with two others who lived through an event of that magnitude?

Kurt Vonnegut and Marianne were within miles of each other on that day that so many died.  Both were in very adverse, but dramatically different circumstances.  Both hoped for something better to come.  Both were able to move forward, but both were never the same.

And so it goes…

Frankly,

Francis