"[This book] embodies the Buddhist wisdom about change, life, and the
world more than anything written after the events of that day."
Robert Stone

May 2011 Archives

« Previous · Home · Next »

May 29, 2011


Singer-songwriter-musician Gil Scott-Heron has passed on. Most peers of my advanced age know him from his seminal 1970s song critiquing consumer culture, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised":

You will not be able to plug in turn on and cop out...
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox...
There revolution will not be televised, will not be televised.

But a younger generation reacted enthusiastically to his newly released album, "I'm New Here"--his first in 16 years--even as they understood his physical frailty and his battles with substance abuse. In a recent and widely heralded New Yorker profile by Alec Wilkinson, Scott-Heron openly smoked crack and was depicted as living the life of a hermit, sequestered in his New York apartment. The title of the story (which is also one of the best songs on the DVD) seems painfully appropriate today: "New York Is Killing Me."

(For those interested, please read pages 244-45 of Watching the World Change for a discussion of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" as it relates to our era of 24/7 news.)

May 27, 2011


Here are some reflections, posted on VanityFair.com, about this week's memorial service for photographer Tim Hetherington.


May 21, 2011


Apropos of all the Rapture Hubbub: In 2006, I interviewed FOX News chief Roger Ailes for Watching the World Change about what he might consider apocalyptic signs foreshadowed in the 9/11 attacks.

Here is a passage from pages 91-92 of the book:

"The implications from a television standpoint," says Roger Ailes, chairman of FOX News and FOX Television Stations, "are simply that: When the end of the world comes, we'll be able to cover it live until the last camera goes out. I believe I mean it literally. If you you can witness something like [9/1] by two billion people, live, then there's nothing that can't be covered. And if we get into a world war, with nuclear weapons, I assume we'll be covering it live."

Ailes, recognizing TV's corporeal-world role, as it were, at the right hand of omniscience, speaks with a preacher's assurance and without an iota of irony when pondering the ultimate news story--a real-time Apocalypse Now: "It's horrifying to think about. But maybe God set it up that way. You can either figure out how to live in freedom...and hope, or you can watch yourselves burn to death. Nine-eleven is a warning shot that says: Look, this can go either way. It's your choice, folks."

May 8, 2011


The newly released screen grab of Bin Laden watching himself on television conjures up a vision of hell right out of Sartre or Rod Serling: Bin Laden in the hereafter watching himself watching himself on television--for eternity.


May 7, 2011


This one image speaks volumes: President Obama breaking bread with firefighters at Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 in New York City this week, four days after the killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by U.S. commandoes in Pakistan.

White House Photo by Pete Souza


Osama Bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaeda is in disfavor in most corners of the civilized world. “The democracy movement,” fashioned on the tenets of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, is ascendant across the Middle East.

Perhaps historians will look back some day and say that it was not only the actions of a heroic few in Tunisia and Egypt and elsewhere, not only the technological advances brought about by new online social media platforms, but, in some pivotal way, President Barak Obama’s speech in Cairo in 2009 that helped shift the balance of Arab public opinion so that at some very fundamental level America started being perceived as a force supporting citizenry over despotism, security over terror, justice over injustice.

But maybe I’m dreaming.

May 1, 2011


Bin Laden killed in a raid in Pakistan.